I’ve often said that living without running water is the hardest thing about living off grid. Reaching for the faucet and expecting water to flow out of it, is so ingrained in us that for many it seems impossible to imagine a life without that luxury. Yesterday water flowed into my kitchen sink for the very first time. As I watched that first gush of water overflow the spout of my pitcher pump, I did not expect the flood of emotions that came with it. Tears of excitement and gratefulness welled up in my eyes as I saw that water. That’s pretty weird, right? Normal people don’t cry when they see water come out of their faucets!
But I guess I’m not normal because everywhere I go I get questions about water. It seems that everyone marvels at my fortitude of living so long without running water. They want to know how I do it. I often find myself answering their questions by explaining the logistics of life without working faucets. I tell them how we heat water on our wood stove in the winter and in our solar oven in the summer. I explain how we have a bucket shower on a rope and pulley attached to the ceiling above our bathtub. But what I’ve come to realize is that their questions aren’t even remotely related to logistics. What they really wonder about is my commitment. They are really asking HOW could I find it in myself to spend three years carrying water?!
I struggle with answering that question. It’s what brought on those tears at my kitchen sink yesterday. Many people think I’m crazy and will never understand why I do what I do because they have a very different worldview. I’m willing to work my butt off and carry water for as long as necessary because I’m committed to living a self-sufficient life with my family. If carrying water for any length of time is what is needed to live an agrarian life and not depend on what the “system” has to offer, then I’m going to do it. It’s about what I’m willing to give up to get to where I want to be.
“Often the hardest thing is not actually the physical work, but the mental work of forgetting what we have always been used to. The mental work makes the physical work possible.”
The keyword there is I. Me. I am the one constant. No one can do it for me. I understand why people have a hard time understanding why I would carry water for so long because I have asked all their same questions to myself over the years. And I’ve had my ups and downs with battling my own motivation in my head. How long am I going to do this? Did I sign up for this forever? Wouldn’t it be nice to have more time in the day for other things? And the BIG question that I never actually let myself ask, “Remember how things used to be so much easier?” Often the hardest thing is not actually the physical work, but the mental work of forgetting what we have always been used to. The mental work makes the physical work possible.
In my best moments, I have felt empowered and strong as I’ve carried out my water chores as a way to serve my family. In my worst moments, I’ve felt frustration beyond anything I would have ever imagined. On one particularly trying day, I remember sinking to the floor and crying tears of incredible futility as my toddler had once again scattered my empty water containers around the room. He came and sat with me on my lap as I cried and prayed to find the strength to continue my work. But that’s just the way life is, isn’t it? We will always have ups and downs with whatever work we are given to do. But I truly believe that seeing the benefit of our hard work and passing that lesson on to our children is worth the struggle.
I find myself feeling that it is the end of an era. Water at my fingertips. It really is a miracle. I’m really proud that I lived without it for three years of my life. It has proven to me that I don’t give up easily! I’ve heard stories about others “quitting” their off grid lives because it is so much harder than they expected it to be. When the glamour of a simple life wears off and the nitty gritty, day in and day out of the hard work sets in, it’s really easy to let your commitment waver.
I’m grateful I didn’t quit. Now, I have water in my house with no water bill and no power bill! That’s pretty amazing! And I did it. I carried all that water for three years. It was kind of like running a marathon and I think any marathon runner can relate to my tears of pride and joy shed at the finish line.
We have a 1500 gallon tank full of water sitting behind our house. Our plan is to fill it in the long term using a solar panel to power the battery used to operate the electric motor for our “Simple Pump”. (In the short term, we currently fill the tank with a gasoline powered transfer pump using water from our 19th Century “open” well.) The water flows out of the tank with gravity and through a pipe buried in the ground all the way to our house. From here, a manually operated pitcher pump pumps the water up and into the kitchen sink. It’s a beautiful sight!