Category Archives: house

Good job

I got home yesterday and checked the water pump (after the previous day’s repair efforts) and the concrete underneath it was dry. No leaks! No drips! My repairs and the rubber-band o-ring are working! I felt really proud of myself, which then made me laugh: it’s probably the only time in this lifetime when the sight of dirty old dry concrete will make me happy.

The water pump again

Last Sunday morning I was in a town at a hardware shop looking for pipe fittings to repair the leaking water pump system – not coincidentally the same hardware shop that has a little nursery with the best (almost only) range of succulents in this district. I bought a Haworthia venosa subsp. tessellata, so I wasn’t too upset when they didn’t have the specific pipe fitting I needed.

Then I got home and the water had stopped running again. Damn it.

Yesterday, Monday, a hot day when I couldn’t do any mowing because the mower is being repaired (yay!), instead of heading out to another town and another shop to look for the pipe fittings, I disconnected all the bits of the pipe from the pump and replaced all the old plumber’s tape (or thread seal or teflon tape), hoping to stop any leaks which might be letting air into the inlet side of the pump.

This is the pump with small sections of attached pipes, moved into the shade:

pipe, pipe fittings, and water pump

And here is the ridiculous situation that occurs when you need to reduce a 40mm pipe to fit a 1¼” pump inlet using only the fittings lying around unused on the farm:

disconnected pipe fittings that must be joined to reduce the size of the pipe

It’s also ridiculous that there’s still a mix of metric and imperial(?) measurements in use. It would be better and easier and simpler to standardise, and most of the world uses metric, so get with the program, non-metric laggards!

Anyway, I replaced all the plumber’s tape and reconnected all the pipes, and that does seem to have stopped the leaks, yes.

Also, there’d been a problem with a connection between the pump and the controller that sits on top of it. Something I’d been calling a “washer” had stretched and distorted, allowing water to leak out whenever the pump was operating. Here is that thing highlighted against the plumber’s tape so it’s visible, and thanks to the internet I now know it’s called an o-ring seal:

pipe fitting showing a bent o-ring seal highlighted against plumber's tape

There weren’t any spare o-ring seals lying around, though, and I couldn’t find a way to fix the faulty one, so I cut a rubber band to fit the groove, hoping for the best. According to the internet, an o-ring is able to seal a join because it gets compressed under pressure when the two parts are screwed together – it gets squashed to fill the space, in other words, filling up the groove it sits in. At least, I think that’s the idea.

So far, the rubber band seems to be doing the trick. The connection isn’t leaking yet, and one morning later, the water is still running. I can’t expect a rubber band to last very long, though, especially not when the pump heats up in the sun. So, at some point I’ll need to find and buy a new o-ring seal. But at least now I know what it’s called, so that’s an advance.

And three other things I learned:
1. There’s a big difference in quality between various brands and types of plumber’s tapes. So far I’ve found that a thick pink one is best. Anything thin is difficult to use, and that’s been the case with all the white tapes, so maybe colour is an indication of value. Go pink!
2. I used a lot more tape than I’d expected to need. I bought four rolls, expecting that to last for years, but 2.5 of those rolls are gone already.
3. To do repairs on things that are screwed together, such as pipes and fittings, you need two tools: one to hold the first part still and another to unscrew the second part. This is obvious, I guess, but I hadn’t thought of it. I had a new pair of multigrips (see the second photo above – they’re called Vise Grip and are very nice so far), but they would have been useless if I hadn’t also had the use of another pair found lurking in the tractor’s toolbox.

I got the water running again after this morning’s post, but then it stopped twice more during the day. I checked the foot valve, but it seems to be fine. Now I’m thinking that one of the little leaks around the pump must be more serious than it appears. If there’s no water in the morning, I’ll have to have a better look at all the connections.


All day I go around writing blog posts in my head, taking photos, thinking about things I should record, and then at night I get back to the computer and don’t write them. It feels like too much effort and I’m tired.

But I should make that effort more often than I’m currently doing. It’s good to read the posts afterwards and to see the photos, and the process of assembling a post helps me step out of my head and become more sensible.

The sensible part of me. What a wankery thing to say. But there is a sensible part of me, and it re-emerges when I calm down and look at things slowly, one step at a time – as is necessary when writing things down.

Calm down.
This is not a crisis.
One step. Next step. Next step.

That’s the benefit of writing things down and reading them over. I can start to look at what’s happening from another point of view. Slowly.

Anyway: I’m sitting here writing a blog post this morning because I can’t get the water pump to move water from the tank to the house, and I was starting to get frazzled trying.

The water has been fine for a few weeks, and it only started stopping again on Saturday, just when the weather started getting hot and humid. It’s a hot and humid day already today, Monday, 08:30, and I’ve been standing in the sun out at the pump, sweating, trying to get the water working again, and it wasn’t happening.

So, I’m taking a break. Being sensible. One step at a time, and a cup of tea. (There’s water on hand in old Berri ‘Apple Mango Banana’ juice bottles – the best juice in the land. I ran out of the juice weeks ago, but the bottles just go on and on.)

I expect the water supply will be fixable again when I go back to it; that’s the way it usually goes. There’s nothing wrong with the pump itself, it just needs to build up pressure long enough to lift the water out of the tank, then things will be fine. Usually it just takes ten or fifteen minutes of fiddling about and it starts again. I don’t know why that hasn’t worked today. That’s basically the way it went yesterday, three times. And three times the day before.

The problem is the foot valve. Weeks ago when I said I was going to go to town and buy a new one, I fixed the old one instead – by trying to fix the faulty washer and then discovering that if I just removed the washer, the valve would work, which made me laugh. What’s the point of the washer if the valve works better without it? I have no idea. But maybe there’s a condition when the washer is needed; maybe that condition kicks in when the weather gets hot.

I’ll buy a new valve as soon as I get to a suitable shop, but that won’t be today. Today I have to finish the mowing down the road, because last week the ground was still too wet, and twice, on two separate days, the mower nearly got stuck in mud. Half the property is still unmowed, and by now the grass will probably be knee-high.

I was thinking about this while trying to fix the water problems here at the house, standing at the pump feeling increasingly panicked about all the things I’ve been meaning to do and haven’t, all the things I have to do and don’t want to do, all the things, all the things.

That wasn’t helping. So, here I am in front of a blog post, thinking slowly.

One step. Next step. Next step.

Now it’s 09:30, and I’m de-frazzled and cool and ready to go back out there again, into the day. Thank you, WordPress! Thank you, Berri bottles of water! Thank you, Dilmah tea! And a good day to you, Reader. Let’s be careful out there. (Am I quoting ‘Hill Street Blues’ now? Probably. I’m the only person in the entire universe who’s old enough to remember that show.)

Stinky house

Somewhere near the bathroom – in the walls or ceiling or under the floor – there’s a dead rat. The smell of it is now stinking out half the house.

It’s my fault the poor thing is dead. I have to throw rat baits under the house every few months, because rats move in and gnaw on the timbers in the house, and worse, chew the wires. I think it’s probably only the plastic casings around the wires that they want to eat (if they do actually eat them), but the wires can get cut, which possibly might lead to a fire, and once, years ago, cut the phone line. (A phone technician had to crawl around under the house trying to find where and what the problem was. He really deserved a bonus that day, so – as my parents still lived here at the time – they gave him a six-pack of beer in tribute: not a great present and nowhere near enough compensation, but the only gift-like thing we could find at the time.)

For the rats, poisoning would be an awful way to die, but there doesn’t seem to be any alternative. Traps wouldn’t work if I had to get under the house to set and retrieve them (because I wouldn’t get under the house to set and retrieve them). And if they were set outside, the traps might catch other animals or birds instead. A cat is out of the question, because I hate cats. And there’s probably a python living in the ceiling of the house – they do tend to inhabit the ceilings of old houses – but if there is one, it’s not doing a sufficient job of keeping the rat numbers in check. So… baits. I’m sorry, rats.

Sometimes the rats die outside, which is still awful for them, but better for me: I can find and bury them, and that way there’s no smell lingering around the place for ages.

There’s no way to counteract the smell, it seems. It’s an overwhelming stench, and it changes over time as, presumably, the body goes through different stages of decomposition. If forensic scientists haven’t found a way to measure those differences, I think they really should. It could be an indicator of time of death.

When I carried the stinky Peperomia graveolens past the bathroom earlier, on the way outside to give it some morning sun (in the thirty seconds available between rain showers), I noticed the smell of its flower spike temporarily took my mind off the smell of the dead rat. So, on its way back into the house, I tried leaving the Peperomia in the bathroom for a while. But the rat stench overcame the Peperomia stench, and in fact completely cancelled it out. I couldn’t smell the Peperomia at all.

So, dammit, there’s just no escape. This is one stinky house, and will remain so for a week or more.