Mystery Plumbing IV

OK the panic is over.  Civilization didn’t collapse.  No chickens died.  The ice rink is still under a quarter acre.  No pipes were harmed in the making of this movie.

Phase 0: I called the one and only plumber in known creation that will actually come to my house.  He wasn’t interested in coming to my house.  I expected this.  All I wanted was a plausible way to keep “water spewing everywhere at 10 degrees” from turning into “frozen solid like cement had been poured in the pipe”.  He talked me down from the ledge where I was going to jump and gave me the idea.

Phase 1:  I evacuated the water from the line as well as can be done in the middle of the night at 10 degrees in a barn.  I think it worked.  No kidding!  I deserve a Nobel prize.  So does my plumber.

I started by shutting off the water supply at the house.  When I bought the house the rusty old valve wasn’t very good.  I’d since replaced it with a Shark Bite ball valve because I’m a dour individual that plans ahead for disaster.  This time it saved my ass.  Yay me!

(Note: If you own a decrepit house you should immediately buy all the Shark Bite fittings you can afford.  If you live in a house without plumbing issues…well screw you Fatty McRich Guy…the rest of us love Shark Bite because it’ll seal tight in the middle of the night in ten seconds.  Seriously…this shit is black magic!)

Anyway I already have the valve and I shut ‘er down.  House life support systems remained on line.  The chickens were facing eminent doom & the exposed pipe was facing deep freeze.  Given the climate and relative value of the house and chickens that’s nearly a success story.

Then I went to the chicken coop (actually it’s a barn) and threaded a air compressor adapter with pressure gauge to the hose bib on the hydrant.  This takes a few minutes if you happen to have the air compressor fitting, Teflon tape, wrench, and the required air compressor quickly at hand.  Shockingly I do!

The chickens went apeshit when I fired a 30 gallon air compressor motor in the coop.  At least the noise of the machine overpowered my swearing.  The stressed out chickens might lay a few less eggs tomorrow.

Then opened the hydrant and blasted all the air I could muster  into the fitting.  Presumably it would force most of the water out of the busted pipe in the field.  I was concerned it might blowback through the Shark Bite into my basement.  I wasn’t sure how it would work.  In theory it made sense.

For once theory was correct.  The valve was as flawless as ever and I suspect I evacuated 80% – 90% of the water in the buried line.  Enough to go to sleep at night.

Phase 2:  The next day I attacked the old abandoned “pipe” (actually 1″ rigid hose buried a good 6′ deep.  First I hacksawed 6″ of damaged pipe.  Then I warmed it with a torch.  (All rednecks have torches and they’re not always used to accidentally burn up a truck.)  That gave it enough flex to shove a hose fitting with threads into the end.

I cranked that sucker tight with two hose clamps and then wrapped Teflon tape on the fittings threads and screwed on a cap.  Yah’ right…and I’m the King of Siam.

I actually crossthreaded the cap and screwed everything up.  Then a swore a lot.  The chickens were scared.

I had to use a Dremel tool, a knife, and more swearing to clear the threads and try again.  Then back to the coop where I pumped 16 pounds into the pipe to see if it would hold air.  Back at the busted pipe a little dish soap showed it was a nice seal.  Ha ha…of course it didn’t.  It blew bubbles like it was an Olympic event.

So I unthreaded it to try again…which released the compressed air in a rather explosive manner.  So loudly in fact that I barely noticed the half gallon of ice cold pipewater that spewed in my face.  Swearing is appropriate in this situation too.

More Teflon tape, more swearing, pump it back up to 16 pounds (a number selected at random), try the soap test.  Swear some more, crank the fitting a smidge and ….

Oh my God.  Can it be?  Yes!!!  Good golly it’s holding air!

In theory this will create an air pocket (that can’t freeze) at the point where the pipe emerges from underground (the spot where a freeze is most likely).  Since the air cant’ escape through the cap I can flood the pipe with water and the air pocket will persist.  I can use the barn’s frost free hydrant to feed the chickens again.  Next spring I’ll have to figure out how to install a frost free hydrant where the cap exists right now.

I wanted to leave it overnight to see if it held pressure but the hydrant has a hairline crack in a brass fitting.  The barn hydrant is for filling buckets and not a precision device.  It never holds pressure and it’s “off” 99% of the time.  No wonder I didn’t notice it.  Nor do I care, the only bad point is that any leak in the system disallows a pressure check to verify the cap I installed.  Even so I’m reasonably sure it’s ok.

Whew.  What a mess.  This is the kind of real life mini-disaster you’ll never see on the glossy homesteading “porn” magazines they sell at the checkout line.  (“I spent $60,000 on solar panels for my McMansion and so I’m eco-green.  Also I have six horses but no job.”  Bah!) I’ll know Mother Earth News is about homesteading the cover has a frustrated hick with a lit torch and torn jacket covered with frozen water swearing at a pressure gauge in a dark chicken pen.

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About Adaptive Curmudgeon

I will neither confirm nor deny that I actually exist.
This entry was posted in Garagineering, Homesteading, Technology of Indignity. Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Mystery Plumbing IV

  1. STxRynn says:

    we had low pressure in the house one Thanksgiving several years ago. After a check at the pump house, the pump was running but not any pressure. Bad News! ran around looking for a leak, and found one at the barn. The 60 year old galvanized pipe had finally rusted out, back flow made this weird sucking sound and the cattle pen was a lake. The pump had tried to keep pressure, and the scale / rust / sand that was pulled up blocked the pump downhole. Got the irrigation company to come out and ‘bail out’ the well. They had a pipe with a trap door in the bottom. dropped it into the hole over and over again. Every time it was pulled up, snap up the door, and rust would pour out. What a mess. Really should’ve relined the well, but the dollars werent there for that. That was a Thanksgiving to remember. Taking a bath in a cold bucket of water….. memories.

  2. MAJMike says:

    Wowzers! Just having everything in advance to deal with the emergency seems a miracle. You most certainly deserve a very tall high octane adult beverage or three.

    Hope there’s a minimum of drama in the new year, but then that would make for a dull blog.

    • I agree with you…anyone who can amass equipment that quickly should be showered with awards and money.

      I endeavor to have the world’s most boring New Year…and yet I’ll surely fail to attain anything near “dull”.

      • MAJMike says:

        Sometimes, dull is good.

        Reference the torch, I have one for lighting the charcoal grill. Over-kill, I know, but anything worth killing is worth over-killing.

        As for being a redneck, I qualify. I’m the first person in my family to get a college degree outside of prison.

  3. aczarnowski says:

    Huzzah! That sounds horrific. ;o

    And makes makes me feel much better about the 10 hours yesterday in the basement tearing out plaster, replacing a section of vent stack and replumbing the nearby f**kuppery of our place’s previous torturers.

    I’ve discovered PEX. It’s a good thing. Not pretty like well run copper. I’ll trade that against giving myself an ulcer sweating pipe into an un-well run copper setup. Sweating copper just isn’t a skill I can hold onto.

  4. acairfearann says:

    Nice fix! My house has that sort of mystery plumbing, with less excuse seeing as it has been in the family since before indoor plumbing existed so we ought to know right? We were somewhat bemused to discover that the kitchen sink, the laundry machine and the utility sink used for washing everything from paint brushes to God knows what didn’t go into the septic system….it went into a dry well under the garden. Making it confusing was the bathroom plumbing stack which by any rational logic should have connected to that line since it was in the same space, didn’t connect. It crossed over/under and went to the septic on its own line. Small mercy that. And the Lord knows where some of the old lines from the well to the barn and outbuildings are, they existed at some point, but were they cut? I hope I don’t find out your way!

    • Speaking of buried pipes around the farm I also have buried electric lines going to and fro more or less randomly. (Some hot and many not.)

      I came up with a clever idea to trace them. I got (begged for) a metal detector and went out in the lawn looking for metal.

      Then, and only then, did I realize that every square inch of a barnyard is completely coated in metal bits. Every foot or so I’d find a lug nut, a tin can, old bullets, barbed wire, huge bolts, etc… (I even found ice skates in a tree’s root ball once.) Farmers might have a reputation for caring for the earth but future civilizations will be mining farmyards for metal.

      • acairfearann says:

        Ice skates?! It is the random tools that have always intrigued me, dropping and not finding a nut is a regular activity, but how does one permanently misplace a good sized wrench? At least I know my ancestors were just as capable as I in the fine art of losing tools by means of the ‘I’ll just put it down for the moment’ method.

  5. MSgt B says:

    Congrats Curmudgeon, and have a happy New Year!

  6. Mark in Canada says:

    You have running water in your hen house? …Yuppie Scum

  7. Max Damage says:

    Future generations will indeed be mining farms for iron. I found a piece of wire in the pasture several years ago, pulled on it, and found more wire strands. Eventually I brought over the tractor and loader to unearth the back of what was known as a repeating player piano. All that remained were the strings and the cast iron backing. The wood had rotted away decades ago. Why was there a piano in my pasture? I had visions of some pioneer kicking the thing out of the back of a covered wagon and telling Martha she can pull the thing to California herself.

    Plowing under some weeds in a grassy area between buildings once, the plow snagged on some iron. Over the next hour, on that single acre, I pulled fence posts, railroad ties, random cans and bottles, and one Poulan chain saw out of the dirt. With the plow.

    The final find was when a sink-hole started forming near some trees in another pasture. I started bringing in fill-dirt and noticed an old iron fence post sticking up about 6″. Pulling on it revealed some more iron. Further digging found more metal I couldn’t dig out with the tractor, so I borrowed a backhoe. Buried in my pasture was a grain wagon and a hay elevator.

    All in all the iron pile from those finds filled two semi-trailers. At $100/ton it at least paid for the backhoe and fuel. I’d have paid that much to punch the SOB who left it there.

    – Max

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