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.