Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Hard learning, hard water

Scheeesh. I'm wondering if there is anything about living out in the country that I do not have to learn from the ground up, the hard way.

Take water. I've always taken water for granted. Even when living in ever-thirsty California, thinking about water just meant not wasting it, not how to manage it. And hard water or soft water? Honestly, I never really understood what that was all about.

Do now.

I should say, we have a well. When we first moved in two years ago, the house had been vacant for a month and the water smelled like rotten eggs. Uh oh, I thought. No no, all the neighbors said, don't worry, once you get the water moving again, it'll be fine. And it was. They even showed me how to fill the water softener in the cellar with the big 40 lb bags of salt from the grocery store. It was fine. Mysterious, but fine. If you forget to refill it, I was told, the water will start to turn your sinks red, from all the iron, but there's a cleaner for that, so it's fine. And it was. Fine.

Then the derecho last summer hit our pasture and run-in shelter and the trees came down on the ponies' heads and the power went out and the well stopped pumping and I said, I need a real barn. So I hired a guy to build a barn and we decided it would go nicely right where the dog run was, so the dogs would have to run somewhere else, which was fine. I pulled up the temporary t-posts in the dogs' yard and pounded them in elsewhere. Actually, it was better. The new area was by the backdoor, so the dogs could just scoot out whenever they wanted. It was fine.

The first clue that it was not fine, had I been paying attention, was the showerhead in the bathroom. It started spraying No big deal, I said to myself, old showers do that.

Then sometime later, the sprayer on the kitchen sink stopped working. Blamed that on the 12-year-old. Stuff happens. Oh well.

Meanwhile, the white porcelain sink in the bathroom was getting rust stains, because, well, the dog fence was now between me and the cellar, where the water softener is. Turned out, the extra effort required to carry the 40 lb bags of salt the long way around the yard and house was just enough extra to make me avoid it. What? I need to take some salt to the cellar? Oh no, I need to mow the lawn. Shower starting to look a little orange? I think we're out of chicken food, better run to the feed store. 

The next clue should have been the plates. They'd come out of the dishwasher with a hard white scum that just wouldn't come off. Distant bells in my head did sound and a voice did tell me, hard water does this, fill the water softener, dumbo. I will, I will, I told the voice, but always there'd be a different 40 lb bag in need of carrying somewhere else for someone else and that sucked up all the effort available until there was no energy or will left to carry the bags of salt the long way around the house to get to the cellar to fill up the water softener.

Then the dishwasher stopped cleaning. One bad cycle is a fluke, but two or three bad cycles and the same dirty cup that just won't rinse clean and even I start to wonder if there's a problem with the dishwasher. Seemed the top rack wouldn't wash, though the bottom was ok. Hmmm, the brain's still only firing on one cylinder, so I blame it on the 12-year-old. The child's a little rough after all. Must have broken the water connection to the top rack. Add it to the list of jobs for the plumber. Fine. Whatever. I've got other things to worry about.

Until the last straw finally came to rest on the camel's back. The coffee maker stopped making coffee. One minute it was fine. The next it was not. Water going in. Nothing coming out. Now, I can live with a broken dishwasher and a crooked showerhead, and who really truly needs the sprayer thing on the sink anyway? Surely that's a luxury I can manage without. But a broken coffee maker? The threat of a lingering, indefinite caffeine embargo finally got the old brain to step up and take some responsibility.

In the end it took a couple of days for the puzzle to come together, to reach the top of my learning curve, to finally learn my lesson.

Hard water does more than stain your sink.

Hard water does more than leave a film on the outside of glasses.

Hard water will also leave deposits on the inside of every pipe, drain, and water-carrying apparatus it touches -- deposits that build up...and up...and up.

Hard water will destroy every water-using appliance you have if you let it.

I tested this theory by soaking the head of the sink sprayer in a mug of vinegar. Bingo, we have a fully functioning sprayer again.

How do I get vinegar to the water supply on the top rack of the dishwasher?

I don't know. Maybe I'm not at the top of my learning curve quite yet, but I did fill the d*#^ water softener.

And I apologized, in my head at least, to the 12-year-old.


  1. Put a couple of cups of vinegar in your dishwasher, no dishes, no detergent, run thru a cycle, repeat if necessary. Same for coffee pot, put a cup of vinegar in with some water and run thru with no coffee, run clear water thru a couple of times after. I buy vinegar by the gallons.

  2. That'll learn ya' durn ya'! ;)
    Which reminds me, I need to soak the shower head and clean the coffee pot...

  3. I'm new to your blog and really enjoying it. I love your writing and humor, and look forward to each new post.

  4. Also, it is said that drinking hard water may cause kidney stones. Just saying.

    Vicki Allen, weaver

    1. Yow. That's one I don't want to learn the hard way.

  5. We're on a well and don't have a water softener because I personally detest the taste of softened water. I can live with the hard water stains, but I just KNOW we're going to pay for it in the end by having to replace miles & miles of water pipe somewhere in the house. Oh, and our hot water heater was getting less & less hot water from it. DH "opened" the little trap door to replace a heating element and had to scoop out, and I kid you not, three or more gallons of white sediment (lime or calcium I suspect) from the bottom of it. Can't imagine what it's doing to the rest of the water system.

    I may have to cave in and get a water softener & just drink from the garden hose.

  6. Ah, I see you come from the same State of Denial that I do. I had put a filter on the water line - we have sulphur and minerals here, too - and it dawned on me that I hadn't replaced it in a while (oh, a few 8 or more months or so). I opened the door to the crawl space and was greeted by the dessicated husk of a rat. I closed the door. It may be another 8 months before I put on the hazmat suit, goggles, gloves, mask, etc. and open the door again. Gak.