Sunday, October 18, 2009

Disaster, pt 2: No running water!

As I indicated in my last post, I lived for about 5 years on land that had no electricity, septic system or running water. During that time, I got married and had 2 of my 3 kids. It wasn't until my son was 9 months old that we were finally able to afford to have a well dug.

How did I survive?

Truth be told, it was easy. At least it was for me. I wanted to be independent - and I was broke. lol So, like the pioneers of old, I made due with what I had an upgraded as I could afford it.

The last post deals with having no septic system or city sewer. This one I'll tell you what I did (and later my family did) to live without running water, but still have sanitation and clean water available to us.

My first water came from getting friends to save their empty milk jugs. (This was back in the days before everyone drank bottled water. (was that REALLY only 24 years ago?)

I would fill the cleaned out milk jugs with water from the spigot at work or church and haul them home. Every Day! See, not only did I cook and drink the water, I was filling a FIVE HUNDRED GALLON water bed with the water. Yup. It was the only bed I had and I needed it filled - so... I filled jugs, and I filled jugs, and I filled jugs. I had about 10 jugs. I had 3 to bathe with, 1 to cook with, 1 to water the chickens, rabbits and dog with, and the other 5 I filled that bed with. Each day - 6 days a week. Perseverance works! At that rate, it took me about 100 days to get it full. Do you know that at 6 days a week it's 16.67 WEEKS! That's about 4 months of dragging home bottles of water. worked. The bed was full (though it still wasn't WARM!)


I had short hair then. Up side - it doesn't take a lot of water to wash short hair. Down side - you have to wash it everyday because mine is curly and sticks up and won't lay down without wetting it.

I washed without running water for several years and I used a variety of different ways to do it.

First I bought a solar shower. That worked, but it used a lot of water. Water that I wanted in that BED! True, I could hang it in the sun, but since I moved onto the land in Feb and it was in NORTH Florida, the water wasn't getting very warm. So I would heat it - first in a pot over a fire, later on a Coleman stove.

I had to shower outside. Ok, I lived in a rural neighborhood. There were LOTS of trees on the land, but still...I did have a couple of neighbors 10 acres away. I used a small, partial enclosed green house aka "the pyramid". (Yes, the former owners built a pyramid greenhouse that had partially decayed siding on it. Why? Something about "energy fields".) However, I was never comfortable showering out there. It felt very vulnerable and even though I would wait until after the school bus came, I was always worried about one of the neighborhood kids spying. On to Plan B.

Note: If you don't have an enclosed bathroom you can use, make a "shower stall" outside. You can buy one at Wallyworld in the camping section or make your own - plans are on the web. You can get fancy and build one of stone or wood. Or you can use tarps or regular shower curtains (you want opaque ones - so they can't be seen through!)

Plan B was just using the water jugs. By then, I had the septic system installed and the electricity coming to the trailer. I had been on the land about 9 or 10 months and it was getting cold again. At least I wasn't showing outside any longer.

I would pour all the water out of the bottle into a pan and heat it on the stove the pour the warmed water back into the jug. It was kinda tricky getting the water warm enough, without scalding myself. And it took a while to heat the whole thing. Then I got married and went to Plan C.

My (now former) husband was from around here and here's what he taught me to do. This is what his family did - a lot of his life they (and the people around here in Appalachia) didn't have running water. They too, just made due with what they had.

Plan C: Take a 1 gal jug of water. Pour off about 1/4 -1/3 of it into a pan and heat it on the stove (over campfire or on your Coleman) almost to a boil. If you're washing your hair, do this with 2 gals of water instead of one.

When the water is hot, pour it back into the jug. BE CAREFUL it's boiling water(duh). Do NOT hold the bottle while you pour the water! (again, duh.) Put the cap(s) back on the bottle(s) and agitate to disperse the hot water.

If you have a large basin, you can stand in it. If you have a tub, put the basin in the tub and then stand in it. Otherwise, use a pan or pail of some sort to collect the water as you wet your hair. There's nothing in the world wrong with this water. You're just wetting your hair and it can be used to then rinse the soap out!

So, your hair is wet.

Use a little shampoo. Here's the point that I wish I had known about baking soda and vinegar as shampoo and rinse. It's SOOO much easier to rinse out the baking soda than it is shampoo! Even after a week and a half of being sick and not washing my hair, I washed it once, rinsed it with water and then used the vinegar and water on it and it was clean. Here, in the middle of the page is where I talk about using baking soda for shampoo and Apple cider vinegar for rinsing it.

Either way, wash your head.

When you're ready to rinse out the shampoo, use the water you wet your hair with to rinse it. If you're in the tub, just pour it over your head and let it wet your body. Then you need even less water with which to wash yourself.

If you want to, lather and rinse again. Pour the water slowly. It doesn't take a lot of water, just a steady drizzle to rinse your hair. Be careful to not over use the shampoo or conditioner. We have been trained by watching the tv ads to use WAY too much shampoo. The commercials shows people with enough lather to wash at least 4 people's hair! It sells THEIR products at a hefty price to YOU. (Just like toothpaste and laundry detergent! We do NOT need the amounts shown on tv.)

If you use conditioner, use it after your done washing. If it's a rinse-out conditioner, rinse it out. Again, you don't need to dump the whole gallon out at once. Just trickle it onto your hair.

Unless you have really long hair that you shampoo twice and use a rinse-0ut conditioner to boot, it should only take 1 gallon or less of water to wash your hair.

To wash your body:

If you're in the tub, your body is already wet from washing your hair. You can just go to step two.

Wet your body with a LITTLE bit of the water. If I've washed my hair, I collect and use the rinse water to wet me down. This gives me a little more water to use for a clean rinse. I'm only wanting to wet my skin to make it easier to wash. It also rinses off any loose dirt.

This sounds stupid, but in case someone's mama didn't teach them how to wash themselves here goes:

Wash and rinse your face first. You can use a slightly soapy wash cloth or just wet a washcloth and get it soapy. Set the wash cloth down where it won't get stuff wet (or get dirt in it) and use the soap from your hands to wash your face. Rinse your face! Don't leave soap on it, it will dry it out.

Next, use the wash cloth on your body Trust me, you'll get cleaner faster and the abrasion from the rag will help remove dead skin.

Rub the soapy cloth all over your body, going from cleanest to dirtiest. So wash neck, arms, chest, back, stomach, arm pits, legs, groin, buttock and then feet. (You don't want to chance transferring any type of fungus to your groin area by washing your feet first.)

Now starting at the top of your neck, slowly pour the water over your skin in the same order you washed yourself. If you don't need the whole 1 gallon of water, do not feel like you HAVE to use it. Save it for something else. However, do make sure you're rinsed off well, otherwise, you probably be itching from the soap drying your skin.

If you'd like, you can dedicate a lid or two from deceased water jugs for “shower heads” . Take the cap(s) and punch some holes in the lid to work like a shower. Try using a nail on a cap you don't want. I'm not sure if it will shatter the cap or not. You could also try heating a nail and pushing holes through the cap with that. When you're ready to use the “shower”, turn the water bottle upside down and the water will come out. I think that after you've used part of the water, you'll get a lock. You'll probably need to loosen the cap or tip it right-side up to get air back into the bottle and get it flowing again.

To wash just your hands:

We were given an old 30 cup coffee/iced tea dispenser (sort of like this one). It had no lid and no electrical parts. We kept it on the kitchen counter behind or to one side of the sink and filled with water. When we need to wash our hands, we opened the spout, wet our hands and then closed the spout. We lathered our hands and used an elbow or forearm to flip the switch back open so we could rinse them off. Close the spout when done.

If you don't happen to have an old coffee urn, use this scout trick. Take a milk jug or bleach bottle, punch a pencil size hole near the very bottom of the jug – about 1” from the bottom edge. Use a piece of twig or a golf tee for a stopper in the hole. Tie a piece of rope through the handle to tie or hang it from a tree/post/whatever you have. Fill it up with water and suspend it over a basin. When you're ready to use it, loosen the top, remove the stick or tee, wet your hands and replug the hole. Lather hands, remove the stick/tee and rinse. Replace the stick/tee and retighten the cap. If you use a bar of soap tied in the leg of an old pair of panty hose or sock, you can tie the soap off through the handle of the water-filled bottle. It will keep it out of the dirt.

Life moved on. We had a daughter and someone had pity on us and gave us a 500 gallon agricultural water tank. It hooked up behind our little pickup truck. My husband would drive it to church, a friend's house or where ever fresh water was available. He'd fill up those trusty gallon milk jugs, then he'd fill up the tank and haul it home. Note: milk jugs will eventually leak. On the carpet. You go to pick it up one day and it just comes apart in your hands. And you have water. Everywhere. Did I mention on your carpet?

After he filled the big tank and drug it home, he would park it near the “water in” port on the trailer, we would put a sump-pump into it, and run the “out” hose from the pump to the “in” port for water for the trailer. We then feed the electrical cord through the window to the wall outlet. Plug it in when we wanted water, unplugged it when we wanted A/C.

Because we didn't know what chemicals had been used in this tank in its prior life, we didn't drink or cook with this water, but it worked for showering, laundry and cleaning. Only we had to turn off the a/c to do the laundry or it would trip the fuse breaker switch! Lol

For we filled up the empty milk jugs that our friends would give us with fresh water and carry those home to use for cooking, drinking and watering the animals.

When son was 9 months old, we took some of our money out of a 409 plan and had a well drilled. It was an 80' deep well, nicely into the Florida Aquafier and we had great water.

(And I would gladly trade the house I'm renting now for that land and trailer back – even if it had no water, septic, electric or phone and sat in the hot FL sun with no fan or a/c!)


Cheryl (SwineInsanity) said...

I found this site... Was looking for a salve recipe someone made for me....

LizBeth said...

Darlene, when are you going to write a book?

Pokeberry Mary said...

Egads! We were w/o water once for about a month--maybe it was 2? We found a spring on our land and pumped it in for cleaning use--but had to keep buying drinking water. It was quite an eye-opening experience. Water I think is the ONE and only thing you can't do without. You can survive just about anything else with some ingenuity but you do need a source of water--even if its the neighbor. We used to fill up 5 gallon buckets for a friend when her well went out too.. That sort of thing happens in rural areas I think more than most folks realize. Of course there's no shortage of water around here right now... just put out a few buckets and they will fill. ;)Cute kids!!!

Darlene said...

I know! I think I must have missed the memo that called for the building of an Ark!

Well, at least it's sunny today.

Pokeberry Mary said...

Yes the sun is shining! Yeah from South Carolina!