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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Fourth with a Homeowner Hangover!

Happy Fourth of July to all from Kat and Layne! We know our U.S. of A. expat friends in Costa Rica are gathering for a traditional Independence Day picnic of hot dogs, games and entertainment including a special Flag Ceremony with members of the U.S. Marine Corps, all put on by the American Colony Committee of Costa Rica. The Democrats Abroad Costa Rica group will be present with a booth set up for voter registration and voter information for the fall elections. Although we'd love to be there, we will enjoy some barbeque and fireworks with our friend Ruth at the Auburn Fairgrounds later today.

Meanwhile, we continue on with our endless projects around here, both planned ones and some unexpected challenges. A few days ago Layne noticed water gushing out from the ground along the driveway near our well. Uh-oh. This did not look good. Naturally, it was the weekend so reaching our well pump guys was not happening. Off went the electricity to the well pump and off went the faucet at the well that feeds water into our 2500-gallon water storage tank. We filled up a large kettle from the hose to have a small supply at the house and settled down to wait for Nate, the repair guy, to return our call.

When Monday came and we spoke with Nate, it turned out his crews were all extremely busy with water problems all over the area, some even far up into the mountains out of cell phone range. The upshot was that he didn't really know when they could get out here, perhaps not for several days. We continued that day without water, our newly planted flowers and tomatoes beginning to wilt. Well, the tomatoes were already a disaster as during the night a deer had managed to jump the back gate and nibble the tomato plants down to a nub. By yesterday, Layne decided we had best take matters into our own hands and see if we could determine where the water was coming from.

Now mind you, Layne and I are "Abbott and Costello" when it comes to handyman chores. As I often say, if there's a wrong way to do something, that's probably the way we'll try first. We just are not very knowledgeable when it comes to repairing things around a house. But we are bold so with shovels in hand, we headed to the well and started digging, carefully, to see if we could find the leak. The softened ground clearly indicated water had been seeping from somewhere. Indeed, it appeared that our previous tenant had even laid thick rubber stall mats around the base of the blue holding tank perhaps to stabilize the ground, which suggested the problem had been going on for some time.

After turning the power back on and opening the water valve, it didn't take long before I saw the source of the problem: water was simply gushing out from what appeared to be a shut-off valve that had failed. What had probably been a slow leak initially, over time had given way and water was pouring out onto the base of the holding tank, softening the soil until the tank itself was beginning to cant over and threaten further breakage of pipes and other parts of the well assembly. It was either find a way to stop the flow or continue to do without water.

We tried to find a pipe plug of some kind that would screw into the opening but nothing fit. As I squatted down by the pipe, fighting off the army of ants that we had disturbed, I finally determined that by pushing in hard on the broken valve, the water would stop flowing from the open pipe. So now what could we use to keep pressure on that valve? In a moment of inspiration, we decided that we might be able to use some of the many large rocks on our land to apply the necessary pressure and halt the flow. It took not one, not two, but finally with three large rocks, we solved our problem - at least for the moment. We continue to check periodically to be sure our jerry-rigged solution is still in place.

With that problem solved, we were feeling pretty smug. That is, until we ran the dishwasher and discovered that the garbage disposal was blocked by something, which was causing the water exiting the dishwasher to fill up one side of the sink! Undaunted, Layne grabbed a plunger and with admirable determination, managed to open the disposal pipe. Good grief. What next?

Photo courtesy of
So with no immediate homeowner crises to handle today, we managed to get out for a walk this morning, strolling along shady San Pedro Hill Road nearby. As we often are when exploring our Sierra Foothills neighborhood, we were struck by the reminders of the Gold Rush of 1849 when tens of thousands of hopeful miners swarmed into this area in search of the precious metal. The old 49er's trail, known now as Highway 49 in their honor, appears here and there in short, rough stretches as it meets up with today's more modern asphalt thoroughfare. Gullies carved decades ago by placer miners diverting streams in the dream of riches tumbling down from the quartz mountains above still remain. Today's view was of vines known hereabouts as "Miner's Grapes," which continue to yield delicious fruits. The grapevines along our walk today were enormous, covering long sections of the side of the road and seeming to blanket the steep hillsides below.

Like many North Americans, Layne and I are indeed blessed and very lucky to have been born in this wonderful, though imperfect, "land of the free and home of the brave." We wish you all a celebratory and safe Fourth of July!


  1. Republicans Abroad also was part of the American Colongy 4th celebration.

  2. Thanks for that info re Republicans Abroad. Glad to hear you were there as well. When I wrote an article on expat voting, etc. for awhile back, I had a hard time getting in touch with anyone from the Republicans Abroad so wasn't sure if you had an active chapter in CR.