A couple of days ago I mentioned to somebody our temperature here had dropped to -7. His comment, “You should be able to get some work done with a bit of frost.”
Admittedly it was more pleasant checking sheep when you had the opportunity to walk across the surface of a field rather than grub about in the mud, but still, I’m not a fan of frost. We’re OK with a couple of degrees but we’ve just too much water piping running through buildings to keep lagged; especially when cattle will happily pass a boring afternoon by chewing off the lagging.
Anyway, so much for getting some work done, one of the buildings froze. If we’d had two hundred cattle drinking they’d have kept the flow running and it wouldn’t have frozen, but there were only a couple of dozen. So I just made sure they had enough water for the day because the thaw was promised.
And sure enough the thaw came, and with it the burst pipe. Now a lot of our water piping is alkethene with push fit connectors or the chunky ones you can tighten by hand without faffing about with pipe-dogs. But some of it is still old fashioned galvanised. And guess which joint burst? Yes, the one where the stop tap was connected to a length of galvanised. Not only that but it was the joint at the bottom of the stop tap that went, so the stop tap was as much use as a spare bride at a wedding.
So it’s a case of switching it off at the mains and because there was a water heater involved I got somebody in from our local agricultural engineers. Together we looked at the system. The galvanised pipe installed in the mid sixties was looking rough. The problem was that we couldn’t reach it without moving the water heater and that is bigger than me, fastened to the wall and both plumbed in and wired in. So we slung a pipe in to bypass it and we’ll have a rethink in spring. For now the water was running again.
And somebody said, ‘Now I suppose the pipe will be airlocked and you’ll have all sorts of problems bleeding it through.
That’s when I said “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” Everybody had water ‘now.’ Of course this morning there were problems. I couldn’t have fixed them yesterday because they hadn’t happened. The problem was that there was no water going into the header tank. (Note the photograph.)
Now I was pretty sure what the cause of this was. If you’ve ever had to work with an old fashioned ball-cock (the best sort, they’re rugged, brass and last for decades) you’ll know that inside them there’s a valve nozzle at the end you screw into the water supply. These narrow the water supply down to a jet to work the ball-cock. However what you find is that when the water pipes freeze, all sorts of crap flakes off the inside of the pipes, and it can make its way down the pipe and block the valve nozzle.
So buggerlugs here had to fix it. The first rule of header tanks is that they’re as high up as possible. If there’s plenty of room above one for you to work in, the plumber’s not been doing his job properly. So it’s a case of tie a ladder to the beam and go up and have a look.
The second rule of header tanks is that it’s always dark up there. The third rule of header tanks is that is at this point you discover your torch has finally given up the ghost.
So equipped with a rejuvenated torch, perched on the ladder, I finally got the ball-cock valve taken off, (luckily there was a stop tap conveniently placed, we must have been thinking when it was put in) and I took it into the kitchen where my fingers could warm up enough to feel anything, and I had a pair of reading glasses so I could see what was going on. To be fair there is room to work on this tank. We had one where everything was so tight that when a galvanised pipe leading to the ball-cock developed a split in it, there was no way I could get in with stilsons to do anything about it. I ended up giving the pipe a coating of weld across the split to stop it leaking. Anybody who says you cannot weld galvanised pipe with water still running through it has never been desperate enough.
Anyway back to the job and ten minutes later everything is assembled and we’re cooking with gas.
And an hour later I had to bleed it because part of the system had got airlocked.
Who knows, tomorrow I might have to go back and bleed another bit, but at the moment everything’s got enough water.
“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
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Another collection of anecdotes drawn from a lifetime’s experience of peasant agriculture in the North of England. As usual Border Collies, Cattle and Sheep get fair coverage, but it’s mixed with family history and the joys of living along a single track road.