#33 Taking a Bath in a Puddle*

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Last night, Wednesday, I took a bath in a puddle. Do not worry the puddle was not of mud, but one of water so I did get clean. However, I consider it a miniscule amount of water compared to Monday night’s bath. Monday’s was luxurious — deep and hot, almost as hot as I could get it. Most people do not consider a bath luxurious just because the water is deep enough to slide down into and be completely covered with warm water. I do.

When people think of a luxurious bath thoughts come forth of lots of hot water infused with bath salts or essential oils, bubbles peaking over the tub rim, candles lit with a towel cradling one’s head. In one hand a glass of a favorite wine and a good trashy novel in the other hand. Simply soaking in more than a couple inches of hot water, sans salts, oils, and bubbles is a luxury to me. (Although I do have them available.)

I had not had a good (deep) bath in a couple of weeks. Tuesday’s, last night’s, was not deep enough for a duck to swim in. On the other hand it was enough for me to splash around in and get the soap off.

In our house we do not have a shower per se; instead we have a wonderful large and deep tub that is positioned so the bather can look out the large window into the trees and up at the sky.  We do have a hand-held shower head, but we rarely use it. It is primarily used by our guests, even though is is not mounted on the wall nor do we have a shower curtain. In our house it is all about baths.

I have been taking baths in my puddle for almost two months now, since about Thanksgiving, although it does not seem as if it has been that long. We are in water conservation mode. We get fresh water, for drinking and bathing, directly from Lake Huron. In the mechanical room there are two pressurized water tanks for the house, each has a capacity of about 40 gallons of pressurized water. When you come for a visit and turn on the water, you would not think twice about it — there’s the faucet, just turn it on and out comes water (hot or cold, your choice). During most of the year we have unlimited water directly from the lake. During the winter we think twice about every drop we use. The more we use, the more chance for a line to freeze and the more we have to pump.

Pulling the boats out of the lake just before Thanksgiving, meant that we needed to work out the rest of the kinks in the winter water system. The lake would freeze soon and so would the water lines. There is a submersible pump in the lake about twenty feet from the shoreline. It is attached, during non-freezing weather, to a pipe that runs through the woods up to the house. This water line lays amidst the trees, undergrowth, goose berries, and currants and is covered by leaves, fallen twigs and branches. But it is not buried. Burying the water line is not an option on our island; there are only has a couple of inches of topsoil above dolomite bedrock. If we were to use this intake pipe during the winter, or freezing months, it would quickly freeze each time water was pumped into the pressurized holding tanks. Layer by layer, ice would build up inside the line until it was frozen solid, then no water. So Hugh cleverly designed a winter watering system.

With a lot of quick-connect fittings for 2 inch PVC plumbing and about 220 feet of flexible hose, Hugh created a water line that is transportable. He re-plumbed the current system so that he could hook up the flexible hose to the holding tanks. Once hooked up we unroll the flexible hose from the hose reel, which he built, down the boardwalk to the shore and quick-connect it to the lake pump. It takes about fifteen minutes, once it is all hooked up, to fill both tanks to capacity. This does not count the fifteen minutes, more or less, to connect and unreel the hose and another twenty minutes to drain the hose, disconnect it and reel it back up. Our hour’s worth of work provides us, if we are judicious, with about three days worth of water.

Three days of water if I take a bath in a puddle.

Between pumping days we have to make sure the lake ice does not block the connecting hose in the lake. On Sunday, Hugh had to use the ax to chop away a couple of inches of ice. Monday morning the entire bay was frozen. I began my morning walk with ax in hand, expecting to chop the hole clear. The ice was only about an inch thick and easy to open. At lunchtime today, Wednesday, I went down to the lake to watch the wind blow the ice out of the bay.

“I better check the waterline hole.” The hose line was frozen over. I hacked away until it was clear of ice. I could tell by the thickness that we did not clear the hole yesterday.

“Mental note to self, add to daily chore list – clear waterline hole of ice.”

When we pump water we can pump as much as we want, so it is a great time to take a nice, deep hot bath. Our routine is to have supper then hook up the blue flexible water line. I clean the dishes and fill the tub while the pump is going. I use as much hot water as I can so the hot draining water melts any built up ice in the drains. We also fill all the water containers – the tea kettle, two one-gallon water pitchers, and the large kettle and the cookstove water holding tank, both of which provide hot water and humidify the house.

All in all, conserving water is not new for me. My grandmother, Ganny, one year gave all her friends and family a brick to put in their toilet tanks to help conserve water. I was taught to turn off the water while I was brushing my teeth. And if I was talking to someone while doing dishes, I was to not let the water run if I was not rinsing dishes. It is easy to be conscientious about daily water use, pump water every few days and take baths in a few inches of water. If this is the cost of living in this beautiful area of the world, it is a small price I am very willing to pay.

“Sweetiepie, can you turn the water off?” This is Hugh’s indication that it is time to stop pumping. Monday the water in the tub was nice and deep. Even though tomorrow, Thursday we will probably pump again, I may not opt for a luxurious soak. Sometimes I just want to bathe and crawl into bed and read. During non-freezing weather while one of us is soaking (yes, sometimes with bath salts or bubbles) in the tub, the other will read a chapter or two from our current book. If Hugh were to read to me while I was in the tub I would get too chilled laying in two inches of water. Instead we curl up under the covers with the stove stoked for the night and read aloud to each other. Lately we have been reading “The Chronicles of Narnia.” We’ll read a chapter or three, if there is an adventure that we have to see through before saying good night and rest up for our own next adventure.

* I’m sorry if this bores those who do not enjoy a good bath, but if you are into plumbing you might enjoy it anyway.

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About juliemckaycovert

I am a therapist, teacher, photographer and published author. I am a lover of life and nature. My husband, Hugh, and I live off the grid on a remote 40 acre island, Shelter Island, just off of Drummond Island in the far eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This blog is about my life, a life I thought I'd never be able to live. This blog is about dreams and ideals being manifested. It is about daily events with a backwoods twist. It is about the simple pleasures and wonders being brought forth. I invite you to be inspired and even, as some friends have, live vicariously through my words.
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6 Responses to #33 Taking a Bath in a Puddle*

  1. Awwww. That was a beautiful post; full of specificity and concrete examples and mmmm. I loved reading that.

  2. The simplicity of the bath makes this wonderful. All the work it takes to get to that, I’m not so sure. Great post.

    • juliemckay says:

      Oh it is definitely worth it! I much rather spend an hour every few days pumping to have on demand, pressurized hot water than to have to carry 5 gallon buckets of almost freezing cold lake water every day, which then would need to be heated before using for anything, let alone bathing.
      Last night, Thursday night, we pumped and I got my bath. And I soaked in it until the water was only luke warm. This time we officially timed how long it took to pump because Hugh did not believe that it took an hour. He started about ten minutes earlier without me, because he had to hook up a different hose. From the time I helped him roll out the blue hose to the time we had put away the hoses it had taken 32 minutes. So we both conceded that the other was right – I to him that it did not take a full hour and he to me that with problem causing delays it could take an hour.
      Thanks for reading and your comment!

  3. I am more of a shower person (too impatient to soak in a bath), but I loved your descriptions. Having just experienced a severe drought here, I also appreciate your water saving efforts.

    Love your stories, and will be working my way through your archives!

    • juliemckay says:

      It was a serious transition to go from a morning shower to wake me up to enjoying a soak at night (check out #1d Who Would Think? for more about being a morning shower person).
      Even though we are not in a drought situation like you were/are, it does not take much effort to conserve. And it seems strange to know there is lots of water around us, with Lake Huron, but we still need to conserve.
      Thanks for reading and subscribing!

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