Saturday, April 23, 2011

Water Woes

It's never a good thing when your son goes downstairs to the basement and you hear, "Hey, Mom!  You better come and take a look at this."

On Friday afternoon I was in the kitchen, preparing to plug in my vacuum cleaner and when I heard Joel say this, my heart sank.  Oh, no.  Please don't tell me that all four of the sump pumps failed at once.  I did pay the electricity bill, didn't I?  I must have, the lights were all on upstairs.

Yes, we really do have four sump pumps in our basement, another one of Carl's safeguards in case one fails, the next one will take over and then the next, yeah, we have had a flooded basement twice which was twice too many times.  Nothing like stepping off the last basement step into six inches of ice cold water to get your attention. 

When we built the house 34 years ago we hit the same aquifer that the Quarry is in.  Both the quarry and our basement water levels vary with the water table;  with a constantly moving stream of water which the tile usually has no trouble removing with the sump pumps, but the sump pump has to run all year round.  In the summer it works out very nicely, we just hook up sprinklers to the supply of water and can water the flowers to my heart's content.  Might as well use the water instead of pumping it out to the ditch. Water is always on my mind around here, especially this time of year and with all of the rain we've had in recent weeks.  The soil is completely saturated right now.

But back to Joel in the basement...the dilemma wasn't as bad as I'd thought at first, the sump pump was working fine, but the basement had sprung a leak in a crack in a weird place we hadn't seen before.  There was a trickle of water going down the wall and across the floor.  Hmmmmmm.  Now what?

Of course, by now it's after 6PM and though it's not dark out yet, the rain was just pouring down outside and the temperature was hovering around 40 degrees.  Carl was out in his SOS building, trying to make some sense of the absolute junk disaster he has in there and I hated to call him out of there to take a look at our latest crisis, but felt I had no choice.  He came out of his building to see what the Wife had a bee in her bonnet about now.

We both went down in the basement and stared at the wall and little stream pooling at our feet.  It didn't seem to be growing in diameter, but it sure made us uneasy.  I grabbed a flashlight and we both went out in the rain to the back of the house to see if we could figure out why there was water coming through the wall. 

"Go get me a shovel," Carl said as he headed back to the house to get another flashlight.  I trudged out to the barn through the mushy snowbanks to get a shovel and met him back at the house wall.  He started to dig as I held both flashlights.  As he went down to about 4' the soil he was bringing up was surprisingly dry, which made no sense.  You'd think the ground would be soupy-wet, but it was just evenly damp.

Then we realized we had to dig down at least another 3' and the shovel wasn't going to work anymore so I was sent off on a quest to find the post hole digger.  My quest ended in disappointment, so soon Carl was also joining me on the search and after rooting around in the barn (where it ALWAYS is otherwise) and the garage (where it is sometimes when it isn't where it should be) and in his SOS building (where it COULD be but we definitely hope not because if it is in there, it's gone for good) we even searched in Carl's car (which is his Rolling SOS building) we came up empty.  No post hole digger.  And the rain started to come down harder.  The hole-digging would have to wait until tomorrow when we could locate the post hole digger (or buy a new one....)

By now it was almost fully dark out.  We've been debating pumping the Quarry pond down for a few weeks now.  We hate to do it because the pond is only as full as the water table, there's no liner in there, what we have for water in the pond is what Mother Nature provides, be it way too much or far too little.  This Spring, we're in the Unbelievably Way Too Much category.  Carl thinks the frost hasn't gone out of the ground yet and this could be why the pond levels haven't evened off yet, but we made the decision to throw a pump in there and bring the levels down some.  It's a possibility the water pressure in the pond is wreaking havoc with our drain tile around the house. 
Water levels in the pond are about five feet too high

So off to dig the big pump out of the barn and hook up the fire hoses.  (Yes, we have fire hoses, doesn't everyone? Carl picked them up out of a dumpster one day because you never know when you'll need a fire hose.)  We're both dripping wet by now with water running down our necks as we laid out the hoses and prepared to hook up the power. Luckily we didn't blow any circuit breakers with the wet conditions.
Old fire hose laid out to run water to the ditch.

We let the pump run for ten hours and came out to find the water had gone down quite a bit.  (Between the greenhouse heat beds and running the big pump, we're making the Power Company very happy this month.)
Finally the water is down to a more manageable level.  I know we'll wish we had that water back in July and August, though.

Comparing this level on Thursday:

To this level on Saturday:
I know it looks awful right now, but this is the level we had originally hoped the pond would remain at.  It might look better almost completely full, but I have a lot of plants planted on the shore and it's not good for them to be underwater.

So, instead of coloring Easter Eggs and hiding baskets, I'll be heading to the hardware store to buy a new post hole digger with Carl.

We're going to be digging this weekend.   And not in a good, 1960's way.  Not groovy, Man.


FlowerLady said...

LOL, "Not groovy, Man." That really cracked me up.

I'm sorry your Easter weekend will be spent fixing a leaky problem, and I hope it gets fixed as smoothly and quickly as possible.

May your Easter be lovely anyway.

Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

xoxoxo said...

Hope you stick a roast in anyway! You're gonna need it(deserve!) once you are done!
Good Luck!

Alison said...

Ick! Hope you sort your crack. Our previous house had drainage problems, so I know that sinking feeling of finding water in the basement. I've spent way too many late nights and frantic days sucking up water with a wet-vac.

We vowed that when we got a new house we would make sure there were no water problems, and so far we've been lucky. We don't have a basement to get wet here, just a crawlspace under the house.

Hope you have a pleasant Easter weekend, despite your water problems.

El Gaucho said...

Wow, those are some pretty serious water problems. Good luck and I hope it all works out well. It makes my occasional small basement leaks pale in comparison.

Sandy said...

I'd be a nervous wreck always worrying about water, as you do!
I do remember our basement in Illinois being flooded twice during the Spring Thaws but we were lucky that it did not last too long. I kept everything on blocks at all times.. I kept a can of the foam builders use to seal cracks and foamed the leak and it usually worked until we could get a pro in there..
You have that very large pond to contend with..
Do you all swim in the pond in summer? Beautiful area!
Happy Easter

Beth said...

Karen, I'm sorry this happened. You always write up these "tragedies" in such a tongue-in-cheek, humorous way! So while I enjoyed reading it, I am sorry you are having to go through this. In a few weeks, it'll be a distant memory and your garden will be beginning its march toward awesomeness! Happy Easter, Karen and Carl!

Gatsbys Gardens said...


I have been there the water in the basement thing! It makes you a wreck everytime it rains, hope your situation is okay.


Larry said...

When it rains it pours! At least the snow has left for the time being! Larry

Lona said...

Oh dear, there is always something to keep us on our toes. A mystery indeed. I hope it is nothing too severe that is causing your water leaking into the basement. Well you may have had to pump out the pond anyway so that job is done. I hope you have a good Easter anyway.Hope you find the post hole digger. LOL!

Zoey said...

I am laughing out loud--"not groovy man"---too funny. But I am sure you are not laughing over your problem. I can't even begin to try to understand water levels in the pond with leaks in the basement....waaaaaay over my head!

It's a good thing you have Carl to help understand it all.

I hope you get it all figured out and there is not too much damage.

Rosemary said...

Oh My from snow to too much water. May your problem be just a tiny one... easily fixed.

Randy Emmitt said...


Hope draining the quarry stops the water in a basement. Four sump pumps oh my! We have a pond and a basement, luckily the pond stays lower than the basement.

lifeshighway said...

Wow, now I am on pins and needles wondering what was causing the water to come into the basement.

And did you ever find the post hole digger?

So many unanswered questions.

The quarry is beautiful. It does seem like a shame to drain it but I bet it looks amazing when the plants fill in.

Anonymous said...

Did draining the pond help? It is amazing what you find discarded at the dump and what use you can make out of it. Like you said, that water would have been welcome in summer. Raining all week here too. Water in our basement too. Just a fact of the season I guess.