Galley Wench Tales

Exploring the world through the people we meet
and the food they eat.


Our driveway, last weekend. The trench was hip-deep.

It started months ago when Wayne looked at the water bill for our new-to-us home.

Our water bill showed us using many thousands of gallons, when in the past, we’ve had to limit our water use to less than 200 gallons for over a month while living on a sailboat. 


The red handle in the upper right-hand corner is
what we used to turn on and off the main.

Cruising taught us to be water misers, even when you don’t have to make it last for a month at sea crossing a 3,000+ mile expanse of open ocean. When you have to take your dinghy to shore with a bunch of 5-gallon containers to find water, carry it around back to your dinghy, dinghy back to the boat, then lift it above your head to get it aboard (and the boat is sometimes bucking) you become very aware of how precious water is. Five gallons, by the way, weighs nearly 42 pounds!

Wayne knew something was seriously wrong. We had to have a leak somewhere. 

It wasn’t in or under the house.

Wayne contacted a plumber who brought along an excavating contractor to give us a quote to fix it. They quoted $12,000. That would be many many years of water bills though from an environmental standpoint, we didn’t like the idea of wasting water. When I was a kid, I remember my dad ranting about getting a surcharge because we used too little water when limiting water was recommended during a drought.

But we also knew we were on borrowed time. 

These kinds of issues don’t fix themselves; we know it would only get worse until we had no water at all. Wayne’s research revealed that the type of pipes installed for our house generally lasts 50-70 years. Our home is a little over 60 years old.  We decided rather than finding the leak and repairing just that, it made more sense to replace the entire water line.

Then, two and a half weeks ago, a neighbor’s house, two streets away, caught fire. The firefighters were on it. Wayne heard the fire truck surge for hours while pumping water, while they battled the flames. Our troubles are minimal compared to what happened to our neighbors. They survived. Their home did not.

Meanwhile, our pipes and our neighbors Matt and Cary’s pipes went from bad to barely usable.

I estimate between the two of us we use water about 30 times a day. I suspect we are about average on that.

We turned off our main, turning it on only when we showered or ran the dishwasher or washing machine. 


Our at least once-daily task to complete our ablutions.

When using the toilet, we followed the adage: If it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down.  We refilled the toilet tank with a 2-quart measuring cup filled from a 5-gallon Home Depot bucket in the tub, which we refilled whenever we took a shower.


We shared our shower with this; on tap for
replenishing the toilet after flushing.


Because 5-gallon buckets are unwieldy to pour from.

Our other neighbors, Lana, and Derrick, generously let us hook our garden hose up from her outdoor spigot to our kitchen, so we could wash pans and dishes.


Our kitchen water supply—from our kind neighbors, Derrick and Lana.
We taped a pipe insulator sleeve into the window gap above the hose
because the weather got cold!

Julie, another local friend dropped off filtered water (hose water is not that tasty). 

Matt and Cary—our neighbors who fixed their own broken water pipe—agreed to fix ours. They’re contractors who normally do their work out of town, but they forfeited their weekend off to help us.

To fix it took a rented concrete saw and a Bobcat excavator with a 1-foot bucket and a lot of careful digging (including relocating some of my just-planted plants; again, Julie helped out by digging the plants up for me when I didn’t have time to do it myself). 


Rented concrete saw to slice across our driveway.



This Bobcat, used skillfully by our neighbors, made short work of a big job.

Matt and Cary cut across our cement driveway with the saw, and dug a trench from the main, across the driveway, into the middle of our lawn, to the edge of our house.  


Our “lawn”—which we deliberately let die over the summer. We plan to replace it with something else.



Cary and Matt laying our new water pipe.

After laying the pipe in the ground, our neighbors took the new line through our shallow crawl space and took care of the hookups into our existing water system. 

Then they filled everything back up and leveled out the mud pit that was formerly our dead summer lawn. Short term, we’ll pack the concrete-less strip across our driveway with gravel, and re-assess this spring whether to just patch the concrete or re-do the entire driveway.


Our driveway’s a bit worse for the wear.

We now have “normal” water on demand again. Our neighbors were happy with us paying a fraction of the former quote to fix it, and they did it just in time as we were expecting freezing weather. Now we don’t have to worry about going from water at the main to no water.


It seemed we skipped from 80-degree temps to winter in the blink of an eye.
We are getting some fall color.

Hooray for kind and skilled neighbors and modern conveniences! Cruising taught me to appreciate the luxuries of modern conveniences (by living without them), like just how heavenly and precious a long hot shower is.

Location Location

Home is now in The Dalles Oregon. We don’t own any boats, currently, not even a kayak—for now! Currently, we’re exploring our new area. I still need to post the vintage towns we went through on our recent trip to The Painted Hills.


While my neighbors worked on our pipes, I spent the afternoon chasing rainbows.


Wayne declared no post is complete without an obligatory photo of our cat, Shiva, since we’ve decided the house is really for her pleasure.


Shiva, padlocked on the squirrel pigging out on bird seed.
The squirrel. We put the feeder down because he kept knocking it down.
The weird-looking blue tubes and green tarp form the winter cover for our pool.