I’m baking cookies, it’s a gorgeous Saturday morning, the sun is charging the solar batteries, and the Bearded One and Tom – the Boss and the Expert respectively – work to channel our annual 140 inches of rain from the roof into the new 1550 gallon catchment tank. They’re trying to beat a fast-approaching rainstorm.
Tom calls the shots; the Bearded One approves them, or respectfully questions them. Mostly they work independently and are silent. The conversation is frequently tool-oriented. Tools were overwhelmingly the main items selected by the Bearded One for shipping over in our 4 foot cube packing box from the mainland.
“That’s a great pair of tin snips,” Tom says, as the Bearded One cuts the pieces of gutter. The Bearded One recently told me of a drill bit extender of Tom’s that has saved the day countless times. He’s got to have one. They share each other’s ladders and saws freely, and know exactly who owns what.
They come in for a cookie break and Tom asks for a piece of paper to sketch the plan.
They’ve already got the new brown gutter installed, which will carry the rain in a Rube Goldbergesque route from the metal roof to the downspout, then flow down through PVC pipe leading across about 10 feet to the big plastic green tank just off the south corner of the house.
At the actual catchment tank opening,
the first drops (including leaves and other roof debris) bypass the catchment tank and shoot straight down into a First Flow Diverter which is a pipe that goes about 20 feet and then ends.
The first flow debris goes there and the pipe keeps filling and backing up that 20 feet so that it’s relatively litter-free water that heads into the elbow pipe and down into the catchment tank. A threaded cap screws off and the debris is easily removed. Tiny holes are drilled into the pipe to let the water slowly drain out.
Plumbing isn’t the mystery that electricity is. Electricity is magic, completely indistinguishable from voodoo. Plumbing is machinery – simple tinker-toys – but the ingenuity of this system feels magical.
Clouds move in and the guys don’t break for sandwiches until 2:30. Their minds hover over the project as they chew. The Bearded One tells how our solar read-out lost its memory when the generator ran out of propane. As it coughs and sputters, the electrical power it is sending to the inverter starts looking somehow “wrong.”
Tom explains about the automatic shut off, how the inverter is wired to protect itself. “I don’t deal with this,” he says in a little inverter voice, “it could hurt me!” The Bearded One cracks up laughing. Tom laughs, too.
Two hours later and it’s starting to rain. The men rush to get the last pipe blue-glued into place and we watch as the first flow drips out the elbow. Both men whoop and cheer. I love being around happy men.