Water & Write 15 Minutes a Day Challenge (WFMAD) – Day Nine

Yesterday someone wrote asking me to explain how it is we live without public water. That is a very good question.

According to the EPA, 15% of Americans get their water from private wells, like us. The town of Mexico, a couple miles down the road, has a public water system, but we don’t technically live in the town. The very rural town we do live in is beginning to develop a public water system, but we think it will be at least a decade before they get to our neck of the woods, if ever.

Our well, like all of our neighbors’ wells, is a hole dug into the ground (by experts!) until it reached an underground aquifer. Pipes were laid from the well to the house and pumps installed. In our basement, we have a fancy-pants German filtration system to make sure nothing nasty is hiding in the water. We have it tested periodically; it’s wonderfully clean and pure.

Our environment would be better off if more people used well water. For one thing, you are less inclined to throw chemicals on your lawn and garden when you know that you’ll be drinking them. Secondly, knowing that water is a finite resource makes people pay more attention to their consumption. It’s not that we walk around unbathed or anything, but we try really hard not to waste a drop. (That’s why there are rain barrels to help collect water for the garden.)

One more water note (I write this watching the sky, hoping the rain gets here soon.) When we lose electricity, we lose water access because the pump doesn’t work. This doesn’t happen often, but since I married a Boy Scout, we’re always prepared for it.

I do think that living out here in the country, heating our home with wood, snowshoeing when the driveway is blocked, getting by without electricity and water occasionally, not having air conditioning, plus growing and preserving our food has given me an insight into 18th century living conditions that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. (And I haven’t talked about our camp yet…. one word … outhouse!)

Enough about our plumbing. It’s time to write.

Today’s goal: Write for 15 minutes. If you have public water, push yourself and write for 16 minutes.

Today’s mindset: curious and open-minded

Today’s prompt: interview your character. Don’t overthink this. Just ask your character questions so you can get to know her/him better.

Hint: don’t accept generic answers. Push for details. For example, “pizza” is unacceptable as an answer to question #1. “Thick-crusted pizza with asiago cheese, fresh basil, and prosciutto, served with a glass of Beaujolais nouveau and eaten on the screen porch” is the level of detail you’re reaching for.

I’ll get you started with a few:
1. Favorite food
2. Secret crush in elementary school
3. Which relative do you loathe and why?
4. Favorite smell
5. What magazine do you buy when no one is watching?
6. What’s your best feature?
7. If you were given a paid day off and $500, what would you do with it?
8. What’s your biggest regret?
9. Favorite sound
10. What is hidden in the box at the back of your closet?


19 Replies to “Water & Write 15 Minutes a Day Challenge (WFMAD) – Day Nine”

  1. Sounds like a damn interesting way to live. Wish I could do it here in the city. (Or that my wife’s work would allow us to move.) Have you thought of wind or solar power? Those’d be things I’d investigate if we only had the space.

    I look forward to your farther examinations of your way of country living.

  2. We’re looking into solar panels for use at camp and are saving for a windmill at our house. The wind is a more reliable friend (year-round) than the sun up here.

  3. Fantastic prompt today. I actually used my time yesterday to interview my character, but these questions will push me to continue and create her on a deeper level. Thanks!

  4. I have a first draft done of one of my short stories
    I’ll let it sit a day or two and get back to it but I always have other stories to work on

    great post idea here by the way (the challenge) very motivational

  5. Here, here to private water, although there are days…We do have a well, but it has never pumped very strongly. So, a few years after we bought the house, my husband (previous boy scout/current engineer!) ran LOTS of PVC pipe down the hill to our stream. We filter, of course, and drink bottled water (which doesn’t make me feel environmentally happy, but the other stuff tastes SO bad!). The system is NOT without its problems, and the three months when my husband had a broken clavicle were tricky, but I think its worth it!

  6. The well motto

    We who rely on wells or cisterns to provide our source of water have a motto. For those of you that have public water it may take a second to two to understand this motto. I have a friend that is on a well and this “little ditty” appears in needle point beautifully framed above her commode (fancy word for toilet) “If it’s yellow let it mellow. If it’s brown flush it down. Thank you”.

  7. country living

    I hear you. We have a village water system, but it comes from wells and it occasionally runs low, or we have a boil order (fecal coliform is not the only bacteria that is not our friend). So we watch what we use.

    Having a septic system rather than public sewage also helps keep us mindful about water use. You don’t want to know the details, though.

    Hope you get your rain! And send some our way.

  8. That’s what it’s going to take, using local resources–sun, wind, and microhydro that doesn’t dam the whole stream, like BD saw in India.

  9. My husband grew up in the country and for the first decade of his life they lived mostly on a rain water cistern. His great-great-grandfather designed a system to collect rain (and some stream) water up the hill from the house and piped it down for pressure. They finally had to dig a well when things started to go wrong with the piping system and they didn’t have access to all of it anymore because land it ran through had been sold out of the family. There is very little chance they will ever be on public water either.

    Having grown up in a city where the public water is very hard, I was baffled by how soft theirs is when I first showered there.

  10. I’ve lived with well water my whole life and I’ve always been surprised that some people can’t imagine not having city water. When I went to college the city water made my skin break out for a month and my hair really dry! Meanwhile I think some of my friends actually believed that city pipes run EVERYWHERE.

  11. Re: The well motto

    Ha, in Brisbane our local councillor used to say this! We had public water systems but were in drought so it was very applicable 🙂

  12. Another half-day. 😀 Making really good progress, too! I had to make myself stop today so I can go pick up my kids.

    My dad built a house in the middle of nowhere, next to an underground spring. He tested the water to make sure it was good (it was), then built a pump and ran pipes to his new house. He enjoyed this fabulous, refreshing water until a neighbor contaminated the water supply by not keeping an eye on his sewer tank. The whole underground water table is poisonous now, so my dad had to have city pipes run to his house. That was a big ordeal, since he lives in the middle of nowhere, and if he hadn’t had some connections he may not have gotten it at all. It’s really a shame that more people don’t pay attention to these kinds of things.

  13. Hi Laurie

    I attended New England SCBWI when you first introduced this challenge, which helped me finish my second novel before I had my first baby six weeks ago. Now I’m using it again (starting a bit late, but whatever) to revise that manuscript now that I’m a new mom.

    Thanks for helping to keep me motivated!

  14. I actually did the challenge this time!

    okay so I’ll admit it. I read your challenge and think of what to write – but I don’t write anything down
    which is so messed up.
    todays challenge I actually did!…well I have half of it done at the moment…
    but todays challenge made me realize something maybe the reason I’m not getting anywhere in my story is cause I don’t really know my characters. so I plan my interview to be long cause I need to learn A LOT (after all there’s a lot to learn about someone when they’ve lived 80 years but forever been 15)
    oh the water thing – wow. I don’t think I’d be about to do that.

  15. Just wanted to let you know that I’ve been following the challenges and they’ve prompted me to write 10 pages thus far on a story that’s been playing around my head for months. I was doing really well after NaNoWriMo until about March in terms of writing daily, but I’ve slacked off since then. This is just what I need to whip me into shape again! I don’t follow all the challenges exactly; I tend to twist them a bit and fit them to my story, and it’s resulting in some interesting situations.

  16. The return of an age.

    My Dad was born in 1921 in a small village called Parish NY. The “Railroad St Gang” use to raise havoc every once in a while by tipping over the neighbors outhouse. Water was pumped by hand and his house was one of the last to get electricity. He survived WWII and came home to buy shack with a hand dug well and a small parcel of paradise. The lessons my parents learned about conservation of water and canning food helped raise three boys in the country. Life didn’t skip a beat because the electricity turned off. It just meant you used the emergency jug of water and didn’t flush the toilet unless you had to. As a youth, more than once my mother handed me a bar of soap and sent me out in the rain. I wouldn’t suggest that someone do that in suburbia, but you get the point. We learned to be prepared, adapt to the weather and be reliant on ourselves.
    Laurie and I enjoy sharing our experiences of gardening and canning of fruits and veggies. It’s a lifestyle that is both economical and rewarding. All it takes is the first step to start a journey. Laurie will keep everyone posted as I play the “tinkerer” when not making tea. Our goal is to be off the grid.
    Dad is now 87 and he doesn’t remember the days events but he still remembers the kids in the gang. His parents worked in a canning factory down the street from where they lived. Dad describes with great detail how as a 9 year old, would make dinners, pack them up and run down the street to deliver the food as hot as possible. He remembers his job at the gas station in 1938. “I used to pump 6 and 7/10’s gallons for a buck”. Then he giggles and says,”most people got 50 cents worth”. It is the return of an age. BH

  17. Yes it is. Even with any tax breaks there might be. Hmm. I’m going to investigate the windmill situation, I think. Worth knowing about.

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