Living with intent, social engagement, learning, growing, giving
For my entire childhood it seemed that the urgent work of setting up a semi-self-sufficient lifestyle on a bush block would never end. Once we had put in an access track and cleared a flat spot, built our shed and sorted out a toilet, it was time to install a water supply. To be clear, it was my parents that did all of the difficult, heavy, tiring work, I helped in small ways, asked lots of questions and then drifted off to play in the huge wonderful natural space that was now ours to enjoy.
We started by running guttering and downpipes onto the roof of the shed and feeding that into a small rainwater tank next to the shed. That was our primary drinking water and miscellaneous indoor water supply. During the wet months we could use the water (sparingly) but in the droughts we had to share one single dish of about 1L of water for the entire day, for washing hands and dishes. We also shared the same bathwater for all 4 of us, with just a shallow amount of water covering the bottom of the small bath-tub. I loved it when I got to have the first bath and the water was warm and clean!
Next we toiled with giant rolls of black polyethylene pipe, carefully rolling them along the ground from the shed, through the grassland about 500m to the nearest creek. The rolls were difficult to control because the ground is hilly and uneven and the rolls were slippery and wanted to unwind and roll away down the hill all at the same time.
Initially we simply weighed one end of the pipe in a waterhole and connected the pipe all of the way back to a second rainwater tank, on the hill above the shed. Later we installed a hydraulic ram at a lower elevation than the top of the pipe in the creek. We would start the ram by lifting a small piston and then the head created by the difference in elevation would drive the piston up and down and push the water up the hills and over the grassland to our second tank. Suddenly we had water to use for washing clothes and watering our animals.
None of the water was treated and we didn’t perform standard cleaning inside the tanks. I’m convinced that is the reason that I had giardia and several times a year I had debilitating gastroenteritis. In Lipari last year I visited two villas with rainwater cisterns under the verandah. I was told about how they clean the cisterns every year. That seems to be a very sensible thing to do!