Our Old Cabin Pump

I’ve just made a pot of coffee. I take the whole coffee machine down into the sink, I open up the lid, and I fill it under the faucet until the water hits the right mark. I reach into a drawer and take out a paper filter. I put 2 1/2 scoops into the filter in its filter basket. I heat up the thermos that is the carafe of the coffee maker with water from the electric teapot. I use that water to heat my cup up as well. I empty the water from the warmed carafe and put it under the drip pot. Now I am drinking that wonderful hot coffee from my cup.

I’m sitting in the sunroom with our cat Annie. It is raining out. It has been raining out and it is forecast to rain for the foreseeable future here. There is the right amount of rain, and then it gets a little old, even in a big house with lots of amusements. Mom’s caregiver just walked in. “It’s raining out,” she says flatly. “What a shock.”

This much rain forces momentous events. I am not talking about flooding, though I did drown a car in a flash flood. I always took a short cut home from work, a road aptly named River Road. It finished its meandering path by snaking under a railroad bridge before dead ending by a gas station. In any amount of rain at all the underpass would puddle, the police would put cones on both sides and people would drive around the cones and through the puddle. Anyone who used this road regularly would drive around the cones and through the puddle and I would too. But one day the rain had been very heavy and partway through the underpass the car began to ignore my steering. It was floating. I worried that before long the pressure of the water would keep me from being able to open the door so I got right out and grabbed my computer and papers and left the car swaying in the current. It got totaled. I got a ticket. I didn’t get sick. I got a new car.

The summer after we bought our Arkwright property Merv and I were both in the throes of back-to-the-land disease. We were in our tent with our toddlers and it rained and it rained. One day even Merv couldn’t get the fire to light and so we trudged the wet and slippery path out to the road to drive to a place where we could get coffee and breakfast.

When we came back to the tent later on that morning the decision had been made. We were going to build a shelter, a cabin. We were going to build a cabin that used all the technologies that had made the 19th century a great improvement in living conditions . We were going to have a wood cookstove that also heated water. We were going to have kerosene lamps, Aladdin lamps, To be specific. We were going to have a kitchen with the pitcher pump. We were going to have a cabin with amazing insulation, and windows that allowed for solar heating. We were going to have a composting out house. The vision of that rainy morning materialized bit by bit, plans drawn, rough cut hemlock sourced, holes dug by my not-then-world-famous Vegan sister and Merv, posts poured and a platform raised.

Great progress in our living conditions too! We moved the tent to the platform and re-pitched it, and Merv hand-dug a well till he hit water, anchored the pipe and assembled the pump. What luxury, what civilization, emerging from the tent and heating water from the pump. No need to go to the stream for buckets.

I brought a kettle of water fresh drawn from the well to the boil on the Coleman stove. I balanced a filter basket over the carafe and wetted the paper liner. I put a tablespoon of ground A&P coffee into the paper liner and then slowly poured and re poured the nearly boiling water over the coffee till the carafe was full. We drank our coffee under the tent flap while the toddlers and dogs slept.

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