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Sunday, August 11, 2013

Oh, Dam.

When this isn’t happening,
there’s a problem.
Even without the chicken houses, there are a zillion ways around here to have a significant percentage of one’s weekend eaten alive. This one, however, was a little different.

The inlaws have a farm. And on that farm there is a pond. With a pump house on one side, and a dam on the other. A few months ago, the pump house was flooding out, due to a lot of rain coming in and a clog in the overflow pipe going out. We ended up running a piece of high-pressure roll pipe down the outflow pipe, and ramming away until it broke free. The obstruction turned out to be a can of starter fluid, which to me was just more proof of the usual bizarre stuff that happens around here. (Only here would a can of starter fluid stop something.)

So on Friday, the wife is telling me a tale of woe. Something was clogging the pond’s outflow pipe this time, and the water was threatening to rise over the dam and cause massive problems. Three people had spent half a day on it, but she suggested I call Evil Lad NOT and ask him for assistance. Well, he was moving into his lodgings at UGA, so I was on my own.

Being by myself, I decided to survey everything first, to see what they’d tried and what I was up against. I suggested opening the drain, to buy some time, and was told the end of the drain is capped and it would be a major hassle to dig it out. I decided to put that in the “last resort” bucket, right before the idea of dropping a weighted M-80 down the pipe. The end of an augur line (a souvenir from the chicken houses) was sticking out of the outflow pipe below the dam, their attempt to break the clog from underneath. I decided to work from the top.

The problem was, the outflow pipe (up top) was difficult to find. The usual formula is “about eight feet left of the drain handle and just a little past,” but this time, the drain handle was under water. Being a pond, the water isn’t exactly clear, so it took a little paddling around the general area until I got close enough to see it. Then, I had to find the outflow pipe. Half an hour later, I was ready to… something. I probed with a thin piece of roll pipe, and concluded that the blockage was probably at the bend.

Then I got an idea. If a can of starter fluid could block the pump house outflow, could another kind of can block this one? And if it was steel, maybe I could fish it out with a magnet. The Boy has blown out speakers of all sizes, and they were piled up in the garage. I figured, since I’ve been planning to repurpose the magnets for a windmill project sooner or later, that I could pull one of the subwoofer magnets, tie it to a rope, and try to fish out any metal object blocking things up. I left the roll pipe sticking out of the overflow, to mark the spot, and got the magnet. I pulled up all sorts of crud with it, perhaps muck with a high iron content, but couldn't grab anything else.

At this point, I suddenly thought of the pump house blockage, and how we used the thick roll pipe to ram the obstruction out. In fact, I wondered why the wife hadn’t thought of it, since it was her idea that time anyway. So I got the unwieldy stuff, spent another half hour relocating the pipe because I didn’t leave the other to mark it, then got at it. After a couple minutes of ramming, I felt something give just a little, and the pipe resisted pulling as if it were stuck. So I bashed away a few more times, then felt a vibration. Putting my ear to the pipe let me hear the sound of rushing water, and I saw a little vortex form above the pipe. Yay!

I left the pipe there, just in case, and went down to the outflow. I was rewarded by the sight of plenty of water flowing out, although I didn’t see anything in the water that could have been the obstruction. I figured it was debris and muck that collected and packed up. I felt rather good about myself, having accomplished in three hours what three people hadn’t in four hours… although, around here, that usually means they’ll expect me to take care of the next problem myself.


  1. Yay! Why do I get the feeling Cory & crew will have to deal with something like this at some point?

  2. Katherine, it's not a bad assumption. ;-)

    Thanks, Adriana!


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