Monday, August 26, 2013

Getting to the bottom of the problem

"Oh, what a fun weekend," she said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. 

Last winter during a prolonged cold snap, the frost-free water hydrant at the barn kept freezing.
There was nothing I could do about it at the time since the ground was frozen and so was I.
That excuse wasn't working anymore, so yesterday, with the ground softened from the summer rains,
I decided to dig the thing up to try to figure out the problem.
This wasn't my first frost-free fix, so I knew exactly how much fun it wouldn't be.

I didn't have help, but I did have plenty of supervision.

About half-way down, I took a break and borrowed Alan's lead rope to secure the hydrant to the fence.
I had visions of knocking it over and snapping the pipe and trying to cap a geyser 
while Minnie stood there laughing and digging for worms.

Before I crawled back down into the hole, I emptied my boots. Some kind of fun. Don't you just wish you were here?

Eugenia: You're not even half-way to the bottom. Get back to work.
Me: Chicken soup for there's a thought. Lucky for you I'll be too tired to cook.

When I finally reached my destination, I didn't find the smoking gun. 
I tested the hydrant and it drained properly, and there was plenty of gravel above, around and below the drain hole.
Had I just dug a three-foot deep hole for naught?

I added more gravel above the drain hole and covered it with a piece of rubber to keep any dirt and sand 
from settling around it and possibly plugging it. 
Since the hydrant had never frozen before in the nine years I'd been using it, 
I suspect the problem had more to do with operator error and an unusually cold winter than the installation.

I'd been using a long hose to fill all the stock tanks and forgot about having a shut-off thing between the hose and the hydrant. 
So when I would turn the hydrant off, all the water in the hose would drain into the bottom of the hole.
Had the shut-off thing been in place, only a little bit of water would have drained and maybe the hydrant wouldn't have froze.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it...until January comes along and it freezes up again.

Meanwhile, I filled in the big hole, took plenty of ibuprofen, and the chore from hell is done. 
Life is good again.


  1. My chickens always love a good digging project! WORMS!!

  2. Okay. That's it. I couldn't live your life. I couldn't even dig up our potatoes the other day without my back seizing up. If I had dug that hole I would be at the bottom of it right now with all the animals looking over the edge asking about feeding time.

  3. You sure can fix anything, Miss Linda! The herd (and flock) are in good hands! :)

  4. You are amazing. Simply amazing.

  5. What a hole you dug! Two thumbs up for you Carson ... there is no project you can't handle!

  6. Bravo to yourself. Now what did you plan for reward?

  7. Bravo!! Handing you a cyber beer ;)

  8. On really cold nights, I always unhook my hose (and drain it ;-) from our frost free hydrants. We've only had a problem...when I forget to do that.

  9. i love your feathered helpers, they look so intelligent.. bet they can dig that hole the next time. OOPS sorry.. forget i said that.
    i think you are right about the thing being part off. daddy always let the faucets drip a little during cold weather.

  10. Well at least now you know...weird situation to be in - feeling like you dug the hole for nothing...on the other hand...

  11. I'm certain Smooch would have been a fine helper, had you let her. Isn't she a champion hole digger? Just toss a lizard or pack rat into the mix and she'd dig you a hole to China.
    BTW, Bayer Back and Body pain reliever works like a champ. Hope you're feeling better this morning. :)

  12. I agree with the Crazy Sheep Lady. Even with the shutoff, there may be a vacuum in the riser that prevents it from fully draining before it freezes.
    Also (unfortunately,now that you've filled in the hole), someone taught me to install a tiny "street ell" (90* fitting) pointed down on the drain hole (it should already be threaded)--that helps keep dirt out of the drain. Your gravel/drain set-up looks more than adequate, however.
    There are also "repair kits" for frost frees (I know I'm currently procrastinating, 4 years and counting--luckily, I have four other hydrants I can access). Or sometimes one can just adjust the flow at the handle to prevent a tiny trickle from becoming a giant problem--been there, done that...

  13. Adding to what the crazysheeplady said, I believe you need to remove the "shut-off-thing" AND the hose after each winter-time use. The faucet works by air entering at the top as water drains out of the bottom into the gravel. Air in the pipe won't freeze. The shut-off-valve stops the air from entering and water stays in the pipe and freezes.

  14. Linda, did I do the comment right? Master Plumber?

  15. Whew!! So glad you didn't wait for me.... I would have done my usual, cheering in the background
    " yay, you can do it Carson! You can do it"

  16. Linda,
    What I do in the winter is change the shut-off thing to a double shut-off-thing. One side goes to the hose and the other I leave unconnected. After using the hose, I shut off the main hydrant first, then open both sides of the Y-valve. As David Gibbons says, this allows the hydrant pipe to drain, and it also allows the hose to drain, so water won't freeze and burst the hose.

    Actually many hoses are flexible enough to withstand the pressure of freezing water, but the fittings at the ends are usually brass and are likely to burst. I have also broken a couple of those big brass 4-valve hose manifolds by leaving water in them in winter.

    Another thing I've learned is even in warmer months, never leave the end of the hose in a bucket of water. If you do, when you shut off the hydrant, there will be a siphon and the suction will empty the bucket.

  17. Goodness lady, you sure are a hardworking digger. I hope you are feeling better today and can rest on your laurels or at least the couch. Oma Linda

  18. As long as your head doesn't explode from these lessons learned, must be okay. I liked the chicken soup nonthreat too.

  19. Um, to answer one of your ?'s: No I don't want to be there to help with all that work, but it sure is great to read and look at your pictures in the story line....
    Keep up the good work...Your crew should be willing to do more than supervise though....LOL
    Love from NC

  20. I also detach the hose every single time when it's below freezing. Ugh. Winter.

  21. yep, just take off everything every time including the turn off valve thing. it will drain out of the weep hole. Additionally sometimes the snow will freeze on the faucet handle and will not move, a hair dryer will work or heat gun or a butane torch will quickly solve the problem. Some people make an insulation "hat" and put on top of faucet and no snow or rain will freeze