The nerve-wracking quest for running water

Dear steadfast reader,

"Snow Child"I hope you are having a fine summer, or winter for those who are on the other end of the world. I haven’t written for a while because I haven’t had much to report. But now I do have a couple things to share.

First, I did an interview with the Lithuanian publication 15min. Here it is in Lithuanian, or if you would like to read a rough translation of it in English, click here. Thank you to the journalist Audrius Ožalas for the wonderful interview (which was done in English. Unfortunately I don’t know a word of Lithuanian.)

And in perhaps one of the biggest events around the Ivey house in some time, we scheduled a well drilling. As many of you know, we haul our water. We limit our baths and showers, collect rain water for the animals and garden, and do laundry either at my mom’s house or the laundromat. It’s not so inconvenient, but we’ve always dreamed of the luxury of a well.  It could be especially handy when, say, trying to build an ice rink.

This summer, we crossed our fingers and called Ace Water Wells.

Ace Water Wells drilling for water in our yard.

There are no guarantees you’ll find water at 100 feet or even 500 feet. Because of our location, up on a hill in mountainous terrain, we knew there was a good chance we would strike out. And whether we ended up with an artesian aquifer or a very deep dry hole in the ground, we would still have to pay the per-foot fee.

I admit I’m doubtful of the science behind water witching, but we tried to find someone to come out because we thought it couldn’t hurt. Summer is a busy time for Alaskans, though, and none of the dowsers we knew were available. By the time Alaska novelist Don Rearden kindly offered on Facebook that his mom is a dowser, it was too late. We were already committed.

But a few days before that, Sam and I had picked up a couple of copper wires and gave it a try ourselves. While I was in the house, he walked the yard with one bent wire held loosely in each hand. Then before he could tell me his results, I took the wires.

It was an odd experience. At first as I walked through the grass, nothing happened, and that made sense to me. But then gradually the two copper wires began to wobble in my hands and slowly draw together and cross in front of me. I reset them straight in my hands, walked away and then back to the same spot, and it happened again. I went inside and told Sam where the wires had moved, near a tall cow parsnip plant not far from the house.

“Me, too,” he said with a shrug.

So when the drillers arrived with their monstrously huge truck, we had them set up at that spot. Why not, right?

They positioned their truck, raised the tall drilling equipment, and started in. Great clouds of dust rose from the ground.

It wasn’t long before one of the brothers came to our front door looking very serious.

“Not good?” I asked.

“Nope. We hit bedrock at 13 feet.”

Bedrock, as in solid rock. In our area, this often means a dry well or at best a sulfury trickle.

Sam was trying to get home but was stuck in traffic halted by an automobile accident on the highway. I alone faced the decision — do we keep drilling, throwing dollars down this hole? Do we move to someplace else on our property? Or do we toss in the towel, so to speak?

The driller didn’t seem to think it would make much difference if we moved to another location, unless it was off the hill we live on. So we agreed to continue drilling in the same place.

I had a book-related teleconference scheduled that day, so as I talked on the phone over the roar of the drilling machine, I watched nervously out the window.  The men wore ear protection against the noise. I tried to read their faces as they worked. They didn’t look particularly optimistic.

After the phone call, I continued to pace and watch and wonder if I had made a very expensive, very bad decision.

After a couple hours, a neighbor drove into our yard with Sam in his truck. Sam had caught a ride, having to leave his truck on the side of the highway because of the unmoving traffic.

The three of us stood outside visiting and watching the well drillers. And then we noticed something — was that water gushing out by the drillers’ feet? One of the brothers gave us a thumbs-up. What did it mean?

It meant water! At 145 feet, they struck a fracture in the rock with a stream of water. Fifteen gallons a minute of beautiful, wonderful water. The drillers seemed as pleasantly surprised as us.

When my novel was first acquired by publishers, I wondered how much it would change things for me and my family. For the most part, our days are the same. We live in the same house, have the same friends and interests and aspirations. But now we could afford to drill a well.

Endless hot baths and clean laundry are still a ways off ; we have to dig a trench from the well to the house and plumb it in. But we have water! Thank you to the readers around the world who helped make this possible.




18 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Barbara L Hecker
    Aug 03, 2012 @ 10:02:24

    My great uncle Archie Moffitt was a water-witcher here in the Valley. His preferred witching tool was a saw. It takes a special ‘gift’ to be sensitive enough to feel those vibrations. (So…if this writing thang doesn’t work out, you can always go into the water-witchin’-well-drilling line of work…) Of Uncle Archie’s sons and grandsons, I’m only aware of one son who has that ‘gift’. Perhaps he’s the only one who’s tried.

  2. Shereen
    Aug 03, 2012 @ 10:09:35

    145 feet and 15 gallons/min! That’s great! We had to go down 322 feet. So happy for you guys!

  3. Lisa Rae
    Aug 03, 2012 @ 10:17:18

    WHOOP! love dowsing…

  4. Christopher Donn
    Aug 03, 2012 @ 10:30:45

    Grats! No gamble, no future.

  5. Ruthann Croda
    Aug 03, 2012 @ 10:39:40

    WOW!!!! So happy for you. It’s always a wonder to me the things we take for granted….like running water… Any chance we will be hearing about a ‘Snow Child’ movie in the future???? I think of her ealmost every day and marvel at your mind.

  6. Alexandra Mary Roach
    Aug 03, 2012 @ 11:25:59

    Glad about the water… remember the drought we had when I was a child and saving every drop but the idea of not being able to turn on a tap…

    Half hope there won’t be a film unless someone sensitive like Peter Weir directed. Fed up with my favourite books being spoiled. Think I like the author’s word pictures better…

  7. Melanie Mazur
    Aug 03, 2012 @ 12:23:00

    Awesome! Lots of folks here haul water, and we’re lucky enough to have a good well, so I share in your joy.

  8. Yaya
    Aug 03, 2012 @ 12:57:11

    Terrific! Papa and I have been waiting to hear good water news

  9. NathanDunbar
    Aug 03, 2012 @ 16:47:01

    You know, your entire living experience could sound quite horrifying to a city-boy like me, but I find your way of life rather idyllic and enviable. While I am so thankful for all that’s available to me in the heart of Chicago, I still try to nurture my roots of growing up in a tiny farm town downstate. Alaska has always been on my states-to-visit bucket list and following your blog further strengthens that aspiration. As always, thanks for sharing!

  10. Nancy
    Aug 03, 2012 @ 18:59:46

    Congratulations Eowyn to you and your family – a good (not too deep) well is a cause for celebration! We have had the good fortune to witch two “good” wells so we know the relief when you see water coming out of the ground!

  11. Barbara Phillips
    Aug 03, 2012 @ 21:22:04

    Eowyn, praising the Lord with y’all…WATER AT LAST! After living in Fort Yukon, Alaska for a long number of years with a “water barrel” for our water source I certainly appreciate the excitement you and family are feeling with this new discovery! Congratulations!

  12. Christine Arnone
    Aug 04, 2012 @ 02:39:30

    yay !! So happy for finding your water relatively fast and easily. Hope it doesn’t take too much longer to get it hooked up to the house.

  13. Claire 'Word by Word'
    Aug 04, 2012 @ 04:27:28

    What a wonderful story and a special experience that you both were drawn to the same spot and it bore fruit (well water) and that your beautiful creation the story of ‘The Snow Child’ in some way made it all possible. Enjoy your baths and showers from now on 🙂

  14. Ann DeSalvo
    Aug 04, 2012 @ 04:34:01

    I guess the important word is “believe”. Here in Iowa the important word is “water” . We have had only 1/2 in ch of rain since middle of May so I live in the extreme drought area. I don’t have a crop that is failing but my shady yard has lots of expensive hostas so I am running sprinklers. My water supply comes from the Mississippi river but it is also getting low. I am grateful that I am not making my living from results of this drought.

  15. Ann DeSalvo
    Aug 06, 2012 @ 10:13:13

    Update—be careful for you wish for, here in Ipwa we had a big storm and had almost 2 inches of rain but a large tree in my yard blew done and Lea Ded on some of my best hostas so I am looking forward to next spring when all will look all again

  16. Marigold Jam
    Aug 10, 2012 @ 05:19:30

    Have just finished reading your book The Snow Girl – wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed it. I can’t remember another book which affected me so much I felt compelled to write to the author. Sitting in the sunshine here in England reading about Alaskan winters was a surreal experience as indeed was the story. Loved it and am only sorry that I’ve finished it. Glad that readers like me enabled you to have water without the effort of hauling it. I will be following your doings in future.

  17. Sandy becker
    Aug 13, 2012 @ 04:52:27

    Eowyn, I work with your father in law, Dr. Ivey in Florida, and I was fascinated by your water witching story. My mother in law (now in heaven) was also a dowser and could find water by water witching. She lived in the mountains of WA state many years ago and that is how they found a well. My husband now has that gift, so it was neat hearing how you did the water witching and found water. I enjoy your stories very much! Keep them coming.
    Sandy Becker

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