The story begins in 2005 at the offices of Jagoff & Pretentsio, my architects. The bunkhouse was still on the drawing board, glowing with the promise of my future contentment. We all gathered around the drawings, sipping lattes.*
“You’re gonna love your rainwater,” sang Jagoff.
“It’ll be chemical-free and taste fantastic,” tittered Pretentsio.
Butterflies fluttered about the room as Peer Gynt swelled in the background. And so the magnificent 30,000 gallon underground concrete cistern was built and miles of gleaming gutters and pipes installed.
The grim consequences of my having signed off on this wackaloon scheme is one of the top reasons Lucky Golden Rainbow Shangri-La Utopian Clearwater Ranch is now called Dreadful Acres.
My rainwater collection surface is the expansive metal roof of the bunkhouse, which bunkhouse is picturesquely nestled in a grove of vile, mean-spirited live oak trees (see photo, right, taken from a 60′ crane). Twice a year the trees dump all their leaves, and once a year they dump pollen pods, onto the roof. The trees also provide squirrels, birds, cicadas, and lard knows what else with an open invitation to use the roof as a toilet. All the arboreal animals within a 5-mile radius take full advantage of the opportunity.
Also, I’m pretty sure those airplane urinal ice blocks fall on it every now and then.
The only way to prevent the resulting water supply from turning into birdshit-flavored oak tea is to get up on the roof and deploy a leaf-blower and a poop scooper. This leaf-blowing/poop-scooping must occur whenever a puff of wind blows a single leaf, or whenever a single glob of bird shit plops, onto the roof. By which I mean, there is no way to prevent the birdshit-flavored oak tea result. For years my argumentative, beer-guzzling handyman “blow-dried” the roof every week or so. The effort was achingly insufficient. In fact, unless I dose it with Clorox, my collected rainwater has never once, in over 5 years, not been birdshit-flavored oak tea.
It gets worse. During oak pollen season it is necessary to physically block the collection pipes, because oak pollen turns the water an even browner shade of brown than the oak leaves do. Of course pollen season is also rainy season, so, while I’m keeping the pollen out, I’m also missing most of the year’s rain. To make up for the deficit I have water hauled in. The water delivery company is called Water Boy, which irrelevant detail I include because “Water Boy” has always seemed to me a name perfectly incongruent with big tanker trucks and adult men wielding hoses. The hauled-in Water Boy water starts out in a fairly drinkable and un-brown state, but is eventually debased by any roof-crap that drizzles in.
The oak pollen may be blocked seasonally, but birds and squirrels enjoy contamination privileges year round. If there is a way to keep their feces out of the water supply I haven’t found it. Yes, the water is filtered and passes under a UV light, but the amount of bleach I have to add to keep it potable and non-brown renders the whole operation pointless from the my-body-is-a-temple point of view. Not to mention that the water filters themselves, which supposedly last 3 months but which really need changing about every 10 days, are expensive, cumbersome, awkward to access, and always soak your pants when you unscrew’em, thanks to the fucking knuckleheads who installed the system.
Then there’s the cistern itself. It’s underground, as I mentioned, and can only be accessed by an enormous galvanized steel hatch so heavy I can’t open it by myself. This hatch, despite gaskets and insect screen, is far from impenetrable, so despite the drought, Dreadful Acres enjoys the distinction of being the only mosquito breeding-ground for miles. Also, the concrete cistern leaches concrete-leachings into the water. Oh, and check this out: a few months ago, when the water began to smell even fouler than usual, a decomposing rat carcass was dredged up from the bottom. The entire 30,000 gallons had to be pumped out — wasted in the middle of a drought.
I can’t even bear to picture what happened next: the argumentative handyman mucking out the empty cistern, slooshing around my drinking water tank in his — shudder — bare feet. I can’t explain it, possibly it’s due to the particular antipathy with which I view that particular handyman, but the idea of bare, middle-aged dude-feet in my water grosses me out even more than a dead rat.
So I’ve been drinking bottled water ever since.
I am happy to report that this week it all changes. After over 5 years of enduring this pointless cycle of filter-changing, leaf-blowing, Cloroxing, handyman-wrangling and carcass-dredging, I’m finally crying uncle. The doomed rainwater collection enterprise is getting junked as we speak. The entire system is being re-plumbed to bypass the tainted cistern and gnarly gutter pipes. I’ll get my water from the well instead. It’s a crappy, shallow, 4-gallon-per-minute well, but as long as it liberates me from the haunting spectre of eau de handyman-foot, I’ll be swimming in happiness.
* Which lattes would, of course, later appear on my bill.