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"No Fire, Just Ice" by Beth Weic, as published in North Country News, January 2010

I just spent two hours holding a hair dryer to a metal pipe.

Well, there were two of us, actually, and two hair dryers. We were on our knees in frozen, snow-dusted woodchips, alternately shaking our heads or grunting as the act demanded.

Not some sort of calisthenics beauty school, mind you – our gadgets, after all, were dusty and antiquated. No, not quite. Broaden the picture a little bit, and you'll see, scattered in piles around us: a couple of wrenches, needlenose pliers, channel locks, and a pipe wrench. Also two empty blowtorches. Also a shovel.

In the background, are D Acres' team of oxen, Henri and August. If you ask them, they would say they were feeling a bit dehydrated.

Our water pump, you see, was busted. Water pump, frost-free hydrant, outdoor spigot. A variety of names would suffice, all of which suggest you can draw water from the contraption. This is the primary function, and yet this particular Monday morn, all routine functionality ceased. Presumably, something was frozen somewhere.

At first when the handle resisted being lifted and water wasn't flowing, boiling water seemed a reasonable idea. But that yielded no results, and jimmy-ing the handle (followed by dismantling its parts) proved less than illuminating. The prospect of hauling water until springtime from the house to our ox hovel was not particularly appealing. But I was resigning myself to it almost before I knew that that was what I was facing. About an hour and a half into the hair dryer ordeal, I had already ceased to dread the prospect of carrying buckets twice a day for three months. I was convinced that was what awaited me.

But my partner-in-crime, Josh, had tenacity for the project. The man is certainly efficient, and a project that is futile from the start is not a project at all if it's his time being brokered. So I had to believe that blowing hot air into the winter wind (okay, technically onto the pump shaft) would get us somewhere. But really?

Yes, really. Somewhere around the 1pm mark, with both of us straining to lift the copper rod out of the pipe that housed it, it popped. It was half sheathed in ice. Before I could regain my nonchalant composure, the words spilled out of my mouth: "I didn't think we'd actually get anywhere!"

"Yeah, I could see it in your eyes. Figured I come out here with you."

Another reminder that the unexpected gets pulled off routinely here at D Acres Farm. Or rather, that I need a better grasp on "do-able" versus "crazy." Soon we were reconstructing the event leading to the pump's failure. A busted washer here (make that three), a loose bolt there, water not drained out, a rod frozen into place…that's more or less the story, folks. With a few days of hauling buckets behind us – just to make sure the winter hadn't softened our summer muscles – we've got new parts and are back in business.

Sometimes you've just got to do it, plain and simple. Thanks for the cue, I won't forget. And, I suppose, schlepping water through the snow for a week seems like a reasonable expense for learning a few fix-it tactics. Never throw out that hair dryer.

Beth Weick is a resident of D Acres Organic Farm & Educational Homestead, a non-profit service organization. She first came to the farm in April 2008 as an intern, and now focuses her work on gardening, tending to the animals, and writing. Learn more about the programs at D Acres by visiting www.dacres.org.

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