March 24, 2013

We Think We Found The Old Well

Dan may have found the old well. He recently looked online for tips on finding old wells, and we think it's been under our very noses all along.

There is a broken cap lying around somewhere too.

The pipe as you can see, has been filled with dirt and likely the well is too, either because it's dry or because the residents wanted municipal water when it became available. Our neighbor told us his old well is dry. Like us, they'd hoped to use their's for watering their garden.

Arrow points to location of the pipe we think indicates the old well.
Also note the dryer vent to the left below the porch windows.

The only "bad" thing is that it's located so close to the house, as in inches from the foundation. I say that because I don't like the idea of having to dig so close to the foundation to figure out if it indeed is the old well, and whether or not it's salvageable.

We need to know, because we've already got an idea for the greywater from the washing machine on the back porch.

Idea for laundry greywater soil filtration bed. The sketch also includes a
gate across the driveway from our  privacy fence / firewood storage area

The idea entails building a greywater soil filtration bed along that side of the house. Because it gets the blazing summer sun in late afternoon, we'd like to frame the windows with pergolas, and grow something vining for summer window shade. I don't know what yet, but something that doesn't mind the alkaline laundry water. In the sketch above we've also finished off the privacy fence/firewood storage with a gate.

Before we can get to that, we need to finish the outside of the house on that side. That's a job of work because it involves upgrading the old, original windows, and new siding. The bedrooms (middle one at least) are next on the house goal list  after the bathroom (on hold till warmer weather). Every time we've replaced a window we've had to do the exterior siding as well. I reckon what I'm getting at is that there are a number of steps to be done first, so we have some time to investigate.

It would be wonderful to have the old well as a source of irrigation water at least. Even better if the water was potable. That's all speculation and we're not even positive it is the old well. It will be interesting to find out.


  1. You could always try a dowser! My folks used one to find their septic tank for the old Vermont house, and he did too. We had one to locate water here before we drilled. In fact none of the drillers will work without one out here. It gives them someone to blame when you don't hit water. ;)
    We did of course, over 40GPM which is very good for up here

  2. Sounds like you've got a lot goin' on there! A greywater system would be fabulous!

  3. Will be interesting to see if you are right. Ours on our property my parents bought was still in use when we moved there, and with the aid of buckets on ropes, we used it to water our animals for many years before it went dry.

  4. Can't wait to see the results. Love the idea of the grey water system!

  5. we only have a well down in the valley, where we fetch our drinking water with containers, but of course nothing else, because it's too far away and downhill... we thought about having a well drilled, but when we asked a specialist he told us that likely in our location we would have to drill extremely deep - which would cost a fortune and might not lead to a lasting result anyway! living in ireland equals a lot of rain, so we decided to put up as much rain water storage as we can - has worked out well, we haven't been without water ever since, though we had one or two "low points" years back - when we still had a summer that lasted more than a day or two:) though I am sure that switching from a WC and putting up more tanks has helped, too... water consumption for flushing toilets is huge, even if usage for a single flush is reduced:(

  6. Theresa, I suggested a dowser, but if Dan can't understand it, he doesn't want to go with it. I'll have to look around and see if there's a local dowser anyway. :)

    Daisy, we have more going on than the time and money to do it. :)

    Stephanie, we're afraid this one is probably dry too. It would be wonderful for things like watering animals and irrigating though.

    DFW, it's on the list but I suspect it will be awhile before it gets anywhere close to the top. :)

    Bettina, you've made good use of your climate. Flushing truly is a huge water waster. Dan is hoping to use some of our rainwater for flushing eventually, but we still need a lot of tanks. (That would be another good use of non-potable well water too.)

  7. My Dad used a dowser to in a dry area and got a good well out of it. I'd like to do a gray water cachement from our kitchen, but hubby says no. I'm still working on him though...

  8. Dowsing is actually not that hard to do, you could learn and do it yourself. Dowsing rods are cheap or you could make them yourself. You just have to do it right...

  9. You can learn to dowse yourself with simple wire coat hanger rods. It's easy. I've done it many times. (never for well drilling, but for finding buried water lines)

    I am no expert when it comes to wells, but when I saw your picture my first thought was cistern rather than well. Just something to consider...

    I recently left a comment regarding fencing in warmer weather, and you asked me about my comment. I can not find that post now, so I will respond here. I found a simple little explanation here:

  10. Capturing the gray water is a wonderful idea but, like you, don't relish the idea of the well being so close to the foundation. We didn't have a well so had to dig one...650 feet and 75 gpm...marvelous!

  11. Any old town records with the health department? That's who knows where our stuff is.

  12. Great idea about the greywater, and I think I'll start collect what's in our water fortexes from the animals daily. Didn't think of that but reading your post made me... so THANKS!

  13. How nice would that be if it was potable too..but there is still that issue of digging so close to the foundation...I like your idea of putting pergolas around your windows with vines. Our bedroom, kitchen and bath face south with no shade and it gets very hot in summer, some nice vines would be welcome.

    Have a nice Palm Sunday afternoon/evening. xo

  14. Vines that touched my house seemed to be a super-highway for ants. I fought them for years inside. Finally, as I inspected the outside of the house, I noticed ants traveling along a vine and under the siding. Now that I keep that completely off the house, I solved my decade-old ant problem.

  15. Nancy, I've looked at some articles on DIY dowsing and will have to give it a try. I suspect though, that the well is waterless.

    Michelle, a cistern, hmmm. My grandparent's house was built in 1905 and had an underground cistern to catch and store rainwater. Considering how close our pipe is to the house, a cistern would make a lot of sense. Thanks for the link, I'm looking forward to checking it out.

    Thistle Cove Farm, sounds like you have a wonderful well! I'm not sure what we'll do about checking ours out. If the pipe is filled with dirt, likely the rest of it is too.

    Barb, we ask at the county records office about old records and were referred to an area university, who keeps such things in their archives. We just need the time to go there and check it out!

    Mary Ann, great idea. I'm always looking for ways to conserve on water. :)

    Sherri, it would be nice, but doubtful. I would love to grow some hops or grapes on those pergolas!

    Linda, oh my, ants would indeed be a problem. Something else I'll have to keep an eye out for.

  16. Just thinking it's a long shot that someone used clay tile for a well casing. More likely to drain to a septic sewer or storm water run-off. Usually wells were iron pipe or today maybe PVC.

  17. Errol, it's interesting you should say that. There is a lot of cast iron pipe in the crawl space. I suppose it's possible it was once a septic. That would mean at some point they would have had a new one dug where ours is now. It's right next to the house so a well is puzzling, but just could be a cistern for rain water. We won't know until we dig it up (which won't happen anytime soon. :)

  18. Love the idea of grey water usage. Have you seen how they are utilized in Earthship homes?? The sinks etc flush through into planter boxes in the homes green house for vegetables and that filters the water which is then push back into piping to the toilets for flushing. From there it goes back out to a grey/black water setup for outdoor tree growth I think. Really interesting stuff being able to utilize the water 4 times over.

  19. Hi Leigh,
    I'm a newbie to this blog thing. I left a response somewhere else before I noticed this little box. It's likely floating around in the land of cyber of as I write this. Anyway, I agree with Errol Judy that it's probably not a well casing.The pipe is Terra Cotta and is very brittle so unless it is a very shallow well they would have used steel casing. I've dug several of these up and usually turn out to be either sewer, cistern or part of an old style french drain. The cast iron pipe you mentioned is likely sewer. If you have extra pieces sell the for scrap metal. Depending on how old the system is and how much recent grading has been done around the home you may be able to see a slight depression in the lawn where the rest of the terra cotta pipe runs. I save the pieces when I get them and bust them up to use as drainage material in the bottom of raised beds. Thanks for the time and effort you put in to your pages here. It has been of great encouragement to me. Love the Goats!!

  20. Cloud, that's something I haven't heard of. One thing we've figured out, is that it would have been easier to build all this into a house ourselves, rather than try to retrofit it. It can be done, but it's difficult.

    Dan B, thank you and welcome! What you and Errol say makes a lot of sense. I could only imagine that it was some sort of casing for a hand pump and that the well cover is buried (?) But what hasn't made sense is that a well should be so close to the foundation of the house. It's certainly been an adventure owning a 90-something year old house.

  21. Be careful . oi remember as a kid ( a long time ago) Mr had a well under his kitchen table and my uncle fell in it and it was hell getting him out..people did what they had to in those days and the laws werent so strict.

  22. Start digging how do you not just freak out and be all excited... merp :/

  23. Ginny, good to hear from you! Oh my what a story. Our neighbor found his old well when it created a sink hole that tried to swallow one of their cars. :o

    Merp, it is hard to not go crazy over this. :)


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