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After that lengthy and perhaps somewhat disturbing missive about the vagabond dog I’m back to writing on my Blackberry. It’s a lot of trouble to get the laptop into its’ temporary setup, and doing so has thus far rewarded me with lots of Microsoft downloads and updates and one especially nasty virus delivered through a friend’s Facebook account.

On the other hand, I’ve installed an FTP client and discovered that I can maintain my weblog from here. That’s pretty convenient and is something I’ll pursue once the machine is in a more nearly permanent position. Once that’s accomplished, I’ll spend the next rainy day or 3 getting the pages up-to-date and presentable and then I’ll send you the URL address and you can take a look at some short notes that haven’t been sent to this list and some photos and other stuff, including current weather conditions here.

Back at the ranch and over morning coffee I’m surveying the seemingly unending list of tasks around here. It’s encouraging to reflect on jobs already completed and appreciate the fact the that many of the projects won’t need to be repeated soon. This review provides just the sort of “attaboy” that might inspire me to face the Sisiphsyian job of attempting to bring order to the tropical jungle that is our garden.

But the plants come later. First an inventory of structural improvements and repairs.

Since buying this little one bedroom house four years ago, with its thatched A-frame guest bungalow, detached garage and adjacent thatched gazebo/dance hall we have: replaced the roof membrane/water-catchment system on the house and the thatch on the gazebo and over all doors and windows; replaced the wooden walkways through the gardens and the wooden porch on the bungalow with rot-resistant rough-cut (“bruta”) lumber. I’ve painted the house, inside and out. We replaced the topping slab and made a new and much larger thatched roof over our “front porch,” nearly doubling that useful space. That’s made a big difference because that’s where we practically live.

I’ve built a sturdy workbench in the garage and erected a few shelves and done some mechanical maintenance on the diesel Mitsubishi jeepeta. With neighbors, we’ve done a wee bit of engineering and some construction on the road leading up the hill towards our place.

Plumbing, wiring, and repair of the propane gas system and refrigerator have all taken their respective place at the head of the list at one time or another–although the claim of refrigeration mechanic may be something of an exaggeration, even though I did manage to re-start our relatively new refrigerator with a well-placed blow with a carpenter’s finish hammer the other day.

I’ve finished grouting the decorative paving on the walkways adjacent to the house and put a metal locking hatch on the cistern. We’ve spread gravel in the driveway, repaired fences and burned countless and huge mounds of brush. We’ve built and installed hurricane shutters and varnished lots of furniture and cabinets.

Some of these accomplishments are relatively permanent and may need to be done, at most, one more time during my lifetime. Others are more regular occurrences and I list them in the same spirit as that in which one adds an accomplishment to a list of tasks only to immediately scratch it off. The sense of satisfaction is almost illicit, but gratifying nevertheless.

This brings me to the water pump, persistence, and the notion of quality control.

Actually, this brings me to the second of the two water pumps on the property. The first is atop the cistern, located at the lowest point on the property. This pump is wired to a float in the storage tanks on our roof and–so far–it sends water up to the roof just fine.

The pump on the roof is a different story.

Its’ job is to pressurize the water in a small tank and deliver the water to the tap at something resembling a familiar pressure and volume, as judged by residents of the “developed” world.

This pump is controlled by a pressure switch that is plumbed into a little christmas-tree sort of fitting that also connects to the gravity water feed and a check valve, a pressure gauge, the pump itself and a pressurized line to the pressure tank. This bronze fitting is central to the whole system. It has lots of different size and pitch threads which share a common trait in that none of them match up nicely with any of their respective attachments or connections. This is so consistently the case that it is as if by design.

I set out to replace the whole pump and plumbing system, salvaging only the 250 gallon tanks and the 5 gallon pressure tank.

Prudently, I assembled the whole thing on the porch before packing it up to the narrow space between the tanks on the roof. I discovered that nothing fit.

The central fitting wobbled on the pump, threads on the pressure switch were not stripped but were very poorly machined and would not thread to the central “christmas tree” fitting, right out of the box. The pressure hose did not seal but wallowed over the nipple, and (predictably) 2 of the 4 hose clamps didn’t work.

It made no difference if the fittings were iron, bronze, or plastic–and I tried them all, nothing was even close to watertight.

In the US, and before the advent of teflon tape, plumbers used putty on the threads when coupling pipe. As I recall, it worked pretty well.

Teflon tape also worked pretty well when it came along in the 1960’s. It was more convenient and effective than putty. Five or six turns of tape on the male fitting and “Bob’s your uncle,” as our Canadian friends might say.

It turns out that Dominican plumbers generally don’t know Bob and plan on something between 15 and 25 turns of the gossamer-thin Dominican teflon tape for each joint.

Even then half the joints leak. This usually requires the disassembly of the non-leaking joints to get to the otherwise inaccessible problem leaks, occasioning new leaks in the process.

I checked: there is apparently no plumbers putty to be had in the DR. You see where this is heading, I’m sure.

DAYS of hunching between the tanks, patiently cleaning threads of failed teflon tape and winding tape anew. The only thing that made this at all funny was discovering that my neighbor and a retired machinist Roy was experiencing the identical frustration with the pressure pump at his house.

I’m sorry to admit that I finally resorted to a combination of teflon tape and silicone gel to finish the job, after decades of disdain for anything with the word “silicone” associated with it.

Now, days later, I’m reluctant to go on the roof and check the integrity of the connections.

I suppose that this may be training for our future in the US as our machine tools wear out and are not replaced but shipped to places like the Dominican Republic where they continue to manufacture items but now for export to places like the US.

Do you suppose that this is on Mr. Obama’s list? If so it’s perhaps no further up the list than for Presidente Fernandez, as long as some water still arrives with the turn of the spigot.

In the US we’ve seen that it won’t do for a politician to put words in the mouth of the plumber, whether he’s named Joe or Jose’ however we should remember to listen to the plumber’s stories and respect his experience. Who knows what that may reveal about the world we live in?


The old pump looks innocuous enough.

And the new one doesn’t seem like such a big deal in this little snapshot but, trust me, it is.

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