Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Sprinkler Crisis

So exactly a week ago I was taking a nap (still trying to get over the cold) and my wife came in a told me that the sprinklers had suddenly turned on. I confess that initially the idea was so bizarre, and being still somewhat asleep I couldn't really process the idea that the sprinklers were on. When I finally processed the information and got up shortly thereafter the sprinklers were indeed on. One set in the back yard and one set in the front yard.

Before I get into the comedic, three-stooges-esque, attempts to fix the problem a little history is in order. When I moved into the house the automatic sprinkler system was already there, and I used it for the first year (maybe two) before decided that it was more trouble than it was worth and switching to just using a rain-bird. Now when I decided to stop using the system I should have figured out how to turn it off, but instead I just ignored it. Which brings us to the present day...

So anyway the sprinklers were on. By the time I started looking into the problem the sun was already setting. I wasn't sure exactly what would happen if the sprinklers ran all night, but I couldn't imagine that it would be good. So I started off by looking at the box that controlled the system. It was set in the "Rain(off)" position. Which is where it had been for lo these many years. So I unplugged it. That didn't do anything. So then summoning all the mental power my aged brain still possessed I remembered the box set in the front yard that I thought might have something to do with the water. Sure enough, there was a water meter in there, a big pipe and a valve. So I turned the valve and the sprinklers shut off. Yeah! But then I quickly discovered that I had shut off the water everywhere, including inside the house.

Well the next step was to look around for individual valves for each of the different zones. As it turns out there were several in the back yard and one of them actually did control the back set and so I was able to shut that down, but I still had the problem of the front sprinklers. Unfortunately by this time it was completely dark and my extensive search yielded nothing, and since some of the kids were supposed to shower I had turned the water back on so I was rooting through the bushes through leaves and mud all while being sprayed down by the nearby sprinklers.

After the first big search turned up nothing I went in and tried calling my dad, no answer. So then I called my brother-in-law who always seems to have a knack for these sorts of things. He said there had to be a separate shutoff within about six feet of the water box. So another search ensued without any success. At that point I went next door to see if the neighbor had a similar sprinkler set up to me and could tell me where to look for the shut-off. Unfortunately he did not, and in fact his own shut off had been covered up by sediment.

I think it was a this point that I started calling some friends. One of my friends thought he might be able to get his brother or dad to help me out. His brother wasn't home from work yet, but he was able to get a hold of his dad who ended up giving me some useful things to try out (none of which ended up being the solution, but they made me feel like I was working towards a solution.) The next-door neighbor had suggested I try another neighbor farther down the street who was fairly handy. So that was the next step, and he was very gracious and offered to come down and see if there was anything he could do.

I was sitting out on the lawn waiting for him to arrive and clearing away more of the snow when I noticed something of a divot in grass. After poking it a bit I thought it looked promising. So I started clearing away the grass and pulling at the sod, and after pulling away several large clumps of mud and grass I uncovered a green plastic cover about six inches in diameter. It took getting rid of a couple more clumps of sod before I was able to pull off the cover to reveal a long white pipe with a valve at the very bottom. It was right about then that the other neighbor showed up.

I took the long turner thingie (yeah that's it's actual name) I had and tried to turn it but it wouldn't budge, but since the neighbor had just shown up I decided to bring him up to speed on the situation. He had some ideas and questions, but eventually we came back to the valve I'd just uncovered. I thought that perhaps it was frozen, and he thought that maybe we needed some cheater bars (or pipes in this case) so I decided to boil some water and he went to his house to grab some pipes.

The water didn't seem to do anything, and he and I were both worried that if we put too much torque on the thing that we could break it, but we decided to give it a shot anyway, and with him on one side and me on the other we were eventually able to turn it off. And once we turned the main water back on we discovered that it had in fact fixed the problem. The whole thing took about three and a half hours. Overall, pretty lame, but as usual I assume I have no one to blame but myself...

Yes, the initial message I left for my brother-in-law was pretty pathetic


Blogger Denise said...

That doesn't sound like any fun at all. Sorry we don't live closer so Greg could have helped out a little more.

1:15 PM  

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