Green, Lifestyle

Water … and life in the Irish rural slow lane

November 25, 2011

2001 – our home

I was passed a link this morning by Roisin from Creative Dynamix that immediately reminded me of when we first moved to the top of our hill and the months we spent at our site without water.


An oasis but no running water on site…

Many rural dwellers will have an inkling about how it feels to be without the  precious resource of water.  Most of us who live outside of the towns and villages rely on electric pumps that live in the bottom of deep wells to draw up our water.

Whenever there’s a power cut we not only lose our lights and electricity, but also our water supply (and if, like us you have to rely on an electrically powered heating system, we lose that too).


Our kitchen (2000) – lots of work ahead

When we first moved up to our abandoned, unloved old house in the summer of 2001 there were no modern facilities.

The stories are that two elderly women lived in the farmhouse full of laughter and music until the mid 1980’s (when I was living in the UK and taking all my mod cons for granted…)

It was the place where the local children used to bunk off school and hide away from their parents until it was time to return home. They’d chat, sing and stomp their feet to the playing and have their bellies filled with bowls of soup, laddled from a pot that was suspended upon the old crane, stewing above the open fire in the dark, peat warmed kitchen.

Every day, and several times a day I imagine, the elderly ladies would take it in turns to fill a container with water from the nearby spring that is now almost hidden in the bank down the lane and carry it back up to the house for their supplies.


Levelling the kitchen floor…. no power tools here

When Mr G, two children under 3, two dogs, two cats and I turned up to start our new life in a one bedroomed mobile home in the front courtyard of the old farmhouse, it was to conditions we were unfamiliar with. (Just as well we were used to camping holidays!)

We were lucky in that we didn’t have to collect our water from the spring. Our neighbouring farmer had an outside tap that we hauled containers backwards and forwards to everyday. Still, it wasn’t the cleanest of water but we filtered it the best we could for drinking.  Our mobile home didn’t have provisions for hot water either, so for 18 months and another baby later, all our hot water came via boiled kettles.

WATER … AND LIFE IN THE IRISH RURAL SLOW LANEWhen the 300ft well was finally drilled and Mr G had plumbed a tap into the shed, we turned it on for the first time and spent the day rejoicing.

We did and still do have an abundance of dry, stone sheds  so it was not long after turning on the first tap, that we installed a shower and a handbasin next to the outside loo, thereby ending the family trip to the swimming pool for a weekly clean  (first) then bathe… However, we quickly learnt that two flushes of the outside toilet emptied all the water from the containers, giving us a hands-on insight into how many litres of water are wasted daily, literally being flushed away.

I’ll never forget the dark, January morning that I headed out to our chilly shower, stripped off, lathered up and the water froze… or the way that all the cold water droplets used to spill onto you when your shut the clear, plastic sheet door that Mr G had built around the little cubicle to try and keep the drafts out.

It was almost two and a half years after first moving to our site that we were finally able to switch on a tap in an inside bathroom and hot water came out of it.

By then our youngest daughter was more than a year and a half old and a basin full of water would entertain our middle daughter for hours. The experience was powerful and has resulted in us never taking water for granted.

Now my dream kitchen, hand built by Mr G is finished. We thank the dishwasher daily and enjoy stove cooked meals rather than the daily menu’s I had to conjour up for the family on two gas rings.

WATER … AND LIFE IN THE IRISH RURAL SLOW LANEBack to the link. It was for Environment Africa, an inspiring organisation who’s mission is to

work together with all sectors of society raising awareness, encouraging action and advocating a better environment that uplifts the livelihood of current and future generations.

What a positive mission statement! That single sentence encapsulates so much but is one that could be echoed in all countries around the world, including our own.

Environment Africa called for everyone to take a challenge – a very difficult challenge as it happens…

Switch off your water at the main source in your home for 24 hours.

The closest point at which you could walk to fetch water must be a minimum of 1 kilometer away from your home, no hopping in your car and driving, you must walk.

Sounds simple enough, but I challenge you to do it, for 24 hours and it will give you a new perspective on how we take water for granted and how we cannot live without it.  For many people living in rural communities, this is not a 24 hour challenge, but an every day reality with people having to walk many kilometres each day to fetch water.”

So how did the thought of that make you feel? Did you get a shiver down your spine at the inconvenience that living without water would cause? Are you prepared to take that challenge? Being aware of just how much water we use daily is a start in appreciating just how precious this resource is.


  • Reply Foxglove Lane November 27, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    Just saw this now and can I say I too was that soldier! Exactly the same dream brought myself and very young family to a ruined cottage, with all the accompanying challenges. You have brought me right back! At my parents last Christmas we had a frozen water situation with dinner, toileting and washing for 8 adults and an elderly disabled person…….but lo and behold I am very resilient in these waterless situations and know how to eek out a bucket full. We complain about the rain, but can you imagine a lack of rain? How hard. Thanks Dee:~) and great photos and lovely kitchen!

  • Reply Greenside Up November 27, 2011 at 10:06 pm

    Thanks Catherine :)Our well has been drying occasionally this year which has been concerning – even yesterday taps were dry for a couple of hours so looking forward to some rain right now!! Character building experiences they tell me 😉

  • Reply Bridget November 30, 2011 at 5:43 pm

    You have reminded me of old cottages we have renovated. Returning from England in 1996 we moved in to a house that had been empty for 12 years and literally did it up around us. We then sold that and did the same all over again!!

  • Reply Greenside Up November 30, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    We've been doing ours up 'around us' ever since Bridget… can't imagine doing it all over again!!! Have loved watching an old unloved house come to life again though.

  • Reply Angela :-) December 3, 2011 at 3:36 pm

    That's a huge challenge Dee, one that I would love to take on – sadly finances don't permit at the moment. I watch Grand Designs all the time and dream of creating my own, green home, but until then I'll follow your blog avidly to learn from your experiences…just in case I win the lotto 🙂 Angela.

  • Reply Recycled bathroom – an environmental or economic decision? - Greenside Up September 28, 2013 at 10:13 pm

    […] mentioned in a earlier post that we spent  months and months without a hot water supply, so when Mr G finally started work on our bathroom it was with great excitement from the whole […]

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