On Thursday of that long ago water-deprived week, we turned the corner. Dario and George finally finished cleaning the well and installed the longer pipe. They returned the water they had taken out, and pumped some up to the cistern. As soon as it was full, I asked permission to do one load of laundry. Marino agreed. I still couldn’t dunk the children into a tub full of hot water, but I sponge bathed them all.
On Friday we actually cheered as two tanker trucks drove slowly up the grade, and one at a time, emptied two tank loads of spring water into our well. It cost Marino about two weeks’ worth of grocery money, but it was worth every cent. At last we could all bathe! However, until we started to get decent rain again, we agreed to stick to a modified rationing program of flushing and dishes once a day, bathing once a day, and fewer loads of laundry. The boys still wore clean clothes to school, but I had to lower my standards for play clothes. I had always laundered them after one day’s wearing, but I learned to evaluate them so we could squeeze one or two more wearings out of all but the dirtiest of pants and sweaters.
This episode was a source of major discomfort to us, but everything is relative. I swallowed my complaints when I got a letter from my brother, Gordon, and his pregnant wife, Carol, who were trying to adapt to the Canadian wilderness with no electricity and no well, just river water. His letter said they both developed giardia from the water because they were unknowingly drinking from a river that was downstream from a cow pasture.
Suddenly I felt spoiled.
Rain finally arrived in early November, but it wasn’t a sudden, exciting downpour that dissipated to sunshine, as we had been used to. It was one relentless stream, followed by another. Unlike winter in Southern California, where we could expect rainy days to alternate fairly regularly with sunny ones, at Gabi, the winter sun was a rare sight, and the gray clouds drifted low over the hills, chilling the air. Drying laundry in the wet weather was solved by the central heating radiators. I draped the wet laundry over all of the upstairs radiators. Not only did it dry, but as it dried, it released steam that misted the windows above. Good for the complexion, and as an added bonus, drawing funny faces on the misted windows kept the children amused. It wasn’t an efficient drying method, because we’d have to wait for one load to dry before we could drape the next. However, it was a lot better than my Canadian winter experience of hanging clothes in the cold wood shed and waiting three days before they stopped dripping, or chipping ice off them before we could bring them inside the house.
I didn’t resent not having a clothes dryer at Gabi. After the first three weeks of washing by hand, I was happy with just a washing machine. And after the one week of strict water rationing, I was delirious about running water. Before we left California, these were the kinds of sacrifices I had imagined we would have to make if we lived on a farm. What became a problem was the sacrifices that I hadn’t anticipated.
|City water pipe on left of driveway where our house begins (color changes)|
When we revisited Gabi in 1987, city water had finally reached the farm. Rosemma, George’s cousin, had inherited and remodeled (and painted) Zio Remo’s house, and she lived there permanently. And by that year, more and more of the absent owners of the houses at Gabi and Bertola were using them as weekend getaways. The drive from Turin was just an hour, and in summer it was considerably more pleasant in the hills around Gabi than in the city. The increased population finally justified the expense, so the town had run water pipes up to each house. The cousins had hired a plumber to attach it to the pipes inside their houses, but since no one lived at our house, our city pipe stopped to one side of the driveway. For our brief stay, Cousin Rudolfo and Zio Silvio attached a hose and snaked it up to the roof to fill the cistern. The electric tank over the bath was still the only source of hot water, but at least the house was no longer dependent on the well.