It’s a deep subject…

The saga of why my well has gone wonky and what’s to be done about it continues. 

I’ve learned a few new things over the last couple of days though. Or instance, the homestead sits on three distinct layers of sand/gravel, sand/clay, and sand. The well goes 195 feet down through them to the final sand layer. That’s not overly surprising. If I remember my long-ago undergraduate geography class, the whole of the Eastern Shore is a sand berm pushed up at the end of the last ice age by the proto-Susquehanna River as the ice melted.

Knowing that, having a bit of extra sediment coming through is fairly easily explained – by someone who knows more about hydraulics than I do. The most likely cause, according to the well company, is a slight shift in how water is flowing through the aquifer coupled with a 20-year buildup of sediment in the bottom of the well. The proposed solution: Raise the depth of the pump a bit. Sounds reasonable to me.

The bug and bug part intrusion, remains more of a mystery. They’re not exactly naturally occurring at depth in the water table. There’s no evidence of bugs making their way through the well cap, either. The tentative recommendation there is swapping out my current single-stage filter to a two- or three-stage set up that should capture everything down to the one-micron level. Not much should make it through that – certainly nothing large enough to identify definitively as a “bug part.”

The company I’m dealing with still wants to do a bit of homework and wait for the results of the water tests to come back, so we’re not at a point where we have a definitive plan of attack or a projected butcher’s bill for getting it done. Not that it matters all that much. It’s not like I’m going to opt to keep the bugs, regardless of the price put on making the fix.

On planning ahead…

It’s possible I spend more time pondering the idea of retirement than is really reasonable for someone who has, at a bare minimum, 13 years, 9 months, 20 days, and a wake up left to go. I’ll make no apologies. The idea of waking up with no mandatory training, creaking inbox, meetings without end, or goofy assed conferences, is just about the happiest place I can imagine. A lot of my retirement-era day dreams center on where I want to land when it comes time to strike my tents here at the top of the Bay.

At one time I harbored thoughts of going west in retirement. Decades ago, I spent some time wandering where the high desert and Cascades slam together. It was a part of the country marked with open land and big skies, making it almost ideal for the kind of hermiting I enjoy. That is to say it’s possible to get far enough away from people so that they’re not a constant source of annoyance, but close enough to civilization to keep a few good book shops within an easy drive. The prevailing political situation in those states coupled with persistent drought and fire threat make the region significantly less attractive.

The lower Eastern Shore of Maryland or Virginia had its own appeal – Particularly somewhere well south of the bridge and tourists that swarm across Kent Island on their way to the beaches. With an elevation no higher than 100 feet much of the Shore could be increasingly problematic. It doesn’t take much, either from storm surge or sea level rise, to swamp a lot of the most attractive bits of land on the Eastern Shore. Add in the idea of saltwater intrusion into freshwater sources and Maryland’s determination to build yet another bridge to bring even more people across the water, and anywhere on the Shore looks less and less like an ideal choice. Better under these circumstances to stay where I am and enjoy the proximity to the Bay and a fairly safe 138-foot elevation. In all likelihood, Maryland won’t make the final cut for a whole host of reasons anyway so the discussion here is a bit academic.

There’s a personal calculus that goes into all this thinking. Taxes need to be favorable. Cost of living needs to be reasonable. Areas prone to natural disaster are right out – Fires, floods, earthquakes are a pass for me. Implications of climate change are absolutely a consideration. Proximity – or at least an easy helicopter flight – to a level one trauma center is almost non-negotiable. Forgive me, please, but if I’m ever faced with something catastrophic, I’d rather not rely entirely on the expertise at Greater East Podunk Community Hospital. 

All of this seems to be carving an area of interest ranging from eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina, bits of Kentucky through portions of Virginia and its Western sibling, and then up the eastern seaboard (skipping over a few tax happy and ultra-restrictive states like Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Massachusetts). I’m even pondering on options as far north as the Canadian Maritimes, though that would be a part-time situation at best.

I know. That still covers a hell of a lot of geography. That doesn’t really feel like much narrowing of the field. At least as I sit here right now, I seem to know what I don’t like and where I don’t want to be. That feels like a reasonably good start on a grand plan that I probably won’t carry to fruition for at least another decade and a half.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

​1. The “to read” pile. I’ll be the first to admit I’ve always had a problem with acquiring books. For most of my adult life it’s been manageable largely because I moved every couple of years and shipping large boxes of books gets expensive. I had an incentive to purge the shelves from time to time. After settling in at Fortress Jeff, though, moving every three years didn’t become much of a threat. What we have now is a collection of books that I want to read, but just haven’t gotten around to yet. The shelf I bought to store this unread library is already filled to capacity and spilling out across the floor. It’s a hot mess. I read an article recently that argued your “to read” pile should always be larger than the collection you’ve already read because it reflects your goals as well as you’ve accomplished… but I’m fairly sure they were thinking about books that teach you things and not a shelf filled with detective novels you’re going to get to at some point. If I were slightly less compulsive about displaying books-as-conquests I could probably have convinced myself to get a library card or fully embrace e-books. Now with no physical check on how many is too many, I fully expect the pile to get worse long before it gets better. I need to either make more time or learn to read faster.

2. Geography. I got a notice that something I ordered online has shipped and was expected on time for delivery. I was apoplectic to see that it was scheduled for delivery “tomorrow” but was sitting quietly in New Jersey. It turns out that even after being here for more than seven years it’s hard to remember that this part of Maryland is about 25 feet from New Jersey and items might not take a week to get here from there.

3. Facial recognition. Monday afternoon I was having trouble getting my phone to unlock with facial recognition. Having to manually enter a six digit password is so 2000-and-something. It was annoying. In displaying my annoyance to the phone, I inevitable scowled at it… at which point the fucking thing immediately opened. Apparently that really is “just how I look.” Frankly, though, I’m a little surprised the infernal contraption didn’t also require me to roll my eyes.

My country…

On the eve of Virginia’s succession, Robert E. Lee was offered command of the Union army, but declined, commenting only that he would not raise is hand against his birthplace – his country as he understood the word. I never really understood this sentiment until circumstances drew me away from my own birthplace. It was in being away that the concept of what home means crystalized for me. It was the thought of coming back that let me tolerate what had become the worst experience of my professional life. It’s the simple act of being back on home soil that’s letting me find peace of mind amidst a steep climb along the learning curve and and living situation that, at best, can currently be described as “less than ideal.” For all the pain in the ass that getting back to Maryland has caused, I’d never dream of having it any other way. Maybe it’s not true for everyone, but I’ve discovered that for me geography is important. It’s as much a part of my self identity as my fingerprint. After a long time gone, I’m here – in my county… and the rest is simply administrative minutia.

Right back where we started from…

I’ve always had a bit of a soft spot for Fort Lee. When I was desperate to leave teaching and sloshing my way towards high-functioning alcoholism, Ft. Lee was my first step towards redemption. It was the place that restored my faith in my own abilities. Coming back to this place is a little like coming home to mama. It is one of those little pieces of geography that gives me a warm fuzzy. I am a firm believer that there are certain places, geographic locations that have a huge impact on who we become as people. I’m not going so far as arguing that geography makes the man (although there are some interesting theories floating around), just that it has an influence.

I’m sitting here 1000 yards from where Grant broke the rebel line at Petersburg in the last great battle of our Civil Way. After Petersburg, the worst of the conflict was over, though peace would come only after the fall of Richmond and the long march to Appomattox. After Petersburg, normal was still a long way off. There remained the struggle of national Reconstruction and decades of Jim Crowe. The Republic had endured the dark threat of disunion and although Gettysburg is remembered as the battle that turned the tide, it was Petersburg that finally broke the back of the rebellion. This is where the process of restoring faith in the Union began in earnest.

In so many ways, Petersburg did the same thing for me. There’s something about the symmetry that I like.

Shifting my flag…

In the age of fighting sail, an admiral’s headquarters was identified by a unique banner or pennant, his flag. Hence we have the terms: flagship and flag officer. If the ship were holed or too damaged to stay in the fight, the admiral, and his flag, would be transferred to another ship. In that way, flagship refers not so much to the physical vessel, but to the high-ranked personage aboard. When the fleet returned to port, the admiral’s flag was shifted ashore.

While I’ll make no claim to be a high ranked personage, I am shifting my flag for at least the next two weeks, I am taking this show on the road and will be back in my home-away-from-home at Winchester, Virginia. Same great posts, new geographic location. Possibly even better posts because the group I will be with provides some of the best grist for the mill.