Fly-tippers not welcome in rural Mallorca

Our concrete water storage tank – or depósito – has a new metal lid. The previous one was rather ancient and the metal around the edge was literally fraying. It had become so ill-fitting that it recently fell down into the water tank itself, and the sharp edges pierced the plastic lining. Yes, more expense, for a repair.

A new lid was required and we headed to a small metalworking firm we’ve used before in Manacor. It’s not exactly on the beaten track, this place, but it always seems to be busy – which, in our books, is a good sign. The company delivered our new galvanized steel lid and frame last month. It’s been so well made that it’s a shame that only The Boss, Jaume the water delivery man, and birds passing overhead will ever get to cast their eyes on its artisan workmanship.

A job with a view 

The unusually wet November meant that The Boss wasn’t able to cement the new lid into place but, on Sunday, he set about the task with zeal. This was one job he was more than ready to cross off his ‘to do’ list; when the colder weather comes, standing on the top of our water tank – exposed to the north wind whipping up our valley – is not the place to while away any amount of time.

“It’s like being on the roof of the world up there,” he said, when he popped back to the house for our mid-morning caffeine fix. The view is pretty amazing, stretching right across the valley.

While he was working, The Boss had heard the sound of a vehicle slowing and stopping in the lane, by the holm oak tree at the corner of our land. It’s not a place you’d expect anyone to stop and, last time it had happened, we’d later found a tiny ginger kitten that had been dumped, so The Boss went to investigate. This vehicle was an elderly battered white furgoneta (van) with a Madrid registration, but there wasn’t a sign of the driver. A few minutes later, a short Moroccan man with a weathered face emerged like Indiana Jones from the dense forest of wild olive and mastic – to find The Boss waiting for an explanation as to why he was wandering around our land.

Man on a mission

The stranger said he was a qualified builder but couldn’t find a job, so had been reduced to driving around the countryside searching for scrap metal and other junk that he could sell. He told The Boss that an area of our land (almost inaccessible on foot to all but the determined, or desperate) had been a popular fly-tipping spot for years, although sadly – but only from his point of view – it seemed to have lost its appeal.

When we first moved here we realized that people had been stopping in the lane and hefting anything from old tyres to empty bottles into the undergrowth below. To this day, there are some old tyres in a particularly inaccessible location, in the deepest part of our small-valley-within-the-larger-valley. We even once saw something down there that resembled some unwanted sheep shearings in an old sack. Fortunately, since we’ve been in residence, fewer people are using our land as their dumping ground of choice, but fly-tipping in general is still a problem – and one that’s guaranteed to raise my hackles. There are plenty of places these days for the legitimate disposal of rubbish, so there’s really no excuse for littering the countryside of this beautiful island of Mallorca.

On that particular Sunday, pickings had been slim for the foraging Moroccan, but we had some rubbish of our own for disposal. The Boss  suggested that it would be a good idea in future to ask permission before venturing forth onto other people’s property, then, indicating the old metal storage tank lid, asked him in Spanish “Is this any good to you?”

Despite the poor state of the redundant lid, the man’s leathery face pleated into a toothy grin. One man’s rubbish is another man’s treasure – although I doubt he’d have made enough money selling that old thing to cover the cost of the fuel used for his foray into the countryside.

'Tyred' of fly-tipping

‘Tyred’ of fly-tipping

The Barefoot Brusher

Good news. Our leaky cisterna has been fixed and we now have water again. It’s not the first time we’ve had to live for a period of time without water on tap, and it may not be the last. But I’m not one to worry too much about what might happen in the future (The Boss does enough for both of us).

Before our builder could assess the exact nature of the problem, the level of the water in the concrete storage tank needed to be substantially reduced, so we were playing a waiting game. As the level went down, the pressure reduced, which meant that the flow of the leak began to slow. We wanted to be sure that we could get through the long Easter holiday before we ran out of water, so we became remarkably stingy with the stuff.

When the builder came to do a thorough inspection of the plastic lining of the tank, he discovered two small tears in the food-grade material. Thankfully, the situation could be sorted with a couple of repairs, rather than a whole new lining.

Wet socks and kidney stones

First, The Boss decided to give the inside – of what’s effectively a large concrete box – a good clean, after disconnecting the pump.  He invested the princely sum of a couple of euros on a soft-bristled broom (so as not to cause further damage to the lining) and, having climbed up a ladder to the top of the cisterna, dropped down into the murky depths – clad in a shirt, summer shorts, and some thick socks. (The latter were ostensibly to keep his feet warm while he bailed out the last few inches of water. Nice theory). Anyway, three days later, I went to see how he was getting on. Only joking, of course, although The Boss did say he felt as though he’d been in there for days.

Mallorca’s water is very hard, and limescale – or cal – is the cause of problems ranging from crusty kettles to kidney stones. The Boss managed to accumulate and remove quite a mound of the stuff, hopefully reducing the potential for any such problems at our finca.

It takes two

The actual repair was unbelievably quick, when two men came to do it the next day: the one who’d drawn the short straw was inside the claustrophobic tank, doing the repair; the other, seemingly, was to keep The Boss engaged in idle conversation. Job done.

Mallorca is a small island. By coincidence, our builder’s brother is the man who owns the water delivery business we use. Not that it did us any good as far as getting a next-day-delivery was concerned. Jaume was fully booked with deliveries. We went to buy some more 8 litre containers of water from the supermarket . . .

STOP PRESS: In the spring issue of Living Spain magazine – now out – you can read my article about our finca life, on the ‘Last Word’ page.

 

Spring has sprung . . . and so has a leak

A warm welcome to the spring

A warm welcome to the spring

Spring is finally here on Mallorca: today as we look up from our finca on this beautiful Mediterranean island we’re looking at a clear blue sky and bright sunshine. It’s my favourite season – a time of optimism, rebirth, and hope. Already there are a few poppy flowers dotted around our land, and soon the verges at the side of the lane down to our valley will be a mass of wild flowers. And, for gourmets, there’s the added treat of finding wild asparagus. People drive out from Manacor to hunt for the elusive slender stems in the verges and fields. Of course, those of us who live here in the valley have first pickings . . .

Pass the mallet

But amid all this positive stuff, we made an unpleasant discovery yesterday – a day after our latest delivery of 12,000 litres of water. Spring isn’t the only thing that’s sprung . . . we now have a rather serious leak in our water storage tank, or cisterna.  The lining we had installed in 2007 to repair a previous leak seems to have developed its own leaks.  Having discovered the problem, The Boss headed off to do some emergency repairs with a large mallet and a handful of wine bottle corks; I didn’t dare ask . . .  Whatever he did has stemmed the flow a little, but clearly something a little less Heath Robinson is needed for a permanent solution.

Fortunately we have a terrific builder – whose company balance sheet was given a favourable boost last autumn with the work done on our roof – and he came out to examine the cisterna within a couple of hours of our phone call. There’s too much water in the tank to assess the situation accurately, or make a repair, so we must wait until the water level has gone down considerably before he can do that.

Making a splash

Once the water has been used – or has leaked away (which it’s doing steadily) – we’ll be reliving the experience we had when the previous repair was done. It’ll mean one or two days without water, and we’ll be filling the bath and various buckets, so we can flush the loo and heat some up for dishwashing etc.  And for our own ablutions, we’ll be renewing our acquaintance with the public swimming baths in town – where we can have the luxury of a shower both before and after a few lengths of the pool. As it’s spring, let’s be optimistic: the exercise will do us good . . .

A cautionary watery tale – part one

As I’ve mentioned in this blog before, we have no mains water or functioning well at our finca in Mallorca. When we want more water, we phone our supplier, who delivers a tanker-load into our cisterna or depósito – a storage tank – located on our land a few metres up the hill from our little house. Gravity-fed, the flow of water used to be painfully slow: it took five minutes just to fill the washing-up bowl in the kitchen. When we had visitors to stay, we had to work out a rota for using the shower, flushing the loo, and general tap usage, otherwise the flow would reduce to a mere trickle.

After some time – and once we had electricity – we decided we had to find a solution, and called on the services of the plumbing company in Manacor that we’d used for some other jobs. In fact, we’ve now used this business so many times – usually for plumbing emergencies – that we have a great relationship with the owner, Cito. Whenever he sees us in town on Saturday mornings, he comes over to greet us with hugs and kisses and to show off his much-loved granddaughter, who is usually with him and his wife.

A gravity matter

I’ve digressed slightly. Cito sent his man Pep to look at our problem. He shrugged his shoulders a few times, stroked his chin in contemplation, and suggested that the best solution would be an electric water pump, to replace the gravity-fed system – which might have worked better if we were living on a steeper hill. He rang his boss for a quote, which we reluctantly accepted as an essential expenditure. After a quick trip back to the depot for the necessary parts, Pep was soon back and at work.

It wasn’t long before he was able to demonstrate our new supercharged water flow. As he turned on the outdoor tap, an explosion of cal – the limescale that blights water here – shot out ahead of the gushing water. Apparently our pipes had been well and truly clogged-up (a common problem on this island, where kidneys and water-dependent appliances also suffer the effects of the cal-laden water).

Dig that

Satisfied that our water flow could now blast the barnacles off a Sunseeker’s bottom, Pep packed his tools into his van, then came to shake hands and say adios before leaving.

“Er, what about that electric cable lying across the drive?” asked The Boss, in his best Spanish. The cable had been fed through the shrubs from the new pump adjoining the depósito and across the drive, to the house. When would Pep be back to bury the cable?

“¡Hombre!” the plumber declared, shaking his head. He wouldn’t be. Digging the four-metre trench was a job for The Boss, but – Pep helpfully pointed out – it wouldn’t need to be any deeper than 10cm.  “Until you’ve done it though, don’t drive over that cable!” His words were left hanging in the air as we wondered how we’d get our car out of the drive until the trench could be dug.

And worse was to come . . .

Much more interesting to look at than a water storage tank! Part of our adopted family of cats - photo taken October 2011.

Much more interesting to look at than a water storage tank! Part of our adopted family of cats – photo taken October 2011.