Spring and a bush dweller’s thoughts turn to water worries

The inner gurglings of our stomachs and intestines have been our main conversation piece for the past weeks.

The inner gurglings of our stomachs and intestines have been our main conversation piece for the past weeks.

Every spring we suffer from some sort of intestinal bug, presumably picked up through our untreated drinking water.

Throughout the rest of the year, the water doesn’t seem to bother us and inevitably, as the discomfort and pain subside, buying a costly water filtre gets shoved back on the bottom of the items-that-would-make-life-in-the-bush-better list.

Not particularly smart, I know.

After religiously boiling every drop of water for the last three weeks and eating lots of homemade yogurt, it seems as if the friendly bacteria are at last getting a handle on the invaders and we spend less time eyeballing the Giardia antibiotics.

At least this spring has firmed our resolve to add a water filtre to our household, come what may, as we are finally heartily tired of spending every spring bellyaching.

This transition time when the ice around our waterhole begins turning grey-greenish and becomes bubble-filled always seems to highlight the joys and pains of our water situation.

Hauling up the full water buckets to the cabin suddenly becomes more of a chore as the snow cover is so patchy by now that the buckets can’t be pulled on the toboggan anymore, but have to be carried.

Unused to hefting them around by hand, the buckets seem hideously heavy.

This serves as an additional deterrent to tackling the enormous pile of dirty laundry that has begun to send tentacles out of the laundry baskets onto the bedroom floor.

The delicate matter of cleanliness out in the bush is of no small interest to (mostly female) friends and family.

“But how do you wash without running water?” is their worry, as if a tap and water pressure were the key ingredients to washing, rather than the wet stuff itself.

One pampered soul could not grasp the concept of washing her hair when there is no water tap. Heating up water on the stove and pouring it out of a pitcher over her hair somehow seemed too difficult or complicated.

Many are stumped at how to wash without a shower, acquiring a solid layer of grime on their visits or splashing themselves sporadically with refrigerator-cold water, only to make a beeline for the public showers at the Laundromat upon their return to civilization.

It seems strange that the simple ways people washed until a few decades ago seem to have receded beyond recall into memory.

A pair of washcloths, basin, pitcher and warmed up water do an admirable job, the result of which does not fall short of getting pelted by endless litres of water in a shower.

Our ultimate luxury, however, is our summer hot tub.

This big metal container, maybe an old feed trough, is blocked up on a foundation of rocks outside. Because of its proximity to the water, filling it is a breeze.

With a merry campfire lit right underneath, it heats up fairly quickly and baths can be taken either with the fire still going, resulting in a lobster-boil effect, or else the fire can already be put out once the water is deemed hot enough.

Luckily, a friend alerted us to the necessity of having a wooden rack to sit on in the tub to prevent the scorching of vital body parts.

We don’t mind the smokiness of the fire, it is rather the cold wind and bugs that sometimes put a dent into our bathing pleasures, since half of the body is always sticking out of the water.

It is also a great way of doing laundry in the summer because lots of clothing fits into the tub and the water from our bath can be recycled for the dirty clothes.

This is what I’m hording the laundry for, a nice warm day to do it all outside, or so I tell myself.

Our sauna is another great tool get clean, followed by a bracing jump into the cold water.

The city-bred husband of my best friend wrinkled his nose at this idea: “But aren’t there fish in the water? And beavers? Then there must be all fish and beaver droppings in it, it’s all dirty!”

At the time, this had brought on fits of laughter, but after our most recent bout with stomach problems, we’ll take his hint and filtre out the life forms that are flourishing in our water buckets.

Surely there’s better things to talk about in spring than the inner workings of our intestines.

Lisa Hasselbring is a writer who lives at the headwaters of the Yukon River south of Whitehorse.

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