Repairing Our Well

In my last post about the rainy season, I told you that the support over our well had fallen down. I’m not much of a physicist, but I think I’m right in saying that every pulley you have on a rope system halves the effort need to pull an object. (If I’m wrong, I’m sure someone will correct me! So when the pulley isn’t working, it’s much harder to pull the bucket up from our well, which is around 16 feet deep! And when all your water for drinking, washing, cooking, laundry, and watering comes from the well, it’s surprising how much water you need to pull! (If you want to read about how I got my drinking water clean last year, check out my post about it.)

So on Lamin’s return, one of the first jobs on his very long list of maintenance tasks was to repair the well. And it wasn’t just a case of the sticks falling down – the termites had munched through them, leaving them looking like powdery honeycomb.

So we needed to use new sticks. Fortunately, we’ve plenty of tall trees here at Balaba, so Lamin didn’t have any trouble finding suitably strong sticks to bear the weight of all that pulling. Then he then had to dig a deep hole each side of the well to secure the upright posts.

These holes needed to be deep so the stick would be held firmly. Next, Lamin checked that the sticks would reach high enough to hold the buckets clear of the wall of the well.


Then he found a sturdy stick to be the horizontal pole and checked it for length.


He marked the position of the uprights with a piece of charcoal.



Then he used the cutlass to shave some of the wood off each end of the stick so it would lie flat on the uprights.

He checked the length again and made a few adjustments. 


The holes around the uprights had to be very securely filled in, so the posts don’t wobble too much when we’re pulling water. So Lamin backfilled the holes firmly.


Here in Gambia, nothing gets wasted and recycling is a necessity of life. Lamin found some old nails and straightened them out ready to be used to attach the cross pole to the uprights (somebody had borrowed his hammer, so he used another tool!)


He made a start on nailing, to make it easier when he was driving the nails home.


I could hardly look as he balanced on the wall of the well to fix the cross pole –  that well is very deep! And although we’ve never lost a person, our neighbour’s goat did once fall down it and was killed. In true Gambian style, rather than sueing us, our neighbour shared the goat meat with us!


Then the pulley needed some attention. The old rope had to be untangled, and the pulley itself had succumbed to the damp, so it needed some oil to persuade it to run smoothly again.

Finally, everything was ready, so Lamin bound the pulley firmly to the cross pole.

A quick test to see that everything was running smoothly, and a few moments spent washing the buckets, and the well was good to go.

Pulling water will never be as easy as turning on a tap, but at least now it’s as easy as possible.


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