Saturday, February 21, 2009


Here's another shot from Commenter Breezeway's beach on Gwynn's Island. When I was little, I lived on the island for about a year, and one thing I remember vividly is the color and texture of our bathtub: deep rust. Sometimes a water softener alone is not enough to tackle this Mathews water. Speaking of tackling a water softener, let's explore the softening process in greater detail.

Welcome to a special weekend edition of Chesapeake Bay Woman's Guide to Home Maintenance.

Today we will learn how to properly maintain your water softener by keeping it filled with salt. For the uninitiated, or for those lucky enough to have non-lethal water, the softener is usually located in an obscure part of the house and must be filled periodically with salt, which is not like your table salt, but more like nuggets or rocks. There are two sizes of salt bags: "heavier than lead" and "heavier than a Buick." Because I like to aim high and also because it's more cost effective, I always opt for the Buick bag, although the difference between the two is hardly discernible.

Let's begin.

1. Notice your bath water is a murky brown. Figure it's just because you haven't cleaned your tub in a while. Or ever.

2. Notice the water tastes weird when you brush your teeth. Move to another sink where it doesn't taste so bad.

3. Notice the water stinks when you take a shower. Figure the kids have washed the dog in there again.

4. Wait until the kids start complaining about the quality of the water, and then send your son down to the bowels of the basement to check on the level of salt in the water softener.

5. Display an Oscar-winning look of shock and disbelief when son says there is not one tiny crystal of salt to be found in the water softener. If you slap your cheeks as you drop your chin, all the better.

6. Go to the local grocery store, Best Value, which sells salt. Forget to get the salt and purchase Triscuits and hummus instead.

7. Wait another week until kids begin rioting over unfit water.

8. Go back to Best Value and grasp the large, heavy-as-a-Buick bag and hoist it into your tiny shopping cart. (Best Value is a tiny store, and they have tiny carts to match. Picture kid-sized. Now picture kid-sized laden down with a Buick, and then try pushing that.)

9. Heave another bag in there. Listen carefully for a snapping noise--that's the cart bending or a disk rupturing. Only in rare instances is it both.

10. Take several deep, cleansing breaths to psyche yourself up for pushing the cart to the checkout stand.

11. Keep a stiff upper lip and hold your head high as you shake your head and say, "No thanks," when the 95-lb. teenager offers to help you get the salt to the car. You really don't need any help. (Note: This sort of thinking is produced by the very same brain cells which declared that murky, stinky water was due to an unclean bathtub. Or the dog.)

12. Plot your path to the car, carefully noting pedestrians and other vehicles that may impede your progress--or who may be harmed by a fast-moving cart gone amok.

13. Wait until there's nobody in the parking lot to transfer the bags from the cart to the car. Most people do not wish to hear the string of epithets that you'll soon be shouting in this fight between you and the water softener salt.

14. Go ahead and have a hissy fit. Just make sure nobody's watching. At this point, it's also fine to start crying if you feel like it.

15. After your emotional outburst, you'll see the bags are in the vehicle but you're not quite sure how they got there. This memory lapse is caused by lack of blood flow in the neck area due to the strain of lifting a Buick-sized bag from cart to car. Occasionally this strain is so great you may burst blood vessels in your eyes. As in all other projects described by CBW, please make sure your medical insurance card is on your person at all times.

16. Drive home and leave the bags in the car because they're too heavy to drag up the stairs, into the house and down to the basement.

17. Forget the salt and let it rest in the back of your car. For several weeks.

18. When the children call the Health Department, direct the personnel to your vehicle and have them unload and deliver the salt for you.

19. Open the bags and pour into the softener.

20. Replace the softener's lid and forget about the salt until your water starts stinking again, and the kids start asking questions.

21. Go back to Step 1. Rinse and repeat.


Unknown said...

I don't know anything about water softeners or 50 lb bags of salt...I don't have any room left in my memory bank to store that kind of information unless I purge the second grade....and that's when I learned cursive, so it's a no go.

I can tell you this....I'm very familiar with brown murky bath water because I had to use the same dang water for my bath after my brother took his bath.

Now I need an intervention to bury that memory back in the dungeons of my mind.

Val said...

blimey - makes our water sound amazing...
fascinating post though - so how long do those bbuik bags last?
we have a salt water pool so we drag those bags of course salt over there now and again. there seems to be a shortage at the moment tho - something to do with too much rain somewhere....certainlynot here!

Annie said...

Thanks for is always nice to know that there are others in the world struggling with overweight objects besides oneself!

With me it is tubs of Chlorine for the pool that nobody swims in...very exciting! I am seriously thinking of forgetting the chlorine and stocking it with fish!
or selling the place. Then I wouldn't have my gum tree and the gap in the hills to take photos of! Perhaps I should fill the pool in instead!


ps Love those photos! Again!

Anonymous said...

Hummus and Triscuits????? Next to the deli is a rack with pita bread. Slice them up and toast in the oven for a much better snack.

I always have BV kids load the salt in my car andI do tip them...and make my kids unload it..and not tip them!

Anonymous Hallieford Resident

Mental P Mama said...

There's gotta be a better way. Just gotta.

Country Girl said...

I like hummus and triscuits.

And your salt story was hilarious!

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

GJ - Ew. I remember THAT sort of brown bath water. All 3 Chesapeake Bay Sisters had to bathe simultaneously. In the summertime when we ran around barefoot, that water was the color of motor oil. Can I join you in that intervention?

Val - The bags do not last nearly long enough, that's all I know. I'm sure there is some recommended period of time you're supposed to fill it, but I always forget until it's been empty for a long time.

Annie - I cannot imagine having to maintain a pool. Don't sell the place - it's beautiful.

AHR - Yes, Triscuits and hummus. I love that combo. I suppose it would be much easier to use the BV teenagers, I'll have to examine the reasons why I don't use them. It all boils down to "I can do it" syndrome which really gets me nowhere.

MPM - So far, the only better way I've found is to have somebody else do it.

CG - Triscuits rock!

Meg McCormick said...

I, too, am a triscuit fan.

I feel this way about the giant bags of dog food, except they are really not heavier than a Buick- more like a Yugo.

Anonymous said...

Did I see where someone needs a poolboy? My labor verges on being free! (my travel expenses are a killer, sorry)

As for the softner, we always wait until the burbon turns black when ice is added. Some smart a** highschooler taking a begining chemistry class said it had something to do with all the iron in the water. What do I know, I'm in sales:)

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Meg - We're pack mules, really. I've said this ever since my first child. Dog food, water softener salt, it's all the same. When you're toting bags of groceries into the house, the last thing you want to contend with is a Great Big Bag of Something Else That's the Size of Rhode Island.

RC - First we need a pool, THEN comes the poolboy, although if you're any good at yardwork I"ll start you immediately with or without the pool. Grass cutting season is nigh, and my "riparian buffer" needs some attention. Where attention = razing.

Around here, it's iron + Other Deadly Ingredients that do the harm, but iron is a big one. The soil survey spells it out in great detail, and I'll be sharing what it says at some point in the near future.

Happy Saturday Night!

foolery said...

I'll either HAVE a pool boy this summer . . . or BE one. First summer with our own pool. Right now the pool boy is my mom. Embarrassing for all of us.

Should I bring salt when I come, or Mexican food? I can't bring both.