Coping: The Lowdown on Rural Utilities

First the headlines:  “They Ain’t Like in the City.”

Now the details…

Let’s begin with the garbage discussion because it’s been a fun adventure.

When we first moved to the Outback in 2003, there was no garbage service.  People just made a “burn pile” and tossed their junk on it.  Then, once a month (maybe three in the summer with burn bans on) you’d take a 5-gallon jerry can  of diesel, slop it all over the pile and then light it off.  I’ve personally built fires with 15-foot high walls of flame this way.

Oh, sure, seems dangerous, but with a small to mid-sized 4X4 tractor with a bucket on it, you can push up the pile and it burns like crazy.  Just have to be careful driving through a fire to do so quickly enough that the tires don’t catch.  You don’t want to stall there.

Along about 2006, Allied Waste decided to offer service here.  Being a lazy sot, I was one of their first customers.  Then, in 2008, Republic Services (Symbol: RGS) bought them.  Disclosure: Yes I own some stock.  For 10-years, garbage ran like a clock.  The drivers would get a bottle at Christmas and we’d always pay our bill on ( and usually ahead of) time.  Peace and harmony.

But then, about two weeks back, I got an odd letter from the company.  Mind you, they bought our account from Allied Waste and so I figured they would just take the money and be a good little company.

“After a route audit of our service areas, we have determined that your location is not safe for our truck and driver. (Nowhere to turn the vehicle around on Dead end street without getting on private property and off roadway.) Republic Service’s highest priority is Safety.”

Shareholder revelation:  I thought making money was job #1.  I’m getting out of touch, I guess.

The fellow who owns the place where they had turned around for 10 years apparently didn’t  respond fast enough, or send them a “permission email” instantly…because our garbage cans disappeared what seemed a few minutes after the trash pickup last Thursday.

Ure, being a shareholder, was shocked.  Why would a garbage company which has been picking up trash for 10-years bail out?  I got on the phone.  I mean, we’re not deadbeats…

I never was clear (after talking to media relations in Phoenix at corporate, the local office, and such), just who had made this “safety call.”  But (miracle of miracles) here in the Outback, “safety issues” are easily fixed with an email.  (This led us to suspect a lawyer or new safety boss operating somewhere in the company might be behind this…)

At any rate, the blue can appeared after the “comfort email” and we are once again happy customers (and still shareholders).

The lesson here?  If you buy property on a dead end road, make sure you can get trash pick up – which includes a place to turn the truck around. If you’re a pyro, just go for the diesel burn.

From the main road, otherwise, it’s about 1,500 feet of backing up to our can and a furtherr 500-feet up to the neighbor’s place.

All’s well that ends well.  And I’m sure my promise to FedEx overnight to the CEO’s office  a whole week’s worth trash had nothing to do with this resolved. Nor did my thoughtful question for a shareholders meeting about retention of rural Allied Waste customers acquired (like us)  in 2008.  10-years in, it would be an interesting metric.

The Rural Water Adventure

“Hi.  Is this the Brushy Creek Water District?”

“Yes, sir, it is.  How may I help you?”

“What time are ya’ll coming over for the fish-fry?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I think we could do it in October, I called in a report of a leak on ya’ll’s side of the water meter a couple of weeks back.  I’ve been looking at it develop and I’m thinking about getting the tractor out and hogging out a bass pond.  I figure if I plant right away by fall, the fish’d be up to eating size – maybe toss in some tilapia.  Did you know tilapia is the second-fastest growing fresh water fish?  Anyway, I figure a half-acre pond would be good..maybe put a bridge in for the driveway. Figure it’d look kinda pretty and we could all sit on the bridge this fall and have us a fish fry…doesn’t that sound like fun?”

This must be Mr. Ure…”

Damn!  The lady was onto me. Had no idea what gave it away.

We have Ure leak prioritized…”

What followed was about 7-minutes of me learning how water companies deal with leaky connections like this.  She did mention that if I could run through the leak to cool off, I could call them back and it would be moved up their leaky list.

Seems this time of the year – being an unusually dry one in East Texas – there’s a fair bit of earth movement going on.  I figure it couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the oil rigs down the road emptying out the underground as fast as they could, nor could it be linked to the parade of dump trucks from the local rock pit further down the hill…

Sadly, it’ll get fixed.

With it, my dreams of bridge shopping on eBay for a Lake Havasu City, Arizona runner-up to their London Bridge have been dashed on the rocks of despair.  I did look anyway.  Hard to find a good bridge for a 1/2 acres bass pond…so maybe the Almighty is looking out for us.

These are not the typical relations one has with local utilities in the Big City.  Most of them are too busy installing fresh pot holes or leaving garbage around big cities. Dropping needles, rubbing out fog lines and crosswalks.

Underlying my successful approach – mainly a good sense of humor.

Once you adjust to the less-manic lifestyle outside the city limits, when a problem presents itself, you can “get creative.”  Would I have really sent the Ultimate Garbage Boss on High in Glendale, AZ a FedEx box full of trash?  Well, yeah…but no need now.

My humor takes a hike at some point,  Everyone’s does.

Would we really install a bridge and a bass pond? Well, Chief, would you believe a culvert and a ditch?  (Smart, very Smart…)

Point is, life is too short to take things seriously. The rural environment needs to be kept free of excessive seriousness and regulations.

Out here in the Land Time Forgot.  Where there are only two genders and such.

ViaSat Internet

Well, our dreams of 25 megs up and 10 down Internet are out in the trash again, although the local ViaSat provider is coming out in a few weeks to put us on a “new beam.”  This means a new dish, new modem with built-in WiFi and such.

If you EVER look at rural property, the very first question out of your mouth should be “What’s internet access like out here?” There are some utilities than can’t be mimicked with 5 gallons of diesel.

East Texas Broadband has dandy service (only three hops from fiber) but the trees have grown up so much we don’t have a clear shot at their tower from anywhere, short of putting up another 60-foot tower and burying cable.  Too much work.

Yeah…higher speed for the rest my life sounds great, but what if that’s only another 10-minutes?  Once you hit Social Security “lifetime warranties” become useless, too.

ViaSat is promising to make 30 MB available (if you have enough money anything is available – that happens to be Donald Trump’s problem).  We will cross that culvert when we come to it.  Thankfully, we have three data on-ramps that work.

Recreation or rural property without internet is not a good investment.  So in order when you’re looking to build a dacha sticks::  Internet, ground water, rainfall in the area enough for a crop of some kind, a tree or more, useful neighbors, trash collection, and rural water so back up your well, or visa-versa.  Power to the property or call John down at and tell him “Hi” for us.  That only leaves one last question.

How you going to pay for all this?

Shop Notes

I got that steel push-around cart I’d recommended the other day put together.  Only thing to be aware of (as further advice to consider) is that there are 16 screws with nuts and washers for the casters.  And 48-more for the handle and legs.

I haven’t screwed so much in 30-years, more or less.

Game Camera

I mentioned our recent acquisition of one of those non-flash game cameras.  Works great.

In  fact, out by the watering tub we put out for the wildlife, not one damn thing of the wild sort has come through since.  Except for a guy who looked like Sasquatch and Elaine looking the part of a woodnymph…. Oh, and the mailman’s rig.

(Just so we’re clear:  Woodnymphs are hummingbirds in the genus Thalurania. I’ll skip any more woodpecker discussion.)

The rest of the wildlife won’t have anything to do with the water tub now, at all.  Or, maybe they’ve moved on to the water leak at the meter…just no telling out here.

Write when you get rich,

20 thoughts on “Coping: The Lowdown on Rural Utilities”

  1. Locate the watering tub farther back in the trees with a statue of a deer drinking from it. Spray the deer with deer scent. It may attract a Squash.

  2. We live in Oregon about 30 miles from Medford at the foot of the cascade mountains. I had a fiber optic line put in, 90 megs up and 90 megs down. Love it, youtube and netflix movies, don’t need TV.

    As you say, “with enough money, you can do anything.

  3. I too live at the end of a long dead end road, used to be a town road then somehow the town supervisor bought it for herself for $1, completely unknown to the 6 houses that live on it, but I digress.
    As you said, garbage is only picked up where the private road meets the highway, a good 1/3 mile away. Every thursday, (like tonite), I load the cans on the rack of my “farm pickup” and drive them down to the intersection. Can’t leave them very long or people stuff them full of their trash. Have to pick them up immediately tomorrow after the truck comes for the same reason. As for Mail, that too only gets to the intersection, they will not drive on the private road. Packages left at the mailboxes tend to disappear. UPS was good while they did not use the USPS, now that they do, its a drive to town when there is a package. No pole maintenance either, power goes out alot. No cable (private road), just satellite. Maintain the road? Hell no. I have my own plow as well. Lots to be said about it, not much of it good.

  4. ““What time are ya’ll coming over for the fish-fry?”
    “I beg your pardon?”
    “I think we could do it in October, I called in a report of a leak on ya’ll’s side of the water meter a couple of weeks back. I’ve been looking at it develop and I’m thinking about getting the tractor out and hogging out a bass pond. I figure if I plant right away by fall, the fish’d be up to eating size – maybe toss in some tilapia.”

    OTFLMAO…. LOL I love your way of thinking George.. that is almost word for word what I would say.. a fellow smart azz LOL LOL LOL
    My issue was the year my father passed away.. I had been complaining daily.. about the garbage man not picking up the trash.. he would pick up one leave another stop all the way.. this irritated me.. I through out a turkey that was bought in november because it had been in the freezer to long.. I did that in april.. July hit hundred plus degrees and that damned turkey was till in the can along with half of the trash.. I had to duct tape it to keep the thing sealed.. it was horrendous.. I called all the local trash collectors.. I knew each and every one of them.. they would go to town meetings and of course there was only one license and all the other drivers had made an agreement to not do business in our area..
    I was livid.. I would see some of the other drivers drive right on by and I could not get any of them to stop and pick up my trash.. I finally got upset enough I was going to buy a mini two yard garbage truck.. I called all of them and said.. I don’t care which one of you does it but if someone doesn’t stop and start picking up my garbage I am going to go and offer the whole town free trash removal and everyone along the road to the dump.. which would have affected each and every one of them.. needless to say since they knew me I got a garbage man..
    Now.. today.. there is some various articles of trash that I can’t get rid of it.. the reason.. they can’t haul it without being fined.. I can take it in and get rid of it.. but they can’t haul it..
    so back to having a truck..
    now you can burn wood or trash here but you have to have an enclosed burn container.. so the wood parts are getting reduced.. one step at a time..
    and it will only get worse.. they passed the law where the dumps have to be lined.. several million dollars to do this for leaching problems and drinking water..

    when I worked on hazardous waste disposal.. I remember reading this in a magazine.. world waste magazine.. ( what we got at the shop ) anyway like the thousands of articles and papers I read I didn’t make a copy and everyone thought i was making it up.. LOL LOL you can’t make up shizt like this LOL LOL LOL enjoy.. cheap sausage anyone..

    • I put the items they won’t take in a black garbage bag so They don’t know what is in it.

      • I have done that.. cut up things like a microwave oven.. a freezer is a little harder to do.. a pallet from solar panel deliveries.. well I cut those up with a chain saw and burn..
        the one collector.. now he was being a dick.. I am not sure if he had truck expenses or what.. but the average cost of trash pickup is thirty plus a person on average tosses out six pounds of trash a day.. ( with the exception of children and their trash) so about a ton of trash a month.. cost 200 lbs per person per month truck expenses about ten dollars give or take.. so he was cutting back trash pickup.. I watched the one guy.. I called him santa clause cause he had a white beard.. he would take one bag out of the trash and leave the rest.. because of my frequent calls he stopped answering.. I cornered him and told him that since I was paying that I was going to use the dumpster at a local establishment.. and did.. that is how the duck taped can vanished they in turn refused to pay him..the garbage haulers all knew me and knew I wasn’t kidding when I told them I would buy a two ton and decided one of them should stop and pick up the damned trash.. the one hauler ended up going out of business and we got a new city hauler.
        then last year the same thing started all over again.. I called some of my old friends and they told me it wasn’t because they didn’t want to.. but because of the new regulations they couldn’t and had to stop.. ( yup.. you either take it in or get a roll off) since I can’t afford a four hundred dollar roll off every other month I am in the process of having a truck with a tilt bed built. this time just for my own purposes.. since they aren’t trying to be funny.

    • when I was eighteen, I had a big German Shepard who took it personally when the garbage man wanted to collect the trash – so I had to haul the can up from the underground hole that my folks had for the can and out past the fence.
      (Yes, it was heavy – but since I was young, it really didn’t matter . . .)

      The very same garbage collector actually moved his service when my family moved, and ‘took over’ from the guy at the new address. Kina like a mafia, yeah!

      My dad however used to take their empty liquor bottles to his business to dispose, after the garbage man remarked to him on a particularly cold, winter day, “It sure is a Jim Beam morning.”

  5. So I live in a large city, unfortunately at the time of this story close to some people who couldn’t afford the garbage collection fee. I know that some of their trash would end up in my bin – filling it up to the top. Since I was only one person and lived alone, I didn’t mind. Keeps the area ‘picked up’. (Actually I was asked by the guy across the street if he could put his garbage in there – he was having medical problems and was unable to work.)

    No big deal, except that one day I had a problem in my duplex which meant that because of ‘damp’, a lot of ‘paper goods’ had to be dumped. It made me angry and I threw the whole mess away to be rid of it. (Though it happened a decade ago plus, still P***ses me off!)

    Filled my bin and an additional bag that I placed next to the bin, just before the collection time. It was picked up on time, I noticed. I thought that that was one less chore.

    Several days go by, and I get a phone call – waking me up as I worked midnight shift, so I wasn’t terribly friendly. It was a sheriff’s deputy, who seemed ‘not happy’ himself. He had been handed the extra bag by the trash collection company and was convinced that I was negligent for the extra bag and the fact that I had put cans that could have been redeemed for deposit.

    Actually told me that ‘unauthorized people’ could have gotten in the trash. I said, “And what?” They would ‘make a mess’. (This next to a storage building that should have been torn down years ago. Occasionally someone lived there, but not my business . . .)

    Well I definitely failed the Dale Carnagie test (and spelling . . .)

  6. The drought and early arrived summer scorching is playing havoc with water mains here in Tulsa. We are having breaks happen in 12″ lines almost on a daily basis, primarily in the eastern part of the city which is predominantly clay the is notorius for big movement.

  7. “I mentioned our recent acquisition of one of those non-flash game cameras. Works great.”

    I personally love this setup.put them anywhere you want switch them around change places. great reception on distances…I camouflaged some just to put in bushes so they can’t be noticed.. have the system on a remote hookup with battery backup.. I really got interested in video surveillance when my daughter broke up with a nasty boyfriend years ago. one night at work the charge nurse was telling me about her daughter waking in the middle of the night and seeing the outline of someone just watching her.. then missing underwear etc.. I asked. you changed the locks didn’t you.. nope the apartment complex needed to be able to enter.. excuse me.. not on my watch I never left the same locks in an apartment.. if they needed to get in for maintenance then contact me and I will make sure someone is there. then I asked. you have video surveillance nope again.. hell for two hundred dollars best money spent.. well I gave her one and she changed the locks and it stopped..( it was the apartment manager someone caught him later on) I was talking to a friend of mine at breakfast ( the local butcher.. ) he to was having troubles.. I asked him the same questions.. he to didn’t do any of the changes.. same reasons quoted.. well he put in a video system and it was the maintenance man.. he would come in go through drawers drink his booze without using a glass.. then refill it with water.. needless to say he was livid when He seen it.. eating his food..LOL LOL he to changed his locks..
    I told him it is just common sense.. everyone makes a copy of the key.. just in case.. they don’t turn that key in.. there could be a hundred keys to your apartment all floating around the twenty bucks a lock is well worth the money and security.

    sams club and costco have the setup with the pro for abut three hundred dollars three camera.. two hundred for four more.. wonderful system.. the older cameras use batteries that you can get at any batteries plus outlet.

  8. Rural trash pickup?? Count your blessings! I have private water system piped to the house, cable TV with internet at the front door, but I haul my own trash. 2-1/2 miles to the county ‘transfer station’. To their credit, the transfer station is an amazing recycling place, with bins for scrap metal, glass, and cardboard & plastic recyclables. There are the ‘garbage’bins, and there are ‘green waste’ bins for the jungle clippings I remove several times a week. (You got trees… I got vines and weeds!) Burn piles don’t work here. Stuff is too green and wet, and the neighbors are too close.

    It’s just a fact of life if you live rural out here you need a small pickup truck to haul away your trash. But it’s aerobic exercise! I’ve lost 20 lbs since retirement two years ago, and the blood pressure is down accordingly. No more big city stress… only erupting volcanos. :-)

    • Well hell, Hank: Now you can just take it to the nearest lava flow – and give it the old heave-ho!

      Anyone from EPA comes, stall ’em till it’s covered with lava and invite them to retrieve it. Maybe this is presactly how anomalous artifacts got int coal seams, you think?
      Prayers with yah, bro…

  9. “we don’t have a clear shot at their tower ”

    It was like that here to.. Short of walking around with foil hat and a coat hanger you were screwed for reception.

  10. speaking of tilapia…bought 28 first of may. what an experience that month was. finally spooled up on the bio filter, ph neutral media, and the ammonia-nitrite-nitrate cycle. the females produced fry a few days ago and the 3 patio tomatoes are diggin’ it! they say you can’t tune a fish…ha!!!

    • I raised tilapia.. It was a lot of fun..I raised red claw to..and fresh water prawns.. The only issue I had.. They became pets..when I gave them away one topped five pounds and was almost two feet long..made my filtration system a multi layer.. You’ll enjoy it..lots if fun and hydroponics loves the water..

  11. Hmm.. they must love me lol…

    DO I have any ideas about Removing Odours from Post-Consumer Plastic Waste..

    Hmm. Maybe… maybe not.. if they liked my thoughts and ideas I could be compensated lol..amazing..

    • Lol lol .. Gosh I could get rich..this ones a good one.. Because of the droughts and contamination…Can you help us detect pathogens in water?

      Hmm again maybe I have some thoughts out of the box….or maybe not..

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