When we first moved into the old four-bedroom farmhouse there was no bathroom. The first winter we bravely used a round galvanized tub set out in front of the kitchen cookstove, much like you see in old westerns. Great if you are bathing kids. Not so great if you like a nice soak in a tub. Didn’t take long to get the idea to turn a small room downstairs into a bathroom and for me to locate an old clawfoot tub.
There was a full basement under the house and I reckoned we could drain the tub easily enough just by dropping piping down through the floor and then out through the wall. Unfortunately (or fortunately, however the case may be) my landlord appeared as things were getting under way. He insisted that we needed to dig underneath the foundation wall. This seemed like overkill to me as the drop from the upstairs floor was already a good six and a half feet and it was a clear 25 feet to the outside wall. I figured water would be traveling out pretty fast by then, and still being warm would have no trouble with anything remotely like frost while exiting. There was no getting through that foundation wall and so we dug. And dug, and dug. I wish I had a picture of us in the this long trench in front of the house, 4 feet down, just so Eveline could have a bath. But dig we did and trench there was, and out about 10 feet it felt safe enough that gravity would just take over and drain on down the hill through all that good earth, well below the frost line.
So the tub was installed, a hole was drilled in the hardwood floor, the black pvc pipe properly attached and flowing south. I sealed the overflow and the tap holes and lordy could I get a lot of water in that tub! Which meant, of course, I had to go outside, pump buckets of water, haul it in, set a couple of canners of water on the cookstove to heat up, pour that boiling water into the tub, then top it up with cold water to get it to a reasonable temperature. Dick scalded his belly once carrying water into the bath. I don’t know if he tripped or was just going to fast but it stuck his t-shirt right to his skin. Luckily we got snow on it right away and there never was any scarring although he certainly did have a nasty red mark for a long while. After the big production of heating all that water, it behooved me to have a very long bath. Because all the holes were plugged, I could almost swim in there, it was so very full; every bit of me covered in steaming hot water. So hot, I remember it taking some bit of time to get fully immersed, first allowing feet and calves to stop hurting, then slowly, ever so slowly sinking in fully. Sort of the reverse of how a lot of people go into a cold lake. But heck, after all that effort, it was seriously worth it.
It was a big production having a bath, so soon enough I rigged up a gravity feed shower system, using a bucket up on a stand, a hose with a shut off clip, like you use to siphon beer or wine. That helped in the day-to-day cleanses, but I still reveled in those long soaks in scented, luxurious, full body baths and spent hours in there, sometimes having to half emerge just to cool off some and then finally, prune like and puckered, when the water felt tepid, I’d haul myself out.Those nights seemed endless. There was peace and quiet after all the farm chores were done; the bath a steamy sanctuary with candles and kerosene lamps. That’s likely where I got all the heavy metals in my system. But that’s another story.