Holy Smokes! It’s done! (plus amazing news!)

So I emailed the plumber earlier, not expecting to actually hear from him until Monday.

He called less than 2 hours later. After he got our location, he said he’d be here in about 20 minutes.

I don’t think it took him that long!

After checking the pipe out in both basements, they got to work and brought out the auger. (His assistant was a guy that spoke Ukrainian, and seemed to have almost no English. Likely a war refugee.) They sent that thing well past where the block was – he could tell when they hit it. Given the age of the pipes, he said the block was likely really, really old, hardened kitchen grease, and all the things that go along with it.

After they augered the pipe, he went to the laundry drain and used the super industrial drain cleaner we’d finally tried. When I saw it, I mentioned that to him and said that, when that didn’t work, we knew we had to call in a plumber! He was nodding his head before I even finished. If that stuff doesn’t work, no amount of drain cleaner will do it.

Once that was in, we had to test it out. We ran water, and it seemed fine but, from the kitchen sink, it was a problem only when we had to pour out large amounts of water at once, not just from the tap running. The kitchen is far enough away from the tanks and pumps that there just isn’t that much water or pressure coming out of the tap. I ended up filling one sink a couple of inches, while also having water in a container, then draining the one sink while dumping water down the other at the same time, while he poured water into the laundry drain.

When I came around, there was water puddling under the washing machine.

It was also smoking.

The water, I mean. The puddle of water under the drain was smoking.

Remember that industrial strength drain cleaner I mentioned?

Yeah, there was still some in the pipe, and it leaked out with the water, and was smoking.

He had to pull the washer and drier out, so he could see what was going on. After pouring water into the laundry drain again, he discovered the P trap was leaking.

And smoking.

After fiddling with it a bit to see if he could stop the leak, he ended up just cutting it out and replacing it.

While he was doing that, I brought over some old towels that he used – while wearing gloves – to wipe up the puddle. By the end of it, two towels went straight into a garbage can that I brought over, so there was no chance of coming in contact with this stuff.

After that, a new P trap was installed, we waited a bit, then tested it again. This time, he took one of the hoses off the washing machine and ran water straight into the drain.

No leaking!

Then I did the double sink thing again, while he ran water into the laundry drain.

No leaking, and no backing up.

The real test, of course, will be doing a test run of the washing machine, which we will do later. He also recommended using drain cleaner regularly, especially over the next few weeks, to keep the pipes clear of built of grime. Time to get more of that septic friendly drain maintenance stuff we had been using for exactly that purpose!

After doing some more mopping up, the washer and drier were put back, and they were off.

The final bill was higher than when he cleared our septic drain, as I was afraid it would be. The drain clearing plus 1 hour was a set rate, plus the cost of part, and it came to just under $400. With everything being so much more expensive now, though, I’m not actually surprised. However, we had enough squirreled away that I could pay the bill, and not have to go into the money for the tree guys. We actually did have 30 days to pay the bill, but I wanted to get that done and over with. I hate owing money!

Oh, my goodness!!!!

I am texting with the cat lady as I write this. She just gave me the most amazing news!

The two bitty babies she rescued for us are soon to be adopted! They’re getting their vaccines next week, and they’ll be in their new home at the end of November! Someone who recently lost her two 18 year old cats is adopting them both.

I am just so incredibly excited to hear that! Plus, after she has adopted out another cat she’s fostering, she’ll have room for 2 more of ours for placement.

Plus, the 2 spays and a neuter she still has planned for us.

All this, while waiting for her upcoming organ transplant…

The cat lady is just so amazing!

Also, she just informed me that Cabbages actually allows their dog to pick her up and carry her upstairs to her bed. I would love to see pictures of that!!!

Okay, this day is ending on a really fabulous note – even with a hit to the budget!

I’m just so happy right now!

The Re-Farmer

Have I mentioned I’m a suck for the cats?

It was a gorgeous afternoon and evening yesterday. Not only a pleasant temperature, but even the mosquitoes weren’t as bad. I didn’t want to go back inside when I was done what I needed to do!

One of the things I did was re-do the shelf shelter for the cats. I noticed that the little kittens have been climbing all the way to the top shelf, which was actually use to store stuff, and have been snoozing in a corner, where I’d stacked some smaller pieces of rigid insulation.

The insulation over the bottom two shelves were getting ratty, so I decided to empty the whole thing, give it – and some of the insulation pieces – a hose-down and redo it.

Including making a next in the corner of the top shelf for the kittens, even though it meant not being able to fit everything back in again!

The sheets of insulation lining the bottom shelves were used again, since they fit the best and, aside from a few edges, still intact. When covering the fronts, I left the openings wider than before. When startled, the cats would dash out, catching on the edges of the insulation, sometimes hitting them hard enough to pull them right off the nails holding them to the shelf. I decided to try reducing the height of the openings. I want it open enough for them to easily get in and out, but small enough to let less of the weather in. Hopefully, they won’t get ripped right out by a startled cat!

As for the top shelf, I tucked a small pedestal plant stand in the corner and used it to support two levels with the rigid insulation for the kittens to lie on. There’s more space in front with an insulated floor, and there is insulation along the side and back walls, too. An extra piece across the front, and the kittens have their own little cubby hole to settle in.

Now I just need to clean up and redo the outside of the shelf. It had been wrapped in plastic to protect the wood from snow and rain, with an extended “roof” of rigid insulation, but the wind tore the plastic to shreds, and the cats have broken up the insulation. I’d like to find something sturdier to replace them with.

After I had emptied, swept and hosed down the inside, I had to give it time to dry before continuing, so I started another project.

A new cover for the rain barrel.

A couple of years ago, we made covers for the rain barrels out of window screen mesh and hula hoops. One for the barrel at the corner by the sun room, and the other for the barrel we fill with the host, at the far corner of the garden. The covers were partly to keep debris out, but also to make sure no critters fell into the barrels.

After a couple of years, however, the plastic hula hoops became brittle and started to crack. The cover for the garden barrel had been stored in the old garden shed for the winter, and it looks like something chewed holes in the mesh, too.

The sun room barrel’s cover is held in place with a board weighed down with bricks. When the barrel is getting full enough that more rain would cause it to overflow, the board and bricks hold the rain diverter in place.

Not long ago, I found the cover and its mesh broken up. Something had jumped onto it or something. The mesh had torn, but thankfully whatever did it, did not end up trapped in the water. Then we heard a commotion one night, and I came out to find the board and its weights, and the rain diverter, all knocked off the barrel, and the cover damaged even further. I put the board and its weights back, then found some pieces of rigid insulation to cover the rest of the barrel, with weights to hold them in place, to ensure no critter could access the water, until a new cover could be made. Even that ended up being pusher around a bit, as if some critter was trying to get at the water below – even though we have several bowls of fresh water critters can drink from. A new cover had to be made quickly.

Which is what I did while the shelf shelter was drying.

The materials used are much sturdier!

I considered using some chicken wire, but the openings are too large and the wire too easily broken. I went with some half inch hardware cloth I had, instead. The hoop is the same PEXX tubing I used to make arches to support netting over the old kitchen garden beds you can see in the background.

I used the barrel itself to measure the size needed to make the hoop, then cut a square of the hardware cloth to size, removing excess mesh from the corners to make it closer to “round”. The hardware cloth is a lot stiffer than chicken wire, but the extra strength is, I think, well worth it being such a pain to wrap around the hoop. Definitely glad for gardening gloves! The last step was to use a hammer on the underside to get the mesh right up against the hoop as tightly as I could.

There was, however, one problem.

The top of the barrel is not round. It’s more of an oval shape, and a wonky oval at that. The old hula hoop I’d used before was quite a bit larger than the top of the barrel, so it didn’t matter, but this hoop was cut for a more snug fit. The less sticking out, the less likely a critter will knock it off, even with the weights. I thought I’d still made it large enough to fit over, but the barrel’s shape was just too wonky.

I ended up tying some paracord around it as tight as I could, then used a metal tent peg to twist the cord even tigher.

Yeah. That bend up piece of metal was a tent peg.

Between the paracord pulling the top of the barrel into a more round shape, and the hammering of the hardware cloth tight against the hoop, I was finally able to get it in place. The board and weights were added to support the diverter when we need it, and the extra brick at the back, just in case something knocks the board off again, so the whole thing doesn’t flip off.

I might still add window screen mesh to this, since things like small frogs or insects, as well as small debris, can get through the half inch mesh. As it is right now, a cat – or even a racoon – could jump onto the cover and it’ll hold their weight without issue. The PEXX tubing will also last a lot longer, too.

All in all, I think it worked out rather well for using stuff I got for other projects! 😁 It didn’t even take that long to do. It took long enough for the washed out shelf to dry, at least.

So we now have a shelf shelter for the cats all cleaned out and ready for winter – on the inside, at least – and a cat and other critter proof cover for the rain barrel.

Ah, the things I do for the kitties!

The Re-Farmer

Our 2022 garden: fixing kitten damage, and finding strange things

Don’t let this ball of adorableness fool you!

This is a ferocious and destructive little beast!

Yesterday, I fixed up the mesh covered beds with the fall spinach, making sure to peg down the sides of the netting so the kittens couldn’t get under.

This morning…

Well… they didn’t get under it.

*sigh*

When I came out, there were kittens sitting on the mesh, looking at me.

I took this photo after I’d taken out all the pegs. The mesh needed more support, but I don’t have any more of the metal stakes I used to slide the hoops over.

What I did still have were some pieces from the canopy tent a piece of tree had fallen on last year. Most of the pieces from the dismantled frame are being used around various garden beds, but there were two longer pieces that had snapped near their middles that were still around, leaving me with four lengths with one rough end.

So I stuck them in the spaces between the hoops, broken ends into the soil, thinking maybe I could lash or zip tie hoops to them. Which wouldn’t be very stable, but as I pushed the pieces into the soil, I remembered that they all have screw holes at the ends. I’ve been using those holes to threat twine through.

So that’s what I did. After lashing the bamboo poles back across the hoops, I began stringing twine through and across the metal pieces, the hoops and the poles.

With kittens rolling around, playing in the netting, rolling across the bed, and generally getting underfoot.

I could see that some spinach from the first sowing had started to germinate, and the seedlings are all flattened.

*sigh*

Well, at least the netting has enough support to keep it from collapsing.

For now.

As I was cleaning up and about to put things away, something odd in the path caught my eye.

This was just sitting in the dirt in the path.

It wasn’t there yesterday.

It is not ours. The girls and I don’t have anything like this. Which means it is probably something that was left among my parents’ stuff, though I don’t recall ever seeing it before. Where it came from and how it got into the path of the old kitchen garden is a mystery!

The Re-Farmer

Stepping up

This morning, before giving the scrap wood bench a final coat of paint, I spent some time scrubbing the stairs in front of the storage house.

This is how they’ve been looking since before we moved here.

I just used water and a scrub brush on it. I discovered the surface, once wet, became green and slimy. It felt like an algae. Very strange.

After I finished painting the bench, I spent a few hours mowing the lawn. I focused on the areas I didn’t get to, the last time I was able to mow. I started with the outer yard, including the outside of the driveway gate, where I was finally able to mow the spaces I normally keep clear. The last – and until today, only! – time I mowed the driveway, I was only able to make a few passes on the sides, and that was it. Unfortunately, we’ve got lots of poplars spreading into the space, like crab grass. We can’t let those take hold. I’d love to find a way to kill off those roots, but as long as the mature poplars are nearby, they will keep sending them out.

Once that was done, I took a lunch break. The girls raked up the grass clippings for me – there was so much of it! – and hauled it to the garden. I’ll use it to continue mulching the squash patch, tomorrow.

Before I got back to mowing, I checked on the stairs.

They were fully dry and ready for painting.

I discovered how incredibly spoiled I was while working on the bench. It was resting on the saw horses, at the perfect height for painting.

Painting the stairs, however, was remarkably hard on the back!!!

First coat is done, though!

Wow, that’s bright.

Now we just have to hope the cats stay off of it until it’s dry!

I’m glad I had the paint to do these, though. The stairs were already starting to show signs of moisture damage and cracking.

I’m trying to remember how old these stairs are. To me, these are the “new” stairs. I know when the previous stairs were replaced, because one of the steps broke under me while I was stepping down on them. The bottom stairs were completely engulfed in weeds and likely had been like that for years. That bottom step was quite rotten, which was hidden by the weeds.

My goodness. That was the year we got our first minivan and made a road trip to the farm for Thanksgiving. It was the last time I saw my late brother before he died, which puts it at 2009.

These stairs are 12 or 13 years old. I’m not sure if they got replaced that fall, or the following spring.

I guess I can’t call them “new” stairs anymore! 😂

They have held up to neglect quite well!

Tomorrow, I’ll add another coat, and move the bench to its spot under the white lilacs.

I’ll also need to finish mowing the garden area. Yesterday, I’d scythes parts of it, which made it mow-able. With no more standing water at one end of the spruce grove, I finally got the space between the spruces and the crab apple trees mowed. I was really happy when mowing around the branch pile in particular. There is a thick, dense layer of moss growing under the grass. Just beautiful! I would happily have moss instead of grass for a lawn. With so much water this spring, the moss has actually spread, and I love it!

I worked my way from the outside, in, as the ground is less rough, and that way I could mow around the trellises early on, before fighting with the middle area.

For all that I know how rough the old garden area is from the last time it was plowed, it always surprises me when I actually try mowing in there. Just brutal. I finally got it to where there’s just a section of old garden area near where the squash and corn patch is before I finally just stopped for the night. I was too exhausted to fight with the uneven terrain.

I want to get the rest of the mowing done tomorrow (Sunday), though, as it is expected to be a relatively cool day. After that, we’re supposed to heat up again. However, I also have to do some preparation tomorrow. Monday is the court date for our vandal’s vexatious litigation against me; his retaliation for my filing a restraining order against him. It’s been more than a year, but with all the lockdowns, this is actually the first time a judge will finally see it.

I am expecting two possible results. One: the judge will see how ridiculous the whole thing is and throw it out. Our vandal has no case. Or two: the judge will want more time to go over the claims and set another trial date.

The things that I’m most unhappy with, however, is that my brother will not be there. He, as owner of the property, was supposed to be my witness. His job, however, has sent him to the States for a cyber security training course. Cyber security is a big part of his current job, and he really didn’t have any choice.

Which give another possible reason for the judge to set another trial date; my witness can’t attend.

We shall see.

Meanwhile, during the conference call “court” dates we have before, I heard our vandal saying he’d have as many as 5 witnesses. Witnesses to what, I don’t know. But it’s going to be me, alone, with him and his posse.

*sigh*

Ah, well. It will be what it is. I just pray we have a sane judge.

The Re-Farmer

Scrap wood bench painting started

Thanks to the girls moving the bench I made under the tent, this morning’s rain did not delay painting! It was nice and dry, and ready to work on.

I placed a couple of bricks under the bench to give me some space to do the edges at the saw horses. I picked up a really cheap brush set for this job, because I knew I’d be pretty rough with it, getting into the tight spaces, as well as working with such rough wood.

The bottoms of the legs will get a second coat, just for extra protection from contact with the ground, before the seat gets painted. The seat will get at least two coats, maybe three, depending on how well I was able to rasp and sand off the rough spots.

I am really happy with that colour. The final result never quite matches what the colour swatches look like, if only because of how much more surface area there is. Once this is done, there will be enough paint left over to do a few other things. There is the tree stump bench we made last year, though I think I will wait for the flowers around it to die back, first. The stairs to the storage house needs to be painted, too. I’d love to do the laundry platform, but that would likely need a gallon of paint, all on its own. Plus, the kittens like to play on it, and it would be rather hard to keep them off while the paint dries! 😁 I might do the hand rail in front of the sun room, though. If I can figure out a good way to pull the rose bush away from it. The thorns on that thing are brutal! 😄

The Re-Farmer

Clothesline up, and hidden kittens

This evening turned out to be a very pleasant 23C/75F, with a lovely breeze. I was able to stay out longer when doing my evening rounds, and take care of a few little things – with the help of a lot of mosquito repellant! We got enough cardboard from packages in the mail that I was able to lay some around the G-star patty pan squash, with only minor gaps. After topping up the kibble trays, I was able to hold a couple of kitties, including one I’ve never been able to touch before.

It was not happy, but it didn’t quite freak out, either. 😁

I also finally got the clothesline up.

The old line tightener worked just fine, and the new spacers will help a lot, too. We’ve never actually used the clothes line much, but now that we’ve got a nice, clean new line, I think we will use it more often. If nothing else, it’s a back up if we don’t want to use the dryer for some reason.

Like now. I did some laundry yesterday and, after popping it in the drier, the entire entryway and dining room filled with steam, basically. One of my daughters was able to clamber to take a look and discovered the hose was damaged and no longer properly attached. Best guess is, a cat fell off a nearby shelf and landed on it. We really need to build some kind of shelf back there, to keep the cats out! They wrecked the old dryer hose, too, as well as making a huge mess behind both the washer and dryer.

Oh, my other daughter just informed me that her sister managed to get behind the dryer and fixed the hose. Only a few inches of damaged hose needed to be removed. I’m still glad I got the clothes line fixed, though!

When I was a kid, we had three clotheslines set up on these posts. The hooks to hold pulleys are still there, if we ever want to set up one or two more lines. One of them has a pulley hanging off a length of twisted wire. It looks like someone had a line that wasn’t quite long enough, so they added length to the pulley to set it up. I have not seen any other laundry pulleys, though, so if we do want to set up the other two lines, we’d need to get 3 more pulleys, and another 240 or so feet of clothes line.

I doubt we’ll ever need to do that, but at least the option is there!

It was so pleasant out that, after I finished with the clothes line, I sat on the laundry platform bench to enjoy the cool breeze.

I had company.

There is a kitten in the above picture! One of two that were watching me.

The fuzzy one was watching me from behind the lettuce bed, and its darker sibling joined him while I was trying to get pictures.

They do not like the mesh over the beds, and kept going further and further around, trying to find a way through to where their sibling was playing in the path.

Their sibling didn’t stay in the path.

Instead, it came around the beet bed, walking along the logs, so get a better look at the weird human that keeps pointing a strange object at them. 😁

I keep expecting this one to be a good candidate for socializing, since he hangs around the house the most, and tends to stay and watch me when I’m moving about. So far, no go. He simply will not let me come closer. *sigh*

Oh, that reminds me. I heard from the Cat Lady today. We now have an appointment at the vet for spays and vaccinations. The two left among the inside cats are Tissue and Big Rig. She had slots for 2 females and a male, but the only male we’d be able to bring in is Potato Beetle, and he’s not around right now.

The appointment is for Aug 3, and they’ll be coming home with us after. Right now, she’s focusing on spays and neuters more than adoptions. No one is looking to adopt right now. The shelters are all full from so many “pandemic pets” being surrendered. !!!

Once the indoor ladies are done, and the yard mamas have weaned their babies, the next thing to do will be to start trapping yard cats to get them done. I expect that won’t happen until much later in August or even September. As long as it’s before the snow flies. Otherwise, trapping is more dangerous for them, due to potential exposure.

The Cat Lady has been in and out of hospital lately, and told me she’s been really missing Cabbages while she’s away! It’s so funny. Before they took in Cabbages, she didn’t like calicos, and preferred male cats, but Cabbages has completely won her over. 😄

I’m not surprised. Cabbages has a way of worming her way into people’s hearts! 😁

The Re-Farmer

Our 2020 garden: the bean tunnel

This year, we decided to use the squash tunnel for vining beans.

But first, it needed some work.

We were able to weed and prep this side of the tunnel in the fall. Can you tell?

What a huge difference in the soil. When we first set up the squash tunnel, using a post hole digger to make holes for the support posts, it was incredibly hard. For the rows to plant in, we layered straw, then fresh garden soil – we’d long run out of carboard, and even shredded paper, if I remember correctly. Then the top was mulched with straw after the squash, gourds and melons were transplanted.

As you can see in the photo, the garden fork can now did deep into the soil, and I could push my hands into it to pull out the weed roots.

And tree roots. A remarkable amount of fine, thin tree roots.

The only things causing problems while using the garden fork was hitting rocks or larger tree roots!

So. Many. Rocks! Deep enough that I didn’t try to dig them out, though. I just pulled out the small rocks nearer the surface.

In the picture, you can see some orange twine. I found 3 places where the screws had snapped, and the cross pieces were basically being held in place by the wire mesh. I just lashed them back to the support poles. We might get one more year out of this tunnel before we build a permanent one, closer to the house, so I’m not too worried about it.

It was very hot work. Though my weather app said it was 19C/66F, with a RealFeel of 21C/70F, this is what the tunnel thermometer read.

Yeah, that’s reading about 33C/91F out there.

I’m sure the heat loving melons, eggplants and peppers were just loving it.

Me? Not so much!

Along with beans, the two Canteen gourds were transplanted. These were growing so fast, they had been potted up three times, and we needed to add support poles because they were trying to climb anything they could reach, including the tomato plants they were sharing a bin with! They were outgrowing their pots again, and really needed something sturdy to climb!

In the row on the left of the photo, I planted Blue Grey Speckled Tepary beans. These are a vining bean for drying, not fresh eating. They are also drought and heat tolerant, so perfect for this spot! The space was just enough for the amount of beans in the package, too. I supposed it’s possible there were more, but the cats tried to eat the package, scattering beans all over the floor. I think we found all of them, but some may have been missed.

On the right in the photo, I planted Red Noodle beans. These beans can grow up to 20 inches long! The packet was supposed to have 25 seeds, but I counted 33, which didn’t fill the row. We still have 2 other varieties of pole beans, but there are too many in the bags to fit in the remaining space, and I didn’t want to plant just a few. One of them has something like 200 seeds in it, so we aren’t going to be planting all of them!

I think, instead, we’ll plant some climbing gourds in the remaining space. We have some Tennessee Dancing gourds that would fit. Or some luffa. I think we have some that survived. We’ll decide after we get the remaining two trellises ready.

I’m glad we got at least two types of vining/pole beans in. It’s quite late in the season to be direct sowing beans here, but they are short season varieties, so it should be fine.

Little by little, it’ll get done!

The Re-Farmer

It’s fixed!

Before I catch up on the other stuff, I just have to share the best part of all.

My brother made it out today, and he got the outlet fixed for us!

He tried getting here using his usual route, only to find the road closed sign was still at the south end of the road past our place, so he turned around and took a different route, adding an extra 3 miles of gravel road to the drive. It rained steadily all last night, and the section of road near our intersection was so muddy, he had difficulty getting through with is 4 wheel drive. The grader went through a couple of days ago, but even it went around that spot! It’s just mush in the middle of the road.

But he made it and checked the outlet for us, and it turned out to be less damaged than he feared it might be.

When I noticed what happened, I quickly unplugged the 2 power bars that were plugged into it and just dropped them. After that, we were more interested in making sure nothing started burning in the wall. When we moved the DVD shelf to access the outlet, I never even thought to look at either of them.

I think we found the cause of the fry out.

This power bar had the TV plugged into, as well as the Xbox, I think (we use is as a DVD player, but it doesn’t always work) and the USB adapter for our Roku. He thinks something had to have been drawing a lot of power, but they should have only been using just a trickle. So we still don’t know why it blew.

As my brother was removing the receptacle, he commented that our father had installed it some 50 years ago!

Can you tell?

I’m pretty sure that 61 visible on the white sticker is the original price.

Marshall Wells hasn’t been around since 1988 and, even before then, it had been bought out a couple of times and was under a different name since about 1978.

While replacing the receptacle, my brother found one of the wires was loose, and the ground was no longer attached at the wall. He replaced the ground wire but discovered he couldn’t screw it in to the wall – it was stripped. There was a second hole, and that was stripped, too. He had to drill a third hole and use a new, longer screw! The end of the black wire was melted, so he repaired that, too.

Of course, it was tested out right away, after I turned the breaker back on, and all worked perfectly!

And my daughter’s computers started turning on. A light upstairs turned on, too. I had no idea until then, that any of the ceiling lights was on that breaker, too.

We now have a light and fan in the bathroom again. 😀

Then, because he’s a sweetheart, and had his bag with 5 or 6 different lengths of screws handy, my brother “fixed” the main door by replacing some of the hinge screws with longer ones. I hadn’t done it before, because the door is hollow, so I didn’t think it would help any, but it did. He was able to pull a couple of the other hinge screws out with just his fingers. !! We still need to replace the entire door and frame, as the fame itself is splitting at the top and middle hinges. My brother suggested I use longer screws into the frame, too, to compensate. A door is only as secure as its frame, though, and I want an insulated metal door with a metal frame! He doesn’t think it needs to be replaced, but if we want to do it, he’s okay with that.

The main thing is, we can use the main door again. I don’t know how long that will last, but we’ll see.

Meanwhile, my older daughter has been busily catching up on commissions. I believe all of her clients were okay with the delay, too, which is nice.

Then, after he was finished here, my brother was going to go to town to pick up some milk for our mother, in the plastic 2L jugs that are no longer available where she lives, then drive back to her place – adding almost an extra hour to his drive home!

My brother is the best!

He mentioned talking to our mother last night, and that they’d talked about her getting home care and Meals on Wheels, since she is in so much pain right now. I had brought that up with her, too, and she seems agreeable to that. I’m also thinking she might finally be willing to get a hospital bed through home care, like my husband was able to do. I think being able to adjust the height, and have support under her knees or sleep at an incline would be a help.

We shall see how her telephone appointment with the doctor does, a couple of days from now.

The Re-Farmer

In the clear!

Finally! We can use our water again!

When it was almost 4pm and the septic guy hadn’t showed up yet, I called and left a message, asking if he was still going to be able to make it. I got a call over an hour later. He’d had a breakdown, but everything was up and running again, so he was on his way over. It was almost 6pm when he got here!

Then he had the “fun” job of turning his truck so he could back through the gate in the chain link fence and down the newly cleared lane in the snow. He did get a bit stuck a couple of times. Not because he was sinking in soft ground – that was still well frozen. Because he was driving so slowly and carefully, he ended up spinning his tires on ice!

One of the spruce trees at the edge of the grove, closest to the house, died last summer. I’d been thinking that, when we have it cut down, we could leave the stump to use to support one of the tables and benches we want to put in the area, eventually. Or maybe a platform feeder for critters.

I’ve changed my mind.

We’ll get that tree, and the other dead one next to it, cut down as flat to the ground as possible, so the septic truck has more room to maneuver! It’s pretty tight in there for such a large truck!

Then, as he was setting up the hose to the tank, he had to take a blow torch to the lever to turn on the suction.

A blow torch wielding septic guy. I love it.

Meanwhile, I made sure to uncover the tank, and take out the screw that holds the lid in place.

Unfortunately, I had to switch tips on the screwdriver, and the tips were frozen into their holder, so it took a while to get the one I needed out!

I got it done, though, and he was finally able to empty our tank for us.

Yay!!!

Shortly after he started, he suggested I check the drain in the basement, which I did. I was happy to see that yes, the water level did start to drop.

The tank did not seem unusually full, but there really isn’t much that can be seen in this type of tank. Still, he made sure to empty both sides as much as he could. For the new folks following this blog (welcome!), our system is not the typical gravity based septic tank, where all the effluent drains into a single tank. The solids sink to the bottom and the liquid, when it reaches high enough, begins to drain through a one way valve to a septic field some distance from the tank. Under such a system, we would have had to put an insulating cover over the tank itself, then along where the buried line is, and finally a wide area where the field is. That’s the system most people have. Our system is a double tank system. The effluent goes into the first, smaller, tank. The solids sink to the bottom while the liquid eventually drains into the larger overflow tank. That tank has a float that triggers a pump in our basement. The pump then suctions the fluid through a pipe to a septic field that is way out by the barn. That outflow pipe is not buried, but sticks out of the ground, and the fluid is ejected from several feet up.

For the septic guy, that means he has to run his hose into both tanks. Several feet down from the surface, deep enough to hopefully not freeze in winter, there’s a top to the two tanks, with different sized holes for each tank that he has to fit the hose through. There just isn’t much that can be seen

In theory, we shouldn’t have to cover this type of tank for the winter at all, but it would be remarkably unwise to take that chance!

It’s not a common system, and plumbers really don’t like them. 😀 However, it does ensure that the septic fluids are nowhere near the house and well.

It also seems to be having all sorts of problems, though some of them would be problems whichever type of system is used.

Like what happened this time, it seems.

After the septic guy was done and the tank was all covered with the insulated tarp again, I quite happily flushed the toilet before heading into the basement.

Only to find the liquid in the drain had increased again. The pipe to the tank was still mostly blocked.

*sigh*

Honestly, I was expecting that to a certain extent, but it would have been nice if it had actually drained properly again.

It was definitely rubber boots and latex gloves time.

The first thing I did was loosen and remove the cap to the access pipe. It, too, had disintegrating toilet paper visible in it.

I’d had previously used the old hose we kept hooked up from the last time we fought with the system and pushed it through the floor drain for quite some distance, though not all the way to the tank. I tried it through the access pipe this time, and still couldn’t get it all the way through.

The other thing we’ve kept handy from before is an old wire chimney sweep. The wire is just the right combination of sturdy and flexible, and we could shove the handle end through the pipes, forcing it through any blockages, even when the pipe was full of roots. So I got the old chimney sweep out and tried to push it through. It was definitely hitting something that didn’t belong! I was able to force it through, and reach all the way to the tank. After I ran that back and forth a few times, I was able to get the hose through the blockage, too. Once I managed that, I finally turned the water on. It didn’t take long, and when whatever was blocking the pipe gave way, I could really tell the difference. Even the sound of the water was completely different. I was able to push the hose all the length of the pipe, until I could hear water splashing into the newly emptied tank.

What a beautiful sound!

After clearing the access pipe out, I moved the hose over to the drain in the floor. I’d already cleared as much of the muck into a garbage can that I could, but it was still pretty… thick. Thankfully, I wasn’t seeing any brown in there! Still, the pipe between the floor drain and the access pipe was pretty stuffed. It made me wonder just how long this had been building up! Especially after I changed directions and ran the hose towards the weeping tile under the new part basement. Yes, things had backed up all the way to there, too!

My main concern with the pipe in that direction was tree roots. Yes, I did find more small tree roots as I was working on it, but not enough to be blocking anything. The blockage was all from the plumbing backing up into it.

So… that took a while, but I finally got water free flowing through the whole thing.

One good thing about having an unfinished basement with a concrete floor is that I can just take a hose to it to clean things up! With the drain clear, the floor got a cleaning before I could finally close everything up again and put things away. The very last thing to do was set up and plug in the blower fan, to help everything dry out faster.

How wonderful it felt to be able to wash up when I was done! Yay, freeflowing water!

For all the work that was involved, it really was just a one person job. Before I’d headed down to start, my older daughter had a proposition for me as their contribution.

Chinese food.

Which I gratefully accepted!

So after getting all cleaned up and changed, we got Chinese food for supper. The handy thing is that it takes the same amount of time for them to prepare an order as it does for us to drive over to pick it up. 🙂

We can tackle dishes tomorrow. For today, we’re far more interested in being able to take showers and do laundry!

Meanwhile, there is still the sump pump to deal with. I checked the hose while I was outside. Though cold, the sun on black plastic did seem to make a difference. At least as far as I could tell with the flexible hose. No way to know about the pipe through the wall. When things warm up again, I want to see if I can take the hose off and check the pipe to make sure it really was just ice that was blocking it, and not something else! I don’t want to open it up while things are still cold, and the plastic might crack. Until then, I’m leaving the sump pump unplugged.

What we still don’t really know is, why this happened at all. While clearing the access pipe, which is cast iron, I felt what seemed to be a bottleneck of some sort. Or maybe just a really rough area. There could be damage to the pipe that toilet paper catches on – and once that catches, anything else, whether it’s from the bathroom or the kitchen sink, could start getting hung up on it. We’re forever pulling cat hair out of the drains, so even that could be getting caught, though to be honest, I saw no signs of that.

The only way to know for sure would be to find a plumber that has one of those fibre optic cameras, so we could actually see the problem. And that’s not going to happen, any time soon!

However, it does mean it would probably be a good idea to regularly run that hose through the floor drain and run water through the pipe to clear anything that might be building up, as a regular maintenance thing.

This makes the third time since we’ve moved here that we’ve had septic issues leaving us unable to use our plumbing.

Very annoying!!

The Re-Farmer

Sump pump issues!

In the 4 summers we have been here, I think our sump pump turned on only a couple of times, in the first two years. Conditions had bee so dry the next two years, the reservoir was pretty much empty. The only times it turned on was when we had to empty the hot water tank completely, to replace it. We partially drain it to shock it hydrogen peroxide every now and then, but not enough drains out to trigger the float.

So when I heard a pump running while in the bathroom during the night – we could hear it nowhere else – I didn’t even recognize it for what it was. When the noise was still going the next time I was in the bathroom, I was flummoxed. At first I thought the sound was actually coming from the space heaters our daughters use upstairs. Sound carries strangely in the house. I thought nothing of it, and went out to do the morning rounds.

Later, I tried to use the hot water in the kitchen, and had issues. I didn’t know my daughter had shocked the tank last night, after I’d gone to bed, so I went to check in the basement.

Which is when I found this.

This is our sump pump set up, which is directly under the bathroom. The pump was running, but there was enough seepage to create that puddle on the floor. The water was not draining out of the reservoir. Thankfully, it wasn’t getting any higher, either, but the pump just kept running.

So back outside I went. The first thing I had to do was dig out the end of the drain hose, which runs into the old kitchen garden.

It was under a drift, of course.

There was no sign water had drained out the end, and it was completely unclogged.

Then I dug out the area in front of where the drain pipe comes through the basement wall. Once that was free, I could pull the hose from where it ran along the side of the house and the sun room, all the way out, then run it down the access path to to the wall.

From the flexibility of the house, I could determine that the first couple of feet from the wall had ice in it. The rest seemed pretty clear. Yes, I could hear the crunching of ice in places, but no blockages. I didn’t want to bend it too much, though, so as not to crack the frozen plastic.

The next thing to do was set up an extension cord and a hair drier.

Since I was going to have a cord running through the doors, this meant Butterscotch and Nosencrantz couldn’t stay in the sun room. I was able to get Nosencrantz into the old kitchen, but one of my daughters had to catch Butterscotch and get her into the old kitchen.

Well, we were talking about bringing them in earlier. My daughter had through Saffron and Turmeric would be going to the vet yesterday, not next week. So we talked about bringing them in tonight.

Nosencrantz is currently isolated with me in my bedroom/office right now. Butterscotch is still hiding somewhere in the old kitchen.

I had to unplug the power bar for the heated water bowl and ceramic heater bulb in the sun room, then run the cord across the outside wall.

The next while was spent warming up the hose, pausing to try and break things up inside very now and then (using the snow shovel to keep the hair dryer off the snow!). Meanwhile, a daughter was in the basement with one of the space heaters, trying to warm up the hose where it came through the wall, as it seemed to be blocked straight through.

Things did start to drip. Which should have melted ice from the inside, so that the water could finally get pumped through, but it never got more than a drip.

After doing as much as I could outside, I joined my daughter in the basement and simply used a bucket to drain the reservoir. It’s not all that deep, but deep enough that I ended up having to attach wire to the handle of the bucket, then used the handle of a broom to push it down and fill it with water until I could pull it up with the wire. Then I could drain it into the old laundry sink. My daughter, meanwhile, was stuck standing there, holding a space heater and aiming it at the pipe.

Once we could be sure the pump wouldn’t turn back on again, we stopped. That the water didn’t drain at all in this time has be concerned that the blockage might not be ice, but some sort of crud. Which shouldn’t happen. The foot of the sump pump has a filter to keep stuff out.

I think the only way to know for sure would be to take the hose off the pipe on the outside and actually look. There should not have ever been water in there to freeze. Not only because the pump hasn’t turned on in ages, but even if it had, water should have drained away from that section of pipe, not sat there to freeze.

It’s not something we can do now. I don’t want to risk cracking hoses or pipes or fittings in this cold. We’ll just have to keep an eye on the reservoir and make sure this doesn’t happen again. The hose end, meanwhile, now runs into the main path, and we can see it from the kitchen window.

Meanwhile, we are now working on Nosencrantz and Butterscotch. Butterscotch could not be lured out even with cat nip, though I have at least seen her skulking around under shelves and whatnot in there.

Nosencrantz, on the other hand, is quite happy in her new surroundings. The girls came in while I was writing this to give her some attention, and she was just luxuriating on the bed, reveling in skritches. We will slowly let other cats in, one or two at a time, to introduce them. Right now, Cheddar is in here, as one of the more laid back cats. Nosencrantz did hiss at him a bit, even though he was just sitting there, looking at her.

So far, so good.

Let’s hope it stays that way!

The Re-Farmer