Morning update

First, some cute critters.

There are eight in the photo, plus Rosencrantz at the kibble tray under the shrine. Before I headed outside, I spotted Sad Face on top of the kibble house roof, and later I saw Ghost Baby skulking into the yard, making for 11 yard cats I saw this morning. Rolando Moon is taking her turn, staying warm in the sun room right now. I didn’t see Potato Beetle anywhere, yet.

Aside from the wet from the water bowls I emptied and refreshed, there was a lot less mud around the kibble house and the paths in the snow. In fact, all around the inner and outer yards, water levels have gone down. As all but one area along the driveway has nowhere to drain, this shows how much the ground has thawed and absorbed the water.

I took the walk to check on the washed out area to the south of us, and things are a lot better there, too.

You can see some of the debris lines, showing how far up the water had been in the foreground.

This was a third area that started to wash out, but never got too bad before the water started to recede.

This is the wider, shallower area that washed out. Where I’m standing to take this picture had been under water, yesterday.

I was able to wade across the deeper washout to get this photo. Yesterday, the water was deeper than my boots. Again, where I am standing to take the picture had been under water, yesterday.

I took video as I crossed back, and I might put it together with video I took yesterday, to show the difference. We’ll see if I have time to work on that.

After I’d crossed and finishing taking video, I saw a pick up truck coming, so I started heading home. I did keep checking to see how the truck managed the crossing. The driver took his time, especially where the deeper damage is, but he got through okay.

As for our laundry disaster that flooded our entry and parts of the new basement last night, I still need to deal with that.

The problem has actually gotten worse.

While running water in the kitchen sink this morning, I started hearing some weird noises. After turning off the water, I could hear gurgling in the laundry drain pipe. The water was backing up into it!

So we now have to be careful using the kitchen sink, too!

We still have some super duper gel to unclog drains left, so I ended up using it in both the kitchen sink, and the laundry drain, letting it sit for half an hour before pouring hot water, as per the instructions, after it. For the amount of sink use since then, I still don’t know if it made any difference.

I checked on how things were in the basements. The stairs into the new part basement have a strip of carpet on them, and that’s still pretty wet, but the concrete floor is mostly dry.

The pipe from the kitchen sink comes into the basement, just outside the door to the root cellar. Inside the root cellar, I can see the laundry drain pipe coming through the wall, right near the concrete corner of the old basement. There is an angle to the pipe before it joins the main pipe in a T. When trying to use the plumbing snake, I could feel it going through that bend, and then it would reach the main pipe and that was about it. It was basically like hitting a wall.

All of the laundry drain plumbing is new; when my husband and younger daughter came out here several weeks ahead of me and our older daughter, my brother installed the washer and dryer in the entry way with the help of my daughter, including putting in new plumbing for the drain, which had been there for a sink, previously. The T where the pipes join almost sits right on top of the concrete wall of the old basement. Since this is a corner of the other basement, the main pipe runs through a beam above the wall of one part of the corner and behind the other, into the old basement.

I checked it out in the old basement, too. There is a space on top of the concrete wall, which is wider than the house wall resting on it. The pipe runs all along there, until it finally bends to join the main drain where the bathtub, toilet and bathroom sink also join.

Of course, there’s nothing to tell me where the clog is, but I can at least see that there is no obvious damage to the pipes.

I admit to being very confused about the water pipes, though. In the entryway, the taps are next to the drain, closer to the entry to the dining room. That would be to the east. However, when I go into the root cellar, I see the water pipes running to the kitchen, and logically, there should be pipes running up to the laundry taps, on the east side of the drain pipe.

They’re not there.

They’re in the old basement. I’d estimate about three feet to the west of the drain pipe, putting them under my husband’s bedroom, not under the entry. The heat duct to the vent into that bedroom runs by there, too. Using that as reference, those pipes are coming up right about where the head of my husband’s hospital bed is.

That wall is part of the original log house.

Which means that somewhere, hidden in the log wall, the water pipes make a 90 degree bend to where the taps are in the entry. Why those pipes are so far from the taps, instead of just going straight through the floor in the entry, escapes me.

If we ever get to the point where we can finally renovate this place, I will be very curious to see what’s under all the paneling.

Anyhow.

Later this afternoon, I need to get my laundry out of the washing machine, use the new syphon hose to drain out as much water as possible, set the rigged sump pump house out the storm door window, then plug in the washing machine and see what happens. Hopefully, I’ll finally be able to finish my laundry. I need my clothes!

The Re-Farmer

How’d that happen?

While doing my morning rounds, I walked through the feeding station a couple of times before I noticed.

Something was missing.

The suet feeder was gone.

I spent some time walking around, trying to find it, but a dark green wire cage on mud isn’t exactly easy to see.

It wasn’t until I paused to take this photo that I spotted the basket in the background. Minus the chain. A bit more searching, and I found that, too. The white arrows in the photo show where they are. They were actually easier to see from the side like this, than from directly above!

Something yanked it down with a fair bit of force! I was able to bend it back again, though.

The feeder was almost empty last night. Whatever did this may have been after the last little bit.

In other things…

The temperatures were below freezing when I headed out this morning, with the sun room at 5C/41F. The onion and shallot seedlings seem to be fine, as much as I can tell. They’re not doing very well to start, so we’ll see. I still left the lights on for what little warmth they can give. I should find a small thermometer that I can put in the shelf to better monitor that space.

Later this afternoon, though, I glanced into the sun room, and the thermometer on the wall was reading about 25C/77F! That’s just too much, so I opened up the inner door to outside, allowing air flow through the screen on the outer door. It’s only open a few inches, but that would be enough. The lights got turned off, too, of course.

Then I chased away the skunk that was in the kibble house.

*sigh*

The outside cats were happy to see me this morning, as there was no kibble at all left.

Gee. I wonder what could be eating it all?

Cats…

skunks…

deer…

One thing about the cooler temperatures – it’s a lot less muddy around the kibble house!

I counted 14 cats in total, this morning. I’m happy to say that Ghost Baby seems to be more accepting of human presence. While I was putting food in the tray outside the kibble house, she actually came close enough that I could have reached out and touched her!

Not that I tried. Too soon for that!

Among the things on the to-do list this morning was to get the burn barrel going again. Even in the outer yard, things are less muddy. Even the “lake” around the garage had receded a bit. The moisture is actually being absorbed by the ground, which is exactly what we need.

We’re at 5C/41F as I write this, which is warmer than predicted. The “real feel” is supposedly 3C/37F, but while I was outside, chasing off the skunk, it felt a lot warmer. That side of the house is sheltered from the current wind direction. The next couple of days are supposed to get even warmer – but a week from now, we’re supposed to get a high of -5C/23F, with “isolated flurries”! We’re supposed to have highs of 0C/32F over Easter weekend.

But if I look at another weather app, which gets its data from a different station, we’re supposed to have a high of -6C/21F on Holy Saturday and -5C/23F on Easter Sunday. The 30 year historical average for Easter Sunday is 10C/50F.

But I can’t complain. The record low for Easter Sunday is -24C/-11F, set in 2014. The record high is 20C/68F, set in 2005.

We are, if nothing else, a region of extremes when it comes to temperatures!

I think I’ll take our current, moderate conditions we’re having, thankyouverymuch!

Since we’ve unplugged the sump pump, I’ve been checking the old basement regularly. It’s dry, and the sump pump reservoir’s level doesn’t seem to have changed.

We’ve had some minor plumbing issues. When I checked the floor drain, it didn’t have any water in it at all, but I ran the hose through to the septic tank, anyhow.

Or tried to.

That bottleneck was clogged again.

It took a while, but I was able to get the hose through and washed the pipe out as best I could, but we’re going to have to get a plumber back to find out what’s going on. Judging by how much of the hose is through before I hit the bottleneck, I’d say it’s located outside of the basement, between the house and the tank. At that point, it may even be different pipe. The pipe in the concrete is cast iron, but at some point, it switches to PVC. I don’t know where, though. Perhaps it is at the join, that this problem is happening?

I don’t know, but I think we’ll be running the hose through every couple of weeks, rather than once a month, as I’d originally planned.

I sometimes feel like we’re fighting a losing battle, here.

😦

Nutmeg isn’t impressed, either.

The Re-Farmer

Not quite a day of rest

It looks like we have a new addition to our outside cats.

Sad Face has been hanging around. This morning, I saw him milling about with the other cats without any trouble. He was even in the kibble house, though he ran off when I came by. The photo above is the closest he was willing to get, while I was out and about, and I had to zoom in with my phone.

Rolando Moon followed me when I went to switch memory cards on the sign cam.

Of course, we had deer visiting, including this one.

Green grass is actually starting to show in places, though I haven’t noticed any along the sidewalk. She found something to chew on, though.

Then I spotted the piebald heading for the kibble house, and one of my daughters was kind enough to send it away!

The girls started a load of laundry before we sat down for lunch, and it’s a good thing we were lingering at the table afterward. As the washing machine was draining, we suddenly heard water gurgling in the kitchen sink – then splashing!

The drain for the washing machine was overflowing again.

Crud.

I’d hoped, after getting the septic tank emptied and that backed up pipes in the basement cleared, it would have solved that problem, too. I made sure to dash into the basement to check, and all was fine down there.

It doesn’t happen every time we do laundry. In fact, it only happened once before, and that was the day we discovered the septic was backing into the basement.

From what I could hear in the pipes, things were draining. It just seems that it wasn’t draining fast enough for a larger load. With our new machine, we don’t choose a load size. It’s a “smart” machine, and adjusts the water levels itself, based on how much is in the drum.

The last time it happened, and we pulled the machines out to clean up the mess, we used drain cleaner in the pipe. Clearly, that wasn’t enough.

When the new part of the house was built, my dad included a sink in the entryway. That was taken out, long ago, which is why there was plumbing in place for my brother and daughter to install the washing machine (all those years my parents used the basement when, as their mobility decreased, they could have used the entry). It joins the drain pipe from the kitchen, which then joins with the tub’s drain, then the toilet, and finally the main pipe to the septic.

My guess is that we’ve got decades of kitchen grease and detritus, as well as whatever was washed down the sink that used to be in the entry, every time someone cleaned up after being in the barn, garage, garden, etc. I don’t think anyone really paid attention to what went down the drain. Out of sight, out of mind.

I followed the pipe as best I could, but the section that is under the entryway is actually hidden behind a floor joist in the ceiling of the root cellar. The root cellar is under the entry and built around a corner of the old basement. The pipe runs along the top of the old concrete wall, until it bends and joins the drain from the tub. It’s pretty inaccessible.

When we tried to use a plumbing snake in that drain, it didn’t really accomplish anything.

So, how do we clear the pipe?

Slowly, it appears.

I headed into town (I never made it yesterday, so I had to go to refill our water bottles, anyhow) and made a stop at a hardware store. I’d found something there before that we’d tried but, when we ran out, we never remembered to get more. It’s an enzyme based product that is designed to maintain both the pipes and the septic tank. It’s meant to be used once a month. I found a version of it made by CLR, so I got both. I also got a funnel with a flexible hose on it, so we can pour it into the drain without having to pull the dryer out, then the washing machine, to reach the opening.

Then I got a new bottle of heavy duty drain cleaner, since we emptied the last one was had.

With the monthly treatment products, it can be poured into any drain, so we might start from the kitchen sink. It’s the one that’s furthest out from the septic, but still close to the washing machine drain.

We already use a bacterial product to help maintain the septic tank, but this is something that gets flushed down the toilet regularly, and does nothing for the pipes. As the products I picked up today are to maintain both the pipes and the tank, I think we’ll stop using the flush additive for now. It’s probably not a good idea to have TOO much bacteria or enzymes in the system.

While I was out, getting the stuff for the pipes, my daughter monitored the washing machine so that, if it started to overflow again, she could quickly shut the machine off, wait until it drained, then turn it back on again.

I hope this stuff works, because I don’t see any other way we can get those pipes clear. At least not without calling in a plumber.

At least this happened early enough in the day that the hardware store was still open. 😀

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

I guess I spoke too soon!

I’d posted about being able to get our blocked pipe to the septic tank open, at least enough for things to finally drain. I thought we would be good for a while.

I was wrong.

Things were fine, at first. I got my shower in, no problem. Then my daughters took their showers.

By the third shower, I decided to check the basement.

There was more water on the floor again.

It took me a while to figure out where it was coming from. It turned out to be the laundry sink. Water was backing up into the sink, but this sink isn’t properly attached, and the drain opening leaks around the drain itself, so it was trying to fill and drain from the same area, at the same time. As a result, not only was the bucket under the U bend filling, but water was missing it entirely and splashing onto the concrete floor. I let my daughter know, so she could quickly finish her shower, then started bailing water into the floor drain. The water was slowly draining, but the volume from the shower was just too fast.

Which meant we had to call a plumber right away.

Well. Almost.

Since we had no way to do dishes or use the kitchen sinks, my older daughter offered to buy us supper, so my younger daughter and I made a trip into town where she could run do some errands she needed, then we picked up some fried chicken for supper. We even picked up a couple of things at the grocery store, just in case I couldn’t make the trip to the city for our monthly shop tomorrow.

Once at home, I started making calls. I first tried one of the plumbers that had come out to check our well. They were very apologetic, but were so busy, they would not be able to come out for at least a couple of weeks. !! I asked if he could recommend anyone, and he gave me the name of a plumber he thought would have an auger, in another town. I called them, but they were also booked solid. I asked for another recommendation, and got the name of a third plumber they thought had an auger.

Third time’s the charm!

After explaining what was going on, he hemmed and hawed a bit, then said that the earliest he’d be able to come out was 9:30.

Tonight.

!!!

I was ecstatic! We were prepared to have to wait until morning. We spoke a bit more, then he said he would call me back about an hour before he would be able to come out and get directions to our place.

When he got here, the first thing he did was check things out, and I explained to him what I’d already done, the roots that I’d found, and the issues we’d been having in the past. Among the things we had to consider was how old everything was, and the risk of causing more damage. Not that we had any choice. He then went and got his auger and tools.

Would you look at that beast! What a beautiful machine!

Shortly after he started, he broke though the area that was blocking the laundry sink, and suddenly we had water shooting up the pipe and into the basement! Not much he could do to stop it, either. He just had to keep on going and eventually clear through to the tank.

That old garden hose came in very handy! He made a lot of use of it, and it really helped.

Once he got that pipe done, he worked on the floor drain to the pipe.

In the process, he pulled out a clump of roots and crud the size of a small animal!! You can see it in the above photo. He got more roots out after that, too.

Then he worked in the other direction, clearing the pipe towards the weeping tile, as far as he could go.

It wasn’t until the very end, when he was using the hose to wash everything out as much as he could, that the well pump started grinding, so I quickly got him to turn off the hose. When I explained to him about the noise, and that two other plumbers had already looked at it, but didn’t dare replace the pump, he went over to take a look. Right away, he was saying, “I can see why they would be scared to do it!” The risk of something going very wrong and losing us water entirely is very high.

When he was done with the floor drain, I was really impressed by how much lower the water level now is. It doesn’t fully drain; it was grandfathered into the septic system, and there is a slightly higher spot somewhere in the line to the access pipe, preventing it from draining completely. However, it now drains as much as it can, very quickly, and it’s no longer full of silt and sand. He did such a fantastic job!

When he was done, I took advantage of him being there and asked if he could give an estimate on replacing our tub’s taps and faucet. He tried to look at the hot water tap that is leaking so badly, but it’s so corroded inside, he couldn’t get it off. He didn’t want to risk breaking something, so he didn’t want to try too hard.

In the end, he estimated the total cost to replace the taps and faucet would be around $400 – $500, but we would then have to replace the section of tub surround ourselves. Which I would have no issues with. However, he also thinks they can be repaired, which would cost much less. The only issue is not being able to take the tap off! If we replace them, it wouldn’t matter if he ended up breaking the plastic part, but obviously that would be a big issue if he was just going to repair it.

But that will have to wait for another time.

Before he left, he got my email address, then later sent me an invoice. Much to my amazement, it was less than $300! Considering how long he worked on it, plus coming out so late in the day, I fully expected it to be higher.

Worth. Every. Penny!

While he was working on the pipes, and I told him as much as I could about the system, and the problem with the roots. We know that they will eventually come back. With what he did tonight, though, it should be many years before this become an issue again.

I am so very happy with this guy! Definitely someone we will go back to in the future!

Now we have a cleaned out septic tank for the winter, and cleaned out pipes. These are now all set for the winter!

That’s quite a weight off, that’s for sure!

The Re-Farmer

What a drip!

The old basement is the heart of the plumbing in this house. It’s where all the pumps and tanks are, plus we have a couple of sets of taps; one for the laundry sink, and one for where the washing machined to be, and pipes with shut off valves leading to the taps outside.

Until the plumber added a shut off valve to the hot water tank, those were pretty much the only shut off valves in the system. Otherwise, there is a main shut off valve at the well pump that shuts water off to the entire house.

One of the things my brother did was install a pool filter to the septic pump system. It has a filter basket that catches larger bits before they get into the pump and sent on to the outflow. It has to be cleaned out every now and then, so he got an extra basket, so one can be quickly switched out for the other, and the pump can be back in action right away, rather than having to stay off while the filter basket gets cleaned. Which is a big deal, since it basically turns black and needs time to soak in a detergent solution after the grit and odd bits of straw that fell into the tank while it was being emptied are cleaned out.

Handily, the laundry sink is right there, and that’s where I wash out the filter basket.

It is also where we shock our hot water tank with hydrogen peroxide every now and then, when the water develops a rotten egg smell. This is done using siphon action by attaching a short hose to the tap. After shutting water off to the hot water tank, then allowing it to drain until the vacuum created prevents more water from draining out, we can put the hose end into a container of hydrogen peroxide, turn on the hot water tap, and the peroxide gets sucked into the hot water tank. Unfortunately, the threads on the hot water tap are damaged, so instead of being able to screw on a short length of hose directly to the tap, we’ve had to use Gorilla tape and a length of aquarium hose. It doesn’t seal as well, but it works.

Those are pretty much the only times that sink gets used.

When I’d switched out the filter baskets at the septic pump, I noticed that the hot water tap had developed a drip. I have no idea how long it’s been dripping, but as I used the hot water to do a rough clean on the filter basket, then set it in a container to soak, it started to drop more. Last night, I switched out the soaking water, and the slow drip because a fast drip.

We already needed to replace both the hot and cold water taps, but until now, that wasn’t much of a priority.

Here, you can see the hot water tap, with the tape holding the bit of aquarium hose. The cold water tap has a length of hose screwed on – without the hose, the water sprays all over. The piece of hose across both taps is what I’d tried to screw onto the hot water tap, only to discover the threads were damaged.

This morning, I headed into town to hit the hardware store, just as it opened. After showing the photo to one of the staff, he found the right size replacement taps for me (I plan to take advantage of the situation and replace both taps). Unfortunately, these taps are soldered on. Which means, to change them out, I need to heat them with a torch, remove the taps, clean the pipes, then solder on the replacement taps.

We don’t have the tools to do that. Even if I wanted to cut the old tap off and put a new one on the remaining length of pipe, I’d still need a soldering gun – and I don’t want to shorten the distance of the taps over the sink, anyhow.

Of course, there are no shut off valves between these taps and the pumps. To work on it means, at the very least, shutting off the water to the hot water tank. To work on the cold water tap means shutting off water to the entire house.

So I picked up a couple of Shark Bite shut off valves.

We have what we need to cut pipe, so we can install the shut off valves ourselves. That will allow us to shut water off to the taps and stop the drip, until we can replace the taps themselves.

I’ve already been able to talk to my brother about this, as he has the tools needed to replace the taps. As for the shut off valves, he had it in his mind to install them in the vertical pipes leading to the taps, but I am thinking of installing them in the horizontal pipes running along the ceiling, so that they will shut off water to the other set of taps as well. Those have never been used since the washing machine was moved upstairs, but considering how old they are, I can see needing to replace them in the future, too.

My daughters are still on “night shift”, though, so I don’t want to start any of this until after they’ve gotten up and had their showers. For now, I just want to install the shut off valve on the hot water pipe, but – as unlikely as it is – if something goes wrong during the install, we wouldn’t be able to turn the hot water back on until it’s fixed, and who knows how long that would be. It’s really a simple job, but I know how easily simple jobs can become major problems, in this place!! Hope for the best, plan for the worst!

One of the considerations for installing the shut off valves; unless we cut out about 3 inches of pipe, they will add to the length of the pipe. That would mean the taps would need to be shifted over by the same distance. Which I wouldn’t have a problem doing, except that parts of the copper pipe have been painted over.

Including the clamps and screws holding the pipes in place. Which is going to make loosening the screws a pain in the butt!

*sigh*

Still, it needs to be done, regardless. We’ve had issues with a loud noise that would start after the well pump kicks in to refill the pressure tank. It is very loud, and I can actually feel the floor vibrating under my feet when I am at my computer. It rather freaked me out because, at first, I thought the noise was coming from the well pump, and we’re already on borrowed time with that thing. Eventually, I was able to trace the noise to the pipes. The pipes run under the exposed floor joists, and have a mishmash of supports attached to the joists, holding them in place. In a couple of spots, there is a pipe that has a 90 degree turn and runs under the pipe it had been parallel to. One of those spots is the hot water pipe that runs from the hot water tank to the laundry sink. What seems to have happened is that, as the house has shifted, those pipes no longer have any sort of gap between them. When the pump starts running, it causes vibrations in the pipes, and with these two pipes now hard against each other, that results in the noise and vibrations I can actually feel in my feet. Right now, the vertical pipes are clamped so tight against the wall – with painted over screws – that there is no give at all. So while we are working on the taps and valves, I want to see if I can adjust the hot water pipe downwards a bit, so that they are no longer touching. Hopefully, I’m right that this is the cause of the noise, and it will stop.

If it doesn’t, and we still get the noise in this location, I’m at a loss as to what else the cause might be!

So we’ve got our work cut out for us this afternoon, just to be able to stop the drip until we can replace the tap itself. Once that’s done, there is no longer any sort of urgency.

The Re-Farmer

A little bit of progress

First, the cute stuff!

Beep Beep is such a good mama!

The kittens have taken to napping under the couch regularly. Beep Beep can just barely squeeze under there, herself. A little while ago, my daughter saw her squeeze part way there, then start wiggling oddly. Moments later, some sleepy kitties came out. She then flopped on the floor for them to nurse. She actually woke them up for lunch! 😀 They’re more than old enough to be weaned, but it’s still great bonding time. 🙂

My daughter got the broken flexible pipe replaced. She did just the one for now.

The other has been left for now, partly to make sure the cold water is working fine and there are no leaks. With the hot water, there is at least a shut off valve at the hot water tank. When we replaced the tank shortly after moving here, the plumber added one on for us. When it’s time to replace the other piece, only the hot water to the house will need to be shut off, and not all the water.

For some reason, the copper pipes are painted, including the end of the flexible hose. My daughter tells me the pipes to the old sink in the entry way, which now supply water to the washing machine, were also painted.

Why paint copper??

As for me, I headed outside for a last bit of mowing.

That’s 4 days of mowing, now, and I’m skipping some places!

I did do an extra bit, though.

I mowed a path to and around the old Farm Hand tractor. Next, we’ll be going in there with the weed trimmer. Once we can access the tractor, we need to cut away the trees that are growing through it. We aren’t able to maintain the tractor itself, but we can at least prevent some types of damage to it!

For the last couple of summers, I’d been able to keep an area to the back gate mowed, large enough to drive through. This year, between the rain and the heat, I just never made it that far.

Today, after mowing the area in front of the storage shed, I decided to mow a path to the back gate. It’s our “emergency exit”, so I don’t want to leave it entirely.

A path, however, is all I was up to!

I cranked the mower up as high as it can go – which is higher than the riding mower can go – and only managed a path twice the width of the mower itself. I actually took 8 passes, just to get it as good as this! The first pass, I had the front wheels up almost the whole way, just to get the height down enough to not choke out the mower.

My daughter suggested it would probably be easier to use the old scythe in the garden shed, instead of a mower, for this stuff! She’s probably right. This is hay that’s being cut! Heck, if we had the equipment (well… working equipment), we could probably get a couple of large round bales just in this section! 😀

I’m hoping to at least keep up a path to the back gate. I don’t expect to make the wide “driveway” I’d kept clear last year. I’d hoped to do more, since the area becomes quite the fire hazard, but we just can’t keep up with it all. More time is being spent on the lawn than anything else right now. As much as I love mowing the lawn, there are other things that need to get done! Ultimately, the goal is to have less lawn, with trees in some areas, and raised garden beds in others. Maybe even a greenhouse or two. Other areas, I hope to replace the grass with moss.

Until then, though, there’s an awful lot of grass to cut!

One of the things that is quite visible when the grass is tall, is a path through the grass, worn down by cats, leading from the yard to under the storage shed. While I was working on the path to the back gate, and was turning to make another pass, I noticed Junk Pile cat, sitting in the newly mowed grass in the shade of the shed, watching me. I think her kittens might be under there. When I told my daughter about it, she said she saw them this morning! Junk Pile cat had brought them to the house for food. 🙂

I look forward to seeing them more often and, hopefully, being able to socialize them at least a bit. And their mom, too!

The Re-Farmer

The next steps

After our incident with the kitchen pipe, yesterday, I headed into town as early as I could. Of my morning rounds, the only thing I took the time to do before I left was to make sure the outside cats had food.

There is an employee at the hardware store that I was very happy to see. Quite a few times now, I’ve been able to get help from him that went above and beyond. For all the times I’ve talked to him, he’s becoming aware of the state of the house we’re in, so he makes the effort to ask extra questions and give extra information.

This morning, I told him about what happened last night (I am extra glad I bought that box fan yesterday, because that was set up last night to dry the floor under the sink!), then showed him a piece that had come off my daughter had given me, just in case there were other types and sizes.

He’s never seen that part broken off like that before!

So he went over the different types of flexible pipes available, and I ended up getting a pair of 24 inch ones with built in shut off valves. We’ll just go ahead and replace them for both taps. He then asked if we had copper pipes, which we do, so he brought me over to a display sample in another aisle that had copper pipe in it, describing to me how to cut off the end, while popping the display piece apart to show me how it should look after abrading it…

Cut off the end. Of course, we have no cutter!

He found one for me.

Once I had the necessary bits and pieces, I picked up some other things my daughter put on the list for me – some of it are for the next time something like this happens! 😀

The down side is having to go into our contingency fund, to pay for all this. 😦 But at least we have one!

Now, it’s up to my more able bodied girls to do the installation! They’re just going to wait until everyone is done using the water for a while, before shutting water for the whole house down again.

Once home again, I finished my rounds outside which, today, included using more of that anti-wasp stuff. I’d found a wasp nest in a corner of the house. We’d found one there last year, too. I’d hosed it away, and I thought they were gone, but last night I hosed it one more time, just in case.

Wasps started coming out again.

Somewhere in there is a crack, and I think they’re getting into the roof above the old kitchen.

When I checked it this morning, there was no sign of wasps, and no sign that the nest was being rebuilt, but that’s what I saw last night. I sprayed it anyway. Sure enough, wasps started falling out of… somewhere.

Thankfully, this stuff will contact kill, so any wasps that are somewhere in the crack would not be able to get out without coming in contact with the spray. I made sure not to use up the whole can so that, if I need to, I can spray again. At least a little.

Of course, in my rounds, I checked on the garden plots.

More squash are blooming. 🙂

The size difference between some of these plants is rather remarkable! Some are still so tiny. I don’t know how much of that is due to the different types of squash, or to any health problems or weather damage. The first squash bed has just a few survivors, struggling to grow. This is the one that got frost damaged, even though we covered them for the night. The rest were all transplanted at the same time, so it’s more likely the differences there are due to type, not damage.

It should be interesting to see what we get out of these.

The Re-Farmer

Well, that sucks… and why is that there?

Not too long ago, I wrote about my daughters installing a new kitchen faucet. One of the issues was, we have no shut off valves. There is one main shut off valve that shuts off water to the entire house.

Today, that became a problem.

One of my daughters had gone into the basement to clean out the litter boxes, when she discovered water dripping from the cold water pipe leading to the kitchen sink.

No, the pipe was not leaking. The water was coming from above, and from the damp state of the floorboards above, it had been leaking a while.

My younger daughter started clearing out under the sink to see what was going on, while her sister and I started cleaning up in the basement.

Suddenly, the drip started dripping even faster!

Which is when the water for the house had to be shut off.

My daughter had tried to tighten the flexible pipe between the copper pipe and the tap, and it started spraying all over.

Did I mention there are no shut off valves for the sink?

It ended up falling apart, and try as they might, the girls couldn’t even rig something up to hold overnight, so we could turn the water back on.

While they were fighting with that, I went hunting in the basements. There are so many parts and pieces around, surely there must be something we could use to at least plug the pipe, so we could turn the water back on?

When we were cleaning out the basement, some things never made it to the barn. Including a box I’d shoved under the stairs. It’s full of parts and pieces of taps and faucets and pipes…

… and balls, and parts of shower heads that have never been used, and other unidentifiable things.

I also found this.

Actually, I found the box with an eyedropper and what appears to be the instruction sheet inside. I found the bottle that should have been in it, buried in the bottom of the box.

You’d think, by now, I’d no longer be surprised by the things I find in the strangest of places, but … really. Why? Why was this here??

I’ve since tucked it into a place the cats and kittens can’t get into.

Meanwhile, the girls were able to seal up the top of the cold water pipe in the kitchen, allowing us to turn the water back on to the house.

Tomorrow, I’m off to the hardware store, as soon as it opens!

I figure, we may as well replace both of the flexible hoses, which I’ve seen in kits for both hot and cold water.

And maybe get some shut off valves, too.

The Re-Farmer