So many! and… no wonder we were having problems

I counted 26 this morning!

It always amazes me how many of the cats have a preference for eating under the water bowl shelter. At one point, I counted 5 under there.

They also really appreciate that sheet of insulation under the kibble house in the winter. Every now and then, I’ll walk past the back of it and see a whole bunch of noses peaking out from under the back wall, where there is a much smaller gap.

I’ve been seeing Rosencrantz again and, unfortunately, she is looking pregnant, too. She had a really early litter last year, though not as early as Junk Pile did this year, and lost it. She went on to have a late second litter with 3 white and greys, Pinky, with his unique patches of mixed orange and grey fur, and a tortie.

For the third day in a row, Junk Pile followed me around while I was doing my rounds, all the way to the sign cam, and let me pick her up and carry her back to the house. She rode calmly in my arms, the back of her head nuzzled against my face. What a massive change in personality! I’ll take it, though. Hopefully, it means we’ll be able to catch her and get her spayed this year.

On a completely different note…

I made it to the Walmart with my mother’s car yesterday. I’m happy to say it ran well, and the roads that were so treacherous just a few days ago are now clear.

One of the things I was able to pick up was a universal fill valve and flapper kit for the toilet. We’ve been having issues for a while now, because … well… see for yourself.

That bit of white hose is almost completely blocked. It was taking forever for the tank to refill after flushing. The flapper would also get stuck slightly open, which meant the water was draining almost faster than it could be refilled. We would have to hold the lever down until the bowl was completely emptied, or the flapper wouldn’t close properly. The flow of water was so slow, it often wouldn’t finish flushing, so we’d have to wait 5 or 10 minutes to flush again.

The flapper couldn’t be replaced; there is something very different about it, and my daughter couldn’t even see how it was attached, but her sister scrubbed out as much of the gunk as she could, and it is working much better. The tank refills so much faster now! The only thing we have to tweak is how much water is in the bowl. For some reason, it has always been very low, and this old valve doesn’t seem to have any way to adjust water levels for the bowl; just the tank. Getting that adjusted will help a lot with reducing the clogs and slow drains we’ve had the entire time we’ve lived here! My daughters are also planning to scrub the inside of the tank as best they can, but it’s lines with Styrofoam insulation, which we have to be careful not to damage. I’ll have to look for the septic safe anti-iron tank tablets again. The last few times I’ve looked, they were out of stock. I’m hoping to avoid having to order online.

Oh, that reminds me. I made a quick stop at the post office on my way out, yesterday, and my new, low limit credit card was in. Once I was home again, I had to call the toll free number to activate it. Of course, the guy I spoke to had a whole spiel he had to give after activating it, to try and sell me insurance, so if I loose my job or something, the balance will be paid. Of course, I was laughing at that, since I cannot get a job. When I mentioned that I want to keep the limit low and just use the card to rebuild my credit rating, he finished off the call with some advice. He gave me the date for my billing cycle, which is the 7th. My intention was to use the card at the end of the month, for gas and groceries, when we do our city shopping, then pay it off right away. He suggested I wait until about 2 days before the due date, which would still be within the 21 day interest free grace period. Waiting to pay until just before the next billing cycle improves the credit rating faster. It would also be helpful to include regular automated payments taken from the card. This shows that the card is actually being used regularly. With the card I have, gas, groceries and automatic payments have a 1% cash back, while everything else has a .5% cash back. I don’t have anything I want to put on automatic payment, though. With our utilities, I like to pay manually, because I always over pay a bit, to build up a credit. That way, if we are ever in a pickle or things just get really tight for some reason, we could have a month or two of reduced payments, or even no payments at all, to free funds up in the budget.

Well, we’ll see how it goes.

What a difference!

I made a trip to the dump, then into town and, by the time I got back, it was time to top up the kibble trays and water bowls.

The bitty baby seems to have no problem being outside in general. It may be tiny, but it seems to have very good insulation! It definitely has developed a thick winter undercoat already. I was able to pick it up and pet it, but only briefly. I’d just finished with the food and water and wanted to make sure it had a chance to eat, before the bigguns’ inhaled it all.

Would you look at the size differences!! In the tray are four kittens from three litters. The grey and white is from the pump shack litter that had been the youngest before the bitties showed up. The white and orange butt just visible on the left is from Rosencrantz’s litter, so we’ve got four different litters represented here.


At the hardware store, I was able to find some more of the pipe maintenance stuff to use regularly and hopefully avoid another block. This stuff uses enzymes to help break down any grease and whatnot coating the pipes, so it could potentially even improve things. They had some of the iron fighting toilet tabs that I was unable to find when I was doing the monthly shopping in the city. It took some hunting, but I did find a couple of boxes of screw eye hooks that we can use to better secure the tarp covering the hole in the shed roof. I went looking through several stores for an outdoor dial type thermometer to put into the cats’ house, but could only find liquid thermometers, and there’s no way we’d be able to read one of those through a window. Apparently, outdoor thermometers are a seasonal thing. At least in our neck of the woods. That’s okay. I’ll just grab the one off the squash tunnel that we won’t be using next year. I’m very curious to see what the temperature is in the cats’ house compared to outside, both during the day, when the terrarium bulb is off, and after dusk, when it’s on.

Our highs over the next 4 days are supposed to get a bit milder, and not very windy. That will be a good time to see what we can do with the carport pieces we’ve found. I would love to find a way to set it up in the corner over the window into the old basement. Even if we only use half of it. A lot would depend on whether or not we can secure it from the wind. Oh… maybe that’s not a good spot, though. If it’s there, then we won’t be able to use the telescoping roof snow shovel. Last year, that side of the entry roof accumulated a drift of snow several feet thick in places!

Hmmm. We’ll have to think about that.

The Re-Farmer

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

Remembrance Day

Today is Remembrance Day, here in Canada. Since moving here, we typically have not gone anywhere to formally observe the day, since there is nothing local and, of course, no one was allowed to hold Remembrance Day ceremonies for the past two years.

Last night, though, I got a call from my mother. Her town was having their ceremonies again, starting with a pancake breakfast. She started talking about what was going on, and how she was planning to go, and I knew she was leading to a point, so I offered to drive her. Normally, she would head over with her walker, but it’s been getting harder for her to go far, these days. Plus, there’s a bitter wind out there! At least it’s not like last year; we had a long and mild fall, but we did get snow for Remembrance Day.

So this morning I headed out and went to the ceremonies with her.

They were really well done, and I was teary eyed more than a few times. The candles in the photo had a main candle for the day in general, and candles lit in memory of local people that died in WWI and WWII, another for those who passed on after the wars, and finally one for those serving now.

It was good to see my old Air Cadet squad is still around, though I did cringe for them a bit. They didn’t seem to have been well instructed for their parts in the ceremony, and were a bit lost at times. Having been on the drill team, I was disappointed to see they weren’t well trained in that respect at all – and I’m including their Lieutenants on that! The cadets did have military representatives to model, though, and that made a difference.

My mother was actually on better behaviour, though before things started, I got the story of just how badly the pianist played the last time there were ceremonies, and when speeches started, she was quick to criticise people for not speaking “well.” I told her it was great that they were up there at all, because a lot of people have a really hard time with public speaking or performances. She stopped making criticisms, so I’m hoping she accepted that, but maybe she just didn’t like my not joining her in her criticisms! 😄

Because of the weather, when things were concluded, they didn’t have a ceremonial parade of the wreaths to the cenotaph outdoors. Instead, the cadets and other military representatives were going to lay only 3 wreaths, and people were invited to join if they were up to it. Otherwise, we were invited for coffee and dainties. My mother considered staying, but didn’t see anyone she recognised, so she decided to just go home. It was a long time for her, so she was probably pretty tired, too. I’m glad I was able to drive her because, if I hadn’t, she said she would have walked the distance! It was only a few blocks, but it would easily have taken her at least half an hour to do it, with her need to stop and rest so often now, and it would have been absolutely miserable walking straight into that wind to get there! She does have the power chair my brother got for her, but she refuses to use it. *sigh*

For all the wind and cold, at least it was a bright and sunny day.

I have made sure to give the cats food and warm water before I left, but by the time I got back, the food was all gone, and while the heated water bowl still had a bit of water in it, the rest was frozen! Especially the big bowl. When I came out with more warm water for them, I had to take an ax to the ice in the big bowl. It wasn’t quite frozen solid, but it was pretty hard close!

I’m glad I ordered two 300g tubs of powdered lysine for the cats. I add about a quarter cup, maybe a bit less, to their kibble, and they get fed twice a day. Judging by how quickly the level is going down in the first tub, I would estimate we’ll go through three of these a month, so we’ll have to make sure to order more at least 3 more at the end of this month. More, if the budget allows. The cat lady says it takes 6 weeks for there to be a noticeable difference with the lysine, which means we’ve still got a couple more weeks or so. We are still seeing/hearing cats coughing and sneezing, and a few still have leaky eyes, but they do all seem to be improving. Whether it’s because of the lysine, or because they were already improving without it, I really can’t say. The lysine should act as a preventative, too, though, so if it’s working, and we keep using it, this should mean the end of their outbreaks. The only problem is, there’s no way to measure doses for individual cats. We just toss the kibble in the powder, and hope it’s enough.

I saw the bitty baby this morning, but I couldn’t see it when I came back. The sun was in just the right position to light up inside the cats’ house through the small south facing window in the entry, giving me a good view of the inside from the east facing window. I didn’t see the bitty baby, but I did notice a sheet of aluminum out near the litter box (which I’ve seen kittens using!) that shouldn’t have been there. The heat shield for the ceramic terrarium bulb was torn off! It should actually be okay, given how the fixture is positioned, but that’s not something I want to take a chance with, so we’re going to have to lift the roof and a daughter will have to climb in. While we’re at it, I want to add something to better support the timer for the heat bulb, because it keeps getting knocked loose from the top and ends up facing the floor. Without the light sensor facing a window, the heat bulb will stay on all the time, rather than being shut off during daylight hours. With the windows, there should be enough passive solar heat during the day, and it would not be good for them if things get too warm in there.

Hmm… I wonder if we have a thermometer we can spare to hang in there? Someplace in the middle, to get a sense of the ambient temperature, while still being visible from one of the windows. I don’t think we have a spare anywhere, but I might be going into town tomorrow, so maybe I can pick one up at the dollar store or something.

In other things, we’ve been finding water pooled in the entry way lately. That means that water from the kitchen sink is backing up the laundry drain, for all the care we are trying to take to not pour too much water down the sink at once. The block is getting worse. I was going to wait until the end of the month’s pay before calling a plumber, but we just can’t wait anymore. I don’t know what it’ll cost, but we do have this month’s payment to the tree company that chipped our branches for us. There is no formal arrangement on paying them back, and I think they’ll understand if we have to miss a month, or make a smaller payment, because we had to call a plumber. Who knows. It may not cost as much as I fear, and what we’ve been able to set aside for the plumber might be enough on its own. We were really happy with the guy that brought his auger to clear our pipe to the septic tank, so we will hopefully be able to get him again. This being Remembrance Day, I didn’t phone him, but I did sent a message through his website’s contact form, explaining our problem.

I hope to hear back from him soon. It’ll be nice to not have to run the hose from the washing machine through the front doors in the winter!

The Re-Farmer


Last night, my younger daughter was able to crawl under the kitchen sink and get it fixed. Yay!

This the old stuff she removed.

What a mess! Just disintegrated!

The sink the pieces are in was much like this when she fixed it our first spring here.

The new drain kit is very different. The cup is deeper, and it has a completely different stopper, both in how it fits in the drain, and aesthetic appearances. I didn’t see it until later, or I would have included it in the picture. It’s not standard at all, and I don’t recall seeing replacements of it anywhere. I’m thinking, if I ever do see a replacement stopper in that style, I’d better pick up some extras, just in case. I suspect they will be harder to find compared to the usual design. Still, I’m happy with the design. I think it actually works better than the standard ones.

I really appreciate that my younger daughter is up to being our plumber for jobs like this. She’s the most able bodied in our household! I might be able to get under the sink if I really had to, but I’d probably need someone to help me get back up again. I’m much better suited to doing the outdoor stuff! 😀

The Re-Farmer

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.


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.


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?




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.


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.


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.


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