Along with the huge tracts of land, the fresh, manure-scented air and the neighbors way-off-over there that comes with rural living, there is also the septic tank.
Now if you are a city girl, like li'l
-ole-me, you will find that the prospect of having all your waste go, not into large rat and alligator infested
pipes, but into a large buried
tank or two under your back pasture both reassuring and unsettling. Reassuring, as there is no chance that a large sewer rat or flushed former pet alligator will crawl up your pipes and bite you in the butt as you are taking care of the necessities of life at 2am, (with the bathroom light off so you don't fully wake and can go right back to sleep). Unsettling, as, well, what the hell do you do
with a septic system?
I mean, really!
You poo. You flush. It goes... but it stays.
Our contractor friend, who shepherded us through the basement finishing and such that we had done before we moved in 3 years ago, told me that there were a few things to do:
- Don't flush tampons down, because hoooeeee! they'll never degrade and you really don't want that backing up your system.
- Don't forget to have the septic guy out from time to time to empty the tank or hoooeee! that'll be a mess if it backs up your system.
- Take this (hands me a large plastic bag of brown grainy stuff) and flush the whole thing down your toilet tonight because those are enzymes and stuff to keep you septic system happy and chowing on all that you flush down there. If your system (basically a teeming soup of bacteria) goes belly-up, hooooeeee! you're screwed.
"Good luck to you!"
"That's it?" I asked.
"Basically!" he said and went off yet again to try to call Brad, the damned tile and carpet guy who was supposed to have not only the tile but the basement carpet in 2 weeks ago and was no where to be found.
Caught up as we were, in all the renovations and moving and all and then it was spring (and you know what spring does to me) and then summer and then fall and then it was the holidays and then everything was covered with snow and it was spring again and so on and so on and so stupidly on.
Occasionally, I'd dump more instant enzyme-and-bacteria brown stuff down the crapper.
Last summer, though, as the bugs ravaged my garden and the deer nibbled on the baby trees, I decided it was time to turn my thoughts to poop. I did what I always do, pulled up Dr google and looked up septic maintenance. Turns out that you should have the damned thing sucked out every 3 years or so, more if you use your facilities more than the average bear. (Do we? Don't we? I don't know. We have a good amount of fiber in our diet. Our stools are not anemic, little things but stools of substance.)
So, I dumped more brown stuff down the crapper and pondered calling someone out to attend to that.
The next month, September, I called a local septic maintenance (sucker-outer) company. They didn't return my call. A week later, I called another. They didn't return my call. A week after that, I called a third and set up for them to come out sometime, by the end of October at the latest.
November, they called and said that they'd had some problems of a family nature (I think there was death or something. Anyway, something that I'd have felt guilty in saying anything but "Oh, no! That's fine! Come when you can.") and said they'd be there when they could.
December was full of holidays.
January, they called and noted that, as it had finally snowed, it would be hard to get the truck down to access the tanks. I agreed. A few days later, I was surprised when a large (and by large, I mean huge) truck with a tank on the back pulled into the driveway and a guy, who looked like one of those guys from ZZ Top, knocked on my door. He was the owner of the septic company and was in the neighborhood and wanted to just check on our tank, to make sure we could wait.
Lovely. How kind.
We were reassured that we were "fine" and in no eminent danger of any regurgitating toilets. I slept well that night.
February, late one afternoon, as things were all melting for the first time, the huge tanker pulled up into our drive. Mr ZZ Top and son were in the neighborhood and decided to tackle our tank.
I looked at the behemoth tanker with assorted hoses and 6 massive tires to 'git 'er there', and voiced my concern that, as the ground was wet and soggy with all the melting snow, wasn't getting stuck a concern?
"Nah," was the opinion of Mr Top and son. It's still frozen good. Will be no problem.
I bowed to experience, hair and those large rubber boots best used for mucking out barns and such and went back in the house to watch the proceedings through the window.
Then things went down hill.
We have two septic tanks, both active (who knew?) , one about 100' from the house, the other about 200' from the first, downhill, by the path. They drove the truck down our yard, maneuvered it so it was in place, and drained the lower one. Then, they drove it around a bit and ended up by the top tank and began siphoning off the nasty.
It was at this point that Mr Top came up, puffing on his ever-present unfiltered Camel, and explained that it was a very good thing that they were doing this today. Seems that either no one had ever emptied the lower tank, EVER, or no one had ever emptied either of the tanks EVER and the top had flowed over to the bottom one. In any case, we'd not have lasted until summer, probably not even until spring without a seriously smelly and soberingly spendy situation requiring new carpets and back-hoes. He wasn't sure how he missed the direness of the situation when he came by the first time, but guessed that probably it was that the lower tank was covered with snow and he didn't know it was there.
I explained that there was no way to know which it was, as we didn't know the previous owners or the septic tank's history of maintenance. His look was one of a mixture of exasperation and disbelief that we'd not know such an important piece of information. Information that was akin to, well, really there's nothing that comes close to the importance of knowing one's septic tank maintenance history.
I guess I get it. I mean, I'm a little bit like this when a patient comes in ill with several different medications (of which they have no idea what they are or are for) and allergies to 'some of those antibiotics; one almost killed me'.
At least I can usually call the pharmacy for some of the information.
So, Mr Top and son (who looked nothing like his dad, being short haired, clean-shaven and skinny) finished up and prepared to depart.
And then they didn't.
Gee. Soft ground. Huge truck, now carrying the extra weight of 2 full septic tanks which may not have been emptied in 10 years, the last 3 years at least being filled by high-fiber folks.
Yar. Their wheels could find no purchase. So, they backed up and took another run at the slope to the driveway. And another. And then went down farther back to get a longer run. And then went down and around the east pasture. And then back around and finally up to the drive.
Mr Top came out and looked at all the long, large ruts in the grass, made by those 6 huge tires and guessed that the ground was softer than he thought. Had he come out when it was dry (like in October) or frozen (like in November or December), it wouldn't have been a problem.
Hard to say with things like that.
At that point I bit my tongue in half in my effort not to say those 4 little words:
I TOLD YOU SO!
But, as they had come out (6 months after the original call, admittedly) unlike the other companies I'd called, and, landscaping issues aside, he had done a good job and no harm had come to the septic systems, which would have happened had much more time gone by, I felt that muteness had its virtues and smiled and waved as they drove away, leaving huge ruts in the gravel-and-mud morass that was the driveway.
But I want to say it again, now that they are out of earshot: I FUCKING TOLD YOU SO!!!!!
Boy, does that feel better. Plus, I'm guessing that, along with all the grass they euthanized, they also took out a thistle or two and hundreds of dandelions.
Money well spent.
Grass seed, anyone?
Labels: The Life Rural