We Have a Functional Septic System!

We knew there were issues with the septic system when we bought the house, the big thing being that the line from the tank to the drain field had to be replaced. Knowing that, we allocated money in our budget for that operation based on a local expert’s estimate.

Unfortunately, none of us thought about the line from the house to the tank and about a third of it also had to be replaced adding a bit more cost we hadn’t planned on. Drat! All in all, though, the vendors who did the work did a great job of keeping the costs down in addition to doing great work.

From the House to the Tank

The problematic pipe from the house to the tank was of a type called Orangeburg (Wikipedia). Orangeburg was made of layers of wood pulp and pitch pressed together. So, essentially, a tube made of rolled up tar paper. Yeah. That’s a great idea. Well, actually not so much.

Over time the pipe is slowly crushed by the earth around it to the point where little or nothing can pass through any more. Ours had gotten to that point.

Oddly enough, the other two thirds of the pipe from the house is iron and in fine shape. You really have to wonder why they didn’t use iron all the way to the tank.

So they had to tear up our beautiful driveway and dig a trench to replace the Orangeburg. Bummer.

Driveway before
Before
Cutting the asphalt
Cutting the asphalt

Driveway afterward
After

From the Tank to the Drain Field

The line from the tank to the drain field was made of corrugated plastic pipe which had also slowly been crushed over the years.

The plan was to replace this with high-density polyethylene pipe using a pipe-bursting machine (Wikipedia). Basically, you feed a very thick cable (7/8″?), through the old pipe and then pull the new pipe through, shattering the old pipe in the process. This is really great since you only have to dig a couple of holes for the entry and exit instead of trenching. Or so goes the theory.

In this case we ran into a problem. It turns out that pipe bursting doesn’t work so well with corrugated pipe. Instead of bursting, it just condenses like an accordion. You can see it in a video further along in the post.

In the end they had to dig a trench for part of that replacement too. Not a big deal, though, since it’s just out in the field.

The pipe-bursting process is pretty interesting.

This is the head that attaches to the new pipe and the cable. That’s 4-inch pipe on the left.

Bullet head
The head that bursts the old pipe

The 20-foot sections of pipe are literally welded together. The two ends are clamped into a gadget that keeps them perfectly aligned. A special tool is then used to even up the ends so that they mate exactly. Finally, a heating iron is clamped between them until the ends begin to melt and finally, the iron is removed and the ends are clamped together until the joint cools. Voila! a single piece of pipe.

Pipe joint
Welding the sections of pipe
Welded sections of pipe
Welded sections

Here you can see the front of the new pipe being pulled through an intermediate hole that was required because of the length of the run. You can also see some of the compressed corrugated pipe.

So, seven weeks from closing to having a septic system we can actually use.

I had no idea how satisfying it could be to flush a toilet 😉

Roses

Dave’s been super busy inside the house dismantling things. While he’s been doing that, I’ve been spending a lot of time at home paying bills, balancing checking accounts, sending and receiving house-related email… all sorts of things, but mostly those seemingly endless tasks that are never.quite.done.

The weather has been delightful (cool and sunny), and so I took my clippers and a large bucket over to our house, and attacked the roses. When we first saw the house, the rose hedge was still blooming cheerfully. The leaves were bright and shiny with no sign of either pests or mildew, but it was in serious need of deadheading.

That was in late August. The roses have continued to bloom all this time (in fact, they’re still blooming, and they’re still covered with new buds), so I’m sure you can imagine how many rose hips have been growing where the delicate blooms once were. Yeah.

I filled up my bucket with dead blooms and rose hips four times that first day. I also nipped quite a few long suckers out of the way. I didn’t bother trying to cut those up just to fit them into my bucket, instead carrying their long selves down to the burn pile more-or-less intact.

Saturday I was at it again. I filled my large yellow bucket four more times, and carried countless long suckers down to that burn pile. I also found this little guy. I don’t know if he’s a carrot-nosed ghost masquerading as a snowman, or a spooky snowman. Either way, he has taken up residence on the mantel with the other odd bits that we’ve been finding while working on our house.

Instead of leaving you with a photo of how awesome the rose hedge looks now, because I forgot to take a picture of it, I’ll leave you with a view of our pond. It’s rained quite a bit since August, and so it has actual water in it now. Part way through my pruning campaign I decided to take a little walk through part of our yard. Here I’m standing on the west side of the pond, looking back toward the house. That colorful tree over on the right is our baby willow. There are tons of weeds in the pond as well as around it, but the task of sorting that all out will have to wait.

Score!

So, the other day I started pulling up the carpet in the family room. The first thing to do, of course, was to remove the heat vent grills.

Puling up one of them revealed something shiny. Ooh! what have we here? Aha! it’s a dime. That brings us up to 26 cents. Yee haw!

Wait. There’s more down there. What is it? Wow! five little cars and a Thomas the Tank locomotive. Score!

(picture of the cars and locomotive)
Our New Fleet

Some little kid must have been bummed. Laura contends an older sibling put them down on purpose. I think think the kid might have done it himself.

Indoor board and batten begins to come down

Monday

On Monday we decided it was “sweep the barn day.” So, we swept the barn. Dave worked on the loft while I swept downstairs. The weather was perfect for manual labor. Well before we were done we were both down to our shirtsleeves, even though it was in the low 50s out there, and the barn doors were wide open.

Dave started by stacking the bales of straw. There are nine of them. The straw and hay ladder will be going to friends who have horses.

I created this pile of, er, sweepings, by attacking this one corner with my broom. I wonder how long it’s been since the barn’s been swept. I’m thinking it’d been quite a while.

More progress! I still have to get in under the sink, behind the wood stoves, and behind the huge air compressor. The easy stuff, the middle of the room, is done now, though. To be Ansel-safe, though, the icky parts in the corners need to be cleaned up, too. No telling what’s back there. I’m sure it’s stuff we don’t want our little boy getting into, whatever it is. Ick.

Tuesday

Dave went up to the house without me, so that I could get some stuff done at my desk for a change. You know, the fun things, like paying bills, balancing checkbooks, and the like. He worked between appointments there. The locksmith came by and changed the lock on the mailbox (the tenant forgot to leave the key for us), the insurance company’s photographer swung by to take some photos, the pest guy came by to say he couldn’t treat for the beetles we have as his truck with that equipment on it needs fixing, but while he was there he treated for carpenter ants and the wasps that we found in the wall a few days before, and… I forget what else happened. I know I’m forgetting someone.

His tasks for the day started with getting up the last of the linoleum from the floor in his office. Well, as much as he could. There’s this one area that’s stuck pretty good. Neither the floor scraper nor the crowbar will lift it. Suggestions, anyone?

We’re hoping that the linoleum in the TV room and downstairs guest room don’t need to be pulled before hardwood goes down, so Dave finished cleaning the carpet pad off the TV room floor as best he could. Those yellow bits are resisting, but super thin. Here’s hoping.

The walls in Dave’s office and the library are board and batten where there’s no brick. Rough cut planks. I don’t know for sure if they are leftovers from the exterior of the house, but to me they look like they might be. Dave might disagree. I don’t think I’ve thought to bring up the topic when he’s been around. Either way, though this is a picture of the outside of the house, and the boards have been painted, this is a good example of what the indoor walls look like, too. This is also shows how lovely (cough) the house looks with more of those white plastic shutters removed.

Next he attacked the walls downstairs. He left walls alone that have switches or outlets or anything else electrical for another day, as we want Ansel to be safe when he comes to visit.

Dave’s wall before

Dave’s wall after

You may have noticed the insulation on the wall. That’s an interior wall. The other side of that wall is the TV room. There’s no insulation on exterior walls in this room, so he left the paneling on those walls for now. What with winter coming on, it could get cold in there with nothing between you and the weather but one layer of 40-year-old cedar exterior siding. Brr.

Dave worked on the library walls a bit, too, again leaving panels where electrical wires could get tangled in Ansel’s sweet little paws.

Wondering what was surprising? Dave found four of these sad little mouse carcasses when he was taking the walls down.

The demolition begins

Dave and I spent about five hours over at our house (that sounds so strange!) yesterday. Mostly we ripped out the carpeting in the TV room and the guest room downstairs. We (meaning Dave) also got started ripping out the carpet in his office, but let’s back up a tiny bit. We also narrowly avoided (especially Dave) getting stung by a bunch of startled wasps.

When we closed escrow we only received two keys, the only two keys that the seller had, both unlocking all exterior doors around the house. The mailbox key? The garage door remotes? Gone. Kept by the last tenants, apparently. Arg. To help keep all and sundry out of our new house, we bought a couple new deadbolts. Dave installed the second one when we got there yesterday. To keep myself busy while he was swapping out the deadbolt on the kitchen door, I took a screwdriver and removed switch plate covers around the living room and dining room, avoiding anything that didn’t use a standard screwdriver. When he was done with the lock, Dave attacked one of the places where cable comes into the house in the living room. Then, suddenly, he was backing up fast, batting at his hair, and making strange noises. You’d be making strange noises, and flailing around, too, if you were suddenly attacked by a bunch of wasps.

Here he’s calmed down a bit, but mostly because he had a can of “instant death” in hand to help fight off the swarm.

We opened up what windows we could (the front windows are glued shut), the door, anything to try to encourage the mean-spirited wee beasties to beat a hasty retreat. (A couple hours later, when all but one were dead or departed, I used the included fireplace tools to sweep up the carcasses, and dump them outside. I also pushed the cover back over the hole the wasps emerged from, to encourage them to stay put.) Later on we found where they’re entering the house. We’ll deal with that another day.

We’d thought to maybe start pulling up the rugs upstairs first off, but decided to begin downstairs. Just in case.

We started with the old mottled brown carpet in the TV room. It matches, sort of, the carpet on the stairs and upper hallway. Really terrifying stuff. We started pulling it up, and were surprised by what we found. No tack strips. No padding layer. Nope. Here we had a thin layer of padding stuff that was stuck to the bottom of the carpet… and to the classic brown linoleum floor below.

And here we were thinking that the carpet was horrible because it was original to the house. Nope. Turns out it’s horrible, because it’s horrible.

(P.S. Everyone wants a water heater in their TV room closet, right?)

Well, that was fun. Yes, we left a bunch of the pad on the floor for later. We moved on to the downstairs guest room.

This is what we were expecting. Tack strip. Pad. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Wait a second, though. Yes, that’s right. They installed the built-in bookcase over the carpet. Oy.

What’s underneath? More brown linoleum, like in the TV room.

Next surprise: they glued the tack strip to the old linoleum floor.

What we both found interesting is that this room looks bigger without the light colored carpet. Must be the shine on the linoleum.

Moving on to Dave’s office we (well, Dave) pulls off the baseboards in preparation.

These walls are horrible. They’ve been a source of frustration for people for quite a while. So far, in pulling out the baseboards and carpeting in Dave’s office we’ve gotten rich, found one red die, and a little plastic toy thing. I wonder what else we’ll find.

In this room, the thin dark brown carpeting is stuck so well to the linoleum that it’s easier to pull up the linoleum than to pull the carpet off of it. So that’s what’s happening here. Strip by painful strip. These things weigh a ton. Dave’s currently wishing he was about 20 years younger. Maybe more. Ouch.

You know what, though? The room already looks tons bigger. Looking forward to getting the rough-cut paneling off the walls in here, too, but that will have to wait until another day.