Thursday, December 24, 2015

Fa La La La La

One thing you never want to hear when you drain your bathroom sink is a 'bloop, bloop, bloop' response from your toilet.  Trust me, you don't want to hear any comments from your toilet.  Ever.  And especially not two days before Christmas.

Erma Bombeck was right when she said the grass is always greener over the septic tank; I'd noticed that myself for the last few weeks.  Of course Optimistic Carl always tries to put my silly worries to rest, "It's probably nothing, maybe the air vent on the roof is blocked or something."

 I had to admit he might be right, since the toilet remained silent most of the time.  Until Wednesday morning when it simply refused to flush.

Oh oh.

One thing your eldest son never wants to hear when he stops in for a visit on his day off from work is his mother saying, "The toilet won't flush, your dad is at work and I don't know what to do."

I gave Joel the run down on what the possibilities could be, I'd done some reading on the interwebs about vent pipe blockage and had just watched a YouTube video of one of the 'Ask This Old House' plumbers clearing a blocked vent for a frazzled homeowner.  If all we had to do was haul a hose up to the roof vent and run some water down to check for a blockage, well, that sounds easy.  We were lucky, the temperature was in the completely unseasonable record-breaking 50's, now would be a good time for an inspection before we're socked in with ice and snow. 

(Listen to me, talking all smart, and what's with the 'we' part of that statement?  Do I have a mouse in my pocket?)

Joel was completely on board with the plan, and out the door we went to fetch the tall stepladder.  Just as we exited the house, it started to rain.  Oh, great, just what we need, more rain.  Joel set up the ladder and put one foot on the roof of the house only to find the shingles were very slippery.  I told him to forget it, it's not worth falling off the roof.  His next plan was to get the big extension ladder out of Carl's shop, which proved to be almost more dangerous than going up on the roof due to the extent of the contents of the building.

Finally we had the ladder propped up against the house and with me standing on the bottom rungs to keep it from sliding out, Joel went up on the roof with a flashlight and a garden hose.  He ran water down the vent pipe and nothing happened, so he asked me to run down to the basement and see if I could hear water running through the pipe.  Yes, I could hear it running, so apparently the pipe wasn't blocked.  He handed the hose down to me and I laid it on the lawn.  As I was headed back to the end of the ladder to hold it for his descent, I noticed water bubbling up out of the ground.

Oh oh.

One thing you never want to see is water bubbling out of the ground.  Especially near your septic tank.  Ever.  Trust me.  It was then Joel and I knew we'd found the problem.  Gentlemen, start your wallets, this is not going to be cheap.  We stood there with the pelting rain running down our necks, surveying the situation.  Mother Nature, in an effort to show her dismay, commenced to pouring harder.  Time to go in for lunch. 

For those of you reading this (and I apologize for my subject matter) who don't live in the country, when you have a septic tank problem it's a Really Big Deal.  The only other possibly Bigger Deal is if your well develops a problem (shhhhh.......we don't want to give the well any ideas about acting up.)   I called Carl at work on his lunch break and he was still calm; it can't be the septic tank, we just had it pumped and inspected in June at the state-mandated three year interval;  it must be something else.

Well, I hated to burst his Optimistic Bubble because after Joel dug around some more in the malodorous muck, it was obvious the tank had failed.  Here is where I have to admit to homeowner cluelessness, I did not know that concrete septic tanks had a limited lifespan and neither did Carl, but after calling Ann's brother Fred who is a licensed septic installer, I was told that many tanks never get to the ripe old age of thirty-seven.  Who knew?  (Well, apparently Fred did, but he's a professional and runs into this sort of thing all the time.)  In fact some tanks can fail as early as ten or fifteen years, so we should be thankful ours lasted as long as it did.

And I am thankful, but this is really putting a crimp in my Christmas plans.  We're having dinner here for the family on Christmas Day.  Well, that was the plan, anyway.  Bright and early on Thursday morning, Christmas Eve, when most people are putting the finishing touches on their holiday festivities, we're having the septic tank pumped out.   (I was so lucky our regular hauler was available and agreeable.)

 Carl is on vacation tomorrow and with a little luck (and help from Joel and David) we can get the situation patched together and limping along until all the permits are filed and approved for a new system.  That is, if the weather remains mild, but January is a mere week away and this is Wisconsin after all; this bizarre weather pattern isn't likely to hold forever. And the permit process is never fast, especially with the holidays thrown in, so this could be a very long ordeal.  I washed dishes in a five gallon pail and hauled the water outside and on our way out of the hardware store tonight we visited the restroom...I think Mom will be seeing a lot more of us over the next few days for the use of her bathroom.

 Luckily we've been able to save some money for our house remodeling project which now won't happen again.  I guess that's the way it goes, in a way this is remodeling, but not in a place a person usually sees (or talks about).  I obviously haven't gotten an estimate yet but doing some more research online tonight I see it will easily run into many thousands of dollars.

Fa la la la la la.

However, I know it could be worse.  This is just One of Those Things we all have to deal with from time to time.   The old adage rings true, 'You never miss the water until the well runs dry.'

When this is all said and done, I will never take my toilet for granted again.  I promise.

And I never take Joel for granted, never ever!   Drenched and covered in unpleasant mud, he was as cheerful as ever helping me on his well-deserved day off of work.  Some vacation day he had, poor guy!  What a blessing he is to us; we are deeply grateful.

So, if you would, please think of us kindly here as we mud-dle our way through the mess.  We're having high wind warnings tonight, up to 50 mph, so with any luck, the house won't blow away.  (Shhhhh.....don't give Mother Nature any more ideas!)

Merry Christmas!


FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Oh dear Karen ~ what a thing to have happen now. I hope it won't cost you too dearly and that the work will all go smoothly.

May your Christmas be merry anyway and filled with lots of love, peace and joy and may 2016 be a very good year.

Love & hugs ~ FlowerLady

Peonies & Magnolias said...

Oh Karen, what a way to start the Christmas week and spend Christmas Eve. We live in the country and have had the same problems before. I hope y'all are able to get this fixed today and have a very Merry Christmas.


Alison said...

Merry Christmas, Karen! I hope you can manage to hang on till it's over, and that it's over soon. Sorry it is going to eat up your house remodeling budget. What a gift Joel is. We had plumbers here just yesterday as well, nowhere near as extensive as your problem, but still. Dang, plumbers are expensive.

Bonnie K said...

Merry Christmas. Hopefully, this will be a harbinger of a more prosperous new year.

Beth @ PlantPostings said...

Yikes! So sorry you had to deal with this during the holidays! I hope you're able to complete the project (or protect it in some way) before the snowstorm!

Garden Fancy said...

Karen, I'm so sorry to hear of your troubles! Those septic tanks are expensive -- we live in the country and have a septic tank that was probably put in 20+ years ago, so your post has me worried. I suppose there's not much we can do to avoid these costs -- if it's not the septic tank, it will be the roof or the heater will go out or some other major investment. I think you'll agree that it's still great to live in the country though.

Best Regards for the New Year -- and fingers crossed that the new tank is cheaper than you imagine,


outlawgardener said...

Oh Karen, I've been sending positive thoughts your way since I first read this and hope that things are getting better for you and this situation. I know lots of folks on septic systems and am always thankful for the city sewer service that we have!

Indie said...

Oh no! And at Christmastime too! We have a well, but thankfully we are on town septic. I would have no clue what to do either! So glad you have such great family members to help out!