Sunday, November 13, 2016

Septic Installation

Frosty Friday Morning: The End of a Garden

When I woke up on Friday morning, I decided to take one last picture of the old back yard before chaos ensued.  Carl was outside by 6AM, scurrying around with last minute details.  

I crawled out of bed at 7AM and put some finishing touches on the food I'd prepared the night before for the work crew.  For once I'd thought ahead and made lasagna, a salad and peanut butter bars on Thursday night.  I had finished the dishes at 1AM which was a good thing, because I couldn't run any water after the lines from the house plumbing were disconnected.  The old 'you never miss the water until the well runs dry' adage is very true, you forget how many times you need to wash your hands or rinse something or use the bathroom until you can't.  We are very spoiled with our modern conveniences. 

By 7:15AM, Fred and Glen, the excavator, were getting started digging. 
 Here we go!
    I had put a call into the septic pumper who was to arrive by 8AM to pump out the old tank so it could be removed.  By 7:30 Carl and I went up to get two of our tractors home from Mom's house. The 184 wouldn't start again, so we had to pull it.  Once it was running, we both headed home to hook up the smaller tractor to the dump trailer.  The topsoil could be hauled away to a pile as the excavator removed it, freeing up some space in the cramped area.

Sadly, just as the trailer was loaded, the 184 stalled again and wouldn't start, this time because it was out of gas.  Carl hollered to me to get the 574 and the chains to pull him and the trailer out of the way.  (How embarrassing we are with our old machinery, sigh.)

After I had towed Carl and the 184 back out to the windmill, Fred asked Carl if he wanted to use his skidsteer to haul the soil away instead.  Carl declined.  He said if he used the nice skidsteer, he'd get spoiled and want to buy one, "I'll go to town to get gas for the tractors and I'll be right back." 

 Carl told me to do what I could while he was gone and keep an eye out for the septic pumper so I could pay him right away.  I was at loose ends after he left and decided the only thing that needed doing was the topsoil removal.  Fred and Glen were busy digging and the pile was getting taller.....well, I knew Carl didn't want to use the skidsteer, but maybe I could?

Old tank in the foreground, looks like a black wall

 I asked Fred if he thought I was capable and off we went for a quick tutorial.  The first thing I did was snub the engine out; when I turned around to sit down in the cab I bumped the steering controls with my ample derrierre and the safety switch killed the motor.  (Ha, I'm sure Fred was thinking maybe this wasn't such a great idea.)  Ok, I got myself situated, applied the seatbelt, pressed the restart button until the red light went out and restarted the engine.  

The next few minutes were spent in general confusion; the machine's bucket is raised, lowered, and tipped using left and right foot pedals.  Ok, think, Karen!  You can do this...Fred kindly left to go back to work on the trench while I clumsily tried out my coordination skills.  If I push down with my left toe, that will lower the bucket and raise the machine, if I push down with my right heel that will tilt the bucket for dumping, or wait.... does the right foot pedal operate the tilt or the lift?  See? I already forgot!

Anyway, after fiddling around with the foot pedals in private, I finally felt confident enough to use the levers (one on each side just like my zero-turning-radius lawn mower) and proceeded to move forward across the lawn at a crawl.  Thank goodness steering wasn't a problem at all, years of the ZTR mower have paid off.  As I approached the pile, I tilted when I should have lowered and had to stop and get my bearings again.  But eventually, I figured it out, scooped up my first load, backed around the gazebo and headed for the lane to dump the soil in a pile.  After the second load I was a tad more confident and managed to up my speed to a brisk walking pace.   We're rollin' now.  

Then I remembered I was supposed to be waiting for the septic pumper guy, darn!  What time is it?  Joel was going to come from work to lend us a hand and as I was hauling the next loads I called him from the cab of the skidsteer. 

"How do you feel about driving the skidsteer?" I yelled over the noise of the diesel.

"That would be alright," he said.  (Or possibly yelled, because I could barely hear him.) 

"Ok, come find me when you get here," I yelled again.  

Joel arrived about twenty minutes later and we switched jobs.  I gave him a quick tutorial on the skidsteer and in a fraction of the time it took me to figure out the nuances of the machine, he was off and hauling.
Joel hauling sand
After I made my way back up to the construction site, I realized I must have missed the septic tank guy; Joel said the bill was hanging on the refrigerator.  In the short time I'd been hauling sand and Carl had been off getting gasoline in town, the first tank was ready to be put in the new hole.

It turns out our old concrete septic tank was in really bad shape, the cover and the north wall were rotted through.  The side facing the house was surprisingly stout yet, though.  Instead of digging the concrete out, they decided to collapse the walls and bury the old one and put the new tanks to the west.

Once the first tank was in, Joel brought up some of the fresh sand we'd had delivered to put in the hole and Carl and Fred shoveled it in place.

Then digging started on the hole for the second tank.

Taking pictures of the installation may seem rather silly, but to have them to refer to in the future for just where something is buried is invaluable.  I went in the house to put the lasagna in the oven and when I came out the back door, Carl told me to take the 'classic garden shot' I often take from the porch.  
Well, that's not so bad, is it?  Except for the piles of dirt, things look pretty normal. 

That is, until you turn the corner:

Whoa!  What happened to the backyard?  Ha.  It's a good thing we're used to construction, it's always a chance to make sweeping changes; but I will say, it's still startling.   Joel and I had gone to get plumbing parts for Fred in Green Bay and when we came back home I was amazed at how everything had changed yet again.

 Just a few short weeks ago, Bubblegum petunias scrambled across the ground and the grass was green.................

And now, um.....well...........never mind.  Remember how nice it is to have a potty in the house and carry on, Wayward Gardener.   To quote Monty Python and the 'Search for the Holy Grail', 'Tis merely a flesh (er.....sod?)  wound.'

Once the second tank was in place, it was time to start digging the trench to connect the septic tanks to the mound system, over two hundred feet away.  

Here's where I confess I was surprised again, I knew they had to dig a trench from the tanks to the mound to put the pipes in, but I didn't account for the size of the excavation. So what I'd envisioned as a 'small trench' wasn't accurate.

The trench starts behind the last septic tank, past the Gazebo.....

Past the barn and chicken coop..............
 Past the hosta bed...........
 The campfire ring.................
 In front of Castle Aaargh..............(there's Ann!  She came on her day off to help us, what a friend!)
 and then we took a break for lunch.

After we'd had our fill, it was back to work.

There's Ann, climbing into the trenches and shoveling, laying the insulation over the pipes and helping wherever she was needed.  She is amazing, isn't she?
 Here the trench is going around the corner past the Quarry and out to the mound.  Carl bought insulation to hopefully prevent the pipes from freezing. 
 When Joel wasn't driving skidsteer or tractor, he was also in the trenches.

Look how much dirt Ann shovelled!
 After all the pipe was installed in the trench, the area could be backfilled.

 Just like that, all the piles disappeared and the area is flat again. 
The next step was finishing up some of the work on the tanks themselves, but in less than eight hours, we have indoor plumbing again! 

We still have a lot of work to do.  The entire area will settle for probably a few years, but I would think the most settling will occur over winter into next spring.  Since it's mid-November there's really no point in planting grass seed either.  We're just going to rake the lawn as flat as possible and try to uncover any sod that is covered up.  

On Saturday Carl and I walked around in circles in the back yard, trying to figure out how to proceed.  The new septic tanks are offset from the old one and the three covers are in a rather awkward position which won't line up if we put the River Bed back in.  

We discussed all sorts of options; I propped myself up on my shovel and kicked the clods of dirt around.  Should we forget about reconstructing the River Bed and just plant grass?  Or should we move some dwarf conifers into the area?  But then we'd have more weeding to do, which doesn't fit in with Carl's mission of 'Cutting Back by 50%'. 

Since the River Bed won't work in the space any more, then we had a really controversial thought---what if the Gazebo was moved?  Should we try to move it, or just tear it down?  What would it look like if it were gone?  That would be a huge change; would it be for the better?

I texted Joel about it and his conclusion was much the same as ours; it could stay or it could go.  Hornets have taken up residence in the rafters every season, pesky things.   And we all remember a few years back when an entire wedding party climbed up there for photography which made us all uneasy, we don't need anyone getting hurt.  We  don't sit in it all that much because there's too much work around here.  So maybe demolition would be the better option; then we could put the big circus tent up for shade in the space when we have booyah parties. 

But......this isn't an easy decision for either of us, we built the gazebo in 1982 when we were 24 years old and as Carl says, we didn't know what we were doing at the time.  It should have been constructed at ground height instead of raised and it's always been rather awkward-looking.  The posts are pressure treated lumber buried in the ground, we have no idea how long the structure will stand anyway.  So do we waste precious time (and money) trying to move it?  Carl's take on it is we'd need to pour a concrete floor/foundation and then hire a crane to come in and lift the roof off.  The roof is still in good shape and is very heavy, but even if we do move it, where do we put it?  My thoughts are to cut the posts off slowly, a little at a time and lower the roof to the ground.  Then we could remove the railings, buy new posts and reassemble the gazebo elsewhere.  

Or we could always just tear it down.  Or leave it stand.  Decisions, decisions.

This morning (Sunday) we are working on covering the mound with hay to guard against the system freezing over the winter.

All the while we've been working on covering the mound today, we've been discussing the fate of the River Bed and Gazebo area.  With any luck, we'll come to a meeting of the minds soon.

The old backyard.......she ain't what she used to be.

But change can be good, too.

Our thanks to Fred, Glen, Ann and Joel for their hard work, it's amazing what can be accomplished in such a short time! 


Sue said...

Oh Karen,you're sure keeping a good spirit through this. I'm so so sorry about your beautiful gardens---but I just know you'll make it amazing again.

FlowerLady Lorraine said...

Yes, change can be good, it just takes time getting used to.

Your wonderful sense of humor comes through once again.

How nice to have your water turned back on by the end of the day.

I love you all and the hard work that you do there at Quarry Gardens is amazing.


outlawgardener said...

You have a great attitude about this! What a huge job but thankfully pretty much done in a day so that you can use the indoor facilities. You are such an amazing family and next summer, you'll have made a gorgeous new garden space. I didn't notice a lot of rocks in that soil they were digging out - cool!

Karen said...

Sue, thank you for the vote of confidence, we're really going to need all the help we can get! Tearing down (or moving) the gazebo is still consuming me at the moment. Hopefully, it will snow soon, and I'll have to cool my jets 'til spring. I'm sure that's Carl's hope, too.

Karen said...

FlowerLady, oh, yes, it is such a luxury to have plumbing and running water, isn't it? We take things for granted far too often. I'm rather hopeful about the way the garden might turn out, one thing always leads to another around here. :-)

Karen said...

outlawgardener, Thank you. Yes, the job went very quickly with minimal disruption. We are so thankful to have a knowledgeable contractor. There really aren't too many rocks to pick up, maybe a wheelbarrow load. Of course, Carl would have been thrilled if they would have found a boulder; that would have been a huge bonus for us, ha.