"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Miracles in the Septic Field

I know very well that miracles aren’t sprinkled about for the taking, like Hansel and Gretel’s bread crumbs.  Although, on the big box across the room, a Tiger is prowling the greens at Augusta, manufacturing his own miracle-to-may-be.

I had plans to be outside as soon as the temperature climbed into the 40s.  Now, flashes of Tiger’s former magic have me mesmerized and stuck inside on this sunny day in early April.  He was umpteen under the lead when The Masters began this morning.  Now he’s tied for first place with the guy who’s led for three days of play. 

But, I’m not here to discuss golf;  I’m here to tell you about a miracle that visited me yesterday.  Almost.  Almost a miracle.  Actually, almost several miracles.

Is this the site of a miracle?

A little back story first. 

For two months I’ve been fighting the Battle of the Septic System.  It began when cold temperatures and a lack of sufficient snow to insulate underground septic lines caused the floats in the lift station to freeze in place.  Because of that, the pump never received a signal to turn on, the tank over-filled, backed up into the incoming and outgoing lines, and froze solid.  I discovered it when the downstairs toilet almost overflowed. 

Bob, the Roto-Rooter man, thawed the line from the house to the tank but the line to the leach field remained frozen.  Only Mother Nature can thaw that one.

The infamous, freezing lift station.

Thus, every couple days I have to drop a line into the tank, hook it to a little Honda gas pump, and pump the liquid into the inspection tube in the leach field.  Except, the first time I didn’t catch it soon enough and a week later Bob had to come back and thaw the line again.

So, every other day, I’d hook up the pump and draw down the level in the tank so it didn’t back-feed into the line from the house and freeze again.  Then I went to Germany for two weeks.  Same old play-in-the-septic-system game when I returned.

Then the line froze again.  My fault.  I let the liquid level rise so the pump would come on and I could see if the leach field line had thawed in my absence.  The pump never came on and the line from the house froze again last Wednesday.

Under the deck access to the frozen line.

The Roto-Rooter guy couldn’t get in my driveway because the snow in the driveway is rotten and there were four inches of new, wet snow.   He said he’d get stuck, but was having new tires put on his truck Friday.  He’d be over Saturday.  I was back to peeing in a bucket again.

A blizzard blew through Thursday, with some places near me experiencing 100 mph winds.  Not much in the way of snow, though.  Friday, needing a shower and a hair washing very much, I tried to thaw the line myself.  I taped a hose to a steel snake and ran hot water down the frozen line for a couple hours.

The steel snake to which I duct-taped a hose.

I finally gave up in late afternoon and when I tried to pump the water out of the line so it wouldn’t freeze, my gas pumped seized up.  Saturday morning I tried again with an electric pump—but there was no water in the line. 

In fact, the line was empty.  Apparently the hot water had thawed it overnight, I thought.  Huh!  A wee miracle.

I ran inside, took a long hot shower, washed my hair, did two loads of laundry, emptied and sanitized the various buckets I'd been using and put them away.  In celebration, I cleaned the outside of windows.   Then, I pumped down the lift station tank with the electric pump.

Now to test the leach field line.  The pump wouldn’t turn on.   I called a local guy, Dave, to track down that problem.  He found the pump works on manual, but not on automatic.  The leach field line, however, remains frozen, and Dave will return to track down the remaining wiring problem with the pump and high water alarm system.

Then Bob the Roto-Rooter guy called and erased the miracle of the self-thawed line.  He had been at my house early in the morning and thawed the line while I slept through the noise right outside my bedroom window. 

Dave took the gas pump home, removed a stone from the impeller, and declared the pump fixed. 

And on TV, Tiger’s fallen into second place with three others, still on the prowl but with the magic ebbing, the win slipping away, coming back into sight, and.....

So about those miracles: sometimes they arrive head on with no mistaking their presence and sometimes they linger just outside our peripheral vision—teasing, enticing, singing their Siren songs.


  1. Ahhh ... just the miracle of rejuvination that a long needed hot shower can deliver... aaaahhhh I feel for ya, girl!

  2. I'm renaming you Jack, as in, Jack of all trades. Your wealth of knowledge comes in handy being a single woman in Alaska. Good for you, Gully-Jack.

    I hope everything is soon working absolutely perfectly so you can spend your time worrying about more pleasant things, like writing and posting vacation memories.

    Take care and take joy in the miracles that I'm sure will visit you again.

  3. Are things working now? Dave hardly ever tells me of his work, it's all a mystery, until I read it elsewhere.


  4. I’d hook up the pump and draw down the level in the tank so it didn’t back-feed into the line from the house and freeze again