THE ROMANCE OF COUNTRY LIFE: THE DAY THEY PUMP THE SEPTIC

I had to call the guy who pumps out our septic tank this morning. He was supposed to do it at the end of October, but early November would have been fine. Apparently, he forgot. He has been coming here annually to take care of our personal ecological system since we moved here, so there’s nothing unusual about this request. In fact, he sent me a card to remind me it was “that time of the year” again.

Some time between the changing of the leaves and the falling of the snow, it’s time to pump the septic. It has gotten a bit crispy outside, so it is definitely that time of year. Humorously, today’s word is “sludge” and if what lays at the bottom of that tank isn’t sludge, I don’t know what you would call it. In the course of living here, we have had to replace the well pump twice, once because it got old. The second time because it was hit by lightning.

“What? How does a well-pump that is located 500 feet underground, get hit by lightning?” I asked the insurance guy. That was when we had insurance. Unfortunately, after they replaced the well pump, three computers and the hot water heater — all following one very special electrical storm — they didn’t want to insure us anymore and strangely, neither does anyone else. Pity.

It turns out that the well pump is a magical combination of electricity, iron, and water. It has an almost gravitational effect on the fire from the sky. It isn’t even unusual and the insurance adjuster instantly recognized the problem, though I certainly though it was kind of strange.

We are an artesian well that goes down more than 500 feet. And no matter what anyone says, you need a pump because you have to get the water from the well to your pipes

“Lightning,” he said, nodding. I knew about the lightning, of course because when lightning hits your home or even near your home, it is VERY LOUD. If it sounds like anything in this world, it sounds like your house has been hit by lightning. Not like a gun, a bomb, or an oncoming freight train. Lightning. House shakes. Curls of black smoke rise from your electrical and expensive technological wonders. I don’t care what kind of electrical surge protection you’ve got — a bolt of lightning beats it all to hell and back.

These days, what without insurance, I get palpitations if we have a bad electrical storm. Replacing a destroyed well pump is not a job for amateurs. Pumps are huge, heavy … and living, as they do, deep in the water of your well, they get even heavier. Because water is heavy.

But I digress. The well is part one of the ecosystem. The septic is (pardon the pun), part two and that is the part with which we need to deal today.

Green septic cover is the first sign of spring in a frozen backyard

The Darlings who pump our septic are also the people who service our well. One big family and they live just up the street, which is locally convenient, but makes it hard to figure out the number to call since they all live in one big rambling house on a farm. I have them labeled as Jeff (DON’T CALL JEFF, HE RETIRED) and John (THIS IS THE RIGHT ONE, CALL THIS NUMBER) and David (THE WELL GUY).

If you need a hole dug, they are your guys. The fixers of all home ecosystem management. The ones to call.

So today is indeed sludge and home ecological maintenance day.

The thing is, when we moved here, we were city folk. I never imagined living a life with a well and a backyard sewage system. I thought that somehow, the town took care of all of that. Considering the terrible condition of the water of the town, we are incredibly lucky we have our own water and septic system. Not only would we be paying a ton of money to let the city make a mess of it, but we’d have disgusting fluoridated water! Yuck.

The city’s wells are not in great condition and since they have been digging things up all over town, the water situation has deteriorated and everyone is complaining. We are not complaining. I love our water. Although it is a bit rich in iron ore and makes my white hair turn a little bit orange, it is delicious and my dogs will testify it is the best water ever. Comes from deep underground and it is always icy cold.

Unlike so much of the world, we have great water. And by the end of the day, a clean system, too. Ready to go for another year, barring lightning.

56 thoughts on “THE ROMANCE OF COUNTRY LIFE: THE DAY THEY PUMP THE SEPTIC

  1. Lucky for you, today’s prompt was sludge. Otherwise, what would you have to write about? Well, knowing you only through this blog, I am sure you would not have had a problem. Your posts are always interesting, informative, amusing, or all three at once. I like the first sign of spring at your house; the septic tank cover! 😀

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  2. I really had to translate that septic tank word into german to see how they would say it. I am a little bit wiser, but it is not something we would have privately unless I lived on the top of a mountain or in a lonely valley. At least I now what it is. A “jauchegrube”? I think they have them on farms where they can even generate their energy from the waste product of a few hundred cows. Our water is quite hard water, and has its amount of fluor in it, but not too much. I remember when we were in New York, everything tasted of fluoride, even the ice cubes. It was a trial to clean my teeth. I think in the good restaurants they tended to freeze mineral water from a bottle, as it tasted better.

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    • If you live in a city or suburb, almost all such places have city sewage and water. We did everywhere I lived until we moved to the country. Out here, though, there IS no city water or sewage, unless you live right in the middle of town. It always depends on if you live someplace where there IS underground water.

      There are places in the U.S. where there is no water except in rivers or lakes. You could dig until you hit Australia, but there’s nothing down there but sand and rocks.

      We live in a watershed, so there’s always underground water. It is very rare to hit a spot where there’s no water, though whether it’s close to the surface or, as it is here, deep underground you never know until they start to dig.

      These are things you need to ask when you are buying a place in the country. I don’t know if you even have underground water where you live and in any case, living in a condo, you would always have central water and sewage. It would be impractical to do it any other way.

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  3. We lived in the country on several occasions when I was a kid – moved a lot. Of course as a kid you don’t challenge anything. It just what it is – the good with the bad. I recall mum cooking on wood stoves; outdoor toilets; going to the coal shack in the winter; sleeping in a basement with no windows; sleeping with no insulation; waiting for the school bus; going to schools that were old churches; kids drinking goats milk out of jar … many, many things. But many adventures and joys as well – like a real family Christmas. And there was no McDonald’s out there and half the time no TV. But all these things were important experiences that make me grateful … for so many things.
    Yup … it’s nice to have some plumbing … and hot water.

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    • what beautiful memories, those are what I longed for as a city kid! Now that we live in the country I have cooked my share of meals on the wood stove when the power goes out, it’s kind of magical! Are you from Alberta by chance? I grew up in Calgary.

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    • Fortunately, we do have plumbing (old) and hot water (not bad). But our water comes from our well, not the city, which also means whatever inconveniences might attach to it, it’s OUR water and we don’t have to pay someone to use it. Water and sewerage are — next to the mortgage payment — the most expensive item on most home owners’ budgets. So having your own is not a bad thing. You just have to remember to take care of it. It’s not something you can decide to skip because you’re short of money. You need to do it, regardless because it’s a godawful mess if you don’t!

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      • I don’t know how. I worked for a company that cleaned water, and they did it healthfully and well. The city decided they didn’t want them anymore. I’m interested to see how terrible the water has become. It used to look like permanent pee in the toilet. and we’d have to assure visitors it was clean water. The Cedar created the colour. Now Epcore is gone, I’m not sure where it’s at, I moved. But the city we’re in now has wretched water. Tastes like pool water all the time. I hate that! Ours might taste minerally, but it’s clear.

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          • I know, right, me too. Moving to Port Hardy was an eye opener. Yech. Then Epcore came and cleaned it, but Nanaimo’s water is wretched. I’m glad we have our own, but unfortunately or fortunately, it won’t be long before we’re disconnected from the septic system as the new development is next door and we’re supposed to hook up to it. On the other side, the neighbours have to dick 100’s of feet to join and they haven’t done that yet so not sure where this is going. The one bright spot is not having to use crap cleaners that don’t clean our clothes which now look gray because we can’t use soap that cleans well. The down side of course, is that we’ll be able to use a product that cleans, hopefully we’ll find one that is good for the earth as well as that’s always been a priority for me personally.

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            • Don’t do it until you have no choice. It’s expensive to hook up and it’s not a one time expense, either. It will be a monthly price — forever. You’d have to find out, but there may be a maximum distance they have to give you before you need to sign up. I’m sure there’s a law on your books, somewhere. We live in no danger of local water. It’s MILES away with no likelihood of it ever getting to this neck of the woods. Woods, in the literal sense.

              Our stuff gets pretty clean. We use the a variety of natural products, some with borax in it. We also use cold water for everything. This started because I’m so allergic to chemicals on my skin, we started buying natural products to protect my skin and it turned out to be very good at also cleaning clothing better. It isn’t even more expensive and I don’t itch all the time.

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              • Unfortunately we don’t have a choice, the city has mandated this area for connection to the city. I know the itch because I get ezcema badly and my daughter is seriously bad, covers her face arms legs and hers is related to several severe allergies and infection. Don’t understand where mine suddenly came from. I’m using the same shampoo and cream rinse and the soap is non allergenic it’s called pink. You can use for dishes cleaning and clothes. Very mild

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                • Mine showed up in my 30s, then came and went for another 30 years. Then it sort of settled down and is never entirely gone. It’s not as bad as it was, but i have to be careful of what goes near my skin. My mother had the same thing. It is incredibly common. More than 20 million people suffer from unexplained rashes that itch … and they haven’t done anything to cure them. Why should they? They sell billions of dollars of stuff to control it. Curing it would be much cheaper — can’t have that.

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  4. Wow! I had no idea lightning could do that! We too came from city living and were in for some surprises our first year here. Our cover to our well, (we have a free flowing artisan well) blew off that first winter spouting water high into the air. That’s when we found our plumber who spent so much time here that year he gave us a few freebies along the way. we also had our septic pump and water pump break beyond repair plus he had to dig up part of our septic tank and replace it because it had deteriorated and the ground around it was falling into it! He also fixed our water softener too. That was an expensive year but knock on wood things have been working well since. Our water too is very high in iron but I love not being on a city system troubles and all. Someday I wish to get solar power going and then we are off the grid!

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  5. I can think of another ‘S’ word for the ‘S’ludge in your Septic Tank!! 😉

    We had septic tanks at my parents’ place (in the ‘burbs) for the first 30 years we lived there before the council got round to putting a sewer line down the back of the property, and we had an Artesian bore also that is quite high in iron (leaves brown stains on concrete!) that is only used for watering the lawns and garden. it drew up from about 20-30 ft deep.

    Despite many lighting storms and the bore having a galvanised iron top about 4 ft in diameter it’s never had a strike in over 30 years and we still have the same pump/piping system. Of course, now i’ve gone and done it… 😉

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  6. Had a backed up sewer lawsuit long ago, and was charged with coming up a fancier term for sludge or the other s word. Sludge = Foul Effluvient We went around the office for years hollering Foul Effluvient when something went awry. Such a classy place to work. ; )

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    • I thought about it. What a disgusting way to make a living — but you know what? When the sump needs a pump, these people who do the horrible work are THE guys to know! He has become our “instructor” on how to properly maintain the system. What we can use, what we shouldn’t use. To NEVER use the additives people advertise. We have a 50 year old system that would be considered a “tight” system these days. Still, it’s 1000 gallons, so it isn’t tiny, but we don’t have a proper leach field — we have the older structure and when we urgently needed to rebuild it (it technically illegal), he found us someone to repair it. If we’d had to replace the whole system, we’d be in public housing — or our car. So these people have turned out over the years to be the people who have really helped us along the way.

      But it is a pretty stinky way to make a living.

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  7. I’m sure there are still snobs out there who honestly believe that only water from a plastic bottle is safe to drink and doesn’t contain a slew of nasty toxins that will kill anyone the instant it touches their lips. I drink the nasty, sludgy, probably fluoridated city water because it is cheap and contrary to popular belief is apparently not deadly. I’m sure I would drink your water too because it is cheap and apparently not deadly. The bottled water snobs can continue needlessly hemorrhaging money keeping themselves properly hydrated….

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    • There is some water going around New England these days which really ISN’T drinkable, not by anyones’ standards. Very old pips with a lot of leaks and some pretty horrible stuff in it. I would not only NOT drink it, I wouldn’t wash or cook with it. It’s revolting.

      But normal water, you deal with it. I have tasted water which really is pretty awful and I admit, I might want to do something to make it a bit less … chemical … but some of this stuff they’re selling as tap water is BROWN and a bit … thick.

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