Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sometimes life gives you a pile of crap. Sometimes you can't find one no matter how hard you look.

Week 5, 6 or 7 (it's all such a blur I've lost track) of searching for our septic tank has every muscle, bone, knuckle, and joint in my body aching.  My husband and I feel like Indiana Jones in the Raiders of the Lost Ark when Marian is asking him where it doesn't hurt.  We don't even bother with that goodnight kiss anymore.

Even hiring a plumber to find it by flushing a camera down both toilets and searching for an attached GPS signal was a bust and we only took that route after probing and digging for the tank for weeks.  His best guess was that it was 6' below one our back patios. could be under our carport.  The master bath is on the roof of the carport so if we have to tear up the concrete below, what's going to happen to the roof and bathroom?

I'm tired of looking for it, researching septic tanks, thinking about it, and having nightmares about the stupid thing.  I've spent what should have been a fun weekend to make up for the time we spent looking for it Labor Day weekend before a series of storms hit, breaking up parts of our concrete patio and digging dirt out from under other parts of various slabs which make up the "patio".  I've always wondered why such a series of different levels of sections of concrete had been poured in different places behind our old farmhouse.  It's a neat little cottage that has been added on to so much over the years that I got lost the first few days inside.  Workers who come to make repairs always get turned around when they are inside.  The outside has more sidewalks, and patios with poured concrete than I'd ever expected to see surrounding a farmhouse in the mountains but shows that the majority of the additions and renos. had been done in the 60s when such modern amenities were popular.

Last week, when we decided to inspect the patio and carport more thoroughly to pinpoint the location that the plumber could only estimate, we beat ourselves up rearranging items that we keep stored in the back of the carport in built-in rooms, and digging and prodding all over the yard again.  We were just beat and had promised our boys that since we couldn't camp with the storms in the forecast that we would have a movie marathon, as well as roast marshmallows and hot dogs over our patio fire.  Before we gave up the septic tank search for the weekend and as we were heading in for the evening, a beautiful breeze came across the little farm from over the mountain that rims the little cove we live in.  I talked my husband into sitting for a minute on the patio to enjoy it.  Neither of us slow down much during the day and we never, ever just sit together.  But when we did, all we could do was brainstorm about the stupid tank.  He was telling me again where the plumber thought it might be, and I told him that there was broken up concrete at the edge of the patio where it met the back wall of the carport, that we could possibly excavate that area a little.  Then I remembered that there is a big hole there as welll that was filled with dirt and was always a problem for me because it has to be frequently swept and the area around it cleaned off.  It occurred to me that it may have been broken for a reason.  I slumped out of my chair, grabbed a hand trowel and got on my knees to investigate.  Sure enough, it was a jack hammered hole about 8" wide by a foot and a half long.  The jack hammered hole lead along the edge to a crawl space door in the side of the house that I could never get open because the vinyl siding had been installed over the edge of the door.  While I dug, he worked on getting that door open.  The door exposed the waste water pipe that led from the house.  We rigged lights and kept working, figuring that the more work we did that day, the more time we would be able to devote to the kids the other two days of the Labor Day weekend just hanging around together.  We didn't find anything, but knew someone had been chiseling at the patio for probably the same reason we were inspecting that location, so we felt positive that we were finally looking in the right place.

The week passed and Saturday morning we continued our search.  I was able to trace the sewer pipe to under one other section of patio above the one we were digging in.  It was obvious someone in the past had removed cinder blocks that makes an end edge to that slab, they had been patched in place so shoddily.  I took a sledge hammer to them, figuring that even if I didn't find anything useful, they needed to be replaced anyway.  Mint grows rampant through the cracks in these sections of slab which drives me nuts.  I love the mint, don't like all of the leaves they drop in this area or stepping over it when I step down from one slab to the other.  One of my planned projects for the fall was to patch it anyway, now I could do it right.  Well, the blocks came off so easily that, as I'd suspected, they had to have been pulled down at some point.  When I was able to dig out the dirt, which was much looser than it would have been if it had been untouched for fifty years, the time period we were told that the additions on the house had been made, I found where the pipe left the house and dug all afternoon until I could trace where it bent and turned to flow out away from the house.  It led to right underneath where I was sitting on the suspicious slab with the jack hammered hole.

My husband in the meantime had dug through the jack hammered hole until our post hole digger could no longer be used.  The hole was at least 6' deep and nothing was found.  He gave up and probed around the yard while I broke up an odd 1' X 3' section of concrete to see what was under that, hoping it was a septic tank lid.  Dirt.

It was getting late and we were supposed to camp in the yard and roast a chicken over the fire since we hadn't been able to for Labor Day weekend.  Hubby went to set up a tent and gather our firewood while I sat on the patio to think.  It suddenly occurred to me that if there was a tank under the patio, even though we had dug straight down and hadn't found it, that maybe who ever had jack hammered the hole had simply quit when they didn't find anything, maybe the tank was under the patio but far under the lip of concrete we had been digging in and the previous owner hadn't jack hammered far enough out into the slab of concrete.  I got onto my aching knees again and started to dig under the section of concrete I was sitting on rather than straight down.  I was able to get about 6" of soil removed, then decided to probe back underneath the slab to see if I ran into something.  Bingo.  At all different heights and levels I consistently ran into something solid, what we have been looking for for weeks.  Content with what I'd found, I gave up to go start the fire.

Tents were a mess, parts missing, I don't even want to talk about that it's so irritating to me, I got the fire going good and hot around 8pm. The four of us sat around it looking at each other, my husband and I literally in pain, he with an ice pack on his back where he'd wrenched it getting the tents out of the attic not long before.  After a short discussion on how late it was, how hungry we were, and how long the bird would take to cook, the boys headed into town to pick up fast food while I tended the fire.  Quality family time, sitting around the fire eating burgers and fries, tossing in our empty cartons and paper soda cups when we had finished.  Sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do.

This morning I was up early after sleeping more hours in one night than I think I ever have before, and was all gung ho to get back at it.  I ended up watching 9-11 memorial coverage until noon.  I still had all afternoon and evening to tackle the patio and expose the side of the septic tank and my husband enough time to finish some contract proposals he needed to get done this weekend.

I made it hanging upside down over that stupid hole with my achy knees on that bare concrete, scraping my wrists, arms, and elbows on the edges of the broken concrete in the same irritated places I had the day before for all of 37 minutes. I realized after probing again several times and seeing that I have another 6" to go that it wouldn't accomplish much.  We talked and faced the truth that the only thing to do is rent a jackhammer to demolish the slab or hire someone to do it and that wasn't going to happen on a Sunday afternoon.  Done for the week.  Going to see what we accomplish before next weekend on this newest phase of our little project here.  Ah...blogging.  It soothes the soul.


  1. Ah, old mountain homes ... we just had something similar with Mom's house. We dug a hole 6 feet deep to find the waste pipe that the plumber said should be there. Turned out it was on the OTHER side of the house. Grrr.

  2. We've had worst case scenario all the way. I found it for sure last week, dug up a good portion of it Saturday. Crew came out today to finish digging it up. Turns out it is huge, homemade, and went under our little rock wall and another sidewalk. Nice to sit back and let the pros take it from here. I'm tired. Slept 11 hours last night as opposed to my usual 5 or 6. I just hope we don't run into any further problems. Going to post a new blog with pics. of the whole process and the new farmyard paths I was able to make with the broken up concrete.