24 May 2009

Menagerie Redux

Per request by Rambling Speech, I am uploading a few pictures from yet another addition to the Smitty Petting Zoo and Animal Shelter (admission free, parking $2). These would be the Smittychix. They don't have names yet but of course they need them if you have suggestions. In this picture is a three-day-old hatchling in front, and her larger sister, maybe ten to twelve days old, in the back.

Here is a picture of the larger chick shielding her younger sister from the paparazzi.

And this I think is the best picture of them. Aren't they cute? Tribble has been far, far too interested in them, and while I was making breakfast this morning she perched on the dining chair and just stared into the chicken cage. She claimed she was watching to make sure they didn't go anywhere, since I couldn't see them from the kitchen, but I'm not so sure...

22 May 2009

Puppy Pictures

Well. The Smitty household has a new member, and some pictures are in order for those of you who haven't already met her. Her name is Lily. She came from Laurens County Animal Rescue. And here she is. Isn't she a cutie?

Here's another picture. Lily is about three months old. Don't ask what breed; a mix of pit bull and... um... I think of her as a Whatsit, maybe with a little Canttell thrown in.

And here is Jackson, doing his best to look absolutely as pathetic as he possibly can so you won't know he actually likes having Lily around. This is the day we brought her home, I think, and he actually was a little annoyed at first, but now they get along great and play together. She even gives him things! Like kennel cough!

While we're looking for an appropriate crate for her to sleep in, we've been keeping Lily in the half bath attached to our bedroom. She gets a wee mite bored in there during the day while we're at work, but seems to find ways to fill her time...

14 May 2009

Nobody knows...

...the trouble our septic system has seen. But I have some ideas.

First of all, and you can consider this a public service announcement: if you have a septic tank, do not flush condoms down the toilet! I mean, really. They should cover this in sex ed. They clog up the drain line.

And yes, they clog up the drain line. I mean, like... like, dozens. Dozens of condoms in my drain line. Old, too. They had turned black. It was vile; visions of it will keep me up tonight. It's barely 1230 and I'm drinking already.

So at any rate we know that our septic system has not been suffering from simple neglect; this is a case of serious, long-term abuse. The gravel into which the old drain field supposedly drained was basically identical to the driveway gravel, and perhaps came off the same truck. Tough to say.

If you'll recall, the previous septic company to come out here, Carolina Septic of Simpsonville, replaced ten feet of the drain line out the back of our septic tank. Apparently they did this without digging up the entire tank because the lid at the back of the tank is cracked and sagging--sagging by about an inch, and this is concrete. Not supposed to sag. You'd think if they'd dug that up and seen that--and I don't know how they replaced ten feet of drain line without doing so--they would have at least kindly informed the homeowner that the lid needed replacing. The plumbing company we've had problems with in the past at least was kind enough to tell me to replace the other lid.

Fortunately the tank itself seems in good enough shape to last for a while more, but I am going to rebuild that lid next week. Oh, and lest I forget to mention, the ten feet of new drain line they put in connected to about two more feet of the same old brittle drain line they replaced... and there wasn't anything else beyond that, to speak of, just a pile of gravel. Seriously. Drain field? What drain field? Isn't a gravel pit good enough? Makes me wonder if that was the established method for installing a septic tank in the early 1940s.

Carolina Septic screwed us.

What we're getting now to replace the former setup is an actual drain field, with pipes with holes and gravel and recycled tire bits (which actually makes sense to use for this purpose), and it's going pretty much from the property line to the garage, a good sixty feet wide, and probably twenty feet down the hill from the tank. This is going to be a big damn septic field. That said, when the contractor came out here to quote me a price, he said when he was done we wouldn't have any more problems. Here's hoping.

13 May 2009

... And Then the Sky Fell In

No, really, I had the best intentions of posting here Monday and yesterday. Monday I worked, but it wasn't an insane day. However, Monday night the septic tank backed up into the house.

Yeah. Thank goodness our plumber (thank you Josh!) installed a relief point outside. Smittywife took a bath Monday night, and when she pulled the plug to drain the tub, the water didn't go anywhere. Then the toilets started to bubble. Then water started to fill into the sinks. She put the plug back in real fast, and I went outside and opened the relief pipe, and water poured out of that thing. The pipe is just outside the house, and is an upward-pointing pipe attached to the septic line. It's lower than any part of the water system elsewhere in the house so it can be opened any time there's a potential backup--and it's a convenient point to add septic treatment and such.

So this pipe points up. I unscrew the lid, and water shoots up about a foot high. This is 2.5" diameter pipe here so a vertical foot of water is nothing to scoff at. This was a potential disaster.

I was supposed to work yesterday but of course I stayed home to have septic tank people come out and look at the system. Now, since we moved in here we've had some issues. It's an old system--the house was built in at least 1938, possibly earlier, and the septic tank, which is hand-built, dates from that time. So we're talking about a 70 year old septic system. Lord knows how well it's been cared for in the past (probably not so well, at least under certain owners). Occasionally we'd find that when one toilet was flushed, another would bubble. Several months ago we had the tank pumped and the septic line snaked; the snake revealed a significant belly in the line, where over time the cast-iron pipe had sagged enough to restrict water flow to perhaps half the pipe.

About six weeks ago we went ahead and had a new septic line installed by Carolina Septic. They also pumped the tank again (not a good sign that it needed it) and replaced about ten feet of drain line out the back of the tank into the drain field; the previous line had been crushed at some point in the past. They said to us then that the system looked fine and shouldn't give us any more problems for several years (a tank should be pumped every five years or so, even though you can go much longer without having to; pumping that often helps prevent solids from clogging your drain field lines). They said that when they replaced the drain field line, it "soaked up [the water in the tank] like a sponge." Like a sponge, direct quote there. System was in good shape and wouldn't give us an more problems.

Uh-huh. Until Monday night, of course. (We did get a small warning shot; a couple days before the toilets bubbled as the last of another of Smittywife's baths drained out, but we had a busy weekend and didn't think much more about it.)
So Carolina Septic came out again. Both guys who came out asserted that it was probably the drain field, that the drain field was probably clogged, and that they had known that would be the case after the last time they were here. I said, no no, you told us the system was in good shape. No, they said, we knew the drain field was bad. I said, you told my wife it soaked up the water like a sponge. They turned their heads like confused puppies.

So Carolina Septic lied to us. Either they lied when they said the system was in great shape six weeks ago, or they lied yesterday to make themselves seem smarter. Regardless, we insisted they check the septic line for a clog. Which they found. But after removing said clog, the tank just filled up. Didn't drain. So, indeed, the drain field is shot.


That's not exactly cheap. Of course Carolina offered to fix the field for us, at a cost of about five grand, not money we have or plan to have any time soon. We got another estimate (I'd list his name here but I can't remember it) for less than half that--and of course as soon as I started talking to him about the system, he said, now who'd you have out here to do this? Carolina Septic, says I. Oh. I don't like to tell you this, but you're dealing with the wrong folks there. You know he's not even licensed to do this work, all he's licensed for is to pump tanks.

Really? I need to check into that, but... really?

This guy is probably sixty and says he's been doing this work for forty years. I'd like to check references but his comment was, I'll come in here, do all this work in one day, and when it's done you won't have any more problems with it at all. Period. I don't like coming back to a job.

Of course there's also the possibility of getting hooked into the sewer utility. I'm awaiting a callback on that. Could be as cheap as twenty-five hundred, or it could be worse. We'll see. Given the amount we'll be spending, it may be worthwhile--or not. If the sewer system backs up into your house, well, there's usually no relief valve for that. There are good points to having septic.

Anyway. So that's been the continuing excitement in Smitty's World the last couple of days. I was able to clean the kitchen top to bottom yesterday--although, mysteriously, this morning the milk jug had leaked half its contents into its little compartment in the door. I don't remember poking a hole in it yesterday, and it's been in the fridge for a week without leaking. At least its designated compartment is water-tight so I didn't have to clean the whole fridge.

Now I'm not at work again, and have plans for the day--digging up part of the front yard for a vegetable bed, cleaning the living room, doing a big load of laundry, and putting a screen in the bathroom window. With luck I'll get another post written, too!

07 May 2009


I have a lot of time to think at work. In a ten hour workday, at least four hours of the FedEx Ground driver's time is spent behind the wheel. The truck has no radio. Even when I ride with somebody, oftentimes the truck is so loud you have to shout to hear one another anyway (I wear earplugs when I drive alone). In a sense it's a lot like flying an uninsulated airplane (say, a KC-135) without an interphone.

Actually, flying a driving have a great deal in common, with the exception that one is far superior to the other. I'm currently doing the other for a living, and if you don't think that gives me great pause you haven't thought about it much. This would occupy my mind all day, every day (with probably negative side effects for my mental health) if I didn't aggressively come up with other things to think about.

Lately I've been spending some of my time trying to determine whether or not I have a cohesive political philosophy, or just a collection of opinions. I'm not sure whether one is preferable to the other, but when reaching for topics to ponder during a long day this one does present itself. (Smittywife just appeared over my shoulder and noted, "You don't have a coherent philosophy." And there you have it.)

The question has some relevance, though not to anyone but myself. I'm reading this book about Thomas Jefferson (American Sphinx, by Joseph Ellis) and he notes repeatedly (paraphrasing) that Jefferson maintained a strict political philosophy that was, in many ways, almost irrationally pure and assumed things about human nature that aren't true; and yet throughout his life he took various actions that clearly ran counter to the philosophy he held (and wrote from). He did this by, in Ellis' view, keeping two halves of himself separated--literally having a philosophical side that knew not what the pragmatic side did. Exactly how he managed this... well, I haven't finished the book yet.

And I'm reminded of our friend Switters (from Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates) who embraced and celebrated his inner contradictions--possibly a way out, a denial of denial if you will, but food for thought. Can one have a core political philosophy and deviate from that on certain issues without being a callous opportunist or thoughtless pragmatist?

Anyway, over the next couple of days I've been thinking I'll write a little about how I've been trying to fit my collection of opinions into a complete arc. This will at least give me something to write about here to get back into the swing of things.

A New Attempt To Blog Daily Begins... Now!

Whether it will last remains to be seen. Theoretically I should be leaving for work in about four minutes but I haven't even had breakfast yet, haven't packed a lunch, don't even have my boots on.
But I did throw the puppy blanket in the wash on the "sanitize" setting with bleach. She... well, she's a puppy. Puppies can't really make it through the night without pooping, I guess. I don't actually know for sure, but ours certainly doesn't try. She made a mess in her little house last night, got poo all over her blanket, the sides of the house, and herself. Smittywife had to give her a bath this morning before rushing out the door, and I cleaned out the doghouse and put the blanket in the wash.
And what I wanted to say, really, was this: why do all bleach bottles seem to share the same incompetent design? Who thought that up, anyway? I need to put a small amount of bleach into the washing machine's bleach dispenser, and all I have to do that is an open neck that clearly wasn't designed for pouring and all the weight of the bleach in the bottom of the jug. Of course it's going to glug out and splash. And it's bleach, for goodness sake, when it splashes everywhere it's going to cause problems. I just don't understand it. There has to be a better way to package that, but clearly no one has even tried. Grr.