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A fun February? I think not!

Susan Manzke
Jesse pumping out sludge from tank.

When things go wrong, they usually do it in threes. This past week I had my fair share of problems and most were tied to winter.

The temperatures were below zero and I found out my fuel oil tank monitor wasn’t working. I was told by the company that they would take care of it. “You have nothing to worry about.” I wasn’t sure. If I ran out of heating oil, I’d be the cold one, not the person in the office.

I waited a week. The old-fashioned gauge said the tank was getting near empty. I called the office again. Someone would be out to fix the monitor soon. He arrived but I continued to worry about getting fuel.

At the same time, a piercing alarm started to sound in the house. This had nothing to do with the heat even if the noise came from the basement. This sound meant my septic system had issues.

I silenced the alarm. I was pretty sure this meant my septic line was frozen like it had a few years ago.

I informed my septic contact company that I had a problem. With the rotten cold weather, they agreed that the outgoing line might be the issue. A serviceman and pump truck would be at my house the following day.

“You can use your toilet, water, and even shower,” said the person on the telephone. “The alarm goes off before the tank is full. You still have room in there, but I would hold off doing laundry.”

Okay, now I was worried about my heat AND my septic system. 

Meanwhile, my cat Cruella came into the kitchen and threw up—but before I could clean up her mess, Sunny did the job for me. Dogs enjoy this kind of clean up, especially if it happens right after the cat ate breakfast.

Fuel oil delivery to Sunnybook Farm.

The oil tank monitor was changed that day, but my fuel oil didn’t come. “You have 45 gallons left,” I was told. “You’ll get oil before you run out.” (Fingers crossed by me.)

The below zero temps continued as the septic system serviceman arrived. Jesse opened up the outside covers over the tank in the chilly weather as I watched from my warm house. I felt sorry for him.

Jesse concurred with my guess that the system pipes going out to the mound were frozen. He pumped the tank so I had room for future discharge from my home. The frozen pipes wouldn’t be solved until a spring thaw came.

My tank is large enough for one person’s waste to last for weeks. “When the alarm sounds again, just call me,” said Jesse. “You’ll have at least three days' space, but I’ll get here to pump you out before that.”

The following day my fuel oil arrived. I had shoveled a path so the delivery man didn’t have to ford through snowdrifts. After that, I could relax.

The water/toilet issue continues to haunt me today. I can’t help but think that every time I send water down the pipes, I’m filling up the tank a little more.

When I was taking a shower this morning, I soaped up and rinsed as fast as I could.

Also, being alone, means I don’t have to flush my toilet until absolutely necessary. (I can go #1 a couple of times before flushing.)

I’m hoping I can forestall another septic pumping for a month or more. Right now I only wash my dishes every other day. At least now I’m not doing this because I’m lazy, just wastewater economical. When I brush my teeth, I don’t let the water warm or run long. Such are my little changes.

Oops, I just went to the bathroom and automatically flushed when it wasn’t absolutely necessary. Next time I’ll remember.

By the way, my cat Cruella only got sick once. When it came time for her dinner she was fine. She ate as usual and then came for a cuddle with me.

Susan’s neighbor John taking care of snowdrifts in her driveway.

I’m hopeful no other extra household problems pop up this month. Good thing February is only 28 days long.

By the way, I sure appreciate all those who came to help me during this cold spell. They, like so many others who work outside, deserve a round of applause. Of course, I have to include my neighbor, John, who plows my driveway.

Susan Manzke, Sunnybook Farm, N8646 Miller Rd, Seymour, WI 54165; sunnybook@aol.com; www.susanmanzke.net/blog.