Our farmhouse had never known a bathroom; it only had the most rudimentary plumbing. As I said, we found when digging up the north side of the house and repairing the foundation that one pipe had been brought to the house to bring water to the kitchen sink, but that had been disconnected by the time we arrived. The story of the installation of our septic system is a great one since it exhibits God’s kindness to us that has been evident at every phase of our Clanstead’s development.
Dennis was our septic guy. Before we bought the Clanstead, he came and gave us an estimate: “$5,000, if we don’t hit rock ledge.”
“What if we do?” I asked.
“Then, we’ll have to blast, and that could run into all kinds of money,” replied Dennis.
The way our land fell, Dennis said that we’d have to take our main waste pipe due south down the old farm road about 200 feet. There, he would dig the three 100-foot long trenches that would disperse our waste water. The challenge was that the land actually rose from our back door for about 40 feet, then fell slowly to where Dennis wanted to dig the septic field. There was our knob to the west, and it slopes down to the south, parallel to the proposed run of pipe down to the septic field. Dennis guestimated that we’d dig a trench about eight feet deep in order to slope it from the septic tank just outside the house to the septic field 200 feet away. This was why the possibility of blasting was raised: none of us could tell what we’d find once we started to dig up the old farm road.
Dennis first did a perk test. This cost $500 up front, separate from the installation charge. A perc test is done to determine if the waste fluids from your septic water will be readily absorbed by the ground around the septic field. The excavator digs a series of holes, and then takes some hours of observation while filling them with water. Then, the health inspector verifies that there is no standing water in the holes after a day or two. You see, if the water table is too close to the ground’s surface, the wastes will not dissipate in the ground as they should, but will instead be carried through underground streams to contaminate the water table. So, you can’t just put a septic system anywhere.
Because we had an unusually wet April, it was May before Dennis could perform the test, because the wetly saturated ground would not show accurately whether or not it would drain before then. I was nervous about whether or not we would pass, but we did. This was a great relief, because in our state you have to have a septic system in order to legally have running water in the house. One is not allowed to drain even gray water onto open ground, or into a leach field. If we couldn’t put in a septic field, we couldn’t have modern plumbing in our house.
There was only one way to keep from buying trouble. “Lord,” I prayed, “You knew that someday we would move here and need to dig under this ground in order to do what we intend to her for Your glory. Please let there be no rock ledge here, or else provide for our needs to pay the extra if there is, I pray. In Jesus’ name.” We told Dennis to go ahead and dig.
Again, we had to wait. While other renovations took place (see other posts in this category), we waited for a potty to pee in, and continued to use the leaning, two-seater outhouse. Finally, in June, Dennis arrived. (It happened that we were also building a cross fence, framing the new walls of both north addition and south addition, and working on the Dancing Lawn that weekend, so the septic installation was part of a four-ring circus, as you’ll see in some of these pictures!)
Next, a huge truck arrived, bearing the cement septic tank. A crane was used to lift the septic tank into the hole.
It was then leveled.
Then, Dennis began to dig the trench to the septic field.
As it turned out, the depth of the trench turned out to be more like twelve feet at its deepest, not eight! Dennis’ wife was his assistant, and got right into that trench in order to hold the marker used by the laser-powered leveling tool.
At one point when she was in the trench measuring, Dennis saw that a snake was wiggling his way down the trench towards his wife. It looked like a copperhead! Dennis tried to get her out, but could not. He therefore grabbed a shovel and pinned the serpent with it. He looked at me: “Can I kill it?” he asked.
Please do!” I replied. With a stroke, Dennis severed the snake’s head. However, it continued to writhe, headless, for hours. We put the head end into a jar to drown, and kept it in order to get an expert’s identification because it looked like a copperhead. (It did not turn out to be.) If you want to see a video of the snake moving after being severed, click here. It’s not pretty, so if you want to get on reading about how we installed our septic system, click not!
Dennis got down to the place where the three branches of the septic field should be dug by the end of the first day. I was thrilled! We had not hit rock at all! God had been kind enough to answer that prayer, which gave me faith when we hit trouble at the end of Day 2.
On Day 2, Dennis continued to dig the main pipeline trench out to the proposed septic field. Here, he ran into unexpected difficulties. There was a spring-fed pond nearby and below the place where he had done his initial perk test. The unexpected depth of the supply trench had necessitated moving the field more to the south (and nearer the pond) than Dennis had planned. Dennis decided to move on even a bit further, beyond where men were there presently building a new cross fence, and into the pasture-to-be, to dig the septic field.
He had successfully dug two and a half trenches, and the day was ending, when trouble started. Water appeared immediately about halfway through the third trench line of the septic field. As he looked back, Dennis saw that the other two trenches were also filling. The water table was very close under the surface here–as the pond indicated that it might be–and we were in trouble. The whole vale there was spring-fed, and filtered down to the water table that fed the whole water system below. Unless the health inspector would allow him to move the septic field across the vale and to the far bank, where land sloped upward again, we would not be allowed by law to have running water to our house. I again began to pray, “Lord, let this health inspector be kind; let it work somehow, Lord!” We now were committed by thousands of dollars to this house, and I did not want to live in a place with no running water permanently!
As it turns out, we never would have passed a perc test if Dennis had correctly guesstimated the depth of our main pipe from the house to the field. One reason that the health inspector worked with him was because we were so far into it when she came.
Looking over our property, because we are so rich in natural springs, there’s almost nowhere else it could have gone! We could very easily have ended up by having no modern plumbing. But instead, we are so blessed by the way this turned out. And Dennis, who loves the Lord, did not charge us more than the original bid of $5,000, even though he had to re-dig the entire three-trench septic field after carrying the supply pipe across our vale. For these things, we are grateful to God and to Dennis.