Day: July 21, 2017

Friday, 21 July 2017

08:33 – It was 69F (20.5C) when I took Colin out at 0645, sunny and clear.

The septic tank situation is resolved, in the sense that we can again flush toilets and use the sinks, washing machine, and so on. There’s still a big hole in the back yard. The guy is showing up this morning to pump out the tank, which he says most people have done every 7 to 10 years. The backhoe is still parked out there. After the tank is pumped out, the backhoe guy is supposed to be back to fill in the hole.

I drew a rough map of the tank location. The septic tank is easy enough to find now that we know where it is. From the SW corner of the house on the exact line of the side wall of the house, it’s 14 feet, 2 inches to the center of one of the hatches on the tank. That’s the near-side hatch of the divided tank, on the side where all the solids are supposed to accumulate.

It is a newish tank, which we finally found the records for. It was installed in May 2006. It did indeed have that damned filter, which was a bright yellow coiled thing that was entirely plugged. It’s lying on the ground. They’re going to wash it off and leave it for us, although I can’t imagine we’d ever want to re-install it.

After Larry had popped the hatch and cleared out enough of the mess to let water run again, he had us flush toilets and run water, which promptly backed up through the downstairs toilet. Obviously, we had a plug somewhere between the downstairs toilet and the septic tank. So he dug out more dirt toward the house until he located the main drain line and a buried access port. (He’s going to extend that up so that it pokes above ground level.) The water was flowing freely into the septic tank from that access port, so the problem was obviously under the concrete floor of the basement.

So Larry called Shaw and asked them to bring out an industrial size drain snake. I finally got to meet Elaine, after talking on the phone with her literally a hundred times or more, because she’s the one who brought out the snake. Not only that, but she helped Larry run it into the main pipe from the septic tank into the house to give it a straight shot. Elaine’s job as office manager obviously covers a lot of tasks.

I wasn’t out there while they were doing the snaking, but Barbara was. She says the snake cleared the plug and a flood of water came running into the septic tank, so it appears the clog is no more. At any rate, we’re operational again.


I hadn’t mentioned it, but Winston-Salem got nailed around 1730 Tuesday afternoon with extremely heavy storms–60 MPH (96 KPH) wind gusts, hail, and 2.5″ (6.4 cm) of rain in 20 minutes. Frances’ and Al’s house was in the middle of the worst-affected area. Their power was off until the following morning. Fortunately, they suffered no damage to their house or vehicles, although (I am not making this up) most of their tomatoes blew off the vines and went rolling across their yard and down the street.

Frances called Barbara soon after the power failed, and of course Barbara told them to come on up if they needed somewhere safe to shelter. They decided not to come up, although even if they had they might not have been able to. All of the traffic lights were out, there were millions of fallen trees blocking the roads, every intersection had become a parking lot, and so on. One friend of Frances said that her usual short drive home from work took her three hours.

As it turned out, of course, Frances and Al would have been no better off up here. When Barbara made the offer on Tuesday afternoon/evening, all was fine here. It was the following morning that the sewage backed up in the basement.


Email from Kathy. She decided to take a vacation day today to give her the long weekend to work on food repackaging and so on. If things go well and it looks like they’ll have time, they plan to make another Sam’s Club run tomorrow to stock up on more stuff, including toilet paper, paper towels, and similar stuff.

Kathy said she wished she’d been keeping track of toilet paper usage and asked if I had any ideas. I told her that, statistically and overall, an average American used about one roll per week, with women and girls, particularly those of menstrual age, averaging between two and three times as much as men and boys. Her guesstimate was that the four of them average maybe five rolls/week total, which sounds reasonable, so a year’s supply is roughly 250 rolls. She set her initial goal at 300 rolls, although it may take multiple trips to haul that much home.

Of course, all rolls are not the same. They vary in thickness, size, weight, and number of sheets per roll. I suggested that she go by weight because that’s the best indicator. People use roughly the same weight per usage, no matter how many sheets that totals. If it takes twice as many of the thinner, lighter sheets to make up the same weight, that’s what an average person will use.

For example, we’ve been using Costco toilet paper for ten or fifteen years, both the Signature (425 sheets/roll) and Ultra Soft (231 sheets/roll). Both cost about the same per roll, and also weigh about the same per roll, so there’s not a lot to choose between them. We buy whichever is on sale at the time.

Back in early May, I decided to check the recycled Georgia-Pacific Envision, so I ordered an 80-roll pack from Amazon. It’s bit smaller dimensionally, but not so’s you’d notice. Although they contain 550 sheets, the rolls are a bit lighter than the Costco Signature stuff. IIRC, those 80 rolls of GP Envision were equivalent to something like 72 rolls of the Costco product on a weight-to-weight basis. Barbara tried it and said it was fine with her. It didn’t feel like sandpaper or anything. And, at the time, it cost about $0.38/roll (about $0.43/roll on an equivalent weight basis), or roughly 60% of Costco’s non-sale price.

That doesn’t sound like a big difference but if you’re buying 250 or 300 rolls it’s maybe $80 less for the GP product. I was going to mention it to Kathy, but I checked prices first. When I bought a case in early May, Amazon charged about $31 delivered. When I checked yesterday, their price was up to $46. Walmart has it for the same price. Costco has it for $50. At that price, there’s just not enough difference to make it worth buying the recycled institutional-grade GP stuff.

I also suggested to Kathy that she buy a few dozen hotel-grade washcloths as personal cloths and some granular calcium hypochlorite (AKA HTH or Pool Shock) to sterilize them between uses. I keep an adequate supply of these, just in case the toilet paper ever runs out. Better than a handful of leaves.

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