The need to be aware of the things we take for granted has been brought home to me this week. And made me pause for reflection on how lucky we are to have the things we don’t even think about.
Be Aware Of The Things We Take For Granted
We live in an old farmhouse in Umbria, Italy and we have a septic tank that services the three main bathrooms. With only two of us in the house, the septic tank has to be emptied every few years. Otherwise it starts to back up. For larger families it is recommended that it is emptied every year.
Roots In The Septic Tank
Just under two years ago we had a problem with a back up inside the bathroom closest to the septic tank. The tank hadn’t long been emptied so we were stumped for an answer. A builder came out to look and the problem was roots in the septic tank. Something had been growing happily inside the tank and was now blocking the out pipe.
We had the septic tank emptied and all the roots cleared. Part of the bathroom floor had to be dug up in order to access a pipe through which roots had traveled under the bathroom floor. I couldn’t believe what was removed and it was a mystery as this is a sealed septic tank with no light getting in. And no trees anywhere nearby.
It reminded me that my grandmother used to tell me never to eat apple core or apple pips because a tree would grow in your stomach. I do wonder what it was that was that was growing in our septic tank, but I guess we will never know!
Fast forward to just before Christmas 2021 and I went to go in my studio which is next to the downstairs bathroom. Only to find the bedroom, dressing area and bathroom flooded. Yes, you have guessed it, the pipe was blocked again. It may have been flooding for a couple of days as we had no reason to go in there. This time they found they hadn’t quite cleared all the roots in the first chamber of the septic tank and the out pipe was blocked again. It took no time at all to fix and we got back to normal. Or so we thought.
That was until Saturday this week, a fortnight after the last problem. I used the toilet in the bathroom by my studio and watched in horror as the toilet filled up with water and the floor started flooding. Luckily, because I was there, we caught it in time and were able to mop up quickly and stop any damage. Here we go again!
Our builder and a septic tank specialist came out on Sunday, which was very good of them. They found that the connecting pipe between the two main chambers within the septic tank was blocked, probably by roots! So once again everything was backing up.
Now we are waiting for them to come back, empty and jet wash the septic tank and then clear all of the internal pipes.
The Things We Take For Granted
This brings me to my point about the need to be aware of the things we take for granted. For the last four days we have been unable to use our toilets. The shower, basins, kitchen, etc are fine as they are on a separate system leading to a soak away.
We have two other toilets in the house. One in a guest apartment that is waiting to be fixed as the flush is not working. We didn’t think there was a rush as who is having guests during this time of COVID? The second toilet is in a utility room in a part of the house that we don’t use. That toilet hadn’t been used for ten years and it was no surprise that when we tried it that was completely seized up.
So that left us with a toilet we could use which couldn’t be further away from our living area and bedroom if it tried. It is cold in there, the flush doesn’t work and we have to use buckets of water. At night, we have a bucket in our bathroom next to the bedroom. It reminds me a bit of camping when I was younger, but then I didn’t have arthritic knees!
Putting this into perspective, it is a hassle but it is what it is. It is not the end of the world and perfectly manageable. Just a little odd! We put things on the toilets to remind us not to use them or flush them. Because we do these things on auto-pilot don’t we? But it is a great reminder of all the wonderful, amazing things that we have available to us. And made us very aware of the things we take for granted.
We talk about ‘going to visit the Arctic’ when we go to the back room. The corny joke about ‘I may be some time’ comes out from time to time. I feel age 10 when I have to tell Barnet Boy that I have used the loo and it needs flushing (I can’t lift the bucket of water!). Not to mention having to empty the bucket from the bathroom in the morning. We have, however, also commented on how much water we have saved! There is a silver lining here somewhere.
Now we are just waiting for them to come and do the next bit of work on the septic tank so we can get back to normal. But we might be a bit more frugal in our flushing in future!
Before you go
My name is Dorothy Berry-Lound an artist and writer. You can find out more about my art and writing at https://dorothyberryloundart.com.
Thank you for reading!