"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."-Margaret Mead "The only thing worse than being blind, is having sight but no vision."-Helen Keller
Tracy Wandling wrote:Hi Aaron;
Congratulations on your land purchase, and on embracing permaculture! You're in good company here.
I think that the community here on Permies.com will be happy to help you with your projects, but we will need some information from you.
a) Where do you live?
b) What is your climate like?
c) What is your average rainfall?
d) Do you have an overview map of your land? A Google image works well.
e) Are there any trees or other native plants on the land?
f) What are your goals? Do you envision being self-sufficient in food? Food forest? Ponds?
g) Do you want to raise animals? What kind?
h) Are there any bodies of water near you? Rivers, streams, lakes?
i) Do you have neighbors who farm? What are they growing?
Any other information you have about your property, and your future goals will help us to offer information that might be helpful to you.
I can commiserate with your septic/plumbing problems - we are going through the same thing. There are some really good threads about grey water and black water systems. This my favorite - packed with great info - Greywater & blackwater systems These are alternative systems, so they might not be allowed where you live. It's worth looking into though.
Again, if you supply us with more info, we can start sharing some ideas with you about how you might proceed.
Congrats on the purchase. Don't be so quick to think you need to bail or settle. You don't have to do everything at once, take your time.
Regarding the distribution box. A distro box in a septic system isn't all that complex. It's merely a box where on line comes in, (from the septic tank) and multiple lines go OUT, (to the leech field) to "distribute" the waste water. The distro box should be level, so water flows evenly into each leech line.
If it's NOT level, water will flow more into one line or another. Not really a big deal.
Septic systems are expensive because most people don't want to deal with them... because they are "icky"... so plumbers and septic companies can charge a fortune for what an average homeowner with basic skills and knowledge can do.
Find a company that sells septic components, get a new box, and dig out the old one. put the new one in, and your distro box problem is solved.
If there's an issue with the leech lines, those can be replaced easily as well. A leech line is built by digging a trench several feet deep. put in 2 feet of 3/4' gravel, then a perforated pipe with the holes facing down. The leech lines should have a very slight slope to them, about 1/4" per foot or so. That way water flows downhill. Add another 6 inches of gravel over the pipe, then cover with dirt.
Leech lines and septic systems should be placed where vehicles will NOT be driving over them, as the weight of vehicles over time and compact the soil, and crush the system. It's possible your box got wrecked when someone drove something over it.
I'm confused how an official would know the leech lines are "likely to fail" since there is no easy way to inspect them. (unless of course the field has bene dug up) That seems like someone basically talking out their arse, as many officials like to do. The ONLY way to know if a leech line is failing is if the following is happening:
1) The system is backing up into the house AFTER having been pumped... meaning water is NOT going INTO the leech system, (which could happen with a bad bistro box.)
2) Water is rising to the surface in the leech system area. If that's the case, then the leech field is either plugged, OR over saturated. In that case, it's POSSIBLE the ground has been "oversaturated" and a new leech field is needed. Not a big deal if you have 5 acres of flat land, plenty of room for a field.
If water is rising to the surface near the septic TANK, then water isn't getting into the leech field.
Of course leech lines should be far away from lakes, rivers, water sources, wells, etc, to avoid contamination, and they should be placed in soil that will allow the water to soak in. Areas with lots of rock and clay aren't great, but can work depending on how porous they are. A soils test would determine the suitability for such a system. If you know the general soil makeup in your area, that may not even be required or necessary.
I've built septic systems for a few thousand dollars where septic companies wanted TENS of thousands. Spend some time on google, look up the basics of a septic system, and you will see how simple and easy there are.
Of course if you're going to go to a composting toilet system, that's all unnecessary. HOWEVER, if a working septic system is required by officials, you can always fix your system easily, then bootleg a composting system in. Many people will do that.
Feel free to ask specific questions about the septic system if you wish. But from what I've read based on what you wrote, your "problem" isn't that big of one... if you're a little bit handy.
Here are my questions for you:
1) how does the official know your bistro box is failing/broken?
2) what makes them think the leech field/system is about to fail?
3) any info you can share specifically about the system that you know would be helpful in diagnosing your issues.
Aaron Dailey wrote:
just want to quickly say you guys are awesome and thank you so much for the quick responses. I had two more messages before i finished replying to the first one and didn't even know it. I am glad to be told to relax as i have felt a bit overwhelmed with all that needs to be done. I really want to learn all i can to make this place sustainable in the future but there is so much to consider. I feel pretty confident about replacing the Dbox thanks to your reassurance and will be making calls to find one and replace tomorrow. i thought it seemed simple but when officials get involved i get a lil nervous doing things myself. i thought about pouring concrete into a form to make one myself. Do you think that the inspector would be ok with that?
We got a letter in the mail and in the notes from when it was installed the inspector noted that half way through the installation the homeowner who was installing the system himself got injured. They didn't finish the project until the next spring and the septic tank floated out of its hole in the winter. it also said something about tieing lines together in an attempt to salvage system. due to these factors the inspector at the time warned the homeowner that there was a high likely hood of failure of the system in the future.
the inspector looked into the dbox during his inspection and found that it was broken is how he knew it was broken. he said it looked like someone had ran over it. the previos homeowner also put a pool over top of the leech field and the inspector said that i have to remove the pool. a small part of the field goes under our driveway
As for "grey water recycling". When I redid a house I had, I put all the drain lines EXCEPT the kitchen sink and toilet into a grey water system.... which was basically a perforated pipe run along a line of hedges about 1' underground. Those hedges immediately went nuts, and are huge now, because they get all the sink, shower, and clothes washing water. But it was easy to do because I had a raised foundation and could climb under the house and easily access those pipes.
Eddie Conna wrote:I use regular laundry soap. Plants don't seem to mind. From what i've read, the old soaps that were damaging to the environment aren't made that way anymore, but i'm not entirely sure of that.
The drain line is similar to that of a septic leech line. Just dug a 2 foot deep trench, filled it 1' with gravel, put in a perforated pipe, and then covered it with dirt. Been doing fine for years. I did the same thing in a previous house I owned, and decades later, the system is still working fine.
Roberto pokachinni wrote:Unfortunately there is only so much that can be done with inspectors and bureaucracy when it comes to damaged infrastructure like septic. The biggest issue here, from the inspector's point of view is health. You have to be able to convince him that a different option might be even healthier than the previous system. That said, you may not be able to convince the inspector in this regard, without really hard evidence. He might be the sort of inspector that will completely refuse to look at alternative ideas. So there's that; which right off the start is a pretty big potential hurdle. You could try to explain what you envision, but without some kind of credentials or... major outlined plan, the inspector would definitely laugh at you.
Other than the septic issue, and the in-bad-shape house, and the potential of roundup poisoning your likely GMO corn field, your canvas seems fine. If you are within a couple hours of a city where you can gain potential future students easily enough, then you are even better off. Are there no other out buildings?
Considering your stated issues:
A) Sounds like you have your work cut out for you. I can't say that it will be worth it, but it might be. It is actually a better teaching tool to start with crappy infrastructure and make it bountiful than to start with the ideal and have it easy. Be sure to take lots of pictures and notes so that you have this tool available. These places deserve to be examples of potential rehabilitation.
B) I hope you got a good deal on the farm.
C) Consider this book Restoration Agriculture
I'm assuming that since you have a septic system and a house that there is water on site. How much can you use?-more on that in the following points.
1.) Primary Consideration: Research a composting toilet system. Buy the humanure handbook. Consider a small outbuilding sealed composting toilet system outside your barn, sharing a wall... accessed by stairs both from the loft and the ground floor, and pray that you can convince the building inspector of it's safety. Lend him the book. Get an understanding of greywater (this is non-septic water from sinks, laundry, shower, bath), and consider a system that works for your location.
2.) Is the barn in good shape at least? Could you portion off part of it in the spring, dismantle the house, and rebuild it more efficiently inside, maybe, the loft of the barn?
3.) Buy a large sack of field peas (organic is best, but whatever you can afford...) to plant early in the season in the corn field to get microbial nutrients/nitrogen back in the system. Irrigate if possible to get the peas established. Buy a scythe, scythe stone, and perhaps the scythe book and practice proper scythe technique on spare time.
4.)Consider a field mix that is rich in diversity, including nitrogen fixers like clovers and vetch and broadleaf plants like chicory, dandelion, annuals like barley and oats, and annual greens like mustard and radish, and herbs like dill, oregano, and cilantro. When the peas are starting to flower, broadcast this mix in the living system, and then scythe the peas down. Irrigate if you can. After this you might not need to irrigate nearly as much.
5.)Plant a garden between the barn and your house, if that works with solar aspect, if not consider the best solar aspect and make a garden (small enough to be manageable), and focus attention on paths/garden beds that span the area for patterns of movement... example: I'm going to the barn to bring this, or get that and there is an unwanted weed, I'll pull it, and figure out what it is, and if I can eat it later. I'm on my way to the field, and I see that this bed needs more mulch (note to self).
6.)Harvest the rain off your barn.
That's all I got so far.
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