Need to Reassess and Get Advice

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by Tango, Sep 1, 2005.

  1. Tango

    Tango Well-Known Member

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    The health department won't issue a septic permit for my homesite because my land is too low and water is running just 3 feet below the surface. I have more land which is higher but will have to build a bridge over the creek which gets pretty rough in winter I hear(and it got pretty rough after Dennis and Katrina went through as storms. The bridge will be several thousand which I would rather not spend on a bridge. It will also mean that I will indeed get more solar panels since taking electric back there will be over $8K. I'm hiring a soil scientist to see if any of the front pasture is acceptable but it is low and I knew that when I bought this land. It is great pasture and it doesn't flood. Ironically, my first choice for a homesite was the top meadow but costs kept me from pursuing that. Now it seems I might have to anyway.

    I am considering composting toilets for the cabin and would like honest feedback. We studied them several years ago and the literature all seems great but the opinions for those using them was less than ideal imo. Also is anyone using a gray water system to irrigate gardens? Does the health dept. get involved in gray water systems and composting toilets?

    I had already called the gas company and they can put a tank out in the pasture and run lines to the back but that will cost, I know.

    My other big concern is heating. With gas prices going up it will affect everything and I have so much free wood to use that it makes a lot of sense to buy an outdoor wood furnace but I'm going to grow old here god willing and don't know how hard it will be to cut wood and go outside in winter to feed the furnace. Any of our older members regret their furnace or find it is getting too hard for them? I'm 41 now and it wouldn't be a problem at all for quite a while, given my health remains the same. Just worried that the woodcutting and the outdoor trips in very bad weather to keep the fire going will pose a problem. Thanks in advance.
     
  2. coalroadcabin

    coalroadcabin Well-Known Member

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    Can they engineer an alternative septic system for you ? Alternative systems are expensive to engineer and install but it may very well be cheaper than building a bridge. Also, check with your county building department regarding gray water systems and using a composting toilet - ours won't issue a building permit for the house unless we have a septic/well permit first.
     

  3. sisterpine

    sisterpine Goshen Farm Supporter

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    hmmm...very interesting situation you have there! We have a compost toilet and a gray water system at our mountain home. Would I buy a compost toilet again, probably not (at least not a BIOLET DELUX). It is possible another brand or type or size would work better. there are only two of us and we constantly overwhelm this toilet with liquid. Have been working with the techinal support at biolet for over 2 years and just a couple of months ago finally "gave up" and told them their unit does not do the job they say it will. Such is life i guess. Our gray water (shower, sinks, washer) goes directly into the garden areas and have had no problems that way. however we have no zoning or inspections up here so dont know if you would run into problems that way.
     
  4. bearkiller

    bearkiller Well-Known Member

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    Tango,

    First off, glad to hear you on the board. I trust the torrential rain you saw from the storms created no major problems.

    How to cope with crossing your stream depends on the size of the stream at its worst. Here, what I had to cross got big enough to wash away every culvert ever installed for it (4 feet diameter). I ended up finding a 20 foot diameter culvert that was built in four bolt together sections. I dug for the footings on each side of the creek and installed big truck tires packed with gravel until I was about three feet in the air. Then set the culvert sections on these tire abutments and backfilled. Now the creek can do what it likes and the crossing is good enough I can get the D8 over it (56,000 lbs).

    If you need a greater span (my crossing ended up spanning around 12 feet to the tire abutments) other folks here bought retired railway flat cars with their wheels removed. Transported on a flat bed truck and set in place with a crane. Expensive, but cheaper than anything else they considered. These get you out to 40 feet or so, but a propane truck cannot cross because of width issues.

    I know of other people who cross a river with motor vehicles in summer low water periods only. The rest of the year they cross the creek on a cable car they set up. Let me tell you that was a thrill the first few times crossing. They park their cars outside and keep a small VW buggy on the house side. Works for them, keeps out the peddlars, ensures great privacy and it really is NOT a major obstacle.

    I built a composting throne out of plans I bought years ago. Called a "Maine Tank" and similar in design to a Clivus Multrum. Original plans called for forming and cast in place concrete, but I built mine as a thin ferrocement structure. Actually pretty easy to do, if labor intensive. As long as you pay attention to the usual issues of compost making (carbon/nitrogen ratio, adequet moisture, adequet heat) they work just fine. HOWEVER, I have never seen a public health agency in CA that would approve one. For me the water wasted was the motivator because summer water gets scarce for me.
    And I'm so far out in the boonies they barely know I'm alive and probably wish I wasn't. A lot depends on your exposure (pardon the double meaning) and how much the local agencies think they own you.

    Similar issues with gray water. I have built several houses for people who wanted to use the graywater but the local agencies prohibit them. What I did was plumb the house for two systems, black water and gray water, and then tie them together at a location where separating them is pretty easy. After final inspection and the gestapo goes away make the conversion. Their big concern is there are SOME fecal coliforms in gray water and they want to protect you from yourself whether or not you have a single functional brain cell or not.

    Miss Marcia, I am an old fart, but I can still run a chainsaw and feed the wood through a small log splitter and stack it to dry. The ten cords in my woodshed was collected over time and here I am still able to grouch. Sure it gets harder with age, but for those of us with the will it is not that difficult. Just plan to spend more time at wood harvest with the passing years. Besides the hard work will help keep you young.

    After 15 years let me tell you I LIKE not having PUD power. No monthly bill to think about. I set up home power first as a genset matched to an inverter and then appropriate sized battery bank. Has worked well for me. Adding enough solar panels is much better and you'll not have to listen to the genset as often. Many times I have gone down my hill to find neighbor sitting with an oil lamp or candles going for light and nothing else in his house works. Me I always have heat, light, water, and entertainment. And no monthly bill. Sounds like a good deal to me.

    How are you pigs doing? Make the transition from FLA ok? This year I have yorkshires and they are growing like weeds.

    bearkiller
     
  5. Laura

    Laura Well-Known Member

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    I agree, an engineered, above-ground septic system may be cheaper than a bridge.

    As far as firewood, my parents cut 10 cords a year starting at your age and stockpiled it on their retirement property. It kept them in incredible shape through the years they did not have a woodburner in their house. They are in their mid 70s now. Dad complains that he used to be able to get 3 cords in a day, now it takes 3 days to get a cord. They are in no danger of running out of firewood any time soon, and they even donate some of their older wood to families that have none. We usually fill their pickup or box trailer with split alder when they come to vist.

    One mistake Dad made, in his own words, "In my infinite wisdom I thought this fir and bristlecone would be easier to split when I was 75 years old instead of when I was 42."
     
  6. tobo6

    tobo6 Well-Known Member

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    :baby04: Hey Tango

    In our area I know a lot of people have what you call sand septics that are built above ground in low lying area's. They are more spendy then a regular septic set up, but that would keep you in the lower area of your property and you wouldn't have the cost of having to put in a bridge.

    I know a couple who was told they couldn't put a septic in because of flood plains, but after having a septic installer come out and say a above ground sand septic would work the county then ok'd it.

    I think there is another name for sand septic....maybe someone else knows the proper name and can tell you what it is...I'm drawing a blank, but know that the septic box is above ground and is full of sand, lol.

    Good to hear from you, I was wondering how you were doing during the storm. :goodjob:
     
  7. shellbug

    shellbug Well-Known Member

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    my DH mentioned seeing a solar composting septic system somewhere a few months ago - might look those up to see if that is an option
     
  8. Jan Doling

    Jan Doling Well-Known Member

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    We live in a flood plain and some folks in my neighborhood had to install vacuum-pump septic tanks. Maybe that is the term you are looking for? We annoyed the environmental agency for several years before they finally relented and let us use one acre (out of 20) for our house, barn, driveway, etc. Keep trying alternate ideas and be persistent. They will eventually get tired of seeing your face and may even make a few suggestions to make it feasable. I think you are on the right track with the outdoor furnace idea. That way you won't have to worry about asthma-triggering agents indoors and the threat of a house fire will be much less. a natural gas and electricity are going to become much more expensive in a very short time.

    Good luck and keep us posted.
     
  9. Cabin Fever

    Cabin Fever Life NRA Member since 1976 Supporter

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    In Minnesota, we call these "Mound Systems." They are a standard system (no special engineering) and I'd guesstimate that 25% of the systems built in the State are "mounds." If the seasonal high watertable is at least one foot below the surface, you can have a mound built.

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  10. tobo6

    tobo6 Well-Known Member

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    Yah!!! Cabin Fever has what I was talking about. Lots of people have them around here. They really are not that bad, people put a layer of dirt over them, grow grass and it's a nice little addition to your landscaping.

    I do know that they are a little more spendy then your typical underground septic, but might be cheaper in the long run for you to put out a little more on the septic if you can stay on the other side of the creek.

    We have to drive over our creek. Right now we have two humongus calverts and then gravel over it, but most of the year we have water over the "bridge". Our 20 foot wide creek turns into a 40 ft wide raging river between October and May, lol. Cuts down on visitors though!
     
  11. Ken Scharabok

    Ken Scharabok In Remembrance

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    Somewhat similar situation here, but I am grandfathered in. Am told one alternative I have if the drainfield does stop up is to keep the septic tank, add on an overflow chamber and then run Schedule 40 pipe from it to a drainfield put in on higher ground. The only electric then required is for the sump pump and nothing is required to be above ground. In this manner perhaps all which needs to go across the creek is the line. That might be protected with I-beam or such so excess water flows under and over it.
     
  12. MAC

    MAC Active Member

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    They are called "sand filters" around here...
    It's (usually) not the septic tank placement that's in question but rather, the drainfield. I had much the same problem you describe, and the solution was septic tank behind the house, pumping to a drainfield a couple hundred yards away (uphill). Cheaper than building a bridge.
     
  13. Tango

    Tango Well-Known Member

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    Sorry. I haven' ignored my own thread but have had connection problems for the past two days and then when I did connect, I was interrupted several times by visitors (but had good visits). Anyway, any type of septic in TN needsto be permitted by the state and done by licensed techs. That's the short of it. That mound system, I was told by the health dept. would be around $10K to build here. Rather have a bridge if it came to that.I am waiting on a soil scientist to map my property and then will make a choice but Ken's and Mac's suggestions were also suggested by the health dept. and the next most feasiblenext to the common drainfield. Thanks for the helpful advice everyone.
     
  14. Cyngbaeld

    Cyngbaeld In Remembrance Supporter

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    Hard to say what YOUR county will/won't allow. In CO (Mesa Co.) I was told an NSF composting toilet was ok, but would still need a septic system for grey water.

    Sometimes you can get them to let you put in a 'non-discharging grey water treatment system using plants'. It is simply a giant planter, and it can have a greenhouse over it if you like. Add that to a NSF approved toilet and you are ok.

    Here I am putting in a homebuilt composting toilet (2, actually) and running the grey water to the fruit trees and it is not a problem. Not many regs in this county yet.
     
  15. cathryn

    cathryn Well-Known Member

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    We have looked into these and cannot use one where we are currently, however we will get one when we move up north to NH.

    We do have a friend who has one and he LOVES it. He heats his large house and heats his water. You can also run additional lines off it and heat anything you want - shop, greenhouse, garage, etc.

    He does not use just split wood, he puts EVERYTHING into it. Seasoned and split might work better in them, but he uses hunks of green wood even and it just chugs along. He has local tree guys drop off the smaller wood from their jobs (so it is free). He doesn't split it or season it. He fills it once a day, so the trip outside shouldn't be too much of an issue.


    Hope the septic stuff works out for you. It's never as easy as you hope it will be...

    Peace,
    cathryn
     
  16. lonewolf

    lonewolf Well-Known Member

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    The poo-pee police believe that you can't dispose of human waste without contaminating the planet. Makes me wonder how they deal with all the wild animals excreting waste all over the place. The point being, human waste products can be processed into compost that can be used on a garden. I would point out that if you have to have a mainstream septic system, build it. But that doesn't mean you have to use it.

    I've got a friend that built a home that going on outward appearances seemed to comply with all the goober codes. She and her family actually use a composting toilet and they have a by-pass valve built into the system so that the gray water flows into both their garden area and orchard. They also shut off the grid power after they had all their inspections and go on solar power.

    As for myself, I just keep out of sight with the goobers as best I can and make my life as low-impact and hidden as possible. I have no need for a septic system nor grid power. I have a rain collection system and I also draw water from a creek. Perhaps one day I may have a well drilled if I see the need for it.

    I prefer to use a wood stove with extra heating material (salvaged marble, granite, various field stone, concrete blocks and other heatsink objects) to add time to a burn. If I had a larger habitation, and could run the pumps, I would use a water boiler outside wood furnace as it would last better than hot air outdoor wood furnaces. The hot water type lasts longer, keeps a more even temperature and some have dual or multifuel capability (wood, heating oil, propane/natural gas).

    These same outdoor water furnaces, some of them at least, have large fireboxes and large door openings that will allow good sized pieces of wood to be fed into them. Cutting wood can be done easier if you break it up into smaller chunks of work. For example, cut trees down in the spring or summer and let them season on the ground. The moisture will be drawn out by the leaves. In the fall and winter you can cut up the trees into whatever size chunks you can handle. Don't pass up deadfalls and cutting down dead trees as needed for lighter weight firewood. Even if you have to cut them into 18 inch pieces or smaller, you can do it at any age where you can walk and stand without the aid of a walker if you break up the task into more manageable stages.