kls_eloise (kls_eloise) wrote,

New Adventures in Tablet Weaving and Plumbing

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.  I hated that book.  But it’s a great first line.

This past weekend we hosted February’s bi-monthly workshops – Bob did orange mead in the kitchen, and I had shiroscaelfgifa  teaching beginning tablet weaving in the living room.  Most of last week was picking up the house in preparation for having all these people over, hence the radio silence.

That and work was REALLY sucky.  I don’t want to/probably shouldn’t talk about that in this forum.

In the end we had almost twenty people, if you count the three that live here and the cats.  Some folks came for the brewing portion, which has been the weak link so far.  I’m providing outlets and socialization for the arts community – Bob is more or less trying to create a brewing community from scratch.  That’s going to take a bit longer.

I actually got up on time, woke up the woodstove, and got a fire started in the living room fireplace.  That’s a first for me.  I’m very good with woodstoves, but starting and maintaining a fire in a metal box where I can control the air, and doing the same in a pile on the floor against the wall are very different things.  So I was very pleased with myself.  I got the last of the cleanup finished just as people started arriving.  We milled for maybe an hour, and got started when Aelfgifa got there.  Some people brought looms, three of us didn’t have them, so we made them out of random scrap lumber and ¾” dowels.  You just can’t get better than that for low startup costs.  After that she had us warp them up.  That was… interesting.  It wasn’t so much that it was difficult as it was a pain in the ass.  She’d commented that in most classes they just hand you a warped up loom and teach you how to manipulate the cards, but she felt that this group would do better understanding how it worked from the beginning.  I agree completely, but I have to say that I understand why classes in a schola setting start with warped up looms.  First, it’s a pain in the butt; second, it takes either a bit of room OR good coordination to not clock people in the head; and third it takes bloody forever.  But we had all day, and Aelfgifa’s coordination is excellent.

In addition to tablet weaving and brewing, we also had cheesemaking and bread baking going on.  Anarra had started a batch of soft goat cheese at the canton meeting the night before, and finished up during the day.  I’m not a huge fan of cheese, but the process was pretty cool, and not horribly difficult.  Ana Ilevna had offered fresh bread for dinner, so she brought over the dough and baked it while we were working.

So we learned about twisting, and s-threading and z-threading, and rotating cards, and all sorts of cool stuff.  How neat is that?  Then in the midst of all of this crazy fun there was an almighty THUMP from the kitchen.  The sound that a body might make, hitting the floor.  A body holding a filled carboy, for example.  As I understand it, he picked up the carboy to agitate it in order to get the honey into solution, and lost his balance.  He’s fine, the carboy is fine, the only damage was to his pride and a quantity of liquid slopped.  Since mopping the floor is de rigueur after any brewing endeavors anyhow, not a huge deal.

So there was weaving and chatting in the living room, and brewing and tasting and chatting in the kitchen.  They had the woodstove, we had the fireplace.  Life was good.  Until…

There’s always a “but” in my stories.  Have you noticed that?

About two years ago we had a problem with a clogged drain from the downstairs full bath.  A fairly icky problem.  We bought a snake, augered out the drain, and thought we had resolved it.  No.  No we had not.  What we had done was to clear ourselves enough breathing space to allow it to reoccur on a day when we had seventeen people in the house.  Isn’t that when YOUR plumbing always backs up?


So we closed up that bathroom and directed people to the half bath by the door.  Which is a real shame, because in the winter the temperature in that room hovers just slightly above arctic.  Not a lot of encouragement to linger.  But we were still functional.

I got a big put of chicken and wine sauce on and a pot of rice, and that got done just about the point where weaving was beginning to break down into chatting.  My timing was accidentally perfect.  I even got compliments on my cooking, which made me happy.  I don’t really like to cook, but I do like to feed people.

I think everyone had a good time.  *I* had a great time, and now I have another hobby to indulge.  Tablet weaving is SO COOL.  I need to do more.  I have no idea what I’ll do with it, but I need to do more.  I’m such a dilettante.  I really am.


So at about 8:00, all the people having been cleared out of the house, we went to investigate the plumbing.  No change.  Bob had talked to my dad earlier, and dad offered his auger which is longer than ours, as well as a different style auger which is really more of a brute force weapon than a tool.  I offered to Bob that I would clean up if he would run down to Brookfield and pick up the auger – that way we could see if it could be snaked out that evening.  So he went to Brookfield, and I picked up the house.  When he got back, he started working on the shower drain, and I kept working on the kitchen, intermittently running down to the basement to report on his progress (if you lay a hand on the pipe, you can feel where the auger is running.)  He snaked that thing out all the way along the bathroom waste pipe and about halfway to where the main pipe leaves the house.  Twice.  Nothing.  I had been hopeful.  Very hopeful.  Because when the auger doesn’t work, the next step is to take the cap off of the clean out port in the basement.  The cap behind which all the ick is sitting.  The one IN MY BASEMENT.  Pointed directly at my boiler, I might add.  We decided that midnight was not the time to be starting something like that, bailed the shower pan, and called it a night.  We would attack it first thing Sunday morning.

Sunday morning dawned with an awakening Charlotte who really wanted her breakfast.  Bob got up to take care of that, and I fell back asleep for a little bit.  I got up when I heard him on the phone with my father – dad wanted to know how it had gone, and Bob wasn’t at his most charming.  I found out why when he got off the phone – overnight the shower pan had refilled.  Started to overflow over the lip “refilled.”

Here’s something I would never have guessed – the pan on one of your standard prefab shower enclosures will hold ten gallons of liquid.  Who knew?  It doesn’t *look* that deep.

More alarmingly, we had water in the crawl space.  Did you know that the phrase “water in the crawl space” will trigger a larger adrenaline dump in my system than any amount of caffeine can accomplish?

So here were the issues:

  *  The downstairs bathroom drains were clogged beyond redemption, and we needed to open them up in the basement and clean them out that way.
  *  The boxes in the crawlspace had to be removed (as well as a piece of furniture,) which is a lengthy difficult operation.
  *  Any boxes which may have gotten wet would have to be addressed/thrown out.
  *  Any wet insulation might need to be stripped out and replaced.
  *  Any one of these tasks required both of us to work on it – in the basement.
  *  We couldn’t leave Charlotte alone upstairs, and we couldn’t let her down into the basement.

Fun, eh?  That last point was the real problem.  So I called dad back, and asked if mom could come visit.  I explained how the situation stood, and that we didn’t have enough people to do the work AND watch the baby.  They packed up and got on the road.  Meanwhile, Bob watched the baby while I cleared walking space in the basement and started pulling boxes out of the crawlspace.  Luckily, it wasn’t as bad as I had thought during the first rush of fear.  I hadn’t put cardboard boxes anywhere on that side because – the pipes were over there.  Sometimes I’m brilliant.  A couple of flip top plastic tubs had gotten wet and the water got in the top, but frankly, it was stuff I should have thrown out years ago anyway.  I pulled out boxes adjacent to the wet area, and moved the old entertainment center to the opening – getting it all the way out is a two man job.  When I had gotten that far, I went upstairs to mind Charlotte while Bob went downstairs to shift brewing stuff out of the way and clear the stuff in front of the Bilco door for removal of said cabinet (which ultimately ended up going up the main stairs instead.)

Ironically, she went down for a nap ten minutes before my parents got there.  But I just know that if I hadn’t called, she wouldn’t have napped at all.  I suppose I could have just left her to scream in her crib, but that didn’t seem very nice for anyone.

Dad showed up with an assortment of tools and a change of clothes.  I love my father.  We assembled buckets and ladders, and he opened up the port on the pipe coming from the bathroom.  That pipe drained over ten gallons of things I’m not going to talk about.  Then he sent me for a wire coat hanger and went fishing for the clog.  I think Bob has a persistent sinus infection, because he can never smell anything.  For once, this was a good thing.  Dad is just impervious.  I almost threw up twice.  I’m not going to give you any details – I’m trying to forget them.  Let’s just say that while I still don’t want to pay a plumber’s prices, I can’t argue with them.  Dear God…

Unfortunately, what came out of that pipe didn’t appear to actually BE the problem.  Some experimentation showed that apparently when we snaked the drain the night before, we didn’t break through the clog, we pushed it downstream.  That pushed it past where the other drains from other parts of the house join the main pipe.  So when I got up at 3:00 am and flushed the toilet on the second floor… that water had nowhere to go except back up the pipes – and the shower pan is the lowest point in the system.

Thank goodness I didn’t decide to take a shower up there.

So the next step was to remove the port that really frightened me – the one that leads out of the house to the tank in the back yard.  A direct pipeline to yuck.  Dad, of course, just waded in, so to speak.  If dealing with any of this stuff concerns him, he never shows it.  I can never tell where the competence stops and the confidence starts.  Which is not to say that he’s incompetent – he’s not.  My dad is the most competent person I know.  I just never know when he knows what he’s doing because he’s done it before, or when he’s certain that what he’s going to do will work because it ought to.

My fear, by the way, was not that I would open those pipes and horrible things would come gushing out.  Okay, it was for the first one, and I was right.  But primarily my fear with things like that is that I will open them up and then they won’t close correctly and I’ll have a leak.  A leak dripping unspeakable things.  These are the things I worry about at 2:00am.

Dad opened up the big cast iron four inch pipe and commented that if the clog was downstream of *there*, it would be time to call Roto-Rooter, but luckily it showed clear.  Once that was open he snaked between the two ports.  Then I spent a lot of time running up and down the stairs – flush the second floor toilet three times; flush the library toilet once; flush the toilet in the half bath; run the sink, the shower, and flush the toilet in the library bathroom; etc.  Eventually everything ran freely.

Bob helped me get the cabinet out of the crawl space, and I got in there to try to figure out where *that* water came from.  I had two wet spots.  One was a leak from the water supply valve on the toilet – it had started dripping a bit when we were turning the water on and off, and it had wicked down the water supply pipe and dripped.  The other one turned out to be a leak between the drain and the shower pan, and there wasn’t as much as had appeared at first glance – and it was clear water.  We cut away that piece of insulation, and will replace it soonish.  There’s a bunch of insulation bats that are hanging badly under there that I would kind of like to replace, but I’d rather do it in the spring.

Last night I started our “homework” to finish clearing this up and put about five gallons of hot water and a bunch of Dawn dish detergent down that drain.  We’re to do that every day for a week or so.  Apparently that drain had run slow the whole time we’ve been in the house, because it has never drained like that – I couldn’t pour the water in fast enough to flood the pipe.  That’s good.  I went down and could hear dripping in the crawlspace.  That’s bad.  For now, I’m going to put a bucket under it, but we’ll need to address that soon.

Here’s the punch line.  The reason we’re having this problem is because of a government regulation.  Our house was built in 1979.  Sometime after 1994, when Congress passed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, the bathrooms were renovated.  That act mandated that toilets sold in the U.S. may use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush.  Now if you watch any of the home show trade show stuff, you’ll see the various manufacturers touting the newest, lowest flow low-flow toilets, and they usually have a great little visual demo involving a low volume flush and a lot of ping-pong balls.  Clearing the appliance isn’t the problem.  The problem is that I have a home that was plumbed to the standard of old four or five gallon flush toilets.  Once the flush has cleared the appliance it still needs to travel about twenty five feet horizontally through a four inch pipe before it hits a gravity assist drop to take it out to the septic tank.  Think about pouring 1.6 gallons of water into a four inch pipe.  How far do you think that water will carry any solids before the liquid it has spread out too far to carry any “product?”

Apparently not twenty five feet.

I gather that this is one of the most common problems plumbers see in pre 1994 homes that have renovated bathrooms.  I suspect that new homes are designed with shorter horizontal waste pipe runs.  Also, a lot of people smuggle high-flow toilets over the border from Canada.  It’s not legal for plumbers to install them, but who’s to ever know what’s been installed in your bathroom?  Or you can do it yourself.

So the practical answer is that for the two downstairs bathrooms, we need to retrain ourselves to push and hold the lever until the tank empties, thereby providing sufficient water to clear the pipe run.

I can do that.  I don’t ever want to open up those pipes again.

I washed my hands so many times that I’m surprised I have skin left.

Tags: bathroom, house, sca, twitor

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    The company is nice enough to stock all of the gym showers with liquid soap, shampoo, and conditioner. They all smell like mouthwash. I have mixed…

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