Gray Water Muck Out

By , August 15, 2018

A week or so ago, our shower drain clogged. That’s not a big deal; we keep a plunger in the corner of the shower stall, and one often gives it a few plunges in the middle of a shower. This time, the clog came right back. Soon, we had standing water in the stall, with only slight draining.

We had a problem!

gray water system

Mark hit gray dirt…er, pay dirt! (Photo: Michelle L. Zeiger).

We tried several fixes, including running an auger through the drain. Nothing worked well enough.

Finally, we turned to “The Owner’s Manual,” a booklet of essays and photographs the original owners compiled for the next owners—i.e. us—that tells how and why things work around the homestead.

Our gray water drains to a septic field of sorts. The shower and sink drains empty into a void underground in front of the cabin. Sludge sinks, water flows out another pipe toward the roots of the cherry tree. According to the original owners, this must be opened up and dug out “every 10 years or so.”

Given that we just celebrated the 12th anniversary of moving to the homestead on Saturday, we obviously needed to dig into the system and muck it out.

Easier said than done.

The manual gave general instructions for about where to find the void, but we cast about a bit before finding it. We hit the old beach bedrock several times, and battled years of roots that had accumulated.

Once we found the pit, things got . . . well, yucky.

Trigger Warning: if you have a weak stomach, it may be time to turn away. I’ll try not to get too graphic.

We found pale, putty colored ooze, some of it almost like chunks of cream cheese in places, some more muck-like. We grabbed buckets and started shoveling it out.

gray water

A sample of our “product.” Plenty more where that came from! (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

To our relief and encouragement, we found a lot of earth worms down there, more than we usually see in the garden! As objectionable as we found the stuff (it didn’t smell great, either) at least the worms found it good.

At first, we tried to keep from touching the stuff. Eventually, though, Michelle went full-on crazy, laying on the ground and reaching deep into the hole to remove pitcher after pitcher of muck. We figure we removed about 30 gallons.

mucking out gray water

Michelle gives her all to the cause (Photo: Mark A. Zeiger).

After that, Michelle ran the auger into the bottom of the pipe, eventually finding and pulling out the worst clog.

In a couple of hours, we had the pit cleaned out, water ran freely down the drain, and we could cover it up and refill the hole. What a relief!

re-covered gray water system

As good as new . . . ? We’ll add more dirt as the ground settles (Photo: Michelle L. Zeiger).

We’re drawing a map of the outlet and making notes to accompany it. Next time, hopefully more than 10 years down the road, we’ll have some more documentation to work with.



2 Responses to “Gray Water Muck Out”

  1. Ekij says:

    Where did you dispose of the 30+ gallons of sludge?

  2. Mark Zeiger says:

    Ekij, we made it it’s own little compost bin. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, it’ll break down into usable, or at least neutral, soil. We probably could have put it in our regular bins, but I just didn’t like the idea of dealing with it every time I open up the bin to add something else, until it broke down!

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