sunshine, greywater, & barn cleaning

yesterday was slated to be row-hoeing day, but by the time i got moving, i was more interested in solving the kitchen greywater problem, so i applied myself to that. i did get one path made through the field, but more will have to wait for next Sunday. i decided that i’m not going to freak out about the garden–if it’s late and slow this year, that’s okay. it’s our first year, and first-year gardening is all hard labor. it’s after the first year that things really take off in a garden. so, greywater.

we did some things too hastily, and therefore wrong, when we put the kitchen system in. the bath greywater is working perfectly–plants all the way down the bed have plenty of water, but not too much, and no water accumulates to sit under the drain. the kitchen trench was not dug as deep–that clay was hard–and on top of that, we didn’t use as much pumice in it, as we were running out of it by then. i chose to get the whole thing finished, rather than let it take another two weeks to get more pumice and still have an open trench across the front of the house. i was very impatient to finish the project by that point. it was fine for the first couple months, but then a couple things started happening. cockroaches discovered the drain and let themselves into the kitchen via it, which was unacceptable enough in its own right, and then water started to stand, instead of seeping into the pumice wick and wicking merrily away underground like it’s supposed to. we solved the bugs by capping the drain with a screen. the standing water problem is not so easy. i thought digging out the initial drain area and filling it with rocks would increase the water’s tendency to perk away and move into the soil. but that clay is hard; water does not really seep into it. it takes a very long time. so. tristan dug it out beautifully, dealt with the septic stuff, put rocks in. less standing water, and that considerably less septic (y’all know what kitchen greywater is like, right? it doesn’t do to let it sit, shall we say). still some standing water, though. so yesterday i emergency-transplated every plant in the first four feet of the bed, including a pair of blooming daffodils, who have weathered that sudden change surprisingly well, and excavated that length of the trench. and WOW did we not use enough pumice in there. (we’re actually using scoria, but it works the same way: the porous stone wicks the water upwards and forwards into the soil, which acts like a sponge, conveying water to the plant roots. good news is that the topsoil throughout the bed was soaked. i think i underestimated how much water this household uses in the kitchen. now that the first half of the trench is dug out, i wonder if we should fill it up to topsoil level with scoria and hope that solves it, or dig the entire thing out to the new depth–i dug it more than twice as deep as it was, and now that it’s extremely wet, that’s easier to do (in that you can actually sink a shovel into it, even if the soil weighs about a kabillion pounds) than it was. or maybe even add a diverter, & additional trenching–to where? the garden? the front fence where we’re going to put in sunflowers & maximillians?–so we have the ability to shunt water this way and that every couple of days so it can’t build up in any particular part of the system. that would be a hell of a lot of work. digging the rest of the trench out would be a hell of a lot of work. and it’s possible that what we’ve done so far will solve the problem of water not moving. as long as the water moves through the system, there’s a french drain at the end to catch it–and we even have gravel to put in those, finally. :) (yes, that did take six months. on the other hand, we’ve only been here six months, at all, and look what we’ve gotten done!) it’s also possible that the trenching i did yesterday would simply relocate the standing water four feet further from the drain and underground. if that’s the case, there could be a couple results–i just moved the problem rather than solving it and we have to dig it all out again anyway, or it’ll solve it because the water has enough room to stand and seep into the clay & into the scoria wick (see, pumice wick just sounds so much better) without meanwhile being exposed to air, and therefore does not make a toxic swamp in front of the house. i’d hope for that answer, of course. but i’m not sure. i’ve reached a layer in teh original trench where the scoria is about 3″ deep, which is considerably better than it was in the earlier parts of the trench. but it could be even better.

let this be a lesson, if you decide to make pumice wicks for household greywater. use a LOT of pumice, and a deep-enough trench. our bath trench was deeper—the ground back there is much softer, and we dug that one about twice as deep, and used way more scoria in it. and it is completely problem-free. it’s a longer drain from start to finish, too, and has two footpaths over it (the scoria layer is protected from soil compaction on the paths by bricks).

so we’ve got an open trench in the front yard again, essentially because i was too impatient in november to allow an open trench to sit while we finished working on it. i needed to call that project “done.” it will be, at some point, possibly even soon. :)

meanwhile, we’re off the water-waste system; just a little fine-tuning going on here. *cough*

today was Outbuilding Organization Day. when we moved in, everything that didn’t have an immediate home ended up in a giant pile in the middle of the barn. some things have been removed, some moved, some added, since then, but the barn had not gotten better. nor had the wildly-inefficient kitchen shed that you could barely walk into for the accumulated debris, nor the pumphouse, which was suffering from the same condition, only kind of worse because it involved a laundry machine, and a compound mitre saw (on the floor no less, there being no room for tables) and one hell of a lot of tools-with-handles, like shovels, rakes, (and other implements of destruction, you got that right).

today we conquered it ALL. pow. the barn is tidily restructured, containing storage areas, the mead/canning glassware storage neighborhood, a workshop area with tables, no less, and decently-organized woodpiles (a nice change from “we flung it all over there” woodpiles), a garden-supplies area, and camping supply area, and a nice convenient location for the ladder, bicycles, and chicken food. it’s wonderful. meanwhile, with the compound mitre saw located in the new barn workshop, i could kick some organization into the pump house–now all the Things With Handles are in one location, and like items are together (we really do have six shovels at the moment), and the shelves make sense. tools in cases are vertically shelved for quick access, and the tool boxes are accessible, and the bookshelf is organized after a fashion–like items together, anyhow. it may not be the final form, but it’s definitely an improvement. meanwhile, kicked butt in the kitchen shed, transforming it from a cardboard mine of unstable heavy objects and things you can’t find into a tidy kitchen-materials pantry where everything is easy to find and now there’s even some empty room left on shelves. some of that is due to deciding to locate the results of his jar fetish in the barn, but mostly it’s the result of new & improved organizion.

it’s all pretty freaking amazing. i think we’ll be basking in the results of today’s work for quite a long time. not to mention this will make everything else we do easier and more efficient–we can find things now!