stack on steroids
Sunday, May 9 2010
My brownhouse has smelled increasingly funky of late, a problem that should have been solved by the fan, the vent stack, and the tight-fitting toilet seat (remember, I modified it using Portland cement). But recently the stank has been noticeable not only inside the cabin, but also within a dozen or so feet of the outside of the building. That shouldn't be happening. So I'd been thinking that maybe the stack isn't generating enough suction in these warmer conditions. Yesterday I'd bought forty feet of four inch HDPE sewer pipe that I'd immediately spray-painted black, and today I went to extend the height of the existing pipe.
Normally one can't make a chimney stand much taller than the building it is attached to because the building provides scaffolding support. This is particularly true of lightly-built masonry chimneys, but it applies to cast iron and plastics as well, which, if they stand to tall, will tend to bend or sway in a strong wind. But I had a solution that would allow me to run the chimney 18 feet higher than the brownhouse roof line. The plan was to slant the stack at 22.5 degrees from vertical until it intercepted the hickory tree growing about five feet to the east of the brownhouse. Then I'd strap the stack to that tree and run it as far up as my ladder would allow me to climb.
Despite occasionally terrifying gusts of wind, the installation went faster and more safely than I had initially feared. I used loops of heavy copper wire screwed into the tree as means of supporting the HDPE pipe. It tended to sway back and forth with the tree, but there was enough give in the supports that none of this movement seemed to impact the stiffer parts of the stack nearer the brownhouse.
As a whim, I stuck my nose into the end of the stack (which should have been carrying fumes up from the shit chamber. But strangely, I didn't smell anything. It turned out that during my recent work on the brownhouse, I'd accidentally reinstalled the blower fan upside down, and it had been sucking fresh air down that stack for over a month. (The fan has been on continuously since then because its switching system doesn't work with the new seat mechanism.) This little fuckup entirely accounts for the stank factor extreme. Still, I'm not uninstalling that vent stack. It will probably be able to maintain low pressure in the shit chamber nearly all the time without needing assistance from a fan. And it will be injecting stank high up into the tree canopy where it can only offend birds, beetles, and squirrels.
My gardening plans for this year include tomatoes, but in order to avoid a repeat of yesteryear's tomato blight catastrophe, I've started up a new tomato patch where I plan to only grow tomatoes I myself have grown from seed, entirely avoiding contamination from commercial greenhouse. The new patch is a means of avoiding the problem of blight-contaminated soil that plagues our old garden (where there will be no tomatoes this year). But the other day Gretchen threw a monkey wrench into my plans by bringing home three tomato plants from Davenport's greenhouse. As I recall, it was Davenport tomatoes that caused our blight issues last year. While it's possible they've eradicated their blight, I'm not taking any chances. So today I started building a second separate tomato patch about twelve feet to the north of the one I'd built several weeks ago. As with that patch, this second one will be a level terrace whose soil will be constrained by a C-shaped bluestone retaining wall built against a slope.
This evening Gretchen returned from Rhode Island and we went out to our favorite Kingston Indian restaurant (in Uptown) to celebrate our seventh wedding anniversary. We brought our own bottle of wine, which is something we never see any other diners doing. But the Bangladeshi guys who run the place have corkscrews to serve the needs of people like us.
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