fixing the pisser II
Wednesday, December 5 2012
I've made a lot of things since moving to Hurley, but (as I mentioned in yesterday's entry), the most useful of my inventions has probably been my urinal system. It consists of a PVC plumbing system and two PVC funnels (one in the garage shop and another in the laboratory) to be used as flushless urinals. The urine is pulled by gravity down through system, ending up in a bucket outside the house near its northeast corner (I have to walk by it to get to the brownhouse and greenhouse). The bucket is filled with sawdust, pine needles, or oak leaves, and when I noticed that it runneth over, I dig a hole in the garden and bury it. Not only do I save a lot of time and water by taking advantage of a flushless urinal three feet behind where I do my work, but by capturing this nitrogen and phosphorous before it can become a water pollutant and treating it like the valuable fertilizer it is, I grow richer, healthier, faster-growing, more insect-resistant garden vegetables. In comparison to the "normal" way urine is disposed of in this wasteful country, it's better in nearly every way.
I say nearly because occasionally there are problems. The most common of these comes in the winter when temperatures fall below the freezing point of urine and the system begins to back up. Sometimes I'm forced to depend on a urine overflow system in the garage shop, but when the urine starts freezing down in there as well then I have to revert to making trucker bombs (at this point I am philosophically opposed to urinating in any of the household toilets). But even in the coldest part of the winter, it's rare to have the urinal system remain in an unusable state for more than two days at a time.
The only other problem with the urinal system manifests the same symptoms as being frozen, but it can happen at any time of the year (and, until this latest time, had only happened once before). I'm referring to a material blockage, almost certainly some combination of dirt, hair, dead ticks, coffee grounds, and urea crystals. The main problem with a flushless urinal system is that urea tends to gradually choke down the size of the plumbing system much like cholesterol in a coronary artery. In my experience, after two or three years the three-quarter-inch PVC gets clogged somewhere, probably in one of the several L-fittings. After building the system in the Spring of 2007, the first time it became clogged in this way was a little over three years later, in June of 2010. And now, some two and a half years after that, it is clogged once more. Last night I dumped a bunch of Liquid Plumbr down the laboratory urinal, thinking it would make quick work of the problem like it had last time. But all that seemed to happen was the prolific production of bubbles that smelled like they might be pure chlorine.
Today I found myself having to be less passive in unclogging my urinal system. Though it would be nice to trust a liquefied plumbing professional with the task at hand, in this case it seemed that an opposable thumb or two might also be important plumber qualifications. I tried poking a stick into the system from its bottom (where it exits the house near the northeast corner), but that didn't do anything. So then I tried hooking up a plastic tube and blowing air into it from that end. I could feel the air making the urine in the lower urinal (the one in the garage shop) bubble, so that meant that if there was a blockage in the system, it was up higher than that.
So then I tried blowing air into the system from the top, at the check valve. The air easily bubbled up through the nearby urinal, meaning that, unlike in 2010, the blockage was not there. It was somewhere lower down. But I had no good way to force pressure into that part of the system. So I found myself thinking about how I would modify the system to allow me to do that.
Some hours later, though, the Liquid Plumbr somehow burned through the clog (wherever it was) and the whole thing drained in an instant, the way it does when it thaws open on a warm day in the wintertime. It makes a delightful sucking sound that gurgles and chugs until nearly all the urine is pulled out of the traps. To ensure a solid flush, I then dumped in a couple extra gallons of water. Now all I had to do was dispose of all the Liquid-Plumbr-and-piss-soaked toilet paper I'd needed to mop up the several disgusting spills and minor explosions that had happened along the way.
Gretchen wanted to keep Dutchess the bony shelter dog for an indeterminately-long fostering, but I thought cooler heads should prevail and we should have a little time to think about things before getting a third dog. I don't want to be a dog hoarder; there are an awful lot of sad dogs out there in need of homes, and if fostering a dog means we can't ever take it back, then I'm not going to be so into fostering in the future. Also, in the case of Dutchess, I'm concerned about the way she smacks her lips and slowly works herself up into a lather whenever she contemplates one of our cats. Gretchen thinks it's absurd to worry about this, but I'm not yet comfortable leaving our cats alone with Dutchess; indeed, we know people whose failure to read doggy motives resulted in the deaths of cats. It's easy to project humanlike qualities onto a dog, especially when motivated by wishful thinking. Though she would deny it, I see this a lot in Gretchen, and it's led to a few careless decisions in the past. So in this case I had to be the hard-nosed pragmatist. This doesn't mean I wasn't sad to see Dutchess go, and it doesn't mean I didn't also miss her. But we needed to wait before making this particular decision.
The day had started out warm and sunny, and at some point I brought Nigel into the greenhouse upstairs to show him how awesome it is for a cat. He hung out for a bit, and didn't immediately freak out and want to leave as he normally would. When I eventually showed him how to exit through the pet door, I saw Clarence was out there on the deck. So then Clarence came in and ended up sleeping on the plushy fleece-covered futon for hours. I don't think he knows how to use the pet door yet, so eventually I came down and strongly encouraged him to come back to the house, which he did.
For linking purposes this article's URL is:feedback
previous | next