An affair of plain living

I recently borrowed “The Foxfire Book” from my nephew, Derik. “The
Foxfire Book” was created in 1972 and based on a magazine of the same
name. The magazine was a collection of instructions about how to;
dress a hog, build a log cabin, make moonshine and “other affairs of
plain living.” I decided this week I would create my own offering of
instruction on an activity of plain living. I will detail how I cover
our septic tank for winter.

First off, I don’t know that I really need to cover our septic tank
and drain field to protect it from the cold of the final season. I
never covered it the first five years I lived here but one winter
started with little insulating snow and so I covered everything with
straw. I am now addicted to the assurance that I will not have a
frozen septic tank, even though I probably wouldn’t anyway.

If you believe it is too late to cover your septic tank and drain
field, it is not. Cold falls and heat rises, so as you insulate your
septic tank from the falling cold you will also save the heat that
seeks to rise from below. There is still much heat in the ground
(particularly in a septic tank) so it is not too late to conserve the
warmth with straw. I easily stuck a small fence post into the ground
by hand this week so the topsoil has not even frozen.

Trapped air insulates best, the straw is there to basically trap air
so it is best if the straw is fluffy. I typically break the bales up
and fluff them up both for better insulation and as a more economical
use of each bale. A bale left intact covers only a small area but
will cover several times it’s size if broken up. I use a three tine
fork to spread the straw; fewer tines make it easier to manipulate
the fork into the little wedges of straw. There are two edges to a
bale, one is coarse to grip the bale it sits upon in the stack and
the other edge is there to shed water. I always take each wedge of
bale and lay it flat then poke the fork through the side at a 45
degree angle then shake up the straw. If you poke the fork into
either of the edges it will just break the wedge into two pieces and
it will not be fluffy. You want it fluffy.

I cover the septic tank with about one foot of height and overlap the
edge of the tank by about a foot. I can only guess where the drain
field pipe lays based on the outlet inside the tank so I make a wide
path above the pipe so as to guarantee coverage. Please remember that
you will have to pick up this same straw next spring when it will be
soaked with melted snow so use enough but don’t get crazy. One winter
I used a whole round bale of hay (about 1200 pounds) and spent much
of a day cleaning up that unholy mess the following spring.

Well there it is, my offering of information about plain
living-covering your septic tank. It’s not as much fun as making
moonshine nor as artistic as basket weaving however still a useful
skill. I’m not sure it would make it as an entry into “The Foxfire
Book” however it will make for dozens of worry-free flushes this
winter when it’s thirty below.

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