The last time that I had to get in the ponds way back in the early spring, I changed into my waders as the water still had quite a chill. When I was through, I hung the waders up under the umbrella that covers the table on the deck and then forgot about them. Even though they were within plain sight, I left them where they were telling myself that I was going to need them shortly as I do need to get back into the ponds again (and still need to).
I saw a pair of wrens flying around and figured they were building a nest somewhere. I checked the waders but as far as I could see, there was no sign of a nest inside of them. A couple of weeks later as I remembered which in actuality was probably closer to a month later, I grabbed the waders to take them down and put them away indoors away from the mice and rats that live in the shed where most of this sort of thing is stored. They had managed to destroy the last pair that I had and had eaten holes in the material. Waders are not much good when they are full of holes.
I glanced down in the chair as I removed the waders and there were four little baby birds all clustered together. I checked inside the waders and sure enough, there was a wren’s nest inside. I tried to hang the waders back up but could not get it right so I compromised and folded them up on the table with the entrance to the nest very visible.I could hear the parent wrens getting very excited behind me so I put the baby birds back in the nest and quickly stepped off to the side.
Hardly was I out-of-the-way when both birds resumed their feeding of the babies even though the nest was now in a different place and a couple of feet lower.Their parental instincts were so strong that they were willing to ignore my presence and the new location in order to feed their babies.
About that time, my septic system backed up resulting in a part of my house flooding. I had only vague recollections of the location of the septic tanks when I saw them over 30 years ago and their respective openings but I knew that they were under the deck, somewhere. I had replaced a pump a few years back so I knew where that tank was and had a rough idea of where the pump tank opening would be and I figured that I would go from there.
I called a contractor who came over immediately only to tell me after he had arrived, “That we don’t work on septic systems. We are plumbers”. He did make a couple of calls trying to be helpful and the first group to show up was a construction group who specialize in mold treatment. They wanted to charge me $6000 to remove some of the baseboard and sheet rock where the floor had flooded. I kicked them out and had another knock on the door and there stood a pump truck driver wanting to pump out the septic tanks.I took him back and showed him the deck and told him that, “I was not ready nor would I be for several days as I had to find the tanks”. He called his boss who wanted to charge me $170 for a service call which I refused to pay as I had not called them in the first place. He left grumbling away to himself as the other truck and trailer for the renovation group also pulled away. A lot of excitement and nothing accomplished.
Th next day for me was to literally rip up the deck to get to the ground underneath in order to start digging. I located the pump tank opening first and to my disgust, it was two and a half feet deep meaning that I needed a pretty big hole in order to get to it. After a mornings worth of digging in very cramped conditions, I located the concrete cover. Taking off the cover and after removing and inspecting the pump, it revealed that the pump was just a big blob of rusted metal. Then disaster struck. I turned my back for a minute as I worked on more digging trying to locate the other tank and while I was turned, one of my little dogs, Abigail, fell into the tank and before I could rescue her, had drowned. Dachshunds are not very good swimmers. I finally got her out and myself and the other three dogs said our goodbyes as I put her in a box and buried her next to her previous buddies. As heartbroken as I was, the next day work had to go on as I was without the use of any bathroom or shower facilities in the house.
Work also helped me to take my mind off the loss as I kept reproaching myself for my carelessness in leaving the hole uncovered and even though my friends tried to console me, it was going to take a couple of weeks before I would get a decent nights sleep.
I called in a Septic System Contractor to help me and he and his sidekick stopped by the house. By now, I had managed to uncover the second tank and was feeling pretty good about myself. The contractor, Chris, took a look around and said, “Where is the third tank opening”? I looked at him blankly and said, “What other tank opening”, and he proceeded to explain to me the system of tanks that are used in Septic Fields. I had found the pump tank and the fluid tank but joining the fluid tank would be a solids tank. “Damn”, I said, “I thought I was through with the bloody digging”.
Chris left me to it removing more deck as he and his helper, Darren, went to the Septic Supply place which, as it happens is in Bee Cave just five or so miles from the house. I had done some figuring and decided where I thought the opening should be even buried under three feet of dirt and had torn up more deck in order to get to this new area. Chris, in the meantime came back with the twenty inch risers that I needed to install and unloaded them in my garage. About this time, the sky opened up and it poured down with rain and Chris told me that they were through for the day and “Oh, by the way, I am going on a weeks vacations and will see you when I get back”.
All the time that I had been ripping up the deck and down under it digging holes, the pair of wrens had kept up a steady stream of flying back and forwards as they fed their babies. In a lot of cases, we were not more than a few feet from each other but they chose to ignore me as they went about feeding their family. When I came out the next morning, they were both kicking up a fuss and as I looked at the nest, I could see that a part of the wader had slipped and was covering up the opening. I quickly moved things around a little and even before I had moved away, they were back inside feeding their hungry young.
I worked on the digging and located the other opening and had dragged the concrete covers off which by itself, was not a very easy job. Keep in mind that these covers had been in place for the thirty years that I have lived in the house and it was no easy job in prying them off. In the end, I had to use my ingenuity and devise something that would apply lifting pressure from the top. I carefully laid a four by four across the top on the deck joists and then hooked a fence cum-along to that piece of lumber and hooked the other end to the wire ring that was buried in the concrete cover. I tightened the cum-along until I could no longer make it move and then took my sledge-hammer proceeded to beat on the concrete cover. The combination of the upward pressure and the vibration created by beating the cover was enough to jar the cover free. My fear was that the ring that was set in the concrete would break and then I would be in serious trouble but in both cases, they held and I had the covers off.
I learned my lesson from losing Abigail and made sure to cover all of the holes with wooden boards so that no more of my pets would drown. A bit like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. The next step was to install the risers which I concreted in around the tank and then a trip to the same Septic Supply place that Chris used to get the covers. In the meantime, I had a pump truck stop by and they pumped out the entire system. With the covers installed and the new pump installed, the septic system was up and working again. It took almost three weeks…Thank goodness that I have a hot tub which kept me clean in that time and in my youth, an avid camper so building a quick latrine out in the yard had been no problem.
The last part of the project was to re-install the deck. Some of it needed replacing as it was showing signs of aging after thirty years. Where the risers and covers are now located, I have installed hinged covers built directly into the deck so that when it is time to pump out the system or replace the pump in four or five years, everything will be accessible. That’s a good thing as who knows if I will be capable of all of this work four or five years. Time goes by so fast when you are old man.
The wrens had been very busy the entire time I was working on the project. They had chosen to ignore me as they went about the business of raising their four youngsters and had not made any fuss when I peaked in from time to time. Then, one morning, I went out and everything was very quiet. There was no sign of the parent birds and the other birds in the trees were also not kicking up their usual racket. With some misgiving and, I took a look inside the nest and it was empty. As I looked, I could see the coiling of a tree snake as it tried to get lower into the waders and with a heavy heart, I knew what had happened to my little adopted family. My immediate emotion was sadness followed by anger but refrained from taking it out on the snake, who, after all was doing exactly what he and his kind do. I took out the nest which, by the way, was huge and I was in wonder that two little birds could collect so much stuff to build the nest in the first place.
After removing the nest, I carried the waders still with the tree snake inside to a more secluded spot in the yard and emptied the snake out onto the ground. It rested for a minute before crawling off into the underbrush. I saw it again a couple of days later still making itself at home on my property. Now, if it catches some of those bloody rats and mice, it would be worth it.
If I had not seen the snake and having the opportunity of watching nature at work, I would be left wondering what had happened to the wren family. My first initial thoughts would have been that the rats had raided the nest which would not have surprised me but a wood snake (which was about three feet long), I would never have thought of. Oh, the wonder of Nature. She can appear to be very cruel sometimes.
For won’t of a better word, that whole project was snake bit (no pun intended). First, the septic system goes bad directly after I have installed two new toilets and a kitchen sink. Then I lose my little dog. In a moment of carelessness, I manage to cut through the lead cord to my electric saw and they stopped making that particular model so I ended up patching it together. My Contractor goes on vacation and I can’t get a pump truck for almost three weeks due to the heavy rains and flooding and finally, Mother Nature tops it all off by showing us her savage side. Oh well, on the bright side, I at least have my own toilet again AND can take a shower.
As a postscript, I took a close look at the lower deck and it too needs some work. I have removed the deck boards and need to completely rebuild the framework as the old one has rotted out. When I am through, I plan on re-painting the entire deck area with some new fangled paint that apparently is so thick, it fills the cracks and holes in the boards and you can dance on it barefoot. Yeah, right.. Can’t wait to try that out…