The grey water system is now up and running!  As was detailed in earlier posts, the house is double plumbed so that water from our bathroom sinks, showers and washing machine all flow out of our grey water sewer pipes for diversion into our grey water system, and the toilet sewage and kitchen sink water (aka “black water”) flows straight to the municipal sewer.  Because our grey water exited a bit low to flow directly into our intended wetlands, we needed a sump pump to pump it back up to enter the grey water wetlands… except that those also needed to be constructed before we had anywhere for the water to go, so up until now, all the water (black and grey) has ended up in the municipal sewer.

A covered box needed to be constructed around the sump pump so the area could be buried but we would still have access to the sump pump for servicing, and the diverter valve should we ever need to bypass the wetlands and start dumping the grey water back into the main sewer (note the outflow pipe leading off in the direction of the wetlands)

During rough grading, our guys excavated a 15’x25’x2′ deep “wetland” area in the middle yard which was to be filled with gravel for treatment of the grey water

Three trenches were then dug in the far back yard, lined with drain rock, and then perforated drain pipe. Check valves in line with the drains prevent siphoning of water back up into the wetlands. These pipes were then covered with a layer of drain rock, and reburied under the soil

The grey water pit was then lined with a protective liner to help keep the EPDM membrane (the water proof liner) from getting punctured. You can buy special material for this commercially, but we reused the spongey plastic separators that came in between the huge paving stones. Rather than throwing it away, it found a second use as our protective liner

An enormous (and astonishingly heavy) pond liner was then rolled out to fill the pit. We are using 40 mil EPDM which is available at specialty pond supply stores or by mail order on-line. It is more durable than the lighter weight PVC pond liner you can buy at Home Depot or Lowes

We partly filled the liner with water to help settle the bottom and smooth it out. Then landscape fabric “socks” were wrapped around perforated pipe which was plumbed to an overflow that passed through the EPDM membrane to flow into the now buried leach field. The pipe coming in from the left with an in-line check valve is the overflow from our rainwater cachement tank, so in a year of very heavy rainfall, our excess rainwater also gets dumped into the greywater leach field

This liner was then filled with (two and a half truck loads!) of  3/8″ pea gravel, and Catherine discovered her little measurement error… the water would overflow the edge of the liner before flowing out of the pipe… the pass through, however, was a nice use of two toilet flanges that bolted face to face through the liner (with a 3″ hole cut in it) making a water tight seal … the guys at our local plumbing supply store know it is usually going to be something weird when Catherine walks in.

The pea gravel was then covered with landscape fabric and a little sand to keep it in place in anticipation of being buried… but things were on hold for yet another trip to the plumbing supply store in search of a solution for that pesky outflow issue…

A little plumbing ingenuity was all it took to bring the outflow pipe down to the right level, have an access point for draining the wetlands (should that ever be necessary), and still keep the grey water from flowing into the rainwater cachement tank…

Now when the water is filled up to the level of the top of the gravel, (but still a couple of inches below the liner top all around!) water starts to flow out of the outlet to the leach field. It is a beautiful thing. Grey water in one end of the wetlands, and cleaned water out the other end off to irrigate the yet-to-be-planted fruit trees

Then all that work is buried under a layer of mulch, and a bit of top soil with only the access drain peeking out.

We had talked about having a grey water wetlands construction party, but this construction ended up being dragged out over such a long time with such uncertain weather, that it really wasn’t practical to try to get a group together (and Catherine was stressed out and quite unpleasant to be around while sorting out the drainage issue).  Our apologies to anyone who had their heart set on shoveling gravel, gluing pipe and schlepping liner.  Should you want to do this yourself, feel free to contact us and come and see our system and see many many more detail photos.

Since “going live” about a week and a half ago, the wetlands have been handling all our grey water, and with the recent deluge, they have absorbed the rain with no problem at all, as it simply flows on out to the leach field.  For those comparing this construction to the original plans, you will notice that the “soil islands” are missing.  These are intended to increase the types of plants that can be planted with their roots down in the water to be treated.  However, we will not be putting in the stream or the ponds for a while yet, and we decided that we would put in just a few plant types initially, and see how it fared through the winter.  We wanted to make sure we didn’t have to do any significant rework of the basic wetlands before adding the other features, (and going to the effort and expense of putting in the stream).  After all, there is still so much to do elsewhere in the house!

This post is a bit backdated to moving day because around the time we were so stressed out, a blog post would have been pretty much incoherent.

The house had passed final inspection, and we set a date of Saturday November 13th for moving day which would be after most of the hardscape was done.  Fall is an extremely busy time for Catherine’s travel, but it seemed like the best of a bad set of options – at at least Catherine had a little over a week at home leading up to that day (it was sandwiched between trips to New Zealand and England).  So many dates had come and gone (the house at this point was almost a year past our most optimistic date, and nine months past what we thought was our “more realistic” date, six months past our “well, it will never take *that* long” date, and three months past the “are we EVER going to finish this project?” date.)  Needless to say, we really really wanted to be in the house for Thanksgiving, so we decided to go for it.

For days before the move, Catherine was waking up every night at 2 am from anxiety dreams, and simply couldn’t get back to sleep, so she got up and packed boxes until the sun came up and then went to work.  Paul was wound tighter than ever, and Natalie was starting to say she was going to miss the old house, and maybe didn’t want to move after all.  The cats were also cooped up inside in anticipation of the move, and were driving each other, and all of the humans, crazy.

The day before the move, the landscaper’s project manager called saying the people cleaning the house prior to our move in had “noticed water pouring out of a second story sprinkler head into [Natalie’s room], and it was now dripping out of the downstairs ceiling” and had asked him to call us.

Yeah, OK.

Catherine was making lots of panicked phone calls to the general contractor, fire sprinkler contractor, the solar hot water contractor, the plumber and anyone else she could think of as she raced up to the house from work.  It turned out that the fire sprinkler folks had run their pvc fire sprinkler pipe too close to the solar hot water return pipe.  Now that the solar hot water was up and running in anticipation of us moving in, the pipes had gotten hot enough to melt the sprinkler pipe resulting in the flood.

The sprinkler pipe was rerouted, the water was drained away, and holes poked in the drywall to let the water all drain out – and preparations for moving the next day grimly continued.

Moving day probably would have been fairly uneventful had the movers actually shown up. But no.

We were scheduled for an afternoon move to give us more time to finish packing in the morning.  They were supposed to arrive between 2 pm and 4 pm which was already rather late to start a move, but the only time they would commit to.  We were done packing at noon, and we had started taking car loads over to pass the time.  As 4 rolled around, and the dispatchers could not get a hold of the crew to get an estimated time, it was looking pretty grim.  They were found by the dispatcher some time around 5 pm, but were “not quite done” with the previous job, and at 6 pm they were still pretending that they were coming and “would be there in 15 minutes” but 15 minutes later, called to say they weren’t coming after all – “sorry”.  Apparently this crew had had two people call in sick that day, so the last move which should have had four guys had only two, and it had taken all day.   Our move was also scheduled to be a four man crew, so there was no way these two exhausted guys could do this alone at that point, but we were furious with the company which could have easily predicted that a short crew was going to be delayed and looked for alternates.  These guys had gotten good reviews on Yelp, but they really screwed this up…

We were a bit stuck.  We had moved and already unpacked our whole kitchen and set up for dinner that night, so we zipped back to the old house, put Nat’s mattress in the car, grabbed our inflatable bed out of storage, and all of our bed linens, and set up mattresses in our new bedrooms.  Our first night in the house was not *quite* how we had imagined it, but we were there, and our senses of humor were still intact.

The next day an excellent, efficient and very hardworking crew showed up at 9 am, and moved everything quickly. It was just a day late, and on the morning of Natalie’s first horse show with California Riding Academy, so she and Catherine left Paul back at home to handle the whole moving crew himself.

Natalie on Little Leo waiting to go into the ring

Natalie proudly shows off the ribbons she won

We unpacked as quickly as we could, but by mid afternoon, Catherine had to leave for the airport to fly to England for a week.

This is one of those things that is so much funnier in retrospect.  In the end, we did have a wonderful Thanksgiving in the house.   There are still boxes to be unpacked, and even a few things still to move over from the old house that didn’t fit in the moving truck, but all in all, the stress level is way down, we are really really enjoying being in the house, and we are just methodically working our way through the 1001 not-quite-done-yet details.

More to come on those.