The Grass is Greener (and the Air is Warmer) Over The Septic Tank


I remember, years ago, reading Erma Bombeck’s book The Grass Is Always Greener Over The Septic Tank.  I honestly don’t remember any specifics about the book but I’m sure that it was a fun, and funny, read.  The title has always stuck with me however and it seems especially appropriate today!

Just over my septic tank is our field, then the neighbours field which borders the main road.  People along this road (probably 500 yards away) have access to natural gas from the gas company.  When you drive down this road you can see some houses with propane tanks and some with the pipes randomly popping up out of their lawn which indicate a connection to the main gas line.

We have always had propane heating at our farm but a few years ago my dad bought a wood furnace instead.  We have 40 acres of forest so wood heating made sense here.  The propane tank was still needed to power the dryer, stove and water heater but the furnace sat unused except for emergencies.

When we built our new extension we asked about having our furnace adapted so it could be wood powered but they told us that would void the warranty (10 year warranty!) and we were better off to just use propane for a decade and then switch.  Apparently this house is sealed up so tight that it wouldn’t take much fuel to keep us toasty and warm.  So we use propane on this side of the house for cooking, and heating air and water.

When the end of October was near I asked about having the big tank filled up so we could get an idea of how far through the winter we would be able to go without filling it but I was told that every time a delivery is made there are extra delivery and haz-mat costs associated so we didn’t want to call until it was truly necessary.

A week ago the tank was at 12% full, did we call for a delivery? No, Dad said we should wait until it got to 10% and then call, it would be fine.  What he forgot was that now there are 4 more people living here, an entire section of the house that uses propane for heat and two little boys who get dirty and need hot water to wash on a regular basis.  In five days the tank went down 5%, all of a sudden we were facing a weekend with 7% left in the tank.

I have been very worried about the furnace just randomly stopping and my husband tried to allay my fears by saying, “It’s fine.  We can always turn on the stove to warm things up.” That’s what we did in our old house when we had a power failure and it worked well for us.  Then I reminded him that the stove used the same power source as the furnace now and he was stumped.

The phone got busy very quickly, the gas company apparently can take up to a week to get propane delivered so we went into conservation mode.  7 days with 7% gas is not difficult math to do.

I have turned the thermostat down to very-nearly-uncomfortable and now wear socks all day, every day.

I have waited until the dishwasher is full-to-nearly-overflowing before running it since it required hot water.

I have rinsed the boys down with microwaved warm water since I don’t precisely know where my electric kettle is.

I have personally not showered since Friday. (I’m feeling the strain of it now, I will have to cave by tomorrow morning latest since I do have a meeting and would like to not gross anyone out.)

I have declared this week to be “Eating Out Week!” since I don’t want to waste propane by cooking. (Any excuse for me to not cook is fine by me, I just like that this reason is totally justified!)  In reality I could use our recently located barbecue as an oven and, let’s face it, my kids would be perfectly happy eating French fries incessantly.

The good thing is that we don’t have a propane powered dryer so I can keep us in clean clothes (I always use cold water to wash anyway) and perhaps if the heat does stop working we can take turns having a spin in the dryer to warm up!

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