Yesterday was definitely Not As Scheduled. As mentioned, the toilet went out... it started not flushing completely and draining reeeeaaaaalllly slow. Nothing else was affected, so it was assumed we had a clog. A toilet auger was procured. (And a wax ring, so if worst came to worst, we could reinstall the toilet.)
But it was not acting clogged... the auger snake went out 6 feet - well into the 4" line beyond - and didn't seem to meet resistance. Nothing gross floated back up into the bowl. Flushing continued to be problematic. We started moving things around in the basement to safely evacuate the pipes from below, and I was scratching my head. "Before we do that," I suggested, "we should check and make sure it's not something else... like the air vents."
In an act of brilliance when we were first putting together the vent piping back when, we added an access vent right in the bathroom. It's plugged, of course, because you don't want to be open to sewer gases in a general fashion! We removed the plug, and flushed the toilet. FLUSH! Vigorous and thorough.
Our piping vents are frozen shut. Or at least, shut enough to create too much pressure when the toilet is flushed, and make for sluggish (ineffective) draining. (Everything else on the system is too minor a drain compared to our exit piping size to create a vacuum.) Knowing the problem doesn't entirely fix it, because you STILL don't want spurts of sewer gas in your bathroom everytime you flush the toilet!
We replaced the plug and cleaned up the fix-it mess, considering the problem and bouncing ideas off of each other for clearing the vent. Hot water at bathroom level wouldn't be enough to steam out the top of the pipes. The recommended solution is to pour hot water down from the top, but our roof is REALLY high and REALLY steep and REALLY slick. I wouldn't let Jake even try.
So... get up in the attic, disconnect it there and let it vent in the attic? Severely non-optimal. Stub out a new pipe from the wall somewhere? Lots of work, and our siding is probably brittle at this temperature.
The problem is, the air has nowhere to GO, so it builds up pressure ahead of the slug of water. The solution is to give the air somewhere to go... temporarily, while the toilet is flushing. I grabbed a bread bag and a rubber band, pulled out the venting plug and created a deflated balloon sticking out of the side of the wall. The bread bag went WOOSH, the toilet went FLUSH, no sewer smells, no fuss. After a while, it deflates again as the system re-equalizes, ready for the next use. The bread bag turned out to be too small and it was replaced with a larger garbage bag, but the concept was sound.
It is not an elegant fix. It is a little alarming to have a giant plastic bag start to inflate every time you flush. It would still be better to stub a vent out the wall, and we will almost certainly install heat trace in the vents next summer to keep this from happening again. But it is an awesome use of physics, and I'm pretty pleased with myself for coming up with it. And it DEFINITELY beats the outhouse.
Truck news was less good - we were unable to clear the check engine light, and the vehicle was running like a 70 year old beater: spewing black blech and idling like a mechanical bull. It is in the shop now. They couldn't guarantee an appointment until the 16th (which, as previously mentioned, causes great problems for hauling water and keeping our septic tank clear), but we brought the truck by the shop last night and left it so they could squeeze it in if they could. They were saying possibly tomorrow! Cross your fingers it's just an oxygen sensor - that's pretty cheap and fast. Otherwise, it's the catalytic converter, and that's NOT.
ETA: Truck update not good, but not awful. A manifold seal blew, plus an oxygen sensor, and a small laundry list of other things. Expensive. But fast - we'll have the truck back tomorrow. So, we'll have water again soon.
Last childbirth class was last night, and it was another very enlightening one. I am far less mystified by the whole process now, and it clarified a lot of vague things I'd been reading. Labor still doesn't sound particularly fun, but I feel like I've been given a lot of coping tools and ideas for making it not terrible. I can make informed decisions about a lot of the choices I'll be facing, and even the non-optimal emergency type things aren't as scary. I was afraid the class was going to be very hokey and just repeat what I'd already read, but it really didn't. I loved the props, and she was able to answer questions very directly, with confidence. (Also, I love how enthused Jake was about it... some husbands have to be dragged to such things, and he was as happy with it as I was. Maybe even more!)
The class ran late every evening, and on top of the various other stresses, I'm feeling a bit run down and low on sleep. Hopefully I can start to catch up this weekend.
Today! Sketch Fest! It will run 48 hours, so sharpen lots of pencils! (Or charge your laptop, or whatever.) http://www.ellenmilliongraphics.com/sketchfest/
Have you read the latest issue of EMG-Zine? Have you downloaded your free PDF copy of the first anthology?? http://www.emg-zine.com/downloads.php
I can see in my stats that many downloads have happened, but haven't heard anything back from anyone! Is the file working? It's free! No strings!
I am working through book royalties right now - I got the programming I needed to done for the more automated credits, and will be able to pay directly, per sale, starting in 2012. The last hurdle here is to set up each publication with the appropriate artist/author page counts - I am through the two most complicated publications, but there are a lot of coloring books left to enter. It is going to be SUPER slick, and much nicer for all involved. I need to get my order page updated, too, with the new stock that just came in.
I have a new Rails story up at Torn World! Short, but full of punch: Derailed.
Now to prep for Sketch Fest! Horrah!