Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Grey water in a very cold climate update

I’ve been a bad blogger. I’m sure all my faithful followers have wondered if we’ve frozen to death in the frozen tundra. We are alive and have made it through quite a bit of cold weather the past month or so.

I’ve been meaning to do this post for about a month now. Back during Christmas time we had about a weeks worth of cold weather similar to the below screenshot.

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I think the coldest it got was –26 c and wind chill was colder than that.

I’m sure some of the more Northern readers will comment that –25 Celsius is spring time weather. I admit that when it’s been –40, –20 feels pretty dang warm but fortunately we haven’t had that luxury yet this year.

Let me describe what –25 Celsius feels like to you southern folk.

1. Water freezes as soon as it hits the water trough. By morning time the water is about 2 to 3 inches thick. I used an axe for the first several months to break the water in the morning. I have now invested in a $25 water heater that works great to keep the ice off.

2. It hurts to breathe. I always wear a hoodie that covers my mouth so the air doesn’t come in and freeze my Uvula.

3. Animals huddle together to stay warm. Chickens puff out their feathers so they look like they are 50 lbs turkeys.

4. Don’t even try to put your tongue on anything metal. That doesn’t end up well. Most Northerners learn that when they are 2 or 3. It’s almost a right of passage to rip your tongue skin from a frosty pole.

5. Forget expelling fluids from your body outside. The stream solidifies upon point of departure. Well, any exposed flesh freezes pretty dang quick and I’m not willing to try this out even for scientific research.

6. Frost forms on the inside of windows even in a warm house with new supposedly insulated panes.

7. Eggs freeze within minutes of leaving their departure point. Eggs can still be eaten but it takes a few hours to thaw such items.

8. Cows create fertilizer then sit/lay around in the manure to keep warm. This is particularly annoying when trying to milk while trying to wash off an udder manure mask every morning.

9. Trucks and cars need to be plugged in to start in the morning. I’m not lying. The block heater is a standard vehicle accessory in the north.

10. Snow often accompanies such cold weather at some point. The snow gets colder the lower the temperature. Our friend from the way north goes out in bare feet here. She says the snow is warm here. I guess I shouldn’t complain.

What does that all have to do with Grey water? I’ve been keeping a close eye on our mulch basin where our grey water gets released from. It is absolutely amazing to me to report that no matter if it’s warm, cold, colder, very cold, very very cold, etc. the temperature in the mulch basin has stayed consistently at 50 F. (My compost thermometer is in Fahrenheit. Silly Americans)

I need to clarify. We spent a week away during the holidays and when I came back the mulch basin temperature was 45 F. If we are using water from the house on a regular basis the temperature is always 50 F. If we are away for more than 24 hours it goes down to 45 F and stays at that temperature.

Really exciting to us. I had long hard fits during the summer last year debating on weather (ha) we should do this grey water experiment. It’s turned out fabulous.

I should make one confession. We stayed at my in-laws place for about a week during Christmas time and I was coming down to feed the animals at night. We had some people over New Years Eve so I didn’t get down to do the animals until around 10:30 pm. I thought I’d pop down and milk really quick. While washing out the milk bucket I hear water pouring in our basement. We put an overflow down in the basement next to the sump pump in case the pipes froze so flowing water was a bad sign.

Long story short: one of our faucets had a slow leak and that must have caused a problem in the pipe downstream. I was out at 12 am on New Years Day shooting hot water down the clean out while fireworks were blasting in the distance. Not the ideal way to spend the first day of a brand new year.

I feel better now that I confessed that grey water was the cause of me missing the New Years Eve final countdown.

Other than that one instance that was kind of my fault for leaving on the slow leak, our grey water system is a great success. Frozen tundra or not, 50 degree F is warm enough to keep the water flowing.

Oh, I need to announce that my lovely wife Milly owes me a blog post. She lost a bet last month and has agreed to write up something magical. I’ve been bugging her ever since she lost the bet so maybe within the next year she’ll pay up. Stay tuned. And please don’t ask her what the bet is about. She’s a sore loser and that will just add to my misery.

3 comments:

  1. Welcome to 2013 the trials and tribulations have only just begun enjoy the year

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  2. Doug, that's excellent news about your greywater system! Ours is still in the planning stages, so it's interesting and encouraging to read about others' systems.

    I got a chuckle out of your description of cold weather. I grew up in the Chicago area, so I'm not unfamiliar with what you speak of. Living in the southeast US now though, seems like a piece of cake to northerners. Our summers on the other hand.....

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  3. I hope you'll be following up and giving an overall winter review. I'm building this summer in northern Minnesota and would like to use a greywater/composting toilet combo at our new house.

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