Inez Castor

It's the middle of August, so I'm about half way through the list of things that must be done around the place before the rains begin again. Every winter situations arise that call for some action that can be put off until the weather is better.

Some disgusting jobs are even worse in January, when the temperature is 37 degrees and sleet is blowing sideways. Which is why the septic repairs that happened in January were temporary and only meant to last until the ground was dry and I thawed out.

The most recently completed job didn't go quite as smoothly as the assembling of the shed, but it is done and will probably outlast both house and me. I'm not fluent in the language of hardware, and find the very idea of tackling a big plumbing job nearly as terrifying as an electrical jobjust not as likely to get me killed.

I know there are books to walk us through the various repair processes, but one simply can't go without a working septic system long enough to find a book that will explain how to repair iron plumbing that was installed in the late 1940s.

The language of plumbing

That is how I found myself in the hardware store trying to describe to the nice young man what parts I needed. While listening patiently, trying to understand, he leaned against a tower of 10 foot PVC pipes, which suddenly became a huge game of pick-up-sticks.

He was incredibly apologetic as he dug me out of the pile, but when it came to plumbing parts, we still didn't speak the same language. Nevertheless, I came home with pipes and assorted fittings, and learned a valuable lesson.

The only way to know exactly what the part you need looks like is to buy the wrong part and eyeball it against the project at hand. Then it's obvious that what you need is some sort of adapter that's bigger at one end than the other.

Adapters are often rubbery and need to be clamped with the screws that tighten metal bands. Screwdrivers are among my least favorite tools. It takes way too much strength to keep the sharp little blade in that shallow groove, and I can do more damage with a screwdriver than most people can with a hatchet.

When you add in the factors of standing on your head to work in a hole in the ground while breathing the stench of the septic tank, the job can become downright unpleasant. Your head pounds, your back and hands ache, and what in the blue-eyed world does andquot;tighten to 16 pounds of torqueandquot; actually mean?

Do-it-yourself satisfaction

But it's doneI did it all by myselfand the piano player still has all her fingers. There's something incredibly empowering about tackling a job that seems too much for you at the beginning, and actually pulling it off successfully.

The water now goes where it's supposed to, and I'm moving quickly on to the next job while I still have delusions of adequacy.

Reach Inez Castor, a long-time Triplicate columnist, at