February 15th promised to be a better day than Valentine's Day had been.
The #1 Septic Guy and our wonderful friend and septic system installer were working together on this puzzling situation. Our friend promised to come out with the septic guy if he at all could . . . but he and his wife had to put their 16-year old sweet dog down that day. Telling him that I would love to see him just for the visit, I stressed that our concerns were NOTHING compared to his that day . . . and to give our problem not another thought. (Jumping ahead, he never did make it out, but I spoke to him that night, and their Basset is now at peace . . . and, blessedly, so are they.)
After a day full of more emergencies (for him), #1 Septic Guy arrived about 4:00 that afternoon. We shoveled off the septic tank (do you see a pattern here?). We unscrewed the lid. He had to drill the screws out whose heads I had stripped. The tank was, happily, still thawed. The input pipe was still, happily again, open. But, the clean-out was still full - now with a nice layer of ice on top.
Bottom line, we finally got the blockage free. We steamed. We cleaned. We steamed from this end. We cleaned from that end. Then we repeated. Twice. At first, there were fears that the pipe had, indeed, heaved and cracked. But then, we realized that what we were afraid was dirt from the ground was part of the blockage. Basically, what we figured happened was this: because #2 Septic Guy only steamed the line from one end, we think that only a small hole was made in the frozen blockage. Big enough to let through enough water, initially, to make the system seem fixed. But small enough to freeze / block right up again.
With confidence riding hesitantly medium to high, #1 Septic Guy left me with strict instructions and plans to call him that night for a system check.
The strict instructions went like this: use all the hot water you can. When you flush the toilet, flush it multiple times. Use the facilities as often as you can. And, again, USE AS MUCH HOT WATER AS YOU POSSIBLY CAN!
Follow-up learning goes like this: when a septic system is brand new, it takes some months of regular use to build up the bacteria and organisms that keep it - literally - hot and, therefor, free-flowing. When you begin using a septic system as late in the year as September 15th . . . and don't use ANY hot water because you have no sinks, tubs, or showers installed . . . troubles are more likely than not to ensue. Top that off with minimal precipitation of insulating snow that keeps the frost from working its way deeper into the ground (past and around your septic line leading from the house), and you have an even better recipe for troubles. Then, there are little things like the fact that low-flush toilets, while environmentally "clean", don't provide enough water for toilet paper, etc. to make it all the way out to the tank. Instead, the matter is sitting part-way down the line. Hence the extra flushing required to eliminate blockage.
Now, two weeks later, the system remains in perfect working order although I haven't stopped knock, knock, knocking on wood! I wouldn't let Tom take the antique commode out of the house for quite a few days for fear that that would jinx things. I make sure that I do a load of laundry every day (HOT water), and we flush the toilets each time we walk past them. Moderate temperatures (in the 20s) and new snowfall have helped.
The water lines are now cleared out, and the shower (expertly lined with plastic) is in daily use. Being able to - after 5 1/2 months of living here - take showers makes the other challenges and inconveniences SO much more bearable. We have gained 1/2 hour of sleep in the morning because Tom no longer has to take his clothes on hangers to the work-out room showers at the community center.
Life is GOOD, and we have made it through yet another first-year-in-the-new-house learning experience. Let's hope it's the last time we have to wade through this particular one!
End of story! :)