Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Small Failures: Sauerkraut, Septic Tanks, and Caterpillars

I try to post about the failures that occur around here. I think it's really important for us all to acknowledge that failures are a part of life. I don't ever want this blog space to make it look like my life is too shiny and perfect. It's dirty and flawed and I screw up a lot. And that is okay. Here are a few things that have happened lately.

1) Kraut Gone Bad
Oh, sauerkraut, I bragged about how easy you were. And then I tried to make you again. And you produced a foul-smelling white mold. What went wrong? Maybe it was because I read almost nothing about how to make you and then I attempted it anyway. I will try again.

Sauerkraut gone bad just a few days after starting to ferment

I was especially excited to try making a carrot ginger sauerkraut, inspired by this post from SouleMama. Once again, the white mold.

Carrot ginger sauerkraut

2) The Big Rain
We had A Very Big Rain here two and a half weeks ago. In case you live elsewhere and haven't heard, most of Texas has been in a severe drought for the last few years. While 2013 has been much better than 2011 in terms of rainfall, we still need a lot more rain to bring lake and aquifer levels up. Two Fridays ago, in the middle of the night, Austin received up to 12 inches of rain. In one night. Our neighborhood got about 8-10 inches. Two of our neighbors' houses flooded, one severely, and we had some minor water problems here, too. Worse than the puddle seeping through our back door was the fact that our septic tank filled with rainwater and the septic alarm began sounding at 5:00 a.m. Mr. Chanclas ran outside in his pj's with a shovel to dig ditches around the house, turn off the septic alarm, and rescue a chicken that roosts on the ground. I ran around inside the house with all of the extra towels mopping up water coming under the back door. Then I noticed a palm-sized bulge of water forming behind the latex paint on the living room wall. It was slowly moving down the wall. I did the only thing I could think to do, which was to poke a small hold in it and let the water out. Now my living room wall has stretch marks.

The septic system being pumped out through the green hose.
After all the excitement, and with more rain coming two days later, we had to get the septic tank pumped. No big deal except that it costs $330. Sigh. When you have city sewer you don't have to worry about these things. With a septic system your own poop is your own problem.

The septic truck parked in the driveway.
3) The Cabbage Loopers
This isn't officially a failure yet, but I'm struggling with caterpillars in the garden. Cabbage loopers, I suppose. I've started smooshing the little buggers with my bare hands, which startled Mr. Chanclas and the children. One corner of the garden appears to be too shady to grow anything but the other end is doing well. We will see.

The holey tat soi.


  1. I have read instructions, taken part in a hands on workshop and had someone come to my house and teach me how to make sauerkraut and I fail at it EVERY TIME. I'm never attempting again. I know my limits.
    I can't believe you got all that rain!! That's crazy! I also didn't know that septic systems have alarms! I just assumed when it overfilled you just slogged through sh#t until the septic dudes came and fixed it.
    On the plus side? That storm did wonders for the septic service small business community.
    The only thing that possibly could have saved the situation would have been a septic service guy who looked like Michael Fassbender.

    1. My septic guys are super nice but none of them look like Fassbender. Hahhaa! We have a fancy-pants aerobic septic system that has a pump and filters and all kinds of crap so it has an alarm. We have so little topsoil here to filter the effluent (that damn caliche again) that aerobic systems are about the only thing the county will approve.

  2. I'm so glad you didn't have more flooding!

    1. We got another four inches last night and a little more flooding. Sigh.

  3. I knew there was a reason I liked you. You're a person. Complete with foibles and screw-ups and acts-of-god aftermath... and you're not afraid to share it. I am wary of perfect people.
    I'm sorry about your septic debacle... I'm glad it wasn't worse, and hey, if you ever want to creep out your whole family and everyone who visits your home, and you're also into dealing (literally, directly, and often) with your own poop, you could always go for a bucket and compost toilet system ;) It fares fairly well in the rain...

    1. Hahaha! I am not afraid of the compost toilet. In fact, Mr. Chanclas once said to me, "I just know you're going to have me shitting in a bucket before it's all over."

    2. YEAH!! Do it!! The husband's just learn to love all the stuff we make them do.
      You've heard of that book "Humanure" right?
      There ya' go.


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