Septic Systems Simplified

Septic Systems Simplified

I’d like to address a topic that may not be very glamorous. But it’s one that’s important to know about when you’re buying a home or cabin in NW Wisconsin.

If you’re living in town, then you probably have city water and sewer. All you need to worry about now is paying a small bill every month. But once you move to the country, you’re on your own. Don’t worry though. Most of the time these systems work just fine.

septic-system

Still, before you buy a home or cabin, it’s important to know about its septic system. Repairs and upgrades can be expensive. Here’s a quick overview; to really understand septic systems thoroughly, you may wan to do an online search on some of these terms and read further.

The first question you should ask is what type of system a particular home or cabin has. There are three main types: conventional, mound, and holding. You may also hear about something called a “separate gray water system.” One other term I’ll explain briefly is “perc test.” You’ll want to know what it is and why it’s important.

A conventional septic system runs waste water and solids into a large concrete septic tank where bacteria digest the solids. Liquids run out the other end into a drain field that’s made of perforated pipe buried in a gravel-filled trench. Solds that don’t digest settle out into a sludge at the bottom of the septic tank. Every two or three years, you’ll need to have this sludge pumped out. It’s not expensive, and it’s no big deal. It’s just part of owning a home or cabin that’s outside the city limits.

A mound system is similar, except that the drain field is above ground level inside a large mound of gravel and dirt. It’s used in certain special conditions – most often when the soil isn’t permeable enough, there isn’t enough soil before you reach bedrock, or the water table is too close to the surface. Although the mound can be landscaped in a way that makes it less noticeable, it’s still going to be there. Another negative is that mound systems often require a pumping system in between the septic tank and the drain field. Otherwise, these systems work just like a conventional septic system.

A holding tank is just what it sounds like – a hold tank that needs to be pumped out a soon as it’s full. I see them most often at older lakeshore cabins. They’re usually only used for sites that are unsuitable for either a conventional or a mound system. Sometimes, however, they were installed because they were a less expensive alternative.

As you’d expect, a larger tank is better. But it still needs to be pumped out eventually. And when it is, a large tank will cost more to empty.

You may be able to upgrade a holding tank to conventional or mound system. But even if you can, it will be a fairly expensive undertaking. Meanwhile, pumping out the holding tank will be a regular expense. If the system serves a small cabin that’s only used on a dozen weekends every year, that’s less of an issue. But if that cabin becomes a full-time, year-round home for a family of six, then you’re going to have a monthly pumping bill.

To help with that problem, some homes and cabins have a separate “gray water system.” (You’ll also see them used on conjunction with conventional and mound systems.) Gray water, as opposed to “black water,” is all the waste water that hasn’t come from a toilet. Depending on local codes and regulations, your gray water can sometimes be released with little or no processing; you could even use it to water your lawn or garden. Just be careful about what soaps you use, and avoid pouring too many household chemicals down the drain (probably a good idea anyway).

Finally, here’s one more term you should know about. If you’re building a new home or cabin, you may hear about something called a “perch test.” That’s short of “percolation test,” and it’s a measure of how permeable your soil is. If your building site is on clay soil that’s relatively impermeable, it could mean you’ll need a mound system or holding tank. It it’s on relatively sandy soil, you can relax. You’ll probably pass your perch test with flying colors.

This was an important topic, but maybe not a very fun one. If you read all the way to here, then perhaps you are ready to start shopping for your country or lake home or cabin – www.JeanHedren.com

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About Jean Hedren Realtor. Jean Hedren, Edina Realty NW Wisconsin Realtor, specializes in lake homes, cabins, and waterfront real estate in NW Wisconsin. View all posts by Jean.

NW Wisconsin North Country Hiking Trail: Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Highway 53 Trailhead

We are so fortunate to have The North Country Hiking Trail right in our back yard (well almost). The North Country Trail stretches from New York to North Dakota with hundreds of miles crossing Northern Wisconsin.

Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Highway 53 Trailhead, Douglas County, WI

North Country Trail - Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53 trailhead

North Country Trail – Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53 trailhead

This 3.3 mile segment of the North Country Scenic Trail is right here in the Gordon-Solon Springs area. Because it traverses relatively open terrain, this segment is a good place to enjoy the vista. Near the north end of the route, there’s also a nice walk-in campsite overlooking Leo Creek.

Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53

Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53

Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53

Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53

Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53

Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53

Finally, here’s a road map to help you find the trailhead:

Road Map

Road Map

Someday it would be great to have a place up at the lake. Someday…

In all the years I’ve been in this business, no one has ever told me they wish they’d waited another ten or fifteen years to buy their lake home or cabin.

Sure, it’s good to be prudent. And hard-working couples, especially those with with young children, may not have a lot of extra time or money. Someday, after they’re retired and their children are grown and gone, they’ll have plenty of both.

But instead of waiting for someday, right now is a great time to begin building memories at your cabin or lake home. And at this stage of your life, there’s no need to skip directly to the luxury lake home where you plan to live out your retirement.

If you’re ready, I’d be glad to show you a couple of those dream lake homes; I’m listing a few of them right now. But I can also show you some surprisingly affordable alternatives. You might call them “starter cabins.”

Sure, you may need to make a few compromises. But when your kids grow up, they won’t remember that the kitchen in your cabin didn’t feature high-end stainless steel appliances. They’ll remember roasting marshmallows and making s’mores down at the campfire. They won’t remember that your cabin wasn’t on the biggest lake with the biggest muskies. They’ll remember the four-inch bluegills they caught from the end of your dock.

Maybe someday is today. And if this year is the year, it’s not too early to get started right now. Here’s why: It may take us a while to find the lake and the cabin that are just right for you. Figure a little negotiating before you have an accepted offer, and then typically about another 60 days until the actual closing can take place. This means that if you’d like to start enjoying weekends at your new cabin this summer, it may not make sense to launch your search in May or June.

To learn more about the cabins and lake homes for sale in NW Wisconsin, call Jean Hedren, Edina Realty NW Wisconsin  at 218-590-6634.

Buying a lake cabin – deciding where in NW Wisconsin?

Deciding where to buy a vacation home or retirement home in NW Wisconsin?  What you can learn from our dashes back to Minneapolis/St Paul, MN.

My husband and I moved to Northwest Wisconsin 16 years ago, when we were nowhere near ready to retire (we’re still not).  Our work has required both of us to make occasional trips back to the Twin Cities for meetings.  We also get down to the Cities now and then to visit relatives.  Even if your situation is different, there’s a lot you can learn from our dashes back to the city.

Elsewhere on my website, I’ve shared many great reasons to consider Northwest Wisconsin.  We have lots of great lakes, streams, trails, public land, and more.

To get here from Minneapolis/St Paul, we can head north on I-35, hang a right at Hinckley, and be in Minong before we know it.  From there, we’re almost home.  From the Twin Cities, it’s an easy 2.5 hours.

So if you’re looking for a vacation home or retirement home, then what do these occasional dashes to the city have to do with you?  Everything.  The same thresholds will still be there.  But they’ll instead determine how much enjoyment you get from your new cabin or lake home.  If your drive time is beyond a certain threshold, then there will probably be fewer weekends when you get away to your weekend getaway.

Planning to move up here for good when you retire?  Welcome to the neighborhood!

If places like Minong, Wascott, and Gordon aren’t yet on your radar, they should be.  Same with the Minong Flowage, St Croix Flowage, Whitefish Lake, and many other small to large lakes. Barnes and Solon Springs is just a bit farther and offer Upper St Croix Lake, and the Eau Claire chain of lakes. Under the lakes and rivers tab above, you can find out more about these lakes.

Please take a moment to explore my website and find out more about the lakes and rivers of Northwest Wisconsin.  Then drop me an email or give me a call at 218-590-6634.  I’d be glad to show you what’s available in our neighborhood.

The North Country Hiking Trail: Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Highway 53 Trailhead

The North Country Hiking Trail: Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Highway 53 Trailhead, Douglas County, WI

North Country Trail - Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53 trailhead

North Country Trail – Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53 trailhead

Looking for good places to hike in northwestern Wisconsin? Check out this 3.3 mile segment of the North Country Scenic Trail. It’s right here in the Gordon-Solon Springs area. Because it traverses relatively open terrain, this segment is a good place to enjoy the vista. Near the north end of the route, there’s also a nice walk-in campsite overlooking Leo Creek.

Please check back now and then; I’ll occasionally be posting more trail segments. I’ll try to include a couple photos with each post, but not enough to take all the fun and mystery out of exploring the trail yourself. Stay tuned…

Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53

Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53

Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53

Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53

Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53

Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53

Finally, here’s a road map to help you find the trailhead:

Road Map

Road Map

Fall activities in Northwest Wisconsin: The Bird Sanctuary (Douglas County)

Fall activities in Northwest Wisconsin: The Bird Sanctuary

If you’re looking for things to do here in Northwestern Wisconsin, you should know about the 4,000-acre Douglas County Wildlife Management Area (DCWMA). On some maps it also appears as the Douglas County State Wildlife Area. Around here, most people just call it “The Bird Sanctuary.”

Bird Sanctuary Clubhouse to Hwy 53

Here’s a quick overview, courtesy of the Friends of the Bird Sanctuary. To learn more about the Bird Sanctuary, you can visit their website.

First, you should know The Bird Sanctuary isn’t just for birders and wildlife watchers. It’s also a great place for picnicking, berry-picking, hiking, backcountry skiing, and snowshoeing.

On their website, the Friends of the Bird Sanctuary also mention that this is a great place for “wildflower observations.” That’s a nice way of saying you can look and take all the photos you want, but please don’t pick them. Some of these wildflowers, even if locally abundant, are apparently quite rare.

The North Country Hiking Trail runs through The Bird Sanctuary, and you can also hike on lots of other trails. Horseback riding is allowed on designated trails.

(Tip: Whether you’re hiking or riding, the Bird Sanctuary’s open terrain can be a good place to escape summer’s mosquitos and deer flies. You’ll still encounter a few, but not quite as many as you would in the nearby woods.)

Although none of the hiking trails within The Bird Sanctuary are designated for biking, its the paved and dirt roads are great for biking. (Some of the sand roads, however, are quite soft.) Nearby, you’ll also find lots more roads and trails.

As part of their educational outreach, The Friends of the Bird Sanctuary sponsor an annual series of fun programs and outings, many of them with a hands-on outdoor component. They’re led by wildlife biologists, naturalists, historians, and other experts from around the region.

If you’d like to watch sharptail grouse dance in April and early May, you can reserve the ground blind that’s positioned right nest to their dancing grounds. It’s free of charge, and a rare opportunity to watch this fascinating courtship ritual.

For a modest fee, you can also rent The Bird Sanctuary clubhouse for an event of your own. It’s a popular venue for summertime wedding receptions, birthday parties, and other events. Be sure to make your reservation well ahead of time.

Why This Habitat is Different

The first thing you’ll notice is the wide open spaces. The Bird Sanctuary is one of the our region’s final remnants of grassland savanna—small stands of pine and oak sprinkled through open grassland, with a few clumps of hazel and aspen thrown in for good measure. Until the arrival of European settlers, naturally-occurring fires created an ever-shifting mosaic of these grassland clearings, which are sometimes called “northern pine savannas” or “northern oak savannas.”

Early settlers didn’t think much of these places. They called them “barrens.” Over the years, as newcomers plowed fields, planted trees, and suppressed fires, these open areas gradually disappeared. These grasslands—and the wildlife they support—once covered over a third of Wisconsin. Today fewer than 40,000 acres remain, and 4,000 of those acres are right here in the Bird Sanctuary.

Many species depend on this unique ecosystem, and much of what little remains is in isolated pockets too small to maintain the genetic diversity that’s necessary for species’ long-term survival. Northern Wisconsin has only a few remaining contiguous pieces of grassland savanna that are as large as the one preserved here.

The Bird Sanctuary also happens to be a great great habitat for humans to explore. For directions to the Bird Sanctuary, click here.

Northwest Wisconsin bucket list: The North Country Hiking Trail

Northwest Wisconsin bucket list: The North Country Hiking Trail

The North Country Trail meanders all the way from Maine to North Dakota, in some cases incorporating existing trails like northeastern Minnesota’s Superior Hiking Trail. When completed, it will be 4,600 miles long. It’s administered by the National Park Service in cooperation with state and local agencies like the WI DNR, and nearly all trail building and maintenance is done by volunteers.

Although the trail still includes gaps where hikers are forced to settle for paved and dirt roads, the trail sections already completed include more miles than the entire Appalachian Trail. A couple hundred of those miles are right here in our own corner of Northwestern Wisconsin. It’s a vastly underutlized recreational opportunity, and I’d like to help spread the word.

Some great stretches of trail can be found in my own neighborhood, right near Gordon and Solon Springs. One stretch, for example, traverses the Douglas County Wildlife Management Area, known locally as simply The Bird Sanctuary.

North Country trail map - Douglas County WI

North Country trail map – Douglas County WI

Here, courtesy of the Brule-Saint Croix Chapter of the North Country Trail Association, are two downloadable maps. The first is a map of the entire area. The second map is a guide to one segment that’s especially interesting—the Historic Portage Trail and Brule Bog Boardwalk.

Historic Portage Trail and Brule Bog Boardwalk

Historic Portage Trail and Brule Bog Boardwalk

(For more on the Brule-Saint Croix Chapter of the North Country Trail Association, click here. To learn more about their upcoming hikes and other events, click here.)

If you’d like to explore on your own, these maps will help you get started. So far, however, detailed maps and directions to trailheads are still hard to come by for most stretches of the trail. Watch this space; you’ll soon begin seeing them here.