Notes from the Island
I often write about the beauty of Sycamore Island, but life here also
has its frustrations - the plumbing, for example. In October the toilet
in our quarters backed up. Plumbing supervisor Joe O'Boyle came down,
pulled the commode off the floor and snaked out the line. The problem
reappeared a month later. I cleared the pipes temporarily by plunging
vigorously while standing on the shower drain, but that solution only
lasted two days. I brought the chemical john down from upstairs.
Joe said the problem was in the sewer line and asked me to dig it up
where it went through the men's locker room. So I pulled the bricks up
off the floor and dug a long trench that went deeper and deeper and
deeper, but I didn't find any pipes. Finally I contacted Ken, the former
caretaker, who didn't know the location of the sewage line, but suggested
looking outside the back of the house.
Sure enough, a cast iron clean-out jutted out of the earth about two
feet from the northeast corner of the house. I then exposed twelve feet
of pipe parallel to the clubhouse, before I discovered that the connection
to the bathroom ran directly from the clean-out. Joe came down, broke the
outside line, snaked out the pipes and determined that the blockage was
under our quarters.
Joe thought the problem might be where the newer plastic pvc pipe from
the toilet and the shower joined the older cast iron pipe below the
bathroom floor. So I dug a tunnel under our quarters from the trench in
the men's locker room. Unfortunately, there was no problem with the
Then we proceeded to have the coldest December on record. The ground
froze preventing further excavation. And Joe's business was swamped with
burst pipes all over town. Of course, the now-exposed sewer line also
froze, stopping up the shower and the kitchen sink. Eventually the
weather got warmer, the ground thawed, Joe's business slowed down, both of
us recovered from illnesses and we got back to work.
I shoveled out a large crawl space under the house and Joe went in and
pulled out all the old cast iron pipe which was clogged with roots and
replaced it with plastic pvc pipe. I am happy to report that the sewer
works and the porta-potti is back up in the women's locker room.
Up until a week ago the weather was unseasonably warm. The crocuses,
forsythia and spring beauties were all blooming. Then the temperature
dropped below freezing and the flowers wilted. However, the bluebells and
the daffodils will be out soon and the Island will be gorgeous.
There are always some pleasant surprises on Sycamore. This morning
there were twenty-two whistling swans floating out on Broadwater. Spring
must be on its way.
-- Peter Jones, Sycamore Island Caretaker