Farming, Pets and Livestock, Rural Living

Building a Small Grain Bin From Septic Tank Riser Sections

OK, before anybody make a scatalogical joke, I’m already reminded of this billboard:

septic tanks pumped, swimming pools filled, not same truck

But, seriously.  Grain bins.

What I need (and all I need) is a bin in which I can securely (that is racoon and mouse-proof-ly) store a few hundred pounds of sheep feed at a time.  Many years ago, I built a nice wooden bin for such a purpose.  Eventually, the damn racoons ate their way into it, through the interstices at the lid hinges.  Then it was an interminable patching job with what’s called, in the local vernacular, “rat wahr,” that is, 1/2″ mesh hardware cloth.

The whole exercise was a bit like the scene in Casablanca where Captain Renault says:

Oh, please, monsieur. It is a little game we play. They put it on the bill, I tear up the bill. It is very convenient.

Well, it was.  Convenient.  For the racoons.  You see, I’d put it on the grain bin, and they’d tear it off the grain bin.  Eventually I gave up.

But, brainwave!

Forgive me while I wander off into the mists of time and background (I’m imagining your surprise that I (myself!) would ever do such a thing):

A few years ago, we had a 4″ concrete slab poured the full length of the southern house exposure.  We covered it in brick pavers which (another brainwave!) we’d removed from the original brick floor inside the house.  It went like this:  get the slab poured.  Then remove the pavers from the floor, pass them through the window, and arrange them on the concrete slab.  Stabilize them with (miracle-product) polymeric sandHey Presto! An antique-looking patio with used pavers (reminds me of England), and about as painless as such a thing is possible to be.


Before we had the slab poured, I really wanted to find out where the septic tank was located, so we didn’t inadvertently concrete over it.  Got the local plumbing company to come out with (another miracle product) some sort of high-tech, camera-equipped plumbing snake they could thrust down the sewer line, which transmitted its location to an above-ground receiver, which could then report on exactly where the underground snake had got to.  (It must have happened, because there are pictures.)  Uncomfortably reminiscent of a recent colonoscopy, but, whatevs, no time to be squeamish.  There was work to be done!

As it turned out, the septic tank was well forward of the proposed concrete slab location, but was buried about five feet deep.  So, since it hadn’t been pumped for 30 years, I decided, as my dear-departed mother might have said:

The better the day, the better the deed!

And we dug down to find the entrance of the tank, so it could be cleaned out.

Come to find, it was an old style concrete tank, originally cast in one piece, whose lid had simply been cut from the top at an angle (so it didn’t fall in) and was equipped with an iron loop for pulling it open.  Something like this:

Well, I had no desire to dig down five feet every time I wanted to have the septic tank pumped out, so we investigated what we needed to do to bring the “lid” of the tank above ground level for easier access.

That was when I found out about septic tank riser panels.  They’re 24″ wide, 12″ deep, and they look like this:

You fasten them to the top of the concrete tank, over the entrance, using Tapcon or similar anchors (there’s a transition panel with flanges, to make this easy), and then you stack/screw the riser panels together until you reach ground level.  At that point, you attach the lid, which also fastens securely with screws.  Then you fill in with dirt around the risers you’ve just installed.

Well. (Again.)

Someone who must have been even more mathematically challenged than I am myself (I do not judge), determined how many of these riser panels we should buy, and we did the deed, accomplished the project, planted box hedge all around, and now, you can’t even see the place where the septic tank lid breaks the soil surface, in the middle of my garden.  All good.

But.  (Again.)

We had two riser panels left over.  And they’ve been sitting under my pin-oak tree for the past few years waiting to discover their purpose in life.

Eureka!  I think I’ve found it for them.

I think, if I add one more panel, I’ll have a 24″x36″ cylinder (or I could add two and make it 48″ high) into which I can dump a few hundred pounds of sheep feed (all I need) on occasion.  I’ll center it over the pre-existing trapdoor I installed, decades ago, in the upper barn floor (at driveway level), installing the base panel and screwing it to the barn floor, and re-installing the ductwork below (which I took out after I gave up on the afore-mentioned grain bin.)  There’s a sliding panel in the ductwork that lets me decant grain from inside the barn underneath.  And I’ll buy a lid, and perhaps modify the “screw-on” system into something a little easier to engage and disengage (hopefully not so easy that the racoons figure it out), and I’ll be done.

These are the risers that I already have two of.  There are other brands, at other price levels.  It’s not the cheapest solution (although it’s fine for me, because I already had the “starter-pack,”) but sometimes it accrues more on the side of ease and mental health to spend a little more money and just (as they say around here) “git ‘er done.”  And it will be about the easiest thing ever!  And that’s not nothing at this stage of my life.

As I reduce the size of my sheep flock due to age (theirs, not mine–although that’s a factor as well), and transition to hair (“don’t have to be sheared”) sheep, I think this will be a fine solution for me.  And it will get rid of the two riser panels under my pin oak.  Now, if only I could get rid of all the rusting appliances scattered around elsewhere….No.  I like them.  Really, I do.

I’ll report back on grain-bin progress, and whether or not I deem this project a success, probably mid-winter 2021.

Cheers! And happy hobby farming!

PS:  I love it out here in the land where no-one (as far as I can see) has any intention of taking down their TRUMP2020 signs.  Today I phoned the neighbor who helps me with my fencing projects (high-tensile, not En-Garde!) to let him know that 1) I’d given his name and number to another neighbor who’s looking for some fencing help, and that 2) I’d bought out the in-stock supply of white-oak dropper posts at the only supplier within 100 miles of us.  Told him how many I’d used, how many I had left, and that he was welcome to borrow from my remaining stash as he needed them, and then could replenish it whenever they came back into stock and he could do so.  He was delighted to know that there are some of the posts within a couple of miles of his location, and that he’s been saved about a 160-mile round trip. (Full disclosure: the trip to the fencing place isn’t an ordeal for me, because it’s on the way to somewhere else I like to go.)

And in return, this lovely gentleman of the old school told me that he’d been out at the local farm auction this morning, and was chagrined that the only chickens on offer were “peeps.”  Because he’d fully intended to buy three or four hens and bring them to me, as company for Chinggis the rooster.


I really do live in the best place in the world.  And I’m thrilled to share my delight with my friends.


Leave a Reply