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Have you ever used an outhouse?

 
pioneer
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When I bought my property there was no running water, no electricity and no internet. Anyone who is married to a woman knows they like to tinkle inside, anywhere inside preferred. I built an outhouse out of a couple of old fence panels. It's got a real toilet seat and reading material which doubles as toilet paper. The wife was a bit younger when this was in use. Now that she's older and a bit more picky she wants a lavatory, a commode that has a flushing handle that works and a heater so she has a warm place to set her nether region on a cold winter night.
I remember my grandparents didn't have running water so we had to use the earth house. Has anyone ever HAD to use an outhouse? Does anyone own one now?
Outhouse.jpg
[Thumbnail for Outhouse.jpg]
 
gardener
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I've used them many times in my life, though never long-term consistent use like you're describing. None of those experiences were especially pleasant. Some were downright awful. 30 years later I still remember one really horrible one.

BUT I've read enough here about the right way to do it that I think it's possible to have a good experience. Someday...

I do agree with your wife's desire to have a not cold seat!
 
pollinator
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When I was in Estonia and Russia, a lot of rural houses did not have indoor plumbing, and they would have an "outhouse" actually attached to the house.  Like an unheated lean-to that you enter from the house.  It does not get so super cold since it is attached to house, and you do not have to bundle up and trudge outside.  Sometimes this was a pit toilet, sometimes it was a composting system.  I do not know the logistics of constructing or maintaining these, but it was pretty standard in the villages, and for the most part did not smell if you kept the lid down.
 
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I've used a few at a family holiday cottage in the mountains in Norway, on walking trips in Finland and in Death valley. only the death valley one was at all unpleasant and that was I think due to a lack of covering material and much higher usage it was "only" 30C when we were there so while heat might be an issue it wasn't right at that point. The Norwegian one of course was private, it was a bucket that got emptied once a week with minimal coverage, the finish one was public and had a lot of sawdust to cover with and a much larger container.
 
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Michael said "Now that she's older and a bit more picky she wants a lavatory, a commode that has a flushing handle that works and a heater so she has a warm place to set her nether region on a cold winter night.



I agree with your wife so I feel this would not be too hard to fix for her.

BTW, our girl scout camp where we spent a week or two every summer had outhouses and we had to clean them.  Talk about fun!
 
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We had either outhouses or a choice of an outhouse or sawdust toilet that was sometimes in the house and separate pee bucket from 1972 through 2015. (except for the nineties, when my mom lived with us, all indoor plumbing for a number of years in that house)

We have a flush toilet now but still use a separate pee bucket most of the year and still try to figure out the logistics of a composting toilet incorporated into this house.

We have good friends who just put in a flush toilet for his wife in addition to their composting outhouse...and mainly the women use it at their potlucks.  He admitted to using it during the super cold snowy week here over the winter though.

When we sold our last house we took a hit because, apparently, no bank will mortgage a home without an indoor flush toilet? We had everything plumbed but when we moved there there was no septic and that was fine with us as we knew just what to do.  In the end, though, a flush toilet, even if it only drained off the hillside would have made several thousand dollars difference in what we were able to sell it and our forty acres for.

It's got a real toilet seat and reading material which doubles as toilet paper.


I'm going to take this as a joke of all the creature comforts nothing does the job like real toilet paper...or damp rags if you can stay supplied.  There were times we either couldn't afford or couldn't get to town for toilet paper and believe me it was just about up there with rolling tobacco as far as necessities go......











 
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I've used plenty of outhouses while camping, and I totally agree with those who wish to have "inside comfort".

1. Women have different anatomy - more is exposed to the weather when we have to pee.
2. As women age, particularly if they've had children, we tend to need to urinate more often *and* at night, so inside facilities are appreciated. At my friend's house in the 1980's, I used a chamber pot, but my 60 year old knees and balance are much happier with a 20 liter bucket with a toilet seat on it and a mixture of biochar and sawdust in the bottom and for covering.
3. We've got a large property, and my intermediate plans if I can get that far, is to have at least 2 bucket toilets (one in the back field and one over by some gardens that are far enough from the house to be annoying if I need a leak.) They may not be fancy, but they will be stable, easy to clean and not stinky. I'll find a good place to do the composting part, although it will be mostly urine which is less worrisome.

I've read Joe Jenkins most recent Humanure Handbook and "pit toilets" create toxic plumes too easily - probably not enough carbon at the bottom and not enough oxygen. The concept of an above-ground compost heap to accept any contributions seems to be much preferred by modern permies and a way to keep urine and feces separate is recommended in many places. For us, this would likely only happen in a SHTF situation like a major earthquake, as we have perfectly functional flush toilets that came with the house. I still make Hubby pee in a bottle which we pour on a mulch pile to make soil, as it saves both water and the electricity to pump it. If I had space in the bathroom for a separate bucket with a seat, I'd do the same, but there simply isn't space.
 
Michael Dotson
pioneer
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Well, the reading material remark was almost a joke. Grandpa's outhouse had a supply of newspapers. One had to tear off what they needed and softened it by crumpling it up, spreading it out and crumpling it up again until the desired texture was achieved. A very old German lady who had lived through WWII told me years ago they used paper grocery bags and softened it the same way. I've heard of using corn cobs, but I think maybe that was more of a joke...I don't know. These days we use commercial TP that's sanctioned by the Mrs. I put a full bathroom in my shop after she got tired of the outhouse.
My grandpa told me once that his mother had to pick cotton in huge open fields with kids and men picking right alongside her. She always wore a long dress and went commando. When she had to go she slowed and let the others get ahead of her. She'd stop and let fly. Everyone knew what she and the other women were doing so nothing was said. After, she'd pick faster to catch up to the group and then pick along with them. They did that because it was a long walk to the woods to tinkle and then the walk back. You got paid by the pound so you had to stay at it to make any money. One had to do what one had to do.
 
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THE SPECIALIST
By Charles Sale

YOU'VE heard a lot of pratin' and prattlin' about this bein' the age of specialization. I'm a carpenter by trade.At one time I could of built a house, barn, church, or chicken coop. But I seen the need of a specialist in my line, so I studied her. I got her, she's mine. Gentlemen, you are face to face with the champion privy builder of Sangamon County.Luke Harkins was my first customer. He heerd about me specializin' and decided to take a chance. I built fer him the average eight family, three holer. With that job my reputation was made, and since then I have devoted all my time and thought to that special line. Of course, when business is slack, I do do a little paperhangin' on the side. But my heart is just in privy buildin'. And when I finish a job, I ain't through. I giveall my customers six months' privy service free gratis. I explained this to Luke, and one day he calls me us and sez: "Lem, I wish you'd come out here, I'm havin' privy trouble."
So I gits in the car and drives out to Luke's place, and hid behind them Baldwins, where I could get a good view of the situation.It was right in the middle of hayin' time, and them hired hands was goin' in and stayin' anywheres from forty minutes to an hour. Think of that!I sez: "Luke, you sure have got privy trouble." So I takes out my kit of tools and goes in to examine the structure.First I looks at the catalogue hangin' there, thinkin' it might be that; but it wasn't even from a reckonized house. Then I looks at the seats proper, and I see what the trouble was. I had made them holes too durn comfortable. So I gets out a scroll saw and cuts 'em square with hard edges. Then I go back and takes up my position as before -- me here, the Baldwins here, and the privy there. And I watched them hired hands goin'in and out for nearly two hours; and not one of them was stayin' more then four minutes."Luke," I sez, "I've solved her." That's what comes of bein' a specialist.'Twarn't long after I built that twin job for the school house, then after that the biggest plant up to date -- an eight holer. Elmer Ridgway was down and looked it over. And he came to me one day and sez: "Lem, I seen that eight hole job you done down there at the Corners, and it sure is a dandy; and figgerin' as how I'm goin' to build on the old Roberson property, I thought I'd ask you to kind of estimate on a job for me."You come to the right man, Elmer," I sez. "I'll be out as soon as I get the roof on the two-seater I'm puttin up for the Sheriff."Couple of days later I drives out to Elmer's place, getin' there about dinner time. I knocks a couple of timeson the door and I see they got a lot of folks to dinner, so not wishin' to disturb 'em, I sneaks around to the sidedoor and yells: "Hey, Elmer, here I am; where do you want that privy put?"Elmer comes out and we get to talkin' about a good location. He was all fer puttin' her right alongside a jagged path runnin' by a Northern Spy...

https://www.toiletrevolution.com/wp-content/uploads/The-Specialist-by-Charles-Sale.pdf

 
pollinator
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I'm with Anne. Outhouses were standard at girl scout camp. They are what they are, certainly no worse than a port-a-potty. It's the smell that's the issue.
 
pollinator
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My grandma lived on the family farm
with no running water.
Well there was water for the cattle stock tanks but not to the house.
Water was hand pumped at the well and hauled into the house in buckets.
This was in the early 80s, I was in my early 20s.
The family didn't like her staying out there all winter by herself so I stayed with her for a couple winters.

The outhouse was about 100 ft from the house.
One night at -20F I had to go.

Wrapped in a blanket I got out there, sat down fast.
The wood warmed up quickly.
No wind, it was completely calm.
The full moon reflecting off the snow
lighted the outhouse through the half moon cut into the wall.

Grandma is gone now but the farm remains.
Turned into kind of a hunting cabin, it now has indoor running water.
A closet turned into a bathroom.

Though the outhouse is in a different place
filled with cobwebs and rarely used by anyone.
I still prefer to use it.
It's still a peaceful place for me,...
to take a dump, ha.


 
pollinator
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I do not currently own one but we do use composting buckets on occasion. I do know a few things on keeping the stinky down, one would be a good vent pipe from the pit, if it could be put behind a glass in the sun to give it some heat it would work really well, paint it black. Hot air rises. The major thing I would do is separate the S from the P by putting two seats, one for#1 and two for#2. The pee I would pipe out to a underground lateral and let it soak in and poop to go in the pit. This may not work so well if rain water gets in the pit, it's moist wet poo that makes the pee-yew. The addition of lime also helps a lot too or even a little dirt or sawdust. In the Marines we had barrels cut in half in the latreen and every day they would drag them out and burn them, a detail I'm so glad to have never been a part of.
 
gardener
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I grew up in a cabin in the woods near the Yukon River.  Used an outhouse regularly until I left for college in the 80s.  To this day I don't like the way flush toilets spray a plume of dubious droplets into the tiny room when you pull the flush lever.  Plus, in an outhouse on a good hole the splash is six feet down.  With modern facilities I also hate the plumbing noise that fills the whole house in the middle of the night if you need to flush, it just ain't civilized.  

Where I grew up smell was never an issue; we did sometimes put a bit of sawdust or lime down the hole.  The "stalagmite problem" was a much bigger deal during a long winter, aka "the frozen pinnacle of doom".  We had to keep an iron bar in the outhouse to break it down when it threatened to rise above seat level.  

Our pit/outhouse was long and narrow, enough so that in theory you could swap the holed toilet seat square of plywood with any of three other solid squares to sidestep the pinnacle issue.  But early on, my mother decided to leave the hole square at one end and then she built a urinal out of door screen and aluminum press plates at the other end, to keep people (ahem) from trying and failing to pee with precision through the hole she had to sit on.  

Coldest temp I ever used an outhouse in was seventy-two degrees (F) below zero.  I was seven years old and I was in tears before I got back inside the cabin.  People who have never seen serious sub-zero weather may not know this, but if you touch or hold tender flesh against anything solid (wood less than metal, but wood too if it's cold enough) at those temperatures, it doesn't feel cold, it feels like your flesh is in a burning flame after just a few seconds ... not really long enough to do any serious business.  

There's also an issue with the cheap aluminum zippers in those fuzzy footy sleepers that little kids wear.  They jam at the best of times, and if you're in a hurry... well, they tend to eat a pinch of skin from whatever is nearby, and jam on that.  It ends in tears.

Down to about thirty below, I'm fine with an outhouse.  After that, using one is serious business.
 
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