Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Let’s talk about … potties.
You can’t move to the country without eventually thinking about potties. And it just isn't a normal topic of conversation. Women, however, think about it more so than men, especially if they have small children. Without getting too clinical, let’s just say that men have it easier than women more than half the time in the potty department.
If you are lucky enough to move to a house in the country WITH an existing potty, then you will only have to think about it in two instances: on the day your electricity goes out, which will make your well inoperative, or when your toilets don’t flush because you need to have the septic tank pumped. It would never occur to most of us to figure out, on a daily basis, which facility we would use if we couldn’t use the one in our house for any real length of time. The old joke we all tell of the time when we were kids that the water didn’t work in the house so mom drove us all down to the local gas station to use their toilet comes to mind. Almost all of us have always had an indoor commode in a room built especially for that commode, with doors and lights and fans, placed inside another structure with temperature controls such as heat or air conditioning.
If, however, you move to a farm that has a 100-year-old house with only an outhouse, then you have to think differently. First of all, let me describe my farm’s “facility.” It is an outhouse about 30 steps from the back door across the yard. It is an old wooden structure that was placed over a wet-weather creek. That means that everything that goes into the outhouse comes out underneath it. And wet-weather creek means it only has water running in it during the winter. Ick.
Now for most of us who are accustomed to getting water that is dispensed from a central city water plant right out of a faucet, and are used to things just going away when a toilet is flushed, we would not worry too very much about that scenario because we are not used to thinking about it.
When we moved to our farm and began this project and new way of life, I could not bring myself to use the old smelly wood structure. So I called and had a port-a-potty delievered. While we were staying there just on weekends working to restore the farm, it wasn’t so bad. But when we moved there full time and were still working on a house, I still had a port-a-potty, and my husband’s priorities on his to-do-list suddenly shifted. Finishing my inside toilet became more important than any other single project on the farm.
I had that port-a-potty for seven months. I walked to it first thing in the morning through dew-soaked grass. I sprinted through the rain and snow. I sweated in there at the height of summer with the wasps and bees. I trudged out there last thing in the dark of the country night, tripping over rocks and stepping on things that I know moved. I shared the port-a-potty with a black snake one hot and humid afternoon. Morning after morning, before I could ever sit, I had to remove the kind of large, sticky spider webs that I have only ever seen in movies. Make a mental note: these farm spiders are some industrious builders. And I was NOT a happy camper.
Jerry, the port-a-potty cleaning man, and I became good friends, always taking time to chat while he pumped my potty and serviced it (again, major ick). Now when I say that it was mine, I really mean it. If I left for any length of time, I put a lock on my port-a-potty because all the workers just did not get to use MY port-a-potty. But one day, seven months after delivering it, Jerry removed my port-a-potty.
Now, I ask you, am I not a patient woman? Finally, we had an indoor toilet!! But don’t hurrah yet: my indoor toilet was indeed indoors. But it was not in the house! My indoor toilet was in the garage, with no walls or door! Since we were still in the process of finishing the inside of the house, which meant we still needed to get drywall up, flooring down, and plumbing finished, we didn’t want to set the toilet in the bathroom only to have to remove it again, just because I was in such a rush to have an indoor toilet. So my husband hooked up the toilet in the garage. All of our friends and neighbors thought it was such a hoot. The men commented that my husband was lucky because he could survey all his tools while he was indisposed. All the women thought it was crazy, and yes, icky. The craziest thing of all is when it’s hot and your husband walks right through on his way out after getting a tool from the workbench and leaves the large garage door open while you are screaming your head off for your privacy. And before you can get yourself together, your neighbor drives right up to the open garage door, gets out, and asks where your husband is.
And can you imagine how cold a toilet seat can get in the winter? I put a thermometer in the garage so that I would know how cold it was while I was indisposed (inquiring minds want to know). I put a space heater out there and aimed it directly at the toilet base to forestall any freezing. I bought the thickest slippers on the face of the earth to be able to walk across that concrete floor to go to the bathroom in the winter! I expected icicles some mornings in spite of the space heater. I will never again laugh at a fur-covered toilet seat.
You will be happy to know that now the toilet has moved inside and is finished, surrounded by walls and a door and lights and fan and heat and air conditioning. We are truly civilized now. And boy is civilization sweet when you consider (or remember) the alternative.