Warm up Your Outhouse for Winter

A complete survival manual for those facing their winter with a privy.


| November/December 1976



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Matches, candles, a coffee can and a wooden board are all useful tools for your winter outhouse.


MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF

Here, from a resident of British Columbia's far northwest corner, is a Complete Survival Manual for the Pilgrim Facing His or Her First Winter With a Privy. And for all you folks with indoor plumbing: Rejoice, rejoice!  

Regardless of what anyone says, there is one advantage to having an outhouse in the colder regions of our land: Namely, you don't have to worry about frozen plumbing. The prospect of actually having to use an outdoor potty at thirty below, however, is horrifying to most folks. (It's enough, in fact, to throw the average tender-foot's body functions completely out of whack!) A recent arrival from warmer climes even confided to my lady that she dreaded the possibility of having to present a strategically located frostbite for treatment at the local outpost hospital.

And yet, a trip to the arctic or subarctic biffy doesn't have to be an exercise in stark terror: You can overcome most of the inconveniences, if you know how.

Seat Temperature

The temperature of the outdoor commode's load-bearing surface is our most immediate concern. Imagine—if you dare—the sensory and emotional impact of sitting on a seat forty degrees colder than the average ice cube . . . a frost-caked surface cold enough to freeze water instantly with an audible crackle. One way to ease this "impact" is simply to hang the john's seat behind the kitchen stove when the lid is not in use, and then take it with you when you go to use "the facilities". The idea works, too . . . though fastidious sorts aren't usually too pleased with the idea. And, if you have small kiddies who are still developing dexterity and accuracy, the concept further lacks appeal.

Then again, you may want to try a technique I first spotted at a ranch near McKinley Park in Alaska. The rancher there had obtained a horseshoe-shaped seat (such as commonly found in public restrooms) and pulled an old woolen sock over each half of the lid. It was marvelous.

The absolute ultimate, though (believe it or not), is the Styrofoam seat. (OK. So it's plastic. Can you think of a better use for plastics?) Such a lid is a snap to make: All you have to do is [1] find a two-foot-square hunk of 2"-thick insulating Styrofoam (or any piece big enough to extend well beyond the edges of the privy's opening), [2] outline the hole in the latrine on it, and [3] cut the center out of the block with a keyhole saw. (The seat's usable "as is", but does tend to break easily unless reinforced. Hence, you might like to cement the foam to a scrap piece of plywood that's been cut to size.) Tack a couple of blocks to the outhouse bench's top to keep the new seat from sliding around, and presto! You've got an insulated perch you can slide into place whenever the frost fiends are sufficiently vicious.





dairy goat

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