Thursday, January 15, 2015

Self-Reliance Tip of the Week - Ode to the Outhouse

Does this look like a permanent solution?

One of my favorite movies from the 80's is "Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure." It is kind of cheesy because you come away saying, "dude!" "excellent!" and "bogus" for the next week. In this movie you are taken on a time-travel ride (not completely historically accurate of course, but entertaining anyway). Their mode of transportation is a phone booth. When they land in the Wild Wild West to pick up Mr. The Kid (i.e. Billy), they land next to an outhouse. It is funny how primitive this idea is. "That is so like two centuries ago...f'r real!" Aren't we so glad that we have running water and inside plumbing? Except...will it always be there? Think earthquakes in diverse places and the like. How much sewer backed up during Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy? Backed up sewage is a breeding ground for serious disease.

This brings me to the idea of portable or stationary, electricity free, minimal water "sanitation" needs if you ever must evacuate or loose utilities for any period of time. Many classes I've been to or seen on Youtube or read about, they have these five gallon buckets with these little plastic lids lined with a trash bag. After you're finished filling up the bag, you are supposed to dig a hole and bury it. With all due respect...that idea is a load of craznox. In my opinion, is worse than a chamber pot. Taking out the "trash" would be a COMPLETELY different fight if ya know what I mean! Trash bags take WAY longer to decompose than the "stuff" itself. Why would you keep it contained like that? What do you do if you find someone elses less-than-sacred "burial" ground? 

For a better portable toilet, a friend of mine uses one like this when she goes camping:

The biggest problem is that it uses precious water that might be in short supply.

The "Homer Pot" (i.e. Home Depot bucket) would be fine for emergency use, but if there was an extended period of time without running water, there are a few other alternatives to look into.

The Good 'Ol Fashioned Outhouse

"Excellent" This little diddy has been used for 500 (give or take) years. It is one of the best ways to:

  1. Keep the smell down and away from the house
  2. Let nature take its course and decompose naturally
  3. Keep bacteria contained
  4. Have some alone time...not even the kids will bug you out there :)
This little blog has a cool history about outhouses and why they are a do-able solution. It also explains where the "crescent moon" symbol came from. 

This one was my favorite :)...

Composting Toilets

Composting what? "Dude...gnarrrly"

Commercial composting toilets are very expensive, and are not legal in some places. However, where they are legal, and when made by hand, are also an affordable solution because the waste can be used to grow food...I know...sounds gross, but work with me here. 

Because we eat different things than...lets say steers (because we use their manure all the time for gardens etc) ...the process is a little different to break it down to be usable.

For the break down (not break dance - and no leg warmers here), human waste needs:

  • Nitrogen
  • Carbon
  • Oxygen
  • Ideal temperature
  • Ideal moisture

This site has a lot of "bodacious" information on regulations and building ideas and food production because of their extra time and effort made for research.

If there is ever a time that we are taken back in history ...say the mid 1800's because our modern electrical world changes for one reason or another, remember that people lived without running water and they never used it for flushing toilets. They lived and were happy. What they DIDN'T have was the working knowledge that we have that if you keep your hands washed and keep things clean and sanitized, it prevents the spread of many diseases.  Bill and Ted, thank you for your excellent adventure that lead us to this most triumphant discussion on potty alternatives. 

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