Introduction: The World's Nicest Outhouse
This is my parent's outhouse at their cabin in Minnesota.
Everyone who's tried it says "That's the nicest outhouse I've ever used!"
It's got a lot of good features.
The previous outhouse wasn't bad, it was a classic of the two-holer variety.
The way those work is you cover one hole and use the other til that pit fills up, then you switch.
By the time you need to shovel the nightsoil out of the first hole, it's a year old or so and has turned to dirt and can go on your garden. Or you dig another pair of holes and move the outhouse over them and cover the first pair. If your soil is porous and you worry about tainting your well, you put barrels in the holes.
Once someone left the door open and a porcupine went in and gnawed the seats to get the salt. That made the thrones kind of rough, but it went with the northwoods-ness of the place.
Vandals knocked that outhouse over many times and eventually they stole it.
Remember vandalism? It used to be an important part of growing up in the U.S.
So we needed a new outhouse. My parents bought an old fishhouse, which is a shed people put on the ice of a frozen lake to fish through a hole in the floor.
And they turned it into the nicest outhouse in the world
Step 1: The Interior
It's paneled with plywood and insulated with fiberglass batting.
They used to light the outhouse with hurricane lamps or a kerosene lantern.
That was enough to warm it up quite a bit.
Then they got electricity. Now there's a lightbulb and an electric baseboard heater.
Purists were aghast!
They didn't bother putting in running water, and as you'll see it doesn't need it.
Instead of a pit under the outhouse or a pair of barrels, they put in a fiberglass holding tank they got from a damaged freight dealer. The sink and toiled drain straight down into the tank. Every few years they call for the "honey wagon" to come pump it out.
That's probably environmentally worse than the old "compost-in-place" system, but here in Minnesota we've got world famous eco-friendly sewage treatment plants that do okay.
Step 2: The Sink
The sun-tea jug with the little spigot is the water supply for hand-washing.
It's a perfect way to dose out just as much water as you need to wash your hands. No waste.
Before those sun-tea jugs showed up in the thrift stores they used coffee percolators with the guts removed. Just a covered tall aluminum pot with a little spigot at the bottom.
It's the same system they used in the kitchen in the cabin. Plenty of water, but no waste, so carrying water is no big deal. Every few days you'll carry another couple of gallons out there.
It's a great way to conserve water. I hope they'll put this system in new houses in Tucson.
Step 3: The Throne
The throne is a toilet from a junked RV.
It's got two foot pedals. One of them opens a sliding valve to "flush" the toilet.
The other pedal doesn't do anything now. I think it used to be a water valve to let the flush water in.
There are a bunch of water jugs on the shelf next to the toilet.
That's the flush water.
There's also some framed reading material.
Step 4: My Own Personal Style
No one ever taught me how to use this equipment, I just came up with my own personal style.
There probably isn't a way to do it wrong.
First I pour a cup or two of water into the toilet.
That makes it seem more like the toilets I'm used to.
Step 5: The Deposit
Yes folks, that's an actual pile of human crap in there, with the actual toilet paper I used to wipe my butt.
I swore I would do it exactly as usual and photograph whatever was there.
Lucky for you normal people the paper landed dung side down and covered Mount Dunghill tastefully.
Step 6: Where Did It Go?
Then I step on the pedal that opens the valve.
At the same time I pour in another cup or so of water to speed it to the next world.
Because it drops straight down into the tank through a large pipe it doesn't take much.
And that's that.
The bowl is made of some miracle plastic that nothing seems to stick to.
It's shaped in a really technical looking curve that's sort of like those bowls you roll coins into at a science museum. The ones where you see your money going into a black hole.
Step 7: The Valve Half Open
Here's what the valve looks like half open.
In case you need to whittle one of these things from scratch.
Step 8: Porcupine Proofing
Then back to the sink for some handwashing, and finally, latching the door behind us with this pivoting board to keep the porkies out.
Cuz we don't want them gnawing on this plastic throne.
They haven't figured out how to open t his latch yet. But they're not very smart, as you may have guessed from the fact they like to eat toilets.