Sewage & Garbage



<<The ISSUE is ...... is it going to be LEGAL to have a johnny?>>

We had to go to a zoning board meeting, show them our plans and pay a $25 fee when we built our two-seater outhouse last summer. The state has plans that you have to follow in a general way.

This outhouse is's 67 feet from the center of the road, and one of the first things you see when arriving at Peace and Carrots Farm. We scrounged the outside boards from a torn-down house. The frame is post and beam. There's a shed roof. Its got a wooden vent in the back....I never smell anything bad. A backhoe dug the original hole, then some hand work was required. Each hole is two 55 gal barrels on top of each other. The floor and seat area are made of ship-lap pine. The lids for each side are boards with a hinge and the cut out hole attached. It's easy to lift the seat and drop it back down. There are no flies. A big Plexiglas window looks out over the mountains, but it's such that no one can see in.

There's a gutter on the roof that funnels rain water into a barrel. I fill a stainless steel jug that has a button, so you can push it and wash your hands just outside the door. I put a few drops of chlorine bleach into each tank. Under the water there's a rock pile. On 2 sides there are beds of flowers. In the window hangs a crystal that makes rainbows.... a friend of mine from another homesteading list gave it to me. The outhouse is for apprentices and for folks who come here and camp in the field. Wendy from VT


One problem with trying to store human waste "air-tight" is that its decomposition creates methane gas. I don't know for sure, but it seems likely to me that at some point the container would explode from the gas pressure. Yuck. I think burying is the better option. Bleach would be handy for disinfecting the chamber pots.

Forget port-a-potties. In an emergency situation, all that a port-a-potty or chemical toilet do is postpone the day of reckoning for a few hours, they are designed to be filled and then emptied. It's remarkable quickly disgusting such things can be in only a few hours. In an urban setting, I vote for dug latrines, with regular piling of dirt over the waste. Our recent ancestors were well acquainted with "chamber pots".

This, folks, is one of the areas where I advocate being pro-active in neighborhood leadership. If you are in a city, and the sewers stop working, go door to door and talk to your neighbors. Organize a community meeting and show everybody how to dig a latrine in their back yard. I've been reading up on refugee camps at the University of Wisconsin Disaster Center (a correspondence course in disaster management), and believe me, waste disposal in an emergency situation is one of the most critical problems -- tied with clean water for first place, and ahead of shelter, food, and medical care.

This also applies to trash (which I mentioned in a previous post) -- if trash piles up, organize your neighborhood to take care of it, first of all by reducing what is thrown away, secondly by probably burning in a safe way (or burying, if there is space available).

Cities were once known as places to die, because they concentrated so many people in such unsanitary conditions in small areas. We currently use considerable resources to manage the waste products of our urban concentrations; if anything happens to them, people need to be ready to shift gears via pro-active neighborhood activism to take care of these problems on the day they first surface (that is, the first day the trash isn't picked up. If you wait until the second missed pickup, things will just be worse.)

RECYCLING: Re-Using Newspapers, Cans, & Plastic Bags

Roll newspapers into tight rolls, stuff into 1/2 gallon cardboard milk cartons, use as kindling/paper logs. Colored inks and slick papers may contain lead and be toxic when burned, so be careful just to use “regular” black-and-white newsprint.

Cut bottoms off tin cans. Use shears to slice cans length ways. Tin cans can be used with rivets to patch things, like fenders, aluminum doors, the bottoms of leather shoes, etc.

We used to use plastic bread bags as boot liners in winter - can't exactly recommend the practice, as it made our feet rather damp, but it helped keep our feet warm. To try it out, put on a pair of socks, a bag, and a pair of socks. (Now THIS shows how deep in the woods I lived).


....But if people continue to treat such valuable survival items as trash, then it is imperative that something is done to dispose of it, such as burying. Otherwise, rodents and disease become big problems. If burying is a problem, the best alternative is probably burning it. IMHO, people should be pro-active about this and (e.g.) if in cities the trash stops and begins piling up on curbs, people should go door to door and organize a neighborhood ***safe**** burning of trash, if necessary, in barrels in streets. This should probably begin the first day the trash isn't picked up, because the longer it sits, the worse the situation becomes. Remember that public sanitation in an emergency situation is often a VERY big issue that has a lot of other ramifications down the line, especially in regard to disease and smell.