How does one optimally maintain an outhouse?greenspun.com : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread
What should I be doing in order to maintain and/or prolong the usefullness of an outhouse on my property?
-- geoffrey boyd (email@example.com), July 09, 1999
Essentially a backhouse is a hole in the ground where you collect future fertilizer. As the pile builds up several things can happen. The earth temperatures are cooler so composting is slower than it can be. Odors can be a problem. Insects can be a problem. As long as we continue with a useful hole in the ground there is not too much to do about temperatures. Alternatives are available, but that is another "can of worms". Odors can be controlled by adding lime and or ashes from your wood stove. I also like to keep the pile covered so after each use I sprinkle a covering of sawdust over the top. This also helps to balance the carbon/nitrogen ratio. Other things can be used like peat moss, straw run through a shredder/grinder, or ground leaves. Screening and keeping tight and secure doors can help with insects, but not eliminate them. Another thing that helps is to keep your biffer painted with a fresh coat of whitewash. The light color discourages many insects. Keep the gasketed seat cover closed when not is use. And you may even resort to flypaper or flytraps if they become necessary. Eventually, that hole in the ground fills up. At that point, what to do? I would move the throne-room to a new location, cover the original pit, let it compost for a season, then you can dig it clear and use it for your fruit trees, or other garden activities. In spite of the uproar heard from our beloved county health "authorities" there in fact is relatively little to fear from composted manure. Enteric bacteria and viruses simply do not survive very long in a compost pile and composting over a prolonged period solves the problem. I say this with the authority of a PhD in Microbiology and many years of study of alternatives to the flush toidy. Use and enjoy.
-- Nick (firstname.lastname@example.org), July 10, 1999.
In July I was in Nicaragua and saw for the first time a Vietnamese composting toilet. They are fantastic. There are two holes: use one for six months and move to second one for six months while the first is composting. Urine goes into a separate catch basin and is either drains into a bucket or with a hose goes to trees, etc. I am trying to get info on construction. Contact me for more info when I get it. Ken Hargesheimer
-- ken hargesheimer (email@example.com), September 11, 1999.
Its about the same as banking. You make daily deposits and you get back "scents" for interest. JR
-- J.R.Jones (firstname.lastname@example.org), February 26, 2000.
I dont know why the traditional American pit style outhouse is only kind that people identify with. Putting organic matter in a wet hole in the ground is going to produce a lot of stench. The traditional Irish and Chinese outhouses are built up off the ground. No pit is dug. The Irish because of very rocky ground and the Chinese because this was a source of fertilizer. After the manure level is high, then an access door in back is opened and the manure is shovelled out. Since it isnt sitting in a wet hole, it has dried out and there isnt that much odor. When I built one at a previous homestead, we kept a metal 5 gallon bucket of wood ash so it could be sprinkled through the hole after each use. We never had more than an "earthy" smell. Certainly not the stench some friends of ours had with their pit. If you do it this way, it works best to have another container to put toilet paper in to be burned. Makes cleaning out the toilet much easier.
-- Hermit John (email@example.com), April 08, 2000.
I think Hermit John's Irish and Chinese outhouses make sense, but would add that the outhouses I've used that smelled the least had large (12 inch diameter) vent stacks, presumably screened. With the other measures such as ashes and sawdust, you should have as nearly odor-free an out-house as is possible.
-- Kathleen Sanderson (firstname.lastname@example.org), April 12, 2000.
I have a question about outhouses? In an area where we are trying to save an old school house community center---the outhouses have a cement top & they are almost full!!! Who knows how many hundred (ha) years these same outhouses have been used! But, we are planning a family reunion there next month---Can I have the guy who pumps out port-a-potties pump these outhouses out???? What can I do? Or should I hire port-a-potties & worry about the out houses latier? My great 5 times grandfather was the first homesteader in this area. He donated land(in 1800's) for a cemetry & school & church for the land to never be sold---long story--but I started an annual famly reunion this year to clean up the cemetry renew family ties--pass down family history-- found the school house board was going to sell the school--so last week we went before the school(community center) board & begged them not to sell! The school needs a new roof--& money to keep it going. The reunion I hope will get enough people involved to do things that need done! But the out houses are full, too! Help!!!! I need some good advice! Sonda in Ks.
-- Sonda (email@example.com), May 11, 2000.
Sonda, how recently have the outhouses been used? Do they still smell bad? If they haven't been used for several years, and no longer smell bad, can you get access to the contents to shovel them out? If not, or if they've been used recently, call the people who pump septic tanks, and ask them if they can advise you. Barring being able to empty them one way or the other, you will probably need to rent port-a-potties for your reunion.
-- Kathleen Sanderson (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 11, 2000.
Better idea, Sonda, have digging new outhouse pits be a project for the people at the family reunion. Gerbil
-- Gerbil (email@example.com), May 11, 2000.
Get a copy of the Humanure Handbook. Even if you don't go that route it has a lot of good information.
-- j (firstname.lastname@example.org), May 12, 2000.