Life of Carmen

It’s my potty

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Where’s your bathroom?,” asks a visitor to my little green schoolbus-home in the forest.

Ummmm….well, that depends what you have in mind. If you want to take a bath i’m afraid you are SOL, but there is a lovely ocean right at the bottom of the bluff—warmish, by Canadian (not Carribean) standards. A shower? The garden hose coiled onto a hook in the fir tree delivers clean water, gravity-fed from the reservoir at the top of the hill — and because of the black pvc water line, on a sunny afternoon the shower can actually be hot! On cool days if I’m grimy I will drop by a friend’s place for a warm shower, or grab a soak in the Hollyhock hot tub. Or I heat up the kettle and take a good ol’ bucket bath—good enough for the developing world and good enough for me. I’m clean.

But the bathroom—oh, that. Right, that. Indulge me here while i boast about my minimalist toilet arrangement. My bathroom consists of a tall motor-oil bucket (nested in a milk crate for stability purposes), a board, and a rock. The board keeps the rain out, and the rock keeps the board from flying away. The restroom is accessorized by a lidded plastic ice cream tub filled with sweet-smelling cedar chips from Ian’s firewood pile, topped by the roll of TP. Shaded by the forest canopy I enjoy my beautiful outhouse-without-a-house, my million-dollar clifftop view of Mansons Lagoon unobstructed by windows. In monsoon i squat with an umbrella.

I know what you are thinking. Shit in a bucket?! Gross. But actually its not gross at all, and here is the secret: poo in the bucket, and only poo. I learned this trick last year from Ray on the itty-bitty island off Lasqueti. Ray and Eve’s gorgeous off-grid hand-built home includes a deep solar-and-wind-heated indoor bathtub, hot water on demand, and an on-deck hot-tub—but no indoor toilet. Because the rocky terrain precludes a septic system or deep-dug outhouse, the toilet was a simple outdoor bucket arrangement—with the luxuries of a tasteful pine structure and a smoothly varnished toilet seat. The bucket discreetly concealed in a fancy wooden cabinet. Ray’s stern instruction for its use: you can pee anywhere, except in the bucket. That is the key.

Granted, such deliberate excretion requires a little bladder control. Think kegel practice. First you pee, wherever you like. The rainforest is big, it can absorb a lot of pee. Then you take your seat on the bucket and switch functions. Repeat as necessary, hopping and scuttling from duty to duty. When you’re done make use of the TP, bang the bucket down a couple of times to settle the contents, throw in a couple of handfulls of sawdust, and replace the board and the rock. Done.

When the bucket gets about half full—which takes more time than I would have thought, proving that we are indeed made mostly of water—I tote it over to the deep-dug hole back in the woods and dump it in. No muss no fuss. Because the waste is mostly solid (so not heavy or festering), and thanks to the sawdust which absorbs moisture and odor, the chore is remarkably easy and un-gross. I rinse out the bucket with the hose, line it with a single sheet of newspaper, and my boudoir is back in action.

That’s it: my little potty trick. Now yours to share with the world.

3 Comments on “It’s my potty

  1. Holy s–t! This seems very environmently-friendly. And probably “pleasant” in the summer. But I’m kind of wondering what you will do come winter? Love your shower, too!

  2. Ahh, freedom. When I lived on Lasqueti I discovered the bliss of peeing outside, and used all variations of “outs”, composting toilets, etc. You’re right, it’s not gross at all. And it doesn’t use potable drinking water to flush. People need to get more in touch with their waste systems, in my opinion.

  3. zackly! so satisfying to be so in touch with what goes into and out of my body, my connection to the earth. washing dishes with rainwater from the reservoir, collecting dishwater into a bucket under the bus, then feeding it to the plants. lunch from the garden. peelings in the compost, salad in my belly, dishes washed and water gathered. what passes through my body goes into the potty bucket and back to the garden. the cycle completes.

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