Meanwhile, in the outhouse

I know.  It’s been a while since I posted anything on building our outhouse.

Sorry.

I know you have been waiting with baited breath to see our next step!  😉

We have been using the outhouse for more than a year now and have a very strong opinion about it…

WE LOVE IT!

Does it smell bad?  Not really.  Every few days or so we throw in either a sprinkling of lime or a cupful of composted wood chips.  This helps keep down smells and also moves the natural composting along.  I have heard that you can throw some red worms down into the pit and they will naturally compost the contents, but we haven’t tried that trick yet.

how to build an outhouse

We put siding on the inside walls and caulked the seams – that should keep the spiders out!

Once we got settled up here, we knew we wanted to finish off the outhouse, especially with some interior walls. I hate spiders and I think every spider within the vicinity of the outhouse set up housekeeping in the corners of the 4 x 4 framing studs!  We wanted to use something sturdy for the walls that won’t attract moisture, and decided to use siding!  You know…   the stuff you put on the outside of your house?  It was reasonable in price, sturdy, easily cut and painted very well.  We didn’t insulate the walls because, for heaven’s sake, it’s an outhouse!  😉

When we remodeled our master bathroom a couple of years ago, we kept part of the old vanity, and a few modifications made it the perfect fit for our outhouse.  The under sink storage would come in handy. The vanity was made from oak and was very sturdy, but had a few dings and scratches in the finish.  I could either sand it down, restain the wood and reseal it, or I could lightly sand the glitches and scuff the surface, then paint.  I opted to paint. Since I didn’t want to do too much sanding, I decided to use a fairly dark brown spray paint, which would help hide the imperfections in the wood.

Years ago (more years than I care to admit) I worked in a tile store, and was lucky enough get a lot of free discontinued or defective tile.  I once acquired 14 cases of 4″ x 4″ beige tile because the manufacturer found that the color was off just the slightest bit!  Between the free tile and the left-over tile from many projects over the years, I had saved a lot of tile.  Seriously – a lot!

How to build an outhouse

This is a picture of only a part of the tile I have saved over the years! The colored tiles were still boxed up. You can see the floor tile we found at the Habitat for Humanity Re-Store in the bottom right corner

So…  what to do with so much tile?

Why, tile the outhouse, of course!

The first thing I had to do was organize my tile.  I had boxes and boxes of this and that – beautiful blue 4 x 6 tiles, gorgeous multicolored 1 x 1 tiles, and hundreds of white, off-white, gray, almond, tan, beige, bone, etc., 4 x 4’s and 6 x 6’s.  I had end caps galore, along with bullnose and quarter-rounds in lots of different colors.

But, the one thing I didn’t have enough of was floor tile.  I really wanted to tile the floor because tile is so much easier to keep clean than bare concrete.  We went to our local Habitat For Humanity’s Re-Store and found the perfect tile!  I didn’t need many square feet to cover the floor and I found eleven 12 x 12 floor tiles for only 50 cents each!  Sold!

building our outhouse

I had lots of these beautifully textured, brilliant royal blue 4″ x 4″ tiles that made a nice accent to the tile.

After working out the number of tiles I would need for the vanity top and the bench seat, I thought the result would look just a little bland all in almond and white, so I decided to add a band of these brilliant blue 4 x 4 tiles. The blue in these 4 x 4’s brought out the blue accents in the floor tiles!  Perfect!

Laying the floor tile was easy.  I purchased a simple tile saw several years ago at one of the big box stores for about $80, and it has come in handy many, many times.  Since I had more tile than I really needed for the floor, I decided to use the excess as a floor edging, bringing the tile up the sides of the wall.  This would make it a lot easier to keep the floor clean because I would be able to basically hose it off!  I used thinset adhesive to set the floor tiles because I was tiling over a concrete floor and sides.

how to build an outhouse

This is a picture of the floor tile all set – but not yet grouted. I used 3/8 inch spacers. You can see a different tile I used at the threshold. This floor tile had a bullnose edge (which gives one edge a finished edge) and it matched the other floor tile pretty well.

When the floor was completed, I began to set the tile on the vanity countertop.  First to set

Building an outhouse

The edge cap tiles were a bit lighter in color than the almond colored field tile, but that’s okay, it looked good anyway!

were the edge pieces.  Since I didn’t have any corners for the edges, I had to cut them myself, which can be tricky.  I messed up on only one piece which was lucky, because I only had one to spare! Whew!  Once all the edges were set, I placed all the field tile – that’s the 4 x 4’s on the sink counter and the 6 x 6’s on the bench seat.

Meanwhile, Ray was cutting holes through the outhouse wall right behind the vanity.  These holes allowed us to install a couple of hoses, so that we could have running water in the sink!  A sink in an outhouse?  You betcha!

Building an outhouse

The hose on the left is a drain that goes out to our fern grotto. The hose on the right goes up to the faucet, supplying water to the sink!

how to build an outhouse

This old sink came from my grandma and grandpa’s old hotel in Gridley, California. A little elbow grease was all that was needed to make it almost new again!

This sink came from my grandma and grandpa’s hotel.  The hotel was built in 1872 and had old sinks, clawfoot tubs, armoires for closets, and pull-chain toilets!  Before it was torn down my family was able to get some of the better pieces. Just a little bit of elbow grease and some cleanser and the sink looked almost new again!  The old faucet pieces and parts weren’t useable, so we opted to use the hole on the right for a single faucet (only cold water would be supplied to the outhouse) and the hole on the left for a liquid soap dispenser, both of which we bought from a hardware store for less than $20.

A few days after the tile had been set it was time to grout.  I had three partial boxes of grout to choose from.  One was a creamy yellow.  Nope.  The other was gray.  Nuh-Uh.  The last one was a color called “camel”.  The color on the box showed a reddish, almost orange-ish brown, which is the color of our dirt!  So that was the one – camel!

how to build an outhouse

The sink is very functional now, with running water, a soap dispenser, pretty soaps, and a hand towel at the ready.

I decided to grout everything, even the counter-top and bench seat, with the camel colored grout.  I knew it would hide our dirt well, and was very pleased with the outcome.  Once the grout was allowed to set for 48 hours, Ray installed the sink.  The sink is supplied water from our water tower, which was built up the hill from the outhouse and is approximately 20 feet tall (height adds water pressure).  Several long garden hoses snake through the forest on our property from the tower to the outhouse, through the hole Ray cut in the wall and up to the faucet.  The waste water (which is considered gray water) is drained from the sink with a short hose out into the fern grove we are planting around the outhouse.

how to build an outhouse

I used the same color of grout for everything. Not only did it unify everything, but it is the same color of our dirt, so it should be easy to keep clean!

Then, what would an outhouse and sink be without a medicine cabinet?  My oldest sister, Deana, was remodeling her new home and didn’t want the old medicine cabinet that was in

Building an outhouse

This medicine cabinet probably came from the 50’s. A tag inside identified it as coming from Montgomery Ward!

the bathroom, so I took it.  It was a little rough around the edges and had a few layers of paint on it, but I felt that was what gave it so much charm.  So, I decided to gently sand off the loose paint and leave the cabinet in it’s charming, well used condition.  When Ray mounted the cabinet into the wall, I knew it was perfect!

Now I needed to finish the edges!  You see, the tile I used had raw edges.  That’s what field tile is – tile with unfinished (unglazed) edges.  We remedied that with some left over decorative wood molding.  We did have to buy a bit more to finish under the vanity, but all in all, the finish work in this outhouse cost us very little.  Now, while we are living in our travel trailer as we build our new home here on the homestead, our family and friends have a decent, functional and (I think) cute place to use when nature calls!

how to build an outhouse

Well….
What do you think?  We LOVE it, and so do our family and friends who come to visit!
Of course, the final touch is a beautiful oil painting my mother painted!  It looks perfect in there and I know it will be safe until our new home is built.

Other than landscaping, painting the outside and building a front porch/stair up to the outhouse, it is pretty much done!

Would you use my outhouse?

 

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A Wood Stove and Other Things

Organic tree fertilizerWhile we are busy trying to sell our home in the valley so we can permanently move up to our mountain property, we have been able to sneak up to the future homestead a few times these past few weeks to get a few chores done.

One important task to accomplish was feeding our fruit and nut trees.  We stopped at an organic nursery on our way up to the future homestead and found a great organic fertilizer. It has kelp and worm compost and other wonderful things in it, providing not just the NPK that you find in chemical fertilizers, but lots of micronutrients such as boron and copper that are essential for tree health!  We also raked away the last of the leaves and pine needles to prevent any pests from over-wintering in them, and widened the watering berm a bit because the drip line has expanded with the ever-growing trees.  We did a drastic pruning this year, so the trees are actually shorter, but we need to make sure that the trees have a strong scaffolding shape for the future. Unfortunately we got a borer in the largest cherry tree last year, so we cut out as much of the damaged wood as possible and are keeping our fingers crossed that the tree will survive.cap and vent for an outhouse

Another necessary chore was to put a rain cap on the outhouse vent.  When using a venting an outhousecomposting toilet (which is essentially what an outhouse is), excessive moisture is the biggest enemy!  Instead of human waste composting with minimal smell, excessively wet waste will stink to high heavens and become a putrid sludge instead of compost.

If you are eating right now, I apologize.  😉

We found several caps at our local hardware box store and decided on the one in the picture above one.  It appears that it will do a great job allowing for air flow, yet keep rain out of the vent pipe. Just what we need! Though we haven’t had much rain here in California this winter (we are in our fourth year of drought), the weather report said that quite a bit of rain was expected in the next couple of days, and they were right!  We got the vent on just in time!

february blooming almond tree

Almond tree blossoms in February

Speaking of the weather and the orchard trees:  it has been just too warm up on our future homestead!  Our almond tree is blooming and the pomegranate is starting to leaf out!  This is way too early.  We shouldn’t see this until at least the end of February and more often well into March.  Unfortunately, this probably means we won’t get any almonds this year because a freeze or very heavy downpour of rain will either kill the blossoms or knock them off of the tree entirely.  Oh well.  The tree is only starting it’s third year in our orchard, so I didn’t expect much of a harvest anyway.  Last year it had two almonds that fell off the tree mid-summer.

pomegranate tree leafing out

The pomegranate trees are already getting leaves!

Last, but by no means least, is our new wood stove!  Isn’t she cute?  It’s a little tiny thing, but just perfect for cooking on!  We decided to fire her up right away to burn off that new cooking on a small wood stovepaint smell.  Boy did it stink!  Phew!  According to the instructions that came with the wood stove, we will have to do this a few more times before the burned paint smell is gone, but that’s not a problem.  So now, when our home in the valley is sold and we move up to our mountain property and start building our new homestead, we will have a great way to cook outside without having to use up a lot of expensive propane!

While bringing some wood over to the new wood stove to burn, I found this mushroom on one of the logs!  Isn’t it beautiful?wood stove 7 This wood has been piled up for a couple of years and there were several other types of fungi growing on the wood – slowly but surely decomposing the cellulose – adding nutrients to the organic layer of duff on the forest floor.  Mother Nature at her best!

Thanks for coming over for a visit!

 

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Irons in the Pot

I have had a lot of irons in the pot lately.

First of all, my garden won’t let go of me!  It is still producing vegetables, despite the date on the calendar!  It is true that I live (for now) in the Sacramento Valley of California and our weather is pretty mild in the winter, but jeeze louise – it’s time for the summer vegetables to stop growing, don’t you think?

Tomatoes blooming in November

Heaven’s to Betsy – it’s November 7th already – STOP BLOOMING !

And I still have hoards of tomatoes ripening on the vine.

Tomatoes on the vine in November

Ppffftt, and I was worried all of my tomatoes wouldn’t ripen before winter.

This zucchini got a late start (I had to replant because of the squash mosaic virus – see HERE) and I wasn’t sure it would produce anything, but here is it’s fourth zucchini growing, and it’s November for Pete’s sake!

Zucchini blooming in November

Can you believe the zucchini is still blooming? In November!!!????

I have also stopped picking my McCaslin green beans (I have enough frozen green beans in the freezer for a year) and so the ones still on the vine are being allowed to mature and dry.  They will be used in soups this winter.  I already have a quart of dried beans with much more to come!  Those plants are amazing.

Green beans to dried beans

McCaslin Heriloom green beans drying on the vine. What a wonderful and prolific variety this turned out to be!

On top of all the gardening, I have been experimenting in the kitchen.  My biggest project has been working with acorns, and you can see the latest post about some of my experiments HERE.  It takes 10 days to leach my acorns to get all the tannin out and a few more days after that to produce acorn flour.  My next culinary adventure with the acorns will be making shortbread cookies!  I’ll let you know how it turns out……. or doesn’t!  🙂

Leaching tannin from acorns

My refrigerator filled with acorn pieces and acorn meal slowly leaching the tannin out. My acorns are pretty bitter and full of tannin, so this is a 10 day process for me. Oh, the big jar on the left – that’s minced garlic.  I sure wouldn’t want to mix the two!

And then I read that you can make your own extract from lots of things.  My first foray into the “extraction” world was with stevia extract/syrup, which turned out great.  You can see that article HERE.  Now I am trying a lemon extract, using a tutorial from “The 2 Seasons“, and will follow that with orange extract, almond extract and vanilla extract.  I just need more vodka!     🙂

DIY Lemon Extract

Making lemon extract with lemon peel and vodka. The recipe suggested a little bit of sugar. I think I will wait and add my homemade stevia syrup to taste!

Between doing all of this, I am also working on some K-Cup Advent Calendars for my grandchildren.  You can find the tutorial to make one HERE.  My dining room table hasn’t seen the light of day for a few weeks because I can’t find more than a few minutes here and there to work on these!

DIY advent calendar

Oh my. Such a mess, but so much fun!    🙂

Up on our future homestead we have been working some summer and fall weekends on building an outhouse.  It’s finally at the stage where we can use it, but it certainly isn’t done.  We still need a front step, trim on all the outside corners, a rain gutter so we can collect water into a storage tank for summer irrigation, and then finish off the inside with a sink, mirror, and some tile work to make it easy to clean (easier than just plywood!)

Building an outhouse

A fully functional outhouse! Wahoo! We still have a long way to go with all the finishing details, but at least now it is useable and safe!

Speaking of bathrooms, probably the biggest iron in the pot, these days, has been the remodeling of our master bath.  In the end, it will be a complete gut job.  We are going from two rooms to one and replacing everything!  Originally there was a divider wall with a pocket door between the shower/toilet room and the sink room, which just made them both seem so small.  We are putting in new cabinets, new shower, new sinks, new tile counters, new lights and a new tile floor!

Bathroom remodel

In my mind this is going to be a beautiful bathroom…..some day soon I hope!

So, you can see, I have had a lot of irons in the pot.  But, truth be told, I wouldn’t have it any other way!

 

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Outhouse progress

Another weekend (actually two) and the outhouse is now sewn up for the winter!  We still have a lot of trim work to do, make a front porch, landscape, add solar lights, and paint; but at least the outhouse is safe for critters (we can lock it up now) and is now in service!  🙂

Building an Outhouse

We used OSB with TechShield (the shiny part you can see), which is supposed to prevent heat from radiating from the roof to the inside, as the first layer on the roof. It didn’t cost any more than the other OSB without the TechShield, so we went ahead and bought it.

We used metal roofing and James Hardie cementitous siding because of it’s fire resistance.  Once the landscaping is done by clearing away the brush and forest duff, the only way the outhouse will burn down during a wildfire is if there is a crown fire (a fire that is up in the trees) and a tree actually falls onto the structure!  At least in theory.

For venting the pit, we chose 4″ black ABS pipe that was 10 feet long.  Supposedly, because of convection currents when the sun hits the black pipe and heats it up, the foul odors will actually be sucked up and out of the top!  This also helps to dry the contents in the pit – which will contribute to better composting and further reduce odors.

How to build an outhouse

Putting in a header for the door and starting to place the Hardieboard siding.

Next spring, however, we will probably be installing one of those wind turbine thingys on top of the pipe, which will help with the venting even on cold and rainy days.

The door was constructed with 2 x 3 framing, with a fairly thin wood veneer board on the inside and the Hardieboard siding on the outside.  We went ahead and threw some batt insulation (you know, that pink stuff) inside the door.  Why?  Because we had some left over from insulating the tool shed!  Actually, we have a lot of the insulation left over and will probably go ahead and insulate the walls of the outhouse also.  Because we can.

Building an outhouse

The interior structure of the door, built with 2 x 3 lumber, faced with Hardieboard on the outside and a wood veneer on the inside, with insulation between!

We bought most of the hardware for the door from our local Habitat for Humanity Re-Store.  Those hinges, which are pretty heavy-duty, were priced at only three for $1.

How to build an outhouse

Over the OSB, we stapled down tar paper and then attached a metal roof. We used a specific type of roof jack that is meant to weatherproof the hole for the 4″ vent pipe. This is the back of the outhouse.

Can’t beat that!  I was really impressed with our Re-Store.  They have brand new windows and doors that apparently were left over from construction jobs or were custom ordered to the wrong size, etc., with the original tags and stickers still on them!  Some of these items – especially the doors that had the miniblinds inside the window – were half of what you would pay at the regular big box home improvement stores!  Once we get the homestead house plans squared away with out architect, we will probably start buying doors, windows, cabinets, light fixtures, etc., when we see those items at the Re-Store or on clearance at the big box stores!

Anyway, back to the outhouse.

How to build an outhouse

We put a window in the west side, completed the siding, and then used the Hardieboard trim around the window. We will eventually be using the same trim on the corners and under the eaves of the outhouse.

Hanging the door was a feat in itself.  That sucker was pretty heavy and at first it didn’t fit!  We didn’t take into account the thickness of the door when opening it, and so had to take the whole thing down, pull one side off, trim it down, put it back together again, and then re-hang it!  Whew!  When that was done we were very pleased with our work!  A handle and locking hasp  finished the door!  Now all we have to do is paint it and embellish it with a crescent moon and a star!  (Female and Male symbols on old outhouses back in the day) For an explanation of this, you should probably read the first post on building our outhouse, which I have listed at the bottom of this article.

Building an outhouse

Once the door was hung, Ray attached a handle and matching hasp so that we can lock the door. It will at least keep out honest criminals and curious critters!

Once the outside was pretty much weatherproof, we turned out attention to the inside.  The bench seat was fairly simple to construct and is solid as a rock!  The framing was tied into the structure of the outhouse with both nails and screws (you don’t want us to fall in, do you?), then the entire bench seat was clad in plywood.

Building an outhouse

This is the framing used to support the plywood and actual toilet seat. That sucker is solid!

Before the plywood was attached, however, Ray installed a piece of  sheet metal on the inside of the plywood, to prevent the plywood from getting wet with – well – urine. 😉   We cut holes in the top of the plywood to fit the specialized toilet seat and the vent pipe, placed the vent pipe through the hole and the toilet seat in it’s place and – wow – we could finally use our outhouse!  Hooray!  I never thought I would get so excited about being able to “go” in an outhouse!

🙂

Our next task will be to finish the trim work on the outside, add door jams with weatherstripping (not as much to keep the warmth in, but to keep the critters out!), insulate and put walls up on the inside, hang the sink and medicine cabinet, build a front porch, and landscape.  Oh, and paint.  And maybe tile the bench seat with the tons of tile my sister gave me.

Building an outhouse

A fully functional outhouse! Wahoo! We still have a long way to go with all the finishing details, but at least now it is useable and safe!

I know a lot of you are out there thinking, “why in the world would they go to so much trouble building a silly outhouse?”  Well, my answer is simply this:  if we are going to be our own contractors and build most of our new home ourselves, we need to practice using a lot of the materials and techniques we have employed in both the tool shed and now the outhouse.  Does it need to be insulated?  No, but we have two rolls of insulation taking up room in our garage right now.  Do we really need to use that tile?  Why not!?  It’s free, my sister didn’t want it, and it will surely be easier to clean than plywood!

This may or may not be the last post about our outhouse this year, as we are going to start turning our attention to other projects up on the homestead and also in our valley home!  If you haven’t read the previous posts on the outhouse, you can find them here:  #1.  We’re Building An Outhouse!,  #2.  Our Outhouse, Part 2,   #3.  Fixtures for the Outhouse,  #4.  Outhouse Update,  and finally #5.  Another Outhouse Post.

Thank you for reading this blog post and for any comments, questions or advice you leave below!  I try to answer every one!

 

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