Our Outhouse!

This past weekend we traveled up to the future homestead for a work weekend.  We needed to make sure there was enough water in the storage tank to water the orchard (we have automatic timers to water when we aren’t there) and we also planned to work a bit more on the new road.  We also needed a little peace and quiet with some well deserved rest and relaxation.

Ray unlocked the trailer, I stepped in and ……. uuuggghhhhh!

Peeeee  Ooooooo   Weeeeeeeeee!

H       O        L       Y

          C      A      N      N      O      L      I        ….what ….. a ………. smell!    ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The black water tank in the trailer really, no REALLY needed to be dumped!  Our eyes were burning with the stench!

You see, we park our trailer on a spot (see the spot here) near the orchard and tool shed that we built a few years ago.  But the septic tank was installed near where the house will be built, which is up the road a few hundred feet.

A few years ago Ray bought this handy dandy device that you empty your black water from your trailer holding tank into, transport it to a septic tank, then dumps the black water.  He bought it at Camping World and you can see one just like it HERE.

We affectionately call it our pooper toter  😉

Well, we hadn’t been up to the future homestead in a couple of weeks and in-between time the weather has turned very, very warm.  I think our black water was actually fermenting!

~~~~Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble! ~~~~  The smell was enough to gag a maggot!

Once we were able to get the black water tank emptied and recharged with fresh water and enzymes, the trailer took on a more pleasant smell.  Talk about a breath of fresh air!

So that’s when we decided, then and there, we will build an outhouse!  We have been toying with the idea for a while now.  Even though I love it when my friends and family visit us up on the future homestead, it can be tricky when people have to use the “facilities” in our trailer.  Not only do they have to traipse through our trailer to do so, but in all honesty, it’s not fun for Ray having to dump the black water waste all of the time.  Even though the transfer usually goes off without a hitch, just by the nature of the beast, an occasional spillage (oh the horror) does happen!

So, we shall build an outhouse!  We abandoned our road work plans to instead begin working on the privy.  The first order of business was to decide where to place it!  This looked like a good spot:

where to put our outhouse

The first order of business was to clear away all the dead wood and duff.

Duff:      Noun  –  organic matter in various stages of decomposition on the floor of the forest including pine needles, leaves, sticks and other vegetable matter.

We carted the duff away in the handy dandy cart with crib rails attached.  Yes, they are actually the rails from the crib all three of our boys used!  Talk about repurposing!  The cart filled with leaves

Once we had all the duff cleared, we got a better picture of the area where we had decided to build the outhouse.  Just about where that shovel is in the ground – yup – that’ll do.

duff cleared, ready to dig pit

So Ray and I got busy digging the pit.  Luckily we didn’t run into any huge rocks.  We have clay reddish soil but it isn’t really compacted, so the digging wasn’t too difficult.  We decided to dig a 3 x 3 foot pit, so that we could build a 4 x 4 concrete block footing. 3x3 foot hole for the outhouse

About this time we decided to take a lunch break.  When we came back to our work site, we found that Louie, our neighbor’s dog, had discovered a nice, cool place to take a nap!  Once we evicted Louie, Ray began digging the hole deeper, keeping the sides as vertically plumb as possible.  digging the pit for the privy

And deeper………..

deep hole for pit toilet


Eventually we want to dig the hole about 5-6 feet deep, but this was enough for one weekend.  I suppose we will have to rig up a system soon whereby Ray shovels dirt into a 5 gallon bucket, I wench it up and dump it, then lower it back down to Ray.  I’m not sure of any other way to dig a deep hole solely with muscle power!!

In doing some research about outhouses and the different designs, I came across this tidbit of interesting information:  did you know that the classic crescent moon cut-out in the door of outhouses meant that it was for women/girls?  The men/boys outhouse had a star in the door.  But, since men/boys are by nature messier than women/girls, it was the female outhouses that withstood the ravages of time!  That’s why you see more old outhouses with the crescent moon and not the star!  Haha!  Thought you would like to know.

Stay tuned for future installations of Our Outhouse, aka The Privy   🙂

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30 thoughts on “Our Outhouse!

    • Hello again, Helen! Yes, my husband and I seem to like doing things the hard way 🙂 You should see my biceps! We do have that quad and cart, which has come in very handy. Thanks for stopping by, I’m sure we will hear from each other again!

    • Not sure?! Our property is in an area where a lot of people build their homes without permits and there are several outhouses in the neighborhood. I know we do not need a building permit for anything smaller than a 10 x 12 footprint. Our outhouse will be 4 x 4, so I know we don’t need a permit for the actual building per se.

    • Thank you for sharing the post, Tessa! I can’t wait to get the hole dug further so we can start on the foundation! I know this is going to take a while, but I will keep everyone posted on our progress! I really enjoy your website and the latest post! My favorite picture is where you used the sawzall to make a hole through the vines! It’s actually beautiful! I’m glad you stopped by – Vickie

  1. I love it! Building the outhouse with muscle power is a task indeed, especially if you have clay soils – compacted or not. I didn’t know about the crescent moon vs star on the outhouse. Thanks for sharing this post – I’ll be watching for future updates!

    ~Taylor-Made Ranch~
    Wolfe City, Texas

    • Thank you, Stacy and Tammy, for reading this post! In my research trying to find the “best” way to build the outhouse, I came across quite a few facts, jokes and pictures of outhouses. I chuckled and sniggered my way through all of these and may include a few in future posts! When my hubby and I visited an old ghost town here in California called Bodie, we found several outhouses with two and three “holes”. Hmmmm……. Thanks for the comment – Vickie

    • Oh – sorry Antionette! Perhaps I should have put a warning on the blog! But you know, we all gotta go! 😉 Vickie

    • Glad you think it is cool! Just wait until we get more done! I’m hoping to make a really nice one – with a sink to wash hands in also! Thanks for stopping by. Vickie

  2. Loved this post! I will be watching for updates! I have tried to do research on the same topic, as I have strange fantasies of living a ‘back-to-basics-old-fasioned-life’ and we try to live as such the best we can where we are at now….but you never know what the future may hold! It’s always good to take note of those who have trudged the same path.

    Love your website and what your family is doing. Found your website through ‘From the Farm Blog Hop’.


    • Jennifer – thank you so much! Yes, we plan to be as self-reliant as possible. Of course, when the house is built we will have real flushing toilets that go into our sanitary septic tank system, but until then we have to go back to the tried and true old fashioned way! I appreciate your approval. Come back and see our next posts regarding the outhouse. I will blog about it as we build and certainly want anyone who has better methods to speak up and help us along! Vickie

  3. Can’t wait to see it all finished. I think it’s a great idea. I so wanted the old outhouse off of my hubbies grandparents farm. Didn’t get to it in time and the new owners hauled it off. I wanted it as a tool shed. Thanks for sharing with SYC.

    • Thanks so much Jann. Not sure when we will get it finished – we have so much on our plate right now trying to get our home in the valley ready to sell so eventually we can move up to our “future homestead”! Of course I will post any future updates. Thanks for hosting your blog hop – Share Your Cup! It’s one of the best I’ve ever participated in!

  4. Wow, what an experience. We went through one somewhat similar when we first bought our house. It is old and hadn’t been lived in for a while…the city’s sewer system had collapsed too. You can imagine! Fascinating info on the old outhouses – girls rule! I am delighted that you shared with Home and Garden Thursday,

    • Yes, girls do rule – especially when it comes to outhouses! Teehee! I found enough history, pictures, jokes, personal stories and lessons on how to build and maintain outhouses during my research to write an entire book! Very interesting when you can get past the yuck factor! Thanks for stopping by. I really enjoy your blog hop party – Home and Garden Thursday – and plan to continue hopping there when I can. Vickie

  5. Great post, and a great topic. Really! We bought an old house in Maine many years ago that still had the outhouse building on it (no hole). It was quite a conversation starter.

    Thanks for sharing at the HomeAcre Hop. Hope we’ll see you again this Thursday.

    • It’s funny how many people actually have a soft spot in their heart for outhouses! I have only used an outhouse a few times in my life, that I can remember. The only fear I have ever had using one is in wondering whether there was a spider just under the lip of the seat, waiting for my fanny to descend upon it! That thought has always given me the heebie-jeebies. Because of that, I have devised a seat design to prevent that uneasy fear and hope to show it in “The Outhouse Part 2” soon. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Loved this post. It made me snicker. I also didn’t know about the crescent moon vs. star for girls and boys. Interesting tidbit. We recently bought our future homestead in February and will not move there until the youngest graduates from school. We do not have a trailer/camper there yet, but frequently drive down to work and check on things. Just FYI I’ve been very interestedly following your journey for a while. It is possible we should think about building one ourselves.

    I just wanted to stop by and let you know that your post will be featured at tomorrow’s The HomeAcre Hop. I will also tweet, like, and +1 your post. Please stop by and grab the featured button at:


    • I have been following you also! Isn’t it great how blogging helps us along our own journey? If I hadn’t started doing this, I don’t think I would have ever met so many other people who have the same mindset as I do. It’s great seeing how other people do things, and the reasons behind it. I have learned so much from other bloggers such as yourself. My purpose for blogging from the beginning has been to let our family and friends know what we have been up to (“those crazy people who want to live backwards”) and also to help others see how we are doing it (the good, the bad and the sometimes beautiful) so that they may attempt more self-reliant and self-sufficient living themselves. Thanks for your kind words and for the feature! We all need encouragement from time to time and you just gave me a nice boost! Thank you. Vickie

      • That’s cool! You’re following us too! I admit I cannot keep up with everyone that follows unless I’ve made a connection with them. Now, I know. Everyone can use a little encouragement from time to time.

  7. What an interesting topic! I am not a homesteader but I can recall using an outhouse, the unpleasantness of it, and my Mama’s comments on the way an outhouse is best done(she had no indoor plumbing until she was 14). She commented laughingly at how some people didn’t build down wind,didn’t build them so they can be moved; as the hole fills up, and installing a handy dandy new fangled toilet seat is a good idea and that when the outhouse is moved some kind of treatment to the waste area and covering it up with dirt. I’m just telling these things off the top of my head but things to consider. This is the one modern convenience I would hate to give up. I have experience using a real old-fashion outhouse and I hated it. I always had a fear of snakes or something biting me in the butt.

    • Yes, I agree that flushing toilets are probably one of man’s greatest inventions! However, the need for a back-up system is necessary for us at this time. We hope it will last for as long as it takes us to get our house built – with real flushing toilets into a septic system – because we certainly don’t want to have to move it! As far as building up-wind, well, we are somewhat. We will have a 4″ ABS black plastic pipe going up from the chamber to about 6 feet above the roof of the outhouse, with one of those whirligig tops, so the air will be drawn up and out. Hopefully that will help with smells. Also, during my research I found that the less liquid waste, the better, so the guys will still need to water the compost pile! I’ve got a lot of research to do on this one, but it’s good to hear from someone who has lived with one! If you or your mom can think of anything more, please let me know!

    • Thank you so much, Barb, for featuring my post! It seems quite a lot of people are interested in outhouses, for one reason or another! Thanks again for hosting the Fabulously Frugal Linky – it’s great! Vickie

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