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Survival Notes – February 12th 2018

How did you prep this week? On our homesteading survival retreat we worked on adding an essential off grid component to our prepper haven. I shocked my hubby when I told him what I wanted for Valentine’s Day this year….an outhouse!

Most ladies would request jewelry and not ask for such a folksy gift, but I think it is been a missing attribute on our homesteading survival retreat for far too long. We went only a single day without power last week, when electrical work was being completed on our daughter and son-in-law’s tiny house cabin adjacent to the hunting lodge we turned into our home.

Our well has an electric pump, so that meant no water for the entire day – and no commode flushing. It is not until you are suddenly without something, that you really get to evaluate your preps. Our multi-fuel whole house generator can carry a hefty load, but does not work the well pump.

We have a manual pump that can be hooked up to the well during a short or long-term power outage, and a creek, pond, and rainwater collection system as backup water supplies, as well as two portable camping composting commodes.

The composting COULD be all that we would need during a SHTF disaster, but that will involve a LOT of dumping. It was not until our daughter turned an Amish wood shed into a tiny house cabin and had to use one of the composting commodes while getting a septic system situated, that I fully understood just how often the seemingly large camping toilets had to be dumped. They seemed to take a long time to get full enough to dump when I used them at a primitive horse campground on the weekend, but they were not sustaining regular use then.

My riding friends and relatives are all country girls. So, when we were out on a trail ride and nature called, we hopped off of our horses and found a bush – riding all the way back to the campground to use the composting toilet would have been a major drain on our fun time in the saddle.

An outhouse would not need dumped every three days after being used by at least four people on a regular basis. In our rural area it is still common to see outhouses on properties outside of the villages that comprise our county. Many of them are probably used for storage only now, but I am sure at least some of them still serve their original purpose.

There is no zoning of any kind in our county, and no building permit office or home owners associations either. These facts tend to flip out suburban and city folks. When I took my real estate license courses the instructors thought I was joking with them when I told we could build whatever and wherever we wanted, with our own two hands from the ceiling to the floor.

The county health department is the only government agency you have to deal with when improving a property. I am sure the officials there would frown deeply and then fine me, for putting in a functional outhouse, but I am going to do it anyway. It would merely be a pseudo (yet empty) shed until after the SHTF and it needed to be used. I doubt any of the health department staffers will be roaming about looking for folks to issue citations to during a doomsday disaster.

It will take a long time for the deep hole dug to hold the waste from an outhouse to fill up. When they do get full, you can simply use your tractor to move the outhouse – or quickly erect another one from all the scrap wood and metal that is laying around most homesteads. My hubby is the Appalachian version of a Kilcher (Alaska, the Last Frontier) so there are several heaps of “treasures” around our place.

We will be taking a slightly more modern pioneering route with our outhouse though. I want to make sure that the human waste does not negatively impact our soil, water supply, or livestock. So, we will be composting the outhouse waste to make “humanure.”

Some people are dead-set against using horse and cow manure in their compost pile (none that I personally know), but plenty of heated debate over the safety of such a practice occurs online- basically between city people and county folks. Compost with dried manure in it is highly coveted in my neck of the woods. Some gardeners shovel up a little bit dried manure composting material after the summer harvest, plant tomato seeds in it, cover it with straw, and are able to pick tomatoes right through Thanksgiving.

Dried humanure should be able to be used the same way. Of course, there is a lot of debate about this practice as well. But, in my personal experience, after seeing such a properly designed humanure system put to work, my concerns about ground contamination and composting with the dried material, have been alleviated .

Human urine from composting commodes is already being used by a growing segment of organic and off grid gardeners.

I also want to put in three solar showers, those are legal even before a SHTF situation. These were always on my homesteading survival retreat “to do” list, but they hadn’t gotten near enough to the top yet to do anything more than purchase the camping solar shower bladders.

One of the solar showers will be created next to my barn, primarily for convenience purposes. After riding horses, working the other livestock all day, and baling hay, one can get mighty filthy. On a hot summer day, it would feel glorious to simply strip down and shower off after a ride or doing homesteading chores – with a view of our beautiful Appalachian hills.

My husband and a member of our mutual assistance group ran a water line down past the campground where several of our members keep campers, and to a spot between my barn and coop. I merely have to flip a handle to get water. Because our animals free range – even the goats, mini donkeys, and for all practical purposes, the horses, I don’t have to deal with filling up waterers except during extreme winter weather when the creek and pond freeze over, which is extremely rare.

I can wash off the horses and other livestock at the spigot attached to the water line, but its location makes doing so less than handy. When the water line was put in, the pond did not exist and I still had to tote water for the flocks on a routine basis.

I could walk a horse out and tie them up on the tree next to the water line spigot, but the run-off would flow to an area that easily turns into a mug bog we have to drive equipment and the 4-wheeler over daily. During a SHTF scenario, I cannot expect water to continue to flow through the spigot, anyway.

I am going to turn the livestock birthing stall into a wash stall, for humans and critters. The stall is used only sporadically now and can still be used for expectant critter moms when they are preparing to go into labor.

The solar shower bladder can hang on the outside of the exterior stall door so the water can be warmed, and the user can clean up inside the stall or by standing outside next to the door. There will still be water run-off from the shower, but the area is far less prone to becoming muddy.

It is a double stall door, so I may use some landscaping ties to frame the area a person or animal would stand outside of the stall to shower and fill it with sand to absorb and filter the water. I make my own natural soap, body wash, shampoo and conditioner, so gray water will not be a problem.

The other two solar showers will be set up next to the outhouse. Agricultural lime will be poured into the toilet holes to reduce any unpleasant smells from wafting out. The solar bladders are portable, so they could hang outside to get warm and then be brought inside and hung over the shower faucet to use during bad weather.

Stockpiling multiple solar shower bladders to keep a steady supply of warm to hot water on hand is also a part of our ongoing preps. Your hair doesn’t have to look pretty during the apocalypse, but keeping the body clean will help prevent the spread of germs that cause illness. Washing food harvested from your survival homestead and cleaning cookware, bed linens, towels and wash clothes, should all be done in hot water to kill germs.

What are your SHTF sanitation and showering preps?

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About Tara Dodrill

Tara Dodrill
Tara Dodrill is a homesteading and survival journalist and author. She lives on a small ranch with her family in Appalachia. She has been both a host and frequent guest on preparedness radio shows. In addition to the publication of her first book, 'Power Grid Down: How to Prepare, Survive, and Thrive after the Lights go Out', Dodrill also travels to offer prepping tips and hands-on training and survival camps and expos.

10 comments

  1. Great article. I am visualizing where to put the old outhouse now. We had one when I was a child. You get used to seeing spiders in an outhouse. I guess that’s why I’m not afraid of them now.

    • Fran, our grown daughter still freaks out at spiders, maybe using the outhouse during the SHTF disaster will cure her of that phobia. Spiders never bothered me, but I do have a fish phobia – induced by two heartless older brothers when my algae sucking fish died (or I thought it had prior to scooping it up) in my tank when I was 8. I can still point to the exact spot that ugly little thing suctioned onto my bare foot. Neither of my brothers would help me get it off and I felt its slimy and squishy self in my fingers. I used the old outhouse at my grandparent’s farm as a clubhouse when I was little, it was a perfect little get away for me and my dolls!

  2. As to standby gensets, ours is only 8K. The plan from the beginning was to run the well pump, the kitchen circuit, and the master bedroom circuit to run our CPAP machines.
    Our furnace has always been run on propane from a 500 gallon tank out back, which the genset ties into. The furnace requires no electricity.

    • Not So Free, Sounds like a very well-thought out set up. About how long are you getting out of your propane tank. Ours holds the same level of gallons and so far, it is exceeding my expectations. We plan to get a propane refrigerator soon to decrease the pull on our generator, if need be during a short or long term disaster.

  3. Hm..I just offered my wife an outhouse for her Valentines day gift. Yeah..it didn’t end well.

    • VocalPatriot, lol, sorry if my idea for a cool gift landed you in the doghouse. I have always lived by the “it’s easier to beg forgiveness than ask permission” mantra. Maybe next year surprise her with an outhouse for Valentine’s day and dress it up to look like a super cool and girlie SHTF “she shed” – but buy some chocolates or lingerie as a backup gift 🙂

  4. Thanks for tackling this issue. Good article to make us think this through according to our personal situation we live in.

    • Gary, I am glad the article sparked some more good prepping conversations. Personally, I hope we have many more little mini emergencies so we can find any holes in our survival plan and tweak it now before the SHTF.

  5. Fran, our grown daughter still freaks out at spiders, maybe using the outhouse during the SHTF disaster will cure her of that phobia. Spiders never bothered me, but I do have a fish phobia – induced by two heartless older brothers when my algae sucking fish died (or I thought it had prior to scooping it up) in my tank when I was 8. I can still point to the exact spot that ugly little thing suctioned onto my bare foot. Neither of my brothers would help me get it off and I felt its slimy and squishy self in my fingers. I used the old outhouse at my grandparent’s farm as a clubhouse when I was little, it was a perfect little get away for me and my dolls!

  6. I haven’t had electricity for the last five years. I have rope and a steel bucket to get water and six five gallon plastic buckets. I use a five gallon bucket of water to flush by pouring it into the bowl, if the top part worked I could pour it in the top and use the handle. That would be good to do for someone that wasn’t able to handle five gallons of Water. I’m planning on going solar. A lot of people recommend a separate DC system with a variable speed brushless water pump for the well.

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