Return of the Crapper

This Sunday I will be returning to my land to admire any progress that was made. There should be a concrete strip road across the stream crossing. The filling in between and beside the concrete strip road down the access slope probably won’t have been done, as Billy is unwilling to do it unless the Cousin from Pakse, who lost money we entrusted him with, took off with my chainsaw, and contracted malaria for his sins, returns to help him. Last time I was at my land the Cousin from Pakse was too busy planting rice, but I’m sure he’ll turn up this time, as he’s asked to borrow money.

Crapper design utilizing smaller earthbags. Notice the batch solar water heater.

I have great expectations for this trip, and it will be interesting to see just how thoroughly fate dashes them, as usual. The good news is that I’ve almost run out of money, so I can be faithful to my pledge of using only sustainable building practices and utilizing the simplest of locally available materials. Since a moderate period of poverty is on the horizon, it’s essential to have a crapper and bath to go along with my humble abode, so that I can stay there and frugally subsist, if nothing else. The crapper/bath design has both evolved and devolved over time. The design is no longer bomb-proof, though it could still sustain hits from three sides if the US ever decides to resume their illegal bombing in the area. I managed to get my hands on smaller, 40cm X 70cm, polypropylene bags. These will be sufficient since it will be a small, relatively low-walled building. Without the roof, it will look something like what you can see to the left.

This is an example of a composting toilet.

The most exciting aspect of this design is the composting toilet. No real composting occurs in the toilet, it merely houses a temporary turd receptacle. There is no greater nightmare for a woman than a composting toilet. A turd of any size should be thoroughly washed away to any location as far away as possible, if not oblivion, with copious amounts of potable water and “dealt with.” I will compost this “humanure,” but I haven’t decided what to do with it after it’s becomes, for all practical purposes, entirely safe. Perhaps I’ll pass it through the guts of composting worms, just to be on the overly safe side. Which brings me to an interesting quote from Joseph Jenkins’ The Humanure Handbook: A Guide to Composting Human Manure.

A young English couple was visiting with me one summer after I had been composting humanure for about six years. One evening, as dinner was being prepared, the couple suddenly understood the horrible reality of their situation: the food they were about to eat was recycled human shit. When this fact abruptly dawned upon them, it seemed to set off an instinctive alarm, possibly inherited directly from Queen Victoria. “We don’t want to eat shit!” they informed me, rather distressed (that’s an exact quote), as if in preparing dinner I had simply set a steaming turd on a plate in front of them with a knife, fork and napkin.

With a composting toilet, you simply do your business as usual, wipe your bum, deposit the toilet paper nearby your turd, and cover the lot with a layer of organic material such as sawdust, or, in my case, rice husks. I have discovered, however, that a woman who is used to dispensing with her turds using gallons of potable water requires gallons of organic material to convincingly cover any sized turd.

Okay, it's supposed to look like this, but better, when done.

I’ve decided to include a bath, as well– not just a shower, as I had earlier planned. I miss taking hot baths at night, as I did when I lived in Japan. I’m going to dabble with a building method known as laminated ferrocement for the waterproof bath basin. I’ll discuss this in detail if I can get even close to getting it to work. Having the bath, I’ll need more hot water than earlier anticipated, so two 55-gallon drums, painted black, insulated with rice husks, with reflective foil surrounding them, and covered with plate glass, will be my batch hot water heater. I’ll add an electric water heating element, if necessary. The bigger, raised tank, is the ordinary water tank that I envision. The system needs gravity to work. No reason not to paint it flat black, too. The carpet-like material acting as a roof is actually going to be thatch, a very cheap and durable material found in great abundance locally. Those nice, square beams will actually be round timber from some area that I intend to clear, if the cousin from Pakse hasn’t already sold my chainsaw.

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