Friday afternoon: Time for a little outhouse story (with pictures!)


Last week when we started working on our lot, it started to feel *less* real to me than when we bought it – for a day or two anyway. Like I couldn’t believe that we were actually able to do this thing. That we actually bought this little slice of non-city to work on and were working on it!

It’s hard to describe how much I have wanted to do something like this, for how long I have looked at little properties and thought about a piece of land that could be ours, for just a little cabin and a quiet place to go to. I think the desire has been with me for all of my thirties and half of my twenties – growing alongside my years spent in the “big city”. For as much as I love my East Vancouver neighbourhood, and the downtown in which I work – I also love solitude and quiet and peace and calm and away. It’s what propelled me to try living on the Sunshine Coast for four years until the commute almost killed me. It’s why I work on my little oasis in the city – the garden and studio – to provide a breathing space in between tightly packed houses.

Over dinner last night we met with our land partners and discussed what to do next. Burn the big pile, finish the outhouse, look into the permit-process. But mostly I just want to make a space to put up a tent, so I can be there whenever I want — so I have a place to make mine even if it is just a little flat ground beneath the trees. This place deeply satisfies the itch that I have wanted to scratch all these years – I can imagine creating times both social and solitudinous – once we get our first living spaces in place.

And so, having waxed rhapsodic for a moment – I bring you some pictures of our very first (and most urgent) building: The OUTHOUSE (not yet finished but we got a good start on it).

This hole was dug by our backhoe and is much larger than it looks in the picture. It is also close to seven feet deep. We will never fill this hole. Even my father approved. It is a very good hole.

Because the hole was so big, we had to build a very big platform (8×8) to cover it. This is Brian and Will holding the platform base up so I could measure the rough heights our posts would have to be. Since our lot is pretty sloped, everything has to be on stilts.

The posts were made from logs we cut on our land, put onto leveled concrete pads and stabilized with a “y” formation. It looks a bit flimsy, but it’s really very sturdy.

Will did so much work getting the platform level that he left it up to Brian and I to hammer down the floor. We still need to cover it with plywood to make sure there are no cracks for smells to leach up through. Also we need to cover up below the base so that the hole is well and truly sealed off from animals and things.

After the platform was finished, Brian and Will selected logs to make the outhouse structure from. Obviously 8×8 is way too big for an outhouse, so we determined that the structure would be comprised of an enclosed outhouse, with a washing area outside, and a rainwater collection system to the side of it. I left at this point to go to Keremeos and buy fruit.

The view from the platform! if there weren’t all those trees in the way, you could see the lake.

When I returned a few hours later, the framing for the main outhouse and structure was finished, as was the outhouse bench. Again, we need plywood to cover the bench, plus some metal sheathing where the hole is so we don’t get bad smells leaching into the wood.

This is where things were when we left them. Next we have to:

  • Put down plywood flooring
  • Nail shiplap to the outside of the outhouse structure and then paint/stain it.
  • Cover the bottom of the platform
  • Create some ventilation from the hole
  • Sheath the hole with ducting and finish seat
  • Build a door for the outhouse
  • Put up the roofing material
  • Put up some guttering and install the rain barrel
  • Build a table/shelf to hold a wash basin, put up a clothes line

Quite a lot for a simple outhouse! But I’m confident we can get it done before winter since I’ve got two trips planned in September already. If all goes well, we’ll have a rudimentary woodshed up as well.

Then the big burn in December!

Then we get to start the rest – main cabin, tent platforms, storage shed etc. As I said, I will be happy once I have a place to sleep on the land, but first a place to shit. Indeed.

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