We’ve had a long cold snap recently—nothing severe, just daytime highs in the low to mid-20s, but enough to make going to the outhouse a strictly B.Y.O.D. event—Bring Your Own Duff.
Our main outhouse is a composter, which means that “deposits” are covered with a scoop or two of duff: squirrel midden, old leaves, rakings from the forest floor and other organic material. We mine this stuff from the larger squirrel towns around the property and store it in buckets or bags until needed. To work properly, it needs a certain level of moisture, which it has. Unfortunately, in cold snaps, that moisture can freeze the whole container into an icy, rock-hard mass.
We keep an old long-shaft screw driver on a nail on the outhouse wall, which we use as an ice pick when necessary. We move the duff with a sturdy metal bin scoop that can chisel hardened duff pretty well. But when, as now, the freeze goes on for too long, both tools lose effectiveness. We’ve taken to bringing the duff bucket inside to thaw near the fire. Anyone who needs to use the outhouse must remember to grab the bucket before heading out, unless they want to make two trips to cover all the bases—as it were.
Most people would feel that this is far too inconvenient, if, indeed, they considered using an outhouse in the first place. But for us, it’s just another quirk of living here. Oddly, we had assumed that the outhouse would become very uncomfortable in the cold months, but we’ve never found that to be so. Yes, it’s bracing! But, it’s also quiet, fairly comfortable, and a great place to sit and gather one’s thoughts, even when the thermometer is dropping swiftly.
We just need to remember to bring our own duff.