mumsnetBack along, my family and I swapped a house for a three-acre field in Devon and a leaky caravan where we lived off-grid for two years. Sadly, we failed to get the planning permission we needed to stay. We are now back within four walls, with a proper loo and everything in a cottage in Dartmoor. So this is now a blog about living ethically amid a fabulous landscape with our home educated kids while we adjust to being 'normal' - for a while... and what we plan to do with our land next

Friday, 21 October 2011

Wasting away

This week we have mostly been having a crisis with our loo. Up until Tuesday, we still had the nasty little chemical loo that came with the caravan and which I have loathed from the outset. Fate must have trying to tell us something, because we had run out of the worryingly pernicious blue chemical that goes in it. I had half heartedly tried to replace this, but the only bottle I could find was £18 and would have lasted us a year – and we were hoping to get the composting loo going sooner than that.

Every week, Gully takes the loo to the accommodating campsite up the road to empty – a job that, for understandable reasons, he is reluctant to do. Only when the loo was unable to contain any more, er, entries, would he take it with much accompanying bad temper and moaning. This week, however, he managed to drop the small but extremely necessary screw cap that keeps the contents of the loo contained in the underground tank into which it was being emptied – rendering it completely useless for evermore.

This left us loo-less for that evening and the following morning – necessitating an emergency evening visit to the 24-hour Tesco in Tiverton to meet two of the children’s needs. The next morning Matty and Zena were hanging around by the gate when one of the regular dog walkers passed by and enquired innocently what mum and dad were up to. ‘Daddy’s gone to Witheridge to have a poo,’ the startled lady was informed, followed by a discourse on the problems, present and past, we had been encountering with our loo, with a great deal of extraneous detail thrown in. This conversation was recounted back to me in the caravan while I held my head in my hands, thankful at least that this particular dog walker possessed a sense of humour.

But the embarrassment of having our sanitary arrangements discussed with the village was the least of my problems – we needed a solution and fast. As luck would have it, we were attending a home education meeting that day at which I knew there would be two women with ‘alternative’ toiletry arrangements. In fact, it turned out that a third mum too knew a lot about non-flushing loos (who would have thought?), but despite this on-tap expertise, the best they could come up with was that we were sorely in need of some sort of bucket, which I had been hoping was not the answer.

I went off dispiritedly to one of those huge soulless great-outdoors type shops and found to my surprise that they sold a bucket complete with fitted loo seat and lid. I bought some straw destined for guinea pig hutches in a nearby pet shop (interestingly, Jewson’s were out of sawdust – not enough building work going on in the downturn apparently) and that was it – our loo problem solved.

It’s been installed and used for several days now – and Gully has set up the big barrel into which it will be emptied and eventually turn into compost. I wish we had bought the thing from day one. I feel so relieved – no pun intended – that we no longer have the chemical toilet. Loos, I feel, should either be highly functional – such as the flushing variety – or worthy – such as a composting loo, where one is happily aware that its contents are not going to pollute the sea and will eventually make a powerful fertiliser for the geraniums. Being neither, chemical loos, almost literally, fall between two stools.

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