Posted by: Marie | June 14, 2012

(648) A commode like no other

Post #648
[Private journal entry written on Saturday, July 2, 2011]

It’s late – almost bedtime. My mom and I got back from our trip to southern Colorado a few hours ago. It was a really nice and relaxing trip. I enjoyed myself immensely. I think my mom did as well.

My cousins live out in the middle of nowhere . . . a dozen miles from a max security prison . . . in the desert plains of Colorado’s western slope . . .

Thirty or so years ago, my cousin met and married his wife. They make quite the unusual couple, in one sense . . . he is about 6-foot-7-inches (2 meters) and she is maybe five feet tall (1.5 meters) on a good day.

Ali Mountain by Martin Chen

But, they are both hippies at heart and their personalities mesh beautifully. They really are “kumbaya” personified.

As newly-weds, they bought this piece of property – a farm – a mile outside a very tiny town. Then, they sold a piece of the farm for a profit and kept the remainder of the farm for themselves. The part of the farm they kept had an old military barrack on it. The previous owner had moved in half of a retired barrack from a nearby military installation and then used the building for a barn. It really was only good for a barn because one end was left gaping open.

But, my cousin (Caleb) and his wife (Nell) decided it would make a wonderful home. So, they moved in. It was a few weeks before they got around to closing up the gaping hole – I guess they were motivated by the fact that winter was moving in. Then, they started putting in a few interior walls – not many, just one or two.

Then big wood-burning stove went in – it provided heat as well as the oven and cook-top. Then they got a well and ran water into the kitchen.

It was a few years before they got a shower inside . . . who needs a shower inside when you have a perfectly good one outside? The outside shower (which still exists and is periodically used) resembles an outhouse with no door . . . and it has a barrel on top that had been painted black. If you put water in the barrel early in the day (or catch the rain water overnight), the water is quite warm by evening after sitting in the hot desert sun all day.

But, outdoor showers aren’t so great in the winter . . . and heating up water for a washtub in the house was not that great either, so they finally put in a water heater and a shower inside after a year or two . . . along with a composting toilet. The toilet is an open pit toilet, just like the ones you see in an outhouse . . . and the compost tank sits under the house.

Eventually, after adding a few kids to the house, and a few more walls for privacy, they did get a “regular” oven and stove . . . and a big electric refrigerator. But, they kept the wood-burning stove around for heat.

Some of the kitchen counters are really tall, including the one that holds the sink. So, we short people (including me) have to make use of the heavy-duty step stool that sits in front of the sink. Without the stool, I can barely reach the faucet handles. But, it allows Caleb to wash dishes comfortably, once he scoots the stool out of the way, without getting a kink in his back. Nell says that she has prepared many meals and washed many dishes while standing on that stool . . . it works well for her.

And, there are a few counters in the kitchen that are short . . . so Nell doesn’t have to drag the stool around the entire kitchen . . . really only around the sink area. It sounds like they have found the perfect solution!

They’ve had all kinds of small livestock over the years . . . and orchards and gardens . . . they live off the land as much as possible . . . like I said, true hippies . . . they create a very, very small carbon footprint . . .

A few years back, during the worst drought on record, their well ran dry and they had to invest in a water tank. That was quite the addition . . . but, with the drop in the water table, the shortage of water was only going to get worse, so it was something they had to do.

Nell home-schooled their kids until they got into high school. They turned out well . . . very high achievers academically as well as in sports . . . it helps that they all got their mom’s smarts and their dad’s height.

The kids all turned into really awesome adults – the pride of their parents. I’m amazed that they raised four kids in that house . . . it’s not very big, but I guess they had plenty of outdoor space and it seems they are a very close family. I’m guessing they didn’t mind being that close to each other.

So, anyway . . . this weekend’s wedding took place in the garden – in the garden that has long since died out due to yet another drought. They have an irrigation ditch that runs along the garden, and the ditch is lined with trees. So, the “stage” was a picturesque shady spot under the trees.

Most of the audience sat on bales of hay covered with sheets. Because of my mother’s age, she and I got to sit in folding chairs in the shade . . .

The couple’s friends and siblings . . . and Nell . . . all played their guitars and fiddles and they sang . . . some of the most beautiful folk music you’ve ever heard. It was very magical. The bridesmaids all wore brightly colored sundresses and the groomsmen all wore tan pants, white dress shirts and brightly colored ties and brightly colored tennis shoes – the ties and the tennis shoes matched their partners’ dresses . . .

At the end of the wedding, they all square-danced their way out of the garden and back up to the house . . . what a wedding! It fit their personalities perfectly!

But, here is the big news of the weekend – which was quickly discovered by all of us visiting for the day . . .

Caleb and Nell installed a flushable toilet a couple of weeks before the wedding. Caleb explained to me that they are getting older and cleaning out the compost tank is just not as fun as it used to be. Their kids are all on their own, so there are no young folks around to help. They figured that, if they were going to install a flushable toilet anyway, they might as well do it before they had a houseful of people showing up for the wedding.

But, it wasn’t so much the new toilet that caused all the hushed whispers and humorous comments . . . it is the fact that, when you walk into their bathroom, you are faced with an unusual dilemma . . . you have to answer the question: Which toilet are you going to use?

You see, they kept the composting toilet. The two toilets sit side-by-side, LOL.

Oh, my . . . what a family!


  1. It sounds like a great wedding and that they are great people.

    • It was and they are!

      And . . . today I received an email that this couple had a baby boy just yesterday (June 13th) . . . home birth, of course . . . it is Caleb and Nell’s first grandbaby!

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