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First Things First

Lena, Ready for Action

Although this post is titled ‘First Things First’ it’s important to note that we had already done quite a lot of work to make it to this point! This was already our third trip to the ‘new’ house- twice last year, just CLEANING, killing the ivy growing up the walls, cutting down the mess of vines and brambles in the yard. This time around we had already been back for over a month- Once again cutting down all the mess that had grown up while we were gone, making our weekly trips to the Déchèterie with loads of trash, stripping the old yellow wallpaper from the walls and doing drywall, and various other projects.

But- First things first, we needed a toilet! We also needed a shower… So I set about to build a Dry Composting Toilet system and an outdoor solar shower. Of course, the ol’ bucket system just wouldn’t cut it. I wanted something that would not only be functional, environmentally friendly, and cost-effective, but also something that would look nice and pass even the most discriminating of tastes. I broke out the woodworking kit and got to work building a toilet that one might even describe as… beautiful?

Composting Toilet

The toilet concept is actually very simple: Human wastes are combined with a cover material, such as chopped straw or sawdust. We use sawdust since it is readily available, and seems to be ideal in terms of a fresh, pleasant smell as well as being a superb compost additive. When the toilet container is full, it’s emptied in the outdoor compost bin for composting. The compost materials and any pathogens are broken down through thermophilic composting, and after one year the compost is actually safe to use in the garden or around the yard. The composting toilet system uses, NO WATER, is very environmentally friendly (goodbye dirty septic tanks!), and is, one might even say: A pleasure to use. Seriously, I love it.

I also built a Solar Composting Shower setup to use during the warm summer months. This was fairly simple, just a hole in the ground filled with straw, which acts as compost, on top of which sits the shower structure. The straw under the shower acts as a filter for the soap and oil residues, which are then broken down over time through thermophilic composting. Thanks, nature! The view from the shower is great, looking out over the meadow and the woods beyond, and after a hot, sweaty day of work it’s just about perfect. After a month with nothing but bowls of water to dump over the head it definitely felt like luxury living!


  1. Julianne says:

    That is quite a step up from the rusty bucket with straw in the cave. I’m almost envious!

    1. Jason says:

      Isn’t it though! It’s super comfy… and SO stylish.

  2. Kc Arnold says:


  3. I had the pleasure to test the shower and also the composting toilet… thanks jason for a nice shower with a wonderful view… and also again, thanks for the 10 days in silent and nature.. this summer konrad, josi and me will be back in les verrines… perhaps we`ll build the new fence or build a big autobahn for konrad.

    1. Jason says:

      Hi Anika-

      Come back this summer! Maybe we will even have running water!

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