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  • elizabethpeterson922

Home Improvements

Updated: Jul 31, 2021

What do you do with a house with no indoor plumbing, no septic tank, no indoor drain or waste water disposal?

Well, if you live in Finland, you call it a summer house. It's just a fact of life.

Like many Americans, I was squeamish about toilets and plumbing when I moved to Finland. The Finnish penchant for peeing outside was, to say the least, a bit startling. Not to mention the outdoor toilets that populate both public and private properties anywhere there is no septic tank. And, it turns out, there are an awful lot of places with no septic tanks. The number one outdoor toilet rule you quickly learn when using an outdoor toilet is: don't look down. And if you can, plug your nose. Third rule: if you go number 2, cover your business with wood chips, usually found in a bucket alongside the commode.

Here is a photo of our current toilet situation. (No, I am not taking a picture of the inside.) The toilet, inside this little red house, is the composting kind, which means everything inside it biodegrades with the aid of a composter. The resulting stuff comes out a little trap door that you have to shovel out every now and again. We've done that once so far. The Banker shoveled out the decomposed stuff and spread it around in the forest. He said it wasn't as bad a task as he thought it would be.

The number one outdoor toilet rule is: don't look down."

I can live with the outdoor toilet--for now. But we plan to be here during the winter, and there are limits. The thought of wading through snow and rain and ice to venture up the hill several times each day to sit in a cold privy is not an appealing one. So we have decided to upgrade our toilet situation.

The plan is to install a burning toilet in the space under the stairs, which at the moment is not much more than a junk pile of tools and rags.

A burning toilet? I am translating directly from Finnish. Apparently in English it's called an incinerating toilet, meant for use in places that don't have access to waste water. We are supposed to get ours installed next week, depending on how it goes with big drills and such. I'll keep you posted.

I have thought many times of my great-grandfather, who apparently thought indoor toilets were disgusting. He also thought restaurants, a growing trend at the time (this was the 1940s and 1950s), were frivolous. So he famously stated that people went out to do what they used to do in, and they went in what they used to do out. He might be satisfied to know that we have reverted back to his preferred lifestyle.

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Kathryn Remlinger
Kathryn Remlinger
Aug 26, 2021

Your summer house and what makes it a 'summer house' are precious. If you're in Michigan's UP, you call the summer house a "camp." Earlier this month I spent four glorious days at a friend's camp, complete with wood-fired sauna on a lake. No need for a shower when there's sauna and swimming :)


Jul 31, 2021

Love the part about your Grandfather who is dancing in heaven to think you have come home to the outdoors!

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