Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Mouse In The Outhouse

Fall ColorsWinter is approaching, and rather more quickly than I would really like.  Sure, I’ve got the new stove and a shed chock full of dry hardwood, but I have to admit that I’ve really enjoyed our summer-like fall.  “They” are calling for snow next week, but we’ll see what happens.

I had an inkling that this was coming anyway.  Yes, I know that it’s October and that it’s a reasonable assumption to think that we’ll be getting snow soon.  But last Friday, I got home from work and opened the front door.  I let Pico and the cats out to enjoy the sunshine and warm weather.  But when I went inside the cabin, I found a sight that told me winter was right around the corner.

The big window was literally covered in ladybugs.  The little ladies and gents like to winter in houses, and since my place is the only building around for quite a distance, it only makes sense that they would seek shelter with me.  But the amount of ladybugs trying to get into my house told me that there would be cold and snow before the forecasters ever did.

Shortly after that, I made a trip to the outhouse.  I don’t talk about my outhouse a lot because I figured that not many (if any) of you would really want to hear about it.  But don’t worry, this story will not be rich in detail.

My outhouse is a piece of junk.  It was apparently built for people even shorter than me, and has at different times been used for target practice.  So despite the small door and low ceiling, there is actually quite a bit of cross-ventilation created by the small holes where the twenty-two caliber shells went through the walls.

As I was sitting there, I heard a familiar sound.  It was the scratchy scramble of a mouse.  There are a couple of mice that call the cabin home, but so far they stay in the walls and don’t really bother me.  But a mouse in the outhouse, that’s something new.

I glanced around and noticed some small pieces of paper trapped in a spider web near the upper corner.  I had accidentally left the toilet paper holder open, and the mouse had helped itself to some of the wrapper.  As I looked around, I also noticed that one of the pieces of plywood that make up the ceiling was peeling apart.  I caught a glimpse of something moving up there and decided that this was a better setup than having them move into the cabin.

A few days later, I was again entering the outhouse and movement caught my eye.  Three very little mice were scrambling up from the seat to the ceiling.  They were in no hurry, and mama mouse leisurely followed them up the wall and into their little nest.

I have to admit, those little mice were awfully cute.  I had no intention of evicting them from their spot, and just need to remember to close the toilet paper holder.  And at this point, I honestly hope they have enough shelter to get them through the winter.  I mean, they did pick a crappy place to live.


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Having grown up in the southern Adirondacks, Justin has always been at home in the mountains of New York. After graduating from Paul Smiths College, he began his career in the environmental field working for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. After a brief five year detour to Florida, Justin returned to the Adirondacks to live off the grid in a small cabin with no running water or electricity.

Justin continues to work and play in the outdoors, and maintains a blog about living off grid, hiking, and being outside in the Adirondacks called Middle of the Trail.

12 Responses

  1. Frank says:

    Im so glad you brought up the subject.An out house is nothing to be ashamed of. People dont know proper out house etiquette, always put lid down. You should always have a vent pipe and a sprinkle of sand/lime. You should build yourself a proper one. I built mine all out of rough sawn. It has windows and an awesome view . I found a note in it from my brother in law once, it said ” best crapper in the Adirondacks, can’t wait till I have to go again” He’s been begging me to build him one even though his camp has plumbing .

  2. Adarondax says:

    Positive ventilation is important. The outhouse should face the prevailing winds. Mount a wind-driven attic ventilator turbine high on the back wall. Run dryer hose down the outside to a hole in the wall under the seat. This will draw air down through the seat and out when the wind spins the turbine. Incense from the dollar store is good for windless days. An LED touch-light is handy for night use. Build the outhouse small so it can be carried to a new hole in the future or build it bigger (4’x8′) to gain some storage space. An oak toilet seat is better than plastic. It doesn’t feel as cold and won’t crack at 40° below zero.

    • Justin A Levine says:

      I actually keep the toilet seat in the cabin, in a place of honor hanging above the woodstove. Except on the coldest days, it stays plenty warm on the walk out there. Good idea on the ventilator!

  3. SunnyDay says:

    Reminds me of a story my dad told about a day at Cranberry Lake (probably in the early 1940s) when one of the neighbors had just finished a new outhouse, but had not cut the hole. My dad asked him why, and he replied, “I’m waiting for my wife to come home so I can trace around her backside when she’s sitting on it, so that it will be sure to fit.” Love knows no bounds!

  4. Tom Williams says:

    Also make sure that critters have little or no access to the area below the seat. Porcupines just love to chew on salt impregnated wood. Spiders aren’t welcome there either… Wood ashes from your heater make good material for dusting the pile below the seat.

  5. frank says:

    3 inch abs through a roof boot works fine on mine. Put a board over the hole if your keeping the seat inside. I like it roomy so build on skids slide it forward and fill the old hole with the new dirt. Instead of warming the seat inside just sit on the seat for awhile before dropping your like a charm.

  6. joan streetman says:

    put some cotton balls out there and they will love it and it is warm for them / I always took a kerosene heater out there and lit it to keep warm while sitting on the toilet

  7. Charlie S says:

    Outhouses are part of our early history as they were the only means for ‘letting go’ before plumbing came onto the scene.I look for old outhouses in my travels.There are so few of them left but they still exist. My brother has an early to mid 1800’s 5-seater on his property down in Ulster County.It was turned into a chicken coop unfortunately and was used for that purpose for many years and was degraded in the process. (Oftentimes people don’t think to preserve relics of the past.) I know of a late 1700’s outhouse in Washington County. Down in Schoharie County I knew where a 3-seater was some few years ago.I suspect that outhouse went away with the floodwaters of Hurricane Irene as the Schoharie Creek was nearby. My old landlord Austin,who died at the age of 92 ten years ago used to tell me stories about the pranks they used to pull with outhouses,knocking them over,etc.. He also said toilet paper was expensive way back in the 1920’s and so newspapers were used in place of it. My dad remembers Sears catalogs were often found in outhouses and that the pages from those volumes were sometimes used for toilet paper. I love finding old outhouses in my travels.They have their unique characteristics about them and are often easily recognizable,even from a distance.I look for them and have found them in Rensselaer County,Columbia County,Albany County… If I were to build an outhouse I would put quality craftsmanship into it,use whatever wood would last the longest and most definitely carve out a crescent moon on the swing door.

    • Paul says:

      5 seater! That is too weird. One is the correct number. Somethings are meant to be done alone. As far as all these other amenities and heat and the like. Forget it. The less time I spend in there the better. Get a composting toilet, much better for the environment. And you don’t have to keep moving it around as the hole fills up. Makes me think if you have the right stuff in there you probably should never have it fill up? I guess it doesn’t compost well in a big open hole.

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