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Monday, March 7, 2011

Talking Dirty

We’ve been talking some serious shit around the dinner/breakfast table recently.

At the weekend, herself cleaned out under the chookhouse and added it to the compost heap, I cut comfrey (oh, for a scythe) for the next layer. One of my tasks today is to gather cowpats from the top paddock to be added. Everything is a cycle, and good gardens require great compost. It’s all about putting food on the table, and shit from chickens and cows is a boon there.

Whanau members visited for a few days with a health scare that required coming to the big city hospital for a colonoscopy. The daughter, a fae  sprite, was phobic about the bucket toilet out back. She elected to stay and entertain the pups and I yesterday while her parents went to the city and toileting would be needed. We walked the dogs, talked about how dogs  needed to be exercised and toileted, and discussed why she was afraid of the outhouse. She was afraid she would fall in, which is a horrible thought, I tell you. I asked if she had ever fallen in her flush toilet at home (“Of course not, silly!”), explained that the seat here is smaller than on a flush toilet and all was well again with her world. When she needed to go, I offered a peg for her nose if needed and she came back proudly to tell me she didn’t even need to block her nose.

The health scare appears to be just an irritable bowel problem, (blessedly) and the person concerned asked the IB nurse what foods she should avoid or eat. The nurse told her that what she ate was irrelevant. Excuse me?!? A quick Google gave patient reams of information that the medical profession here seems to view as irrelevant. Not a very holistic view of health, and certainly not a promising one for the nurse’s patients. 

Aforementioned bucket toilet is precisely that, a bucket that gets emptied into a hole and covered with dirt. It’s not a pleasant task and one I’ve managed to avoid every time but one, but when I had to do it, I ladied up and did so. It means you deal with the fact that human animals, if they’re fortunate, consume food and liquid and it gets expelled. Most people in the world don’t have flush toilets and how they deal with their waste is, in my mind, a better indicator of civilization than the size of their cities. In Jakarta, many thousands of people live on the edge of reservoirs and waterways and use the water to bathe, toilet and wash clothes. (Check out ) A new house is being built where I am that has to have a flush toilet included, but I'm confident the bucket will be here to greet me when I next visit.

There’s a conversation that’s been going on in Aotearoa of late about “freedom” camping and the fact that many campers defecate wherever they are and leave it. There’s a carpark at the bottom of the hill for a beautiful track and often, when himself takes the dogs for a walk, there is human excrement and toilet tissue strewn there. It incenses me that anyone would come all the way here to one of the most beautiful spots in the world and treat it as their toilet. The mindset to do that must view it as not their home, as I doubt they shit in their own front yards, but isn’t Papatuanuku, the earth mother, the only home we have?

In Christchurch at present, there is a severe toilet problem and it’s not being handled well. Thousands of chemical toilets have arrived from as far away as the U.S. but no provisions have been made for emptying them and people are trying to empty them into Portaloos. Thanks for sending them folks, and thank you everyone else who has come to the aid of Christchurch BUT many people are simply using chemical toilets, which add chemicals but leave waste PLUS chemicals to be disposed of, which creates its own health issues..

The Otago Daily Times yesterday had this quote: 

“I live near a woman in her 70s who broke down crying, too embarrassed to go to the toilet in a bucket.”

I’m sorry lady, toughen up. (And while we're talking dirty, ladies, find a pleasant place to squat, the bucket is for solid matter - my favorite here has a view worth millions and an inquisitive pup to hold away, Take your tissues away with you, or use mallow leaves which are soft and silky.) 

I understand that the toilet problem is just one more straw added to the many that Christchurch has suffered since September and I don’t deny or attempt to belittle the magnitude of the trauma that all are experiencing. And, aware as I am of NOT being part of the immediate community, I'll quote Joe Bennett, a brilliant Lyttleton writer who experienced the quake and the recovery first-hand. In his most recent column, he wrote about how whanau and tribe responded. The entire column is worth reading (can't find a link sorry), but two sentences summed it up for me:

“On the second day power was restored. We were then better off than most people in the world.”

To paraphrase  him (kia ora Joe, great party you guys and the Navy put on last week), if we have a bucket and a spade, we’re better off than most people in the world.


  1. It definitely put things in to perspective for those of us living or shitting a fortunate life.

  2. thanks for the feedback, Wilkine. Traveling through Asia and Africa made me realize how fortunate a life some of us lead (and shit) just through an accident of birth - I try to remain grateful for that daily

  3. OK, think I've figured this out. Anyway, I was going to say that I learned a lot about this issue you describe above by reading a book by Kathleen Meyer titled "How to Sh!t in the Woods." I honestly had no idea before I read this book.

  4. yep seoulgirl, you worked it out, good to see you here.
    I've not heard of that book but will look for it in the library - Thanks