Posted by: Sally Ingraham | March 25, 2012

Considering the Chamber Pot: Adventures at Aprovecho

My roommate and I have very seriously discussed getting a chamber pot for our room. It has taken us both awhile to form a few self-preservation habits regarding our before bed bathroom use – but even with refraining from drinking anything for an hour, or making sure we go twice…there is still the occasional need to tumble out of bed, don numerous layers, find a flashlight, put boots on at the door, and trek out into the mud and very likely the rain as well in the middle of the night. A chamber pot suddenly makes so much sense!

The trail to the toilet - which passes beneath my favorite madrone tree

The system of composting toilets and the use of humanure at Apro is actually, bizarrely, one of my favorite things about this place. It makes me feel good to think that my crap is being used to fertilize bamboo and other non-edible plants instead of being leached into the ground or getting into the water. I don’t mind being slightly inconvenienced. (I write this honestly, even while eyeing the pouring rain outside my window and wondering why on earth I thought it was a good idea to drink two cups of tea in such quick succession…)

(The top of the watershed, taken yesterday)

Week 2 at Apro has been interesting. It got off to a brilliant start with a group hike to the top of the watershed – the place where all the waters drain out of to fill the creeks and ponds lower down – and then an afternoon of cobbing. The “builders” and the “permies” all worked together on the cob wall. With 16+ folks we made a good amount of progress, and we builders especially enjoyed sharing our new-found expertise on working with cob with our fellow interns who are here learning about permaculture. It was warm enough that I ditched my boots and socks and mixed cob with my bare feet – the proper, delightful way.

We then spent a day working on the dry stacked stone retaining wall that will be part of the foundation for another section of cob wall. On the Equinox we flexed our hippie muscles and had a late night drum circle dance party, which to our dismay brought only a storms worth of super heavy, wet snow. On the first day of spring in 2012, the grandfather oak that has shaded half of the garden for decades split down the middle and came crashing to the ground. It seemed like the worst sort of omen.


By the end of that day though, everyone was through fearing a legit Apocalypse and was marveling over a series of miracles. In spite of the greenhouse roof collapsing from the weight of the snow, not a single seedling had been spilled. The tree that fell over in the camping area chose to fall while the campers were in class, and it missed crushing two tents by mere inches. As for the grandfather oak, it fell in such a way that most of the garden wasn’t even disturbed – and to be honest, the garden will appreciate the extra light.

We got a few extra lessons out of the snow storm too, such as how to clear a black locust tree out of a road. Look out for the dagger thorns! Black locust is a really rot resistant wood, so although it was a pretty tree and it’s a shame that it fell over, some of the branches will make really excellent fence posts!


It snowed again on Thursday so we spent the day in the workshop clearing and cleaning and setting up the space for when we will come back in a few weeks to learn some timber framing and build a loft in there. Thursday was also the day of the epic snowball fight, and the first game of Stump (which involves tossing hammers and pounding nails into a stump…) That evening there was a fantastic bluegrass band called Conjugal Visitors at the Axe & Fiddle in town and most of the Apro interns went to dance the night away.

I really dug the addition of a sax to the bluegrass sound

The sun came out on Friday and there was general rejoicing. I went with a couple folks to learn how to milk a cow in the morning, and then joined an expedition to the coast in the afternoon.

(Purple sunset)

Yesterday I turned in my proposal for my personal project (a few details are here if you’re interested) and then hiked back up to the watershed. I made homemade postcards in the afternoon and wrote letters, then spent the evening crocheting a new hot pad for the Apro kitchen while a group of us learned about different fermentation and food preservation processes.

And so another week has passed. I’ve now been here two weeks (only two weeks?! two weeks already?!) and every day I have woken up feeling totally thrilled to be here and excited about what the day would bring. Pretty rad.


Next week we will start working on a green roof for “The Playhouse”, a small cabin that was built last year during the Shelter Series (something I am seriously considering doing later this year) as well as some natural plasters. I will begin working on my personal project too, learning some basic woodworking skills and building a bookcase for the Apro library. I expect the week to be super fun!

This afternoon I have a huge batch of biscuits to make as part of tonight’s dinner, and I have dreams of reading an entire book (one of Roald Dahl’s short ones!).

At this precise moment though, I am thinking about that chamber pot again. The rain is REALLY coming down…a chamber pot would surely come in handy! Oh well, time to bundle up and make a dash for it.

Chamber pots of course MUST be floral

Enjoy the last week of March and happy spring!


  1. I’m glad it is such a great experience.
    Not sure I would enjoy the pot but it does look sooo cold.
    Maybe it’s twice as nice to crawl back into bed after such a refreshing night trip.
    I love crocheting although I’m not good at it and the cat sabotages it.

    • Haha, those dang cats! I am always pleased by how simple crocheting is and how quickly you can whip something up – and I’m not very good at it either. But it’s fun.

      It can definitely be invigorating to make midnight bathroom runs! I just lay in bed too long usually, debating about going…which is helpful to no one. 🙂

  2. so you are the one to blame for that snow!

    One of the straw bale projects my husband drafted for a guy had a compost-able toilet.. and I’ve seen a few urban projects try them out (not sure about the technicalities there, but they had to mind the volume in their urban space)… living with an Architect, I get to hear all sorts of randomness)…

    glad the adventure continues to be a fun one!… good luck with the treks to and from the bathroom. and I hope you get to enjoy the Coastline there plenty.

    • Er yeah, sorry about that. We must have gotten a few steps in our “spring” dance wrong…!

      I’ve seen a few different composting toilet designs – there are two here at Apro that are plumbed indoors but we’re not allowed to use them…! They have to be cared for a different way than the simple pit toilet or the 5 gallon bucket system. I’d be curious to know what kind of toilets can be used in a more urban setting. We are going to build a small strawbale structure for another composting toilet while I’m here which is exciting.

  3. Hi Sarah! How are you? Missing you. 😦 And btw, what a pretty chamber pot!

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