History of a Vermont Sheep Farm
Getting Started: You Can Farm Too!
A Flock of Your Own Icelandic Sheep
A Flock of Your Own Chickens
Growing Your Farm: How the Numbers Work
Dreaming Vermont: Relocating and Living in Vermont


There was a time when a town could count on having a few older inhabitants
"Whose roots had been growing in the valley soil
For several generations.
Each succeeding group seemed to feel
That any suggestion of change
Reflected on those who had gone before"
Walter Hard ("Relations" from his volume Vermont Neighbors)

If it was good enough for your grandmother, then by all that is holy, is was good enough for you.

This summer the question, to move with the times or not, came home to our hill. And as we found, there is nothing like reliving a past reality to help you appreciate the present.

My neighbor's outhouse needed replacing.

Somewhere, back in my family's history, a like issue arose. The story of How We Came To Have Flush isn't part of our oral history. Pity. It must have been a funny debate.

To flush or not to flush. While not flushing was, obviously, adequate for generations past, times do change. Still, modernizing requires much thought when your home is perched on a relatively small wooded lot, your budget is limited, and there is no convenient place to put a bathroom within your existing foundation. Modernizing to include a bathroom creates a cascade effect. Suddenly the kitchen needs replacing, the water systems must be redone, and the heat source reconsidered. If you leave out of the equation the occasional bath, how much time does one actually spend perched on porcelain? And how much is that time worth?

It is not worth, my neighbor decided, his trees, his mental health, or his bankroll. So he dug a new hole, and built a new outhouse.

I have to admit, I wouldn't trade my indoor flush for his facilities. But I will be paying for the hole, into which my waste flows, for 15 years. My neighbor sweated for a week, paid cash for a bunch of rough-cut lumber, and got the same result. I get a nice electric light in my facility. He gets stars. We both have the occasional spider. I pad across the floor in slippers, he wears boots. Mine captures a little residual heat from the woodstove, his doesn't inspire lingering in February.

the modern tank

Modern society doesn't adopt innovations as they come along. It demands innovation, expects it, consumes it with unending appetite. To move as the ad says "at the speed of business" we adopt ever faster technologies. The local grocery offers pre-packaged greens, salad in a sack, for people who don't have time to shred lettuce. And while I am rushing home between jobs to survey my sadly neglected gardens, my neighbor is sitting on his porch reading a novel.

It makes me wonder if, somewhere back in time, my great grandmother didn't turn to her husband and say "I know it sounds convenient, but we've never needed anything like this before. My mother thinks its terribly unsanitary. And even if everyone is getting one, before we jump into this I want to know... what is this flush thing really going to cost us?"

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Stories From a Vermont Life:

Camilla Blue
Frozen Gifts
Making Wreaths
The Fourth of July

The Farm at Morrison Corner raises Icelandic Sheep on the last hill farm in Mansfield, VT.  Learn about Raising Icelandic Sheep, Raising Chickens, Moving to Vermont and Living in Vermont on this and our other sites.

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