Inspired by the ongoing debate around woodland welfare provision – and with a little time on his hands – contractor Arwyn Morgan has been putting his energy in lockdown into the creation of a new range of wooden compostable toilets.

PEOPLE of a certain age will remember the above song title. I’ll remind you of some of the lyrics:

We care a lot about disasters, fires, floods and killer bees,

About the NASA shuttle falling in the sea…

When Faith No More’s Chuck Moseley blasted out this song in the late ’80s, few could have guessed the relevance some of the lyrics would have for the current age.

For some time, we have heard complaints of increased bureaucracy, petty jobsworths and the ‘snowflake generation’. Yet during the COVID-19 crisis, all kinds of people have pulled together and got stuck in, and the snowflakes seem to have melted away.

Something of concern to us here at Forestry Journal is the welfare of all you boys and girls in timberland. Humour can help all of us cope in difficult times, and recently welfare units have become a malodorous topic of conversation. In the spirit of ‘keep calm and carry on’, I have put a few words together to help you with your movements.

I learned so much from my grandfathers, especially their sayings and local proverbs. One of my grandfather’s favourite sayings was “you can’t beat a country shit”. Knowing how genteel forestry workers are, you might find this saying offensive and I therefore apologize. However, as my grandfather worked underground until he broke his leg, then became a farmer, while being involved part-time in quarrying and land clearance, he acquired a more earthy outlook towards such matters than many today. It is unlikely, however, that he felt some spiritual Zen-like sensation during such moments of quiet reflection in the woods, unless due to an occasional nettle hiding among his dock leaves (as the old advertising slogan goes “refreshing parts other beers cannot reach”).

Yet it seems the Powers That Be wish to take away from us such fundamental freedoms as defecating in the countryside, and we are powerless to prevent them. Yet who really wants to reflect on the complexities of life in a dark, smelly, plastic port’a’claggy?

So what do we call these thrones of meditation? In English we have ‘toilet’, in Welsh we have ‘Ty Bach’ (literally ‘little house’) and in one Asiatic country they are referred to as ‘CR’ or ‘comfort room’ – quite an apt name. Taking Oriental principles to their extreme, the physical as well as spiritual is important when dealing with this subject, and so here follows a brief guide as to how we can show we care a lot.

Forestry Journal: Baler twine door lock.Baler twine door lock.

Over the years I’ve dealt with many clients who wanted to build composting toilets. Some have insisted on using the outer slab wood, mistakenly believing that it’s cheaper, only to find they spend far more on nails and replacing cladding, due to it being nearly all perishable sapwood.

Designs have varied from the bog standard to the utterly sublime, single and double-chambered etc, but to help you on the road to Nirvana, I’ve put together some basic toilets with various design features to increase comfort and job satisfaction.

The two toilets that I’m going to introduce to you have, in the interest of pan-European co-operation, been named ‘Le Bog Spécial’ and ‘Le Throne Rustik’. Both the Spécial and Rustik are built along similar dimensions, but where one is made of standard square-edged timber, the other has been designed in respect for those who have, shall we say, a greater reputation for thriftiness.

Forestry Journal: Board and batten cladding.Board and batten cladding.

Composting toilets can be somewhat whiffy. To negate this, various wonderful home-grown timbers have been used to full effect. The frames are of cedar of Lebanon, always gently releasing its pleasing odour, and reputedly good at keeping moths away (not that moths should bother you in a toilet). The thunderbox and flooring is of western red cedar, another wonderfully aromatic timber. But the pièce de résistance is the Lawson cypress used for the doors. Otherwise known as Port Orford cedar in the Pacific Northwest, Lawson cypress is one of the preferred timbers used in Japan for temple construction as a replacement for their native Hinoki. The lemon odour of Lawson cypress is much appreciated throughout Japan, where it is regularly used in washrooms. However, due caution should be observed, as over-exposure can have a diuretic effect (but then, perhaps you desire a diuretic effect).

Forestry Journal: Recycled silage tire hinge.Recycled silage tire hinge.

The Lawson cypress boards have been lovingly thrown into naturally ramshackle stacks, which have then been gently bleached by the sun and rain to a stunning silvery grey colour. These boards have then moved as nature intended, producing beautiful curves in various directions. The net effect of all this exquisite character is that if your local planning officers wish you to remove this new building, you can show them the door as proof of the building’s ancient heritage, therefore deserving protection.

The problem with any outhouse is that they can be dark places. With this in mind, the doors on the Spécial and Rustik have a gap at the bottom and a gap at their top to ensure adequate ventilation and light. If you’re adventurous, the doors can be cut shorter so you can enjoy the view. With a pellet gun, you can even initiate grey squirrel control from the comfort of your throne.

Forestry Journal: Slabwood cladding.Slabwood cladding.

Sad to say, the external cladding and roofing is of Sitka spruce, a timber I find rather uninspiring. Yet, as we have in the UK probably researched more in the growth and use of Sitka than any other country in the world, it is a species which has its place. You will have noticed the leopard-like pattern on the interior walls. This is due to the parfum de toilet seeping in through the exquisite grain features of the super Sitka and the carefully crafted tunnels created by Cyrex, that wonderful creature beloved by many in the timber industry, to such an extent they will happily leave freshly felled timber in the forest for extended periods so as to provide it with a comfortable habitat. Le Bog Spécial uses square-edged boards and galvanized hinges, whereas Le Throne Rustik uses waney-edged boards and utilises recycled best-quality vulcanized rubber hinges, lovingly crafted from rescued silage clamp tires.

Forestry Journal: Throne royal.Throne royal.

Internally there are similar fittings. A narrow shelf is provided for hand sanitizer, while a natural squirrel sculpted sycamore stem has been meticulously hand peeled by children during home education lessons, leaving several branches to act as toilet paper holders and a safety helmet hook.

What about the toilet seat, that place where pendulous posteriors perch precariously? I realise that in your thriftiness you may wish to save money and use rough-sawn wood. If you follow my example and use rough-sawn larch boards, I strongly suggest you either have extremely close friends or exceptionally highly paid staff. For the uninitiated, if you handle rough-sawn larch you will know that microscopic splinters can easily migrate between your fingers and cause considerable misery, far exceeding their size. So just imagine if those microscopic splinters migrated to where the sun doesn’t shine! It doesn’t bear thinking about.

Forestry Journal: Hand sanitiser shelf.Hand sanitiser shelf.

A choice of internal and external finish can be used, but for these two, internally we have gone au naturel, with no covering on the timber apart from a heavy coat of varnish on the seat area to ensure easy cleaning.

We have selected a parfum de toilette for the exterior, which was popular during the ’60s and ’70s, then went out of favour, but has grown more popular in recent years. It is creosote de goudron de houille. Its continual inhalation ensures a good nostril-clearing sensation, if mental fogginess.

Forestry Journal: Helmet hook.Helmet hook.

Upon completion of your work site, you might let the structure become a permanent feature of the forest, take it away for another site or gently compress with a large machine and let the compostable material naturally decompose to provide compost and nutrients for plant life. I am told this heap of compost would be the ideal habitat for rhubarb, that essential plant in any ecosystem.

Forestry Journal: Squirrelled sycamore toilet roll holder.Squirrelled sycamore toilet roll holder.

Sadly, much knowledge is lost between generations, and unfortunately I lost both my grandfathers at a young age. There was much I could have asked and learned from them. Likewise, today there are many who have lost their loved ones. Therefore, if you end up making one of these toilets, and as you enjoy the fruits of your labour, perhaps humming Wagner’s ‘Ride of the Valkyries’ or Beethoven’s Minor Movement in S Major, think of the song mentioned at the start. Perhaps we should change the lyrics to the following:

We care a lot about the doctors, nurses and woodsmen in the trees.

About the farmers, busy planting their seeds,

We care a lot about family, friends and neighbours too,

For its a dirty job but someone’s got to do it.

Take care you all and RIP Chuck Moseley.

Disclaimer 1: No children were hurt during the making of this article.

Disclaimer 2: Please be sure to consult FISA welfare safety guidance prior to investing in/constructing toilet facilities for your site.

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