Garden Privy

Down on the farm, in my garden, there’s an outhouse… that serves as a handy tool shed.

The term outhouse originally referred to an outbuilding, or any small structure away from a main building, used for a variety of purposes, but mainly for activities not wanted in the main house. Outhouses are used for storage, animals, and cooking, to name a few uses.

Usually when you hear ‘outhouse’, you think of a privy – a small enclosure around a pit that is used as a toilet. Most outhouses had one or two holes. No, these old vintage structures weren’t usually doing double duty. Rather, most contained two holes of different sizes – one for adults and one for children. Don’t think those kids wanted to sit on the bigger hole and risk the consequences. However, that being said, some large families would have multiple holes for use at the same time.

Crescent Moon: The crescent moon cutout and the star cutout on the door of many outhouses goes back to Colonial times. In a time when few people could read, the crescent moon was the symbol for women while the star cutout was for men.

Toilet Paper: Considered a luxury by most rural families, newspaper or pages from old catalogs was more often used.

Average Outhouse: Usually they were 3 to 4 feet square by 7 feet high with no window, heat, or electric light. Due to the odor, most were built between 50 and 150 feet from the main house, often facing away from the house.  Many people left the door open while they were using it so that they didn’t have to smell the unpleasant odor… a difficult habit to break with the invention of indoor bathrooms!

My garden outhouse provides handy storage for gardening essentials…close at hand.


…and lively conversation with many visitors to my garden!


3 thoughts on “Garden Privy

  1. Thanks for that bit of history! Both my parents grew up for a time without indoor plumbing but I’ve never even seen one myself (other than in movies). Yours is actually quite attractive. I think the cutouts on the door are such a nice touch, considering what it is.

    • We actually built our ‘privey’ for the garden. But, many years ago when I visited my grandparents in Austria as a teen, their house in the village had NO indoor plumbing…and I had personal experience with their privey! WooHoo for indoor plumbing!

  2. I loved the history of the crescent moon and star…I never knew that they had meaning. One of the gals in my spinning group had a house with only an outhouse (not sure if she’s still there). She loved it. I haven’t met too many 20- or 30-something y/o people who would chose to have an outhouse! 🙂

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