Greywater is illegal in the state of Oregon. I just have to put that out there because anyone who cared to track the amount of water coming into the house and leaving the house during July, August, and September might have a few concerns that we are breaking the law. Years ago, I hitched up the washing machine and bathtub to 55 gallon barrels and pumped the water into the gardens. I also established a dish-washing chart in a place of honor on the side of the fridge, with a legless flamingo magnet tracking the next herb barrel to be watered. I like hauling buckets of water out to the herb barrels and raspberry plants. I like pumping the laundry water from an old 55 gallon blue plastic barrel into the flower garden and how the entire backyard feels humid on laundry days—but my favorite system right now is the outdoor shower.
When we first moved into our house, I used a solar shower bag from Campmor. It worked pretty well—you really don’t need that much water to get clean—but it just splashed around the old wooden pallet and didn’t water anything but some weeds. It was also really heavy, when full, to heave up onto the nail on the fence. When it died after three or four years, I gave up on outdoor showers—until I spotted an old tub—FREE—by the side of the road. Someone was remodeling their bathroom. I hauled it home. Mark and I used it as a wading pool, full of cool water, during the next heat wave. Pretty nice. That fall, I rearranged the flower garden bed so that I could tuck it into the back and we built a frame out of wood recycled from habitat for Humanity and hung fabric around it. Cool water tub…we bailed the water out.
The next summer, I hooked up a hose between the basement sink and the outdoor tub. Hot water. You had to run downstairs and turn it on and it could be a little tricky getting the temperature right, but it was hot water. A trip to Habitat produced a showerhead. Hot showers. But, bailing the water onto plants afterwards took away some of its charms. It became very problematic when I hung boards on the frame rather than fabric, so this spring I made a trip to the plumbing store. Half an hour later, I had all I needed to run the water from the tub, through a hose (purchased at Habitat), and into the garden beds. A few days later, I had the tub raised enough so that the water would flow out AND not wobble. That night, after a good hike, I tried it out. A quartermoon was rising in the sky when I slipped out. The water temp was perfect. The towel was still sunwarmed from hanging in the frame all day. The water drained out onto the mint. It was amazing. I’ve even convinced Mark to use it; he was about to grumble about pumping shower water out of the basement like we always have when I pointed out that, if he showered outside, the water would flow directly onto the plants, saving the electricity. Now, he’s considering the final touch, a cool showerhead. He may be visiting Habitat this weekend.