Bathrooms In Amish Homes…And The Alternative (Video)
In this video I talk about one room of the home that most people would consider indispensable – the bathroom. I share what bathrooms are like in Amish homes – how similar or different are they to non-Amish bathrooms?
At the same time, it’s not the case that all Amish have bathrooms and I also discuss that as well (ie, outhouses).
At the end, I provide one example of a building in Amish society where pretty much all Amish in fact use the outhouse, even the more progressive churches. Runtime: 2:56.
Very near the end of this video (~2:44) is a shot of an Amish farm with what appears to be a clump of banana plants. This looks to be one of the plainer and less tidy Amish farmsteads (Schwartzentruber?), so it’s a surprise to see something exotic.
I grow bananas outdoors in Maryland, but it takes a lot of effort–a special variety, cutting them down in the Fall, mulching the roots heavily, etc. And the fruit is not edible. I grow them only for the frivolous, worldly goal of achieving a tropical look far from the tropics. Unless this farm is in the deep south, these Amish are coddling a tropical plant to make it grow in the north and only for show. Seems unAmish.
My first question is if there is no bathroom, how do the Amish who don’t have them keep clean? Do they fill a large tub with warm water and go from there as far as bathing is concerned? And when they’re done, how is the water disposed of? On days when full bathing might be considered unnecessary I could see using an old fashioned pitcher and basin arrangement maybe in one’s bedroom. This leads to a second question: when use of an outhouse is impractical, such as having to relieve oneself during the night or during the winter when it is too cold to go out and sit half naked in an outhouse,what then? Is there a kind of old fashioned commode kept in a closet in the house? By that I mean a kind of chair (perhaps that is where the saying “sitting on the throne” when referring to “bodily function” comes from) with a removable receptacle of water below. The receptacle could then be taken out to the outhouse and dumped there. As far as having to answer a call of nature during the night is concerned I’m sure they must have chamber pots for that purpose. I would be interested in reading what others think about this.
I forgot to add that in order to have an outhouse a rather deep hole must be dug. Is the hole dug by hand or do the Amish have some type of tool (maybe a large auger) that is used? Once the hole is dug, what keeps the dirt from caving in from the sides of the hole? As I understand, outhouse holes don’t last forever–once every few years (I’m guessing) a new hole has to be dug and the old hole covered over with dirt–maybe a tree is planted on top of it (??). The outhouse is then moved on top of the new hole. Correct me if I am mistaken in this assumption.
Outhouses & Chamber Pots
I have my great great grandmothers chamber pot, which was rather lavishly ornamented in a little gold leaf vines & green ivy that was made in Germany. As I remember, it was the first chore of the day to deposit the contents in the outhouse.
I also remember their bed warmer with coals from the coal stove.
My other grandfather had an outhouse that was never moved from its place…& was rather frightening.
As I understand, but have no experience with, the sanitation of outhouses with chemicals have come up in the world…but I don’t know if the Amish use these.
I am of strong German Mennonite descent.
Amish school with a bathroom
One community with bathrooms in their schools is the Kalona, Iowa community. I was fortunate enough to visit an Amish school there and had driven from a bit of a distance–I asked for the bathroom and was directed to an indoor restroom. It didn’t occur to me until now that I might have been sent outside, and I’m glad I wasn’t, as it was a chilly day in March!