When Nature Calls at Duke Campus Farm

Volunteers build outhouse on Duke Campus Farm

With all the modern amenities of an 18th century dwelling - including no running water, no electricity and a big hole in the ground - volunteers at the Duke Campus Farm unveiled a brand new outhouse last week as the latest addition to Duke's agricultural space.

The outhouse was necessary as the Duke Campus Farm meets standards for farm land set by Orange County and the state. Emily Sloss, manager of the farm, said that even meant adhering to some quirky rules.

"Orange County law says that the hole underneath the outhouse must be a square and a maximum of 2 feet deep," she said. "But we dug our hole to be 26 inches, so the inspector had us add two inches of dirt to make it 24 inches exactly."

The 4-by-5-feet outhouse - painted red with cream-colored trim - features a Dutch door that splits in two halves (top and bottom). There's ventilation on the bottom of the structure as well as two sliding windows to allow for a breeze to flow through the inside. A medicine cabinet holds extra toilet paper, bug spray and a first aid kit. The materials to build the outhouse cost a total of about $1,000 and were paid for through Duke's Green Grant Fund.

When they stop in, farm volunteers can also have their choice of reading material kept in a magazine rack or on shelving. Options include The Wild Food Trailguide, Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, Orion magazine and more.

"It may serve a second purpose as a library," Sloss said with a laugh, saying shelves may be expanded to add more books.

As part of a celebration to highlight the opening of the outhouse, about a dozen Duke Campus Farm volunteers gathered for outhouse-themed snacks, including yellow lemonade, chocolate brownies and prunes. To christen the outhouse, volunteers cut a string of toilet paper instead of  ribbon.

"On home tours, you're used to seeing a lot of big beautiful homes, but this is a bit more modest," joked Lee Miller, a farm volunteer who built the structure. "We welcome everyone and hope they have many productive experiences with it."

Take a mini tour of the outhouse by watching the video below: