Shower power

There is something about showering under the stars on a balmy summer night and in the fresh of a summer’s morning, before the sun’s scorch.  (Or, if you prefer, on a cold winter’s…whatever.)  We have long been of the opinion that a swimming pool is a costly, time-consuming inessential, so when we moved to McGregor, we resolved to find a suitable outside space for a shower.

Finding that spot was a challenge:  the house is on a corner and is built with sandbags* which means that anchoring anything to the walls is problematic, as was finding a way of plumbing in the hot water. In addition, one had to find a way of preserving some modicum of privacy (if not modesty and the property values!).  Another challenge was that the “back” of the house is actually the front:  it’s the entrance everyone uses and it’s also here we live and entertain.  It took a while before we realised that there was a logical place to put it.  The veranda was not quite a wrap-around, and at the corner of the house, there seemed a logical and “dead” spot.  It also borders on the “pond” into which our grey water ran, and where we now have a grey water system.

ShowerCorner2012
The “dead” spot and infant fruit trees ready for planting. And the original vegetable garden (2012).

Even though we had made the decision some two years prior to doing the deed, we had other priorities, not least of which were a carport and shed-cum-workshop for The Husband.  More important, and without waterborne sewerage, a conservancy tank.  I digress, but the original had collapsed – because some twit decided that the driveway should cross it and hadn’t thrown a slab to protect it.  After finally deciding on the building material, The Husband began work on it in late 2014.  Initially, we had thought of gabion walls – we had a huge pile of shale left from the excavation of the conservancy tank.

Nope. Not a good idea.

Too many nooks and crannies for nesting spiders, scorpions and snakes.  Neither of us fancied meeting a Cape Cobra when we were in the altogether.  Ultimately, we decided on latte* with a shale floor. Shale is a sedimentary rock that’s formed from compressed mud and/or sand.  Geologically, the  region in which we live, was once an inland sea.  Here’s the evidence – a fossilised limpet. LimpetFossil The first step in the construction was the posts, then the hole in the wall, followed by the first part of the floor, which had to be level for the steps and, finally, the pan and the outlet. ShowerStepsFloor Then came the frame, the plumbing, the latte and the lining.  The lining is a non-negotiable:  the light from the stoep at night, creates a backlight, effectively nullifying the screen!  Old coffee bean sacks are ridiculously cheap from a local roastery, work perfectly.ShowerPlumbedCats Of course, as you see, The Husband was closely supervised – Pearli and Melon (no longer with us) were constantly checking things out. Quality control is critical to the finished product. ShowerDoneInteriorEven when there was still a bit of tidying up to do, that didn’t stop us from using it.  Here’s the view from inside the shower. SAM_1407From the street:  there’s a shower there?  Who would guess?SAM_1410

And since then we have put a lid on the veranda which has created a more secluded and shady spot.

Shady, more protected veranda. Photo: Selma, 2017

In the years since that shower became functional, The Husband uses it daily – even in the dead of winter reverting to the bathroom only if it’s raining.  It has also become a firm favourite with our guests – it’s adjacent to the guest room.  Recently, we hosted the editor of the team filming the Ride2Nowhere whose colleague, staying somewhere else, was so enchanted by the shower that he asked if he could also use it!

*more of this at another time

**thin wooden poles, usually made from Wattle which is an invasive exotic in South Africa

First published on my original blog in 2015 and updated.

Until next time
Fiona
The Sandbag House
McGregor, South Africa


Photo: Selma

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0 thoughts on “Shower power”

  1. Very cool! And oh, how I envy your freedom to use grey water! Here in Washington State it’s illegal – can you believe it? Not such a big deal on the west side of the state, which is a high rainfall area, but we live on the arid east side, and I so resent not being able to use it!

    1. Yoh! I can’t believe you’re not allowed to use grey water. Black water, I completely get. In SA which, as you know, is drought-prone, it’s encouraged. In the village which has less than 250mm/year, most of the homes harvest their grey water in one form or another. I do wish that our mechanism was more efficient, but what we have is better than nothing. I suspect that as water becomes an increasingly scarce commodity, the attitudes towards grey water will soften.

      1. Isn’t it the most ridiculous thing? What made me nuts was that in the year that we built our house, when I learned about grey water being illegal (when discussing the design of our plumbing with the architect), George W Bush was in the White House. And much was made of the fact that his house in Texas (unlike Al Gore’s) was super environment-friendly. (The water laws are different in Texas.) So we would have been fined for doing what the President of the country was bragging about doing. Completely ridiculous!

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