TEOTWAWKI Cleaning

If things fall apart and your regular routine is greatly compromised, how are you going to keep things clean and sanitary?

We had a great conversation in the last article about different ways to cook our food in a collapse situation, and one comment took the conversation a little farther along the planning process. I really enjoyed this comment because I have been thinking along the same lines. Your comments on the last article has given us more to ponder and learn, and I’m hoping this article will do the same.

The comment I referred to is this:  “Fern, after commenting this morning, I was out picking apples and got to thinking about this some more. Besides cooking itself, what about clean up like washing pots and pans as well as dishes and utensils? Heating water will be a similar challenge. For me, I have a couple of large pots designated for this. One of the many things I learned in Boy Scouts back in the 60’s was how to set up a sanitation station by heating water over a wood fire in pretty large quantities.. Just thinking the whole thing through. Carl in the UP” I really appreciate Carl’s comment, the added dimension to the discussion, and the fact that he lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where it gets much colder than it does here.

I have given this situation thought many times. When Frank and I lived in Alaska back in 1990, we were in an Inupiat village without running water. There was a washeteria that provided water to the village, people would bring 30 gallon trash cans to fill and haul home. Frank carried two 5 gallon

collapsible water jugs to school and back many days, keeping our 30 gallon trash can supplied with water. Any water we used for washing dishes and such had to be heated on the stove first. The ease of heating water at the time came with an electric stove. Since there are many times throughout the day that something needs to be wiped down, cleaned off or hands washed, we began keeping a bowl of water in the sink that had a little soap in it. Granted, throughout the day, the water would be cold, but it was better than using up the water Frank hauled in. We learned to be very frugal with our water usage during this time. It was a very, very good learning experience for us.

When I think of cleaning, or having water on hand for washing, winter time seems easier than summer. If we have the woodstove in the house fired up for heat, it only seems logical to keep a kettle or large pot of water on it heating. This way it would be available as needed for washing dishes, clothes, or cleaning up after a meal or project. 

Summertime hot water may be a different issue. If I fire up the rocket stove to fix coffee and breakfast, a pot of water can be put on the stove to utilize the remaining heat until the fuel is expended. The size of the pot will be limited by the size of the stove. If more hot water is needed for washing clothes, another heat source will have to be utilized.

Both of the options I’ve outlined depend upon a source of fuel for the fire. There are other options, like a solar shower bag or water tanks in dark colors meant to harvest the heat of the sun. They may not get as hot, but it is a way to heat water without consuming a fuel source.

What are other ways to provide heated water for cleaning and sanitation? And like Carl said, in large quantities?

While we’re at it, what about toileting needs? What will you do when you can no longer flush your toilet? Haul water just for that purpose? That may work for some, but if you’re dependent on a city sewage system, it probably won’t work then. Where are you going to go to ‘use’ the bathroom? Or, how are you going to dispose of your waste? What other options do you have plans for that will safely, take care of your needs and not cause unwanted health issues? And while we’re talking about it, what happens when you run out of toilet paper?

There are many, many things we take for granted each and every day. I know we sure do. What happens when the power goes off for

a while? You walk in a room and turn on the light switch, even though you know it won’t work, you still do it because most of the time it works just fine. What happens when the water goes out? You walk over to the sink and turn the faucet on, because it usually works. Then you go to the bathroom thinking all the time, don’t flush it, don’t flush it. But then you flush it anyway! These are just a few of the basic things we take for granted that will require more planning and work when we have to depend upon ourselves for everything. Everything.

This discussion didn’t even touch on things we’ve come to depend on for cleaning. Things like soap, Pinesol, Mr. Clean, 409, dish cloths, towels, mops, brooms and 101 other things we use all the time. Doing without, or finding good substitutions will require a change of attitude and more work on our part. Again, this is one of those things it would be easier to practice now, than try to figure out later when the chips are down and many other needed tasks are vying for our attention.


Frank and I think about many different options for a number of situations like food, water, power, communications, or security. Some we keep and some we discard, which is what everyone needs to do. Evaluate information for usefulness in your situation. Some will be good, some will not, but the main thing is evaluate it. Think about it, just like Carl did. That is one of the things that struck me about his comment. He took a conversation farther by thinking about it and applying it to more areas of need along with cooking. Once again, we look forward to your thoughts, experiences and ideas. We’re all in this together and the more we can learn now, the better prepared we will be when the time comes.

Until next time – Fern

How Many Different Ways Can You Cook?

Cooking will always be a way of life as long as there is food to cook and people to cook it. With the construction of the outdoor kitchen underway, I have been thinking about different ways to cook. There are many, many ways to choose from, so I thought I would see if we could get a good conversation going. Like Frank says, we’re all in this together, and we always learn so much from interaction with the folks that stop by and visit here.

As I pondered this question, I came up with several possibilities. Here they are in no particular order.

We cook with propane in the house, and will be able to continue to do so until the tanks run dry. For now, it’s easy to call up a company and have them come and fill the tank. When that is no longer an option, we’ll have to come up with other alternatives.

We have our wood stove in the livingroom that has a flat top. It’s not ideal and isn’t meant to be a cookstove, but we can put a cast iron dutch oven on it and cook beans or soup. I’m not sure how well it would work for making a pot of coffee with a camping percolator, though. Yes, we really like our coffee, and until our supply runs out, we’ll be having some everyday, even after the SHTF.

Now we come to the outdoor kitchen. We will have a wood cookstove there along with a grill/smoker.

Another addition for quick cooking and heating will be a Rocket stove. Once we have everything set up out here, I will practice with all three.

An option for baking we have acquired is a Coleman camp stove oven. It folds down flat, so it isn’t air tight, and makes me wonder how effective it will be. It is about an internal 10 inch cube, so no 25 lb. turkeys. In one of the reviews Frank read, someone suggested putting bricks in the bottom to help hold the heat. We have firebricks to put in the wood cookstove, and will try some in the oven as well.

Another oven option is a Sun Oven, which we also have, but it hasn’t made it’s way out of the box yet. I’ve read about several people using them very successfully, including our friend Grace down the road, so it’s time I learn how to use this one.  

Of course there is always a campfire with a metal grate across it, or an open pit fire that you can hang pot over or put a rotisserie on. If you have the right cookware, you can cook all sorts of meals this way.

Another possibility is a small cast iron hibachi type of system. It’s small, doesn’t take a lot of fuel, and will provide a small, hot fire. Again, with some cast iron cookware, this would be an easy way to cook a quick meal. 

Now that we have different ways to cook, we need to think about fuel for all of those fires. Right now we have an abundance of firewood stored, but that won’t last forever, just like the propane. There will come a time when we need more wood, along with a way to cut and haul it.

There will also come a time when it may not be safe to cook because of the smell. If you are trying to keep a low profile for security reasons, the odor of cooking food would be a dead give away, especially to someone, or a bunch of someones, that are hungry. Then what do you do? Even the smell of a fire would draw attention.

On the other hand, if your retreat is your homestead then there are all sorts of noises that come with the territory. Your chickens make all kinds of noises, from crowing to singing the egg song. Your goats will holler good morning when they see you. The pigs will excitedly greet you asking for breakfast. Your dog will bark. Your radio will come to life with a greeting or message from down the road. Not to mention everyday conversation that comes with the activity of the day.

These are some of the things I think about as I go through my days. The sounds and smells of life are a rich addition to all we do. There may come a day when some of these things have to be curtailed for a while for our safety. If that happens, and you can’t cook, how will you provide adequate nourishment? Let’s face it, if a collapse happens in winter, it will be easy to see where the people are. There will be fires for warmth, and where there is fire, there is smoke.

So, what do you think? How many different ways can you cook, and will you be able to cook when the SHTF? Will it make a difference if it is winter or summer? Will it make a difference if safety is a concern? I have thought many times recently that two is one, and one is none. I’ve applied that to many things, including cooking, canning, gardening, clothing, animals, tools, radios, just about everything. That’s what brought me to this article about cooking. I want to make sure I have enough options to be able to put good, nourishing food on the table when we need it the most. I’d love to hear your ideas and thoughts.

Until next time – Fern

A Fresh Country Omelet

My funny Frank

We haven’t made many omelets lately, but with an abundance of eggs and some great fresh stuff from the garden, it seemed like the thing to do. Frank and I both worked in restaurants for a number of years in the past. When we got married, we were both in college, working as a waitress and dishwasher at the same very small cafe. It helped pay the bills and in the long run, taught us a few things about cooking. You might be interested to know that Frank taught me to cook. Regular meals, that is. I learned to bake bread, how to make a good pie crust and some canning skills at my mother’s elbow, but how to get everything in a meal to come out at the same time, I learned from Frank. The story is that I could burn water when we first got married. Luckily for us both, that has changed, and I really like to cook, and usually ban him from that task. 

When we looked around at the ingredients we had from the garden, we realized they would make a very tasty omelet. I started off with a little ground pork seasoned with salt and pepper.

To that I added an onion and a sweet pepper and let them cook for a bit. 

While they were cooking, I stirred up 3 eggs in a bowl for the first omelet. We used to have an omelet pan many years ago, but it had teflon in it. After a while every teflon pan we had would chip or get scratched and we didn’t like the idea of eating teflon, so we got rid of them. It took a while, but now I can flip an omelet in my stainless steel skillet, just about as well as using an omelet pan. We bought a set of these stainless steel pans over 30 years ago when we got married and they are still working fine. I seldom use the skillet anymore, because after I finally learned how to use and take care of my cast iron skillet (it took me a number of years), I use it almost exclusively now. Over time we bought extra handles for our stainless steel pans, and we’ve replaced the ones on our saucepans at least once. They get used just about everyday and by this time, I hope to never change to any others. You know after a while you get rather set in your ways about some things and just don’t care to change them, right? The only advice I have about flipping omelets is that you will have to practice. I have had many land on the stove, the floor, my wrist or just kind of land in a blob in the pan. It takes practice and patience. I don’t use a spatula or anything, just a quick jerk of the pan. 

Right before both sets of eggs were ready, I added the tomatoes to the meat mixture. I didn’t really want to cook them in, just heat them through.

We have enjoyed several omelets lately. There is no end to the possible combinations of ingredients that can be used. They are great with the salsa we made last summer as well. But, I guess the best thing about it is the fact that all of the ingredients we used came from our place,

except the meat, which came from a family down the road. I hope we never lose that feeling of wonder and joy at eating what comes from our small patch of earth here, it is such a humbling feeling. And guess what? We got our first brown egg from one of our young Australorps hens, which is always a treat. Like waiting for that first squash, potato or green bean of the season, we always wait for that first pullet egg like kids in a candy store. It’s the simple things in life that bring the most pleasure and satisfaction. Life is good.

Until next time – Fern