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

That’s Why They’re Called Chores

A long time ago, let’s see about 25 years ago, we were at a doctor’s office. Frank was talking to him about the things we were doing or needed to do around the homestead we lived at then. The doctor looked at him and said, “That’s why they’re called chores.” Chores are daily routine tasks. If we were all sitting together in a room tossing out ideas that come to mind we could make a big, long list of chores that lots of folks do every day, week or month. I was thinking about the idea of chores this morning as I, yes you guessed it, was completing some of the chores.

  • Make coffee and fix breakfast
  • Feed the cats, chickens, pigs, dog, goats
  • Milk the does
  • Strain and cool the milk

  • Clean up the chore related stuff, like buckets and such
  • Grind wheat and make a batch of sourdough bread; left to rise
  • Wash the dishes
  • Frank stripped the bed and started a load of laundry before he left this morning, so I put them in the dryer. Later the bed will need to be made and the clothes folded and put away.
  • Now for a different kind of chore, a project chore. Remove the barrels from the greenhouse, rinse out and hose off each one, let it drip dry, then towel dry. Sweep the floor and plywood pieces before replacing the barrels on a square of plywood and replacing the table top board. Repeat until all were finished.
  • Some of these chores are repeated throughout the day, like fixing meals
  • Evening animal chores include everything listed above, except add watering all the animals to it. This time Frank goes with me.
  • Wash the eggs, put the milk away

  • Strain and feed kefir
  • Bake bread and eat a sample. The eating isn’t much of a chore.
  • Get the coffee pot ready for tomorrow
  • Some days include gardening, mowing and all kinds of other things

Now take your daily routine and throw in the need to do everything yourself, with or without the help from others, for all of your daily needs. You knew I would be talking about this, didn’t you? It’s what we’re all trying

to prepare for. Our daily routines, once the collapse occurs, will be filled with chores from sunup to sundown. Chores that will be required if we expect to survive. Chores that will make us wistfully wish we had a few of the conveniences that we now enjoy, things that would make our lives much easier. Like turning on the faucet and having safe drinking water at our fingertips, or hot water at the turn of a knob. We live in the lap of luxury and yet many days we will hear complaints about doing chores. I think that’s what prompted the good doctor’s comment. “That’s why they’re called chores.”

Okay, so let’s use a little imagination and see if we can describe even a small portion of the chores or events that may happen in one day post TEOTWAWKI. Ready?

Wake up and get out of bed. Are you sleeping in a bed? Or were you on guard duty all night and find relief at the rising of the sun so you can go to bed?

How about a hot cup of coffee? Do you have any coffee left? Do you have a cup to drink it out of? Did you store enough to last a while, even with rationing? Okay, do you have the type of coffee pot that can withstand the heat of a fire or the top of a wood stove or rocket stove or whatever device and fuel you have that will produce heat? Did you bring in wood last night for the fire or do you need to gather it this morning? Okay, we have coffee and heat, now we need water. Did you haul and filter the water last night so it will be ready this morning? Does it need to be boiled before it can be made

into coffee? Where is your water coming from? Is it a public source? Do you need protection to go there and get it? How much can you haul at once? How are you going to haul it? Or are you able to reroute a water source through your existing plumbing and continue to use your kitchen faucet? That would be a luxury in a collapse situation.

By the way, when you got up this morning, assuming you weren’t on guard duty, where did you go to the bathroom? Have you been able to take care of a safe, sanitary toileting location? This isn’t something people talk about much, but let’s face it, everyone of us needs some hygienic way to take care of toileting. Yes, we still haven’t decided on the location of our outhouse, but we will soon.

Okay, toileting taken care of, water, coffee and heat. Now I’m hungry. What’s for breakfast? Are you going to cook? That brings a whole new set of thoughts and questions. Where did you get your food? Did you grow or raise it? Does it need any preparation? Are

you going to have a piece of bread and butter and call it good? Where did you get the bread? Did you make it or barter for it? Where did you get the wheat or flour, leavening, oil or fat and salt? Do you have an abundance of those things on hand? How did you bake the bread? Do you have a functioning oven, wood stove, cast iron dutch oven or something else to bake in? Do you have the fuel it requires? Do you have the pans you need? Now for the butter. Where did it come from? Are you milking an animal that is giving you enough cream to make butter? How are you keeping the milk, cream and butter cool enough to prevent spoilage? 

You want some eggs with that bread? Do you have chickens living under the right circumstances to provide you with enough eggs for breakfast? Again, how are you going to cook them? Serve them? Do you have plates and forks? Salt and pepper? A table to eat off of?

Now it’s time to clean up from breakfast. Do you have any soap or cleanser? A dishcloth and towel? A sink, basin or dishpan? Now we’re back to water again. Did you heat up enough water to wash dishes while you were making coffee and cooking the eggs? What are you going to do when you run out of soap or cleanser?

Okay. Now I’m tired and we have only talked about getting out of bed, making coffee, fixing breakfast and cleaning up the dishes. That is only the very beginning of the day. Now is when the real work begins, work that will entail the basics of daily living,

obtaining water, fuel, food and remaining safe. Everyday, day in and day out, chore after chore after chore. Like Frank said recently, there will be no commercials, no time outs, no vacations or mindless distraction staring at a big or a tiny screen. I really don’t think some people will be able to handle the drastic change of life as we know it and the expectation of having to work hard everyday just to stay alive. I feel sorry for the people that can’t, won’t or don’t give it any thought at all. There will be many people that are unable to cope with such changes. They just won’t and that is very sad.

Please spend some time reviewing the list of chores you will be required to do when the SHTF, and everyday after that. There will be many things we haven’t thought of, even though we feel like we have been preparing for this all of our lives. I know there will and have tried to prepare myself for that. Even if there are things we haven’t acquired or prepared for, we need to be prepared mentally for that shortfall and not let it devastate us or stop us in our tracks. We will do the best we can with what we have, that is all we can do. And it will be enough. 

Until next time – Fern

When There Is No Toilet Paper

Hello, Frank here.

I need to talk to you about something a little touchy. Okay, you’re

out in the woods, or at your retreat. You left your fiber pills at home, you haven’t gone in days, you’re all backed up, and you had chili with beans for supper. And it’s time. Then you discover that you did not pack any toilet paper. The closest convenience store is 10.8 miles away and it’s 2:00 am. Decision time. Here’s what I would recommend. Get yourself some……….

Okay, Frank has left the building, and the rest of this article has been left to me, Fern. He is a really funny guy isn’t he? We have been married over 30 years and I still laugh every day. I am a blessed woman. Now, back to our topic.

On the last post about reusable panty liners, Kymber, from Framboise Manor, had a very interesting comment asking what our practices or plans are for what she calls “family cloths” if there comes a time that the SHTF and we run out of toilet paper. So, here is a follow up to our conversation.

Buckland, Alaska

Back in 1990, Frank and I lived in a remote village on the coast of western Alaska, about 75 miles south of the arctic circle for nine months (the length of a school year, we were teachers) without running water. We had a school provided, very nice three bedroom, two bath mobile home with a dishwasher, washing machine and dryer. Just no water. The school and the washateria were the only sources of water in the village. Frank hauled

our water from the school in two collapsible five gallon containers. We kept our water supply in a 30 gallon Rubbermaid trash can in the kitchen. We used this to drink, cook, clean and wash dishes, and luckily, we were able to shower at the school. The dish water was heated on the stove and used in the regular sinks. The sinks were drained into a five gallon bucket under the sink that had to be emptied outside. Before freeze up we allowed the sink water to drain straight down the drain pipes onto the ground under the house, but once winter set in with 30 degrees below zero for several months, we switched over to the five gallon bucket. We learned very quickly to remember to check how full the bucket was before we drained the sink. That was one of those experiences where we learned the hard way by flooding the floor and cabinet under the sink.

We hauled our laundry over to the washateria in a duffel bag to wash. But since the mobile home had a dryer, we were able to dry them at home. The only time we had to make other arrangements for water was when the temperatures dropped to 60 below and all of the water sources at the washateria and school froze. Luckily there was a natural hot spring a couple of miles up river where we could dip up the water into our trashcans and haul them back with the snow machine and sled. Now that was an adventure.

So, how did we take care of our toileting needs at home with no running water? After some trial and error, we decided to use the bathroom farthest from the main living area for solid waste, while the bathroom in the master bedroom where we slept was used for liquid waste. We lined the toilets with trash bags and used them in the normal fashion. We put a little Pinesol in each one to help with the odor and kept the bathroom doors closed.

Most of the houses in the village did not have bathroom fixtures since there was no running water. Instead, their toilets consisted of a five gallon bucket with a toilet seat on it, like the ones you can get from Emergency Essentials like we have in our storm cellar. This system in the village was called honey buckets. Once your bucket, or in our case trash bag, was full, there were small

I actually found a picture of one.

dumpster type containers that were specifically used for this waste, placed all around the village. These containers were gathered up and taken a few miles out of town to the dump and emptied periodically. I guess one of the nice things about having 30 below temperatures is the lack of odor from the honey buckets. We decided early on that we liked the insurance of a double layer of trash bags. One of them was semi permanent and stayed in the toilet, just in case the primary bag leaked. We were always very careful when taking these trash bags out to the honey bucket.

We also found out quickly that women use a lot of toilet paper and the bathroom with the liquid waste tended to fill up with paper more than liquid. This was my first experience with using something other than toilet paper when I urinated. I tried not using anything, but that didn’t work. I developed something similar to diaper rash. Then I started using a dry washcloth. That worked fine. Fortunately, we had plenty of toilet paper, and continued to use it in the solid waste bathroom.

I give you all of these details to let you know there are many different ways to deal with life when their is no toilet paper or running water. We think there will come a time when we have no more toilet paper. Period. In preparation for that time we have stocked up on some thin, simple washcloths. There are even folks that make their own cloths to use in this situation. The difference this time is that we will need to deal with the solid waste issue, which will entail something besides washing the cloths like all the other laundry. Hygiene can either keep you alive, or kill you.

There is a lot of good information out on the web about how to handle cloth baby diapers, which would be very similar to how you would handle toileting cloths. Here are a couple of the sources I found.

Washing Cloth Diapers by Hand
How to Wash Your Cloth Diapers by Hand

A couple of things mentioned in these sources are to use soap, use hot water from the tap, and use your bath tub. Well, if it is an SHTF situation, what soap are you going to use? You won’t have hot water from the tap, so how are you going to heat it? And you probably won’t be using your bathtub, but I guess you could. The important information these articles give us is to pre-soak, or have a specific bucket or container for your soiled toileting cloths. Even if it’s only water, it keeps them from drying out when they are soiled making them harder to clean. It also contains the urine and feces in a safe place, decreasing the likelihood of contamination and illness due to poor hygiene. Diseases like dysentery are caused by poor hygiene and once started can spread to everyone in your family or group with devastating results.

Some of the projects and plans Frank and I have on our list include a covered outside kitchen/clothes washing area. We have not begun to put it together, it is only in the planning stage, so I cannot show you any of our progress, but we have acquired some of the needed items. This area will include a deep basin sink that can be used for dishes, washing produce

from the garden, and probably many other things. We have some galvanized washtubs and a wringer that will become our clothes washing station. We have a variety of buckets with lids that can hold and soak soiled toileting cloths until it is time to wash them. There will be a clothes line installed. We have a means of heating the water on a cast iron wood stove that we got for covered outdoor use. We have large stock pots. We also have a small supply of rubber gloves that will last for a while, but they too, will run out, just like the toilet paper. Soap? Another goal is to be able to make soap from our goat milk, lard from the pigs, and lye made from wood ashes. All of these things are part of one small task. Washing toileting cloths. Sound like a lot of work? I’m sure it will be. And don’t forget the outhouse. It is also waiting in the wings to be built. Seriously. It is on our list of things to do and has been for a while.

Personal hygiene when the SHTF happens will be important. Will it be given the attention and priority it is now, in this day and age? I doubt it. But the mental preparation to deal with something as simple as keeping your body fairly clean and free of toileting contaminants, will increase your health and well being when all else about you has changed. There are 

many, many conversations going around the internet covering a variety of things we need to prepare in the event a collapse or disaster occurs. This is one of those things that is seldom discussed or covered. It’s so much cooler to talk about the latest gun, or paracord, or ramming vehicle. But knowledge of and preparation for adequate, not sparkling spic and span clean, but adequate hygiene can save your life and the lives of your family. It’s something to think about and prepare for. So, please share your ideas and plans. Like Frank says, we’re all in this together, and two heads, or many web-wide heads, are better than one. We are grateful for the many experiences we have been blessed with in our lives. There is no doubt that they have come together to prepare us for the unbelievable future that is just around the corner. Are you ready?

Until next time – Fern