Eight Letters Re: Mountain Money Isn’t

Hi Jim,

May your family count your blessings during this holiday time of the year. Being the first after losing a loved one. We all make that trip eventually. If the time was spent in a good fruitful life, then their are no regrets. Peace be with you and your family.

I was in the Peace Corps in West Africa, The Sahel. This was the southern portion of the Sahara Desert. Water was plentiful but had to be drawn from 60 to 80 ft. deep wells by hand. Then transported in containers to or throughout the village. It was labor intensive. Water was the most critical item for everyday existence.

No one in the native population living in the bush used toilet paper. It was the left hand wipe and clean off in the sand.

Water drawn from the well was not used by the natives for body washing. They just could not afford that kind of labor. Nearly all of the adult men were gone to neighboring countries to work. The women were left to do the manual labor.

Viruses abounded in this area.
Once I was deathly sick with massive diarrhea and massive vomiting simultaneously for six hours. The Peace Corps doctor told me I had UAV: “Unidentified African virus”I learned my lesson. Extreme cleanliness had to be the norm.

Staying healthy was the most important thing you did each day in terms of time. No shortcuts. This activity to transport, purify water and cook meals that were not contaminated took 60% to 80% of my time each day. Exposure to viruses, bacteria, skin parasites and internal parasites and insect vectors was vast. Both subtropical and tropical diseases were present including malaria. Because I had taken classes in bacteriology and microbiology during my college trials I was aware of the potential for infection. I was extra careful.

Cleaning yourself rectally with your hand was inviting exposure to a plethora of sickness. My answer was to use a rubber glove and soft cotton cloth. Then sterilize the glove in water and Clorox.
Wash the cloth in warm soapy water and sterilize it also for reuse. I kept dozens of these cloths in case the trots returned. Note: the bleach was not that brand name since it was a French product. I don’t recall the name of it now but it was the same [hypochlorite bleach sold] as Clorox.

This method worked well for me. I stayed healthy during most of my time as a Peace Corps volunteer. But I was told that the greatest infectious problem among the Peace Corps in this country was sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

I was the only person in our group [46] of Peace Corps volunteers to bring with me pairs of work and rubber gloves. Also among the few that showed up for transport to Africa without a Western style suit and street shoes. Instead I brought a kit of tools, an 18″ Ontario machete, a large Buck knife and a good compass. Being raised partially on a farm by extended family I knew about gloves, tools, boots and such. Most of the Peace Corps people in my group came from the far east coast ivy league universities. They for the most part were helpless outside a modern house without water, electricity, phones, television and air conditioning. For this they suffered and were not prepared for life in the bush.

I was all of 44 and the third oldest in the group. But I was the best prepared of all of them for the bush.

Learn to solve problems using the simple principle: Complexity is time and intense maintenance. Avoid creating problems that are greater than the one you are to solve. Use what you have and improvise. Above all else, engage brain and think.

I read your site every day. Cordially, – J.W.C.

As a member of the military, I’ve spent a lot of time in cultures where toilet paper is uncommon, like writer E.B.G. I’m deployed to one as I write this. But before I agree not using toilet paper and instead using your hand and water is a practical alternative for Western preppers, I would point out one key issue. In most of those cultures, the left hand is considered unclean and unfit for almost any other use. It’s not hard to deduce the very practical reason behind this- and this “one-handed” society is not something many of us adapt to very well. – Todd in Baghdad

Mr. Editor,
There’s no need to clean your backside with your hand. Just use an ordinary kitchen sink sprayer to clean yourself after using the toilet. Come on people, this isn’t that hard!
Regards, – Owen G.

While I agree hot water and soap would be a sanitary alternative to toilet paper (TP); a bucket of cold water sitting next to the toilet does not. Even with toilet paper (TP), the lack of hot water and soap is of concern in light of limiting disease transfer. I’ll stick to stocking TP; it is relatively cheap, and while space is always a concern, TP can be stored just about anywhere that is not wet. God Bless,- Eric G.

Mr. Rawles-
E.B.G. mentioned a method of cleaning up after a bowel movement that, as you noted, would not be an ideal choice. Here in the south the old timers kept a basket of corn cobs or a Sears and Roebuck catalog in the privy to use in place of toilet paper. If you shell your own corn the cobs would be available and while it would not rate up there with Charmin’ for comfort some of that junk mail could be used. The junk mail won’t last after the SHTF but you can conserve toilet paper while it does. Don’t forget old phone books, too. – Gordon in Georgia, a former ASA 98C

Well, I’m not quite ready to use the old left hand for that.. but I did buy a bidet. it was less than $30 on eBay. its plastic and connects right on the [toilet] seat. the wife doesn’t like it. But I bet she will reconsider when the TP runs out. My eight year old son thinks its lots of fun, I just have to watch him so he doesn’t make it hit the wall on the other side of the bathroom. – Brad S.

I grew up in good old USA. I traveled to the Philippines after High School. They sell toilet paper in the stores and we bought some, of course.

It wasn’t until later that summer that I forgot to bring some toilet paper with me once when we went to the mall. (Yes the malls do not have any toilet paper, it is a “bring it yourself” world). Luckily I happened to pick the stall that had a scoop and a bucket with water. I had no choice but to use the water “the way the natives do”.

After this experience, and it was quite a learning experience, I learned to use a good amount of water and to splash it around really well. Only after I used 1-2 scoops and splashed it around well did I then touch anything with the 3rd and 4th scoops of water. Usually after the first one or two scoops there is hardly anything left.

I happen to be lucky this day and the bathroom had soap. They don’t always have soap but I guess it was fortunate for me that they did.

Would you believe it that I actually felt cleaner using water rather than toilet paper? It is true, it feels much cleaner. My wife and I joke that we will buy a bunch of toilet paper and then hold it for a while if/when the SHTF. We’ll then sell it for a premium while we use soap and water.

Anyhow, if you have never tried it then at least try it for a few days and learn to use it. Remember, you always have soap and you can always clean up. It may be a skill that will come in handy in the future.

Take care, – KP

Dear Jim,
When my daughter was growing up, some of our favourite home-school activities were our history ‘lessons’. We didn’t just read about it, we would spend a week or so actually living as if we were in a particular period of history. It was a great educational experience for all of us and went some way towards preparation to cope with possible primitive situations. My daughter is now quite at home making soap, paper, gathering herbs and a myriad of other low-tech activities.

One thing we discovered during these enactments is that the Roman method of cleaning one’s nether regions – a small sponge on a stick kept in disinfected water – was particularly effective and not unpleasant. We kept several small sponges in a bucket and the used ones would be washed at the end of each day. Natural sponges or artificial baby sponges are the kindest on your rear. This is probably more acceptable to First-Worlders than the hand and water method and requires less storage space than cart-loads of toilet paper. For the record, I store both paper and sponges!

Praying for you all. Blessings, – Luddite Jean in England