Rural Idaho: Where you get soap in the apocalypse.

My husband looked over my shoulder and laughed because I was rather intensely researching where soap comes from. He asked quizzically after the first hour, “ARE you STILL reading that? Why do you think you need to know medieval soap making practices?” The answer is simple. Because I don’t know, and neither does he….and I suspected, mostly none of us do.And why not?
Here’s the skinny :
       Originally soap was made from watered ash dust “lye” and animal fat. One story of its invention claims that it all happened when women coincidentally washed clothes in a part of the river close to wear animal sacrificing was taking place. Ash and water and animal oils/fats ran together into the stream making for a noticeably cleaner wash.  We don’t know for certain if that’s how it began. We do know that people made the firsts soaps from the cooked/purified fat of the animals they killed mixed with ash/water mixture that has previously been filtered through reeds or sticks.
it was a tedious time inducing process.
Why did I feel the need to research something ancient, when I can just drive to Walmart and buy soap for under a dollar? If shit gets real, I want soap. If society were to collapse, or we get entrenched  into some-kind of horrible unforeseeable situation, almost nobody would even know how to make soap. Most people would be totally helpless in general, and that bothers me. We live in a time where we have easy access to more knowledge than ever before, and we don’t even know how to survive. Isn’t it better to be safe than sorry? Knowledge never hurt anyone…(Except maybe the kind you put yourself into crippling, starvation inducing debt over, with no foreseeable future employment to pay for it.)
            Before you pack me into the box of “crazy doomsday-prepper,” hear me out.
I’m not frivolously spending on supplies, or planning for some imagined swift inevitable demise of modern culture.I have a gas mask but only because an old roommate of mine was essentially throwing it away doubting it would ever have a use. I know it does. I realize I also might never need it. To me, having a bit of extra water food around and common survival knowledge seems less crazy than the alternative. There are MANY situations it could come in handy, crazy and highly possible alike!
         My parents are also not doomsday preppers, but the way I am is certainly because of my upbringing.I  spent my formative years in rural Idaho; like my mother, and half my ancestors who immigrated to rural Idaho from Bavaria hundreds of years ago. By rural I mean wilderness level, not just a small town clinging right next to a larger town like its unfortunate turd. Basically our town was a collection of homes next to nothing, except the side of a mountain. Make that all sides. Unless you count the side with the icy river, where you might plummet to your death if another rock slide hits the other road in spring. That is a bit over – dramatic. On on the daily, it was a place where bears get into your garbage every morning, and renegade juvenile delinquent cougars eat your pets. There weren’t movie theaters, or hospitals, or Walmarts, or Mcdonalds. It had a little gas-station/store, but we had to make quite a trek for our most of our groceries/supplies, (on that road I mentioned a minute ago no less.) Simply put, I’m used to the idea of not getting everything life requires from the store.
           As a child I knew exactly where my food came from, and how it got onto the table. We grew a garden, learned to catch fish, use a gun, gut animals we ate. My limbs grew longer the natural way, from wild meat and pesticide free foods. I was Strengthened by carrying river rocks to build our driveway, that was, like most of the roads in my town, made of dirt. We learned about every kind of tree and fish. Our school included sessions about things like, how to survive in winter, avoid hypothermia, build shelter, and use compasses . Long isolated winters meant multiple powerless days and cooking on the wood stove which also heated our home. Warmth came from the trees our family chopped down, always planting more as a community each spring.
               When I try to explain my beautiful upbringing, the pitiful looks and response I get is all too familiar. Most people react like my childhood was detrimental. The responses are pretty close to the faces I get if I talk about my gas mask, or thoroughly researching soap. Is it really an atrocity that I didn’t have daily access to movie theaters and Walmarts? Is what I filled my days with instead, what is really so useless? My fun was nature, fishing and hiking, instead of playing lazer tag and collecting backstreet boys cds, like my kid relatives from the city.
            When will we as a society re-evaluate what is silly to learn, about and what is not? Hopefully not when it is a terrible emergency and we HAVE TO learn on the fly, because that might be too late. If a dire situation arose all of those “hillbilly” things would be invaluable…Just Think of  the walking dead…Daryl Dixon obviously already knew how to survive. It’s probably not gonna be zombies. but still. 🙂
              I am not ashamed of how I grew up, or my weird propensity for wanting to be prepared. I am embarrassed for the many survival things I should know that I don’t. Disappointed, about the now foggy things I once knew with perfect clarity, before my years in the city. To those memories I cling, so they wont disappear…like the average person’s knowledge of how to get soap (other than the stuff plastic bottle you find in the store)
I’m no doomsday prepper. I’m just a girl from the mountains of Idaho, who still sees a bit of value in knowing how to survive…Now get over here and help me make 18th century soap. 😀


  1. bajabnk · November 17, 2014

    You are among the blessed! How wonderful your formative years were spent in the wilderness of Idaho and you lived the stress free life of just being. We are so blessed to have experienced wilderness living,( if but for a short spell), and all it has to offer….an added plus was
    knowing you in your formative years.


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