From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Washers, Dryers, and Clotheslines

The Rural Life... And What I Think About It...



Oh, the virtue of it all. The laundry is washed, dried, folded, and put away. I'm free from that drudgery for a few days until it multiplies again and must be dealt with. But at least, I have a washer and a dryer. I assure you that I'm grateful for them!

We bought our first washer and dryer shortly before Keely was born. A fellow who was moving sold us the set cheap. They were apartment-sized; the washer hooked up to the sink faucet, and the dryer could be plugged into an ordinary wall outlet. I did a lot of baby laundry with them (and used a lot of bleach on the sink all the time because of the dirty nature of laundry.)

Then we went to Germany for five years and our washer and dryer went into storage. When we came to Kentucky, the little washer refused to come back to life after its long hibernation. It wasn't worth fixing, so we went to Sears and bought a Kenmore which served us faithfully for 15 years with only a couple of visits by the repairman.

Last year, the Kenmore started having some problems and we decided to get a new washer. I did quite a bit of research on machines in the $500 range, and finally decided on a General Electric with a stainless steel basket. I am satisfied with it; my only minor complaint is that it is a little noisier than the Kenmore.

Though its mate died, the apartment-sized dryer still worked when we came back to Kentucky. We used it for about a year here, until one day I put too much heavy wet clothing into it and burned up its motor and the wall outlet it was plugged into. Neither the dryer nor the outlet was intended for the abuse it was receiving. I had already rigged a clothesline between a couple of trees, so after the little dryer died, I dried the laundry outside for a number of years. Money was tight and a dryer wasn't an absolute necessity.

A clothesline is a good idea most of the time, but it's not perfect. Clothing dried outside has a wonderful fresh-air scent that just can't be described. However, when a neighbor spreads manure across his field while the laundry is on the line, the clothing smells like it was hung in the barnyard. On a sunny breezy day, the clothing dries as fast outside as it does in the dryer but the clothesline is useless when rain lingers for a week. Hanging the clothes is a pleasant outdoor diversion on a warm day, but on a winter day, unprotected hands quickly go stiff and numb, and even gloved hands will ache with cold before a full basket of wet laundry is pinned to the line.

My husband finally decided that the clothesline between the trees looked tacky, so he fixed a proper clothesline with metal poles, on the south side of the house where the north wind wouldn't freeze me in the cold months of winter. He was trying to be nice, but it was a bad idea. We have a wood stove that we use in the winter, and in the clothesline's new location, the clothing picked up a smell of smoke.

Anyway, we eventually got a dryer (a Kenmore) and I'm grateful for it. I still hang clothing outside sometimes when the weather is nice. I don't have a clothesline anymore, but I do have a chain that I use for clothing on hangers -- one hanger per link in the chain. The hangers can't slide together and the wind doesn't blow them off. If the clothing is put on hangers promptly when the washer stops, much of it dries nearly as wrinkle-free as if it had gone through the dryer.

My Mennonite neighbor, Kathryn, is dedicated to hanging her laundry outside on the clothesline summer and winter, even though she has a dryer for emergencies. She has a mechanized clothesline that makes it a little easier. Her clothesline is a long loop strung around a pulley on each end. One pulley is on the porch and the other is mounted high on a tall pole far across the yard. She stands on her porch to pin on the clothes, then pulls the line through the pulleys to move the clothing out into the air high above the yard.

My conclusions about all this? A washer and a clothesline are better than going to the laundramat, and a washer, a dryer and a clothesline are about as good as doing your laundry gets. But what I really want is a laundry maid.

4 comments:

Limey said...

Over here (I can't believe I am even replying to this :)) we tend to use front loaders rather than top loaders, but the toploaders seem to wash very well and twice as fast (do you think it's because top loaders use more water?). I still think that for freshness you can't beat laundry that has been hung on a line to dry, assuming the birds don't sit on the line, and I did say sit, but I don't think I could part with my tumble dryer.

Genevieve said...

Yes, the birds sitting on the line can be a problem. :D Also, puppies love to pull things off the clothesline and chew them up. My husband thought it was amusing how I tried to keep everything on the clothesline at least four feet from the ground. I hung things so folded up that they took forever to dry. Then one day he washed his shirts for work and left them to flutter in the breeze. The pup shredded the bottoms of all of them ... and then he understood. :D

KennethF said...

I still have my Grandmother's two piece sliding clothes props (four of them & in good shape) and I still use them. Right now two of them are holding up a long metal tube radio antenne in our attic. My mother worked as a school teacher and Grandma always took me out with her to hang up the (1940's) laundry. Fresh air dryed sheets & pillow cases are the absolute best! I do agree... most harthedly.

Genevieve said...

Two-piece, sliding clothes props? Those were high-tech!

In case anyone doesn't know, a clothes prop (or at least what I would call a clothes prop) is a stick with a fork on one end. It is placed under the center of the clothesline to give some extra support when a heavy load makes the clothesline sway.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.