Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Work on Monday, Wash on Tuesday, Iron on Never.

        School started Monday here in Indiana, and for those of us who are humble blue collar dormitory custodians that means the summer work schedule ended and the winter work schedule has begun. I'm an hourly employee in my first year with the university (as a staff member, I was a student for eight years). This means from now until May 2nd I'll be working the weekend shift, 7:30am to 4:00pm Saturday, Sunday and Monday.
   The rest of the week is Mine, All Mine!!!

    Tuesday was warm and sunny with a nice breeze. I celebrated my four-days-a-week freedom in a homesteadly manner by scrubbing down Maybelle,  my beloved vintage Maytag wringer washer and doing laundry The Fun Way.  She has been sitting idle since the beginning of last winter, poor girl. The whole summer I've been working a 40 hour week and not had the time or energy to clean up the porch and get her going.  Yesterday, however, she got a good scrub, as did the double utility sink that serves as my rinse tubs.  I got a new, much longer garden  hose awhile back, so I don't even have to carry water to fill the washer and tubs anymore. Yay!

     Maybelle lives on the porch because the laundry room is already occupied with The Manimal's washer and dryer.  He got here first.  That's ok, there's not enough room in there for a wringer washer and rinse tubs anyway, and if Maybelle were inside I'd miss the whole working in the fresh air and sunshine part of laundry day which is so fun.

In winter, when water in Maybelle's insides might freeze and burst something I use the automatic washer in the house, but even then I don't use the dryer. I prefer hanging things to dry. I have clotheslines in the loft which is very warm in winter.(it's very warm is summer too, come to think of it.)  I've also got three wooden folding drying racks that I can set up by the wood stove downstairs. Clothes drying adds moisture to the air, which is especially nice in winter when the house is heated and closed up.

   Here's a pictorial tour of my fun, fun first day off of work.

The double utility sink is from Manimal's oldest son's old place. It was sitting unused in a store room. Both sink drains are linked together with a y shaped pipe, so you can pull one plug and drain either side or pull both plugs and drain both sides at once. I haven't got the sinks piped to the septic tank, I use nontoxic soap (homemade) to wash with and drain my gray water into a bucket for use on the gardens,or sometimes I use it to scrub the front porch and back deck.
Here's a long view of my "laundry room".You can see the hose, which comes from the faucet around the far side of the house.  The blue mover's blanket hanging on the left is to block the sun, we've had an excessively HOT summer here in the midwest.
 The little old cupboard was abandoned in the shack up on the other side of the creek and I've adopted it. You can also see the chairs I made new seats for by weaving strips of the heavy plastic sacks our animal feed comes in. They're pretty sturdy, and when eventually they wear out I can always weave new ones. I found the chair frames with torn seats on the curb at hippie Christmas a few years ago.
       (Hippie Christmas is the end of the spring semester. All the university students pack their cars and go home, leaving piles of furniture and other useful things on the curb, allegedly for the trash man, but most things are "adopted" before the sun goes down.)
The utility sink makes a great set of washtubs, and the price (free for the hauling) was perfect for my budget. It had the kind of drains that take a rubber plug. I had two, but one has gotten mysteriously lost.

So I cut the turned edge off a lid from a plastic cottage cheese container. When I put water in the tub suction holds the lid in place, making a leak-proof plug.  After I'd done the washing and was draining the tubs I found the ring on the rubber plug for the other sink hurts my finger as I try to pull it out, so I've decided the homemade plug is better and have made one for the other sink from a pudding lid.

On the way to the clothesline you would do well to stop and have a few cherry tomatoes, sweet and warm from the sun. Yum.

This skimmer is meant for cooking, to get foam off the top of beans or jelly as they boil. It's also a good laundry tool for removing dog hair from the top of the water so that it doesn't just go right back onto the clothes. It's also great for catching bugs that have the misfortune to fly into the washer or rinse tub. Bugs sometimes do not realize what they're getting into. (Like us all.)

A drain plunger with holes in it makes a good agitator for doing small loads of wash in a bucket. There are fancy versions of this available online and from catalogs, but the homemade version works pretty well.

Years ago when the Manimal was courting me he would bring me out here for the weekends. As we worked in town all week  at least part of the weekend was catch-up on household tasks time. I began doing the laundry because I didn't like the way he did it. He did it the"normal" way, of course. Automatic washer and dryer, toss clothes in, take them out,shove them in the closet.

          First I brought some clothesline rope out here, and a package of clothespins.  I strung the line up between a triangle of stout trees, and gave the electric dryer an extended vacation.  The Manimal found he liked  his shirts line dried, fresh smelling and crisp.  Next I found a canvas bank bag and stitched him up his very own clothespin bag, probably the manliest clothespin bag anywhere.  The JRC is his initials.
       If I'd known I would be coming out here to live and would become the permanent  primary laundry-doer I might not have made this thing, haha. My thought was that he could now properly hang clothes in my absence.    HA! Manimal, bless him, lacks the clothes-hanging gene. He will only hang clothes on the line if the dryer is on the fritz or the electricty is out.  If forced to line dry clothes he hauls the sodden clothes out of the washer and flings them higgledy-piggledy onto the clothesline. They don't "need" clothespins as the weight of the water holds them down. They take forever to dry this way, and when they are finally dry they are all dried solid in pleats, crimps and clumps. Which DOESN"T BOTHER HIM!!!
So I do it myself (said the little red hen) so he doesn't look like a bum.
Manimal's shirts on the line. I hang them by the collar band, with three clothespins, and they dry smooth enough to not need ironing. I think the valley breeze must work as a wrinkle preventative.  At any rate I DO NOT IRON.  I figured out doing the Plain Dress Project that I could spend 5-15 minutes of my time ironing each dress or blouse and within 10 minutes of putting it on it would look about like it had before I even ironed it. So being the wise woman I am I just stopped ironing.  I now consider the iron to be a tool for pressing seams when making clothes, not for maintaining the daily appearance of clothes. Anything that looks too awful un-ironed does not stay in my wardrobe.

Notice the travel trailer in need of refurbishing, the rumpled blue tarp over the hen's straw bales and the henhouse just behind the laundry?
     One end of the clothesline is tied to a basketball hoop post. The other end is tied to a schoolbus. I see no reason to pretend to the world that I live anywhere other than a supremely rural ramshackle valley. Manimal's best friend Cowboy calls this place "Little Arkansas", and I think he does not mean it as a compliment.

Here are my four extremely boring polyester blend work smocks. I know I'm fond of plain dress, but this is an entirely different level of plain.   Worn with the mandatory blue jeans this "uniform"  serves to make the custodial staff  recognizable when needed. We're all blue, you can see us from 50 yards away.
 At the same time it serves to make us easy to ignore. Many of the students walk past us as if we didn't exist, the uniform is a sort of cloak of invisibility.  I will spare you my rant concerning class distinctions (and the denial of them) in America Land of the Free.  Also my rant concerning foreign students and how they view/treat servants (which is what they see us as).
    Not that all or even most foreign people are unanimously bad to servants.   It's just that the only way an 18 year old student gets here from the other side of the world is by coming from a wealthy family, and the behavioral programming of persons who are brought up to be served  is as different as night and day from the behavioral programming of persons brought up to work for a living.  Between the students and the staff this job is quite an education in human nature. Honestly, I often feel like I don't "belong" in this job, like I'm working undercover or part of the witness protection program or something. But I enjoy the job, it's great fun to tidy things up, and I find my co-workers fascinating.  Not movie-star-fascinating, more as a study of personality types and psychological quirks.  In private conversation with me once our boss referred to our workplace as The Land of The Misfit Toys, and it is a very accurate appelation. Not that I'd tell the other toys what he said.

To the left, our schoolbus. Someday to become a home on wheels.

Cloth napkins. I hang them neatly folded in half over the line, and they dry  not needing ironing. I just fold them two more folds and stack them in a basket.

Now, since I think I"ve figured out how to download them, lets go to the  movies!

WASHING MACHINE AGITATING- unlike the automatic machine Maybelle has not got a tall center post, so straps and sleeves and long lengths of cloth have nothing to get twisted and tangled around.

WASHER SOAKING- you can pull the lovely aqua knob on the side of the machine to stop the agitator, and soak things for as long as you like.

HERE'S HOW WE SQUEEZE THE WATER OUT WITH THE WRINGER.  When Middle Child was eleven or so we had ,my grandmother's  (Mom Rodgers') wringer washer. Poor Middle Child was doing laundry and got her fingers caught and her hand went through the wringer. Our visiting neighbor girl ran screaming from the house, and continued screaming all the way home.  We popped the wringer open (there's a safety release) and put ice on Middle Child's hand.  She is clearly not the hysterical type.

The trickiest part of a wringer washer is getting the clothing started through the wringer without catching your fingers. My other grandmother (Mamaw Williams) taught me to chain the clothes through by laying the edge of the next item onto the one almost through the wringer, nose to tail. Much safer for the fingers, and fun to do as it's a sort of challenge to keep up to the speed of the wringer. (note: the wash water is not orangey yellow in person)

BUCKET AND PEFORATED PLUNGER - this is useful for small loads, and takes no electricity which is excellent. It's of course more work intensive than the wringer washer, but somewhat less so than using a washboard.

Sharing the cherry tomatoes with the hens.

Lastly, just for fun, a nice wedge of watermelon for Pollock and Schmutzy.

Hope your laundry day is sunny and fun!


  1. Misfit Toys! Perfect.

    I wasn't quite doing laundry when my hand got caught in the wringer: I was demonstrating to Neighbor Girl that it was perfectly safe to touch the wringer because there was no way a wringer could suck a person's hand in and--- AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH! MY HAND!

    Unfortunately, I was wearing a ring on that hand; it got flattened, and I had a shiny scar on that finger for years.

    Pollock and Schmutzy are very good at sharing.

  2. I wonder if your demonstration left Neighbor Girl permnently afraid of wringers? I remember we had trouble getting your flatened ring off. Poor finger.
    I hope we have all learned something from the experience. Oy.

    Yep, Pollock and Schmutzy do share well. Usually Schmutzy will not taste something until Pollock has had a couple of bites (to test it?). Watermelon is the exception. Schmutzy knows for sure she likes watermelon.

  3. I loved all those videos! I felt like I was really there in your yard seeing everything :0)

    Your washing system is fab! x

  4. Anne- Other than my daughter's hand, which was bruised and healed quickly our only other wringer disaster was my favorite white ruffled poet's shirt/nightgown. Shortly after we got our first wringer washer my beloved shirt got hopelessly tangled in the wringer and we had to cut it to pieces to get it out. YEARS later I learned how to pop the wringer apart and untangle things, so really we didn't Have To Cut my shirt apart, but out of ignoranced we thought we had to. Poor shirt.

    Ember- Glad the videos please you. It's probably safer to watch the videos than actually be in our so very ramshackle yard, haha.


If you disagree with me try to keep it clean, or I'll wash your mouth out with homemade soap.