Thy Shall Not Covet Thy Neighbors Clothes Line (and how to make fabric softener sheets)

“Ooh, look at that one!” I exclaimed and pointed, my mouth slightly ajar. “I love that one.”

‘Tis true that our walks together over the past eighteen years have included gaping at properties we want, but we just bought our first bit of land this year so my husband replied, “That place is a mess! We just bought our own land!”

“No,” I pointed, “look at that clothes line!” I waved at it. My sign that I love it.

“In the spring,” Doug said.

I can’t wait! Oh, I know the wind has been gusting over 40 miles an hour the past few days and it is a balmy 26 degrees right now (minus windchill), and it is a strange time to be dreaming of clothes lines, but farmers and homesteaders live perpetually in the spring. I know just where I will put it.

This all began a very long time ago when our new (mind you- new) dryer crapped out on us again and smelled like it was going to catch fire. I rigged a makeshift rope across the yard to our very-nearby neighbor’s house in the suburbs. The next house didn’t have a dryer. The next house had the longest, oldest, sturdiest, most beautiful clothes line on the property. I even hand washed clothes on that property. The next one had a beautiful line as well. As did the friend we lived with complete with a buck who stayed near me while I hung clothes. (Rather enchanted place. I will be writing about that on my other blog OwlandWolf.home.blog.) We rigged a clothes line at the last house, but the new puppy pulled the clothes off and ate them. And here I am, in a lovely house- the nicest we’ve had- with a new dryer and longing for pins in my apron pocket. The smell of spring and soil and summer and sun upon the clothes as I hang them quietly in the fresh air, my eyes on the mountain ranges, listening to birds sing, and taking a moment to restore.

Work pre-electricity was a place of meditation, a time of prayer. Beading, sewing, washing, painting, farming, animal care, cooking, and hanging clothes were all ways of being in the moment. Mental health is associated with domestic chores.

In the meantime, I learned a rather good trick. In lieu of commercial fabric softener sheets, dampen a washcloth and sprinkle ten or so drops of lavender essential oil on it. Throw in with your clothes. It works great!

What are your laundry tricks?

The Simply Clean Home

Listen, if the baby gets under the cupboard and there is something in there that will kill her, I don’t want it in my house.  What that also means is that anything I use to clean is non-toxic, safe to breathe in, easy on the environment, inexpensive, and effective.  Are you sure it works?  Of course I am sure it works!  I have a zillion animals and a lot of dust.  I cook a lot and like things clean and tidy (for the two seconds they stay that way.)

I use baking soda in place of Ajax-style cleaners.  Put some on a dripping wet rag and smear all over the kitchen sink, the bathtub and tiles, and the bathroom sink.  Now rinse off.  Super shiny!  Add a little bit of tea tree oil to make it disinfectant.  You can also add a drop of castile soap.  I like Dr. Bronner’s.  I tried the discount one and it was oddly oily.

Dr. Bronner’s also cleans dishes but so does a non-toxic dish soap.  Either can be used in a big tub of hot water to clean the floors, walls, cupboards, etc.  A wrung out washcloth with a little soap cleans everything.  A touch of Dr. Bronner’s in the toilet bowl gets it nice and clean.

Once in awhile I will treat my wood with olive oil and lemon essential oil.  It is fabulous.

A touch of vinegar in any mixture disinfects as well.  In a book I just finished, My Life as an Amish Housewife by Lena Yoder (Amazon has it), she mentions adding a 1/2 cup of vinegar to the laundry as a fabric softener.

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I love using the clothes line to dry clothes.  I didn’t have a dryer for pry a decade before my adorable puppy started shredding all the clothes on the line and running around the yard with glee, a pair of stockings in his mouth.  I conceded and got a dryer.  I wonder if he is old enough that I can use the line again.  I love the time spent hanging clothes in the sun and the way they feel all warm as I fold them.  As with all chores on the homestead, it is meditative.  Wait until you read about my clothes “washer” below in the links of recipes I am sharing with you from my past blogs.  I am on the lookout for another one!

Conventional cleaners aren’t only poisonous when ingested, they aren’t biodegradable, which means they sit on the surface of waterways around the world, killing everything from microbes to fish and then reentering our water supply again.  Save money, go simple, and enjoy your gleaming house (until the puppy comes back in)!

The Handy Dandy Double Tub Washer (not a lick of rust)

The Clean Green Homestead

How a Farmgirl got Her Groove Back

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It seems a very long time ago that I stood outside on our prairie farm screaming.  I watched the last of the chickens be swooped up and driven away by other farmers who didn’t rent their farms.  The sheep were gone.  The goats were gone.  My dog had died.  I continued to give away or sell my precious antiques for next to nothing, all of my homesteading items, my life.  We moved into our friend’s guest bedroom.  And the landlords continued their scam on other people.  Ah well, that was a long time ago.  Two years.  A lot can happen in two years.

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We would have never studied under Native American elders that became great friends.  We would have never opened our Apothecary, White Wolf Medicine.  We would have never thought to move to Pueblo.  We OWN our own home now.  The American dream is still very much alive.

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Odd looking pumpkin!

 

I certainly didn’t plan on moving to the city.  I am a country girl through and through but the great Unknown knew darn well that if I wanted people coming to me for medicines and teas, they weren’t going to drive out to the middle of nowhere.  This central location in town sure keeps me busy.  People know where to find me.  I am so blessed.

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We could have easily fallen into a city lifestyle.  We sold our truck.  Bought a Fiat.  Doug has an IT job.  But the shed was so easy to make into a chicken coop.  The yard quickly became gardens.  The back is planned as an orchard.  Hundreds of jars of preserves are already lining the shelves of the root cellar.  The clothes line does just fine.  The dishwasher is wasting space.  The cuckoo clock tells the time.  The light from the oil lamp is soothing.  Suddenly I look up and I am a Farmgirl again.

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I guess Pumpkin Hollow Farm never really went away.

Meanwhile, Back On a Farm

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The sign has returned to its natural place, in front of our home.  It was stored at the friends’ houses we stayed at after losing our rental farm.  It went to the shop and stood proudly out front, backwards, with the words “OPEN” painted on it.  I love the name Pumpkin Hollow Farm.  So, I painted over the OPEN sign on the back and brought it home.  It’s good to be back.

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The other day we busied ourselves with chores.  Oh chores, how we missed thee!  Doug hung a clothes line for me, I washed and hung two loads of laundry, he mulched the tree he just planted, I painted pumpkins on the mailbox, and he attached the sign.  It’s really good to be back.  I can’t wait to see the pumpkins growing…

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The Winter Laundresses

For all you fellow homesteaders out there braving the elements to get fresh clothes on the line in all weather, especially post-snow storm, I salute you.  May summer come round real quick.  In the name of hypothermia, I do believe the other two loads can wait until tomorrow!

A glass of wine, sage and white bean soup, homemade bread, and an eve of Bing Crosby crooning those lovely Christmas songs are in order.

The homesteading life is sweet.

Electric Items We Can Live Without (part 1)

When I saw my electric bill this month, I nearly fainted and was tempted to go out for cocktails to forget it.  I instantly blamed Shyanne for running her electric heater that looks like a fireplace all the time.  She lives in the dungeon of a basement here and it is ten degrees cooler down there.  Which means these days it’s pretty flipping cold.  Her lights are always on as well.  Doug said it was more likely the animals.  Who would have thought that the farm animals would use more electricity than my teenaged daughter?  Electric heat lamps and water heaters are adding exponentially to the already high bill.  Is it summer yet?

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It does seem silly to be working so hard at creating a homestead, doing things the old fashioned way, yet we are using more resources than less.  That is what happens when the thermometer breaks records all winter with below zero temperatures.  Thank goodness spring is right around the corner.  We do not have a wood stove at this house, and I cannot bring the animals indoors (Doug said) so I will pay the bill and move onto the next month.

I may not be able to shut off the furnace or the water heaters, but there are some electric items that I have lived without for a long time.  And there are more that I am working towards omitting.  There was a lot of hubbub about making women’s lives easier at the turn of last century and though I think that was a noble cause, it was primarily to make a lot of money off of subpar products that would actually create more work for us and pollute our planet.

These are the things I have found that I do not need (that much less on the electric bill!):

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1. The Microwave.  We truly do not need a microwave.  Microwaves were originally war technology and I sure don’t need any extra radiation running through this house.  So, one could zap food to instant boiling in a matter of seconds.  In a pan on the stove, I can do it in a few minutes.  It also doesn’t scorch the tip of my tongue off or kill all the nutrients.  Additionally, I have more space in my kitchen.  When I put it out on the curb for Goodwill, the kids howled that it would be missed, yet for six years now we have survived!  I truly do not miss it.

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2. The Coffee Maker.  Sacrebleu!  What is this mad woman talking about?  I drink scores of coffee in the morning, folks, don’t worry. I am a normal farmer.  I just really love the process of putting the coffee in the French press, pouring the boiling kettle of water over it, and smelling the delicious aroma stir up. I swirl hot water in the carafe that I will pour the coffee into and carry around with me all morning.  It keeps the coffee hot, no plastic taste, no plastic-non-biodegradable coffee pots in the landfill every year, and really, I think the French press makes the best coffee.  See my post here for more on it.

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3. The Dryer.  After our third dryer in five years broke down and smelled like it could catch fire at any moment I realized that the washers and dryers past that actually lasted were a thing of the past.  Companies make more money if we send lots of things to the dump and buy more.  The low end for a dryer is $250.  That’s the cheap model, heading upwards of two grand.  Which could get me a decent car.  Ever since I started using a clothes line six years ago I have found that our clothing lasts so much longer.  If I wash the clothes with items in the pockets and send stains all over everything, I can easily rewash it.  Stains do not set on the clothes line.  The clothes line is a means of forcing me twice a week to stand outdoors in the fresh air, in nature, for ten minutes and put clothes on the line like my grandmothers did.  The breeze makes everything smell fabulous, the cat hair is whipped off, there are no fires on the clothes line from overheated engines and clogged airways.  They dry in a day, even on cold days.  Should a sudden snow or rainfall come by the clothes are all the fresher when they dry.  Should I not have time and leave it out there for three days, they do not get wrinkled.  See my post here if you are considering leaving the dryer buying rat race.

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4. Overhead Lighting.  Especially fluorescent lighting.  Lord, help me.  The natural ebb and flow of the day is supposed to speak to our bodies.  The sun peeks over the horizon sending lovely banners of color across the sky welcoming us to a new day.  We get up, we work, we rest in the heat of the day, we work, we go to bed when the sun goes down. I notice that I sleep so wonderfully naturally getting up with the sun and as the sun fades behind the hills and the oil lamps are lit, I start to get sleepy.  I highly recommend getting some oil lamps, they are as low as $10 at Walmart and create excellent lighting scattered throughout the house with the help of some bright tapered candles. We add twinkly lights throughout for a magical feel and a bit more lighting.  Those could burn out though, and I’d be fine with just the oil lamps.  Should your eyesight require a tad more lighting for your nightly reading, then by all means add a lamp, but for heaven’s sake, turn off the overbearing overhead lights!

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5. The Porch Light.  The porch light serves more to tell folks you aren’t home than to provide security.  Goodness, with all the street lights, who needs a porch light?  Do me a favor, drive out into the country and look towards the horizon.  Do you see that glowing light like a bomb just went off?  That is light pollution and it is getting worse every year.  It throws off the migration patterns of birds and animals and uses a lot of unnecessary electricity and valuable resources to run even a simple porch light.

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6. The LED Clock.  I unplugged Doug’s a long time ago.  As soon as I get him a wind up one, it will join the microwave.  I use a cuckoo clock gifted to me by my dear friend, Kat.  I wind it twice a day.  It is repetitive and soothing and the joyous little bird that reminds me of the time is becoming an old friend.  (Perhaps I have been on my homestead too long.)  I do not require a clock outside of the happy cuckoo in the living room.

Oil is finite.  Whether we are arguing about foreign oil, or homegrown oil.  I am watching the fields around me be ripped up to put in pipelines.  And in the end, it doesn’t procreate.  Oil will run out.  I am trying to leave a whisper of a footprint behind (to make up for the ginormous footprint of my youth) for my grandchildren.  The reward is that I have more quiet living environment, less artificial light, and more meaningful moments homemaking.  Can getting rid of some electric appliances bring more peace?  I believe so.

Homestead Spring

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The first day of spring might have been in March but around here the first day of spring was yesterday.  The sun shone gloriously from its perch, the air was warm, the lilac and choke cherry leaves are stretching their arms out of their winter cocoons.  It even rained instead of snowed!  Of course I have four loads of wet laundry draped on the clothes line now, but just imagine how fresh they will be when they dry!  Nature’s fabric softener.

I could hardly get myself to stay inside.  I cleaned quickly and spent most of my day outdoors basking in vitamin d. I seem to be sun operated, it charged my batteries after a long, cold winter, and I got ever so much done!

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The big chickies enjoyed their romp around the yard.  I locked them out of their own pen to allow the chicken pen door to remain open and inspire the little ones to take in a little sun.  Nala and Sophia, our fabulous Araucanas in their fashionable leopard coats, remind me of those girls in school who were so much prettier than everyone else and so much bitchier.  They tell everyone what they may and may not do.  They chased any curious chick away from the doors.  A few times Gretel was able to spread out in the sun, her wings spread wide, in a lounging position until one of the Araucanas decided that she had enough.  A few snuck out for a few minutes but the guard girls shooed them back in.  Poor Henry Higgins.  He spends most of his time in the dog kennel out there hiding from the increasing estrogen levels of the female teens.  Brigitta is quickly becoming one of my favorites.  She runs and stands on our foot when we arrive.  And she felt safe to venture outside if I could stand with her.  She is the goof ball looking at the camera when I was taking a picture of Sophia.  Who’d a thought that chickens would have so much personality?

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Out in the garden, I transplanted the oregano and cilantro, planted six more rows of greens, and watered well (before the rain storm…).  It felt good to get my hands dirty.  The seeds are germinating and shoots of promising food are slowly popping up here and there.  The carrots are the last to come up.  I was hoping this would be my first year successfully growing carrots!  The herbs are taking off and look wonderful.  The bees came to visit and I enjoyed their gentle buzzing.  I will not have my own bees this year.  I recognized that I had taken on a bit more than I could handle.  Not knowing where we will be, not having any of the equipment to prevent stings, and a general nervousness about 10,000 bees coming over for dinner, I decided to see if someone else would take them when they arrived.  My young bee mentor was hoping for another group of bees but the company had sold out.  So, mine are living happily at his house.  Farmgirls have lofty goals, but sometimes they have to be spread out a bit.  There is always next year.

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Speaking of lofty goals, I sat there shaking my head at my garden plot.  I have six beds that are 10×3, three beds that 5×3, and two beds that are 3×3.  It may seem like a lot compared to what I could do in an apartment, but the square footage gets used up pretty quick once you plant three kinds of corn, squash, zucchini, watermelons, garlic, onions, Brussels sprouts, grapevines, radishes, lettuce, collard greens, kale, potatoes, peas, carrots (come up already!), cauliflower, cabbage, soybeans, three kinds of cooking beans, medicinal herbs, and culinary herbs…..yikes.  My main goal is to grow enough to substantially help feed my family.  Add to that market growing and I need a bigger plot!  Even though Nancy will be doing the bulk of the market growing, I wouldn’t mind helping out a little and I am growing a lot of the herbs.

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Then I started to see it.  Look at that space just to the left of the peas….or in between lettuce plants….or in that pot over there…or…there are a lot of spaces that can be filled.  I placed the oregano in the potato bed.  I placed the greens where I will add tomatoes and peppers in a few weeks.  Everyone will like each other.  I can see what doesn’t make it, replant.  Or find a foot here and there.  It is doable.  No long rows of the same thing.  Lots of interplanting (making sure they all get a long of course) and space making!  If the water wasn’t so exorbitant in this town, I would have already plowed the front yard and made a giant corn field and pumpkin patch.  Our space is as limitless as our imagination.

I wanted to attack the crabgrass before it grew up to high and we got a notice from the town.  But in my quest for all things non-electric, I bought a push mower last year.  It is a nifty little thing, just doesn’t cut grass.  I took my kitchen knife sharpener out and worked on the blades.  Had the whole front yard mowed in no time!

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My indoor garden survived their indoor recesses, and like me, were anxious to get a smidge more sunshine.  They are enjoying their stay on the porches looking out for possible freezes, but I think they can spend the majority of their time out there now.  Just as I will.

The sure sign of spring for me yesterday was the familiar whistling moped sound from the sky.  And there she was.  Our beautiful hummingbird has returned.  Welcome, welcome Spring.

The Handy Dandy Double Tub Washer (not a lick of rust)

Introducing my new…old…handy dandy double tub clothes washer!

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Let’s back up about three years….”This washer sucks.  It doesn’t even clean anything!”  “That’s cause it’s old,” he replied.  It was old.  It was older than the house we were in.  But I didn’t know any other option.

Two years ago my good friend Steve had a washer from his son that he needed to get rid of.  His son suddenly moved to California and it was a brand, spankin’ new washer, only used twice.  We bartered for lots of medicine and I brought it home.

A year ago…”This washer sucks.  It doesn’t even get the clothes clean!”  “That’s cause it’s old,” he replies again.  “No, it’s not!”  This led me to the conclusion that I should never have clean clothing again. I switched soaps, I used less clothing in the washer, I tried everything, but no conventional washer was keeping up with us!

Last summer the antique shop next to my shop had this handy dandy, sparkling, two tub washer sitting out in front.  I whistled at it. (I can’t really whistle, it sounds like a bit of air escaping my lips.)  It didn’t have a speck of rust on it and it had two faucets on the bottom to drain the tubs.  She wanted a hundred and fifty dollars for the beauty.  I offered her a neat hundred dollar bill and promised to use the washer well.  She said she would only take the lowered price because she knew I wouldn’t make it into a flower pot.  (You will note most washers have become darling displays of pansies.)

The beauty came home…and sat outside.  Lord, I didn’t know what to do with it!  I wondered if I was tough enough stuff for this pioneering bit.  I filled it with hose water and soap and set five articles of clothing in it.  I used my new clothes plunger and washed the clothes.  The new wringer promptly broke so I hand wrung each item.  My hands started cramping and I hung the clothes on the line dripping as if I just hit them with hose.  “I sure hope I can do this with more clothes,” I thought, as I nursed the cramp in my hand.  We sent the wringer back to Lehman’s.  The plunger was amazing.  My clothes, when they did dry, were glistening clean.

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Then the “real” washer broke.  Oh it went out in glory….tub full of dirty water and it just died.  We had to drag the five thousand pound washer after hand ladling water out of it to the porch.  The thought of bringing in yet another energy, water sucker that doesn’t clean clothes and would cost a pretty penny annoyed me and I brought in my new washer.  The handy dandy double tub cleaner that has probably cleaned clothing like a charm for a hundred years stood proudly where the washer had been.  Another friend was moving and had a broken wringer washer but the wringer part still worked.  We bartered horse medicine and brought the monster home and set it up next to the tub.  I could place the laundry basket on the washer and use the wringer over the tubs.  It was slow going and the clothes were still dripping.  In case you don’t know yet, I am not exactly known for patience.  So, I started hand wringing the water out of the clothes.  I got through a load this time before my hand started spasming.  (Amazing what muscles we don’t use!) I proudly hung the clothes on the line.  The clothes were clean, people, CLEAN!  I think I heard angels sing or something or maybe it was just the chickens.

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Now I have a good set up going.  I do two loads at a time.  The washer hoses are hung on the washer with clips and I fill the first tub with hot soapy water.  The second tub gets cold water.  I place the clothes in the first tub, plunger them ten times.  Go make bread or check my email.  Plunger them ten times.  Wring out, place in cold water.  It is all rather methodical and peaceful and I get time to stand in one place and think.  The rinse gets wrung out, thrown in the basket and placed on the line to drip dry.  If I didn’t keep wandering off, it would be done in one hour flat, all the laundry, from wash to line.  Sure beats the times I left the clothes in the washer on accident for three days just to find that the mildew smell is really tough to get out!  I get a bit of a workout and my clothes are clean.

I am not perfect though.  When I told my grandma that I hired someone to come in and clean my house every other week so that I had more time to hand wash clothes, she looked at me as though I might have lost it.  Farmgirls need a little help around the house, too!

Great Laundry Soap (works for regular washers too)

1/4 cup of borax

1/4 cup of washing soda

1/4 cup of Dr. Bronner’s soap (a mixture of rose and almond is heavenly)

This does two loads in my washer.  Happy Washing!

All Hail the Clothes Line!

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“How will the clothes dry in the winter?”  It was an innocent question and one I probably asked years ago.  I didn’t really know how to answer, so I just said, “The sun!”  It takes a day longer, but the clothes do dry on the line outside even in winter!

“I think the dryer is going to burn down the house,” I told Doug.  “It smells like burning rubber and it takes two hours for anything to get remotely dry.”  It was a fairly new dryer.  It stopped working, no kidding, the day after the warranty ended.  Dryers should really be called “Perma Set and Shrinks” anyway.  They are not that great of an invention.  I was getting tired of all stains (Doug’s shirt is a magnet) becoming permanent and the complaints from the family that their clothes were too small.  It was an easy decision.  The first appliance I didn’t replace with an electric model was the dryer.

I have not used a dryer in four years.  I do not miss it.  There was one when we moved into this house in March and I had them move it to the garage.  The beautiful, old clothes line that graces the yard was the first thing I saw when we came to look at the house to rent.  This is where we are moving.  It was incredible.  Three strong wire lines strung across three poles firmly staked in the ground.  In Parker, our clothes line was the fence.  In the last house we went through two clothes lines, both of which blew away.  They were the kind that looked like an umbrella.  This one has been drying clothes for decades and continues to do so.

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Before you shake your head and say you will never give your dryer up, listen to the advantages.  First and foremost, I am forced to stand outside for a full five to ten minutes in nature hanging clothes.  The kids don’t generally volunteer so I am typically alone and at peace.  The repetition is calming.  The weather is always different and wonderful.  On most days, the sky is clear and the air fresh.  Birds chirp and sing and commune in nearby trees.  The chickens play at my feet.  The space is quiet and serene as I hang fresh laundry on the line.  It is better than meditation.

Next point, 9 cats people.  9 cats.  Add a few dogs in and we are talking skeins of pet hair.  The dryer did alright at pulling hair off but set these clothes out in the wind and watch them look like new.

I also hate to iron.  I just don’t unless I am sewing because Grandma said I had to.  There is nary a wrinkle in sight after the line gets through with them.

They always smell fresh.  No fabric softener needed with its fake smelly chemicals of mountain air or made-up flower names.  Just really clean, fresh laundry.  If it should be out on the line during a snow or rain storm, even better.  Can’t bottle that smell.

I have an indoor clothes rack that Doug put together for me.  It is great except that it is located in the back room where the cat’s water actually freezes on cold nights.  With no sun or wind the clothes truly never dry.  When I get a wood stove, however, the rack will be lovely to use in the winter.  It holds two loads of laundry and will dry quickly in front of a fire.  Until then, it takes approximately one hour to dry on the line in the summer, and at most, three days in the dead of winter.  Not too bad.  Never do I forget to take the clothes out of the dryer that inevitably a day later will have permanent wrinkles until they are rewashed.

The clothes line is a gift.  I get fresh air, nature, and a sense of what my ancestors experienced, sweet, fresh laundry, and a lower electric bill!