Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Living the Laundered Life

This what winter looks like for us. Laundry is a full body, full household event. Because of a dicey septic system that we are babying along for as long as possible, having an electric washing machine that drains into it isn't possible. Yet our clothes insist upon getting dirty time and time again. What to do?

My answer has been to purchase a Mennonite-made hand cranking washer, called the James Washer. If you click the link, you see it costs nearly as much as an electric washing machine, so it isn't a bargain. On the other hand, the thing is genius. Using very little water and detergent, it gets clothes cleaner than an electric washing machine and I get an upper body workout at the same time - 100 agitations/load. Or is it 200? Or do you count one full back and forth? Or is it one forward and two back? I can never remember, so I just agitate until it seems like it has been enough. Highly unscientific but since people are not swerving away from us in the grocery store, I assume we appear and smell clean enough.

In the summer months, the washer sits on our bridge (or front porch) and I agitate and look off to the bay and the mountains, enjoying the gentle breezes and sunlight. When laundry is done, I hang it on the clothes line to dry and soak up the delicious fragrance of the Bay of Islands while I drain the water directly to the ground below. (I use only bio-friendly laundry products). The grey water makes my garden grow.

But what of winter? Last time we spent winter here, I did laundry in the living room and drained the machine out a hose on the front yard. Needless to say, laundry day involved much wearing of ski pants and shaking out frozen hoses. I was not anxious to repeat that experience. The must be a better way I told myself. Then I told Dan.

Dan is clever like that and, lo, he came through with a rather brilliant idea. The washer now stands in our dining room/project room/yoga room/zendo/wool storage facility where a hole has been drilled in the floor to accommodate a hose. When I do laundry I pull the machine away from the wall, agitate however many times/load, then run down to the basement, throw the hose out the basement window, run back upstairs and let'er go. No ski pants, no frozen hoses. Just sweet, sweet gravity doing her thing.

Then slowly, ever so slowly, the clothes dry near the woodstove. Now, if Dan could come up with a clever solution for making the clothes dry just a little faster...


Ptarmigan said...

When I lived in Scotland, we had an ingenious rack-on-a-pulley system in the kitchen. Wet clothes (wrung enough not to drip) were draped on the wooden rack and hoisted up to the high ceiling to dry in the heat up there. It worked brilliantly, used heat generated from cooking as well as house heat, and, amazingly, the clothes never came down smelling of last night's dinner!

Robyn said...

I think I know what you are describing! I have seen them in Queens, actually. They make a lot of sense - using the fact that heat rises to dry clothes. But I do think I would worry about kitchen smells...or maybe smell doesn't rise??