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Monday, May 18, 2009  

Hung Out To Dry

Like everyone else right now, we've been trying out ways to both save and go green. Hence the vegetable garden that we've been toting in and out of the house every morning and night. It may seem like a lot of work and expense now to keep those little plants alive, but it'll all pay off in the fall when we get to sit down at the table and share the half-forkful of peas that will have survived our backyard's hostile growing conditions, shortage of direct sunlight, uneven watering, hail, thunderstorms, and our own overriding incompetence. Seriously, the story of our garden is like the slowest-paced horror movie with the largest cast ever. We're just getting to the end of the first act, where the pumpkins are long-gone and the next crisis is going to be about what kind of horrible Saw-like torment the carrots will have to undergo as a result of being planted too close together.

But one of the biggest methods is something we've been putting off for a while: drying your clothes outside. Better for the environment, saves both gas and electricity, releases moisture back into the water cycle, and leaves our clothes smelling like the great outdoors, even if in our case the great outdoors is the largest city in Minnesota. Plus, I's not like it's hard.

It's not that we don't have clothesline poles, because we do. They came with the house, in fact. They've just been standing out there since before we moved in, doing nothing but holding up bird feeders and occasionally clouting me upside the head when I'm too careless walking past them.

It's just that you can't really do it in this climate for large swathes of the year. When we first were reminded that it would be a good idea to try, we were having the kind of weather where you couldn't put a two-liter bottle of soda outside for an hour without it exploding, let alone hang your clothes out on the line. Even if we had survived long enough to get a load on the line, all we would have ended up with is an entire wardrobe frozen solid.

But last week, Trash decided it was time to implement the new system. I found some old clothesline in the basement and ran up to the local hardware store to pick up a few dozen of those spring-loaded wooden clothespins. On Friday, we hauled our first sodden basketful up from the basement and out to the back yard.

We didn't realize there were skills involved, though. As a general rule, we try to avoid anything that was ever undertaken by an Ingalls, but we thought this would be one exception. Turns out this is harder than we thought. For one thing, we didn't have quite enough clothesline length for every item, so some of the overflow had to go back down into the dryer (which operates less efficiently when it has less than a full load, but what else could we do?). Also it rained on and off that whole afternoon, so by the time the next load was ready to hang, the first load was still hanging damp, and also needed to be run through the dryer. And then we left that second load up to dry while we went to meet my parents for dinner, fairly confident that it wouldn't start raining before we got home. We were mostly right; it didn't start raining until ten minutes before we got home.

So there we were, with our hoodies up, hurrying to take the clothes off the line and dump them into the hamper so they could get down to the dryer, which was at least finished with the previous load by now.

"We'll get better at this," I promised Trash. We would have to.

Today, I'm glad to say, Trash completed our first successful load of line-dried laundry. It was a warm, bright, sunny day, with just enough of a fresh breeze to keep the clothes moving on the line so they wouldn't dry all crusty. It was a glorious sight, watching them wave in the breeze…casting their shadows…on the new garden plot.

Being an Ingalls is a pain in the ass.

posted by M. Giant 4:29 PM 7 comments


I live in an apartment building where they charge you for each load in a washer and a dryer. Barbarians. I bought some of those wooden contraptions that allow you to hang clothes up inside. Because I too live in Minnesota. And I refuse to pay $1.50 IN QUARTERS each time I want to dry a load of laundry.

So there's that. It's sometimes humid in the living room, but I deal with it.

By Blogger NGS, at May 18, 2009 at 6:07 PM  

I too have started a garden at a friends house (I live in a 2nd story appartment). We planted tomatos, beans, squash, corn, watermelon and peppers. We also found that weeding is a big pain in the ass, so we just hoed between the plants, put down weed killer and have our fingers crossed.
I don't think I'm up for air drying clothes...too many cats to knock over and get hair on clean stuff! :)

By Anonymous Anonymous, at May 18, 2009 at 7:49 PM  

Living in a tropical country, people would looked at you weird if you have a dryer. (Unless you live in an apartment)

Though it is hard to predict the rain. Which is why we have one of those see-through awning (I have no idea what it called as my vocab is limited) over our clothesline at the back of the house, so we can dry our clothes there when we are out.

p/s: Oh hi! I am one of your silent reader for the past months.

By Blogger Dils, at May 18, 2009 at 11:50 PM  

I wish I could have a clothesline but it's actually illegal in my town (along with keeping chickens - another thing I would like to do). It's tough to live in the 'burbs after growing up in the country.

By Anonymous Average Jane, at May 19, 2009 at 5:12 AM  

I have recently become a composting person and have discovered that it's hard not to become obsessed with trying to fill my bin. I seriously considered bringing home my teabag from work last night in a little plastic baggie just so I could add it to the pile. Then I realized I was crossing the line into crazy so I (agonizingly) tossed it into the trash. I live in the West Coast rain forest so drying clothes outside seems a bit out of my league but good luck with that.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at May 19, 2009 at 9:04 AM  

'It's tough to live in the 'burbs after growing up in the country.'

Preach it, Jane. Though I actually live in the downtown area of a city, so I don't even have a yard. But as soon as I get one, I'll be putting up a nice, long, double clothesline. Ours at the farm wasn't that huge, maybe 30 ft long (times two lines) and it would fit about three loads at a time unless it was something like sheets. Then, we'd get crazy windy Illinois days and we'd have to really shove the clothes pins down hard to keep them on. Those spring loaded ones are cruddy, btw. The regular duck bill looking ones are the way to go. They keep a better grip on the clothes.

Oh, and for you city or burb folks, check out this awesome way to have a movable, self-watering garden. I refuse to put links in comments because it seems like I could be a virus toting jerk, so just Google 'Earthtainer'. They show you how to use a rubbermaid storage bin to plant tomatoes, etc, in. And for us folks who live in colder climates, it makes taking it in and out of the house easier.

By Blogger Auburn Tiger, at May 19, 2009 at 4:35 PM  

For what it's worth, a few stretches of line in the basement (or laundry room) and some nice plastic hangers work exceptionally well in the Midwest winter, and has the added benefit of adding humidity back to the house. It works even better if you have an electric fan running to circulate the air in the basement or laundry room. Yeah, I know, I know.

By Blogger Weetabix, at May 20, 2009 at 7:09 PM  

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