Saturday, November 19, 2011

Washing the Simple Way

Good morning sweet friend. Thanks for coming along on this journey of mine. The picture to my left brings a smile to my face. I will never forget washing clothes in the community.

Every woman in the community does their wash on Mondays, rain or shine. Our first host washes just once a week. I was so excited to experience everything I could in the community so I volunteered to do it for them if they showed me how.

All of the women have a basement and that is where the wash tubs are. Ironically I got to experience the simplest machine in the community on Monday and later in the week the most sophisticated machine! Isn't God good?

After we washed up the dishes bright and early Monday morning we headed down into the basement to start washing. Remember, there is absolutely no electricity. You need a flash light for every step. The floors and walls are concrete so it is cold and damp.

My host did not have a metal bucket but an old wood barrel cut in half and laid on it's side. Picture a large thick wooden handle attached to the right side of the barrel that is attached to another arm laid on it's side at the bottom of the half barrel. When you move the top handle back and forth it moves the bottom arm back and forth to swish the dirty clothes back and forth.

The hot water comes from the wood stove (which I will share with you about on Monday) and we filled up the barrel with hot water and laundry soap. We started with their dresses and put about 7 dresses in the water. They keep a little timer on a shelf next to the washer and set it for 7 minutes. I moved that arm back and forth, back and forth for 7 minutes. When my right arm got tired I switched to my left arm. We visited while I was doing the washing so time went by really fast!

Once the timer went off it was time to squeeze out each piece of clothing by putting it through the wringer which in the picture you can see over to the left. The wringer was a hand crank so it was a little tricky at first to crank while trying to put each piece of clothing through the wringer. Once I cranked my finger right into the wringer. Yep it hurt!

After a piece was put through the wringer I dropped it into another large tub that was filled with hot water and liquid fabric softener. I swished the clothes all around for a couple of minutes with my hands and then put them back through the wringer for a final squeeze and dropped them one at a time into a plastic clothes basket. Once the load had been washed, wrung through the wringer, rinsed by hand and then put back through the wringer, it was time to hang it all out on the clothes line to dry.

We did 7 loads that morning and all the wash was hanging out before 10 am. I got a great aerobic workout along with some weight training all for free! Those clothes hung out all day flapping in the breeze. By late afternoon we brought them all in to be folded and put away.

My host only changes the water once during the 7 loads which seemed a little on the gross side but her barrel was difficult to drain out and restart. The clothes looked and smelled clean so whom am I to say?

Several of the ladies had told me that our second host families had the Cadillac of washing machines so I could not wait till Thursday morning breakfast was over so I could experience the Cadillac version! My host explained that since her husband was one of the farmers he tended to be home most days so for a couple of years he helped his very pregnant wife do laundry. Once day the farmer says to his wife, "I am tired of pushing and pulling the handle over and over again for hours on end so I am going to design you a better washing system." And that he did.

Mr. Farmer acquired some piping and a wheel which helped him make a circular path for his horse to ride over and over again which turned a wheel outside that was piped inside which had another wheel that was attached to an old wringer washer that agitated the clothes all by itself. This is truly "horse power." Now the horse is pretty smart and really doesn't care to walk in a circle for two hours alone. So the oldest son that was home was 5 years old and his mama put him on the horse and had him encourage the horse to go round and round.

That day it was around 24 degrees and lots of wind. That poor little guy got really cold so mama brought him out a hat and gloves so he wouldn't freeze. I did the same thing I had done with the barrel back at our first hosts home. The "washing machine" was not old wood but stainless steel. I did not have to move an arm back and forth since the horse did it for me. What was funny was sometimes the horse would jog a little and the agitator would go really fast and then the horse would practically crawl and the agitator would barely go. The horse simply did not understand what a steady pace meant!

Once the timer went off I started snaking through each piece of clothing on the wringer. The wringer was also attached to the wheel so it moved without me having to crank the arm back and forth. There was also an old tub next to the machine so I rinsed the clothes just like I had done on Monday. I did 11 loads in 2 1/2 hours which impressed me. I have to say that my fingers were frozen after hanging out 11 loads of laundry on a very windy day.

So which way sounds better to you? I thought the horse was cool but frankly if I were to do laundry that way I would choose the way without the horse. It takes two people to do the laundry with the horse and I would rather not have to wait for someone to sit on the horse.

We ate dinner and supper each day at someone else's home so I saw lots of variations and I can safely say that I like the first way but without the wood barrel. The stainless steel version seems cleaner to me. The wood barrel got kind of slimy on the bottom and I figured there were a lot of germs in that barrel. A stainless steel tub can be sanitized before and after.

What did I learn? I love washing clothes the "old fashioned" way. It would have taken me from sun up to sun down to do 11 loads of laundry in my fancy high efficiency washer and dryer. In fact I would not mind selling my fancy set for a shiny next stainless steel tub with an old wringer attached. Anyone want to buy it?

On Monday I will start telling you about the kitchen and food! Yeah...
Till then, it is truly with Christ Alone that I am here,

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the ground each morning Satan says, "Oh crud, she's up".


  1. I found your site through Laura @ Heavenly Homemakers, and am loving your stories about the plain community! I think it is very fascinating to learn about something so different from "the norm". Can't wait for the next installment!

  2. i too would love to wash my clothes the old fashioned more like in the summer time and hang them out to dry! I know Lehmans Catologue which sells alot of things to do the Amish as all that stuff in it!

  3. Welcome aboard Carey. I am so glad you are enjoying the series. Stop by anytime.
    Jules, I got to see a Lehman's catalog while at the Plain Community. Lots of really cool tools. Thanks for stopping by.