Sunday, March 16, 2008

Hung Out to Dry


Despite last night's rain, the sun is out and streaming across the sky. Thick white clouds - the kind that remind kids of cotton candy - crowd out the blue in patches. The breeze is up - prime clothes drying weather.

Two years ago, when we replaced the tumble down fence separating our yard from our neighbors, we extended the fence to hide their garbage cans and to give us a long, narrow enclosed side yard. We subsequently tore out the overgrown ornamental bushes and put down flagstone and drought tolerant ground cover. Morning glories now climb the fence and peek over its latticed top. Against the fence, tucked in between stones, raspberry bushes leaf out. On one side of the walk is a high gate to the front yard. On the other side lies my backyard garden. A butterfly bushes stretches from it's winter sleep and a penstemon cradles the bird bath. A large windmill stands at attention, ready to welcome crawling runner beans and lemon cucumbers. Spring's early white butterflies tilt and dance among the blueberry bushes. This is where we strung up my clothesline.

Beyond the garden, two bird feeders sway with repeat visitors. Last week, the eggplant colored berries on the trees shading the lawn's remnants had apparently ripened. Aside from the usual orioles and sparrows, the trees rocked and waved with robins, jays and chickadees gorging on spring. The berries are now but a memory - devoured in just two days.

Inside, once the washer quiets itself, it is drying time. Now that the rains are, for the most part, gone, laundry heads out to the clothesline to dry. This morning, I carry my brimming wicker basket, startling a couple of phoebes pecking around for some bug or other. A squirrel freezes on the fence then leaps to a nearby tree. I set my basket on the flagstone and methodically bend down to retrieve a shirt, a pair of pants, a wash cloth and pin them to the clothesline. The birds decide that I am no threat and return to their tasks. Finches warble to each other over the thistle seed. A jay scolds a squirrel that has come to close. Robins swoop down to search for worms. I can even hear the buzz of bees investigating the strawberry flowers and flowering maple on the garden's edge. The breeze frolics with the clothes, shaking out wrinkles, sending a drying breath against the damp fabric.

My youngest pads around the corner in stockinged feet. I am found. I will also assume that the screen door is wide open - ushering every fly in the county in to sample our farmers' market strawberries. I hand the little guy a dish towel and a clothespin, showing him how to hang the towel over the line and clip it in place. He succeeds and smiles up at me, asking for another. We proceed, working quietly, until the clothesline is full and sags beneath its weight. Each of us take one of the basket's handles and walk back to the house - this time closing the screen door behind us.

Some people may find this method of drying clothes strange, outdated or a waste of time. To me, it is my meditation, my yoga, my 15 minutes a day when nothing but birds and butterflies clamber for attention and only wet towels beckon to be hung out to dry.

18 comments:

Joyce said...

That tears it-we're reintalling the clothes line!
Your beautiful description brought back so many memories. I did this for 3 years when my four children were little, because our dryer flamed out and we didn't want to spring fo another one. I found that if I did a load or two of wach every morning, I could keep up. It just became part of the morning routine.

Jennifer said...

Sounds wonderful. I am hopeful that now that we have seriously trimmed back our 17 trees that there might be sun for such things now...

CindyW said...

Laundry has never sounded so enticing and romantic :) Actually I need some practical information, GB. Do you install the clothe line(s) between trees/fences/structures or use a free standing one? Where did you get your clothe line(s)? We get ridiculous amount of sun on our deck, I just need to figure out the way to do it efficiently.

Green Bean said...

Joyce: Glad that you'll be doing it again. It really is so peaceful and, as you say, if I keep up and do one load every morning, my clothes are done by nighttime.

Jennifer: best of luck with the trees. I have to say that our strip doesn't get a lot of direct sun because it is sandwiched in between two homes and a tall fence but still, everything dries. :)

Cindy: Our walkway is about 3 or 4 feet in width. My husband put a hook on one end of the fence, by the gate, and a retractable clothesline (from Home Depot, I think though now that I'm all about the local businesses, I'm sure most hardware stores carry that kind of stuff) on the far end of the house. The line hangs diagonally along the walkway and it is only one line - I've seen retractable clotheslines with multiple lines. In any event, it is enough for almost one full load of laundry. The quick drying stuff that I can't fit on the line, I toss over the shower rod (not as romantic but it works). Good luck. :)

Anonymous said...

Loved your description of hanging out laundry, I feel the same way. The occasional rain shower or broken clothesline has only been a minor irritation in contrast to the wonderful smell of clean, air-dried clothing. When we moved into our house 12 years ago, the laundry room was not wired for our electric dryer, only a gas dryer. Well, we couldn't afford the rewiring or a new dryer at the time so we bought a clothesline and we have used it ever since and I love it...By the way when we traveled in Europe you often see laundry hanging out of some of the nicest apartments!
CLM

Joyce said...

Me again. I hope you don't mind that I have listed your link on my blog. I think there are a lot of people who would enjoy your writing style, as well as you efforts to go green.
If you object for some reason, let me know and I'll remove it.

Jan said...

We use an umbrella-style clothesline. It works well for us because we haven't got any long, narrow spaces in the yard for a traditional line. I'm a bit jealous, though. The rains are far from over up here in Oregon! I won't get to line-dry my clothes for another couple of months.

Green Bean said...

CLM: I too have seen clotheslines hanging from the nicest of apartments and homes in other cultures. It is free energy and relaxation.

Joyce: I am honored that you'd like to add me to your blog roll. :)

Jan: It is one of the joys of spring though we do still need the rain. Mind sending us a little of yours.

Jim/ArtofGardening said...

I grew up with my mom hanging laundry outside. Loved the smell of the clothes. Hated the chore of having to either hang or take the clothes off the line.

We tried it for a while after we were first married (before we could afford a dryer).

My wife has allergies and the allergist suggested getting a dryer. Allergies improved significantly within a day. That was 20 years ago.

Still miss that sun-dried feeling though...

Theresa said...

Wow, what a similarly meditative Sunday we had - neat! Mine involved birdwatching and shoveling snow though, not laundry :)

arduous said...

Green Bean, I love how you're able to find such rich beauty in stuff as prosaic as laundry! What a wonderful post!

Gruppie Girl said...

I am with you.

hanging my clothes out to dry completely chills me out.

Shannon Hodgins said...

Oh man, I love line drying with a little sunshine. You can seriously smell the sun in your clothes. I think of my Granny every single time.

I have vines of morning glory evey year. Let's do a seed trade at the end of this year! I love giving my seeds away and turning people onto the flower. Shannon

Maria said...

I forgot how I stumbled upon your blog, but so happy that I did and grateful that there's another momma on the Peninsula that's trying to go green!

Our porch receives a lot of morning sun and you've inspired me to air my laundry. I'm tempted to try it in our West facing front yard. I usually do it in the garage using a stand from Japan -where I get to sun dry to my heart's delight.

Green Bean said...

Maria

Great to encounter another super-close green mom. If you want to email me, you can get my email address from Amy at the Belmont co-op site or post your own. Are you part of the greenmommies yahoo group too? I post on that as well.

Keep visiting.:)

GB

Gift of Green said...

This is such a beautiful post. Our clothesline is ready and waiting for just a few more sunny/dry days.

BellaChela said...

I'm a student at Pomona College in Claremont, California and recently spent a good amount of time looking into the various clothesline and drying rack options since Pomona is going to purchase some for student use and I wanted to make sure we purchased the best available option.

In my research, I was shocked to find that there is NO good website explaining all the different clotheslines and drying rack options, so I made my own! It's a wiki page on the Tip the Planet sustainable living wiki that ANYONE CAN EDIT. You can check it out here: http://www.tiptheplanet.com/index.php?title=Air_dry_washing

I'm trying to spread the word so that the site becomes a clearing house for drying rack information, and people have to spend less time scouring the web for the best products. Have a look, share it with your friends, and by all means add your wisdom!

Take care,
Chelsea

Gypsy said...

Hooray for washing lines! I haven't used a dryer in years and now refuse to have one. I have a proper outside line, and then some clothes horses to use in a covered part of our deck on days when it could rain (most days sadly here in Auckland). Clothes dried in the sun smell beautiful

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