The washhouse is near completion and there are much woes for a homestead lady on washday during the winter months. After my husband drove me many times in the horseless carriage to my mother's home loaded down with many baskets of laundry to wash in her electric machine, I realized there must be some tricks of the trade. Although Molly and Megan are very good girls who like helping, even they were regretfully unmotivated on washday. The reality is that I can not help them, so I must figure out how to make a go of this for the girls. Because of the woes of winter washday, I have been over to some of my Amish friends' washhouses to see the set up. We were going about things all wrong, I found out to my surprise. First off, the wringer washer was not working as it should. Secondly, when the girls would drip dry the dresses on a garment rack, they were not getting the proper air flow needed to dry. Thirdly, we needed a good system for drying our socks and things. Elvesta said it just should not be that our laundry should take several days to dry. She came to our rescue and gave us the most helpful tips. All dresses should be washed but never wrung out because this can cause two things: wrinkling which would create more work like ironing, and also this can wear out the dresses quicker. What she demonstrated was to agitate the load of dresses for approximately 15 minutes (they have also done this with the hand plunger), turn the agitator off and drop each garment into the rinse water that has some fabric softener in it (just plain ol vinegar works great along with some essential oils). She proceeded to teach my girls to dip, dip, dip, dip the garment about 4-5 times and then grab a hanger. The garment is put on the hanger fully wet, dripping wet in fact. The dress is heavy! She then had Mark extend a heavy duty galvanized chain across the washhouse. The hanger can be inserted into the chain links about 1 foot apart allowing the optimal amount of airflow. She said that if you do not have a cement floor like in a basement or washhouse, the next best place would be to suspend the chain or bar across the bathtub for draining. All shirts can also be done in this fashion but for everyday shirts they can be ran through the wringer. Sorting laundry is a trick I found as well when she was accessing our situation. She told us to have two hampers. One for everyday wash, and one for sunday best. Always wash on Mondays! Everyone knows that Monday is washday, so when people in the community plan things, they never do so on a Monday! Everyday wash would be for Mondays. The piles are sorted from lightest clothing to the darkest and the amount is crucial. She recommends using about 4-6 dresses or like garments per load. All socks are presoaked and towels go together. Pants are last generally and they would take about 4 pair in one load. It is important, she says to have less in a load so that the clothing can rumple and slip around freely in the washwater. It gets much cleaner that way, she says. If heavily soiled, she said the garments should be presoaked for sure. The girls like to swish the presoaking tub with the plunger washer.
All the other wash like pants, aprons, towels, etc. are wrung out thoroughly and carried into the house and put on our very own Homestead Drying Racks that are handmade by my husband. I was so very happy when my husband built our family another large rack because the amount of wash that we go through each week takes up a lot of space. The girls bring basket load after basket load on into the living room and hang it on the racks. We do get a touch of drainage on the wood floor so they will sweep over it with a mop to sop up the access. But all in all, the wringer does a good job getting most of the moister out. Next to the coal stove, the clothing dries very fast!
Mark is making some "Petsa Rada" for our family with the kids. Elvesta said, you have to have at least 3 "Petsa Rada" for a family your size. What this is, is a wheel that holds about 36 clothes pins and you simply pin your socks, undees, rags, wash clothes, hats, mittens, or anything smaller. "Petsa" means pincher or clothes pin and "Rada" means wheel.
Mark is securing the chains and hook to suspend the dryer.
Megan is holding it still so Mark can apply the other pins.
This is the completed wheel. I love it. It is so sturdy and Molly and Megan plan to make more of them for the store. Everyone should own a few, I tell you the truth!
Here is our "Petsa Rada" in full use. Molly and Megan loaded them up and boy do they fit the need we had. Elvesta has a whole lifetime of living this way, doing laundry this way, and well, she knows best, I should say!
Basics in Homesteading: Where Do You Start?
I understand from Mark and Erin Harrison that people on the post have been wondering what has become of us. Wonder of wonders, some have even missed us.
When the computer crashed it was several months before we could get in fixed and the only connection we were able to get is a very slow dialup speed. It has become hard for us to get back on, so Mark and Erin Harrison have asked to put up a page for us so that we could still help on the post. They are running our page completely but will be something that we personally will write. We send the Harrison's articles that we write and they will type it out and post it for us.
Several years ago I wrote an article about some of the things we learned about living a simple lifestyle. It never got sent to a magazine so I'll use it now. It is primarily to help those just starting out but it should help a lot of people.
First, it takes time. You are not going to be self-reliant in a week or a month. We have been doing it for the 32 years we've been married and seven before, and we are still learning. Think of it as a life-time adventure and it will never grow old or stale.
Every paycheck try to buy one or two items that you will need. Hunt flea markets, yard sales, second hand stores, and even go to auction. You don't need to buy new. Learn how to replace handles on shovels, hammers, etc. and you can save a lot of money. Buy quality-made, they are cheaper in the long run. Most tool that were made 50 or more years ago are better quality then new stuff today. Learn how to use non-electric tools and how to care for them. The satisfaction you will get from using them to make or repair thing does not have a monetary value.
Also, try to buy books that can give you the knowledge and skills you will need. It will be more important than a truck load of food. Learn how to operate a woodstove. Every stove is different, with it's own idiosyncrasies. When you buy, ask whose who already have one to find out which brands to stay away from. A good cookstove or heater is not cheap, you don't want any regrets. The right one will be a life time investment, not an expense.
Learn how to hunt and fish if you don't already. Learn how to cut it up and can or cure it. Learn how to tan the hide. We've had people give us deer, hogs, even a beef. Knowing how to process it can save you big bucks.
Learn what wild plants are edible. Every year Evie cans and dries lambs quarter, purselane, black berries, elderberries, and gathers a sack of black walnuts. We've also learned how to identify mushrooms such as oyster, chicken-of-the-woods, wood ear, and others which are dried. She picks chamomile, and peppermint for tea. We've picked some medicinal plants and dried them also. There's a lot out there just waiting to be used, and it's free!
Get rid of your T.V. unless you are going to buy DVD's that teach you skills like the Harrison's Homesteading ones. You will be having so much fun you won't have time for it anymore, besides, it ruins your incentive and robs you of the ability to think for yourself. Include the children. By making this an adventure, you will be surprised at how fast they will learn. Actually, they will learn faster than you. Look at Mark and Erin's tribe, they're having the time of their lives. Their kids are practically running the homestead.
Encourage each other, everybody likes their moral boosted. Learn to laugh at your mistakes. If you don't have a sense of humor, develop one. It will get you over the rough spots. Expect flak from family and friends. My family has all but pruned me from the family tree. In 31 years not a one has come to see us. Right now your family will think you're a nut case but when the economy goes South, they will be the first ones at our door. Count on it!!
I wrote up a list of rules for a farm. They are basic for a self-reliant lifestyle.
You will come to the place (sooner or later) where you suddenly realize that you are no longer dependent on the "system" for all your needs. The freedom that this will bring will empower you in ways you cannot imagine.
Here is a quote from a book I more recently read and thought I would share it with you all hoping you can understand that in it's time the book was written, homesteading was more of a standard way of living in the 1890s...
"No farmer or his wife need fear any king (or government) when on every home farm was found food, drink, medicine, fuel, lighting, clothing, shelter." ~Alice Morse Earle Home Life in Colonial Times 1898
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