Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Original Solar Powered Appliance

For virtually all of my life, I've had one solar powered "appliance" working for me.

I still treasure my clothesline, even though it's not the intregal part of my life that it was for many years. I'm not dependent on it, but it's certainly not something I discovered in an effort to be more energy efficient and go green either.

In fact, today, even though the temperatures this morning were quite chilly, my clothesline is loaded with items I put there yesterday. Just like emptying the dryer inside, I'm sometimes a slacker when it comes to collecting my laundry -- depending on the forecast, what's on the line, and my need.

My clothesline today, however, is just a small umbrella type model, hovering in the back yard. It isn't the multi-strand unit reaching between two metal, cemented in the ground poles that my mom and both grandmothers had when I was growing up.

Although my somewhat progressive Ma Mary had a dryer when I was still small, I don't think any of us really trusted it. Clothes were dried on clotheslines. Hopefully on sunny days.

Somedays those days were chilly, and I can remember frozen work pants standing against the wall in the hall of my childhood home. Sometimes there was no sun and clothes had to dry on clotheslines and wooden racks in the basement. Sometimes the weather turned while we were away at school and work and we returned to sodden clothes nearly touching the ground. If Momma got really desperate, she would tote a basket of wet laundry to my grandma's house to dry it, but that didn't happen often.

When a summer storm came blowing in, we children were recruited to help. Gathering armloads of the freshly scented sheets and towels, warm from the sun and softened by the wind, was a sensory treat I'll never forget. Racing the storm to shelter into the basement, often with the first drops splattering on our arms and faces, was a frequent summer occurrence.

I can remember hanging out clothes as one of my early regular chores, although I have no idea at what age I started and don't remember being asked to do it in less than ideal weather. Part of the reason for that may be that by the time I was old enough to reach the clothesline, we had a dryer of our own huddled in a corner of the basement for desperate times.

When I was a young bride, my house trailer (we didn't call them mobile homes back then), didn't have room for a dryer. My first washer, a Kenmore that survived until my children started doing their own laundry and, I'm sure, overloaded it, huddled behind the bathroom door. Like my mother and grandmothers, I had clothesline between two poles in my back yard. Sometimes I gathered frozen laundry to dry on racks near the woodstove in the room we added onto the back.

Throughout the moves of my life, I always maintained a clothesline. When I first had space for a dryer, I had a garden and needed a small freezer worse. I was into my second marriage, living in town with a husband who hated seeing clothes on the line because despite his pretensions as a good-ole boy, he was really a city kid at heart, before I ever owned a dryer.

Of course, after having a dryer, it was easy to get dependent on it. You didn't have to worry about the weather on laundry day. Laundry day could be any day, any time, regardless of the forecast. When I moved the last time, I didn't even worry about putting up a clothesline for a long time.

Then one day I found the revolving line I'm still using. I mounted it on a sunny corner of the back deck where it was easily reached and not a problem to mow around. Sometime later, after the deck became shady, I moved it into the back yard.

We've had to move it a time or two since then to make way for a garden and it's badly in need of restringing now, but there's still something about sheets and towels dried on the line. The sun and the wind combine to give them a feeling and fragrance never duplicated by the finest dryer sheets, no matter what they claim.

During the summer, it gets a lot of use and I save a lot of energy with my solar/wind dryer. The bigger Es help me by handing me clothespins when I'm hanging up clothes, and picking the pins from the ground to return to the basket when I'm getting them in. They do the same thing at home where my daughter was also drawn to return to occasional free drying, in season.

This time of year, however, I'll admit I'm gradually shifting back to the electric model. Only an ideal forecast will have me toting wet household laundry to the line.

The items on the line now are towels and beds from my kennel, which can hang for a couple of days or until I take a notion to get them in. Rain won't hurt them and the wind just softens them, so I can leave them overnight without fear of rain bleach or clothespin stains. The clothesline probably won't see real, regular use again until spring.

But I'll be looking forward to those sun-scented sheets and wind softened towels, even while I'm enjoying the convenience of doing laundry without freezing on the coming winter days. Not because it's the green thing to do, but because it's a part of who I am and who I'll be teaching my granddaughters to be.

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