The women of the house have their hands full keeping up with the mounting soiled sheets, towels, and clothes. Amish men maintain their farms, do carpentry-type work or manual trades, and Amish households average 6 to 7 children—many 8 to 10 or more. Yet Amish housewives manage beautifully without being connected to the grid of electricity.
Amish homemakers sometimes have a scheduled laundry day, often on Monday. Never Sundays. Amish don’t do housework or chores other than crucial ones such as milking and feeding livestock on Sundays. Saturdays are often spent getting ready for church: washing buggies, preparing food, or cleaning a home.
Many Amish housewives use classic Maytag-brand wringer washers, once popular decades ago with non-Amish. Most Amish power their washing machines with a diesel generator or a pneumatic (air) motor. An innovative example of how Amish compromise without electricity.
Adding to the Amish housewife’s workload is the lack of mechanical dryers, although some Amish use spinners to spin water out of the clothes to make the drying process go faster. The Amish use the traditional method of hanging clothes out to dry, even in the winter.
Nearly all Amish yards have a clothesline. Some are typical “T” clotheslines that hang clothes at eye-level. Another Amish innovation is the spool that allows a long line of laundry to be strung from one spot near the home to a second point high up in a tree or on the side of a barn. The Amish housewife turns the crank to bring the double-lined clothesline in and out. This way, many clothes can be hung without tying up precious space on the lawn.
Rainy days prevent hanging clothes outside. Some Amish hang small batches of clothes underneath overhangs, in enclosed porches, or basements during inclement weather. I thought about this often last winter when the frigid winter dragged on. They hang their wash year-round, although occasionally Amish have been spotted in Laundromats.
Did your mother or grandmother use a wringer washing machine? Mine in CT hung onto hers many years and gave me demonstrations, cautioning me to watch my fingers. Using a modern washing machine with a spin cycle is a breeze in comparison. My friend told me the best washing machines in India are usually front loading which is pretty interesting. I prefer my wringer washer though, it’s really simple to use!
When I see laundry hanging, I often think of my dearly departed aunt. She and my uncle lived in a NYC suburb where fences were not permitted. My aunt erected a clothesline in their backyard, where it stood for decades. When new neighbors moved into the home behind theirs, they were appalled to see laundry hanging out in the fresh air to dry. And they made their opinions be known; they put up quite a ruckus. But my aunt, petite and feisty, would not be daunted.
How about you? Do you enjoy seeing laundry on the line? Do you think you could manage the task? Excluding chocolate-chip cookies fresh from the oven, is there a sweeter aroma than sun-dried sheets?
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