Category Archives: Housework

Line Dry Summer

ClothespinsDear Reader:

Clotheslines and Downton Abbey

I had every intention of switching my summer clothes-drying experience from indoor electric to outdoor clothesline early on in the season, but like many projects, this one was pushed back until today. I had wanted to buy one of those cute little round umbrella type clotheslines that you mount into the ground and under-plant with fragrant herbal ground-covers like thyme, oregano, and camomile so that your clothes-hanging experience becomes something akin to tip-toeing through the tulips or maybe pretending you are a buxom housemaid in the employ of Downton Abbey.

This morning, however, I was talking with Neighbor Debbie whilst sweating on the elliptical machine in our community gym, and we began talking about the humid weather, the rolling-in of late-afternoon thunderstorms, and the necessity of her getting her laundry off the line in time. I stammered around a bit about how I meant to get a clothesline but just hadn’t made the time.

“I just strung a line between the trees,” she said in her practical and very lovely and precise British-sounding South African accent. “It works wonderfully.”

“You don’t get any pine pitch on your laundry?” I asked in my far-from-the-mother-tongue Maine accent (although, if you think about it, we Mainers with our dropped “r’s” are closer to British English than, say, mid-westerners).

Laundry in Basket

“No,” Neighbor Debbie said. “Not yet.”

Okay, so there was no excuse for procrastinating on this project anymore. I went down to Plummer’s Hardware (now an Ace Hardware store; more on that in another post) for a length of clothesline–$7.99 plus tax. I scoped out my property. Yup, there was a pine tree on one side of the wood line and an oak on the other. We’d cleared out the brush just underneath and in front, and the afternoon sun was beating down there as if to spotlight the perfect location for my line. In ten minutes, I was good to go.

Outside the Clothes Dryer

Why Line Dry?

Maybe it isn’t necessary to explain why I am choosing to dry my laundry au naturel, but for those who are interested I will list my reasons:

1)It is better for the environment. Electricity powers the clothes dryer appliance in my cellar. Electricity is often generated from coal-fired power plants. Coal mining can have detrimental environmental effects. Coal burning can have detrimental environmental effects. While I don’t think we can get away from burning coal completely, reducing the amount of electricity we use can only be a positive step toward a saner environmental situation.

2)It is better for my bottom line. Sunshine and fresh air are free. Electricity is expensive. Any way I can save on my electric bill every month is money I can spend locally at the farm stand, etc.

3)Line-dried clothes smell divine.

4)It is one more way I can use my property which makes me feel just a little more self-sufficient. Let’s say the power goes out. I can still dry my clothes. (I also have a small, wooden, folding clothes rack on which to dry small items. It may behoove me to get a few more . . . and start using that woodstove down cellar in the winter. Wood heat is very dry. I might even be able to string a clothesline down there.)

5)No one ever burned down their house drying their clothes outdoors on a line. House fires are started in improperly maintained dryers all the time. From Vent Check International: But according to the National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) clothes dryers accounted for the largest share of appliance and tool fires between 1994 and 1998. There were 14,300 clothes dryer fires in U.S. homes in 1998, resulting in 19 deaths, 312 injuries and $67.7 million in direct property damage. http://www.vcisafety.org/dryer_vent_fires.cfm

I suppose if the pine trees caught fire and spread to the laundry, and the laundry happened to be dry, and a piece of burning bath towel landed on my roof . . . well, maybe it could burn my house down. But if those pine trees are alight, I figure there’s little chance of saving the house anyway.

Electricity Maine

Electricity Maine

Speaking of saving $$$ on electricity AND going local, there is an option out there for us Mainers that accomplishes both goals. I heard about Electricity Maine last winter from my friend, Becky, but like my clothesline project, I never got around to actually checking into this Auburn-based company until today.

Here’s the scoop. Currently, Bangor Hydro and CMP customers have a choice when it comes to energy supply companies. The default is an out-of-state company. The new kid on the block is Electricity Maine. This Maine-owned company is located in Auburn and purchases electricity from the New England Power Pool which is where all the New England power generating companies market their energy. Then Electricity Maine sets a competitive rate (currently .0707 per kWh) for the supply portion of your electricity bill. (The transmission costs are still controlled by CMP and Bangor Hydro–they take care of the lines and boxes and reading meters, etc.)

It is easy to make the switch. It took me about 2 minutes, one minute of which was spent logging onto my CMP account to find my account number.

If you are a Maine resident and are interested in saving a little money on your electric bill and supporting a Maine-owned company versus an out-of-state company, log onto http://www.electricityme.com/. There is a really, really good FAQ page on there, which is where I got the information for this blog.

Fluff and Fold

So, about four hours after pegging the laundry to the line, I went back out with my basket and brought my fresh sheets, etc. into the house. Without the camomile and thyme, it wasn’t quite the Downton Abbey experience.

But it was nice . . . Outside the (Electric Clothes Dryer)Box.

Adventures in Window Cleaning

Vinegar and Water Solution

Dear Reader:

There comes a time in every person’s life when she looks out her window and sees only one thing: dirty fingerprints.

Okay, not really. She sees dirty fingerprints, dirt, bird seed from the window feeder, spider webs, pine needles, and dog-nose smears.

With my freshly-painted walls and new furniture arrangement (Hubby and the Teen both approve) mocking my disgusting window panes, I decided to tackle at least one window a day until they are all finished, and this brought me to a project I’ve been meaning to try, namely, “eco-cleaning.”

Now, this blog isn’t focused so much on “going green” as it is on “going local,” but it seems the two concepts (ideals?) converge quite often. Take cleaning products, for example. It’s not like your local farmer’s market carries a line of locally-produced cleaning products, right? There may be a cottage industry somewhere in the neighborhood that concocts hand-made soaps, lotions, and potpourri, but as yet I haven’t run across anyone selling cleaning fluid. Why? Because ANYONE can make their own cleaning fluid, and your own kitchen is as local as you can get. Here’s what I found out.

A few years ago I was browsing in the book area of One Earth Natural Food Store in Springvale, Maine when I came across a little gem called CLEAN & GREEN by Annie Berthold-Bond.

I haven’t used the recipes for “nontoxic and environmentally safe housekeeping” as much as I’d like, but today was the day to try the glass cleaners. First up, the simple vinegar and water in a spray bottle. I used an old, washed-out spray bottle, poured in the recommended amount of plain old cider vinegar (now see, this is where we could get local out of this. I didn’t have any Maine-produced vinegar, but I will be on the lookout for some in the future. THEN, I’d have a totally-Maine cleaning product), and sprayed the panes of my kitchen door.

The book also recommended using newspaper to wipe the windows. I have a nice stash of old WEEKLY SHOPPERS and SHOPPING GUIDES hanging around, so I took a couple sheets and went to work. Scrub, scrub, squeak, squeak. Did it work? You bet! However…

Printers Ink on Yellow Gloves

I was not happy with the black ink getting all over my gloves and imagining what my fingers would look like if I didn’t have said gloves, and let’s face it, yellow rubber gloves are NOT locally-produced. Also, I found the solution to be kind of, well, wet. I know, I know. Of course it was wet. But it was wet in the droplet sort of way versus a spray sort of way, if that makes any sense.

I decided to try another recipe in the book, called “The Best Window Wash.” I should have tried the best first, probably, but I was drawn to the simplicity of a two-ingredient solution. The Best Window Wash called for the addition of a teaspoon of vegetable-oil based soap. I’ve been using Murphy’s Oil Soap for a long time, and so had this on hand. Plop! I added the teaspoon directly to the vinegar and water solution bottle.

The Best Window Wash ingredients

I also decided to use an old sock instead of the inky newspaper. The addition of the soap made for a much smoother application on the windows, the sock worked fine, and I finished up with a nice polishing with a dust cloth. Now, in a pinch, I could go with the local vinegar/water/local newspaper combo, but I did prefer this soap additive.

I wonder how one makes vegetable oil soap? Could someone take local corn, for instance, to make the vegetable oil and from there make soap? How exactly does that work?

I’ll let you know if I find out.

Clean Window with spider plant

In the meantime, I recommend Berthold-Bond’s book if you are interested in low-cost, environmentally-friendly, and kinda’ neat ways of cleaning your house. Oh, and that spider plant in my window? According to the book, the plants act as natural air purifiers along with aloe vera, English ivy, fig trees, and potted chrysanthemums. Green may just be my new favorite color!

It’s Electric!

Here is my question: Would you pay $.99 to download a short story to read? Would your decision depend on the length of the story? Or the reputation of the author? Would $.99 be a more likely price-point for a book-length piece?

I have never purchased an electronic document. I HAVE ordered a hardcover children’s book through lulu.com, and it wasn’t so different from ordering a book on Amazon.com or anywhere else. I don’t own an e-reader yet . . . but I’m getting closer. Even when I have finally snagged a Nook or a Kindle, I’m not sure how many short stories I would purchase–although, when you think about it, I pony up $4 for a latte on a fairly regular basis, so wouldn’t a dollar for a story be a bargain?

There are authors on some of my online writing lists who are self-publishing in this way and finding it rewarding. I’m undecided about whether or not to try it myself. I welcome your feedback.

What would entice YOU to pay .99 for a e-pubbed piece of literature–a snappy description, a known author, a good cover picture?

If you are a writer, have you or would you publish electronically? If so, what have been your experiences?

As we head off into this brave new world of electronic media, I find myself drawn to older things. Perhaps it is a way of keeping balance. Publish an electronic story in the morning and whip up a batch of blueberry jam in the afternoon. Watch a video-streamed movie Friday night and put on a pot of baked beans and knit up a dishcloth on Saturday. Today, I’m going to publish this blog post, and then put on a bandana and some Patsy Cline (click HERE to listen to “Crazy”) and start my spring cleaning.

Drop me a line . . . Outside the Box.

Days 9 & 10: Five Things I Do Differently In D.C.

Flowers in the Smithsonian Sculpture Garden

Dear Reader:

Riding home from the American History Museum yesterday, I began to think about what sort of things I do differently here in the city versus at home in the country. It hit me, then, the truth in a statement my good friend, Sandi, made before we left Maine.

“No matter where you are,” Sandi said, “your life is going to be pretty much the same because you are still the same person.”

Wise words! Sandi’s philosophy lines up quite nicely with that of Confucius who wrote, “No matter where you go, there you are.” It’s so true. I do find I am still me here in D.C. I’m reading my books, drinking my coffee, and thinking my oh-so-deep thoughts (she says, self-mockingly).

There are, however, a few things that I’m doing differently.

Ironing Board

# 1: Ironing. I haven’t done this much of it since Hubby quit teaching ten years ago and no longer had to wear dress shirts to work. When I was a kid, my mom taught me the proper order for ironing men’s shirts. Collar, yokes, cuffs, arms, side, back, side. The smell of damp, hot cotton steaming beneath the iron brought back some good memories. I didn’t like ironing at age 11 or 12. Now 43, I discover I rather enjoy it. Go figure.

By the way, engineers wear jeans and tee-shirts, while teachers wear shirts and ties. Why is it that teachers have to dress like executives and get the same amount of schooling as executives but do not get paid like executives?

And can anyone tell me why this program is giving me a spelling error underline for the word “men’s.” Isn’t that the proper plural possessive? It’s bugging this English major. Thanks.

Dishwasher

#2: Using A Dishwasher. When moving into various apartments over the years, Hubby and I never made a dishwasher a priority. In fact, only our Westbrook, Maine apartment had a dishwasher. When it was time to move into our new house, I nixed the idea of a dishwasher and opted for an extra cupboard instead. I figured I’d save some electricity. As a housewife, I had plenty of time to wash the dishes by hand. Now I find out that using a dishwasher MAY be more sustainable (click HERE for a sampling of what seems to be a consensus). I don’t know. Pre-scrubbing before putting the dirty dishes into the machine, I really think I might as well wash the darn things. Anyway, the water here doesn’t get very hot from the tap, the Teen’s summer job is to clean the dishes, and so we’ve been using the apartment’s washer.

Water Filter

#3: Filtering the Water. If the water from the tap doesn’t get hot, it must get cold, right? Wrong. It is tepid. Always. And yucky. After a few days lugging home bottles of water, I bought this Britta water filter pitcher. It only holds about five cups, which is about what I put in the coffee pot every morning, but it is easy to refill and the water is so much better after being filtered and refrigerated. It may even be healthier. I will say this for my community back home–we have the most excellent, clean, good-tasting water.

Metro Smartrip Card

#4: Using Public Transportation. This is a big one. I haven’t driven a car in ten days, and I’m not missing it one tiny bit. NOT ONE TINY BIT! There is nothing easier than popping over to the Metro station and getting around the city. Granted, it is summer and not a frigid day in January or a pouring wet day in March, but being able to read while getting across town? It is easy with the Metro’s Smartrip cards. You just press this up against a reader on the turnstiles (they are called turnstiles, but they slide in and out now, not turn) and voila! Hop on the train to Chinatown or Woodley Park or wherever. The trains here run on electricity, and 70% of the electricity in D.C. is generated by coal, according to a Greenpeace volunteer with whom I chatted in Adams Morgan the other day. So, this mode of transport isn’t perfectly sustainable. However, you can move many more people with a train than in individual automobiles burning precious oil, sending carbon into the atmosphere, and enriching Middle Eastern countries. Public transportation is a little bit tougher to figure in rural areas, but it is definitely a no-brainer in the city.

My makeup "collection."

#5: Makeup. I confess, since moving to the country and giving up work outside the home, I’ve let myself go in the cosmetics department. It just doesn’t seem necessary to put the on the “face” before going to the Limerick Supermarket for a quick run to the popcorn aisle. I always wear lipstick, feel quite naked without it, but now I’m lining my eyes with a navy pencil, picking just the right coordinating color from the palette of eyeshadow I picked up at the Dollar Store in Sanford, and even–gasp–spreading a light, SPF-15 foundation all over my face!

SPF is good, especially since I’m walking in bright, southern sunlight to the grocery store or to the Metro or all around the National Mall, and I admit that I look better in photos. However, I’m not sure if all this personal grooming is really “me” anymore. I’ve grown to like the woman who slaps a little lipstick on her mouth, sticks her hair in a ponytail, and heads off to the public library to volunteer. Or tromps out to the garden boxes in her beat-up “croc-a-likes” with the broken straps. Or pulls on a pair of wrinkled shorts and a tee-shirt to go biking with a friend.

That person is still here. So is the more citified me. I realize it is okay to be both because deep inside, wherever I go, there I am. Thanks Confucius and Sandi, for the reminders.

Tomorrow: Off to Celebrate the 4th of July in front of the Capitol Building!