Having climbed just far enough out of my alligator morass to be able to catch my breath for a moment; my problem with this blog is a huge overload of stuff I'd like to write about (floods, philosophy, meat, science...) and stuff you've asked for. And I can't do them all, of course, so I'm going to do a short one, that wasn't on ANY of those lists so far, but which IS important, and connected. :-)
There have been multiple discussions on laundry hereabouts; including one today in the BBC, which probably tipped my choice of topic this way. England builds desalination plant. Last line in the article; "At the moment, half of the drinking water supplied to homes is used for flushing toilets and washing dirty clothes, which is madness." !! Ya think??
Nice somebody is starting to think, anyway.
So- laundry, and water, is NOT the point of this post; they're just the platform. Is water use critical? Way past. New lake?. This is a very good article; pointing out the tangle of interconnections between climate change, genocide, bad policies, and inadequate understandings. Darfur; one of the great horrors of our time, from all aspects. Water is going to continue to be a huge factor in global disturbances, as far out as anyone can see now.
So. We have to CHANGE the way we use water. Duh. Everybody agrees. Immediately after that lovely agreement, all the 2,804 different viewpoints and vested interests go straight for each others throats. Not much useful discussion going on, or progess in changing anything; hence the need for England - to build a delsalination plant for drinking water, so our current wasteful ways can continue without troubling interruption or real thought.
What is the sensible reaction of sensible people in this situation? Where the noise of conversation is drowning out any actual discussion, and no world body is actually capable of making any decisions? My own answer is; I'm going to live my own life as sensibly as I can, at least. Kind of all I can do; and the example might help, some decade or other.
Then- we get to the real world, that nasty nasty place, where your actions have real consequences. What, this isn't a video game? I don't get 10 lives, before I get to just start over? We'd laugh, but it's so not funny.
And here, in my own backyard, is a perfect example of what I'm trying to say- change is NOT EASY- and one of the barriers to real world change- is the increasing number of humans we have- who have never, ever been in touch with the real world.
This is where we do our laundry; a subject we've never raised here before; largely because it's not likely to be of use, in its total process, to folks living in cities or suburbs; This is a rural process; mostly, though some aspects could be adapted.
And why is the clothesline down on the ground, you ask? Ah. We'll get to that.
That big water tank down at the end there is a 500 gallon tank. It's filled by our windmill, and we use that water for lots of things; showers, and the occasional watering of plants just being established in our fields. And, laundry.
The basic idea here- this whole setup is on the path between the house and the greenhouse and the garden. We walk between house and other places like 6 times a day, most days. What I've developed over the years, is the habit of doing laundry- ALL DAY - EVERY DAY. In little tiny bits.
You're SUPPOSED to walk down and do "the next thing" for the laundry- every time you pass. Both ways. Regardless of how big a hurry you're in. If you allow yourself to say "oh, but I'm in too big a hurry to make lunch right now, I don't have time to stop and change the laundry from soap to rinse tank, I'll do it later.." you've lost the battle; and this will not work. You will wind up not doing the laundry. So you do need the philosophical attitude that "hurry" is a bad idea, pretty much always.
But if you can set up this internal habit- it's a pretty sweet system. You don't wind up spending hours doing just laundry- you do it in 5 and 10 minute bits. Then move on- usually feeling good about it, rather than overburdened. Here's what we do; you put a reasonable batch of laundry into a 30-40 gallon tank, which has a lid for it. Add soap/detergent/whatever, in the right amount, so the tank is about 2/3 full; and agitate; or "pound" as we say. Lots of different choices for pounding implements; currently we mostly use a natural rubber "plumber's helper" - which I have cut holes in, to increase the turbulence, and decrease the work. Pound the laundry up, say 100 strokes- counting is fun, with kids- put the lid on, and leave it to soak. Probably for hours, maybe in the sun, which adds heat to the water.
On the way back from whatever; you stop in- pound it another 100 strokes. Leave it to soak. The decision when to shift from soapy to rinse cycle depends on how dirty your batch is, of course. It's pretty forgiving. Usually we have 2, or 3 tanks going at once; one soapy, one first rinse, one second rinse. Then, it goes onto the clothesline, for lovely outdoor sunny drying. Wonderful fresh smells.
So. Spice tried this system a couple times when she first got here, and was not enthusiastic. She reverted to driving the laundry in to town, laundromat. For about 10 reasons, one of them being the price of fuel, she decided this year to give it another shot. For about 10 reasons, this time she became enthusiastic. One of those was- the height of the tanks. Something just that simple will make all the difference between success and failure- MOST OF THE TIME.
I'm 6'1; my two sons are both the same-ish. Spice is "5 foot-nothing" as she puts it. She just had too much of a struggle getting soaking wet laundry out of those taller tanks. We got some that were shorter. Hey presto! it's not killing her anymore. And Smidgen loves to help, and is entertained.
So. She's decided this is the future for us; a good functional cheap laundry system; and incidentally fantastic exercise- think of the money we save on gym fees and exercise equipment! But our original clothesline had died- the aspen tree it was secured to succumbed to a fungus disease- and fell over. So we needed a new clothesline.
Part of the problem with the old line was the fact that it was a quicky; temporary. Wasn't done right; so now I have to do it again.
One of my father's favorite jibes- "Yeah, there's never time to do a job right. But there's time to do it over; once it breaks."
Building something RIGHT is incredibly satisfying. Constructing something that will last- and that will be basically USEFUL for your life, your family, is about the most rewarding activity I know.
So with the help of Middle Child ( trying out a new moniker here :-) - before Smidgen, he was Younger Son; but now he has the Garrison Keillor slot-) I set out to build a clothesline for the ages. The Rolls Royce of clotheslines.
We had fun building it, too. Went down to the SE quarter, and cut some black locust trees- which I had planted, decades ago- for exactly this kind of purpose. Black locust won't rot in the soil- it's better than any treated wood, no kidding. Peeled the posts- the bark will come off messily and slowly otherwise. Set the posts so they are guyed to "deadmen" - 3 foot long black locust posts totally buried - sideways - to provide tremendous anchor power. Laundry is HEAVY, you know? That beautiful line is under serious tension when loaded with wet clothes. You need to design for it.
Bought 50' of plastic coated steel cable for the line. (Oh, hush; it's a good use of plastic. :-)) 50' is a LONG way- you need to allow for re-tensioning; and for - mowing the grass! So there's a big turnbuckle in the line, with a hook- a few turns and you can take the line down for mowing; if it's sagging, a few turns and it's tight.
Worked great! Looked beautiful! Dried laundry!
Worked so well, that Spice decided to put ALL the laundry on the line today; doing a big batch. With blankets.
You can overload ANYTHING- and this is what so many people growing up protected in cities- and thinking you can always do it over, like in the video game - just DO NOT understand, in a very basic way.
"It's working great! I'll just add a little more!"
LIMITS. Limits. Everything has limits- and we have a society we've trained to NOT KNOW that- and it's a huge part of reaching our goals of a livable world. You want more? Bigger? YOU CAN'T HAVE IT. The world will break.
The laundry overload didn't break my massive black locust posts. Didn't pull out the deadmen. Plastic coated steel cable is a little tricky to fasten; you CAN'T tie knots in it; you have to use "cable clamps". The overload actually pulled the cable out of the fiercely tightened clamp- which I had put together myself, in a pretty knowledgeable way- cable doubled back; looped, right piece down- etc. Still- stripped the plastic off; pulled the cable right out.
Easy enough to fix; only took me 10 minutes. Lots of humor. But the principle remains one that worries me- how do you get people to accept limits- when they don't realize there ARE any?
My concern, and experience, goes far beyond Spice. One year we had a group of GREAT interns living here for the summer. All exceptionally bright. And all city kids.
They broke every machine on the farm, eventually. "The mower is doing great in this foot high grass; I'm going to mow the 18" tall grass over there next..." Nope. CAN'T. Overload. Burn up the belts, if you're lucky; burn up the transmission or overheat the engine, if you're not. "Well, how was I supposed to know??" in anguish.
Good question. We need good answers. It used to be called "common sense" - but how do you teach that?
What we're overloading is the Earth- and it's mostly the result of millions of tiny overloads; from clueless humans; far too many of whom do not know "overload" is even possible.