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Organic Gardening

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Hang Your Laundry to Dry

clothesline with clothes

I usually write about intensive vegetable gardening, which is part of a permaculture lifestyle. We maximize solar collection on our own properties when we grow our own food. Another way to maximize the sun’s energy that falls on your place is to use it to dry your laundry. Install a clothesline, buy some clothespins and you are ready to go. You will find clothesline and clothespins at most any hardware store, big box building supply store, or any store that sells useful household goods. Although the old style clothespins are nice, I prefer the ones with a spring in them.

You need something to attach the clothesline to and it better be sturdy. In the photo you see my clothesline which is stretched between two buildings. Having already had experience with clotheslines before we moved here in 1984, I welcomed the chance to use the buildings for that purpose. Alternatives would be to put up wooden or metal poles with a bar at the top to attach the lines to. Wet clothes can be heavy so it would be good to dig the holes deep for those poles and use concrete. Alternatively, there are umbrella type drying racks that only use one pole. That pole can be permanently in the ground or fit into a sleeve that is in the ground and the whole rack taken out and stored elsewhere when not in use.

Clothes can be dried inside, also. You can read about how I used our basement and attic rooms in years past to dry our clothes at Homeplace Earth. There are all sorts of drying racks to be found that you can put up inside or on your patio to hang clothes to dry. We have a terrific wooden drying rack—the largest we could find-- that is put to use year round. Besides its use for laundry, it can also be used to dry large quantities of herbs. I bunch the herbs, tying them with thread that is then tied to the dowels on the rack. Also, the screens from my solar dryers fit nicely across the dowels, useful for making sure beans and corn are thoroughly dry before storing in jars.

We use the shower rod in our bathroom for hanging shirts to dry. I’ve seen retractable clotheslines just for using in your bathroom over the tub. You could make a drying rack that is stored near the ceiling in a room and lowered on a pulley. I believe there could be a lot of uses for one of those, but they were probably more common in the days before electricity and ceiling lights. When the weather is not conducive to drying outside and I have blue jeans to dry, I use skirt hangers to hang them up inside.

I have seen modern houses that have the laundry area located near the bedrooms. Much preferred by those of us who hang our clothes outside is to have the washing machine near the back door and the clothesline close by outside. Once you no longer have use for a clothes dryer, you can take it out, leaving room for something else. I put crocks for fermenting where my clothes dryer used to be. However your household is set up, I hope you can find a way to use the sun and the air to dry your laundry. It is another way to involve yourself with the natural rhythms that are all around us.

Cindy Conner is the author of Seed Libraries and Grow a Sustainable Diet and has produced DVDs about garden planning and managing cover crops with hand tools. Learn more about what she is up to at Homeplace Earth.


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