Ode to a Wringer Washer

genuine Kenmore wringer on tub

Genuine Kenmore Wringer on Tub

The second-most-viewed post on my site. I cannot figure this, but have loved seeing nearly every week, someone else coming to read this.

Have fun.

My gramma had a laundry wringer. And for a while, so did my mom. I always loved these machines that squeezed the water out of clothing so graphically and intriguingly.

click to view water running off

Click to View Water Running Off

Back then, washing used only one load of soapy water, beginning clean, with white clothing, and proceeded to gradually dirtier and darker clothing and water, until the last thing washed was the dingy dungarees worn to protect the good clothing from animal chores.

no longer dripping

No Longer Dripping

After washing came rinsing, or some said, “wrenching,” which surely they thought referred to the old way of removing extra water, by hand wringing, making the arms and hands feel nearly wrenched out of socket. My gramma put bluing in rinse water to make whites look whiter. I never could understand this substance, bluer than a computer screen, that made things white.

Gramma used homemade soap on clothes. I mean: natural lye made from last winter’s wood ash combined with natural trimmings from natural meat, and yes, she made it herself, on the wood stove in her woodshed, and stacked it everywhere in there to cure. Then she grated it for flakes. It all smelled so fresh and good.

To this day, aroma from homemade soap makes me think of birds calling and locusts scritching combined with comfy sloshy sounds of laundry done during warm laundry days. And my gramma’s voice explaining . . .

The washer, and its accompanying rinse tubs on platforms, rolled creaking out onto the bumpy concrete porch around Gramma’s woodshed. A hose ran first to fill rinse tubs, and later to empty them onto the enormous strawberry patch.

Only large pots of scalding water went into the washer, itself, and yes, heated on that wood stove. All the concrete porches got a scrub-down with used laundry water splashed on, pure and natural.

There were manual and electric versions of the wringer. My gramma had the kind she had to crank and disdained the electric, which could swallow up an arm or break off buttons. She fished clothes out with a stick; the water was that hot. My auntie had one and I didn’t like the noise of it. Besides, cranking the wringer was an honored chore because you had to be old enough to reach and strong enough turn it without let-up.

The wringer and its tray were rotatable to provide also for two tubs of rinse water. Every article of clothing went through the agitation in soapy water, wringing, pouring and dribbling, to kerplunk into the first rinse, and then into the second, before finally being wrung into a laundry basket for hanging on the line.

It seems like so much work, and it was. No wonder laundering was an event with its own day set aside. Imagine dragging all that production outdoors on a daily basis for just one load! Yet, all this was such an improvement over lugging all the laundry to a stream, or boiling it in a huge pot over an open fire.

Yes, it was good, honest work, but that woodshed and that porch were my gramma’s gym and she stayed fit, even into old age. And although she belonged to a gene pool that proved a tendency to plumpness, she always remained trim.

Unlike me.

Germ Warfare – 2

Cleaning the Food

Carrots of many colors.

Carrots of many colors.

Let’s start with root crops.

Ladies, if there is the least, remotest possibility that your potatoes, carrots, beets, etc., were grown in soil fertilized with commercial chicken manure, you really ought to hire the soil tested. The reason is that commercially grown chickens were, in the past, fed arsenic. It is harmless to them, even increases production, passing through the chicken, remaining in the droppings a long time, contaminating the soil.

It is fatally poison to humans. Cows have died from eating grass with arsenic laden soil clinging to it.

“They say” arsenic does not enter the plant, but it is imperative to remove ALL the dirt.

However, root crops will fail in raw storage, if you scrub them all nice and clean. So, do you bring arsenic into your root cellar? Do you scrub and can those veggies? You have to decide. Ask your County Extension Agent for free tests and pamphlets and the latest advice on these matters.

If your soil is O.K., you can do what I love doing—put the perfect potatoes and carrots, unwashed, into root storage and can the strange ones (the two-legged carrots and the potatoes with noses). Then as winter progresses and the cellar storage begins to dysfunction, can the things that are still good enough. You don’t lose as much in root storage, that way, but also don’t waste effort on unnecessary canning.

To can potatoes and carrots, most books tell us to peel them first. I just scrub my own home-grown veggies, because I like to eat the peel and it has many of the vitamins. First use a hose on them outdoors, to get most of the dirt. A patio or sidewalk is good for this. Then use a brush and clean water.

A friend of mine makes a few jars of diced potatoes all ready for quick potato salad or stew. I like mine as whole as possible for grating into potato patties. Canned carrots are best sliced, though I put up a few pints of tiny ones (fingerlings) whole. These I use for gifts or special company.

Wash ALL washable food before using. Think about using a little soap, too. Unscented home-style bar soap cleans apples, celery, potatoes, etc., just fine.

If this idea amazes you, think: who picked, wrapped, boxed, unboxed, unwrapped, and displayed your apple? You don’t know! Did any of these six people have a cold or the flu? Probably! Does the grocery store or produce truck have roaches? Of course!


Ant-climbing-on-apple-flowers__41042 (Photo credit: Public Domain Photos)

Even if you grew the fruit yourself, never sprayed it, and picked it yourself, you can be pretty sure that your tree has ants, roaches, and at least two types of flies. They can spread disease; it’s a fact.

One favorite way to store many fruits is in jams. Apples and pears go into applesauce and pear sauce, which we use like jam, too. (Make pear sauce just like applesauce.) We can a few peaches and pears. Try pears with a 1/4” piece of ginger root in the jar. Pear preserves are a real treat over vanilla ice cream.

Also, freeze a few bags of slightly sugared, sliced peaches and use them for blender ice cream or shakes, which are easy to make with chilled milk and frozen fruit.

I freeze blackberries whole. Just wash, drain, and package.

When you wash small produce, such as peas or snapped beans, use two sinks. Scour sinks clean and fill with water. Add produce to one sink. Stir gently with your hands and then transfer from that sink to the other. Drain and refill first sink while stirring the other. Continue until used water is clear.

While you are transferring, try this method for estimating the jars you’ll need: pick up as much as you are able in a double handful;  count it as about one pint.

Before I forget:

  • Wash greens in the automatic washing machine.
  • Use Vitamin C for fruit preserver. (One 500 mg tablet per gallon of water.)

Tomorrow: Special blanching tips and RECIPES


Photo credit: wikipedia

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Germ Warfare – 1

Lemon Meringue Pie

Lemon Meringue Pie

She was holding back tears of frustration. It had failed, again.

Every time she’d tried to duplicate her mother’s lemon pie, all she could produce was lemon soup.

She had asked her mother.

The many possible explanations made her head swim.

Were the eggs too small, too old, or too cold?

Was the cornstarch under-ripe, or were the lemons over-ripe?

Was the water filtered? The sugar sifted?

How many times she’d watched Mother make that pie! She mentally ticked off the ingredients, desperate for a clue . . . .

She forgot one ingredient.

No, she did not omit anything on the recipe card. Actually, she forgot to examine carefully one item that she always, unthinkingly, added to her mother’s formula.

Human saliva.

Yes, in her youthful ignorance of scrupulous hygiene, she always sampled the pie filling with the same spoon, several times. Her family often shared apples, ice cream cones, and drinking glasses, she reasoned. No one would care, or even know.

M-m-m! So delicious! Sure hope it sets up this time…

If you have ever fed a child from a jar of baby food and refrigerated the left-overs for later, you may have had the same experience of soupy consistency. The food isn’t exactly spoiled—just somewhat digested. God created the enzymes in saliva expressly for that purpose and they work very well.

Cleanliness in the kitchen is of crucial importance. The lack of it is considered rudeness.  In this country, a guest has a right to decline to eat where food is not protected from contaminants. You wouldn’t expect a person to eat a helping of casserole with a fly on it, right?

That’s because of the germs.

The battle against germs must be fought on all fronts, though. The ice-cube that hits the floor, the meat juice on the cutting board, the dust in the vent hood, the film on the refrigerator handle, and the licked spoon are some of the prime targets in this battle.

And if you think your hands are pretty clean, I challenge you to try this for one day: rinse them a little and then dry on the same white towel each time you begin to work in the kitchen.

The importance of cleanliness skyrockets, though, with the added factor of food storage. I mean, why bother to preserve dirty food? It is especially important to realize the part that germs, enzymes, etc., can play in the failures experienced in dry storage and raw storage. Uncooked food stuff can save your life or kill you, depending on its quality.

Generally, home dried food that is quick-dried and then stored frozen is safe. Some of it is delicious. Peaches are superb. If you dry food out-doors, though, do use netting to protect it from insects and do not choose a day when dust is blowing everywhere. If you use a mechanical dehydrator, clean it between uses. Check it for six-legged occupants.  In fact, if you know that your house is not bug-free, you should clean every utensil you need for each meal.

When you prepare foods for storage, clean your kitchen counters and tables first. Use an ammonia based spray, dish water, baking soda, or vinegar. Any of the extreme acid or alkaline substances usually does a good job of killing and removing bacteria, etc. Then spread clean towels over the work surfaces you plan to use. I use towels from garage sales and bleach them often.

Next wash the utensils. The colander is dusty, the tongs are rusty, and the cutting board is musty!

I hope you have a wooden cutting board because they are the most sanitary.

Wash the jars, carefully. Hold them up to a light to check for little bits of last year’s food. Wash the bands and flats. (Especially the flats, because they have direct contact with the food, just like the jars. They can have metal filings, stray bits of rubber, mildew and roach hairs on them. Ick.)

Tomorrow, the food.


Photo credit: David Maddison

Will she be at home or does she work?

all women work

Woman working outside the home…



Say this where I can hear it.

Nor type it where I can read it.

Or you will be corrected.

By me.

All women work.

Do not chuckle condescendingly and say, “It’s just a way of speaking.”

Lying is a way of speaking, and we correct it.

It is a way of thinking. No, actually, it is a symptom of not thinking.

Or, may I stay at home and not work?

Heh heh, it’s just a way of speaking. Heh heh.

Oh. Have a little headache?

Between the eyes?

So sorry. In a way of speaking.

Heh heh.

Dry, starched shirts, ready to iron!

The Gift of Laundry

Laundry symbol hand wash

Hand wash only!

Did a bit of pioneering work today, and it was a fun challenge.

Basically, I had to haul water in a bucket to do laundry.

Oh, it’s not like it sounds. We have city water piped into our house and a faucet near the washing machine. But the hot water tank that feeds the washer goes out, now and then, and we find ourselves without hot water, back there, at inopportune times.

If we want to shower—our bath being connected to the laundry—we can use the guest bath, which has its own hot water. In fact, that bathroom is the only hot water source in the house during down times like this.

If I want to wash dishes, since the kitchen also is connected to the laundry, and I cannot use the dishwasher, I must haul hot water, from that other bathroom, to fill the sink and do dishes by hand. I was using a one-gallon pitcher. It takes about 2 ½ gallons to fill the sink nicely. It’s okay to rinse in cold.

However, I wanted to do laundry, so I found an old plastic scrub bucket that holds 2 gallons. That cut the trips in half. At first I thought of skipping laundry until tomorrow, but later, I asked myself, “How hard can it be? Millions of women have hauled water to do laundry, and that was uphill wearing long skirts.” I could do this.

The first trip across the house with a full bucket of hot water taught me balance. Heh heh.

When I dumped it into the washer, it all trickled to the space under the perforated drum that holds the clothing. What little bit that rose above that level quickly soaked into the clothes in the washer. It would take a lot more water.

I made about 8 trips with that bucket, across tiled and laminated floors. It was hard to feel patient and joyful, until I would remember those pioneer women and their long skirts, meandering trails, rocky paths strewn with slick leaves. Most of them were hauling cold water, too, that would need heating, next.

At least mine was already hot. At least mine was across a level surface. At least I did not have to wear all those billows of clothing.

After hauling the water I was in no hurry to drain it away. So I left the lid up and soaked that clothing for a while. I’m glad I did, for I got to thinking: That water was still hot and not dirty. If I could wring out the clothes in it, I could reuse it for the next load.

A familiar-looking basket of wrung-out clothing soon stood by my feet, and the next load was chugging along before I realized I was doing laundry the way my grandmother did before she got her wringer. I watched her when I was tiny, but I’d almost lost the memory.

Eventually I washed three small loads of clothing in one small load of hot water. What would have been sixty gallons of soapy water became only 20 or so.

I saw something, during this trial, namely, why my grandmother reused the water during laundry times. Even after all her laundry was done, there were still flower beds to water, and a porch to scrub.

She remembered hauling it up hill.

Read a great story that complements this idea, here.


Image via wikipedia

I Have Slept . . .

 . . . but I did not dream.

Dreaming about getting the laundry done.I love dreams, except for nightmares. I love recalling those crazy twisted dreams and trying to figure what was going on in my head that I could have thought such things when my mind was disengaged.

They say “house” dreams are about yourself, so the one I dreamed with the flooded basement probably was not a good sign. But what about the one where the staircase just went on forever with thousands of rooms on hundreds of floors, all furnished like a ritzy bed-and-breakfast? Hmm.

My other dreams, my wide-awake dreams where I plan how wonderful I will be next year, are another story. These dreams haunt me. I put them off, thinking I need some other thing to be just perfect before I can get started. You know the type: losing weight, writing a book, finishing crocheting that afghan, unpacking the last box from moving several years ago, etc. I know I should make some headway on at least some or at the very least one of these dreams, but the facts stand on the sidelines laughing at me.  The facts are that I don’t do what I could and I don’t know why.

I used to keep ironing up to date. Really. I used to keep my flower beds weeded. I used to weigh less.

I think partly I was living before my children and insisted on setting a good example at all times. Now they are grown and mostly gone and no one is watching me.

Except the Lord. He sees. He knows.

What I used to do because I believed I must do it, I now must learn to do only because it is right. My mind allows me choices these days, and I am surprised at who I see living underneath all the exterior rules I had made for myself.

I distinctly remember thinking, when the last child was off to college, “Whew! Now I can rest and do whatever I please. Finally! I am my own puppy!”

I think I need to rethink.

I have slept. It’s time to wake up.

Weekly Photo Challenge – Path


Well, it’s not the prettiest sight in the world, but it represents GREAT progress: a path to my sewing machine. Now it calls my name every time I hang up a shirt or walk to the coffee pot.

a view of the path

A View of the Path

I will be crafting several hand-made eye masks for sleeping, with lavender between the layers of fabric. Cannot wait to begin. 

You know, that uberhuge closet had been the dumping ground for anything we were unsure about where to store it. Now that certainty has guided the clean-up, we still have the unsure things, but they are elsewhere.

It reminds me of the Cat in the Hat, which constantly flung pink stuff somewhere ELSE, but never actually got rid of it until the very end of the book.

I don’t want to wait that long.

But I surely enjoy strolling down that closet path.