The washhouse is near completion and there are much woes for a homestead lady on washday during the winter months. After my husband drove me many times in the horseless carriage to my mother’s home loaded down with many baskets of laundry to wash in her electric machine, I realized there must be some tricks of the trade. Although Molly and Megan are very good girls who like helping, even they were regretfully unmotivated on washday. The reality is that I can not help them, so I must figure out how to make a go of this for the girls. Because of the woes of winter washday, I have been over to some of my Amish friends’ washhouses to see the set up. We were going about things all wrong, I found out to my surprise. First off, the wringer washer was not working as it should. Secondly, when the girls would drip dry the dresses on a garment rack, they were not getting the proper air flow needed to dry. Thirdly, we needed a good system for drying our socks and things. Elvesta said it just should not be that our laundry should take several days to dry. She came to our rescue and gave us the most helpful tips. All dresses should be washed but never wrung out because this can cause two things: wrinkling which would create more work like ironing, and also this can wear out the dresses quicker. What she demonstrated was to agitate the load of dresses for approximately 15 minutes (they have also done this with the hand plunger), turn the agitator off and drop each garment into the rinse water that has some fabric softener in it (just plain ol vinegar works great along with some essential oils). She proceeded to teach my girls to dip, dip, dip, dip the garment about 4-5 times and then grab a hanger. The garment is put on the hanger fully wet, dripping wet in fact. The dress is heavy! She then had Mark extend a heavy duty galvanized chain across the washhouse. The hanger can be inserted into the chain links about 1 foot apart allowing the optimal amount of airflow. She said that if you do not have a cement floor like in a basement or washhouse, the next best place would be to suspend the chain or bar across the bathtub for draining. All shirts can also be done in this fashion but for everyday shirts they can be ran through the wringer. Sorting laundry is a trick I found as well when she was accessing our situation. She told us to have two hampers. One for everyday wash, and one for sunday best. Always wash on Mondays! Everyone knows that Monday is washday, so when people in the community plan things, they never do so on a Monday! Everyday wash would be for Mondays. The piles are sorted from lightest clothing to the darkest and the amount is crucial. She recommends using about 4-6 dresses or like garments per load. All socks are presoaked and towels go together. Pants are last generally and they would take about 4 pair in one load. It is important, she says to have less in a load so that the clothing can rumple and slip around freely in the washwater. It gets much cleaner that way, she says. If heavily soiled, she said the garments should be presoaked for sure. The girls like to swish the presoaking tub with the plunger washer.
All the other wash like pants, aprons, towels, etc. are wrung out thoroughly and carried into the house and put on our very own Homestead Drying Racks that are handmade by my husband. I was so very happy when my husband built our family another large rack because the amount of wash that we go through each week takes up a lot of space. The girls bring basket load after basket load on into the living room and hang it on the racks. We do get a touch of drainage on the wood floor so they will sweep over it with a mop to sop up the access. But all in all, the wringer does a good job getting most of the moister out. Next to the coal stove, the clothing dries very fast!
Alas! Petsa Rada!!!! (The Drying Wheel)
Mark is making some “Petsa Rada” for our family with the kids. Elvesta said, you have to have at least 3 “Petsa Rada” for a family your size. What this is, is a wheel that holds about 36 clothes pins and you simply pin your socks, undees, rags, wash clothes, hats, mittens, or anything smaller. “Petsa” means pincher or clothes pin and “Rada” means wheel.
Mark is securing the chains and hook to suspend the dryer.
Megan is holding it still so Mark can apply the other pins.
This is the completed wheel. I love it. It is so sturdy and Molly and Megan plan to make more of them for the store. Everyone should own a few, I tell you the truth!
Here is our “Petsa Rada” in full use. Molly and Megan loaded them up and boy do they fit the need we had. Elvesta has a whole lifetime of living this way, doing laundry this way, and well, she knows best, I should say!