Building a Clothesline and Other Subversive Behaviour

What’s one of the simple joys of life on the Farmlet? Kevin and I relish the freedom to line-dry our laundry in the fresh air. For much of my life, I might have taken an outdoor clothesline for granted. That was before I went to live in Irvine, Southern California.

Can you ever be too far away from Irvine?

Back in Irvine, the student housing complex where I lived forbade subversive practices like air-drying laundry. (Such rules are commonplace around Irvine, and not just in student housing.) One was supposed to use the expensive coin-operated tumble dryers they’d supplied, of course. Coming to New Zealand from Southern California, we really think it’s nice to be able to dry our laundry

a)without wasting energy,

b)without being threatened with sanctions by angry bureaucrats, and

c)without fearing we’ll be branded as enemy combatants.

Recently, we have had to build a new clothesline. Our old clothesline died a sad death when we cut down the gum trees that were threatening to fall on our roof every time the wind blew. With no clothesline, we resorted to hanging our laundry to dry on the fences. This was fine for small items, but didn’t work so well for big items like sheets. I was afraid we might end up with no clean sheets and a very stinky bed if we didn’t make a new clothesline soon.

We are pleased with the new clothesline. It’s made with scavenged timber and rope, but we had to buy a bit more rope, as well as the concrete for the post holes. In the end, it was very inexpensive to make — especially compared with a tumble dryer. And then there’s the matter of the electricity it doesn’t use. . .

Kevin and I do not have a washing machine or tumble dryer here on the Farmlet. Our laundry setup is very basic:

  • One large plastic tub
  • One plunger
  • One garden hose
  • Water
  • One bottle of plant-based non-toxic laundry soap
  • One clothesline
  • One basket of clothes pegs

Wash cycle

Closeup of our washing “machine”

Originally, we were using a toilet plunger (it hadn’t been used in a toilet) to plunge our laundry. Lo and behold, when we were helping my parents to move, we unearthed a fine copper laundry plunger! Mum says she thinks it may have belonged to my great grandmother. My parents have very generously allowed us to bring the laundry plunger to the Farmlet for safekeeping — and for much enthusiastic use! Believe me, it’s much easier to use and does a better job than the toilet plunger. We now feel that we have a deluxe laundry system.

There is one more aspect of the laundry system that still needs to be put in place: Back in February, I bought an antique hand wringer. We have it here in the garage, but need to find a suitably sturdy bench or stand to mount it on.

5 Responses to “Building a Clothesline and Other Subversive Behaviour”

  1. pookie says:

    So, like, you know, where can we buy one of those cool Enemy Combatant t-shirts?

    (I ran screaming out of UC Irvine in 1975 after one quarter and never looked back. whew!)

  2. Kevin says:

    Hi Pookie,

    I care too much about you guys to make them available for sale!


  3. Just a comment on using concrete for post holes. Is your soil like all sand and no clay or rocks? When I set a post I use a fat bar to pound in the dirt around it – fill a few inches, pound, fill a few inches, pound. 2/3 of the way up I’ll take some rocks that I pulled when digging the hole and pound them in like wedges around the post. Then finish filling and pound some more. Post won’t wobble at all.

    Trying to see if you can save a couple of bucks on concrete. Interested about what kind of soil you have anyway.

  4. Rebecca says:

    Hi Simba,
    Our soil is mostly clay with a bit of sandstone here and there. The biggest challenge to stability is waterlogging. We still have some pretty bad drainage problems on that part of the section. This winter it rained so much that the area around the clothesline practically turned into a bog. We ended up having to put in a “dead man” with an extra strainer wire at each end of the clothesline, anyway. . . so maybe the concrete was a total waste of time. We’re still not sure if it made any difference at all and I don’t know if we’d use it if we were doing the job again! Anyway, the long-term solution is better drainage — not concrete. We’re working on that!
    Your no-concrete method sounds like what we did with the gate post we put in a while back between our place and the neighbour’s. That’s worked really well.
    Thanks for your comment and your interest.

  5. paolo says:

    I was wondering about the same thing (regarding the tee shirts)… they’re not available? 🙁