The Amish Blog
by Michelle ~ A Normal Amish Girl
For as far back as I can remember Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays were laundry days. It was just a known fact in our household that if you made one of your favorite pieces of clothing dirty on Monday night you had to wait until Wednesday to get it cleaned and back in your closet. A lot of things are different now but those three days are still laundry days.
We do our laundry or “wash” in our…wait for it…wash-house. Where else do you wash clothes?? The wash-house is connected to our main house and is basically what people call a mudroom, only bigger. It’s kind of a catch-all room where we keep barn boots, a lot of miscellaneous screws and hand tools, a laundry sink, the washer and dryer and things of that sort. It has a cement floor with a drain in the middle which makes it nice when we scrub it.
Growing up in a family of seven children plus a set of parents and an uncle, there was always plenty of laundry to do. Well, around here we call it “wash”. I didn’t get the brunt of this job because I was last in line and there was always someone older to do it.
In some of my earliest memories, we heated water in a large stainless steel cooker (kettle) over a two burner stove, kind of like a camp stove. The stove had a little tank that we filled with white gas. Mom or one of my sisters would go out before breakfast, light the stove and fill the cooker with water. While we ate breakfast the water had time to heat and was usually ready by the time they got back out there. They would set up a wringer washer and a rinsing tub in the middle of the floor by the drain. The wash machine was ran by a small motor attached to it. We had to be careful not to get against where it was hot. Later on, we got rid of the motor and had a generator in the next building so we could run an electrical cord from it.
The wash machine was just a square, metal tub that had an agitator in the middle and a wringer attached to an arm that would swivel. The wringer had a lever on the top that controlled the direction of the rollers and also the wringer head itself.
One of my jobs was to help make sure the clothes didn’t wrap around the wringer. I was warned about getting my fingers in between the rollers. To this day, weirdly enough, I have not had that experience. When we were finished, there was a hose on another corner that we could use to drain the water out.
The rinsing tub was similar to the machine except the one we had was just made of plastic. Another of my jobs was to fill the rinsing tub with cold water. This was a basic, square tub that had a plug on the bottom to drain the water into buckets.
As the clothes came out of the rinsing tub, we would take them behind our house to hang them on clothesline. Winter, spring, summer and fall. Mom and my sisters often froze their hands to hang clothes outside in the winter months. A lot of times some pieces were brought back inside and hung up around the stove so they would finish drying.
In later years, we started taking laundry to the laundromat in town which is about 2 miles from home. If the weather didn’t seem favorable, we would pack it all up, grab some quarters and head to town. Sometimes we hired someone to take us and sometimes we harnessed a horse and went in that way. That was a lot of hassle too, but it beat freezing our fingers!
Present day Laundry Days are much easier! A few years ago Dad ran electric in our house and buildings which means no more generator. He also installed a water heater in the wash-house which means no more heating water on a stove. It’s not without its own set of troubles but it is very handy!
I do a lot of the laundry now. Not all, but a lot. I go out to the wash-house and start the usual routine but now I have the option of a washer and dryer. I still prefer to set up the wringer washer. (Call me old-fashioned.) It just reminds me of simpler times I guess. I still spin the clothes out and prefer to hang the laundry outside if at all possible. There’s just something refreshing about getting sheets in that smell like sunshine! Plus, it saves your dryer and also saves you some money on your electric bill!
The way we did things years ago may make it sound like life was very difficult but it was just life. It was just how we did things. It does make me appreciate what I have now. I’m more aware of how convenient we have it to do something as simple as laundry!
The next time you do laundry, try out these homemade Amish Recipes
Today‘s guest author is Michelle Schwartz, the owner of “The Spice Shack” which is a small, home-based business that specializes in bulk spices, medicinal herbs, and loose leaf teas. Check out her online store at www.thespiceshack.org. Michelle enjoys her family, farm life, anything outdoors, and running her shop. She also raises Miniature Hereford cattle as a hobby.