Guest Column (6/18/09)

June 18, 2009

Vermont ‘goes dry’

By Ginger Isham

I don’t think any law was ever passed so quickly as H.446, the one allowing Vermonters to hang out their wash. What a wonderful law!

This reminded me of when my mother would hang out the wash. She would spread the towels on the grass, saying the sun would do a better job bleaching them. Anytime there was not enough line space she would put clothes on the grass.

When I first moved to the farm, we had a clothesline in back of the house. When winter came, a clothesline was strung across the front porch.

When the babies came, I remember hanging cloth diapers on the line in the winter and bringing them in at the end of the day, “stiff as a board.” I hung them over clothes bars, for they quickly “melted” when brought into a warm room. I always thought the moisture they created was good for us and the rooms smelled good, too.

Today I still hang out the wash in the backyard in warm weather, but tend to like my dryer in the winter. Then I sometimes partially dry clothes in the dryer and then hang them on clothes bars or clothes hangers to finish drying.

On a recent trip to the Vermont Country Store in Weston, I saw all kinds of laundry in public view in front of the store on clotheslines and clothes bars. There were men’s socks, briefs, shirts and more. This reminded me of a step the Legislature left out in the language of H.446 — how to hang your laundry.

•    After winter is over, run a cloth over the clothesline to clean it, unless you bring it in for the winter; there is a dirty black substance on the line.

•    Tighten the lines, as warm and cold weather cause them to sag.

•     Hang the whites together and the darks together.

•     Hang shirts by the bottom so the seams and sleeves can blow and dry.

•    Hang them out in the cold weather so they “freeze dry” and then bring them inside to finish drying.

•     Always hang those unmentionables on the inside lines, so they’re out of sight.

•    Hang towels and sheets on the outside lines.

•     Bring clothes in before dew sets in and makes them damp.

•     Always bring in the clothespins after each wash as they become stained and can stain your wet clothes.

•    Fold laundry as you remove it from the line so it doesn’t wrinkle.

•    Never hang out wash on Sunday.

•    Shake the line of clothes before removing them, for sometimes there are little insects attached. I have found beetles in the corners of my fitted sheets when I went to put them on the bed.

Some of the disadvantages of hanging out the wash, if you have children, is kids playing hide and seek behind the laundry or running through the clothesline of clothes. Another is that usually in the early summer I have a sheet or towel a bird has spotted!

The advantage in a small and close neighborhood is visiting over the laundry. On the other hand, your laundry can tell your neighbors a little about you. If there is no laundry for a few days you may be on vacation and if a new member has arrived the clothes on the line will spread the news.

Ginger Isham writes the biweekly “Recipe Corner” column for the Observer. She is a longtime Williston resident.