Monday, October 12, 2009

Fight For Your Right to Dry!




Clothes, that is. I am learning of a growing debate in this country over the right to hang out clothes to dry. I have never given this much thought, having lived (outside of college) in either semi--rural areas or small towns all my life. As a consequence, there has never been anyone to tell me what I could or could not do in my back yard. Such is apparently not the case throughout most of urban America. Clothesline proponents, as well as backyard chicken enthusiasts, are taking cities to court to reverse such prohibitions. I find it refreshing to hear of these sporadic outbreaks of common sense.

We have always had a clothesline. My mother used a clothesline. My mother-in-law used a clothesline, as did all our ancestors for time immemorial. It is remarkable to think that such a rhythm of life has been almost erased within the last 50 years--so much so, that most young people today do not even know what a clothes pin is, thinking it a potato chip bag clip.

I didn't incorporate all the lessons my mother tried to instill in me, but one I did take to heart was this: a clothes dryer uses more electricity than anything else in a house. My mother did have a clothes dryer. She bought it in 1973, I believe, and it was the same one in her house at her death in 1999. I do not recall seeing it ever actually used, however.

Like I say, we have always had a clothesline at our house. Our neighbors don't seem to mind, or if they do, they know better than to say anything. Since an elderly acquaintance of ours went to the nursing home, it seems that we and my sister-in-law are the only two remaining clothes-hanger-outers in our little town--at least on our side of town, anyway. We do have a clothes dryer, much like the lantern in the closet--there for emergencies. It was my brother's. When he died in 1984, we got the dryer, as we were the only ones without at that time. Two years ago, it started making a squeaky sound. We replaced the belt and it is probably good for another 25 years. If it is cold and rainy, we use the dryer--but only for sheets and towels. Everything else is either hung up on door frames or ceiling fans, or draped across chairs.

It is gratifying to know that one is actually ahead of the curve on a coming trend. I think a culture concerned with legislating open garage doors, dog poop and backyard clothesline is too silly by half. And for those of you considering using these "wind energy drying devices," the owners of the clothes in the picture above know what they are doing. Notice that the pockets of the jeans are pulled out. They dry faster that way.

14 comments:

Steve Hayes said...

Petty bureaucracy gone mad!

-C said...

Amen! (from one who keeps a few laying hens and dries laundry on the clothesline in her suburban back yard!)

jmgregory said...

"Dude, low-tech solutions are so not cool. Get a Prius, man!"

It seems there are lots of folks who think that clotheslines in the neighborhood would decrease their precious property value. Luckily, none of my neighbors seem to mind.

Unfortunately, the Nashville metro council recently banned urban chickens, citing "health concerns". This, after a very reasonable bill was proposed that would have allowed them but with a limit on the number of fowl per acre. (The previous laws were unclear as to the legality of keeping farm animals.)

I'm very grateful to have such intelligent and benevolent overlords. It seems that without their guidance, I may have contracted diseases due to my irresistible urges to smear chicken feces on myself.

Becky said...

It is true that dryers use more electricity than pretty much anything else in the house. Our current situation involves having our washer hooked up in our apt., but not the dryer, because it's cheaper for me to walk across the street and use the fluke one at the laundromat that only takes a quarter, than to run ours. We've had clotheslines in the past; one of my fondest maternal memories is hanging out my first daughter's tiny pink sleepers and cloth diapers on the line. I hope we have one again someday.

John said...

jmg, I agree about the property values question. When did we become so prim, and our society so antiseptic, that the mere sight of clothes drying in the sun would decrease the "value" of a neighbor's house? This could lead into a whole discussion about whether our houses are homes or just investments--but that needs to be saved for another post.

I having been thinking of getting some chickens again. The only problem is--I love chickens, but hate snakes. My view on snakes is positively Old Testament. I know, I know--they are beneficial and eat mice, etc., to which I would respond that that is why there are cats. We live on a city street, but adjoining the back of our lot is a 35 acre pasture, and the owner likes to stack his round bales of hay right up next to the property line, creating a perfect snake haven. So, while I would love to have chickens, I don't look forward to seeing a chicken snake curled up in the nest when I go to gather eggs. Any solutions from chicken enthusiasts out there?? (besides admonitions to "grow up.")

jmgregory said...

John, I think that would be an excellent post. You can probably already guess where I stand on the issue.

Becky said...

You already know my view on whether to get chickens or not. ; ) I miss ours terribly, not just the eggs but the daily interaction. I would never dismiss your snake phobia or tell you to grow up, anymore than I'd want someone to tell me to grow up about centipedes and heights. All I can tell you is that the snake that we allowed to live under our chicken house was THE most docile wild one I've ever seen, and he only came and ate an egg about once every 6-8 weeks, then quietly left. We considered it a small price to pay for a mouse-free chicken house. Hey, I have the perfect solution; when our lease in this apt. is up next summer, rent your "new" (old) house to us and I'll come over and wrangle all your snakes, and feed your chickens when you travel. ; ) Mary

John said...

Mary, sounds like a deal to me!

Becky said...

I'm not sure why, but I've never been afraid of snakes. My first job ever was in the live animal room of a science museum, and I had to handle them/clean their cages. They had a corn snake who liked to be held, he'd curl up around my wrist and go to sleep with his head on my knuckles. I almost tried to pick up our chicken house snake once, but didn't quite have the nerve - figured my reflexes are a little slower at 40 than they were at 14!

Kirk said...

This brings back memories of early married life. My wife and I bought a Kenmore washing machine about a year before we bought the dryer. We hung the clothes out on the line in the backyard. Nice. Of course the clothes dried faster out in West Texas...

Dog Carriers said...

All these laws that don't make sense. Every politician thinks he or she knows what is best for everyone else and then tries to force it down everyone else's throat. Don't worry. Soon some politician will come around outlawing clothes dryers because it is bad for the environment. Then everyone will HAVE TO dry their clothes on a clothesline.

Milton T. Burton said...

Know how you can tell an American? He/she is obsessed with preventing someone else from doing something that is perfectly reasonable.

The Scylding said...

Here in SK, the old folks used to freeze dry their clothes during winter, when it was 40 below - you hang it up, and 5 mins later you shake off the ice, and presto, it's dry. It was also a good way of killing bed bugs - nothing sanitizes like an hour at -40 degrees!

margaret said...

In Britain, probably due to our insane electricity costs, most people line dry when they can so it's not likely we'll see any bylaws against washing lines soon but a few years ago in Edinburgh the local Council attempted to stop dealerships in the city limits from selling cars with SN07 number plates. Why? Because, if you're into that kind of thing, it apparently spells 'snot'. Almost as good as Boulder, CO, issuing an edict that human companions (not owners, mind) should confine their feline companions to the yard to stop them killling birds. I think that the fact that a lot of the people who come up with these ideas eventually graduate to national politics explains much of what's wrong with the world.