By Travis Birch
The unencumbered life, living free in our woods, along the outskirts of modern civilization comes with great benefits. Adapting our current lifestyle in town, to our cabin life means living like our ancestors did, but amped up a little. For example, washing clothes. We try to minimize kicking on the generator if we don’t have to, so washing clothes by hand is a common task for us.
If the image of getting the washtub out, and the washboard holding up a shirt and rubbing a bar of soap over it until you’ve built up a healthy sweat comes to mind, then let me share with you how we tackle this today. It’s pretty easy, cheaper than the old way, and incorporates the use of modern conveniences used in a different manner.
The list of what you need is simple. A five-gallon bucket and lid. A lid for that bucket. A drill with a 1 inch bit, the bit needs to be big enough to hold the handle of a sink plunger loosely. A sink plunger is the common looking plunger at the hardware store. It is red in color, and it doesn’t have an accordion style or folded in part to the bottom of it. Next a box cutter, or a knife of your choosing. Use the detergent of your choice, and have a supply of water, we have a river close by, so we head there.
First, drill the hole in the center of the lid. Make sure that the handle works in it without getting stopped by the edge. Then use the utility knife or box cutter, and cut FOUR 1” square holes in the plunger. Cut the holes at 12, 3, 6 and 9 o’clock. Put about a quarter’s size amount of laundry detergent in the bucket, then fill it up halfway with warm water. Put enough clothes in it so that it doesn’t go higher than three-quarters high. This will allow you room to agitate the clothes without anything spilling out. Agitate the clothes with the plunger for about five minutes. Adjust the clothes accordingly if necessary. Go longer with agitating depending on your soiled level.
Next, wring out the clothes. I move them to a second bucket that is filled with water already and put the clothes in there to rinse. Agitate the rinse cycle with the plunger, and repeat as often as you deem necessary. Usually, two rinses are fine. Moving to a second bucket allows the boys to reuse the wash water when they do their laundry. Then they cycle through the rinse process. It should be noted that one wash for me includes pants, 2 shirts, underwear, and socks. So either plan to do a load every evening, or don’t let it accumulate more than a couple of days. That just makes the process long and dreadful.
Finally, wring out your clothes a final time. Pull on them to remove as many wrinkles as you can. Then hang them on the clothesline in the backyard. There really is no better smell than fresh clothes that have been dried by the breezes and the sunlight that the Lord provides. Making the boys do their own laundry makes them appreciate what they have, and they can account for themselves why a certain stain didn’t come out. It’s not a tough life, but the hard work and practice make you grateful for what you have.