Helen and I don't write together. We decide on a topic and we each write something about our take on it. I think we both like our differences. This month, however, I was impressed by our likenesses. Thanks for visiting! - Liz
by Helen DePrima
I recently read a thought-provoking op-ed piece on the downside of convenience. All modern values extol easier and faster, but I beg to disagree. Oh yeah, I would chain myself to my dishwasher rather than give up that labor saver; my husband is a great cook, but messy. And I really don’t want to launder clothes using Fels-Naptha soap and a washboard. But yielding other chores to machines would be a step down for me.
I love my clothes line. Hanging laundry out in the fresh breeze is work I truly enjoy. I can see my raised vegetable beds while I sort tee shirts from socks from tighty-whiteys, wondering if I have enough poles from my Purple King beans and if my Country Gentleman corn will be knee-high by the Fourth of July. All the while, keeping a sharp eye out for my garden’s nemesis, the local woodchuck, who also loves my garden. Yesterday a shadow swept over my head like a stealth bomber, a Great Blue Heron on its flight path to the pond for a snack of frogs.
And yes, I talk to my plants, praising the sturdier individuals and cheering on the runts, little enough thanks for the seed catalogs that get me through the winter. When the harvest starts to come in, I love working with the veggies by hand – no food processors for me, just a maple cutting board and a good chef’s knife. My one concession to efficiency is the mammoth Italian tomato grinder which can process a bushel of tomatoes in less than an hour and cut the labor of making sauce from my Red Gravenstein apples in half.
I love quilting; seeing how few quilts at shows and fairs are hand-quilted makes me sad. Their creators can have a product with less time and effort, but hand piecing and quilting are peaceful occupations, absorbing while still allowing for conversation or meditation. I’ll never achieve the Amish standard of stitches per inch as delivered by quilting machines, but I set each one by hand.
So, call me a Luddite, but I can’t help thinking about the wisdom of The Little Prince. I can’t lay my hands on my copy to find the exact passage, but I subscribe to his belief that the time saved by not drinking water would be best used walking to a spring for a long refreshing drink.
by Liz Flaherty
When we were talking about a subject for this month, Helen mentioned “the downside of convenience.” My first thought was that there is no downside. But then I looked out my office window.
All I see now is wires coated in green plastic suspended between two t-poles, but
Always cotton, although sometimes I choose poorly and it wrinkles so that I have to press things. Speaking of that, I like to iron pillowcases in the winter. Not for smoothness but for the scent and the particular crispness that I think sprays from the sole-plate of the iron.
We use real butter at our house rather than margarine, and no, I don’t churn it myself, but I remember helping my mom do it when I was a kid. It was a lot of work and…worth it. Yeah, worth it. She bought butter most of the time, because we made it disappear so fast when she made it. It was the same with homemade bread. It was a treat. Had it been a necessity, I’m not sure it would have been as much fun, but either way, it is a cherished memory.
I don’t do anything by hand, but I make quilts, that I cut and assemble and stitch, because each block is yet another memory. There’s nothing wrong with buying handmade quilts, but I’m glad I made the seven on my grandkids’ beds. I remember writing once that there was love in every stitch, and there is. There is.
We used to garden, to can and freeze, and the home-grown produce was truly better than what’s available on supermarket shelves, but I don’t have that kind of energy anymore. I do love shopping in farmers’ markets, but it’s more for the feel of the place than the quality of the product.
And that right there is where I’ll forsake convenience, such as the supermarket or the dryer, for old-fashioned, such as the garden / farmers’ market or the clothesline. Because sometimes what is less convenient offers comfort, ease, joy, and laughter. Because sometimes it just feels good.
Thanks for the post--I don't live where I can hang laundry outside, but I probably would do that on a sunny day if I could. There's some visually appealing about it, actually. And I'm with you on farmers' markets. I go for the experience as much as the food. I guess my librarian days show when I go to my bookshelves to find the reference book I need rather than just going over to Google. Yes, it's wonderful, I wouldn't trade it for anything, but there's something special about looking something up in a book!ReplyDelete
Hi Virginia -- what keeps us in our now too-large house on a too-large property is the restrictive covenants we'd likely face if we down-sized. No clothes line, no big vegetable garden, no grilling with real charcoal, probably no flag in the front yard or even plantings of my choice out front. And certainly no cords of wood stacked out back for winter.Delete
Although I'm ready to leave my too-large house and too-large yard, I hope I never go where I can't have clotheslines or anything else I want. While I seldom use my reference books, I still have them and intend to keep them...you just never know.Delete
I grew up with wood stoves, a smoke house for meats, clothes lines and canning huge amounts of fruits and veggies over the summer. We made jam and jelly and I did that even after I got married until we moved to places where it was too warm. And the first time we moved to a place where we were told we couldn't put up a clothes line I was shocked. Now I wouldn't trade a lot of the modern conveniences to go back to the good old days. Fun post ladies.ReplyDelete
Wow, a real smoke house -- I'd love one of those. My grandfather was famous for his smoked country hams; I still have one of the meat hooks from his smoke house and use it to hang herbs to dry above out wood stove. Now my husband makes his own jerky in the oven of our big Garland restaurant stove.Delete
We had wood stoves, too, and I don't miss them a bit, although I do love the smell of wood burning and enjoy our fire pit quite a bit.Delete
I don't have a clothesline but I'll hang a load of laundry over the deck railing on hot days. Dries fast than a dryer. My mom used to hang wet jeans on the line in the dead of winter. The air lacked so much moisture it would actually dry them enough for her to iron them completely dry, no steam necessary. I suppose buying food from the store is super convenient. Growing your own food is also convenient. What's not convenient is lacking resources to either buy or grow your own food.ReplyDelete
We had a clothes line but no dryer in our first little rental house in Colorado. I remember bringing in laundry frozen stiff; as you say, great for ironing because of the moisture still in the fabric. When my husband attended CSU, vet students were required to wear ties and white shirts, plus their lab coats, so I had a lot of ironing. Our only "central" heating was a floor furnace covered by a grate. When our son was born, we surrounded it with an expandable gate which kept him from grilling himself and also provided a drying rack for cloth diapers. Now that ages me!Delete
You're right that there are people who don't have those resources and others couldn't possibly shop at the Farmer's Market because it's too high-priced. So I'm grateful when I can and try to donate to reliable programs that help.Delete
I remember frozen jeans! Mom would lay them over the heater in the house to thaw and they would sizzle.Delete
I'd also chain myself to the dishwasher rather than let it go. I can even pat myself on the back for being virtuous about that since studies show it actually uses less water than hand-washing and sanitizes the dishes better. But I like the accomplishment of handwork. I've pieced quilts, canned foods, painted watercolors and done some beading. I gardened in one house, but haven't had a good place for it since then. Love my Farmer's Market.ReplyDelete
Even now, the dishwasher and the microwave are the kitchen conveniences I could most easily do without--although I'd rather not! I love farmers' markets, too, although like Virginia said, it's more for the experience than anything else.Delete
I like to shop some at the local farmers' market to support folks trying to keep the tradition alive, not for the savings. Where we really score is on our annual fall trip driving to North Carolina. We stop at the huge regional market in Asheville on our way home; last year we bought sixty pounds of Roma tomatoes for 13.00 and a bushel of Asian pears (82 -- I counted) for 25.00, a fantastic bargain.Delete
My grandmother told me stories about how she would hang the baby diapers in the kitchen to dry and they would freeze overnight. And this was indoors in West Texas; I can only imagine what it must have been like in New England or Montana. I think indoor plumbing and hot water heaters are daily miracles. But I do like growing my own fruits, veges, and herbs, mostly because there's nothing better than a vine-ripened tomato and because I love being about to step outside snip fresh basil.ReplyDelete
Where I really appreciate mordern convenience is in writing. Without the computer, we'd have to hand-write or type our stories, and changes would literally have to be cut and pasted into a new place. Once we had the story the way we want it, we'd type up a clean copy, pack them into a box, and mail them to the publisher. Email is wonderful.
Hi Beth -- oh, yeah, don't take away my laptop! And I remember a skim of ice on a water glass by my bed in winter, even in Kentucky. We heat about 75% with wood now, but having a furnace for back-up and hot water is sure nice in New Hampshire.Delete
Lol. Even in the 70s, the windows in our old house were so bad that we woke one morning with a little skiff of snow on the comforter. The windows in that room were the 1st ones we changed!Delete
I wouldn't give up my computer, either. I'd even hate to go back to hard copies for the publisher--electronic is so much easier.
I loved your posts, Helen and Liz, and the photos. Although I too am deeply attached to some of our conveniences...yes, Helen, definitely the dishwasher! Plus the stove and fridge...oh, the vacuum cleaner is handy too and I’m happy to use my food processor rather than chopping and mushing things by hand. I use a dryer at home in the city now but when we first moved into our house I loved hanging laundry outside.in the summer. We treated ourselves (okay, me!) to a washing machine at the cottage but no dryer! There’s nothing better than slipping between crisp, air-dried sheets on a hot summer’s night.ReplyDelete
Those air-dried sheets are my biggest reason for the clothesline! I should also admit that I have actually had to rewash them a time or two because the birds used them for target practice. :-(Delete
My husband is the gadgeteer in our family; he loves all the newest labor savers. His newest favorite is a robo vacuum cleaner, which we've named Hazel. I have to admit that with all the spilled flour, cat hair from my Maine Coon, plus bark mulch and grass clippings our Shih Tzu carries in on her fur, Hazel is a handy gal to have around.Delete
When we moved into our home 15 years ago, I was thrilled with the old-fashioned clothes line. I hung sheets on it ONCE. Thus, I had no argument for when Don took it down so we could put a trampoline in its placeReplyDelete
I remember watching my mom help my grandma do wash in my grandma's kitchen in an old wringer washer.
I also remember when the city made grandma add a bathroom inside the house LOL
Thank goodness my kids never asked for a trampoline! They seemed able to amuse themselves with the other kids on our dead-end street, riding their bikes and building forts in the woods. And of course, before electronics.Delete
I admit to not using the clothesline as often as I thought I would, but I'd surely miss it.Delete
A trampoline would have been a hit at our house, too! I grew up with a wringer washer, and I loved it. It's one thing I'd probably do again just for the enjoyment of it, but laundry has always been my (only) favorite household job.
I'll support the computer as a convenience I won't do without. Since my day job is accounting, I would never want to go back to doing that manually! And for writing, yeah, you'll have to fight me to take it away.ReplyDelete
I'm going to be doing without a lot of conveniences this fall, as I'm coming to realize, because on the boat, no dishwasher, dryer, microwave, vacuum, etc. When I come back home to visit family, you might just find me hugging my big fridge, sobbing...
Lol. Yeah, the big fridge--complete with icemaker--would be a hard one for me to be without. But, oh, Kim, the adventure!Delete