When I stripped the bed this morning it made me think of how my grandmother used to do it years ago. We had three full-size beds at the time so Grandma devised her own system to keep them clean. I know that the method was not original to her because I have also read about it in books.
Each week Grandma removed the bottom sheet of each bed to wash. She moved the top sheet to the bottom, keeping the side that had not touched the bodies up. A clean sheet was placed as the top sheet. She took turns washing the pillow cases as well. We got clean pillowcases every other week. On the week in between we turned our pillows over.
Today's housewives think that method silly and unsanitary, but in the good old days it was just the way it was done. Washing was not as easy in those days. If you had to scrub your sheets on a washboard how often do you think you would change them? While my grandmother did not use a washboard, she did use a wringer washing machine. When it was time to wash the sheets, that load came after the load of whites was done.
The sheets were line dried. In the winter Grandma hung the sheets on lines in the basement. They took a day to dry. In the summer the process took only a short while as the sheets blew on the outdoor lines. They always smelled so good when they came off the line. We never had freshly washed sheets on our beds though because Grandma made up the bed right after she removed the bottom sheet. The clean sheets went into her linen closet for storage.
How I wish I had a linen closet like Grandma's. Behind a closed door there were three shelves and three drawers. Everything was tucked neatly away. Grandma's house was very efficient. The linen closet was nestled between two walk-in bedroom closets. The walk-in closets were nothing like today's walk in closets, but they were adequate at the time. I loved to help my mother clean out her closet.
In the old days everything was done for efficiency. Those ladies did not waste any water. I remember our friend from the neighboring farm telling us about taking her bath in the old wash tub. Since she was the youngest person in the family she took her bath first. After one bath more hot water was added and the next in line took his/her turn. Imagine trying to tell today's young people that they could only have a bath once a week! There was no such thing as a shower.
In my first apartment the landlord told me I could use her washing machine. I bet she did not think that I knew how to use the old wringer model, but I did. This one was more advanced than the one I used at home. There was a basket to spin the clothes dry before hanging them on the line.
When we moved to Hickory Heights I had to make a decision. Either I could have a dryer or I could have a freezer. The old electrical system could not support both. I chose the freezer because it helped me save money on groceries and meant fewer trips to town. We did put in an automatic washer so I washed the clothes and hung them out on the clothesline that I kept on the porch.
During the winter the clothes freeze-dried; that is, they froze before they dried. Many times I took down pairs of coveralls that stood alone in the corner before melting enough to be hung over a rack.
Although the old timers did not call their methods conservation, I think that was what it was. They did not use as much electricity. They did not use as much water. Our current ways present huge environmental problems. First, the ground has to supply the water, then, it has to absorb it once again after use. When the water goes down the drain it is not gone. It simply goes to another place. It has to be purified and recycled someway.
Electricity works the same way. Some type of energy/fuel has to make the electricity. The production of energy creates waste. Much of the waste is not immediately recyclable. Something has to be done before it enters the environment.
We have created our own problems and they continue to get worse. If we are to be more efficient, it will take some sacrifice and effort on the part of all of us. Country people seem to be more in tune with the environment. It is the land and the resources on the farm that provide the livelihood for the farm family.
On the farm there is no infrastructure. The farmer digs or drills a well and lays the pipe to the barn and the house. There is no one to call when something happens to the water. The farmer has to look for the problem on his own. The same is true of the septic system. The water must leach away on its own.
Country electric is not the same either. If the electric is off the farm is without water as well as many of the modern conveniences.
Maybe we all need to take an energy survey. Our homes are not as efficient as we think they are. I recently attended a farm meeting where they discussed the idea of surveying where the energy was used. It sounded like a very good idea to me.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, PA. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org