Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Honoring the clothesline July 22, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 5:00 AM
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ON A RECENT AFTERNOON, I hustled outside to pull laundry from the line during an unanticipated downpour.

I rushed along three lengths of clothesline, unclipping clothing I’d hung hours earlier when the sun shone with the promise of a good drying day despite the intense humidity. Now I was hauling everything inside to dry in the dryer or on a clothes drying rack. In the process, I was soaked.

I am a clothesline drying devotee, choosing to hang laundry outdoors any day, even in the cold of a 30-degree Minnesota winter morning. It’s therapeutic—the methodical lifting of wet laundry, of clipping it to the line. I delight in the shifting light of morning, of being outside, of solo time to think, of an aged rite that celebrates the beginning of a day.

The scene along a balcony on the back side of a building along Third Street N.E. in downtown Faribault, just across the alley from the post office.

The scene along a balcony on the back side of a building along Third Street N.E. in downtown Faribault, just across the alley from the post office.

So I wondered, when I spotted colorful laundry draped over a second story railing behind an historic building in downtown Faribault, whether the immigrant woman I saw there felt the same as me. Does she delight in hanging out laundry? Or is this, for her, a matter of simple practicality, of saving money?

Whatever the reason, I was pleased to see her hanging laundry outdoors, in the heart of my community, making this place her home.

FYI: Check back tomorrow for a second clothesline post, this one about an entirely different purpose.

Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

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23 Responses to “Honoring the clothesline”

  1. Almost Iowa Says:

    Love the way line dried clothes smell, hate the way you can stand them up and lean them against the side of the house. Scratchy too.

  2. treadlemusic Says:

    My DS/DIL rigged up an old fashioned pulley system from their walk-out/1st floor level to a distant tree. Awesome!!!! I’m doing the bed linens today and, also, am one to line (freeze) dry!!!!!! The “fresh factor” canNOT be duplicated!!!!!! That photo brings back memories of my St. Paul growing up years!!!!!! Remember having to prop up lines with ‘V’-notched poles so that the sheets wouldn’t drag in the grass…………so long ago………sigh…….

  3. Marilyn Says:

    I’m in with that ages-long league of clothesline friends. For a number of years I would often talk to two of my neighbours when we were hanging clothes up at the clothesline. The afternoon gathering of dried items was too ad hoc for chat, but we all seemed to be out in the morning around the same time – winter or summer. Now we are in a newer house and the fences are too high to see over!

  4. Dan Traun Says:

    There is nothing like sheet hung out to dry. Denim gets a little stiff for my taste, but most anything else works. I don’t see a lot of clothes lines anymore.

  5. I remember helping my mom hang clothes on the clothesline growing up on sun shiny days, running between the rain drops and freeze drying. When I lived out west there were HOA’s and clothesline were not acceptable plus the winds of 25 to 55 to 75 to 125 mph with dust and debris kicking up would not be a great way to dry clothes or linens – ha! My fondest memory growing up was laying underneath the clothesline in the grass with the bed linens floating in the slight breeze on a hot day trying to stay cool 🙂

    Happy Day – Enjoy!

  6. Beth Ann Says:

    In Australia that was about all we used as clothes dryers were not very effective and the temps were always conducive to nice air drying. Unfortunately our neighborhoods in the past 3 places have not allowed clotheslines but it has not stopped me from hanging a few sweaters and shirts on the deck over the backs of chairs at times. 🙂

  7. Jackie Says:

    I LOVE hanging clothes on the line as my mother did before me and her mother before her (and so on). My dear husband is picking up the slack today as I’m a little disabled from my knee surgery. It is therapeutic for me as well, and i love that it’s free to dry my clothes. 🙂

    • Jackie, we are so sisters of the heart, sharing so many loves including this one for the clotheslines. I love the tradition you point to of doing what your mom did and her mother before her. And kudos to Rick for temporarily filling in. I hope you are completely healed soon. Hugs.

  8. Nothing better than crawling into a bed dried on a clothesline

  9. hotlyspiced Says:

    I much prefer the feel of my laundry when it comes off the line to when I use the clothes dryer. We’ve had so much rain lately I’ve had to use the dryer more than I like to xx

    • I know the feeling. Winter curbs my line drying. However, I do manage hanging laundry outdoors occasionally in the winter, when the sun shines bright and no snow is falling and I can manage without freezing fingers.

  10. Prairie wisdom ~ Wind is free and clothespins are cheap.

  11. Sue Ready Says:

    Your blog seems to evoke a lot of readers chiming in on thoughtful memories of hanging clothes outside. The “smell” is like no other and too bad MN harsh climate for many months curbs the enthusiasm to hang wash outside. Its that darn snow that gets in the way:)


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