Thursday, July 31, 2008

Sacrifices for the cause

I have sustained a clothesline-related injury.

When we moved into our house, there were two rusty t-posts for a clothesline in our side yard. They were pretty damned ugly, so when we needed to regrade the ground around the house, and that necessitated digging up one of them, I was thrilled to bits. Joe and I dragged the damn thing (which was incredibly heavy - the concrete that had been holding it in the ground was still attached) out to the barn, and as far as I know it is still there lo these many years later, waiting for us to come up with some sort of more permanent disposal solution.

The second post was a bit more problematic. It is flanked by Rose of Sharon, and to dig it up would almost undoubtedly involve killing them. Plus, we'd have to re-enact the whole cross-yard drag, and as we are now both 7 years older than we were the first time, neither Joe nor I are exactly eager to do so. Instead, I had planned to camouflage it, using it as a trellis of sorts for clematis or another flowering vine.

Meanwhile, the Munchkin produces piles of dirty diapers each week, and having a clothesline has started looking pretty good, from both a green-living and a cost-cutting point of view. The website Flex Your Power writes:

Clothes dryers are typically one of the most expensive home appliances to operate, accounting for about 6% of total electricity usage. Unlike other appliances, clothes dryers don't vary much from model to model in the amount of energy used and are not required to display EnergyGuide labels. However, that doesn't mean that the amount of energy used by clothes dryers isn't important.

It typically costs 30 to 40 cents to dry a load of laundry in an electric dryer and approximately 15 to 20 cents in a gas dryer.
I'd like to hook up a meter so I could get a more specific accounting of how much energy our dryer uses, but that's a starting point at least.

So, off to GR Smith, our fantastic local hardware store. The supply list was as follows:

100' clothesline$6.99
2 pulleys$8.98
hook to hang the line from our house's siding$6.99
Not bad, right?

This is where things start to go haywire.

First, I discover that the eye hooks on the existing post are closed too tightly and rusted in place, so I cannot hook the pulley over it. OK, no biggie - I will just look the clothesline over the horizontal pipe for now, and pick up a new bolt next time I am out. I loop the clothesline over the pipe, and pull the clothesline across to the house. I attach the siding hook, hang the second pulley off it, and then pull the line taut and knot it. It is a thing of beauty, my clothesline.

I run inside to get the load of sheets I just washed. The Munchkin is happily riding on my back this whole time, and seems rather interested in the proceedings. I hang the four pillowcases on the line. A little sag, but nothing major. Then I hang the first sheet.

Well crap.

The entire clothesline has now sagged halfway down to the ground. Each subsequent sheet makes matters worse. No worries, I think - I can just tighten the line to take up some of the slack. I pull on the line, planning to re-knot it.

As the Munchkin would say, "POP"

The strip of siding holding the hook pops out in rather dramatic fashion, causing the hook (which I am kinda-sorta holding) to go flying off into the grass, gouging the living daylights out of my finger, although I do not notice it yet.

The problem is clear. Although those siding hooks are fantastic at holding things like plants - things that only pull down. The problem with a clothesline is that it also pulls out. I clearly need to screw a hook into the side of the house. It is the only way to hold the weight of the line. Also, the "line tightener" gadget that I had passed up the first time is looking like a good investment, since tugging and re-tying is pretty tricky with a clothesline over your head. A prop for the middle of the line also looks like a pretty good idea, since we're talking about almost 50' of line, and some sag is inevitable.

So, I gather the sheets and take them back inside, before heading back to the hardware store. This is when I notice my finger. Or, rather, I notice the blood that seems to be getting all over my nice clean damp sheets. Muttering to myself, I shove them in the laundry and run them through a quick cold wash while I head back to Smith's.

On the second trip, I buy:

wall screw, rated for 120'$1.79
bolt hook for post$.99
line tightener$3.49
prop (for middle of line)$7.99

The Munchkin dozed off en route to the store, and stayed out throughout the trip, so after getting him into bed, I set out to complete the job. The sheets (bloodstain-free) are presently blowing in the breeze. I'll be able to re-use the siding hooks, so in total the clothesline cost me $34.02+tax, two trips to the store, a bandaid, a little blood, and an extra washer cycle. Nonetheless, it should pay for itself in roughly 120 uses. Even if I only use it for sheets and diapers, it'll take less than a year.

2 people have weighed in:

Anonymous held forth

Thanks for posting your trials and tribulations here. I've been thinking we need to figure out a clothesline somehow (brick house, this could get interesting) and now I'm realizing we really should get on it before the hedgehog shows up.

Alison held forth

Happy to oblige! If you're thinking of doing cloth diapers, it's definitely worth it. I wish I had done it last summer.

As for the brick house, one trip to the hardware store should be able to get you a drill bit that can go into mortar. What I don't know is how you would use it to screw in a hook.