how we do things


1. Light the pilot light in the gas heater hanging on the shower wall.

2. Slowly turn the shower on all the way to high. Watch the pilot light through the little hole—when it bursts into a raging flame, you’re in business.

3. In order to keep yourself from being cooked alive, keep the shower on full blast. Children will wail and shriek in pain, but pay no mind. They wail and shriek in pain when the shower is cold, too. You can not win so do not even try.

4. Try not to be alarmed at the whooshing sounds. Ignore the singe marks on the wooden ceiling. You are getting a hot shower—be grateful.

Drink Milk
1. Buy a bunch of 1-quart bags of milk. Always get more than you think you will need. You will use it.
2. Get out your hot-pink, two-quart pitcher that still smells of the pineapple juice that Luvia made for you back in the beginning.

3. Hold the wobbly bag up on its end.
4. With scissors, snip off a top corner.
5. Pour the milk out through the hole in the top.

6. Repeat with a second bag.
7. Drink milk.

Wash the Dishes
1. Mound all the dirty dishes on the little piece of counter sink and in the sink proper.
2. Turn on the water (only cold in the kitchen) and let it run.
3. Dip the sponge/scrubby in the dish of hard soap.

4. Scrub a few dishes.
5. Rinse and set in the drainer.
6. Repeat until all the dishes are clean.

1. Burn everything.
2. Realize that something has got to change.
3. Use two upside down tin pans as Burnt Bottom Buffers.

4. Bake with minimal burning.
5. Gloat.

Wash Clothes

Method Number One
1. When the day dawns thick with fog, it will be a sunny, hot day. Count your lucky stars (or sunny skies) and get to work.
2. Throw all the dirty clothes in a big barrel with lots of water and detergent.
3. Attach the (non-poopy) toilet plunger to a long handled stick and agitate the clothes with steady up and down motions à la the old-fashioned butter churn method.
4. Let the clothes soak over a period of a couple hours, or overnight.
5. Periodically agitate the laundry—this is an excellent chore for naughty children.

6. Wring the clean clothes lightly. Rinse with lots of water.
7. Wring out the clothes as hard as you possibly can. No matter how strong you are, you will not be strong enough.

8. Dream out loud (i.e. rant) about having a washing machine.
9. Ponder all the North Americans who talk about “doing the laundry” as though it’s an enormous burden. Double over, slap your knee, and roar with laughter.
10. Use cheap, plastic clothespins (that fall apart with alarming frequency) to hang the clothes on the twine that has turned your backyard into one gigantic booby trap.
11. About 15 minutes later, when gravity has pulled the extra water down to the bottom ends of the clothes, wring out the bottoms of the jeans, shirts, towels, etc. Feel very smart.

Method Number Two
1. Show Luvia the basket of dirty clothes.
2. Go away for the morning.
3. Return to find the back yard full of sopping wet clothes valiantly struggling to dry in the sun.

4. Proceed as in Method One, number seven.


  • MissC

    Just happened by your blog while googling pretzels and lye baths. What got me to click on the link to your recipe was the 'pretzels and poison' observation. Being of a wry turn when it comes to humor, naturally I had to click on the heading and follow through.

    Your writing is delightful, your observations are great, and your blog is fun to read. Thanks for the look!

  • Second Sister

    The only steps we add to your laundry description are as follows:
    1. prepare the house for the laundry lady (put anything extra out of sight, off the counters, behind the curtain, and empty the waste basket)- her eyes miss nothing and she will inquire about it, what its for and if its in the waste basket if she can have it.
    2. After laundry lady leaves, go out and re-hang laundry so there aren't pin marks in the middle of the shirts and the thick things will dry instead of being bent in half.
    3. Take the dry laundry in and worry about Tumbu fly larvae, but refuse to iron every single item to prevent them from burrowing into your skin causing large extreeeeemely itchy boils- just pray it never happens again;)
    Are we having fun yet?:)

  • Margo

    I live on Easy Street. Wow. (although I do remember handwashing jeans in the middle of winter in Russia; that was terribly hard; I think I've blocked the rest of the hand-washing out)

  • Unknown

    Wow. I agree with other commenters -I will not complain about laundry ever again. But I admire your genius with problem solving!

  • Anonymous

    What an adventure! And ponder this: You will NEVER have to call the washer repairman or the dryer repairman, and wait for days for them to come, and charge you an exorbitant fee just to "diagnose" (or just for the "trip charge")…etc. etc.

    • Jennifer Jo

      Except…the washing machine that MCC had for us (yes, we had one) is broken and so we had to call the repairmen. They came and took it away. I doubt they can fix it. In that case, we'll be getting a new one (woot!). So…this washing clothes by hand is just temporary. BUT! We did it for three years in Nicaragua—10 months of washing cloth diapers by hand…we are PROS.

  • Anonymous

    I am an expert wringer of laundry; thanks to the teaching of a grandmother who was born in the 1880's, who never owned a washing machine, and always sent her laundry out to be done. Ahh, the good ol' days. Anyway, whenever I was naughty my punishment was to wash the sheets. I washed them in the bath tub. I stomped on those sheets like I was making wine. It was actually kind of fun. But, then came the wringing. Whew!

    Granny's technique works pretty much for everything. Start at one corner and wring. Work you way down the piece of wet laundry until you reach the opposite corner — wringing all the way. If the piece is as big as a sheet, throw the wrung out coil of material over your shoulder as you continue wringing the rest of it. For pieces as small as shirts, jeans, sweaters ya-da-ya-da, lay a towel flat and put the wet piece on it. Roll the wet piece in the towel. Start at one end of the roll and wring to the other end. Unroll and hang the damp piece of laundry to dry. You can also walk barefooted on the rolled towel instead of twisting it by hand. Anything to squeeze the water out.

  • teekaroo

    I had a water heater like that in Germany. It was always a bit creepy to see the flame right next to me while I showered.

    And good job with the oven fix.

  • Kristina

    I do have a washing machine, but put all my laundry on the line, year round. We do have our dairy goats, so that is a blessing over summer. Using those extra pans in the oven is an interesting idea. Loved your post today.

  • Anonymous

    Haha, I can relate with pretty much everything in this post! Well, except for the hot water and the cloudy skies part. I have never tried the toilet plunger method for laundry – must invest in a plunger!

  • Anonymous

    One of the coolest things about doing this sort of thing is all the problem solving. Good for you!

    I remember those showers… we used to get mild shocks now and then. 🙂

  • Becky

    I will definitely not complain about laundry for at least a little bit. Nor will I gripe about our dryer that is slowly dying. Instead, I shall be very happy for my wooden clothes pins.

  • Rachelle

    I live in Canada and we have bagged milk too. We also have these little milk containers that hold the bags and make for easy pouring. Man, I have never appreciated those as much as I have today.

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