Thursday, July 26, 2012

Washing Clothing by Hand

Inspired by recent permaculture design course and stay at Sustainable Settings Ranch in Colorado (a ranch, farm and educational center all folded into one vibrant and inspirational setting) I am returning home to begin doing what was on my mind for a while now - getting engaged with my life hands-on!

So many ways to do it. It is summer, it is hot, and lots of my toddler's clothes get too dusty from the water/mud play to take indoors to the washing machine. So here is the perfect opportunity to put my determination into action.

I begin with washing some of child's muddy clothes by hand, in my outdoor kitchen that is equipped with a large sink for washing veggies. There is even an easy hook up to house's hot water! And it is shady and lovely under a large tree, so the whole thing quickly transforms into a version of water play - though with tangible and useful side effects!

I like the idea of raising a son who knows how to do most essential work of humanity - washing dishes, washing clothes by hand, chopping wood, cooking, rounding up animals, feeding chickens, sweeping - any and all activities of being a steward to one's environment. I also really don't like to sit in the modern-parent-way on the edge of a sand boy, passively watching my child play (or even worse - use this time to catch up on phone calls...). Children (particularly toddlers) imitate actions of adults. "Be worthy of imitation" is the practice for parents of young children.

Our work as parents is to offer inspiration to the little ones with our own actions - and so I choose to do meaningful work, wash, sweep, garden. My actions lead my child to participate, to get engrossed into his own work of playing.  To paraphrase one of very special books on parenting, Heaven on Earth by Sharifa Oppenheimer, child's work is play, and adult's play is work.

I am not a playmate for my son. I am someone who models useful skills, and includes him in life in a meaningful way. At two years of age, he digs in the garden, harvests peaches, tries to milk our goats, brings firewood from the wood pile to the front door, helps to load up the fireplace with kindling which he harvests; he collects eggs, mixes bread dough, mucks the barn, cuts asparagus, sweeps house and yard. He loves to load up the washing machine, but he is now loving the water play around washing clothes even more. Continuing de-mechanising of our household and our lives is what makes our lives more pleasant, unhurried, and what brings forgotten skills forth.

For my personal items, such as t-shirts, skirts, cotton shirts and dresses, being washed in a gentler way is beneficial to avoid fabric damage and untimely loss of shape which is so prevalent with finer t-shirts. Since I don't even own a dryer, this new twist is not going to be a huge change yet a change enough.

1 comment:

Radical Homemade said...

Brilliant reading. I know my son would love to help hand wash the laundry!