Tag Archives: washing

Outbuildings #5 – The Woodshed


Most of the real work on the farm happened in the barn, in the fields, and in the house. Some of the outbuildings were so specific in purpose that they were often hastily erected and as quickly abandoned when seasons or activities changed. Others had longer lives and a bigger presence. They were spread out around the property in an almost haphazard way. A few of them I remember from childhood, but others I know only from photos.


The Woodshed

The woodshed in the backyard of the farmhouse adjoined the old barn. Both buildings were torn down sometime in the early 1950’s I have vague memories of them, the most vivid one involving my grandmother hanging clothes on the line strung from the house to the side of the barn.

"Washing," Carol Crump Bryner, gouache and colored pencil, 2014

“Washing,” Carol Crump Bryner, gouache and colored pencil, 2014

My great-grandmother Lydia recorded the origins of this woodshed. I have no idea what they did before that for wood storage. Maybe it was put into the barn, or more likely just kept in a pile close at hand. They needed large stores of wood for the two stoves in the house. Before the arrival of the tractor in 1921, the cutting, splitting, and sawing of sufficient wood was a year round on-going chore. The tractor and the woodshed were great helps for my grandfather and his workers.

Saturday, December 17, 1921 – “Cloudy most of the day. Men busy getting large stones from the ravine to lay the foundation for a shed for the wood pile.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Monday, December 19, 1921 – “Nice day. Men busy placing the stones for the woodshed.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Thursday, December 29, 1921 – “Snowing this morning, cloudy most of the day. At night the wind blew very hard, grew cold, and before morning it was down below zero. Two men worked all day in the shed and didn’t finish. Walter went home. We have quite a large shed.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Saturday, January 5, 1924 – “Clouds and sunshiny. A light snow fell during the night. The wind came up at night and much colder at bedtime. Men busy getting wood ready to saw for the two stoves – with their many chores, keeps them busy.” – Lydia Jane Hall

"The Woodshed," Carol Crump Bryner, pen and ink, 2015

“The Woodshed,” Carol Crump Bryner, pen and ink, 2015

See also:  Outbuildings #1, Outbuildings #2, Outbuildings #3, Outbuildings #4

On Monday:  Measles


"Clothespin," Carol Crump Bryner, gouache, 2014

“Clothespin,” Carol Crump Bryner, gouache, 2014

My great-grandmother washed clothes every Monday, and she almost always wrote about it in her journal.

Monday, May 6, 1912 – “Another stormy Monday. Clothes washed and on the line. Pa sitting by the fire.” – Lydia Jane Hall

On Tuesdays she ironed.

Tuesday, May 7, 1912 – “Partly cleared. Clothes drying between the showers so they can be ironed.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Winter complicated the process.

Monday, January 29, 1912 – “Cold. Snowed all day. Washed, put out clothes, but didn’t dry. Brought them in frozen stiff, and dried them in the house.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Spring and summer brought better days.

Monday, April 1, 1912 – “Nice day. The best yet for washing. Clothes look nice. The birds are singing. Some are building their nests.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Monday, August 11, 1913 – “Nice cool day. Washing done at eleven o’clock – looks very nice and white.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Fall started the weather-related difficulties again.

Monday, October 13, 1913 – “Cooler – look for a frost tonight. Cloudy at night. Clothes dry in the house.” – Lydia Jane Hall

Monday, December 1, 1913 – “Dark dreary day – clothes still hanging on the line – not dry at bed-time. Hope it will be pleasant tomorrow.” – Lydia Jane Hall

I hardly think about doing the laundry. When clothes and linens have made a big enough pile I dump them in the washing machine and push the button. When we first came to Alaska in 1969 I had to go to a commercial laundromat once a week, and I thought that was a hardship.

But in 1912 providing clean laundry for the family must have been incredibly time-consuming. I heard somewhere that washing was done on Mondays because that was the day burning was prohibited. Clothes could be hung on the line without getting covered with black soot.

With a big family and no helpful machines, my great-grandmother and grandmother often needed help for their Monday and Tuesday routines.

Monday, June 8, 1914 – “Agnes done the washing. Two weeks washing. Mary [the help] failed to come, she had a lame back and the clothes were put a soak yesterday so had to wash them. They look very nice.” – Lydia Jane Hall

The clothesline on the farm ran from the back door to the woodshed barn in the back yard. The person hanging the wash stood on the stone steps, took clothespins from the bag hanging at the end of the line, hung the wash piece by piece, and pulled the line using a pulley so that the clothes were suspended out over the back yard.

"Washing," Carol Crump Bryner, gouache and colored pencil, 2014

“Washing,” Carol Crump Bryner, gouache and colored pencil, 2014

By the late 1940’s, when I was a child, my grandmother had a “washing machine.” On Mondays she wheeled it from the back pantry, hooked the hose up to the kitchen sink faucet, filled the tub with clothes and soap and water, and turned it on. It wiggled and jiggled and made all kinds of noises while it agitated. This is what I begged to stay at home from school to watch. After she emptied the tub, my grandmother put the clothes through the wringer attached to the top of the tub, then hung them on the clothesline in the back yard where they billowed and flapped in the fickle Whirlwind Hill breezes.

I especially loved to watch my grandmother put the sheets and towels and clothes through the ironing mangle. This big heated and padded roller ironed linens in much less time than a regular iron. And my grandmother could sit down while using it.

As far as I know, there never was a clothes dryer on the farm. My grandmother continued to put the clothes out on the line or on a drying rack in the kitchen until she died. I think my town grandmother did the same thing. My own parents had no dryer until I was out of college. My mother hung the clothes on a circular clothesline in the back yard year round. Even when my family and I went back east during the summers to visit, and there was a dryer in a closet on the back porch, we hung our t-shirts and socks out in the sunshine. The smell of clothes dried outdoors is irresistible, and the line-dried towels had a roughness and absorbability that’s hard to find these days. Fluffy towels are one of my least favorite inventions. And don’t even get me started about “dryer sheets.”

"Clothesline," Carol Crump Bryner, pen and ink, 1986

“Clothesline,” Carol Crump Bryner, pen and ink, 1986

On Wednesday:  Money and Apples