The Zombies Ate My Brains

Rescuing what might remain of the grey matter.

Maker’s Mark

Last week, Cee posed the question, “What’s something you like to do the old-fashioned way?”

I’m going to assume that by “old-fashioned” we’re talking low-tech.

Or no-tech? I suppose in the strictest sense, there is no such thing as “no-tech”, especially, if by “tech” you mean tools or technique. (Most of you wouldn’t have difficulty with this prompt. But I am saddled with a tendency to take things literally and I want to make sure that we are all on the same page. Or screen.)

Ahem!

For the purposes of this post, let’s assume that the term “old-fashioned” refers to a technique or technology from the last century. In that case, here’s what I do the old-fashioned way: I eschew helpful homemaker appliances wherever possible. This is because:

  • I prefer to conduct my household duties in peace and quiet
  • I like uncluttered countertops
  • Sooner or later something will break down – replacing a tired and worn straw broom is considerably less expensive than replacing a central vac system. In my experience, high-tech bells and whistles usually mean an early demise, complete with an expensive repair bill and/or ultimate replacement.
  • I hate my vacuum cleaner.
  • I love hanging laundry on the line.

Confession: I am aware that I practice a sort of reverse snobbery. I boast about the fact that I don’t own a dishwasher. In our last place, when the ten-year-old unit gave up the ghost, we did without.  When I tell you that I love hanging my laundry on the line, there’s an element of “I’m greener than thou.” I want to get that out there. I’m no saint when I present myself as a saint, you know what I’m saying?

But.

I really do love hanging laundry on the line. I wrote about it a few years ago. It’s the scents, the sounds, the getting outside to “get the stink blowed off”, as my dear old dad used to say.

Upon re-reading the laundry day post, I realize that I left out a critical element that explains why I enjoy low/no tech.  It’s the literal hands-on nature of the task. My hands, my energy, using minimal tools to get the job done. There’s more of “me” in the outcome.

I appreciate labour-saving devices, don’t get me wrong. I know that most housekeepers would be lost if they could not count on the machines to do the work for them. This winter, I was enormously grateful for the fact that a washing machine and dryer came with the house. No way am I hanging laundry outside in sub-zero weather!  But I do not get the same little hit of satisfaction when I pull clothing from the dryer as I do when I remove it from the wash line.

For ‘old-OLD-fashioned” technology, let’s consider 500 years ago, when metal tools, and goods made from these tools, were crafted sometimes with gilding and ornamentation. These items were made in the home by the tradespersons who specialized in the art. With modern mass production and the loss of handmade goods and ornamentation comes a cultural loss, I believe. The “tool user” is not the toolmaker, and therefore is not as engaged with his possessions or his work.

Today off-shore mass production is the norm. Tools and goods are rarely embellished, unless, for example, you count the Nike “swoosh” as adornment. In many cases, the only other maker’s mark is “Made in China.”  Since I am so far removed from the production of the goods that I use, I take them, and their manufacture, for granted.

For years, my mother sewed and knitted my clothing. She taught me those skills. There was even a very short period of time when I darned my socks. Can you imagine? How quaint is that?

Do I wear handmade socks these days? Hardly – they are lumpy and floppy and more expensive than store-bought. Do I sew my clothing? No chance. First of all, I also hate my sewing machine. Second, IF you can find a textile store these days, and IF they carry decent fabric, and IF you finish that project before styles or body-shape changes, you will STILL pay exponentially more than off-the-rack.

As for “new-fashioned” technology, I will continue to shop online, to buy goods manufactured by an unknown overseas worker – or robot! – and I will benefit from the fact that these workers are paid peanuts. (Now I feel that awkward first-world angst for bemoaning the loss of “simpler” times when I wore patched socks, for feeling like a cheat for using the electric clothes dryer, for hating my appliances.)

Sure, thanks to those labour-saving high or low tech tools that I use, I have loads of free time. What do I do to fill that time meaningfully? Well, writing, for one. At least I can put my maker’s mark on that.

S. Hibbert & Son Sheffield. We found this bladed tool at an antique market. We liked the age and quality of the piece and the fact that “they don’t make ’em like this any more.”

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46 replies

  1. Oh dear. Here I was, thinking a post titled “Maker’s Mark” and opening with mention of “old fashioned” was gonna be about bourbon cocktails!

    I guess the answer to the question “what does ~Alice~ do the old fashioned way?” must be “Approach every task like a happy lush!” Lol.

    Oh. Dear…

    Liked by 5 people

  2. I love the scent of sheets and towels dried on the line – and for awhile here one summer, I had a clothesline and hung those items out to dry. But the towels often come in less soft than I like, and clothing fades exposed so directly to natural light. Then winter came – that experiment ended. I also made all of my clothes, and my kids’ clothes, for a long time. Even ventured into a sports coat, pants, and many many shirts for my husband. Then, as you said, fabric costs went up and readymade went down. I handwash some of my dishes, things I use more frequently than I run the dishwasher, knives, pots and pans. But I do love the dishwasher.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s the first thing I do, when I un-pin a towel – get a good sniff of the fragrance. Can’t be beat.

      I only miss the dishwasher when I have family over for a holiday meal. But since our move, we won’t be hosting those meals very often.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. My first thought was that I like baking bread the old way…and then I realized I haven’t done that in over a year. And I like knitting sweaters, also not done in many years. My mom taught us how to sew. I hated sewing. I like vacuuming and love my central vac. Hmmmm…now I’m beginning to wonder what exactly I DO like that is done the old fashioned way. Maybe I don’t know myself at all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I really like baking bread, too. I toyed with the idea of buying a bread-making machine – but the storage space issue got to me. Not to mention, once you make it, you have to eat it!

      It’s been about a year since I last made loaves of challah – I love braided egg bread – fun to make.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. When I moved last year, I had a dishwasher for the first time in my adult life. You wanna know how I wash the dishes now that I have this lovely, time-saving appliance? I wash the dishes by hand as I’m loading the machine. Otherwise, they’re not CLEAN.

    One thing I do miss with apartment life vs. home life is being able to hang the wash out – you just can’t bottle and sell the smell of clothing dried via Mother Nature.

    Liked by 4 people

  5. I wish we had a spot in our yard for a clothesline, but we don’t. I’d love for our laundry to have that fresh smell and to avoid using unnecessary energy (the energy that comes out of the wall, not mine) by hanging everything in the sun. But, that’s probably overly-romantic of me. The sun has a tendency to bleach out colors and stiffen fabric. Oh well, I guess I’ll stick with my machines. I’ll stick with the old fashions that you can drink out of a glass.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are correct about the bleaching effects of the sun. Washer women in the “olden” days used to hang the whites draped over the lawns and shrubberies to get the full effect of the sun’s whitening power.

      As regards your old-fashioned cocktail, Cheers!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Drying clothes on a line sounds lovely, but my yard is a bird party these days and that load would no longer be clean. There’s always a trade-off. But I love making bread and gardening the hard way – hands as tools, as you said.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I haven’t had too many bird-bombings over the years – once a season, if that. But when it happens, it’s off-putting. I’ve had more trouble with spiders and beetles and other hangers-on as they hitch a ride into the house.

      Gardening! Yes, I thought of you and your gardens as I wrote this piece. That’s the other thing I really enjoy – being able to work my hands directly in the soil. There was a time when I didn’t even wear gloves, but that habit has changed. My arsenal of gardening tools is very simple – hand-held trowel, fork, and pruners, and a collapsible waste bucket for the weeds and trimmings.

      If I were fit enough, I’d mow the lawn with a manual mower, but that’s… um, pushing it, for me.

      Liked by 3 people

  7. I think we might be twins separated at birth, Maggie. I nodded my head in agreement all the way through. We live in a small townhouse and the kitchen is minuscule by modern standards. There is no room for fancy schmancy labour saving appliances (aside from the dishwasher because there are five who live here and I feel about doing dishes the way you feel about your vacuum). I hang clothes on a rack in the summer. I’m sure the neighbours hate us of it which I kind of like in my perverse way. Wonderful post!

    Liked by 3 people

  8. As strange as it sounds, there are three things I like to do that involve less tech. Dishes by hand, hang out the clothes if possible, and I use a gasoline lawn mower that has to be pushed. No fancy transmission on it to pull it along.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Not strange at all!

      I would like to use a push mower, since I’m prime for lawn mowing duties. I’d be crippled without the assist!

      But after gardening, with or without using gloves, I love to wash the dishes by hand to clean my hands.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Wow, Maggie! Pause for thought on what I used to do low-tech. How about an old wringer washing machine! Nothing like my life today! I do have an old fashioned can opener! Guess the quicker I can get something done, the better. Then back to writing! Happy Sunday! 🎶💛 Christine

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Christine! Nice to hear from you!

      Mom enlisted me to help with Saturday laundry duty. I was the “catcher” on the other side of the wringer washer. I remember dreading when she’d pass through my brothers’ corduroy pants. Something about the way they were lined, the legs would balloon up and more often than not –
      BAM!!! the wringer would pop open. Even though I knew it was coming, it would scare me to death.

      Liked by 2 people

  10. Another post that hits the mark, Maggie. We live in a throw-away society now, so nothing is made with the craftsmanship of prior years … going long back before we were born 😉

    What do I like doing the old-fashioned way? Yeah, drying laundry outside would be high up on the list …. ESPECIALLY bed sheets! Is there anything better than crawling into a bed smelling fresh from the outdoors?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. We have a dishwasher, but my wife doesn’t use it. We have an agreement about our next cabinets. There will be space for a dishwasher (so one could be installed if we were to sell the place) but it would be filled with a cabinet insert. Every now and then, I choose hand woodworking tools over power tools, but not always. I appreciate the old ways.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. So many things to love about this post. I haven’t heard “blow the stink off” for many years…it was one of my mother’s favorites. Nothing like those sheets coming off of the clothes line, but I haven’t done it for years. And they say that washing dishes by hand is good for the spirit !!

    But, you really had me at “I hate my vacuum cleaner”…soul sister.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. I usually eat the old fashioned way. One bite at a time. Of course, that doesn’t go for ice cream. But, oh, the headache. When the ice cream sees me coming, it says, “Here comes the sucker.” Like P. T. used to say, “There’s one born every minute.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I used to eat one bite at a time, too – when I was a baby. My first memory (who knows if it’s true or imagined, but let’s go with true, just for fun) is of me in the red vinyl high chair opening wide to receive a spoonful of apricot moosh. Nummy, mummy!

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Totally relate to all of this. I like doing some things myself. I find that in the yard, my husband wants to hop on the fossil fueled machinery for everything, and then I go in afterwards with the rake, pick and shovel and dignify things. I also love the convenience of a dishwasher, a dryer, a microwave. There are things I hate about convenience too–plastic bags especially. I’m trying so hard to reduce plastic in my footprint. UGH! Thanks for the Saint comment also–as one saint to another…got it–Saint Maggie!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, Saint Ilona! How wonderful to hear that you can relate!

      It has to be a guy thing, right? All these noisy power-assisted devices of destruction.

      My hubby and I bickered in the hardware aisle about replacing the lawn edging tools. I prefer to do it by hand – nice and contemplative, one stretch at a time until it’s done.

      “That’s ridiculous,” he said. “With this gas trimmer you can have it done in fifteen minutes!”

      “YOU can get it done if you want to buy this thing. I’m not touching it.”

      I thought that should settle the deal.

      Nope.

      Now, of course, two years later, we live in the back woods of Coleman Township on a rock outcrop surrounded by trees and assorted wildflowers. We will never edge a lawn again. The trimmer, used maybe 6 times, tops, hangs on a hook in the garage, collecting dust and spider webs.

      Liked by 1 person

  15. I love a good old-fashioned…
    Anyway, I feel ya. I’d die without a washing machine, but I can live without a dryer, especially in the warmer months. I wanted a proper line, with posts and all that, but what I got was a retractable. I’m grateful. One day, The Mister may have the time to put up the real thing.
    Our dishwasher died a few years ago, but it didn’t really matter, because I only used it when we had guests. I like shiny clean dishes, and I don’t think machines are any match for me.
    I don’t like bells and whistles, either. The more things go electronic, the more wary I am. Just another thing to break or go on the fritz.
    I darn The Mister’s costly socks sometimes. Can’t make clothes. Not real clothes.
    I am a clean surfaces person as well.
    I like to be busy. I like to do a lot of things as naturally as possible. Not everything, but a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Just a thought to throw into the discussion. What one generation considers old fashioned will sometimes be something that a previous generation thought high-tech. As a young boy I remember my mother doing washing the old fashioned way with a machine from which the clothes were pulled out and fed through a hand mangle consisting of two wooden rollers. She resisted getting a new-fangled washer-spinner. Yet even that machine was new tech compared to simply using your hands! So for us to return to something that we consider old fashioned could be to return to something our parents thought totally advanced.

    Like

  17. Hmmm… I may be too enthralled with my labor-saving machines to be part of this party. When I think of doing things the old-fashioned way I’m thinking about making whipped cream from scratch in my Kitchen-Aid mixer rather than buying Cool Whip. Although with enough shots of Makers Mark I might be convinced to try just about anything. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

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