Sunday, February 17, 2008

Wonder Wash

A few years ago we bought the Wonder Wash to wash clothes and diapers without spending too much money.

The Wonder Wash is called a compact pressure washer. It is hand-powered by a plastic crank and can hold up to 5 lbs. of laundry at a time. The lid seals on a rubber gasket and is closed by a knob that screws down the lid quite tightly.

I used ours to do all our family's (then 2 adults, one baby) laundry, including cloth diapers. It did a fine job. The hardest part was wringing the laundry out sufficiently by hand afterwards. I did laundry just about every day, and it took about an hour start to finish. Definitely a good workout. The instructions say to do it on a counter at the edge of a sink so that you can drain the gray water into the sink. I didn't have any such counter, so I just put it in the bathtub and knelt on a towel just outside the tub to do the cranking. I found the drain pipe to be inefficient so I just took the lid off after a cycle and dumped the water out.

It seems that people acquire these little contraptions second-hand quite often. And usually they are missing the instructions. We no longer have our Wonder Wash, but I did type the instructions a while back. Here they are for anyone who needs them:

Simple and Easy-to-Use Wonder Wash Washing Instructions:

1. Sort the washing into loads according to material type and/or colors. Note: There are 5 basic load types:
A. White cottons and linens
B. Colorfast cottons and linens
C. White synthetics and cotton blends
D. Nylons and colored synthetics
E. Delicates

2. Place the machine on the edge of the sink.

3. Add the required water (at the correct temperature) and soap according to the washing chart below.

4. Add the washing.

5. Fit the pressure lid and tighten completely.

6. Attach the handle and turn the machine at abut one turn per second for the recommended time.

7. After washing, unscrew the pressure lid by turning the pressure knob slowly to release the pressure.

8. Remove pressure lid by turning anti-clockwise to release.

9. To drain, tilt machine to allow water to run into sink OR, if fitted with water release valve, insert Pipe into Valve and turn a quarter turn clockwise, until it clicks into position.

1. By Hand
Fill sink or basin with clean water and empty wash into sink and agitate by hand.

2. By Machine
After draining away the dirty water, leave the washing in the machine and fill with clean cold water. Replace the pressure lid and tighten and turn the machine for about 30 seconds. Drain and wring dry. Repeat if necessary.


.5 kg ---- 1.5 L -----1 Tbsp/15 g --- 1 min
1 kg ----- 3 L ------ 2 Tbsp/30 g -- 1.25 min
1.5 kg --- 4.5 L ---- 3 Tbsp/45 g -- 1.5 min
2.2 kg --- 6 L ------ 4 Tbsp/60 g -- 2 min

Note: Very absorbent materials will require more water, but DO NOT exceed the amounts listed above. If necessary reduce the size of the load.


A ------------ 90 deg C - very hot
B ------------ 60 deg C - hot
C ------------ 50 deg C - hand hot
D ------------ 40 deg C - warm
E ------------ 30 deg C - lukewarm


1. DO NOT use boiling water
2. DO NOT leave pressure lid on the machine after washing if the machine is still hot as a vacuum can form when machine cools down.
3. DO NOT store machine with pressure knob turned tight.
4. DO NOT overload. Do smaller loads as it will be easier and the machine will was better and quicker.
5. DO NOT TIGHTEN the pressure lid onto the machine when storing. Put on loosely!

1. We recommend the use of LOW FOAM DETERGENTS (i.e. automatic washing machine powders.)
2. Low foam detergents will make rinsing easier.
3. If wash does not come clean the washing combination is wrong. Use the correct amount of water, soap, and time.
4. Wash clothes at highest temperature garment will allow, but DO NOT exceed recommended temperatures.
5. The use of washing additives, e.g. a little bleach and/or fabric softener is acceptable.
6. Assist the cleaning of very dirty cuffs and collars by using recommended additives designed for cuffs and collars; or Wet the cuff or collar first and rub soap powder into fabric.
7. DO NOT scrub cuffs and collars, as this only damages the fabric.

NOTE: These instructions have been typed from the instructions that came packaged with a Wonder Wash unit. They are not the complete instructions, as they do not include the guarantee info, 5-min dying info, pressure lid fitting instructions, assembly instructions, or full water release valve instructions. There also might be typos, sorry.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

In Memory of Warm Weather

On this bitter cold day, I am dreaming of spring. I have hit the winter blues; missing warm days of walks without coats, open window breezes, and digging in the dirt.

I have been taking notes on how fast our canned food is going so I know how much more or less to preserve for next year. And I took notes during the gardening season of 2007 to help me plan for 2008. Here is my summary:

Applesauce - 18 qts - same as this year -- going well
Tomato Sauce - 18 pts - half again more than this year
Diced/Whole Tomatoes - 48 pts - half again more
Ketchup - 2 pts - never got around to it this year
Peaches - 12 pts - twice as much as this year
Jam/Preserves - 6 pts - same
Berries (freeze) - 18 pounds - or as much as budget allows - such a winter treat
Corn - 18 pounds
Peas - 18 pounds
Basil - 2 cups
Oregano - 2 cups
Thyme - 2 cups
Cilantro - 2 cups

And then there is the decision of what to plant in order of priority since space will get tight. We live in an apartment. Last summer I decided to dig up a big patch of weeds near the house on the sunniest side I have access to (facing the west) as my first garden, without asking the landlord first. He never said anything about it, so I going for it again this year, maybe pushing my borders out a bit to add some other vegetables. I would really like to just dig up the whole front yard since it's not suitable for our children to romp around in, but I am guessing even if our landlord did not have an issue with it, and I am sure he would, few of our neighbors would respect it. This last summer my pepper plants became their ashtray.

So here is what I hope to plant: 4 cherry tomatoes, a habenero, a cayenne, two of basil, an oregano, a thyme, a cilantro, several of lettuce with room for planting a few sessions of it, some kale, and, if there's room, zucchini, butternut squash, cantaloupe, and peas.

My plan is that what we grow we eat fresh. I will preserve any excess, such as in the case of the herbs, but in general what I preserve will come from local farms.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


In the past I have resisted schedules at home. Partially because young children's needs are so unpredictable that it seemed that whatever I attempted to plan was put aside when higher priorities took over.
Recently I was inspired while reading a blog post about organizing household chores around the days of the week. This is something that might work for me. I've already gotten the hang of planning a week's worth of meals on Sunday (or Monday morning) and then doing the full week's grocery shopping on Monday morning. I have been having such trouble getting laundry done without it piling in multiple mountains. This method leads to someone not being able to find clean undershirts (sorry, Adam) or matching socks (sorry, kids) and a fair amount of foul stench as the dirty stuff rots and the clean stuff mildews.
I need some help getting it done. And the answer isn't a bigger washer or an electric dryer. While those two purchases would help the speed, they wouldn't help my bad habits. I believe the root of the habits is the organization style of survival. Do what must be done now. Fix what squeaks the loudest. And hope (or worry) that everything else will get done in time.

It's time to move beyond this. So here are some of my new tools for accomplishing all that I want and not get overwhelmed by trying to do it all at once.

1. Keep the kitchen clean. Food is the center of our physical lives. And food is messy. Wash dishes periodically throughout the day. Sweep the floor at least once during the day. And wash dishes and counters at the end of the day so that we wake to a clean kitchen that inspires a good breakfast.

2. Swish the toilet each day with the toilet brush without any cleanser. This means no need to break out the bleach once a month to kill the major buildup that has grown thick. It won't build up. And I will be comfortable having friends over anytime.

3. Pick up trash, clothes, books and toys every evening. Good maintenance habit for me and the kids. The benefit of waking to a clean house inspires doing interesting productive things.

4. Follow a weekly schedule for chores. My current one looks like this:
(This includes all of the bread-making prep, since it's something that needs to be planned in advance.)

Monday - grocery shop and bake two loaves of sourdough bread

Tuesday - wash and hang laundry (diapers and clothes) and refresh sourdough starter

Wednesday - fold and put away laundry, wash and hang more if needed, put out trash, make biga and firm sourdough starter

Thursday - fold and put away more laundry, bake two loaves of sourdough, two loaves of sandwich bread, a batch of muffins and a batch of cookies, and make a poolish for tomorrow's pizza

Friday - clean the bathroom

Saturday - change and wash sheets and towels, vacuum all rooms

Sunday - fold and put away sheets and towels, refresh sourdough starter, make firm starter, and put out recycling

In my first two attempts at following this schedule, I have been pleased with how well it works. I have less to worry about each day, since if I follow the schedule everything will get done in good time; but more gets done, since I have a task of the day, I'm less likely to putz around on something unproductive.
A couple of times I have traded activities of the day with the next day if, for instance, I didn't have access to the car on shopping day. But in the end it all got done without any one day being too busy or so task-filled that there wasn't room for the unpredictable needs of the little people in my care.
It's an experiment anyway. It may not last forever, and since I am my own boss, I don't feel worried that if I don't follow the schedule, there's a need to feel guilty or feel like a failure. It's just a tool, and perhaps it will help.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Cooperative Living

Cooperative living is something I think a lot about. It is a generic term I'm using for a few ways we are attempting to live (or thinking about living) less enslaved to the idea of ownership (and entitlement) to material things and things like personal space and privacy, living with the people around us rather than just next to them. Not that any of those things are evil in and of themselves, it's just that we tend to abuse them and get self-centered with them, rather than allowing them to be used to move forward our real goals (glorifying God and serving people). A paraphrase of something by Doris Longacre (I think) from one of the More with Less books -- Simple living is not a goal in itself, but it is a means to free ourselves and our resources to serve those around us in a world sorely in need of help.

So, examples...
Spiritually, emotionally -- Openness to express hurt and need and depravity -- meeting regularly for scripture or prayer journaling. Accountability.

Materially -- finding ways to be a part of other people's lives and let other people into our lives by sharing our stuff, bartering, helping each other with tedious tasks -- we are interested in the idea of co-housing, that we don't require x sq.ft. of space to live in or our own kitchen or our own appliances or car, that there are many ways that we could ditch the idea that independent is best. We find it very easy to be isolated from everyone. Even our friends.
I've been trading homemade food products with some folks -- I make lots of bread, they make other stuff, we trade regularly, it forces us to talk to each other, be interested in each other's lives. We found a place that reaches out to people in financial need in our area. We made bag lunches weekly for them to hand out. I organized a bunch of Swap nights for several families, where we would bring as much stuff as we could find that we didn't use anymore to offer for free for anyone else to take, and we would make bulk meals to share with each other. That led to finding out about several other shared interests and related activities.

Meals -- When we lived in California, there was a family who invited us and a bunch of their kids' friends over each week on Wednesdays for supper. It was very meaningful to us. So we are trying something like that out of our home. So we are inviting a whole bunch of families to come eat and visit on one night a week every week, not expecting everyone to come every week, making a simple supper, and eating with and talking to whoever comes. It's a very sustainable, real, good activity. We can keep doing it for years. It's really at the core of knowing people is inviting them - serving them - eating with them - talking to them, over and over, doing the activities of normal life with them.

Cooperative living is sort of code words for the type of interactions with other people that come out of what we believe is our purpose in life -- worship, fellowship, accountability, caring for people in their needs, helping our neighbor in his daily life, building one another up, humility.
And it goes against the disconnectedness we have felt in traditional churches from applying those ideas to our real lives, or at least seeking out our own means for carrying them out in life apart from church-y activities, and our disconnectedness from people even within the church.