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City-fied Self-Sufficiency

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I can say I was prepared…

Several days ago, we had a severe thunderstorm come through.  Not a big one, but it doesn’t have to be.  The power flickered off, on, off, on, and finally off again within just a few seconds.  Half a minute later, my uncle’s generator kicked in.  We ran around the house, turning off all the things that had been on that weren’t needed — the washer, the dryer, the computers — so that the generator wouldn’t be strained, and so that they would be spared any more surges (this family has lost three computers total to lightning, so we plug them all in to surge protectors, AND we unplug them if lightning gets close).  The oven had to stay on, or else we would lose our partially-cooked pork roast.  All was well with the world.

Well… until the power came back on several hours later.  We went to resume the washing, and the washing machine would not turn on.  Shay and my uncle checked all sorts of things — the breaker, the outlet, the cord, etc.  Everything was fine.  So the next day Shay got out his tools and took the back off of the washer’s control panel, and proceeded to test what I thought was called the switch, but is actually a timer.  The timer was bad, a likely casualty of the storm.

Thinking we could just replace the timer with a new one from Sears, we added some Pine Sol to the towels in the washer, which was (naturally, according to Murphy’s Law) full of soap and water.  The Pine Sol didn’t keep it completely from smelling bad, but it really did keep it from actually going bad.

So Tuesday, since everything was closed Monday for Independence Day, I called the parts store and found that the part I needed was a $100 part.  This is for a washer bought 14 years ago for $600.  When the guy asked how old the washer was, and I told him, he said very nicely but firmly that he would not invest that much in a 14-year-old washer.  Something else could go up on it in a couple of months, and I’d have $100 freshly sunk into it.  He was losing a sale in telling me this, so it’s not like he was going to make money off of me selling me a new washer if he could talk me out of buying this part.  They don’t sell appliances there.

So I called my uncle, and he agreed.  I spent the rest of the day shopping online, reading reviews and such.  He was surprised to learn he could still get a new Maytag washer for $600, thanks to a local Ace that sells scratch & dent appliances, so he said he was willing to spend $600.

I found that Maytag doesn’t make basic, non-electronic washers anymore, though.  Even the ones with dials had sensors and membrane buttons.  And Maytag isn’t the same as they used to be.  The Maytag repairman apparently isn’t bored out of his mind with nothing to do anymore.

I am not interested in an electronic washer.  It’s just more to go wrong.  Electronics are more sensitive to electric fluctuations than electro-mechanical workings.  I don’t need a washer that can read what sort of clothing I put in, how full it is, how much water to put in to match the size of the load, and so on.  I read so many reviews of washers in which the reviewers stated, “It worked great at first, then it got an error/started beeping, and now I can’t get it to wash/rinse/spin.”  I just need a faithful workhorse.  I can tell it how high to fill, and all of that. I want it to work, and I want it to keep working for years.

I finally found an Amana that fits the bill, and even had a delicates cycle, and an option for an extra rinse.  Highly recommended, for $399 at Home Depot, delivered, installed, and old one hauled away.  Blew my uncle’s mind.  Hahaaaaaaaaaaaaaa….

(I can’t tell you how many reviews of this washer had people saying, “I returned/got rid of my HE washer and bought this, and I couldn’t be happier!”  I’d love to buy a washer that uses less water.  Not because I’m an environmentalist, but because I’m a conservationist.  And I like saving money and being less dependent.  If water rationing comes around, hey, an HE washer fits the bill.  I used to have a front-loading HE washer, and it worked fine.  I had to sell it when we moved.  My only problem with it was that I didn’t know from the beginning that I had to leave the door open to keep the seal from mildewing.  And I always did wonder about all those electronics.  Here, I don’t have the option of getting a front-loader, because the door would open into a refrigerator.  And I had to go to a more expensive, higher-end, fully electronic washer to get a top-loading HE washer with consistently great reviews, loads of features I will never use, and a serious learning curve.  No thanks.)

So, finally realizing that this wasn’t going to be a quick fix, we siphoned the water out of the washing machine, and pulled the towels out of it.  Since there’s still a little water below the tub that we can’t get to, I put in a splash of bleach.

Today, it was time to go order the washer.  So we were busy taking care of rabbit chores and stuff, when my cell phone started alarming.  What?  I didn’t set an alarm for today.  Except… that’s right, today’s Wednesday, not Tuesday (boy, the guys having Monday off really messed me up as far as knowing what day it was!).  Which means… ILoveBunnies has a dental appointment!!!  And we have 30 minutes to leave!

So AFTER the dentist, we went to order the washer.  I had hoped I’d be able to see the washer in person, but they didn’t have it on display.  Oh, well, we went ahead and ordered it, and it will be here Saturday.


I bought a brass washboard from Lehman's after we went without power for a week after a hurricane. My mom washed clothes after that storm, and all she could do was rub them together. I couldn't help, because I had recently been in a pretty bad car accident, and my back and shoulders could not do that yet. I watched helplessly as she toiled, wishing I had at least a washboard for her. It wasn't long before I did have one.

What must be washed, I am washing on my washboard.  It is sturdy and works well.  I just poured some detergent into the cap and drizzled a little onto the washboard now and then, since I didn’t have a bar of laundry soap.  My shoulders are a little sore now, but not much.  I washed that unfinished load of towels yesterday, and I had to wash some work clothes for Shay today.  Boy, are we going to have a lot of laundry backed up and waiting by the time the washer gets here!

Are you prepared to wash clothes without electricity, or without a washing machine?  End-of-the-world stuff doesn’t have to happen in order for you to suddenly need a new (old) way of doing things.  Just a thunderstorm.  Or a blizzard.  Or…


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2 Responses to “I can say I was prepared…”

  1. ladysown says:

    have to admit… I wouldn’t even have thought about it… now I will.

    • Miss M says:

      That hurricane did us a big favor, in a sense. That was in 2004. We had already been preparing for a while.

      We had food stored away (and non-powered ways to get it open!) and a couple of alternate means of cooking. We had a small, battery-powered television we could watch for short periods of time for emergency info and storm updates. We were on a peninsula, and were cut off from the mainland, so we were looking for info on bridge inspections, recovery of sand from the roads, and what roads had actually disappeared.

      We had disposable eating and drinking things. The lift station had lost power as well, so we couldn’t let anything go down the drains. So we had a 5 gallon bucket, a trash bag, Pine Sol, and a toilet seat. We had a large plastic tub that the kids would wash off in at night to cool off, and then we would dump the water outside.

      We charged the cell phones in the car. We were just about the only ones with service, because Verizon had propane generator backups on their towers.

      We had flashlights and lanterns and batteries to power them.

      The storm pointed out some of our weaknesses, though, like the difficulty of doing laundry.

      It was good to see how well we were able to manage, though. Because we had been cut off, it took several days for the National Guard to be able to get supplies in, in spite of the fact that we had two military bases on the peninsula with us. Once they did make it in, many, many people waited in lines in the Florida September sun for MREs and ice.

      My mom did decide to go get some ice on about day 5. Not because we needed it, but because it was so hot, it would be so refreshing to have some cold drinks. So she went, intending to refuse the MREs, but they just had her pop her trunk, and they tossed in ice and MREs, and waved her on her way (they were very fast and efficient). We still have that unopened case of MREs.

      We’ve found it very useful as we go about our days to look at what we’re doing and ask ourselves, “How would I do this without power?” and, “How would I do this without access to a doctor/store/etc.?”