For a good houseplant fertilizer and insecticide, dispose of coffee and tea grounds and crushed eggshells in the houseplant's soil.

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A Little Think

There's Enough Summer Left

There's enough summer left...for hang-ups! By August of my 8th summer, I was allowed to hang clothes out on the line for my mom. What a distinct privilege. The rest of the week, I made beach umbrella tents, which was a BIG deal. The challenge was finding enough towels and, this was the hard part, clothespins! They had to pinch/clip on, not regular ones, or else the towels would fall down. Lois Steben was key in making this work because her mom had more of the "right" clothespins than my mom. Hours were enjoyed at this game of hang-ups under which we'd hide from the world!

Without knowing that story, my 4 year old granddaughter Sophie, who lives in the U.K., made me a picture last Christmas. I hope you can see the detail...clothes blowing in the breeze, hung up by little handcrafted clothespins. It brings back all the senses of my growing up summers spent in this simple place in the trees next to the sparkling smooth or tumbling water. A lot of hang-ups since then have made me want to throw in the towel. But when I find the right "clothespin" life goes better. This often involves friends who share what they have to make things happen. When I have trouble hanging on to things like ideas and follow through, my good intentions slip off like the towels used to with the loose grip of the wrong clothespins. It also helps to know that God has me in His grip, even when I gripe! He's got the whole world's laundry in His hands! So if yours gets aired like mine did this summer with my can handle it, because He's got a Handle ON it! You're not in this alone.

Go back, in your head, to summer highlights from when you were a kid. How did your senses size up summer? The smell of fresh cut grass, running after the bug sprayer truck "cloud." [We didn't know it was toxic.] The sound of the ice cream truck, locusts buzzing, the outdoor band concert, waves on the lake and campfires. Laying on your back in the grass watching clouds. Hearing kids play outside when you had to practice your instrument inside first!

Send me your memory to share on this page! If you have a clothespin story....I'll send you a surprise!

Stories from the Clothespin Bag

Hi Phyllis:

Summertime! Brings back memories of childhood - Monday was wash day. Mom was up at 6 to get the 'monkey stove' fired up in order to have hot water for the wringer-type washer. Before heading to work, Daddy would put up the clothesline which stretched from the house to each tree in our yard and the clothes props, which Grandpa made, were in their places around ready for use. The sheets and white shirts came up first and had to be hung on the east line - better breeze. As each load was dragged upstairs and the right kind of clothespin was used for the items (pinchers for sock and towels) - the lines began to fill, the birds sang and the sun beat down its heat on us. By the time we were hanging the last load - the first was ready to be taken down. The smell of those clothes still linger. I never quite understood why we didn't take the items down that needed to be ironed while they were still damp; because we had to dampen each item that was to be ironed, roll them up, put them in the wash basket and cover them so they would be ready for the next day. If the day was extremely hot - those rolled items were placed in the icebox so they wouldn't get moldy.

Free time was spent up in 'my tree' outside the back steps. I used to drag up crayons, pencils, drawing paper, books to read and sit in the crux of several limbs that made a great seat. OR head for the woods with a long piece of string and a sturdy stick - in order to fish in the creek. I remember listening to all the insects harmonizing and the peacefulness of that area. The click-click of my skates over the cracks in the sidewalk; sharing an apple on the back stoop with Grandpa; walking uptown to the ice cream parlor for a chocolate phosphate and getting to pick a pastry from the bread truck. All these and more shaped my life.

I still have that hanging bag of clothespins - used them many times over the past 30 years and oh the memories they conger up with each clip.

God has always been there to use the 'right' clothespin in my life - I'm certain that he will continue to be my LIFEline.



Hi Phyllis,

I enjoyed your column and the story on hanging up clothes on the "line" - of course, no one has a clothesline anymore, even the townships BAN the clothes lines in the backyards. As a young bride, I loved hanging up clothes, the wonderful smell, and then as a young mother, CLOTH diapers - memory of FLAGS ON THE LINE waving and waving!!!!!

Best to you,


A "Letter to the Editor"
From the Chicago Tribune
July 27, 2008

Will clotheslines turn dryers into relics?
By Sheila Simon

Hang out with me.

In my most rich environmentalist fantasies, I am off the grid, self-sufficiently solar. In real life, I'm still on the grid because I'm not rich.

But even in real life with a budget, my family and I have scored big with one simple lifestyle change--we hang dry all of our laundry. It has reduced our power bill, and turned us, like converts to a new faith, into proselytizers.

We had long ago taken steps to reduce our electricity use. We replaced all of our light bulbs with fluorescents, use less air conditioning in the summer, and turn the heat down in the winter when we're all out of the house. But nothing made such a dent in our power bill as abandoning the dryer. That simple change dropped our average monthly bill by more than $100.

The savings is not a shock to those who keep track of power use. Dryers use nine times the energy of a washing machine. And a heat-generating appliance is obviously the wrong direction to turn on a hot summer day.

Why haven't we heard more about this? Because no organized interest profits from line drying. There is no clothespin cartel--the investment is small and lasts a lifetime or more. (My favorite clothespins used to belong to my Grandma Ruth.) And power companies are not likely to slip us a note on how we can reduce the use of their product.

So, here's a quick primer on hanging laundry. It takes just a little more time and planning than using a dryer. We hang a load in the morning before going to work. By the time we get home, it's dry and we bring it in. On rainy or cold days we hang the load on a collapsible metal rack in the bathroom. An outdoor line can cost around $100, and the indoor rack only about $20.

In addition to a lower power bill, we get to see more of our neighbor Marci in the spring, summer and fall. In the winter we get a bit more humidity in the house, which is welcome.

It's not a perfect system. Rainy afternoons can come without advance warning. And remembering on Sunday night that gym clothes need to be ready for Monday has caused us to resort to the dryer occasionally.

Clotheslines do not come equipped with green satin capes to show off your environmental hero status. But even without the cape, this is an environmental fantasy that's easy to make real.

Sheila Simon lives in Carbondale.

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