Among the Amish
Frozen Laundry

On a December visit with our Amish friends I had the experience of watching the lady of the house do laundry. On her mud porch she keeps her gasoline-powered washing machine, complete with a wringer. Once the clothes are washed and wrung she tosses them in a basket, and when the basket is full it's time to hang the clothes to dry.

And this is the part I found interesting: In 17-degree weather she carried the basket of wet clothes out to the clothesline and, barehanded, hung the clothes as though it were a sunny summer day. But it wasn't! The thermometer may have read 17 degrees, but with the stiff breeze it felt more like 10 degrees or less! With raw, red hands she worked quickly and efficiently, not wasting any time at all.

When she had finished hanging her basket-load I brought out my camera to take photographs of the colorful dresses swinging in the breeze, and as I snapped away I realized that the water left in the dresses had formed into icicles. Not only that, but the clothes had frozen stiff, and as they swung back and forth in the breeze they made a noise like cardboard as they bumped one another.

Frozen Amish Dresses with Icicles

I posted photos of the frosty clothes for my friends to see. Over time many people asked the same question: If the clothes are frozen, how do they ever dry? This morning I got the answer.

Apparently they freeze-dry on the line, but it depends on the level of humidity. The sun and wind help dry them, and if they don't completely dry out on the line, then they will finish drying once they are brought into the house.

So now you know!

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