“Have you been sniffing stuff again?” he asks.
It’s time to do laundry, and I have just announced this fact to the Bearded One, who manages to get absolutely filthy each and every day here. He’s been cleaning up Tropical Storm Iselle debris for three weeks, and has turned the project into rehabbing gardens and tending to the new bananas. Neat stacks of twigs, sticks, and branches dot the landscape now.
“Of course I’ve been sniffing stuff,” I say. I sniff everything, it’s what I do. “You are out of T-shirts. We’re gonna have to do the laundry.”
He pauses and stares across the landscape. His banana patch is taking off. “Tomorrow.”
This is an offer of an actual plan, something he is loath to make, so I pounce. “Done.”
Until then, I will wash out my favorite top and lightweight cotton cropped pants and his favorite soft old underwear and hang them on our new clothesline. Which he rigged between two palms out front between the gate and the house.
Our “simple” off-grid life is still pretty complicated at this point. The solar panels are installed but not yet hooked up to the inverter nor to the battery nor to wires in the house. So we use a small generator to run the water pump (toilet, sink, and shower water from the catchment tank), computer, printer, and fans. The fridge, stove and hot water heater are propane, and will stay propane. The big solar system generator is also propane. But our small generator is ethanol-free gas.
Each week we haul in some combination of propane, gas, and drinking water, and will continue to even after we have the solar running.
Right now I’ve got to start the little generator so I can wash out the favorite clothes and get them on the line. It’s sunny and windy today, the perfect combination.
I walk around the side of the house to the utility area where the new catchment tank sits. The bank of 4 solar batteries is still covered by plywood protecting them from Iselle. That’s also roughly where the Bearded One is pondering space for a movable washer and dryer. On big dollies.
I head under the house and duck walk to the where the little red generator sits on its pallet. I greet it, check its vitals (are the shims in place that tilt it just the way it likes?), turn the switch to On, plant my left foot on its side and pull the rope. Starts right up. Always a noisy relief.
Lightweight clothes wash and wring out easily, but it’s still a lot of work. At least I have running water with the generator on. Clothes washers, in my opinion, are the best invention of mankind.
I’d also like a dryer. Some days are just too wet and humid to dry anything, and I could run a dryer off the big generator. But I could also live without it. Lots of families do. Dryers take a lot of electricity, solar or otherwise generated.
Clotheslines are all over Hawaii. Colorful layers, odd combinations of people’s stuff, the overlap and flap of lives. I love our clothesline. So does the Bearded One. He comes over to help me hang the little tub of clothes. He kisses me from behind as I pin up my tissue thin orange top.
I laugh and turn around and sniff his neck, a nice long snuffling sniff — he smells wonderful — then I kiss him back. Laying it on the line.