Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Pretender

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I have had this song and this album on my mind for a few days.

I'm going to rent myself a house

In the shade of the freeway
Going to pack my lunch in the morning
And go to work each day
And when the evening rolls around
I'll go on home and lay my body down
And when the morning light comes streaming in
I'll get up and do it again
Say it again

I want to know what became of the changes
We waited for love to bring
Were they only the fitful dreams
Of some greater awakening?
I've been aware of the time going by
They say in the end it's the wink of an eye
And when the morning light comes streaming in
You'll get up and do it again

Caught between the longing for love
And the struggle for the legal tender
Where the sirens sing and the Church bells ring
And the junk man pounds his fender
Where the veterans dream of the fight
Fast asleep at the traffic light
And the children solemnly wait
For the icecream vendor
Out into the cool of the evening
Strolls the pretender
He knows that all his hopes and dreams
Begin and end there

Ah, the laughter as they run through the night
Leaving nothing but to choose off and fight
And tear at the world with all their might
While the ships bearing their dreams sail out of sight
I'm going to find myself a girl
Who can show me what laughter means
And we'll fill in the missing colors
In each other's paint by number dreams
And then we'll put our dark glasses on
And we'll make love until our strength is gone
And when the morning light comes streaming in
We'll get up and do it again
Get it up again

I'm going to be a happy idiot
And struggle for the legal tender
Where the ads take aim and lay their claim
To the heart and the soul of the spender
And believe in whatever may lie
In those things that money can buy
Though true love could have been a contender
Are you there?
Say a prayer for the pretender
Who started out so young and strong
Only to surrender

Say a prayer for the pretender
Are you there
For the pretender?
Say a prayer for the pretender
Are you there
For the pretender?
Are you there
For the pretender?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

My Halloween Cat

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This picture of Syd my cat was shot Halloween night 2008. He was born March 16th 2006. He is posing by one of my empty bowls. Syd thinks an empty bowl needs correcting. He got outside last night and I couldn't find him for awhile. I don't usually let my black cats out around Halloween time. There are too many nut jobs out there that might hurt him. He misses his old yard and his other mom.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Empty Bowls Posters

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Every year in addition to donating bowls for the Empty Bowls project, I also take a few posters around to various businesses in my neighborhood. This year I will be going around to my old neighborhood as I am not very familiar with businesses in my new neighborhood. If you can post one of these please get a hold of me. If you click on the link you can see my previous Empty Bowls posts and some pottery that I have donated throughout the years.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Empty Bowls 2010

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My how time flies when it is not dragging! It is time for Empty Bowls again. I am throwing bowls at The Gillie Center right up till soup time.
The Empty Bowls Project started in 1991 as an elementary school project to end hunger. All proceeds here in Columbus go to The Ohio Food Bank.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Linden Metalsmithing Guild

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I got tired of waiting for someone to form a metalsmithing guild near where I live. I have the space. I have the time. I have the interest. Membership is open to all. Children younger than 12 must be accompanied by an adult. I am hoping to offer casting classes as early as February 2011. Please see Linden Metalsmithing Guild on Facebook.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bat House

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I put together a bat house this weekend with the help of my neighbors. I am hoping to make a few more of these this winter for gifts and for resale.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Drill And Drill Index

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I always knew I would be stuck without a power tool sooner or later. Maybe one will surface on Freecycle or Craigs List. In the meantime there are other ways to achieve results.

This is a Miller Falls Tool Company "egg beater drill" that I have had and used for almost 30 years. Millers Falls Tool Company existed from 1868-1962. If I would have known how valuable these hand drills are, I wouldn't have drilled a hole in the handle of mine. I needed to hang it up at the I stuck the rose colored handle right in the drill press and made this tool more serviceable to me. I do have spare parts for this including another handle, but I still want to hang it up over the workbench as I will need to useit. And the drill bit index Standard Tool Company Cleveland Ohio....I wouldn't take all the money in China for it; as all these drill bits were made in the USA. I probably won't ever have to buy another drill bit if I am careful. If you read the link you will see that overseas competition (China) put this company out of business also.
And the anvil looming in the background was a Buckeye Steel rail put out to pasture when the railroads were obsolete because of the automobile. So much of American and Ohio history on the workbench right now. Hopefully by my using these, I am honoring my ancestors.

Sunday, October 24, 2010


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I have been waiting for years to set up my centrifuge and burn out oven. It is almost in my grasp. The only thing standing in my way at this point is 35 pounds of investment powder and a tank of Acetylene. I have 3 apprentices who are eager to get started. This centrifuge is the largest centrifuge made for the dental industry. It is called The Lucas Giant #750. This will handle most jewelry projects and some small sculpture projects. The container was designed by me and made by Tom Parry and David Coleman. I used to watch David Colemans farm near Circleville. He had the round piece of metal leaning up against a door jam. I asked him if he needed it and told him what I wanted to use it for. He delivered it and put on the caster wheels and drilled the holes for the container sides. Tom parry welded the buckles that hold the sidewall in place. This was designed to slide under a workbench until it is needed. The base itself probably weighs over 80 pounds. I wanted to make sure this thing didn't walk across the floor and I didn't want the hot metal thrown out on anyone that might want to watch the spectacle. For the last 6 years it has had a piece of glass over the top of it and a lamp on it serving as an end table. It is about to come to life again. "I stand on the shoulders of giants".

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Blacksmith's Luck

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The other day I mounted one of my great grandfathers "baby" horse shoes on my workshop door. It is one of those things that I have always done when I am just about ready to open shop. It is practically a universal symbol and sign of a blacksmith. Many people believe that the horseshoe always needs to be turned the other way in order to assure good luck. In this instance I am claiming the rite of the blacksmith and the exception to that generalization is that the luck is supposed to be poured down on the forge. May this be so! I could use a bit of luck in my workshop. My Great Great Grandfather Alan Robinson was a farmer and a blacksmith. My living grandmother can remember when her grandmother needed to call him from his fields for a customer. She would take a big metal cooking spoon and beat it on the anvil and he would arrive shortly. I haven't been able to find Alan Robinson's grave. I like to think that a bit of him is alive again in me when I am metalsmithing.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Denial Is The New Black

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There is a use for everything. I am sure of it. The last time I spoke with my partner she was calling me a lier about her hoarding. She demanded that I go back through my blogs and remove any reference. It is sad when someone you love is in denial about something that can be as dangerous as hoarding.
Several months ago I was helping her move a Futon up to the bedroom when I was clobbered by a falling board that would have certainly knocked me unconscious if not killed me had I not caught it and cushioned the impact on my skull. There wasn't enough room in the stairway and surrounding space to do the task we were trying to do. It was like that much of the time.
Another time, a friend came over to deliver a CD I had purchased several months before. I was embarrassed because I could smell cat feces and knew my friend could as well. Every morning on my way to the bathroom I had to walk in cat feces and urine in front of the toilet where I needed to be. It was very difficult to live like that.
I realize that when she goes to work everyday she is presenting an image. The image seems to say I am normal in appearance.
People were not allowed to visit our home. At first this was OK with me, but later this became not so easy. I was trying to supplement my low income with some random projects that could help keep my car on the road and some other things that my monthly check just does not cover. So I sold some pottery. I repaired some jewelry. I tried my best to maintain a working studio. This was difficult if not impossible at times with the constant incoming "whatever".
There was not space for me to sit at a table and eat for several months. Sometimes the only chair in a room for me to sit was cluttered with her clothes which she never hung up, or picked up after she wore them. After a cat would lay on them they would be ready for the laundry. I was not permitted to run the vacuum cleaner because it scared the cats. There was so much furniture and clutter and clothes laying around it was almost impossible to vacuum and mop anyway. Still I held my ground and gave her fair warning when I was going to do these things. I had to try. I was brought up in a clean home and my mother worked hard at keeping it clean and tidy. My father would correct us if we left our toys and clothes it is built in me to try to be organized and to make my bed, clean my dishes, and pick up things that don't belong where they are. It was excruciatingly painful for me to live with a hoarder and the feeling of being buried alive continues to haunt me. I lost things in that house. It is like it swallowed things up. I am not in denial about my own complicity in this. I went on dumpster dives with her. I got rid of some of my stuff, only to be horrified that she would fill the space before I would even get home. Last time I saw her she was enraged at me. She was still angry at me for something I did 2 summers ago. I marvel at what the people she works with would think of her if they saw how she lived and how she subjected her loved ones and pets to live. I should have left the night I was almost knocked out by that board. Maybe if it would have hit me she would have noticed that the boards were stacked to fall on me. But probably not because she is in denial. She and I both know people that are in denial. There isn't anything I know of that will shatter it. It's not a broken mirror, it's art!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Hoarding VS Hoarders

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When both Mifflin police and Columbus police asked me the other day why my partner wouldn't give me my cat, I simply answered that "she is a hoarder". It has been the easiest answer to most of the difficult questions about why I had to leave my home, and why I couldn't have any help moving on that end of the move.

I didn't realize that there was a reality TV series on the topic. I was more concerned that my cat was being withheld from me and sometimes the shortest distance between two points is the truth. I hope she gets help for her compulsion. Short of jailing her and forbidding her to collect more anything, I admit I am baffled. I do believe it may have a genetic factor or component as one of her sisters suffers from the same sickness. I think when the police arrived to help her escort my cat to my truck they saw possibly what looked like a very unkempt yard, front porch, with a junk car in the back lot. No one else on the street has a place that looks at all like that. It is as obvious as the sun in the day sky and the moon in the night sky. I wonder what will have to happen in order to help these people. Will their houses have to burn to the ground in order for them to see what jeopardy they put their loved ones and loved animals through? My theory is that if my partner's house burnt down, she would claim the insurance money and start hoarding all over again. I felt buried alive and I felt alone while I lived there. She called the police on me, but I think they saw through her deception.
Here is the link to the following writing.

As soon as A&E's reality series Hoarders proved to be can't-look-away television, TLC rushed into production on a very similar series called Hoarding: Buried Alive, hoping to cash in on the public's appetite for clutter and filth. As it turns out, TLC actually beat A&E to the punch with a series of specials put out long before Hoarders existed, called Hoarders: Buried Alive. So really, both networks have a claim on starting this disturbing TV trend. That said, the average viewer probably doesn't have the stomach or the time to watch them both. Let's not even get into the often overlooked disroder that is DVR hoarding. We sat through both filth fests to determine which series is the bigger crap shoot.

The Approach:

Hoarders maximizes the drama by taking on cases that have their own built-in deadlines, like say an upcoming visit from Child Protective Services. Then it rachets it up another notch by giving the hoarders only two days with a psychiatrist, professoinal organizer and junk-collecting team to get over the mental issues that made them hoard all this stuff in the first place and ultimately get rid of the junk. It's an impossible task that is rarely, if ever, completed. In lieu of a narrator, Hoarders employs a white text on a black screen to constantly remind you what the stakes are and how little progress is being made, usually with the most passive-aggressive contempt plain white text on a black screen can muster.

Hoarding: Buried Alive is an informative, documentary-style look at the illness itself and how it affects specific people and their families. The viewer gets a better sense of why the subject decided to keep what he did and how things went from slightly cluttered to catastrophic. There is no time limit for cleaning things up, nor is there a team of professional junk haulers to help. But there is a psychiatrist on hand to show the hoarders how to live clutter-free after the show is done. The focus is more on the hoarder himself than the process of getting rid of all of his stuff, and the show's narrator has a calm and concerned tone that tells you what's going on without seeming to judge the hoarder.

The Hoarders:

Hoarders seems to specialize in not only the worst cases of compulsive junk collectors, but also the least likable. With a few exceptions, you will grow to hate these people within the hour, even though you know they have a serious mental problem and really can't help it. When the hoarders aren't berating their own children or the professionals the show brings in to help them, they're having yet another breakdown about how hard it is to part with an old 7-11 Big Gulp container.

Hoarding:Buried Alive takes on more sympathetic cases -- people who recognize that they have a problem but aren't quite sure how to begin solving it. The focus is on the hoarder and his attempt to get better rather than the disgusting squalor in which he lives.

The Hoard:

Hoarders:Do not watch this show if you have an HDTV. A&E's cameras just love to linger on close-up shots of disgusting filth. And I'm not talking about old newspapers here -- one show had a woman whose house was so full with garbage she could no longer use her bathroom and so she simply went into an adult diaper and tossed it behind her to join the pile. A four-foot-tall pile of poop-filled diapers. And we get to see it, along with flattened cat carcasses and a black pile of sludge that used to be a food hoarder's pumpkin. This show is not for the squeamish, and those images will stay with you for a very long time.

Hoarding: Buried Alive the show also gives us close-ups on the disgusting effects of the hoarder's mental illness, but the difference is they'll show a corner full of cat poop and not, say, a corner full of human poop on top of seven dead cats. Cameras try to capture the enormity of the mess, using an extreme wide-angle lens so we can see as much of the home as possible in one shot. The focus is on quantity rather than quality. However, I don't think this show has had a subject whose hoard could be seen on a Google maps satellite image, which was the case with one guy's car-filled backyard on Hoarders.

The Result:

Hoarders: With so much focus on the hoarder's inability to clean up and lack of motivation to even try, one wonders how he and the team of helpers are able to get so much done in just two days. I suspect it involves throwing most of the junk into a storage area for the hoarder to sort through later, which, of course, he'll never actually do. Even so, the before and after shots are dramatic, and the show does its best to make the hoarder's house seem pleasant and livable once again. Unfortunately, the damage is already done, and while the homes are free of clutter, they still look pretty gross and run-down. Sometimes, they actually looked better with the piles of junk -- at least it was covering up that stained olive green carpet.
As for the hoarders themselves, two days is simply not enough time to really get through to them, so while they promise to keep their home clean and follow-up with show-provided aftercare, you know that pretty soon, it'll look exactly the same as it did before, if not worse. And that's fine by you, because you're already grown to hate these people anyway.

Hoarding: Buried Alive: Because you invest in the hoarder himself and his progress, you don't just want his home to be clean -- you want it to be habitable and you want him to be happy in it. And that's what you get. The space left over when the work is done looks like somewhere someone could live, and live happily. And you want them to, as well.

The Verdict:

So, which show is better? It depends on what you're watching them for. If you're genuinely curious about the disorder, from how it started to how it hopefully ends, TLC's Hoarding: Buried Alive is probably the show for you. If you're looking for high-stakes cleaning and trash-porn, go with A&E's Hoarders. If you want the best of both worlds, the answer is actually neither: check out BBC America's How Clean is Your House? instead.

Hoarders airs Mondays at 11 pm on A&E. Hoarding: Buried Alive airs Sundays at 10 pm on TLC. How Clean is Your House? airs weekdays at 3 and 3:30 pm on BBC America.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Take It To The Limit One More Time

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This is the last request from Doctor Steve Blue Collar. I requested it for Lori and Concha his very last live broadcast.

All alone at the end of the of the evening
When the bright lights have faded to blue
I was thinking 'bout a man who might have loved me
And I never knew

You know I've always
I've always been a dreamer
Spent my life running 'round
And it's so hard to change
Can't seem to settle down

But the dreams I've seen lately
Keep on turning out and burning out
And turning out the same, same
So put me on a highway
And show, show me a sign
And take it to the limit one more time

You can spend all your time, spend all your time making money
Oh and you can spend all, spend all your love making time
But if it all fell to pieces tomorrow
Would you still, would you still be mine?

And when you're looking
When you're looking for your freedom
Nobody seems to care
You can't find the door
Can't find it anywhere

When there's nothing
Nothing to believe in
Still you're running back
You keep coming back
You're running back for more

Put me on a highway
And show me, show me a sign
Take it to the limit one more time

Take it to the limit
Take it to the limit
Take it to the limit
Take it to the limit one more time

Take it to the limit
Take it, take it to the limit
Take it to the limit

Oh yeah
Oh yeah
Oh yeah
Oh no
Oh oh
Take it to limit, one more time

Monday, October 18, 2010

Old Bitch Warrior

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I had a friend from way back come visit me this weekend. We were in our teens when we became acquainted. I had wanted to revisit some of the old days...but the new days interfered. I didn't get to really kick back and relax as I was waiting for the ax to fall in my own personal life. We were in line at Jenny's Ice cream and I was questioning my friend about Duram NC which she lived maybe 2 moves ago. I asked her how close to Concord Duram was and then explained about The Avett Brothers being from Concord. A very enthusiastic Avett fan turned around from the counter and raved over the Avett's and has attended 4 or their concerts. I got to tell a couple Avett stories to my friend and the eager ice cream seller. It was fun and a diversion for a minute of serious matters.

I didn't get to play guitar for my friend. This is something I subjected her whole family to when I was a teenager and quite the ham. Before life beat me into the ground and stomped me into bits so that I am somewhat cautious and less carefree than those days. In those days I was playing and singing a lot of Melanie Safka. I subjected their whole family to one after another Melanie tunes.

So this time my musical muses are The Avett Brothers. My friend got an introduction to them, and I made a new friend for life that scoops out ice cream. If I had a chance to catch my friend up on the life of Melanie now I would leave her with a recent Melanie You Tube that I found with delight and also mystically matches my mood right now. She is not singing" look what they done to my song ma" these days...she is ma..."the brains behind pa" as they say.

Old Bitch Warrior she sleeps in the grave
People think so, but what they don't know
Is that she roams the streets in the still of the night
Ready to conquer up for the fight

And oh she's not afraid
The steel in her pocket
The ice in her veins
Fingers are calloused
Her nails thick and black
She's made her decision
And there's no turning back

Old Bitch Warrior
A scream in the night
Look over your shoulder
Put on the light
That wind in the shadows
She's with us you pray
Someone will find her
And take her away

She's not afraid
The steel in her pocket
The ice in her veins
Oh she can't be ignored
The building is burning
With a lock on the door

Old Bitch Warrior
She sleeps in the grave
People think so,
But what they don't know
She roams the streets in the still of the night
Ready to conquer
'Till they take her away

She's not afraid
Steel in her pocket
Ice in her veins
Enemies scatter
When she comes around
There's comfort in thoughts of her
Dead in the ground

Sunday, October 17, 2010


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Never has this song been so true. I have it stuck in my head today and yesterday!

Okay so I was wrong about
My reasons for us fallin' out
Of love I want to fall back in

My life is different now I swear
I know now what it means to care
About somebody other than myself

I know the things I said to you
They were untender and untrue
I'd like to see those things undo

So if you could find it in your heart
To give a man a second start
I promise things won't end the same

Shame, boatloads of shame
Day after day, more of the same
Blame, please lift it off
Please take it off, please make it stop

Okay so I have read the mail
The stories people often tell
About us that we never knew

But their existence will float away
And just like every word they say
And we will hold hands as they fade

Shame, boatloads of shame
Day after day, more of the same
Blame, please lift it off
Please take it off, please make it stop

I felt so sure of everything
My love to you so well received
And I just strutted around your town
Knowing I didn't let you down
The truth be known, the truth be told
My heart was always fairly cold
Posing to be as warm as yours
My way of getting in your world
But now I'm out and I've had time
To look around and think
And sink into another world
That's filled with guilt and overwhelming

Shame, boatloads of shame
Day after day, more of the same
Blame, please lift it off
Please take it off, please make it stop

And everyone they have a heart
And when they break and fall apart
And need somebody's helping hand

I used to say just let 'em fall
It wouldn't bother me at all
I couldn't help them now I can

American Gothic Gets A Facelift

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I visited Bonie Bolen the mural artist today working on American Gothic on High Street and Lincoln downtown Columbus Ohio. She is almost finished. It is so much brighter than it was two weeks ago. If you haven't visited this mural you should. She is almost finished so you better go soon.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Syd's New Home

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I got my cat Syd home yesterday. He cried the whole way here. So did I. I really didn't want him here till winter.
But without visitation rights I was not gonna leave him. So with only a couple bruises and scrapes, a torn shirt...possibly a dislocated shoulder, I am now the sole owner of Syd the cat. It was the third time she has ever gotten that physically violent with me. The first time she broke my glasses. The second time she slapped a beer bottle out of my hand across the room. But this time was really scary. I knew she would probably get the best of me. But I wasn't leaving without him. He is a product of two of my sister's cats, and I just could not part with him yesterday. I did not go over there to fight. I went to do a favor and to try to reconcile with her. I was even working up trying to gift Syd to her before she flew into such a rage that I couldn't leave him with that unforgiving bitterness that permeates the house and the relationship. It is not his fault his mom's can't get along. Sometimes there is no reasoning. Sometimes there is violence.

I grew up in the atmosphere of violence. I have been beaten within an inch of my life by my family, by thugs, by the authorities more times than I can count. I am now almost permanently disabled. I know the signs and the triggers. I have a fight and flight system built in and nurtured by a violent society. She wasn't going to take him from me without killing me in the process.

I spoke to the Mifflin police department about this matter and they told me it was Columbus police jurisdiction and that I could request a police escort when I went to get him. When I called Columbus police and asked for a police presence to go get Syd they said no I would have to file a theft report in Mifflin township, and produce evidence to the city prosecutor that Syd is my cat. I called Mifflin police back and told them what the Columbus police department said, and then they said that Columbus police were "trying to pass the buck". Once again I was told that it was The Columbus police jurisdiction and that it might have to go to Civil Court. It seems like a very long way around something that should be very simple. So I called my partner and told her they were advising me I would have to file a theft report on her and by then she had completely changed her mind.

Syd was caged and put into my car with two police cruisers present. It was not a happy time, and it was not the ride I had envisioned for him. The timing was forced. He is now trying to learn about his new surroundings and I am wondering if I need to go have myself checked out at the hospital as it feels like a dislocated shoulder this morning; or if it can wait till I see my Doctor on Monday. Domestic Violence is a bitch! I still have property over there, but I may not be physically able to get it until I heal from this last encounter with my partner. There may not be any way around the theft report and getting the court system involved after all. But I am gonna try my best to resolve this in a civil manner without the cost and spectacle of a police and court system.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Children Of The Corn

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I have children in my neighborhood that are removing road signs right across the street. Ironically, these road signs caution drivers to slow down for "children playing". I called the police about this incident and the children's father instead of correcting this delinquent behavior is more concerned that I had taken a picture of his kids. You have to wonder what the world is coming to that these children are growing up without any sense of boundaries. He is not doing his children any favors by coming after me instead of correcting their behavior.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Be Defiant Hang Your Clothes Out To Dry

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The fight against clothes line bans

Clothes line

For decades, the clothes line has had an image problem in the US but, ahead of a rally to highlight the benefits of natural drying, is it about to be reclaimed?

There is a new protest movement sweeping the US and at its heart are two sticks and a piece of string.

Upon the humble clothes line, a battle line has been drawn that embodies a uniquely American clash of ideas about class, liberty and the environment.

Rules imposed by community associations and landlords forbid tens of millions of home owners to dry their washing outside because, they say, it's unsightly and even lowers property prices.

But a number of clothes line rebels have risked legal action by disobeying these rules, saying it is the duty of Americans to reduce their carbon footprint and leave their energy-hungry tumble dryers idle.

This Sunday their supporters will make their feelings known by holding a rally in Concord, New Hampshire to promote line drying.

These unlikely dissenters come in all ages and from all backgrounds. After moving to Witney Ridge in Pennsylvania nearly three years ago, Deborah Brensinger, a 55-year-old nurse, immediately began hanging her clothes in her back yard.

"Our government is trying to encourage working with the environment and doing things to cut down electricity, yet here's something totally free.

"I get to see my neighbours, it's clean and it smells good. It's a contemplative practice. I don't rush it, I enjoy it. It relieves stress. You can do it leisurely at your own pace, in a world that's so fast-paced."

'I must fight back'

Wei Wang

Wei Wang (above) a 49-year-old mother-of-three in Maryland, is continuing to hang out her washing, despite the threat of legal action.

"Energy savings and reducing pollution is more important, so I think I should stand up and fight back. I grew up in China and I was taught by my mother to use this method all the time.

"I've lived in Europe too, and it's only Americans that don't like clothes lines."

She says she checked her neighbours had no objections, and the line can't be seen from the street. But after the threat of legal action from her association, the mother-of-three now dries her five loads of washing a week on drying racks around her home, much to her annoyance.

"Everyone thinks people do whatever they want in their back yards. If I went out there in a bikini, it wouldn't matter but hanging my clothes out does. It doesn't make sense."

Mrs Brensinger is one of 60 million Americans living in about 300,000 communities governed by home-owning associations, where living in a flat, mobile home or even detached house, means accepting regulations on the appearance of homes and gardens.

The majority of these associations ban or restrict the use of clothes lines but, with a mindful eye on energy consumption, six states have fought back.

Florida, Utah, Maine, Vermont, Colorado and Hawaii have passed laws restricting the rights of housing authorities to stop residents from using clotheslines, and several other states including Pennsylvania are considering similar bills.

'Prudery plays a part'

Helen Caldicott

Australian anti-nuclear advocate Helen Caldicott spent 18 years living in the US.

"Tumble drying is absolutely unnecessary. They can hang their clothes out in summer and by the furnace in the basement in winter. But they are being brainwashed that they need to machine dry.

"Part of it is also that they don't want to be looking at Mrs Brown's underwear. I suppose that prudery comes from the Puritans."

The pro-clothesline movement's champion is Alexander Lee, the 36-year-old founder of Project Laundry List, an organisation based in Vermont that campaigns for the so-called right to dry. He says its supporters are drawn from all social groups and backgrounds, uniting "libertarians and environmentalists, Christian mothers and radical homeowners".

When a college student in 1995, one statement uttered by a visiting anti-nuclear lecturer, Helen Caldicott, inspired him: "If we all did things like hang out our clothes, we could shut down the nuclear industry."

This energy-saving message forms the central plank of his campaign. Official figures say that tumble dryers guzzle 6% of household electricity, second only to fridges, but Lee estimates the actual figure to be three times higher. He says that if one in three Americans started line drying for five months of the year, 2.2m tonnes of CO2 would have been prevented from entering the atmosphere by 2020.

"The movement is increasing because we have these three problems that are converging - the energy crisis, the climate crisis and the personal finance crisis. We believe that it's a patriotic duty to conserve energy. There should be a victory clothes line at the White House."

Washing line In Italy, washing lines are a common sight

His campaign outlines other reasons to support line drying - good exercise, nice-smelling clothes, saving $25 (£16) a month in electricity bills, avoiding fire hazards and even mood-improving. And then there's also his aesthetic admiration for the clothes line, "its Gestalt, its organic beauty, its simple functionality, the colourful panorama dancing on the line".

British film maker Stephen Lake has travelled around the US, speaking to people affected by these regulations. The 24-year-old, who writes and directs a film on the subject, called Drying For Freedom, out early next year, says: "If a buyer goes down a neighbourhood and they see clothes hanging on a line, they would question the lifestyle that they would be buying into, because it might suggest that person can't afford a dryer.

Mary Lou Sayer

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Mary Lou Sayer's trouble drying clothes - a clip from Drying For Freedom

"These communities are based around setting a neutral aesthetic, so that every house in the street does not suggest anything about the person inside. The English middle class would probably not understand that."

A few associations in the UK also restrict line drying, and many British people would endorse the view that clothes flapping in the wind can look unsightly. But it doesn't have the same stigma in the UK, where only 45% of households own a tumble dryer, compared with 79% in the US.

For many Americans, clothes lines are an unwanted reminder of a more frugal age, says Dave Rapaport, senior director of corporate consciousness at Seventh Generation, a firm that sells eco-friendly household products.

"Hanging clothes was the norm prior to the advent of the suburban ideal of modern living in the 1950s. Partly driven by the need to get women back out in the workforce after World War II, partly the need to sell electricity and the appliances being invented to use it, and partly by a idealised notion of progress, clotheslines became a symbol of the life people were leaving behind."

Tumble dryers

  • 79% of American households have a tumble dryer, compared to 45% in the UK and 4% in Italy
  • 20% of Americans live in homes subject to clothes line bans
  • It usually costs at least $100 to run a dryer for one year
  • Some people have reported a 50% drop in electricity bills when they go 'cold turkey' on tumble drying

Sources: Project Laundry List, Energy Information Administration, Defra

He can sense that belief now being slowly eroded, not just because of energy concerns, but by a desire for simplicity, the aesthetic appeal of line drying and a nostalgic return to traditional family chores.

And in the same way that many Americans have embraced the reusable shopping bag, he believes they could learn to love line drying again.

But there are many who say they shouldn't.

Frank Rathbun is spokesman for the Community Associations Institute, which represents tens of thousands of associations nationwide. Most of them do restrict the use of clothes lines, he says, but for good reason.

"More often than not, the rules governing associations were put in place by developers and builders when the communities were being built.

"In most cases, the decision is based largely on community aesthetics. Developers and builders are trying to sell homes, and I think most would tell you that clotheslines could detract from the overall appearance and kerb appeal of the community, and therefore sales.

Do clothes lines lower property prices?

One home-owning association claimed the sight of washing lines could reduce neighbouring property values by up to 15%. But the National Association of Realtors says it's not possible to put a value on this effect. A spokeswoman said that clothes lines were among the biggest sources of complaints among homeowners, in a recent survey, but the impact depended on neighbourhood norms. An area with a high number might leave a less negative impression than just one in a different area, depending on the buyer's expectations and values. She said: "The issue just underscores the fact that many things affect a property value - the home's condition, amenities in relation to other homes in the area, and the neighbourhood itself."

"Regardless of the issue, appearance and kerb appeal have a direct impact on property values and the sale of properties. I think it's safe to say that most associations have kept these rules in place for those very reasons."

Many people are attracted by the these communities because of the rules governing how they look, he says, and in the same way that many residents don't want to open their curtains - front or back - to see rubbish or an abandoned car, they might not want to see a bunch of laundry hanging on a clothesline either. The same rules prohibit statues, fountains and motor boats.

A national survey in 2007 indicated overwhelming opposition among residents to state laws preempting association rules on clotheslines, he says, suggesting that the way some state lawmakers have overturned these restrictions on line drying highlights a more fundamental issue about the collective right of homeowners in private communities to establish the rules for their own neighbourhoods.

"The bottom line is that as a private entity, each association is in the best position to make these determinations. Remember, association boards are elected by their neighbours to serve the best interests of the community as a whole.

A tragic dispute

In 2008, a man was shot dead in Verona, Mississippi, during a dispute apparently over a clothes line. Police said the neighbours were arguing after one told the other to stop hanging his laundry outside.

"It's also important to remember that homeowners in associations have a contractual obligation to abide by rules that have been put in place to preserve the character of the community, protect property values and meet the established expectations of residents in that community.

"If a large percentage of owners really want to change a particular rule, they can probably make that happen."

Below is a selection of your comments

No wonder it is so difficult to get the USA to reduce their carbon footprint with such nonsense as this enshrined in law! Having washing drying outside can enhance neighbourly relationships, as you watch out for each others lines when it might rain, and fetch the things in for the neighbour if it does. Add on the environmental impact of all those unnecessary dryers, the fact that clothes smell so much better and take far less ironing hen they have swayed about in the wind - pretty obvious which is the better.

Rosemarie Tomes, Mansfield

Personally I don't hang my washing out on the line as I do not want my neighbours to see all my washing. Living in Cumbria where it is reasonably windy I have had times where my washing has disappeared over the hedge and going round to ask if you can have your smalls back is a tad embarrassing. Secondly I am very lazy.

Sarah Moorby, Kendal

After spending most of my life in Canada and the US, I've lived in England on and off since 2007, and am a firm convert to line-drying. Aside from the environmental and stress-reducing benefits of the activity, the occasional waft of clean-laundry smell coming from all sorts of people on a typical London day is one of the city's most surprising and delightful attributes. Canada is on its way toward widespread practice (at least most of the year); the US will come around eventually.

Lisa Taylor, London UK, Montreal Canada

I love seeing washing blowing on a line, it's comforting, familiar, and restful. I own a tumble drier but have never used it (it came as part of the washing machine, which was a present) as I much prefer hanging washing out. It smells better, it feels better, it generally irons better, it costs less and it doesn't destroy the environment. I have never understood this thing some people have about washing being "common" (hence lowering house prices), how does seeing that someone is doing washing lower house prices? What could possibly be more natural or restful or more healthy than hanging washing out?

Julia, Taunton

Sheesh! Get a grip, people... they're clothes... what's so offensive about them? You don't object to people wearing them, so why should you object to people washing and drying them? Especially in their own back yard. On a good day, they'll dry in less than 20 minutes anyway. I'm amazed that the US, which is normally so adamant about individual rights to do what they like on their own property, seems to have got so obsessed with telling people they can't do something so trivial and harmless!

Rob , London

Look, ordinarily, I'm all for mocking the foolishness of my countrymen. But there's an important point that seems to have been overlooked by the majority of your responses: this is not a law. It is, instead, the act of "community associations," which in America refers to the developers of private, condominium organizations. They have the right to impose what rules they like, as you apply to join their association when you seek to buy a condo. So, to Rosemarie Tomes and Rob from London, I say this: We're still free to let our socks and shirts fly freely in the breeze of the Land of the Free. Thank you very much.

Jon, Lowell, Massachusetts

This isn't just an American issue. I have a covenant on my house in Surrey that not only prevents me from hanging up laundry on my land, but that prevents me from hanging it indoors where it may be visible from outside. So I technically have to close the curtains when I do my laundry. This is beyond silly.

Rob Turner, Woking

Generally here in Germany and the Netherlands there are few restrictions but drying outside seems not to be the order of the day. Often houses in the Netherlands have warm, well insulated attics where washing can be hung out of the way - here in Germany I have a cellar under the whole of the house where there is an unheated washroom and another room that is heated (we actually hang the washing in the washroom). Funnily enough, in our row of four similar houses, the only people hanging washing outside are our American neighbours!

Timothy Bolton, Selfkant, Germany

As a Brit living here in a HOA which doesn't allow line drying I hang my washing out on a reel-in line or the gazebo. It's crazy to use a dryer when even in October it's 90 degrees! My American husband on the other hand says doesn't like the feel of line dried clothes but what he doesn't see, well he really can't tell!

Karen Richards, Tucson, AZ

As a Brit living in USA it was very difficult at first to accept the Home Owner Associations rules. My HOA is extremely restrictive (it dictates everything involved with the external appearance of my house e.g. color & style of doors and windows, color of roofing tiles, type, structure and color of fences, to name but a few). However, when you buy a property here you know what the HOA restrictions are before you purchase the house so I have no sympathy for those complaining.

Paul Daykin, Reston, Virginia, USA

Mr. Rathburn's comment about people choosing to live in communities governed by home owner associations and their rules is something of a canard. The choice really comes down to either buying a relatively new home that is governed by association rules or buying an older home that isn't. Quite a few people only tolerate home owner association rules because there is no alternative when buying a newer home. The prohibition on hanging out laundry is only one of many highly intrusive rules enforced by many home owner associations to present an artificial and idealized view of their community. Unfortunately, the result is a sterile conformity that doesn't reflect real life.

David G. Miller, Parker, CO USA

My homeowners' association restricts washing lines an I am still considering drying outside. Some of my neighbours get around it by hanging their laundry on children's play structures. I already have solar panels, CFL and LED lighting and reducing dryer use would be the next thing. It's not like we don't get any sunshine in Texas - things would be dry in 30 mins.

Jonn Parker, Austin TX, USA

We've tried clothes lines before, but the compressive heat and humidity in the summer makes it impossible to get something dry in our area.

David, Summerdale, AL, USA

I use a gas dryer myself. I live on the North edge of the Piney Woods. There are no basements. The furnace is well insulated and in a closet. Hang your clothes outside and they get full of pollen. This month it's ragweed; next month, mountain cedar. For several months of the year the cars are yellow because of pine pollen. As for the carbon footprint, we mostly don't believe it. The news last night carried a report on the effects of Cap and Tax. If you did everything, the economy would be decimated and the temperature would be reduced by .0015 degrees in 100 years. Not a heck of a lot of difference. What it would do is make Al Gore and friends a ton of cash.

Terry Williams, Palestine, TX USA

How times have changed! Backyard line drying used to be so important that I have heard my grandmother say, "I don't know much about the new neighbors - it hasn't been washday yet."

pat nelson, Potsdam, NY, USA

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Of Course I Can!

Blogroll Me!
My sister canned last summer. It was her first garden and it was a great success. I am going to be planning my victory garden this winter. I plan on getting rid of all my grass and using the space for anything more relevant than mowing! I got this poster image by using google image and ended up on a very nice website promoting the idea of growing your own and to Eat Local.