We had a cistern for water. My grandmother churned butter and made lye soap. She and my mother did the washing in a wash kettle outdoors, using a fire to heat the water. That's the way they did the wash until the 1950s.
One of the reasons I'm reluctant to start a novel is it's such an obsessive activity. You get in there, you don't know anything else while you're in there. And that's quite a sacrifice to make, especially for us old guys where time is kind of short. You don't want to disappear for a year; you want to be outdoors.