Saturday, May 30, 2009

Wool Dryer Balls

Continuing with my green crafty phase, I decided to try making wool dryer balls. They are incredibly easy, practical, and inexpensive. I used old wool yarn from my mother-in-law's attic and I've seen other people use wool scraps or even unravel old wool sweaters.

Benefits of wool dryer balls:
- Wool is hypoallergenic
- Wool is resistant to mold, bacteria and mildew
- As opposed to dryer sheets, wool dryer balls are organic and chemical free
- Naturally fire retardant - wool self extinguishes when lit
- Made from renewable resources
- Can be made from recycled wool
- The natural lanolin in wool is what softens your clothes
- Saves you money -

The average person can shorten about 1/4 (some say 1/2) of their dry time using dryer balls. For large loads the average US price to run a dryer for 90 minutes (the average dryer cycle time) is $1.02, that means dryer balls save you $.26 per 90 minutes of dry time on large loads. That doesn't really seem like a lot, but when I think about our family - we do about 6 loads of laundry a week. That's $1.56 per week or $81.21 per year - just in energy costs. If I figured in not spending any money on fabric softener it would be even more.

*I didn't include the fact that I try to line dry clothes quite a bit during the summer. So our savings would be a little less than that. However, I still "machine finish" everything so it's soft and completely dry.*

Here's how you make them:
1. Gather wool yarn (not superwash - it needs to felt as it washes), old pantyhose, rubber bands, crochet hook, scissors, very small fabric scrap

2. Wad the fabric scrap as tightly as you can and begin winding the yarn around it. Essentially, you're just making a ball of yarn but much more tightly than you would normally.

3. Once the ball is about the size of a golf ball, cut the yarn and use the crochet hook to pull the string into the ball to keep it from unwinding.

4. Put the ball in the pantyhose and use the rubber band to close off the end. If you do not put them in the pantyhose they will come unraveled and you will have a huge mess. This also happens if the rubber band isn't tight enough.

5. Wash the dryer ball / panty hose with your regular laundry and then throw in the dryer. Run it through with several regular loads (washing and drying both) without taking it out of the pantyhose, to make sure it felts completely.

6. Once the dryer balls seem adequately felted, start again with wrapping in wool yarn. I tried experimenting with using different colors at the same time and came up with a few patterns. I'm not sure if I could explain exactly how to do it, but it was fun to experiment. When the ball is the size you want, use the crochet hook to pull the last bit of string into the depths of the ball.

7. When you think your dryer ball is big enough (I've heard anywhere from a 7-10 inch circumference is standard; mine are all different because I didn't measure), repeat the felting process by putting them in the pantyhose and washing and drying several times. Washing on hot makes this process quicker. Again, skimping on this step will result in a giant rat's nest of yarn - promise.

8. That's it! Take them out of the pantyhose and they're ready for the dryer. They may pill some over time, depending on your yarn. You can fix that with a sweater shaver or ignore it. Either way.

8a. (Other things to consider): I've heard of people using a scented sachet in the middle or using essential oils to scent the dryer balls. I'm not really into my laundry smelling like anything, so I don't plan on trying that. I know nothing about the color bleeding or leaching on your clothes. So far, none of the bright colors I've used have bled at all, but I can't promise that on all types of yarn. They will shrink a little in the felting process, so if you want a ball that's 9 inches in circumference then I would make it a little bigger.

You can use anywhere from 2 - 8 in their dryer and have amazing results. So far I've used 2-4 and I love them. Our clothes are static free and super soft!

I am attempting to teach myself to sew. Josh dressed Ben in sheep pajamas with his refurbished sheep burp rag - my first sewing project.

Garrett came over today and rode the donkey. I'll have those pictures up in the next post with more about the donkeys!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Never Enough Time

Today marks 100 days of life and 100 posts. I am often asked how I find the time to keep up with this blog. The secret is priorities. We are all given the same 24 hour days and we fill that time with choices. Writing this every day takes me about ten minutes. That's ten minutes less of TV or sleep or anything else I could choose to do during that time, but it's worth it to me. It's hard for me to believe people when they say the don't have the time to do something, when we always make the time for the most important things. Once again, it's all about priorities.

As the days are getting longer, my priorities are changing too. And as for the next 100 days and beyond I plan on continuing the blog, but probably on a every other day or so basis. I expect the next 100 days to be filled with gardening, recycling clothes, bartering, harvesting, cooking, sewing, and lots and lots of time outside with Josh and Ben. Other summer possibilities in the works include soda pop making, sheep, barn repair, chicken coup painting, lean-to building, well house building, canning, and way more than what we'll probably make the time to do. I'm sure I'll have plenty to share and pictures all along the way.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


While searching Craigslist (once again), we found ourselves a trailer and a couple of miniature donkeys. Josh drove to Kansas and back and came home around seven with these two:

They're a breeding pair and the jenny is registered but the jack isn't. Both are lead trained and Both have been ridden by children (while on a lead with an adult). They're about 5 years old. We can't wait to walk the two at a parade along with a Democrat float. The names are still up in the air because they don't really respond to their original names.

The point of the donkeys (other than being awesome) is for breeding and to protect whatever we decide to put in the pasture. We are still discussing goats, sheep or calves. I'm leaning towards sheep for this year and maybe calves in the other pasture next year.

In order to transport the donkeys and future animals we purchased a 1958 two horse trailer. It's in pretty rough shape but with some paint and a few new boards it should look good in no time.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

How To Turn 5 T-Shirts Into a Rug

While researching ideas of what to do with old t-shirts, I came across several websites suggesting rag rugs. I combined a few methods to try to come up with the easiest (not necessarily the prettiest) way to make one. In italics is what I learned through trial and error with my first rug.

1. Cut a t-shirt under one arm and cut off the sleeves and collar.

2. Tear t-shirts into 2-4 inch strips. You can use the sleeves for shorter pieces if you want. You may also want to cut around the print on the front of the t-shirt. I didn't and you can see the color difference in a few places, but I mixed gray and white t-shirts so it blends in for the most part. Consistency helps with making a less lumpy rug. The thicker the strips, the sloppier it looks, thicker the rug, and quicker it is to get done.

3. Knot (or sew for a neater look) three strips together and anchor somehow. (I shut that part in the coffee table drawer to hold it. The rug weighs the braid down later. It helps if the three pieces are different lengths.)

4. Begin braiding. When you have about 5 inches left of t-shirt, lay in another piece of t-shirt. T-shirt material, when ripped, will curl into a tube naturally. When braided together the next piece of t-shirt will hold itself in place. This is why the three pieces need to be different lengths, so you don't try to start three new pieces at the same time. Another option would be to sew the ends of the strips together (about 3 at a time) to keep ends from sticking up here and there.

5. After a few yards are braided you can start sewing the rug together. I used a large blunt yarn needle so the needle would thread through the braid and not through the fabric. I also used two layers of crochet thread. I would recommend something stronger if it were going to be in a main living area.

6. Lay out the braid and then fold over the end to make a sharper corner, then sew together. I started off sewing it to loosely, then went back and pulled everything and got it too tight. It takes a little experimenting to get the rug to lay flat.

7. Continue to fold over the edges until the braid will lay flat when curved around the edges. It is important to lay the rug flat on the floor or table while sewing it together so you can tell if it is truly laying flat.

8. Continue tearing, braiding, adding strips of fabric, and sewing onto the rug until it is the size you want. I could only add one or two yards of thread at a time so it wouldn't be too difficult to manage.

9. When your rug is the size you want, weave the ends into the pattern and sew around it. Tie the string off on the back. I found a loose loop and tied it off onto it so it wouldn't show on the top.

10. All done! It fits perfectly below the sink in Josh's bathroom where it seems to always be wet when I want to brush my teeth. I hope it washes well. It didn't up laying as flat as I'd like, but it is good enough for our bathroom. We really need to redo our bathroom cabinets.

There are certain ways to sew it where it could be reversible. Mine is definitely not. There are strings and knots across the back and places where I doubled back and redid sections. In future rugs, I might try one that is reversible, but I was pleased with a rug that looked satisfactory from at least one side. I also think the higher contrasting gray looks better than the light gray I started with, but it's not bad for a first try.

Ben is truly back to his old self. He needed a little Tylenol today but without the scar there is no way you would guess he had brain surgery less than a week ago.

Monday, May 25, 2009

In Search Of...

I am starting to think crafty now that summer is starting and the days are longer. I have been thinking more and more about re-purposing and minimal sewing, inspired by my friend Katy. I would like to try making cloth baby wipes, unpaper towels, embellishing / repairing our tattered burp rags, and maybe even making a rag rug. My main goal is to be able to do all of this through recycling fabric (specifically re-purposing old clothes). So for my family members saving junk for me like I was living in the great depression, here's what I'm in search of...

- egg cartons (for our host of eggs we will have at the end of summer)
- empty paper towel rolls
- rags / tattered towels / washcloths, even those with stains are ok (for unpaper towels)
- old flannel receiving blankets (for baby wipes)
- torn up blankets, sheets or quilts (for potholders)
- newspaper (for the garden)
- old t-shirts and cotton clothes on their way to Goodwill, including those torn up or stained (for rag rugs or possibly some of the above)
- empty plastic wipes containers
- old fencing, lumber, and sheet metal (as per Josh's request)

I'm going to experiment with different fabrics in making wipes and unpaper towels. I am currently thinking for the baby wipes, that terry cloth on one side and flannel on the other would be the best. As for the unpaper towels, I'm not sure. I am looking at getting a snap press and using terry cloth on one side and flour sacks on the other.

I took my sewing machine to a man who may be the oldest man in Ozark today. He wasn't sure if he could get her running again (it's my grandma's and hasn't been turned on in at least 15 years). I'm borrowing a sewing machine table from my mother-in-law and the Serger from my mom for a little while, so I hope to have a re-purposing factory taking place soon.

*The unpaper towels I'm talking about are kitchen towels that you can wrap around a paper towel holder and snap together. As opposed to using paper, these can be thrown in the wash and reused.

Ben is doing better. He's going without any hairnet now, and the swelling around his scar has really gone down. We still aren't allowed to wash his hair yet, so he still has some surgery gunk in his hair.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Coming Home From the Hospital

After only the third day after surgery, we were released to go home. Honestly, I was amazed. I agreed with everyone that our child was a trooper and seemed to be doing great. However, it's a little nerve wracking to think of our little guy with his head cracked like an egg, and we're capable of caring for him at home.

He will be wearing a hairnet sort of thing with some guaze under it for the next few days. They took the drain out and didn't do anything to close up the opening. We were told it will clot and close up on its own soon. We had to change out his gauze quite a bit at first, but it seems as though it's slowing quite a bit now.

We call the surgeon on Tuesday to find out about when he would like for us to bathe Ben again. He still has the antibacterial stuff in his hair and we were told it will wear off over time, but it may take many baths and a lot of patience. The surgeon does not need to meet with us again until June 15th. If we need anything, of course we can call, but from this point he will heal on his own.

I am doing better today with coping with the changes in his face and with sleep. From the day after he was born and we knew he would need surgery until now, sleep has been tough for me - even though he's been a pretty good sleeper (as much as can be expected.) Before that, I had a terrible time sleeping while pregnant. I feel like I haven't slept in a year. I napped this morning, for several hours this afternoon, and I'm looking forward to a night in my own bed. I am so ready to sleep. I've got a lot of catching up to do.

His scar is still pretty shocking, so I will save those pictures for another day. Here is the sweet baby sleeping with his hair net on.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Second Day After Surgery

The lack of sleep is starting to get to me. Each night is a little better, but with the nurses coming in every 2-4 hours plus nursing, I am really, really tired. Josh can sleep through all of the people in and out, but I wake up every time. I have managed a nap every afternoon, but I do not feel even close to caught up on sleep.

They had to draw more blood at 4am and I was so awake I stood out in the hall and visited with the nurses for a while. Their parenting advice - Make your kid wear a helmet no matter what and NEVER let your kid ride on dad or grandpa's lap on the lawnmower. I heard some terrible stories but I choose not to share them with all of you because I don't want to think about them again.

By this morning, there were no children in PICU and only six in the pediatric ward, but a few more joined us from the ER by the end of the day. We didn't realize, until visiting with the nurses, that only two to three babies a year have this surgery and Ben is the youngest any of them had seen have it. I'm kind of glad we didn't know that beforehand.

We had lots of visitors today and Ben has flowers, a teddy bear, a balloon and new clothes. I know I've said this several times, but we are so grateful for the generosity of all our friends. Our meal calendar has been completely filled up and we have enjoyed so many wonderful meals already.

We thought Ben would get his bandages off today, but he is still bleeding too much for the drainage tube to come out, so the bandages will hopefully be removed tomorrow. If so, there is a chance we will be able to go home tomorrow evening. The biggest concern at this point is making sure we do not have a fluid build up on the brain. The drainage prevents that but he has to be on antibiotics because he has an unsealed opening into his head. After they take the tube out, they will bandage it closed and monitor it for several hours at the very least before we can go home.

Josh thinks we will be able to go home tomorrow evening but I am not so sure. It still seems like he is bleeding quite a bit and I think it will probably be Monday before we are released.

Other than that, we have had no major concerns today. His temperature was running a little cool for a while, but we switched him into long sleeves and added an extra blanket and he warmed right up. I would recommend anyone else taking their infant to the hospital, to bring pajamas without feet. His ID bracelet is on his ankle and they have to unsnap him for everything to check the bracelet. I would also advise anyone to bring the worst clothes because several of his outfits have been soiled with blood or medicine.

He has slept quite a bit today and continues to nurse well. All of the blood tests continue to come back great and we don't see any concerns at this time as long as the bleeding slows down by tomorrow morning.

Friday, May 22, 2009

First Day After Surgery

We had a rough night in the ICU. Another child came in who had been in a car accident. He had scans and x-rays throughout the night. With only two curtains separating us, privacy is nonexistent and sleep was hard to come by. The nurses were amazing and the night one sneaked a cot into the room so we took shifts sleeping in that and the reclining chair. We each got a few hours of sleep at least.

In the morning we met with the surgeon and he said Ben looked very well. His blood tests continued to come back very good throughout the day and he needs no further transfusions. His color is amazing, he continues to nurse well, and he has been such a trooper through all of this.

We were able to move from PICU to our own room in the pediatric ward. He is off all of the monitoring machines and was down to only one IV line this morning. Ben's color is great and he is still a little cranky, but not nearly as much as I expected. He is nursing very well too. It seems Ben is hungry more often but nurses for shorter ammounts of time. He is so medicated that it would make sense he would fall asleep easier once he's full and comfortable.

In the afternoon he pulled off all of his head dressings twice. I did not have time to brace myself to see the incision. It was more wavy than zig-zagged, and it was raised up and kind of wormy looking. I took a few pictures while the dressing was off. (I'm only sharing the not-gross one.) I can't believe how different his head already looks. The knob on the back is almost completely gone and it is much more rounded. When they redid the dressings they added this great streatchy mesh wrap that also goes around his chin. This is working much better.

The reconstruction changed his face too. His temples used to be more indented and his forhead was bulging more and more as his brain was expanding. That has all changed. The swelling has really gone down and he looks so different now. It was a little emotional for me to see him look differently so suddenly. I miss things about how he used to look, but I know he looks more "normal" now and his brain will be able to grow and develop and that's the most important thing. He smiled and cood, and I could see he is the same Ben. He's still pretty adorable.

After dinner everything became a little more dramatic. He pulled his IV out and blood from around the drain started seeping through his bandages. I became very concerned about both, and of course it happened just as my in-laws and husband left and I was here by myself. He had no other IVs in and his narcotic medication and antibiotics were both given through the IV. He has pokes and brusies from head to toe where they started his IVs yesterday, and I couldn't imagine putting him through that again.

Fortunately the nurses called the doctors and they agreed he could switch to oral antibiotics and we are going to try him on only Tylenol with codine for pain, so he will not need an IV.

The nurse drew an outline of the seepage on his bandage and if it spreads, then she will take the dressings off and decide what should be done. But it seems to be a small irritation or something that caused it and hasn't spread so far.

His blood tests have all come back excellent today and he will not need any further transfusions. It is amazing how resilient he is. Looking at him right now, I cannot believe he had major surgery only one day ago.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Day of Surgery

Ben's surgery went very well this morning. We arrived at 5:30 and surgery was originally scheduled for 7:15, but they had a difficult time with the breathing tube, so it didn't actually start until 9:30. At 11:00 we met with the surgeon and he told us that surgery went fine. At 12:30 we were able to finally see Ben. His head is bandaged and he had three IVs, on in his arm and one in each ankle. We traveled with Ben to the pediatric ICU, and they were able to take out the IV in his wrist. He was sleepy but nursed well when he woke up and he has been all day. He has a drain coming out of his bandages and he has been losing a lot of blood, which is normal for this surgery. They gave him one bag of Josh's blood during the surgery and two more since then. He might need another tonight or tomorrow. Depending on how all of that goes, they hope to have us in a regular room by tomorrow evening. Most likely we'll be leaving the hospital Monday or Tuesday and I'll let everyone know once we're home and well. Thank you all for the kind words and thoughts. The worst is over and it's all downhill from here.

IVs in his ankles

Tons of tubes and wires

Tiny blood pressure cuff

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Getting Ready

The raised beds are done! At least being built, anyway. Josh built four more beds and we filled two with compost and soil and planted them. The other two are going to wait until we get another truckload of compost, hopefully soon after we're home from the hospital.

In bed 2 (bed 1 was what we planted Sunday), we planted marigolds, lettuce, peas, spinach, okra, tomatoes, and sweet peppers. In bed 3 we planted marigolds, lettuce, onions, carrots, spinach, peas, okra, tomatoes, sweet peppers, jalapeno peppers, and cayenne peppers. I don't remember the exact layouts off the top of my head, and I kind of winged it in order to get all of the starts in the ground before we're gone for a week. I also planted a row of peaches and cream corn in the ground along the back edge of the garden area. The ground was pretty tough, so I'm not sure how well that will work out.

Ben slept in the stroller while we worked in the garden.

I'm not sure why, but I took a picture of the diaper laundry today. It was such a sunny perfect day today and I'm so pleased with my decision to cloth diaper. We temporarily stopped cloth diapering today, so we wouldn't have dirty laundry to come home to. I already forgot how much I don't like disposable diapers. They smell weird, feel like paper and leak.

I went to the store and got a bag of snack food, we've cleaned and packed, and we're about as ready as we're going to be for tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Making Progress

Josh worked long and hard today building four more raised beds. We hope to fill and plant them tomorrow. I planned on taking pictures of his work, but I was distracted by a turtle and I forgot.

I worked on sorting the ten trash bags of clothes in our guest room. Between all of my family members and what Josh and I already had to get rid of, I am essentially having a massive online garage sale.

I think I'm experiencing a little stress-induced insomnia, and this has allowed me to sort all 6 bags and pick out the best things to photograph and list online. I've photographed over 100 things today, but I haven't got everything online yet. Through, I can just type out a list of everything and add a link to a flicker page, which is much faster than listing on eBay. There are no fees for buying / selling / trading either. I don't have anything ready yet, but I'm making progress at the huge mountain of clothes.

In preparation for an extended hospital stay, I have also become focused on preparing the house for our return and packing. Josh is planning on coming home each day to tend to the garden and chickens, so he will be able to shower and change here. While Ben is intensive care we will have limited space for our things, so I am experimenting with my packing. Instead of packing everything in one suitcase, I have packed what I need for each day in different grocery bags. In each bag I have an outfit, socks and underwear, pajamas for that night, nursing pads, and a couple of magazines (I have a huge stack that I haven't read yet.)

I also have a backpack that will have my laptop, The Baby Book which I'm currently reading, and all of my toiletries. I'll try to remember to write a future post about how this way of packing works out for me. The idea is that I'll keep everything in the back of the car except the bag I need that day. I've only got 5 packed, and I figure I can send a bag home with one of the moms and they can wash everything and bring it back if I need more clothes.

Ben has been spitting up like crazy - way more than he has before. Because it's been so warm and we keep having to change his clothes, we've started dressing him only in a diaper during the afternoons. He doesn't seem to mind.