Monday, June 29, 2009

Ben's 4 Month Appointment

I can't believe my baby is 4 months old! This summer is going by way too quickly and I'm already sad thinking about returning to work in August. Ben weighs 13 lbs 13 oz. and measured 24 inches - both are at the 25th percentile. He had another round of immunizations which made him sleepy and grouchy. As far as the staph infection goes, the doctor took a swab and sent it off for lab testing and we will know the results on Wednesday. In the mean time, Dr. McNeal prescribed Ben antibiotic ointment for us to put on his incision three times a day and a much higher dose of Zantac because Ben is spitting up so much.

For the past month or so, his spitting up has become progressively worse, to the point that he only wears a diaper unless we're going out somewhere or if it's bedtime. We have also moved from burp rags to towels because he spits up enough to make large puddles on the floor around the house while we carry him. It doesn't upset him and he's not loosing weight, so the doctor (and I) aren't too worried right now. We are trying the (not cheap) reflux medicine for a week to see if it makes any difference.

A few more of his stitches have come out, and I think soaking in the pool in addition to the bathtub has really helped. He certainly enjoys it, at least. (He had 56 stitches total, for those of you who have asked me, by the way.)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Black Raspberry Season!

For the past couple of weeks, we have been harvesting black raspberries. On some past blog entries, I said we were harvesting blackberries. We weren't. Blackberries are pulled off of stems and are larger than raspberries. Raspberries leave a white thing behind on the plant, and they have a hollowed out top because of it. The blackberries are just now coming in and we're gathering a handful or so each day. For the past 2 1/2 weeks we have been harvesting 1-2 pints of black raspberries each day, and they are delicious!

We have put raspberries in every salad, made raspberry soda, raspberry gelato for dessert, raspberry thumbprint cookies and raspberry jam. I tried canning for the first time! I didn't take step-by-step pictures because I just followed the directions inside the Sure-Gel package. It turned out great and I've made a second batch since then. I added a picture (above) of some of the jars (the ones that haven't grown legs and found new homes already) on the old fashioned kitchen we got from my mother-in-law's store, the Ozark Mercantile.

I'm still trying to convince Josh to write a guest blog entry about the raspberry soda. I bought Josh a water carbonator for father's day and we're going to try sarsaparilla next. Raspberry gelato is simply raspberries, sugar and cream.

I enjoy canning and am considering all kinds of new recipes. Corn cob jelly and walnut praline syrup are the next two on my list. Our garden hasn't taken off quite as well as I had hoped, so I'm going to start frequenting the farmer's market to buy in season vegetables for canning and freezing.

I recently purchased Super Baby Food and, although we aren't starting solids for a while, I plan on making and freezing some baby food (in ice cube trays) so we can feed Ben lots of healthy local vegetables when he starts eating.

Ben is really starting to enjoy toys. He has been practicing moving his pacifier from his left hand to his right and back, and then back in his mouth (but always sideways or some weird way where it doesn't fit right). He's cooing and ah-gooing, enjoying his swimming pool (lots of kicking), and sleeping in his crib for at least the first half of every night.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Remodeling Hell

I have a solution for our nation's overcrowded prisons - we should force inmates to remodel. There would definitely be a much lower recidivism rate. Remodeling is some rare socially acceptable form of torture and I am a victim.

Six months of my incessant nagging got me the ice maker finally hooked up, followed by a flooded kitchen, leaks under the sink, warped and destroyed kitchen flooring, spongy sub-flooring, intermittent water for over a week, new sub flooring, new kitchen flooring, and still a leak under the sink... As I write this (at 8:30pm), I have not showered today because we have no water. The kitchen is a mess of tools, nails, and laminate flooring scraps and the cabinets under the kitchen are soggy and smelly. We also have smelly dirty diaper laundry stacking up, smelly dishes, smelly regular laundry, and smelly selves.

I have learned my lesson and will be content to have the exact same looking house for the next 20 years. I now know why people tolerate the annoying toilet (where you have to hold the handle down or it won't flush) or an ugly dated tile back splash for years without complaint. I am ready to be content with my dated and imperfect house for a while after this... unless we can hire this crap out. We do have a plumber coming tomorrow at least.


Ben is doing ok. It doesn't seem his staph infection is really getting better. The little pus pockets along the stitches seem to be traveling up the side of his head, and only a few of his stitches have fallen out. We were told they would all be gone by two weeks after surgery, and we're more than a month out now. He's still on antibiotics twice daily and we go back on Monday for another check-up along with his 4 month vaccinations. He seems to be acting just fine, but he hasn't been sleeping as well and the spitting up seems to only be getting worse (if that's possible).

We've been carrying around our cuddly cow from Aunt Linda all day.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Nursing Through Infant Surgery

I know that for those of you following the blog this will mostly be a repeat of information, but the local La Leche League leader asked if I could submit an article to the LLL publication New Beginnings about nursing Ben throughout his hospital stay, so here's what I compiled from my own notes and blog entries:

Nursing Through Infant Surgery

By Lara Garrett

On April 13th, 2009 I attended my first La Leche League meeting with my eight week old son, Ben. I’m not exactly sure what I expected, but I was pleasantly surprised. I walked into a room full of moms just like me. I listened to a discussion about first foods and observed a level of comfort in sharing, similar to watching a discussion between old friends.

While pregnant I had several other pregnant friends and all of us planned on breastfeeding. By the time I attended that meeting our children were between the ages of one and four months and all had either entirely or partially begun using formula and I remained unwavering in my decision to exclusively breastfeed. When one friend told me, “I really don’t like breastfeeding,” I knew I needed to reach out and find people who could support me in continuing. And while I believe my existing friendships are invaluable, in order to continue breastfeeding through reflux (which began at three weeks and have continued since) and then surgery, I needed other moms who were as passionate about breastfeeding as me.

When the meeting opened for discussion I asked if anyone had experienced nursing before and after infant surgery. The room fell quiet as I calmly explained that my son was born with craniosynostosis – prematurely fused sutures in his skull, resulting in only one soft spot. He would be needing surgery around twelve weeks of age to remove a six inch by one and a half inch section of bone from the top and back of his skull. I could feel the compassion from the other mothers in the room and I even had to pause to reaffirm that everything would be ok. I mainly wanted to hear about anyone else’s experience with nursing and surgery, but no one had shared that misfortune.

I then shared that my husband had taken a job out of town, so I was alone with the baby five days a week and through the reflux and pre-surgery appointments, it had been a difficult first two months. Although none of the mothers had experienced infant surgery, I left with several phone numbers and email addresses and I started getting emails that evening from mothers reaching out to me. I had a phone call the next day, lunch date later that week, and the connections and support has only grown since then.

The stress of waiting for the surgery weighed heavily on our family. Breastfeeding caused me to slow down, relax, and focus on one moment at a time. I developed such a strong bond with Ben so early and could read his cues so easily that he rarely cried. Before his birth I seemed so uptight and in so many ways I am a different person now.

One of the LLL leaders found another mom out of state who also nursed through having an infant in surgery. I spoke to her on the phone and she provided reassurance and support and encouraged me to be proactive throughout the pre and post surgery interaction with the staff.

During my early appointments with the surgeon, I came with pages of questions on craniosynostosis and about our surgery in particular. Many of my questions involved nursing before and after. Ben’s surgeon supported my wishes to continue to breastfeed throughout this ordeal. I let out a huge sigh of relief when he said I should nurse as soon as Ben is released from the recovery room, because that is the first thing I wanted to do.

During every visit with the hospital staff or surgeon, I brought up breastfeeding. I noticed on several occasions, nurses and staff writing “Exclusively Breastfed” across the top of Ben’s paperwork. They encouraged me to bring frozen pumped milk and my pump to the hospital in the chance that Ben needed a feeding tube. Although I had read horror stories of moms being encouraged to wean prior to infant surgery in the past, I was pleased by my interactions with the hospital staff and surgical team. Everyone understood and respected our intentions to breastfeed throughout the hospital stay.

I later met with an anesthesiologist during the pre-operation appointment. He said I should nurse no later than midnight the night before surgery, but I could give him water until 3:30 because it’s a clear liquid. I was dreading this, considering Ben normally nurses several times between midnight and 7:00am, when surgery was scheduled to begin. I brought this up with my local La Leche League leaders and they led me to several articles from about whether breastmilk is considered a clear liquid or not. I called the anesthesiology team with my research articles and they agreed to let me nurse Ben until 3:30 that morning. I was greatly relieved and Ben did fine without nursing the rest of the morning.

The night before surgery we didn’t sleep at all. I returned to a nesting state, where I insisted the house be spotless before we left. I didn’t want to worry about cleaning when I came home. That night I nursed Ben as much as I could and I pumped just before we left.

We arrived at 5:30am and the wait was impossibly difficult. The staff let us stay with Ben through all of the early testing (vital signs, etc.) and we changed him into a tiny hospital gown, then carried him down the hallway. The most emotional part of the day was handing him over to the nurse at the hospital door and saying goodbye.

The surgery started nearly two hours later than expected because the anesthesiology team had a difficult time starting his IVs and breathing tube. I pumped again during our wait. At 11:00 am the surgeon brought us into a conference room and told us the surgery went very well.

An hour and a half later we were able to see Ben. His head was bandaged and he had three IVs, one 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 drowsy but nursed well when he woke up. It was so emotional to be holding him and nursing him again, with a dozen tubes and wires stretched from his bed to the chair where I was sitting. Our nurse was amazingly supportive. She helped position me and Ben so that we could nurse as easily as possible, considering. She added IV extensions before her shift was over, so that I could more easily pick him up to nurse without needing a second person to help.

Later that evening he needed a third blood transfusion. My husband’s blood is CMV negative and the same type as my son so he qualified to donate for Ben’s transfusions. I nursed Ben while he was receiving this transfusion and had another emotional rush as thought about how a part of my husband’s body as well as my own were able to sustain our son’s life.

Ben nursed well throughout our hospital stay. We were allowed to sleep next to him in the pediatric ICU and then we were moved to our own room the following day. Friends and family brought us meals and Springfield’s LLL sent me a sweet card and a gift certificate for delivery from a local restaurant. We stayed in the hospital for four very tiring days. Once home he nursed more frequently and slept more irregularly than before, but we had expected this. We were all so exhausted but at the same time relieved to have this behind us.

Once again, I am so grateful for all of the support I've received from my local La Leche League. I would also like to encourage others to be proactive about their own medical treatment and if something doesn't sound right, research it! It's ok to ask questions in a calm and respectful manner, and from my experience the doctors are receptive and ready to work with us. It is horrible to see your baby suffer through surgery, but I honestly feel like nursing him throughout that time was truly the best thing I could do for my child.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day

Today was Josh's first father's day! We've had a bit of a hectic father's day today. Last Monday we hooked up the ice maker to the fridge and we had a kitchen flood by the next day. The floor is terribly warped and will need to be replaced, along with a significant portion of the sub floor. From that time to now we've had many more leaks, every time we push the fridge back into its place. The connection under the sink has also started to leak and every day Josh has tried a new solution with fixing the water problems.

Through all of this, we have had to keep our water turned off almost all of that time. We have showered at my in-laws one day and turned the water on for very short amounts of time to get in a shower with the sink dripping for that time. We've also become very behind on laundry and dishes.

My brother-in-law Joe, baby Sam, and Josh holding Ben:

He worked all morning on trying to fix the plumbing to no avail. We abandoned our mess for a surprise father's day outing. We joined Josh's sister and her family and my in-laws for a Springfield Cardinal's baseball game. This was Ben's first game, and my first time at the Springfield Cardinal's stadium. The first part of the game went well. Ben was hot and sweaty but contents. Poppy bought him a Cardinal's baseball cap and he looked adorable.

My nephew was far too excited to sit and watch the game, so my mother-in-law walked him around to the play area. Around the 5th inning, she was hit in the head by a foul ball! She was very shook up but didn't pass out and said she felt sore but ok.

We decided as a family to all go home, and Josh returned to his plumbing trials. Things are looking better and we will hopefully have water later tonight.

Josh isn't the biggest fan of baseball or plumbing, so I think I owe him a make-up father's day.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Chicken Walnut Blackberry Salad

We harvested our first full bowl of lettuce today (we started very late). For dinner we ate a delicious salad with fresh leaf lettuce, basil, chicken, walnuts, feta, and blackberries for dinner. It was awesome. I love fresh food, and this was the first meal I've ever picked on my own. How rewarding! I planned on taking some pictures, but we finished the salad before I got the chance.

Elsewhere on the farm we have a major Japanese beetle problem. They have nearly destroyed most of our fruit trees. Josh did some research about natural repellents and concocted a solution that consists of Tabasco sauce, and dead Japanese beetles. He shook the existing beetles off and sprayed the solution on the trees. We will see how well this works.

Josh assembled my birthday present from his parents - a lawn swing and I love it! The ducks and chickens are growing, potato plants are taking off in the old tires near the raised beds, and the parsley and basil are ready for picking as we need it.

Ben is still on his antibiotics for the next week or so. His next appointment is a week from this coming Monday, and the infection is looking a little better each day. It's still a little red and puffy and some of the stitches have started falling out. He has been nursing very, very frequently and not sleeping as long lately.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sewing Diaper Covers

Whether cloth diapering or using disposables, diapers leak - especially overnight. We have had very few leaks overall with cloth when compared to disposables, but overnights have still been tough. We've added extra liners to thicken the diaper but Ben's legs are so skinny that he usually leaks out of the sides. A solution I'm trying is for Ben to wear a soaker. A soaker is a diaper cover that holds any extra moisture by pulling it away from the diaper and skin without wicking it to other clothing or sheets. Wool is the best for this, but I know less about it, and it requires lanolizing and hand-washing. So for now, we're using fleece covers at night. I made a couple of different pairs, each with an extra layer through the middle for added absorbancy. I used the serger for the most part, which made the whole process very quick. A free, printable pattern and directions can be found here.

The first two were too small to fit over Ben wearing a Bum Genius diaper, so I had to move up to a size medium body with small leg openings. The waist is still a little big, but I haven't been able to get the bulk of the cover big enough with a small enough waistband just yet. I think tomorrow I'll have the pattern closer to perfected (and soon enough Ben will grow out of it).

I cut bottom off of a couple of onsies and serged the bottom edge to make the t-shirts. The pants are a little crazy looking when not on, because I used the same pattern and just made the legs longer. It's a little goofy, but has to be so bulky, again, to cover the diaper.

The best fleece to use is the non-pilling kind from Joann's, which happens to be on sale this week! (Fortuante coincidence.) I bought the spiders, neon green, and the Cardinal's fleece. We tried the first spiders one last night and it worked great! No leaks. I'm only making a few for now, to see how they work out after several washes. I also know Ben will grow out of these and need more soon.

I had a great conversation with mom today about how fun and rewarding it is to sew clothes. I might even try to make something for myself this week.


Ben also went swimming for he first time today! He loved the pool Josh picked out and we splashed around for quite a while on this very, very warm day.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Flower Bed

We finally mulched and tended to the flower bed in front of our house. This is a project I started over a month ago, mentioned here. If we would have done it then it would have been so much easier! Our flowerbed extends the full length of the house and was such the selling point when we first purchased our home. Little did we know what it would look like untended, one year later. After many, many hours of work, stacks of newspaper, 28 bags of mulch, and transplanting and moving several of the overcrowded plants, here is our finished project:

I'm still sewing, sewing, sewing (learning). Lately lots of sandwich wraps, a new type of rag rug, drawstring bags, and more wipes and burp cloths - all from recycled clothing and items from around our house. I'm thinking of splurging and buying some new fabric tomorrow with some of my birthday money.

Blackberry picking is also steadily increasing. We've gathered 2-3 cups a day for 4 days now, and we've eaten our way (or made soda with) all of them. I'm going to look into canning preserves later this week or next.

A new Missouri farm blog friend has introduced me to Picasa, so expect to see many more photo collages on the blog. Thanks Tammy!

With my new photo collage abilities, I added a synopsis of Ben's (almost) first 4 months.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


Today I turn 27. I think about birthdays a little differently after having a baby. I think my mom should get at least half the gifts I do. Josh, Ben and I went to the I-44 Swap Meet and then to the Dickerson Park Zoo.

The swap meet was pretty weak today. It's been really hit-or-miss the past few years and I'm not sure we'll be going back for quite a while. You pay $2 to park and it's similar to visiting several dozen yard sales all in one place. Sometimes people sell fresh produce, plants and live animals. Not today, however. I take that back, one guy was selling produce that still had the stickers from the grocery store - not sure what was up with that. We did take home one treasure, a Michaelangelo's David head for $8. We have a modest collection of heads on our living room bookshelf and we haven't made an addition for quite a while. David's eyes are really creepy, but he'll be far enough away I won't notice soon enough.

The zoo was fun but packed. We had a hard time negotiating the paths with the number of people so we didn't make it through the whole park, but I'm sure we will next time.

My parents came over in the afternoon and we took a walk through the woods hunting for wild blackberries. We found about 2 cups worth yesterday and another 2 cups today, give or take. Josh found a great recipe for making fresh blackberry soda and we drank that with dinner last night and tonight. I am hoping he will write a "guest" blog entry about it soon! The hardest part of blackberry hunting was keeping Josh (and myself) from eating all of them before we made it back into the house. The vast majority of our berries are not yet ripe, so we are planning on having a summer full of foraging. Gooseberries are also up for consideration but we still need to learn a little more...

Josh cooked a fantastic dinner - chicken stuffed with prosciutto and fresh basil from the garden, spicy green beans, asparagus, salad and rolls. Eating that great meal outside with the blackberry soda made for such a great birthday!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Learning to Sew

Josh and my mom went in together and got me a sewing machine for my birthday! I know a little about sewing from growing up around sewing machines and being able to play with mom's as a kid, but I haven't really sewed anything before as an adult. My mother-in-law graciously brought over her sewing machine, but it is in need of some major repair and it was skipping stitches and had to be re-threaded every few minutes.

I would love to write about how to sew, but I don't know enough myself. My only advice would be to practice and play around with it. From what I can tell, a great deal of sewing skill comes from experience and practice, like most other crafts.

So far I have only made cloth baby wipes on my new sewing machine. I cut out two 8 inch squares of fabric, sew them together (nice sides facing each other), turn it out, then sew again with a neat pattern. I'm experimenting with the 50 different stitches on my machine, so every baby wipe has a different pattern so far. The fabric is recycled t-shirts, old washcloths and towels, flannel receiving blankets, and other odds and ends I had around with holes, stains, or usable places I could cut around.

As soon as we run out of our disposable wipes, I'm going to contact this mama blogger friend about her great wipes recipe and make my own wet wipes. If I'm already washing cloth diapers, it's not that different to add wipes to the load. I'll be sure to post about how the washable wipes are going once we've got our system in place.


Ben still has gross, red, crusty sores on his head and is a little fussier than normal. We go back Monday to check on the infection and see if we need more or a different type of antibiotics.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Staph Infection

Over the weekend we took Ben into urgent care because it was clear that his incision had become infected. Yesterday the lab results came back and Ben tested positive for staph infection. They reassured me that it's not the "bad" kind (MRSA) and we should be able to treat it with antibiotics. We also have weekly doctors appointments and lots of testing ahead to make sure it clears up.

Prior to yesterday I didn't really know anything about staph infection. It is a bacteria that about 20% of people carry and can lead to all sorts of bad things if not treated, such as pneumonia, meningitis, bone marrow infection, heart problems, toxic shock syndrome, sepsis, boils and other gross skin things. The additional concern to staph infection is the tendency for it to be resistant to antibiotics. Ben is on a high dose of antibiotics for 10 days, then after testing he may need another round at home or he may even be admitted to the hospital for a short stay with IV antibiotics.

We really don't know for sure how Ben got staph, but each year over 500,000 hospital patients come home with this unwelcome souvenir.

I am also now at a higher risk for getting staph infection myself. Ben is very contagious and we aren't having anyone over or going anywhere for a while (which might make me a little nutty). I have read several reports of breastfeeding mothers and babies passing staph between one another through nursing and mothers getting mastitis due to the bacteria, which would be horrible. Most of these cases are from MRSA from what I've read, though.

Needless to say, I've been freaking out about this diagnosis. However, we are very fortunate that he does not have MRSA. That is the version of the staph that is very resistant to antibiotics and generally requires an extended hospital stay. That is also the scary kind that people hear about on tv and generally assocate with staph infection. There is a good chance that Ben will be cleared of his infection in the next couple of weeks and I will keep everyone posted.

In happier news, Ben weighs 12 lbs 12 oz. and is for the most part acting like himself again. He's been a little fussier and sleepier than normal, but he's also developed a great belly laugh as of the past week. I got my birthday present from Josh in the mail today - a Beco baby carrier (which I have talked about wanting for months)! I posed for some super cheesy pictures of Ben and I with the carrier and I wore him around all over the house today.

on the back
on the front

awesome fabric

Sunday, June 7, 2009

First Anniversary

Today is Josh and my first anniversary. A year ago today we would have never imagined that we would be living on a farm with chickens, ducks and donkeys and have a baby.

Josh and I have known one another since we were about 7 years old. We grew up only a few miles from one another and even rode the same school bus. We took piano lessons from the same lady, we had many of the same teachers, and our little sisters were in the same Girl Scout troop. We never dated in high school, but we were debate partners and had the same social circle throughout most of our lives. In college we continued to hang out on weekends and we even attended concerts together.

We kept in touch online and went through many major milestones while living in separate towns and states. We didn't begin dating until more than 15 years after we first met. We picked the most inconvenient time to progress our relationship. Josh lived in Phoenix and I lived in Springfield. After I visited Arizona a couple of times, Josh found a job here and moved back home. His mom couldn't have been happier (and neither could I). He proposed that fall and we were married the following year.

When he lived in Phoenix it seemed as if time were standing still. He was a million miles away so I focused on cycling and teaching. When he moved here everything sped up dramatically. It seemed like only a few moments passed between his move, engagement, marriage, pregnancy, moving, baby, farming, surgery, today...

Things are slowing down now, I hope. We have agreed to cap our livestock purchases for the year and focus on the garden and improving what we have before we buy any more. We do not plan on doing any traveling this summer (other than Josh for work). I have become such a homebody now that we live on the farm. I love our home and land and feel very content with staying in, eating home-cooked meals and spending time with our family. Although gas expenses are high, we still spend so much less than when we lived in the middle of town.

We are both so pleased with our lifestyle choices and I can tell that choosing to live our simple, rural life has brought us both so much closer together.

Here's to another great year!

I'm not sure if I already posted this picture, but lately Ben is spending a lot of time chewing on his thumb, sometimes while holding his blanket or a burp rag. He is also spending a lot of time wearing only a diaper. His drooling and spitting up was causing us to go through so many outfits a day, it's just easier to keep him in a diaper and wipe him down, then put clothes on if we go somewhere or for bedtime.

We spent over four hours yesterday in urgent care because Ben's incision has become infected. It is red and puffy and started collecting puss in places (gross, I know). They drew a ton of blood, then sent it off for lab work. After more than an hour of waiting for the results, the doctor returned and said they didn't draw enough blood and had to do it again. So after another hour and a half, they decided to put him on 10 days of oral antibiotics. We will have a doctor's appointment this week, next week and the following week for his post-surgical check-ups and his 4 month appointment. Ben now weighs 12 lbs. 12 oz. After 24 hours on antibiotics, the incision is already looking better.

Josh and Ben entertained me during the looooong wait.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Hard Work

As I am reading the book You Can Farm, I reflect on the image of farmers. In the first two chapters, the author discusses the downtrodden, sad, and meager life that many associate with farming. However, it doesn't have to be like that at all, and often isn't. The agrarian life is, like any other, what you make it.

Friends have made both positive, negative, and inquisitive comments towards me and our chosen lifestyle. Most focus on the idea of work. "Wow, how much work is it to keep up with your farm?" "How can you farm and have a job?" "Do you ever leave?"

Admittedly, we have yet to have a child, both work, and run the farm at the same time. So far, we have found our farm doesn't take as much time (or money) as many might think. Josh spends a few minutes in the morning watering the gardens. We have a system of soaker hoses and splitters ran, so he just turns on two spouts outside. He then lets out the ducks and chickens, fills their water and feed and then checks the donkeys water. In the evening he refills the waterers and puts the poultry in.

The majority of farm "work" is purchasing, assembling and maintaining. The expenses and necessities can be divided into existing, start-up, maintenance, and improvements. For example, we purchased our farm with a barn, chicken coop, corral, and fencing all in place.

Existing: barn, chicken coop, chicken run, pig pen, corral, fencing, rough trail, pond, flower bed, wild berries

Start-Up: 5 raised vegetable beds, seeds and plant starts, chickens, ducks, donkeys, bought horse trailer

Maintenance: clearing the trail, cleaned out and painted the chicken coop, weeding and mulching flower bed, (paid to have the) field brush-hogged, cleaned up several trash piles, cleaned out the pond, cleared brush, well serviced

Improvements: fruit trees, blueberry bush, compost pile, clothesline

This week we painted the chicken coop and cut down a lot of the overgrowth around it.


We also weeded and mulched the flower bed.

These were two huge chores and I truly feel like I have "worked" this week in the truest sense. At the same time, we didn't wake up and grudgingly trudge outside and make ourselves finish these jobs. We can 1) easily define what needs to be done, 2) know why it needs to be done 3) clearly look at our finished "work" and know when it's finished and 4) be proud of what we have accomplished. I think that's quite a bit more than most people can say about their "work."

For now, we still keep our "day jobs" and I love teaching and find it very rewarding and I believe Josh feels the same way about his work with the farmer's union.

But work on the farm is very, very different. It is ongoing but at the same time it is concrete, and I find that incredibly rewarding.

*I'll come back and add pictures to this post Saturday. I forgot to get the "after" pictures of the garden we've weeded.

Here's Ben in a lemon-patterned diaper that I traded for on Diaperswappers. I think it's a little more girly than I expected and I think it might go back in the trade pile.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Rethinking My Purchases and Other Updates

I have had a frustrating couple of days in the online buying, selling and trading world. My two most recent diaperswapper trades were not the quality they advertised (excellent used condition can mean a lot of different things to different people).

Josh and I agreed my birthday present could be a Beco Butterfly II (the baby carrier I blogged about here) and when it got here, it was a much older Beco, not a Butterfly II or what the seller had advertised on eBay. So now I'm in the middle of disputing that and trying to get my money back.

In addition to eBay troubles, I ordered three handmade diapers from etsy a month ago and I still haven't received them! I emailed those people today too.

I'm thinking about having a clothing swap and / or a yard sale and selling everything instead of ebaying or swapping things online, then going on a shopping strike. (Only after I get an actual Beco Butterfly II.) I've got enough clothes and diapers, and certainly enough stuff. I would like to spend more time trying to learn to sew and garden and less time in front of the computer this summer anyway.

Other updates:
- Bartering is slowing down but I'm still selling lots on eBay.
- I'm having my first huge playdate at the farm this Friday.
- We painted the chicken coop (see below).
- I still love cloth diapering.
- Wool dryer balls contain only trace amounts of lanolin. After sending some emails and doing some investigating, the small amount of lanolin in dryer balls should not affect cloth diaper absorbency but also do not add to the softness of clothes. The friction helps fluff clothing and if you feel you need more softness every now and then you can supplement with a dryer sheet or add 1/4 cup of vinegar (with a few drops of essential oils to cut out the smell) to the rinse cycle of your wash.
- The rag rug did not do great in the wash. The next one I make, I'm going to try tying off the ends or sewing them together instead of just laying one piece into the next.
- Still trying to figure out sewing, but not confident enough to share any projects on the blog just yet.
- Some of the plants didn't handle transplanting as well as others. We still haven't planted the last two beds either, and I'm worried we're going to miss the planting season if we don't get them done in the next day or two.
- Contemplating a clothing swap or yard sale.
- Ben is doing fantastic. His hair is still a little gross from the surgery gunk (we aren't allowed to wash it until the stitches fall out / dissolve next week or so).

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cloth Diaper Review

My method to cloth diapering has been to buy a little of everything and see what works for us. Today's post is about what I've bought and what I think of each style and brand. Granted, I've only been doing this for a short time and I can't account for the durability of everything. This is the summary of my experience:

Prefolds - (old-fashioned cloth diapers, aka burp rags) I started off thinking I would go the least expensive route and bought prefolds diapers and wraps. In order to make them more absorbent I added a doubler and then to prevent diaper rash I added a thin layer of microfleece. By the time all of the layers were together and I secured with a snappi, this became the most time consuming and least dad-friendly method so it only lasted about a week. I also bought Gerber prefolds which are horrible. Green Mountain Diaper prefolds are the best, followed by anything that says diaper service quality or "Indian" or "Chinese" for some reason are also quite popular. I didn't use these long enough to know why.

From left to right, swim diaper (still in package), some doublers / soakers (adds absorbency), a bunch of microfleece liners, and some prefold diapers

Fitteds - (These are velcro or snap closure diapers that are absorbent but not waterproof so they need a wrap.) I lucked into a stack of old fitted diapers at a yard sale for a quarter each, so I bought all of them. The elastic is shot, velcro needs to be replaced, but they still do the job. These are much easier than prefolds and go on like a diaper with a wrap around it. I also bought four Thirsties fitted diapers. Three snaps and one is velcro. The velcro one is easier to put on and absorbs a ton. The snap ones are good too, but they don't seem to fit Ben as well. All of the Thirsties are really bulky and don't work with my smaller wraps.

Wraps - (These are thin waterproof, breathable diaper covers that either velcro or snap on.) My absolute favorite wraps are the Bummis Whisper Wraps. I have two and they have very cute prints, wash well, don't stain, we've had no leaks, and they fit Ben really well. I also bought these at a yard sale and they could stand to have the velcro replaced but they are the first ones I go for. I have two other wraps, a Bunnyfeet Boutique one-size wrap and a Tot Wraps cover. I love how the Bunnyfeet wrap is one size, but it snaps on the sides and I really don't like that as much as the wraps that snap or velcro in front. It's also super cute monkey fabric, it washes really well and puts up with the occasional velcro stuck to it without tearing up. The Tot Wraps cover is made by a local mom and I love the idea of supporting our local economy. It has never leaked on me, but it is super tiny. The small is advertised as 12-22 lbs, but there is no way Ben could wear it when he reached 12 pounds even. I don't know if I got a mis-tagged one, but it will be great for the next baby. It is the smallest diapering thing I have. It gets really messed up when around velcro. The edging has completely pilled and looks worn out because of the occasional velcro come loose in the wash. This hasn't hurt it's functionality at all though, and it still works great.

Bunnyfeet, Bummis, Bummis, and Tot Wraps

- (Pocket diapers are covers with a pocket in them to stuff an absorbent pad inside instead of using a fitted or prefold diaper. Because I can stuff them all when they come off the line, these are Josh's favorites because you just put them on like a regular diaper with one step.) These are my favorites. As close to sposies (cloth diapering slang for disposable diapers) as possible, easy for travel and very absorbent. I've tried many kinds of these. The first ones I bought were Fuzzi Bunz. These fit very trim, haven't leaked, and quite practical. I have 2 in boring white but they come in way better colors. They are smalls, so will not fit forever, but are pretty adjustable and they snap close instead of velcro, which makes them easier for washing but not Josh's first choice. I have one Swaddlebees size medium pocket diaper and it's just as great as the Fuzzi Bunz but has a velcro closure. It is the trimmest fitting diaper we have and the sizing runs small, but looks the best under clothes.

Our family favorite is Bum Genius pocket diapers. They are one size, meaning they fit from birth (maybe a little big at first) through potty training (maybe a little small by then, not sure). The size adjusts with snaps as does the insert. They velcro close and come in great colors. Bum Genius diapers are super absorbent and don't stain easily (and sun out well if they do stain). If I started over I would probably just buy all these, and I'm slowly selling off some of my stuff I don't like in order to buy (or trade for) more BGs. They are a bit bulky and the velcro and elastic will wear out and need to (most likely) be replaced after a kid or two.

All Bum Genius pocket diapers. The front three show the small, medium and large size when adjusted with the snaps on the front. (Two were in the diaper bag and one more was on Ben.)

All In Ones - (AIOs are exactly as they sound, one diaper all put together. Some have a space for an insert if you want to add more absorbency, but they don't need it for daytime use. It's no different from a sposie, you just throw it in the wash instead.) I've got a few Bum Genius AIOs, a Thirsties AIO and a Tot Wraps AIO. The Bum Genius AIOs are ok, but I bought them well-used and the elastic and velcro could stand some refurbishing. They also take forever to dry, so they aren't my favorites. The Thirsties AIO seems to hold up better than the Bum Genius but also takes forever to dry. The Tot Wraps Dream Diaper AIO is my favorite all in one because of the super soft velour lining and quickest drying time. It can have an insert added but doesn't need it (unless you have a way heavy wetter). The one I ordered closes with snaps and I might ask for a velcro one next time. It's also super thin and looks a lot less bulky under clothes than the Bum Genius diapers. You do need to make sure none of the velour is sticking out to keep it from wicking, though.

Dream Diaper, 2 Fuzzi Bunz, Swaddlebees The Thirsties and Bum Genius were still in the dryer - taking forever to dry...
If I were to start from scratch, I would probably buy all Dream Diapers if I wanted new or all Bum Genius Pockets or Swaddlebees if I wanted used. Bum Genius diapers are easy to come by used and work the best for us and the Dream diapers are really nice and contribute to our local economy. Swaddlebees are so trim and look just like a disposable under clothes. If you're looking to buy new, I'd recommend Little Clothesline out of Springfield, or if you're looking for used I'd recommend Diaperswappers (I'll warn you, it can be a little overwhelming).

There is also a huge debate of velcro versus snaps. From what I can tell, most moms prefer snaps because everything doesn't get all jumbled up in the laundry and pill. Almost all velcro diapers have laundry tabs to keep that from happening, but these need to be replaced every now and then. Josh prefers the velcro and honestly, it's a lot faster and much easier for middle of the night changes, so we have a combination of both.

Here's my diaper stash pic (pretty good for only bartering or using my eBay sales to purchase). Five diapers are missing - 2 BGs in the diaper pail, 1 BG on Ben, 1 Thirsties AIO in the dryer and 1 BG AIO in the dryer. The brightly colored fabric on the right is the medium wetbag I recently traded for on Diaperswappers.

I've got about 20 pockets / all in ones, 4 wraps, 21 fitted diapers, and 4 prefolds. I'm considering ditching the last of the wraps, fitteds and prefolds and going straight to pockets and all in ones, but I'm worried I might regret that if/when the next baby comes along. The fitteds are said to work well with the tiny babies, so I don't know.

Other diaper related purchases have included two waterproof, washable pail liners, two wet bags (one medium one to keep at our changing station in the living room and one small one for the diaper bag), and Jenny's Simply Clean diaper pail freshener through Diaperswappers (I got lemon and it smells awesome).

I spend on average $12 / used pockets or all in ones and $5 for used fitteds (except the crazy yard sale deal) and about $6 for used wraps. I have also bartered quite a bit for the majority of my diaper collection, and prices vary greatly depending on the condition. All of the new prices are on the Little Clothesline website and are pretty comparable to anywhere else. I've also ordered a couple of handmade ones through Etsy, but they are taking FOREVER to get here, so I'm not even going to recommend them for that reason alone.

Ben is a happy cloth diaper baby.