Saturday, August 28, 2010

Bad Puppy

Rough day on the 'stead yesterday. After finally getting a grumpy, over-tired 2-year old to actually stay in bed, I was desperately trying to catch up on my chores when I noticed a lump in the front yard. Hmmmm... it looks like that lump has feathers. Closer inspection revealed it to be a half eaten turkey.

We've been day ranging the turkeys in the back yard. The plan is to day range them in the pasture but I didn't want to throw them out there until they were used to the drill. I set up some baby gates around the door of the pen so they had more space where they wouldn't get bothered by the dog, but they usually chose to just fly over and roam. And Angel (the dog) would chase some, but not too badly unless they strayed really far from the pen. She's a fast dog so if her desire were to catch, she'd have no problem whatsoever. In the evening, they come home to roost, we lock them up and they are safe.

Yesterday morning while working in farmer girl's "pretty patch" we noticed a turkey straying all the way into the front yard. I took it back once and not too long later it was back, assuming it was the same bird. Angel was chasing it, I caught it again and again returned it to the secure area. Late afternoon, upon discovering the half eaten turkey, I ran to the back to see if the others were safe. I counted 7 (where there were 10), locked them in the pen and went hunting for the others. I soon found another one in the woods towards the front, alive and well, and another barely alive. I locked up the good one with the others and transferred the injured one to the dog crate. It appeared as though her leg were broken or maybe she was spraddle legged. I put a call into a bird rescue place to see if they could talk me through saving her. Meanwhile I'm trying to decipher what took place. I was home the whole time. Inside and busy but I would have thought I would have heard Angel barking if an unwelcome animal were visiting. I had no other option but to deduce that Angel must have killed the turkey.

I decided to follow the folk wisdom... tie the dead bird around the dog's neck for a couple days. I took the half eaten bird by the remaining foot and Angel immediately pulled against me by the wing, staking her claim. I then had little doubt that Angel was the culprit. I tied it to her and went back to the injured one which I then found dead also.

The bird rescue lady said the deaths were likely caused from stress. The story I'm spinning is that the birds strayed to the front yard, Angel chased them incessantly to get them to the back (she doesn't bark unless there's an unwelcomed animal around), the one died from stress and, being dead, Angel decided it was a meal. The second one was still alive which is why Angel probably didn't go ahead and start munching on that one too. Either that or she was full.

Later that evening we were debating about how to protect Angel from critters wanting the rotting meat- she's just not a fighter. She's an alarm, a scary alarm, so animals don't challenge her, but if something vicious were to decide she had what they wanted, I don't think she would fight at all. Anyway, that dilemma was solved as we noticed that she had eaten the rest of the bird though I thought I had tied it high enough to disable her from reaching it. We had already disposed of the other bird. This morning she merely reeked of rotting meat and has likely not learned her lesson. So she's spent most of today in the 6'x8' kennel. Tomorrow she'll have her usual reign, but I'm certainly not letting her around the turkeys again. She'll have to be kept tight until the turkeys are ready for the pasture... or should I say the turkey PEN is ready for pasture. I need to wrap the pen in barb wire to prevent the goats from rubbing against it and destroying it. Then I think they'll be fine to set out. Still a bit nervous about it, but given that they even come "home" when it starts to rain, I think they should be ok.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Getting Healthy- A Day at a Time

A friend recently walked in on a conversation I was having with another friend and quickly learned (all TOO quickly) the serious state of our nations food supply. I never want ANYONE to feel overwhelmed or intimidated by the need to watch what we eat. The FDA and USDA doing it for you will not lead to good health. I decided to do a step-by-step, make-changes-as-you-can-when-you-can type post. There are always going to be things to do to be healthier. This is just a place to start thinking of how to get on the road. Some people can make lifestyle changes at a lightening pace. I certainly am not one of those people. I try to add one or two new healthful habits a YEAR. Some habits are easier to change than others. So, if you're new to the road, jump in where you can and know that God's Grace is sufficient for you. No pressure, no performance. Add to your healthy living as you get things under your belt (and you'll no doubt be punching extra holes in that belt as you go.) :->

1) Make a list of categories and prioritize them based on how easy it would be to change and the level of return.

2) List changes that can be made in each category (examples will be given in a future post) and apply a SINGLE change at any one time. When that one becomes natural, add another. You will obviously have some feeling of deprivation, but don't allow that feeling to be so intense that you give up.

3) Find sources for information and learn to love gleaning that information. Ask people at a health food store their favorite periodicals. Find good websites (again, for another post). Watch documentaries (though understand you may very well get disgusted and overwhelmed). Go back and watch them again if you find yourself straying back to old ways.

4) Find new food sources. If you live in a small town its harder, but there are bound to other people in the same boat. You could start your own buying club and order wholesale or build a BIG pantry and make a once or twice a year trek into a big city for food.

5) Plan your menu. Find new recipes and as your healthy recipe box grows, have more and more healthy meals each week.

6) Become responsible for an increasing amount of your food source. Plant a garden or fruit and nut trees. Raise a few chickens (much easier than you would think, and lots of land is NOT necessary). Or really get wacky and put in a tilapia pool.

7) Use your new found energy. Increase your hands-on activities as you increase your health. That way if you slack off, the lack of energy will be readily apparent!
And in this I'm realizing I'm only discussing physical health which is completely dependent upon emotional and spiritual health. But, frankly speaking, I'm still figuring out how to be under the weight of the world yet not feel stressed so I'm not exactly at the "advisory stage" yet. A big reason why my husband is such a pinnacle of good health is likely because he never lets anything get to him.
So, in conclusion, don't let healthful habits be a stressful thing or you're counteracting everything. But also know that you'll likely feel less stress in general if you're getting proper nutrition, namely B vitamins.
And on that note, I'm going to go drink my water, take my B-complex and jump into chicken slaughter just before I run off to put in my co-op order.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

"Preferred PLUS"

(WARNING- this is a very controversial post!)

This is Husbandman, my very own superhero, who has just attained "Preferred Plus" status. That is, we recently opted to obtain a life insurance policy for him and the premium is determined by the individual's level of health. Premiums for the "Preferred" status were quoted to us because Husbandman "is a healthy guy." But no one gets "Preferred Plus". At least no one has gotten it from this insurance office in over a decade.
Well, we recently got word of the results of his physical and this is what "Preferred Plus" looks like. Fully decked out in a home-tanned goat hide. Want to know how he got that way being a full-time desk jockey and a weekend warrior on the homestead??? Read on.
First and foremost, we ignore the FDA. We've done a LOT of reading of studies NOT funded by the FDA or big agribusiness and have learned to do almost the polar opposite of what the FDA says to do. For example:
1) Drink raw milk and lots of it. And since we have goat milk which is naturally homogenized, we drink it with full fat... about 6-8% butterfat. Playing "Russian Roulette with our health"? We'll take our chances.
2) Eat eggs, lots of them, almost every day. Often raw. No eggbeaters here. Give us all the real cholesterol you can. Cholesterol is not the enemy. It forms on arteries to protect them from damage from other things, such as sugar, antibiotics and various toxins.
3) Eat real butter. We'd rather eat home-churned raw butter, but even store-bought butter is better than smart balance. Vegetable oils go rancid extremely quickly... at the heat of body temperature. Not to mention that all those oils are made from genetically modified crops, thoroughly sprayed with round-up and then packaged in a BPA-laden plastic containers.
4) Eat meat, even red meat. Now, we're not huge meat eaters. We eat meat for dinner about 3 times a week. But if we roast a chicken, I'll get those 3 dinners from the single chicken. And the meat we eat is all grass-fed and organic.
5) Eat meat slaughtered in an "uncontrolled" area. We slaughter our chickens, goats and sheep right here at home, in the back yard, open to the great outdoors and all the "horrible bacteria" that the natural earth can throw at us. Compare that with what you can contract in a super sanitized hospital. We're careful with our meat and cool it in an ice bath immediately after slaughter, but it's certainly not done on stainless steel tables that have been bleached to high heaven. We actually let plain soap, water and sunshine do all our sanitizing for us.
6) We do all cooking with coconut oil which is an evil saturated fat! Coconut is a rare oil that can be heated without going rancid and so maintains its healthy benefits even after cooking. If we use olive oil, we add it AFTER the foods are cooked (if they will be cooked) so that it maintains it's benefits.
7) We're not exercise buffs. I ran a marathon once but can now barely run a mile. I like to ride my bike with kids in tow but I'm certainly not conscious to get my heart rate to that optimum level. Husbandman, as stated before, is a desk jockey and benches a computer mouse. He sometimes goes for pre-dawn walks with God in the morning, but he's purposefully not breaking a sweat. Also, his corrected clubbed feet don't make for the world's greatest athlete. But he works hard every Saturday morning shoveling mulch, hauling lumber, tilling ground, etc... just before he spends the afternoon cramming his brain for his licensing exam. We'd like to exercise more, but there are too many other demands on our time.
8) We never eat soy-based pseudo health foods. (Naturally fermented tofu would be fine though)
9) We don't take medicines unless absolutely necessary. We have no primary care physician. Shoot, I only recently got health insurance at all. Husbandman has had antibiotics once and nothing else since his prescription acne meds in high school. (He has a great complexion now.) We do overdose on vitamins rather regularly though. When someone has an ailment, we search a publication that the American Medical Association refuses to publish... and get great results.
There are a few things we do right, according to the FDA as well though.
1) We drink only water and herbal tea regularly... and we drink a LOT of water. I drink a quart first thing in the morning and another just before bed, and a quart or 2 between. Husbandman is sure to drink at least a half gallon a day. And Husbandman is teetotaler against all caffeine and alcohol. I enjoy an occasional cup of Joe much to his chagrin.
2) We sleep a lot. We have no tv to keep us up late. We're usually in bed by about 9 or 10 and sleep till about 5 or 6.
hmmm... I guess that all we do right according to the FDA. Oh, maybe the fruits and veggies thing... what is it? 5 a day the color way? Yeah, I'm sure we do that. He eats 3 servings of fruit just in his lunch.
Now, I know this comes across as prideful gloating... as yes, it is. I'm glad to have a measure of proof of our health to show all the nay-sayers. We repeatedly hear "You eat eggs every morning? I'd hate to see your cholesterol level!" Or "Raw milk? Don't you know that can kill you?" Or "I wouldn't touch your eggs with a 10 foot pole. I want the Publix stamp or approval." Or "Just wait till you get sick eating that chicken." Or "Goat? Are you serious? You eat goat?" Or "You're going to get so fat drinking whole milk!" Or from the other side: "You don't feed your chickens organic grain? Then why bother? They're no better than traditionally raised." Or "Your soil is so bad your vegetables aren't going to be nutritious."
So, while there are still many strides we want to take in our health so that 50 years from now he's STILL "Preferred Plus", we're very glad to have this tiny tidbit of proof that we're on the right track. And for FDA followers, take note that those with "skin in the game", ie: insurance companies, are placing their money on NATURAL foods as opposed to all the "heart smart" foods and drugs.

Friday, August 13, 2010

A Diapering Odyssey

Someone asked me some details regarding my diapering methods. Rather than writing an individual e-mail and plugging up an in-box with lots of pictures, I decided to make it a blog post instead. So this is our diapering odyssey through 3 kids and counting...

When the farmer girl was born, the only thing I knew about cloth diapers were prefolds with pins and plastic pants. I was NOT interested. I learned about fuzzi bunz when she was about 4 months old. I did the math and figured out we'd be saving money by making this rather costly initial investment. And so we bought about 15 fuzzi bunz and 30 inserts (because she needed double stuffing to not leak). About 6 months later when she was outgrowing that first size, I started researching other brands and happened upon a yahoo group of people who MADE their own pocket diapers. I'm not the greatest seamstress, but I'm always up for a challenge and figured I could make this work. I found more yahoo groups of diaper fabric co-ops making the price for supplies a good deal cheaper too. Getting good deals on fabric meant I could make a diaper for about $3 each- totally blowing the cost of disposables out of the water!

So, this is what I make, various versions and various results:

1) Pocket diapers- This is my first pick but they are the most time consuming to make and also the most expensive to buy or make so my selection is a bit limited. They hold the most, especially given that you can double stuff them if need be.
a) The inner layer is microfleece or suede cloth. I prefer the microfleece. Suede cloth offers some color variety which can be fun. I have some black stuff that I thought would look sharp on blue
or red dipes... that will only likely only be worn by #3 (IF I actually get some more made!)
b) The outer layer is polyurethane laminate (PUL). This can be purchased online retail or
through online co-ops. I've got a good stash now so I'm not up-to-date on co-ops or current pricing. I do know to
NOT use prints. As ADORABLE as the frogs dressed as spider man or the pink camouflage diapers are, they just don't work. Stick with solid colors.
c) In some I used fold-over-elastic (aka FOE) (like in the bright orange one). In others I used standard elastic which is all covered by fabric. I used the FOE to add sidewalls which I don't think are worth the effort. They leak the same as the others (the sage or bright green ones) when inserts are saturated and are way more fussy to make. Also the FOE is more expensive and that design requires more of it.
There is a place for FOE and sidewalls, but more about that later.
d) Inserts- In one picture you can see a diaper and 2 different inserts. The center insert is one I made from 4 layers of hemp cloth. Hemp holds more than microfiber, but buying them retail is really pricey. If a good deal on hemp comes up, I'd snag it quick. The insert on the right is
a purchased microfiber one, purchased with the first fuzzi bunz. They work fine. I've also heard of people stuffing dipes with a folded microfiber towel they bought at the auto store, or with a prefold diaper, or even with old kitchen towels. I like having things already folded and ready for stuffing so making a few extra inserts from hemp was worth it for me. Another thing I've done is used some smaller hemp scraps to make little square inserts. This gets added where the biggest projection of wet occurs for a girl or boy. It gives a bit more protection against leaks but doesn't make the tooshie so big as to need its own zip code.

2) Using pockets can be tricky. When poop is involved, it requires dumping in the toilet (which is required for disposables too if you read the label!). Sometimes you have to swish it around in the toilet to get it all off. It's not for the faint at heart... but then again, neither is parenting. Washing must be done with the inserts removed from the diaper with minimal amounts of detergent. Every so often you'll notice they are leaking more than they used to, meaning detergent has built up on the inner-lining (which is designed to let fluids through but keep the bottom somewhat dry). To remove the build-up, simply wash with only a bit of dish soap, put through an extra rinse cycle and maybe add some vinegar to a rinse cycle as well. A bit of baking soda in the wash will also help to remove the laundry detergent build-up. They can be dried in the drier after any wash though the PUL won't last as long if they routinely are. They line dry quickly. I know someone who puts the inserts in the drier and merely sets the pockets on top of the drier. The residual heat is enough to gently dry them.

3) Traveling with cloth is a feat I don't go for anymore. When it was just 1 child in tow, I thought nothing of packing a PUL bag in the diaper bag and put a diaper (and ALL its contents) in that PUL bag until we got home and it could be dealt with appropriately. Now I'm all for 'sposies when we're out and about. Too many times, as more kids entered the picture, I have forgotten to deal with a diaper in a timely matter and have had... yes... MAGGOTS in the diaper bag. Just can't deal with that anymore.

4) Currently, #3 fits in both the smalls and the mediums so I have an abundance of pockets. But once he's cracking more than one smile in the smalls, I'll be using the prefolds more. They are cheap and easy, but they definitely need to be changed more frequently. I simply don't know how mom's made it through the night with only prefolds and plastic pants in their diaper stash. But even with the prefolds, I don't use pins. "Snappies" are available online through lots of retailers. It's the red rubbery thing which grips the diaper in 3 places and holds it snug. They are very handy and much safer to use as well. They don't grip flannel, fleece or hemp so don't both trying to make prefolds with that hemp as I did.

5) I like wraps over pull-on pants for over prefolds. Its easy to keep the changing mat clean and its easy to re-use a wrap for several diapers without the outside getting moistened. The turquoise one is one I made using PUL and FOE.
Notice the side walls- very important when making a prefold wrap. The blue wrap is a
"Thirsties" that I purchased to get a working design to copy.

6) Actually sewing these buggers really isn't that hard. If I can do it, anyone can. There are free patterns available online. If I remember right I started with the "Mama Bird" pattern. I made it out of cheap scrap fabric to get a good fit. I ended up adjusting here and stretching there and made about 3 of my own patterns and diapers before I got the pattern that worked the best. I also discovered that Happy Heinys are really good diapers. I modeled mine after those as they had simple Velcro closures. Oddly enough though, my own diapers have worn much better. I have 2 purchased Happy Heinys and they are both done in with only 2 kids.
I've replaced the elastic already and the PUL is now shot. I'm going to take them apart to use as a pattern though. Theirs did fit better as each kid grew taller than my own pattern did so I'd rather use their pattern. Besides, I've lost my pattern now anyway. By the way, I cut patterns out of brown paper bags and trace them onto fabric using washable ink. After cutting out the pieces, I sew the soft side of the velcro onto the front of the PUL. Be sure to use 100% polyester thread as any cotton in the tread will wick moisture past the polyurethane. Also, the added soft velcro tabs on the side are important so that the rough velcro doesn't snag everything in washing. Folding the tabs in really reduces snags though they will still occur some.

You'll notice I only discuss price and not environmental ethics... because studies are now showing that cloth are no more gentle on the environment than disposable. I don't know how that is, but its been a bit of an embarrassment for the cloth diapering "tree-huggers". They say the water used to repeatedly wash these diapers, the energy usage in running the washer, etc, is just as detrimental as a mountain of disposables in a landfill. I find it pretty hard to believe, especially when we're washing with well water that hasn't been treated by a city facility anyway. But, alas, I'm not the one making these claims. You'll have to judge for yourself. I'm frugal so regardless of environmental claims, cloth is our method.

Now with THAT said, I have to confess that I did give up cloth diapering #2 a bit before #3 was born. That boy has an ACTIVE colon. I just couldn't keep up with the swishing of the poop. It was disgusting and I was tired. #3 is much more "normal" in his bm's so I think he'll be an easy one to see cloth through to potty-training time.

Feel free to post questions. I left a lot unsaid, but there's TONS of info on the internet. I'm not sure if any of my sites are still up and I'd be hours finding sites to link. Happy diapering.I hope this helps.