Sunday, August 24, 2014

Waiting Out Baby (Im)Patiently

WARNING: I am going to talk about 'woman stuff' so if you are squeemish please exit now.

There is a song called Tick Tick Boom by The Hives. I feel that song. Well, at least the chorus. Stupidly I thought this being pregnancy number two I would have more patience... let nature just unfold. Nature is a cruel mistress and my body just loves to screw with my head. Not only did I start having Braxton Hicks contractions at 14 weeks but I also started to show real signs of labor at 33 weeks by losing my mucus plug and discovering I was already 50% effaced and 1 cm. Now I have daily rounds of stronger contractions that always lead to nowhere and the baby dropped about 5 days ago (while I was walking in a store no less) and I have swelled up in the past couple days which caught me by surprise and my poor wedding band paid the price. I have nested about as much as I can, I don't think I have ever kept the laundry this ahead ever! My room is spotless, birth kit sitting ready to be pulled out at a moments notice. I have rested, I have kept busy, I have bounced on the ball, walked through the mall pushing a stroller, lifted heavy stuff, cleaned, worked on a puzzle, gone to bed early, googled labor signs 1000 times (funny they always stay the same!). Seriously, I feel the madness starting. Sure, I can reason that my efforts are futile, the little booger will come when he gosh darn pleases. But, really? Why does my body need to tease me with being ridiculously ready for labor without actually going into labor? Yes, my due date is 3 weeks away... see my point! It's like packing for a trip 3 weeks in advance, dumb and frustrating cause you have to wait and stare at those bags.

Now, if I were a midwife I would just say that my body just likes to prepare early, relax and just let nature take it's course! Take a walk, a bath, have a glass of wine, etc., etc. I got it.

Please understand, I do not wish anything ill to happen to my baby, he can and will cook until he's ready. I am not complaining out of dislike of pregnancy, matter of fact I will miss being pregnant shortly after I give birth! It is a most sacred time, no one else can feel what you feel when you get kicked in the liver or the little one has hiccups. Your body does the most amazing things in pregnancy and in a matter of hours it will evict the nine months of hard work into the world only to go back to it's original state in a matter of weeks or months. Pretty freaking cool if you ask me. And, really, most of my frustration is because I just want to meet the little guy! Ok, being able to bend over would also be a nice perk. So as to avoid ranting again I won't post again til I give birth. Until then I will just:


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Preparing For a Home Birth

I am planning my second home birth. When I planned and prepared last time I thought I had it down to a science. Well, I was only 21! Three years and a whole lot of humbling life later and I have kind of come down off the birthing high horse. A lot of this has to do with the birth experience that I had with my daughter (which you can read about here). While I was very open minded to just letting the process unfold on it's own I was completely unprepared for its entirely in every way but having the supplies ready. I had a very long active phase, unusually long pushing phase and finished it off with an ambulance ride to retrieve my stupid stuck placenta (anyone else heard of a chorion accreta?). While my birth was beautiful in it's own way, we really didn't plan for the 'what ifs' or even stick to what few things were on my birth plan. Really. No music, no massage or other comfort measures, no walks. Partly this was just how I was feeling. After laboring all day (early labor), once I entered real active labor late in the afternoon I just withdrew into myself and didn't really know how to communicate or let anyone try to help me. I was hard to read and because of this I ended up laboring much longer than necessary. It wasn't awful, but looking back it was kind of a hot mess! Yet at the same time it was birth in it's most simple form (minus the placenta thing). I will go over both how I physically prepare and how I am preparing my birth team to best support me through this labor.

The first thing you need (besides an awesome midwife) is a place to birth in. A home birth seems pretty self explanatory but take some time to find where you gravitate to when you are stressed in need of comfort. For me it's my bedroom, for others it may be their living room or even somewhere outside like a porch. While it is good to have this place in your mind's eye, be open to this location changing while in labor (you wouldn't believe how many babies are born on toilets!). After you have decided on your birthing room there are some things you will want to do to make it ready:

-Clean. While you will want to do a good deep clean (or have a friend/ family member do it for you) around 37 weeks of your whole house, there are some special considerations for your birth room I have found promote a more peaceful environment. The first thing I started to do is organize and clear out any clutter or storage that is not essential. In my case I have a basement at my new house in which to store all that I am clearing out, but others can either just brutally purge, make use of storage in a room you don't use much or at the least clean out a closet and use that. Clutter has been proven to induce stress and even sleeping disorders and it also just makes your room harder to keep clean. After you organize, do an extra good cleaning and maintain it with touch ups until birth. For me this has been moving furniture to get dust bunnies of gross proportions, washing my window, vacuuming extra extra well, and wiping down my walls for cobwebs and smudges. The second room I highly recommend making an extra effort in is the bathroom(s). Not only will you be in it a lot but your birth team will be needing potty breaks too! Really get your tub and shower clean in case you labor in them and remember to wash the floor and toilet good because most mamas end up throwing up at some point.

-Gather your supplies. Your midwife will give you a list of supplies or instructions to order a pre-made birth kit from a supplies company that will contain all of the 'medical' items. You will likely also be given a list of 'household' items to collect. Here is what mine is:

2 sets of old sheets
cheap plastic shower curtain
4 towels
8 washcloths
3-4 baby hats
newborn outfit and diaper
8 receiving blankets
new roll of paper towels
roll of toilet paper
3 trash bags
small bottle of olive oil (unopened)
flashlight with fresh batteries
heating pad
crock pot
large cookie sheet or tray
2 large stainless steel bowls
package of maxi pads
baby carseat (installed in your car)
honey sticks*
Vitamin Water*
instruction sheet for Montana Man and in case of emergency*
nursing tank and pads*
camera with fresh batteries and extras*

(* items that are my own additions)

During labor and birth items

Baby's first outfit. All the extra hats are for when the first few get birth 'stuff' on them!

Something for me to wear right after as well as things I will need in the following week.

All of this and my midwives' medical kit are packed neatly into a tote. If you are packing in a tote it's a good idea to put things you will need first on top like your sheets and plastic shower curtain because you will need to make up your bed as soon as you go into labor. After that you can either slowly layout things if your labor is still mild or leave it to an attendant. It's a good idea to scope out a good flat surface in your birthing room for everything to be laid out, mine is a large bedside table and the cookie sheet that can follow me around. The midwives also bring a few bags of their own things and an oxygen tank.

A nice and appreciated touch in case you have a long labor is little thank you kits for your attendants. I am hoping to have things gathered like Larabars, single wrapped facial cleansing towelettes, lip balm, something to freshen breath, etc. As someone who has attended a long birth that ended the next morning, I know how much you need a freshening and pick me up after hours of serving the mama. Might not be a bad idea to also keep your towels clean in case your midwives want a shower before rushing off to another birth or going home to crash.

Make a simple plan and put it on the fridge. Trust me, if you write out even an elaborate birth plan and don't put it somewhere obvious, in the throws of labor you and your partner will completely forget. We did last time! Even if you want to keep it super organic and just go with the flow, think about practical things that your brain won't while in labor land. Like, if you go into labor in the middle of the night... unlock the front door so your birth team can just come right in. Other things to consider might be checking animals are fed and watered, the clothes washer is empty, you have toilet paper, you have snacks. These are things you think you will just remember but trust me, you won't. Let your list speak for you! Attendants will appreciate a "go to" when you are busy with contractions.

Have a meal plan! Please, please, please, think about this ahead of time. Whatever you would feel like eating after, say, the stomach flu is most likely what you will want to eat after birth. And, trust me, no meal will ever taste so good after you pushed your child into the world! I personally like breakfast food and will be preparing waffles that can be heated up in the toaster. After you think of what you want to eat, think of an easy meal to put in the crock pot or in the oven when labor starts or shortly after for everyone else. Check with your midwives ahead of time for allergies or preferences and go with a simple something. Keep ingredients either in the fridge or all made in the freezer so someone else can take care of it with written instructions. Having simple snacks like fruit, canned soup, crackers and cheese and nuts are also nice for quick fuel ups either for mama or birth team.

Ok, you might be reading this and be a little annoyed about how focused I am on preparing for the birth team... I mean they can just fend for themselves right? Yes and not so fast. Unlike at a hospital your midwife has no idea when she will be attending a birth and sometimes she will be going straight from one birth to another with no time to restock her own care kit. Sure, you are paying her for a service but I would hope you would see her as a friend coming into your home. With a little thought and preparation ahead of time you can create an awesome birthing environment not just for you but everyone there to serve you.

Yes, the changing table really does hold everything the little guy needs! Clothes, cloth and disposable diapers, blankets, etc. Everything is washed and put away.

Two 'luxury' items I love for a newborn: a co-sleeping bed for between the pillows in the big bed and my Boppy pillow.

And, last but not least, enjoy this preparation and adopt a positive attitude! Generations of women have prepared for their births and newborns with glad hearts and anticipation. As a few of us bring back 'the old ways' lets also bring back the old attitude that children are both a blessing and worth celebrating and show others that is how we feel. Show appreciation for those supporting you and their heart will be that much more giving in return. One of the things that always stayed with me from reading Spiritual Midwifery was how Ina May talked about the mother's attitude during labor and how it effected everyone else. It's hard to want to be kind and supportive to a negative and whiny person despite whether they are a laboring mom or not. Be open about your fears in the weeks before and during birth. If the pain is overwhelming you, just say so! But, honestly, I found I was so much stronger in my long labor by not allowing myself to say anything negative even in my head. Because of that I never felt like it was beyond my capacity. It was pain yes, but it had a rhythm which I learned well. Embracing your birth story as it happens is something no one else can do but you.

Monday, August 4, 2014

It's August? Already?

It seems it's been a few weeks! I was on a good roll of weekly or more postings but as I expected, I ran into a lack of motivation and brain power to keep up my pace. At this point the days are going so fast I am having a hard time remembering what day it is, it all runs together in my world! Thank goodness for calendars. In order not to bore you I will just post some pictures and give a summary of the madness that is my life.

Eighth month belly

I am 33 weeks and now see my midwives every 2 weeks and just had a prenatal last Wednesday. Baby is head down now but is favoring being posterior at the moment so I am trying to remember to lay on my left side to encourage him to lay on my left side too. Being posterior means that he is facing forward and has his back pressed against mine. While this is not a problem for us right now, in labor it can create quite a lot of unpleasant things like back labor (think of having a bowling ball being pressed with unnatural force against your tail bone from the inside, it hurts like nothing else), a slower labor and much more effort in pushing. Posterior isn't dangerous or really "bad" but it is nothing us mom's who forgo pain medication want to experience! So I am praying and working on getting him to cooperate. Other than that I am measuring right on track, no major things to complain about and am generally functioning a lot better than I expected for this far along. Only about 4-7 weeks to go! I will be doing a post on how I am preparing for my second home birth and what my hopes are for Labor Day (not the holiday, the one where I give birth silly).

This one Rutgers is loaded! The other is catching up.

The garden I have kind of slowed down with. Everything is growing but I badly needed to do some maintenance including a good dose of watering for the indoor plants. All the potted plants outside are getting regular water with the plethora of rain storms and showers we have had but I have neglected the indoor plants a little in the past couple weeks. Everything needs a fresh dose of liquid fertilizer and inside needs a good soaking. I am harvesting a few beautiful ripe Glacier tomatoes now as well as Northeaster pole beans, all my carrots were pulled this last week (I chose to harvest them at what I call the finger size), Swiss chard is still cranking out 1-2 full cuttings a week and the leaf beet really needs a good harvest. Cucumbers are thriving and should be giving us fruits to pick by mid to late this month. My onions are going to be a bitter disappointment this year I am afraid, my fault as they have not had enough full sun to bulb properly. Some have made tiny bulbs about the size of a large marble but most are still strait and no thicker than a fat pensils.


San Diego Pastes

The chicks are 8 weeks old now and are growing like crazy. Most of them have successfully feathered out completely but there are a few that are struggling with this and look a little like awkward teens. I lost two of my Buff Rocks to a mystery ailment that involved a swollen or blocked up sack in their necks, fluffed feathers and sleepiness. They died within 3 days of first symptoms. I have no idea if this was a contagious illness or it was merely a coincidence but they died within a week of each other. None others so far have seemed to come down with what ever it is. One of my Partridge Cochins was damaged either during sorting or shipping from the hatchery and has a malformed leg. Because of this she was being picked on badly as well as my little rare breed Silver Polish who both ended up with open wounds. I separated them from the rest of the flock and since then with more attention to entertainment, I have not had anymore bad pecking problems. I will keep 'Gimpy' and 'Weirdo' in their own space until most of the roosters have gone to the butcher. I will send them by breed not only to make it more manageable money wise (30 birds would cost about $90 all at once) but also so I can keep track of what breeds preformed the best in meat production. The Light Brahmas will likely be the first batch as they are the largest and most in numbers (which I won't do until after I have recovered fully from birth). I will be extremely thankful when we have a freezer full of organic homegrown meat again!

The barn is kind of a mad house

And, last but not least, the house. We have been approved for a construction loan! Thank you and praise to Jesus! While we have a bit of a process to complete until closing, we will be closing hopefully sometime in September and getting back on the fast track. Obviously this means we will not be in our house before the baby comes but we should have the ok to move in before Thanksgiving or sooner depending on... well it's construction so everything! I do see why people who have the means hire crews to build their house! Building it yourself takes about four times as long. But, at the end of this we get to live in a house where we are reminded of the achievement everyday and for what most people pay for a tiny fixer-upper. The best part is we have designed it to be exactly what we want and to be low cost in utilities, a blessing beyond words here in Maine.

I plan on finishing up some more projects in my room and then I will do that home birth prep post!

Til next time.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Building a House While Pregnant: This Mama's Experience

Disclosure: I'm going to get real and be a little vulnerable here for a minute, so be nice if you comment.

After googling this subject and coming up with squat I figured maybe that's because most people aren't crazy enough to do it. And, had I seen how long this was going to be taking, I would have done it differently too. Blame my hormones, my husband's encouragement, God's command, the excitement of having a new little one... blame ME. Yes, I am saying that this is not what I pictured. Does that mean I am not thrilled to be having this little boy? Not at all! I couldn't be more happy, but it does mean I don't always feel like I can express that happiness. As soon as I found out I was pregnant I didn't even want to tell anyone because I just didn't want to hear it. Quite honestly I had foolishly thought it would have taken awhile longer to get pregnant and my due date wouldn't have been an issue to our timeline. Not the case and moving on! So, now I am seven month pregnant and staring down my due month like a deer in the headlights. Let me tell you, I have never felt so much stress, pressure and out of control in my life. I could rattle off a laundry list of things that stress me out (read haunt me) daily regardless, but this takes the cake.

First off, I birth my babies at home. At HOME. My home is not done. I currently have no place to give birth. Make this my number one stress.

I have a ton of crap I have moved about a half a dozen times in the last six years and a lot of it I don't even know where it is or that it even exists until I open mystery box number 27. I am not usually a terribly disheveled person, I like to be fairly organized but after you pack and re-pack and re-pack and re-pack you start to just not even bother to unpack any thing but the necessaries. They are just things but not having your things just makes you feel like you don't belong where you are. And, really we don't belong here. My parent's home stopped being mine the day I got married and I have felt an underlying level of guilt and failure since the day we moved back here. Now that our basement is finished enough, I have begun to wade through all our belongings in the basement of my parents house and will soon do the same with the ones in our horse trailer. This I hate. I will love having it be finished, but it is a lot of work and requires me to make a mess in order to accomplish it. I started with the easy and kind of fun stuff: baby things. I am almost done with prepping the baby's needs so soon I will move on to everything else and possibly I will have enough to do a yard sale.

Montana Man and I see very little of each other. This makes me sad. He works all week and then is at the house all weekend. I see him in snippets but it's not the same as being able to spend a whole day together as a family. I am so proud of the work he is doing and his provision for us. This is hard though. Both of us are stressed and exhausted at the end of each day and our marriage is kind of just an after thought right now. We are parenting fine together, but I miss closeness and love. We talk about financing, carpentry, how much time we have left, how much work he will have this week, what's next on the list of to dos. As an emotional and hormonal pregnant lady, this is second in line for stress. I'm trying not to let this bother me so much so that I don't put any more pressure on MM, but lately I have been struggling with it and I'm starting to get depressed.

I am starting to have a hard time keeping up with normal everyday life. I'm bigger, I'm tired and my two little energizer bunnies are running me ragged physically and emotionally. My mom helped me so much yesterday and I am so grateful for her! But, I hate needing help! I just feel guilty that I can't do it all and worry that I am being a burden to those that are helping me. To be honest, yesterday was half physically exhausted and half depressed. Ugh, so frustrating! My children are my life pretty much and to feel like I am failing at that just reinforces my guilt.

One thing that surprises me is that I do not have any fear about mothering three children once I have the baby. Praise be to God, I do not stress about that! In fact, I feel quite peaceful about it. Check one for the positive list!

I'm not writing this post to have anyone pity me and I hope no one will judge me harshly! I am writing this because I am so sick of people just covering up what life really is like! Everyone's got something! I will not feel these things once we are moved in and once the baby is here, but that doesn't mean that the next two months won't be hard. I wish I could read something like this so I guess I wrote this for those that are in the same situation(ish) so they can relate. So, if you are the prayerful type... pray. Pray for someone to finance us so we can stay on track, for Montana Man to stay well and have enough work to keep the bills paid, for the baby to not come early, and for my sinful, worrisome, insecure heart to cling to Jesus.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Pitiful Peas!

Well I knew it was going to be a small harvest, that's just sad! Hahahahaha! Oh, but I did enjoy watching those tendrils grow, one of them right over my head. Tonight I picked them clean, ripped them up and gave them to the chickens for a treat. Once I shell what I picked we should have just enough for a few forkfuls each.

Now with the peas done I can plant the cucumbers where they were so that they can use the chicken wire to climb and I won't need to make a new trellis. I will do a much more detailed report next week, this week has just been too busy and hot!

Til next week!

This post was shared at Green Thumb Thursday Bloghop.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Looking Ahead: Calculating How Much to Grow to Feed Our Family

Starting seeds for herbs, fall cabbage and brussels sprouts.

I have a confession. I hate math but I love to calculate and budget things. Weird, I know, but I never said I wasn't a strange one! When Montana Man is away I like to keep myself busy in the evenings and lately I have been wrapping my head around how we can affordably, both with money and space, grow the majority of our food. If you were to look at our grocery receipts you would see I spend 80-90% of our food budget on produce (organic mostly), dairy products and animal protein most weeks. If I am re-stocking our gluten free pantry than this skews the ratio a bit... but you get my point. I can easily spend $20-$40 a week just on produce (or $1,040-$2,080 a year!). This year as I have seen positive fruits from my garden it has motivated me to solve the puzzle that is fitting all the plants we need into an affordable space within means I can actually achieve. I have now seen that properly managed intensive planting (more plants in less space) actually works and it has really encouraged me! So, I started my project with a list (of course) of all the veggies and legumes we eat regularly that I felt are practical for us to grow ourselves.

Our family eats in a year (approximately):

Tomatoes: 200 pounds
Onions: 108 pounds
Carrots: 48 pounds
Potatoes: 300 pounds
Green Beans: 30 pounds
Dry Beans: 20 pounds
Beets: 50 pounds -
Broccoli: 50 pounds
Brussels Sprouts: 10 pounds
Cabbage: 30 pounds
Butternut Squash: 50 pounds
Spaghetti Squash: 100 pounds
Pumpkin: 20 pounds
Zucchini: 20 pounds
Summer Squash: 10 pounds
Peas: 10 pounds
Peppers, Bell: 50 pounds
Peppers, Hot: 25 pounds
Parsnips: 20 pounds
Spinach: 50 pounds
Swiss Chard: 50 pounds
Kale: 25 pounds
Garlic: 50 bulbs
Cucumbers: 50 pounds

Chicken: 80 pounds +
Red Meat (beef, venison, moose, bison): 60 pounds
Pork: 50 pounds
Fish and Seafood: 50 pounds -/+
Eggs: 50 dozen+ (we already have a laying flock)

Milk: 100 gallons +
Cheese: 80 pounds
Yogurt: 20 quarts +
Other dairy: 20 pounds +

Apples: 50 pounds +
Berries: 50 pounds -/+
Stone Fruit: 25 -/+
Rhubarb: 15 pounds -/+
Bananas: 100 pounds -/+
Grapes: 20 pounds +
Melons: 50 pounds +

I am not going to list our grains simply because it is superfluous to this project, we will never have enough land or money to grow our own grains efficiently. And, honestly, we tend not to eat a grain based diet so I don't mind continuing to buy this category from the store or perhaps someday from a local mill or even online. If we were too look at this from a "survival" perspective, potatoes would be a fine replacement starch in our diet and cornmeal would once again be a staple as it was centuries ago. We would likely be healthier for it!

Each family is different and your list would likely look much different than mine. These amounts are also based on our current family size of two adults and two children who are eating real food. Once baby #3 starts eating solids as a main diet the amounts will likely increase slightly.

After printing graph paper to test fit and playing with companion and succession planting theories I concluded that with the available area with full sun around our house we can grow most of the vegetables we need in five 12' x 4' and two 3' x 20' raised beds. The two 20' beds will be along the southwest facing wall of the house and the other beds will be on the northeast side of the house beyond the house's shadow. I believe each spot gets at least six hours of sun but I will track it more carefully this summer to make sure. So, with these seven beds plus what I currently have that gives me 405 square feet. I'm sure many of more seasoned gardeners think that sounds completely ridiculous and way too small. If it is, then I guess I will find out and need to add on! But, here is how I broke it down:

12' x 4'

Bed 1:
48 potato plants (1 square foot per plant)

Bed 2:
3 zucchini
2 summer squash
4 pumpkins
4 butternut squash
4 spaghetti squash
(all have at least 24" square and vines are run over the sides, bush varieties in the middle)

Bed 3:
16 broccoli (18" square per plant)
96 pole beans (trellised, one row on each side, 3" spacing)
8 brussel sprouts (1 square foot per plant)

Bed 4:
16 broccoli (18" square per plant)
48 cucumbers (trellised, one row on each side, 6" spacing)
16 cabbage (18" square per plant)

Bed 5:
144 peas (trellised, one row on each side, 2" spacing)
108 onions (4" plant spacing, 6" row spacing)
360 carrots (2" plant spacing, 4" row spacing)- spring
48 beets (3" plant spacing, 1 row)- fall
144 spinach (3" plant spacing, 4" row spacing)- fall

20' x 3'

Bed 1:
13 tomatoes (18" x 24" per plant)
160 bush beans, for dry beans (3" plant spacing, 6" row spacing)

Bed 2:
13 tomatoes (18" x 24" per plant)
180 onions (4" plant spacing, 6" row spacing)

Four 3' x 2' beds:
swiss chard
any experimental greens

7' x 3' bed:
spring spinach
miscellaneous fall/winter crops

Topsy Turvy planter(s):
all peppers
(I have 1 and would like to get 3 more)

I used a few online charts to give me rough ideas of crop yields and such (just Google 'vegetable yield per plant') and paired that with how much we eat of what and how frequent. Not rocket science but quite a mental chore especially for my pregnant brain! Of course all this calculating and planning is well and good, but the true test of whether I am right or not will come a year after we harvest. We will either have enough or not. I did list other food categories above but I am going to keep this post to just vegetables so it doesn't become a book! In the next few years we would like to add raising a pig every spring, a milk cow and raise her bull calves for meat but keep or sell heifers and hopefully our new chickens will be hatching chicks every year for our freezer and to replace old hens. This year we will are raising 32 roosters for meat and that will give us about 160 pounds of dressed meat which should see us through a year at least plus all the chicken stock I could ever need!

I've just started a few more seeds today for fall savoy cabbage and brussels sprouts as well as herbs that I had kinda forgotten about. I don't grow many herbs right now simply because I don't have a ton of room. At the house I will be making a dedicated perennial herb garden as well as grow more annual culinary herbs probably in pots. I do use a lot of herbs in my cooking so it would be nice to grow a surplus and dry them since most are fairly expensive now. I would also like to perhaps plant some garlic in the fall but this may depend on whether I have my raised beds in or if I want to sacrifice most of my large raised bed in the greenhouse... decisions, decisions!

Alright! That's enough for today, til next time!

This post was shared at Green Thumb Thursday Bloghop.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

June House Progress

This weekend we poured the basement floor! Finally, and we could not have asked for a better day to do it. It was warm but dry with the humidity only around 40% which is uncommon for Maine in June. God was being gracious! With only my dad and Montana Man working the concrete my dad had ordered it with a higher moisture content so it would set slower and give them more time to manipulate it so it was level. With all that extra moisture we were prepared for it to take forever to cure but with the stiff breeze, the gaping hole in the side of the house and the low humidity it was hard enough to walk on by afternoon. By now, a day later, it is hard enough to start unloading and moving some of our belongings that have been in storage for years into the basement! Normally I wouldn't be this excited but I have a lot of things to sort through and organize before we move into the upstairs and I just don't think I will be up to it in September or for months afterward. You don't realize how much stuff you have until you have moved it around a half dozen times. We have a large horse trailer, about 100 square feet in my parents crawl space in their basement and what we are currently using upstairs. That's a lot to go through and weed out! Especially my books... I have a lot of books. Anyway, lets get back to this floor shall we?

You might notice the silver shiny stuff on the floor that the concrete was going over. That is 1" polystyrene (foam board) insulation with a reflective coating. While the reflective coating really wasn't necessary, that type of foam board was what was available and the most affordable. We chose to insulate the slab because with the walls being completely insulated with the ICF forms it only made sense to complete the thermal barrier so the basement will not be effected by the ground temperature or moisture. This means heating the basement and keeping it dry without a dehumidifier will be much easier. In fact, it provides such a great envelope that heating the house above it with a pellet stove will be entirely enough even in the coldest weather. Even if a house is only on a slab foundation I would still encourage using a foam insulation under it to beak the thermal barrier to avoid cracking and cold floors. It's worth the extra money!

After the floor was poured we had some extra concrete which we had already paid for so Montana Man threw a form together in front of the porch for a pad which our steps will base from. We had not planned on this but it is a nice perk! Of course we had to put the kids hand prints, our hand prints and the year in the pad. I only have pictures of the kids doing theirs!

I'm glad we got to put our prints somewhere we will see them often. My brother and I did ours in the wall of the addition when we were little but it got covered by an exterior wall so we will probably never see them again! Montana Man kind of balked at putting his in but as he had never done it in his life I felt this was important, another piece of his childhood that he could make up for. I only wish there was a way for the baby to be able to add his! Perhaps I will just plant his placenta with a tree instead, hahahaha! He should be born in this house so I guess that's pretty profound *winkwink*.

I will have to do a part two to this post and add more pictures of other things before the month is out. There is a good chance we will have all the windows and part of the siding on by the end of next weekend, they are to be delivered Monday morning! It may be slower than some but progress is progress and I am still hopeful for a September move in date.

Stay tuned!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Garden Record Keeping and Why it is Important

Glacier tomatoes bloomed on June 16th!

If you are like most gardeners with a few years under your belt, every winter after the holidays you probably curl up on the couch with your seed catalog or laptop and start making a list for the upcoming growing season. While this is fun and can take hours, this really is serious business if you are growing for any reason other than pure fun. As a young homesteader I look at these first five to ten years as my learning curve, a time to single out varieties that can become tried and true residents in my garden every year. While I do have a fairly good memory, I also am pretty busy and have small children who take up 95% of my brain power daily. I want to remember details about what I am growing, not just whether I liked it and if it produced well. This is why I have started working on a garden record spread sheet. If I can rope my hubby into helping me I would gladly make it available as a print out in the few weeks!

Northeaster pole beans starting to climb.

Now, what is worth recording and what is being a little too detailed? Well, I believe in two different methods of record keeping: a journal and actual record sheets. The journal is where I tend to bring in more detail such as rain fall or watering frequency, growth patterns, when I fertilized, what kind of fertilizer I used, if I needed to replant any seeds, what I liked the taste of, etc. With a record sheet I record things like the planting date, did I start indoors or direct seed, first harvest date, average weight of harvest, last harvest date, etc. Many gardeners only use a journal (truthfully, I have been using this blog as my "garden journal" for two years now!), but I feel a record sheet makes things a bit more black and white for planning the next years seed nominees. For someone with limited garden space, forgetting which variety out preformed the other could cost me, literally! I would feel really silly if I ordered a vegetable that took up too much space and produced either small quantities or poor quality food. This doesn't mean I won't try new varieties once I find my basic stock for reliable yearly produce, but I will be able to more freely try these new varieties knowing we have back up if it's a disappointment.

Pea pods starting to plump.

In this generation of hybrid seeds, I can see why we are forced to keep records! There are so many out there and all claim to be terrific. Heirlooms are what I gravitate towards for many reasons but the most is that you have to know that it was good enough that someone painstakingly saved the seeds from their own plants. Think about this! At the end of the season gardeners weren't filling out charts to remember what they wanted to order next year, they already knew exactly what they were planting next year because they saved the seeds. Poetic, I think!

Go figure my wire potting tables just happened to be the perfect height for pole beans stood up on their ends! I love multi-taskers.

This year I ended up with more hybrids than I usually choose, mostly because I didn't choose them! I bought in a co-op with friends and while I enjoy the expectant nature of trying something new, I will be choosing all heirlooms next year so that I may start saving seeds. I will likely still order some seeds every year but I do think seed saving is an art worth sustaining for many reasons.

I am so impressed by how well the peppers are doing in this planter.

Another thing I will be keeping track of is what and how much I can grow in what sized raised bed. I had mentioned wanting to try the Back to Eden gardening method, but I am really in love with raised beds right now! The BTE method is not what I would call space saving and I have to say I love my tall raised bed we added this year, much easier on my back and needs far less water than my shallower beds. My intention is to make all the raised beds about 20"-24" tall. Likely we will make them 12' x 4' (48 square feet) and install 4-8 of them this fall depending on our funds and time. I would like to make a matching deep bed for the greenhouse to grow our cold weather crops in during early spring and late fall. Right now I am just amazed by how much just a 2' x 3' bed has been producing! So, I think it worth while to keep track of how much each bed size and depth produced and also with what spacing.

After about a week of settling in the perpetual spinach has taken off!

After learning a little more each year and investing in some quality materials I am thrilled with how well things are growing this year. I have learned that eight Swiss chard plants are enough for one weekly cutting but 12-16 would provide us with at least two and possibly some to freeze. Peas are easy to grow but you need a lot of plants to get a good crop! And, Russian kale has a stronger flavor than curly kale but with more tender stems. All these things will be going on the books!

Another few weeks and the greenhouse will be in jungle status!

One of our greens harvest from last week. They are giving us 1-2 cuttings a week and I am no longer buying greens from the store!

Start those records while the season is still young! Til next time.

This post was share on Green Thumb Thursday Bloghop.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Start of Our Sustainable Laying and Meat Flock

Light Brahma chick.

On Sunday I got a text notification that my chicks were on their way. Surprised, I immediately checked their shipping status knowing that they must have been sent out the day before. Normally chicks are shipped Monday and arrive to you on a Tuesday morning. The status said they were in Maine a few towns away. Of course it was Sunday and the USPS doesn't deliver on Sunday, it was hot and I was kind of panicking my poor chicks were suffocating and starving in a tiny little box! With nothing else to do, I just waited. Monday morning just before opening our town post office called to let me know my birds were there and very ready to be picked up! I could hear them peeping in the background so I knew most of them were in good condition. Montana man was heading up town anyway so he said he would get them for me. While he was gone I set up the brooder, in an old truck tool box no less, the only thing we had that was large enough for 40+ chicks without building something!

Again, I had bought an organic chick starter mash with which we had great success with our meat chicks. Typical chick starter from a feed store is medicated and many will try to tell you that without the antibiotics your chicks will most likely die. I had 100% success with organic feed and I thought our chicks were quite robust and lively. If you are raising chicks for meat or eggs and want the finished product to be 'organic' you really do need to start them on organic feed from day one.

When the chicks arrived home we both quickly but gently put them in their brooder an kept an eye for any that were in distress. All were alive thankfully, and soon the peeping sound in the brooder was making my ears ring! I usually teach them to drink as I take each one from the shipping box, but I forgot to tell that to MM and so I ended up teaching about half and the other half seemed to just learn from them. Everyone found the food in a hurry! I thought to look at the box sticker after I noticed our free rare chick (a bantam this time I believe). We were given a free extra Light Brahma male and extra Barred Rock male. So, 43 chicks total, 32 for the freezer in November!

You might notice their water is orange, no we do not have a rust problem! Because of the heat and prolonged time with shipping we got electrolytes for their water to give them a boost. My friend at American Family Now has a post on how they raise chicks and why they choose not to use any water additives. I do agree with her that chicks have survived thousands of years without, yet I find no harm in giving them an initial boost especially after less than ideal shipping period. I would not give additives to chicks hatched and cared for by an actual hen because their stress would likely be much less.

Feathered legs on one of the Light Brahmas, one of the reasons they are so cold hearty.

I don't have a light pictured over them in these pictures but I did put one in before I secured them for the night. Our last red heat bulb broke, knowing it wasn't going to be real cold I just replaced it with a regular 120 watt bulb. I might have gone to get another heat bulb but there are so many of them that a mass huddle seems to do the trick and the light is really more of a light 'blanketing' effect for them. Everyone was eating and drinking well this morning and I think this will be a hearty group!

We do have a barn cat and while he has not ever tried to get at our chicks before, we do take precautions against incidents. My brother's dog is a definite problem and because we do not have the brooder in the stall which has a door, we are keeping the garage door at the front of the barn closed all the time right now.

An old screen door makes a good cover for this hodge podge brooder!

I look forward to watching this colorful bunch grow! I may give away some of our Golden Comets in the fall to someone wanting to start their own small laying flock to keep the laying flock at a reasonable amount for the next year. It may also be advantageous to get rid of my two worst feather pickers who terrorize the rest including my rooster. While I am sure it will get better once they are in a much larger run and coop, it would still be a quick fix if it was still a problem after.

There are several blogs and articles out there on natural chicken keeping (may I just say some love their chickens a little too much!), and I do not feel the need to give a ton detail on mine! I will share our experience with raising heritage breeds for meat and our success or lack there of with having hen hatched chicks in the coming year. Like gardening, chickens take some learning and I am certainly still learning!

Til next time.

Mid Year Goals Readjustments

Occasionally I like to go back a few months in my archives and see what I was thinking about at the time. I reread my goals for 2014 and realized so many of my goals have either been taken off the list or evolved in some way. Much of this had to do with expecting our third child at the end the growing season, house progress and a reality check. But, like I said in that January post, they were likely going to do that! I have found myself taking things a little slower and trying not to look too far into the future. Obvious goals I now have are revolving around preparing for our new arrival and I have been posting about them recently. Instead of give a definitive list of goals that are likely to change again, I'm going to kind of give you are more realistic look at what my life will be like the rest of the year. I don't often give much detail about my life because this is a public blog, but as I have been working through some things I realize that some of you might be encouraged or could at least relate in a way to me.

Tomatoes, May 25th and June 9th.

First of all, my husband is a cell tower technician working for a company that subcontracts all over New England. Most weeks he is gone a full five days about 2-6 hours away and is home on the weekend. Because of this I am what you would call a 'married single parent'. Until recently I had not really made peace with this situation and instead just did what I had to to deal with it. I wasn't bitter and wasn't outwardly dissatisfied (much) but internally I needed to face and deal with the fact that my family's dynamic is different than most of my friends who have husbands that are home every night or even work from home. Sure, they might get a 'taste' when hubby goes out of town on a trip occasionally, but there is something very different about it being a constant weekly thing. Thankfully I have a very supportive and loving extended family who helps as much as they are able and I am so thankful for them (Mom, you keep me sane most weeks!). Until our house is done we will have been living with my parents for two years and obviously that takes some pressure off as far as being able to run to the store without loading kids into the car every time or have even a half hour to cook dinner while my mom takes the kids outside to play. When we move into our house they will still be very close by, yet there will be a new degree of separation. I will be responsible for my physical house (including a solar power system, propane, snow, yard care, small repairs, etc.) as well as need to be 100% on for the safety of my children, self and animals. My parents are close but they are also very busy! The help they give I consider a blessing not a given and I don't ever want them to feel obligated to help me because I am a single mom 75% of the time. I truly want them to be able to enjoy their grandchildren, not be another parent. So, now that you have a picture of this dynamic, lets dive into what I have as realistic 'goals' now through next winter.

Montana Man making us breakfast this weekend, Puzzle Boy got a kick out of him wearing his Buzz wings!

It's now June so that means summer is here! I hate heat but I do like summer for the things it brings like gardening, beach days and picnics, green grass for kids to run around without having to put on a thousand layers... I will admit the perks *winkwink* But, oh man! I do hate the heat and humidity and getting a real taste of it yesterday made me realize I am in for a sweaty and swollen summer personally. However, I am determined to not let it get me and to give my kids the best summer I can.

Over the summer my priorities are gardening and canning, schooling Puzzel Boy, raising the new chicks, preparing for baby, finishing a house and making a few memories with our kiddos. Ok, writing that out it seems like a lot! Hahaha! Things will be taken in stride though and likely we will spend the worst heat days hiding in my parents a/c bedroom or in a kiddie pool. On cooler days I will plan to work on my lists and anything that needs to be canned will be done in the early morning before it gets too hot. I'll be honest, on days where I can or am working on bigger projects, the kids will likely have a movie or two but I will try to reserve those times for a rainy day or even get a sitter so I can really buckle down. Canning is a big thing to me and I see it as a worthy investment of my time to be able to feed my family during times of less or more healthfully. Pretty soon we will be trying to eat the majority of our food from our own effort, so this is an essential practice to really focus on.
I have touched on homeschooling through the summer and what our plans are there, so I won't rehash that!
Our new baby chicks have arrived! I will be doing a separate post on that later, they are so stinkin' cute!
Preparing for the baby... I have just done a post on that as well.
As for the house, Montana Man is taking some of his vacation time this week to make some progress. Yesterday, with the help of my cousin and her boyfriend, he finished the roof and took down the staging as well as built a shelter for the generator we affectionately call the 'genny house'. I'm not exactly sure what else he has planned for this week but we should be pouring the basement floor and finishing the electrical, maybe ordering plumbing. Next week the windows and siding will be delivered and that will be the following weekends project! 'Brick by brick' we are getting there! I am trying really hard not to stress over its completion given I have about 11-16 weeks left in my pregnancy. I am trusting God will provide!
Taking the time to make memories? Likely the only thing we will do as a whole family (meaning with MM), is spend 4th of July together somewhere up the coast. We took a ride up to an old Civil War fort last year and had a really great day. This year we haven't decided what we are doing yet but it likely will be similar. Me as the mama would like to take the kids to the beach either a lake or the ocean, visit friends and just play with them. Bubbles, picnics in the yard, lazy days and maybe a trip to the mall on a really hot day to just walk in the cool a/c and visit the merry-go-round. Simple things but things I know I remember doing as a kid with fondness.

After little man arrives I will be taking a 4-6 week break from normal life. I am setting myself up to not need to go anywhere other than the doctor's office or to quickly pick up groceries. I will have easy meals, a stocked house and anyone who would like to offer help will be gladly accepted and given a specific task (folding my laundry anyone?). After 6 weeks is up or when I feel ready if earlier, I will be back in action which will include babysitting my friends son a couple days a week while she is in nursing school. Right now I have him one or two mornings or afternoons a week so he is very used to us and our rules/environment so hopefully this will be an easy transition! I enjoy him being with us and so do the kids so I look forward to having him.
Around October/November, Montana Man will start going down to Georgia for 4 weeks at a time and then will be home for two weeks. During the winter in New England the work in often interrupted by storms and lack of jobs sites so a crew from the company he works for will be heading south, and he's on it. Financially, this will be a good thing. As a family, this will be really hard. The older kids will miss him as will their Mama! But, for the baby... it makes me sad that he will be gone so much of his first few months. He'll come home and he will have grown and changed so much! I worry about how well he will bond with his daddy. Emotionally it will be a very trying winter.
Sometime in November we will have the male chickens butchered at our local butcher shop. We decided that while we could do it ourselves, it was just too many to do without at least a plucker and a helping crew and we are willing to spend the money to have it done quickly and professionally. Believe me, it will be enough work just vacuum sealing all the meat!
November also starts hunting season and the men will be spending most weekends in the woods. If I get my hunter safety done, I as well will be hunting near our house when my mom can watch the kids. I much prefer wild deer to beef (as long as it isn't super gamey!) and would gladly have a freezer filled with venison and homegrown chicken for the year.
The holidays will be busy especially since Puzzle Boy's birthday is in December as well. This year we are going to start a new tradition of spending Christmas Day at our own home which I think will be wonderful.

Buds on the Glacier tomatoes.

I'm sure over the next six months I will be posting on a lot of these things, but I figured I would kind of give a general idea. And, maybe because I feel dumb for being so far from what I had outlined in January, I felt I needed to update to keep everything on the same page. Life is life, things don't always go as we'd like! And, sometimes we are blessed in very different ways than how we wanted or expected. Part of being successful homesteader is knowing how to work with what you have and making do without what you don't. Ideals are nice to think about but they shouldn't be your focus. I love building our life more each year and knowing we will someday be in a really awesome place of self sufficiency.

Rainbow Chard, May 25th and June 9th, beautiful colors!

Til next time, come back for a post on our new chicks!

This post was shared on Green Thumb Thursday Bloghop.