Sunday, December 28, 2014

Me and My Baby Weight

What new mom doesn't talk about their baby weight? We're women, we talk about everything. But, how many of those new moms are just glowing and back in their skinny jeans in a matter of a couple months? Not really any I know. So, here I am coming up on the 3 month mark with my little Happy Boy and except for the 30 pounds I lost in the two weeks after his birth I have lost nothing. In fact I even gained back a couple. After I had Mini Me I had obviously never had a postpartum body before and much to my disappointment nothing went back to how I remembered! Despite breastfeeding exclusively and eating fairly well I was stuck at a rather uncomfortable 180 pounds on my 5' 7" frame. After Mini weaned herself at 10 months I finally found my will power and started to lose the weight by cutting out all gluten and sugar as well as walking faithfully. In about 6 months I was down to 155, 10 pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight.

This time around I would like to try losing all my pregnancy weight plus about 10 pounds like last time but while breastfeeding. My supply seems to be much less finicky than before so I am feeling confident I will be able to accomplish my goal without effecting it. I certainly have enough fat to fuel production! But, I have more than just weight loss as my goal. I would like to...

Increase my energy. This is probably even more important to me than the weight loss. I have really struggled this time with fatigue and constant ups and downs. My mood has not been awful but it certainly has not been as even as I'd like it to be. So I would like to find a natural way to get some decent energy! Right now I am a major coffee drinker (BAD!!!) and sugar eater (WORSE!!!). Combine these and no wonder I have this issue.

Slowly detox. Now, before you jump on me about how I'm going to dump a bunch of toxins into my milk let me just say that I have concluded through research that I can absolutely detox without it effecting my milk. Done slowly and carefully detoxing can help jump start a very tired and overloaded body which is precisely what I have! Mainly I will be reducing the toxin intake and increasing toxin elimination by eating whole, unprocessed foods, drinking lots of water, drinking supporting herbal teas like milk thistle and trying out some gelatinous foods like chia seeds.

Regain my clear skin. Before having Happy Boy my skin looked great! Now it's dull and I'm getting breakouts! Enough said.

So, the big picture is I would like to regain my health and continue to breastfeed while doing it. It's going to be hard but when I think of how good I will feel again it's motivation for sure. I will elaborate more on the actual weight loss once I start losing some!

Til next time.

Canning My Own 'Convenience' Foods

For me canning is somewhat romantic. It gives you pause to think of simple or weighty things as you wait for things to boil or gain proper pressure. It gives you the comfort of an exact routine each time you fill a jar and prep it for processing. And, it praises you with clear vessels showing you beautiful food waiting to be enjoyed. Yup, for me canning is just something I enjoy. Since I didn't can at all this summer I was feeling a bit bummed like I missed out. Well I was reading an old cookbook my mom gave me a few years ago in my renewed quest of simpler yet tasty food, and I ran across instructions for canning dry beans so that they are ready just like store bought canned beans. So I wanted to give it a try as well as get some stock in the pantry ready to go.

I started with stock. We are slowly getting our chickens butchered so I had a carcass from one bird I roasted and one I had stashed in the freezer from a previous chicken dinner. I put them in the really big stock pot with onions (skin left on for color), celery, carrots, bay leaves and peppercorns, covered with water and set on the wood stove for several hours. I them strained it and left it in the fridge to cool overnight so I could skim the fat off the next morning. I then returned the stock to the big pot and the wood stove to come to a boil while I got everything ready for the canner. My husband's bosses were kind enough to lend me their pressure canner for my projects! I have yet to get my own but, one will be coming my way as a housewarming present from my grandparents, I just need to pick it out. Anyway! Stock is just about as simple as it gets. You just heat it to a boil, pour into hot jars, seal and process. I ended up with 10 quarts plus a little more which I just poured into my moose stew. I will caution you from using too many herbs or flavorings in your stock if you are going to can it because canning will intensify the flavor. One quart jar is equivalent to one standard box of stock minus the MSG, plastic lining and mystery ingredients. I hope to get a good stash of beef stock put up before I return the pressure canner. We have a ton of moose so I often needs beef stock to make stews and quick gravies to accompany steaks. I could make stock from the moose meat but I just can't bear to boil that beautiful meat to death!

Wednesday I canned the beans. I had recently bought an assortment of dry beans for the pantry since I am restocking (more on that later), so I canned a pound each of navy, pinto and garbanzo beans. I soaked them all overnight so they were fully re-hydrated yet not softened. Each pound filled a bit over 3 pint jars so I made a combined jar of pinto and navy beans. The garbanzos got cooked and went to the chickens because I forgot about them and they cooked unevenly (my bad). I chose to can pints because they hold about the same as a standard can which I thought would serve my pantry better. I am not to going to give instructions on how to can beans but there are plenty of resources which I used available either on the internet or in books. From the looks of things from the outside of the jars the beans might be slightly mushy. I read after the fact that softened water can cause this which is what we have. It might also be because the pressure was higher for a bit while I was trying to find the sweet spot for maintaining the proper pressure.

I would really like to try canning soups and things like baked beans as well in the future. Why bother? Well, right now we have about 300 pounds of moose and deer in the two deep freezers in the basement and the upstairs freezer is a drawer style in the fridge that always seems to be packed with odds and ends. Needless to say I do not have much room for stock and ready made items. Also, I am not real good about remembering to take things out of the freezer ahead to thaw. When I want some stock it's nice to just pop a top like the store bought stuff. Just way better.

So the kitchen has been busy! Not only with canning but I also made venison jerky and was on a quest for the perfect gluten free cinnamon roll. Add in making 3 meals a day and I have pretty much been spending all my time not nursing the baby in the kitchen. And, sometimes I nurse the baby in the kitchen. I have food prepping problems...

I'll be sharing about my pantry and how I am trying to both simplify and stock it up soon. In January I will be giving the Pantry Challenge another go to encourage me to use up bits that have been hanging around too long or are just hanging out because it's easier than figuring our what to do with it. So, I will try to blog daily on the challenge to share how I make it work beginning January 1st!

Til next time!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Life as a Family of Five

Puzzle Boy's favorite job holding his baby brother.

Well, 7 if you count my parents in the same house. I do feed them! Happy Boy is now 10 weeks old and growing at an amazing rate! He is now about 13 pounds and fitting into 3-6 month clothing. What can I say? The kid loves to eat and I get to take full credit for that heft on his thighs.

7 weeks old

Logistically 3 is not that much harder than 2. Obviously there is more laundry and newborns will sleep deprive you whether they have older siblings or not (although 'sleeping when baby sleeps' is impossible with older kids). I have just started getting back to some little extra projects like...

Making fire starters from egg cartons, shavings and paraffin wax.


Making a new recipe of laundry detergent that makes 12 quarts of concentrate.

This is how I managed to make said laundry detergent.

Honestly Happy Boy is such a good baby that if not for the other two hooligans I would probably get a ton done everyday! Mini Me is blossoming into a preschooler as she just a few months away from turning three. She is talking a lot and enjoys being a 'big girl' including helping Mommy with everything from laundry to cooking. Puzzle Boy will be turning 7 (!) this week and will soon be transitioning from being homeschooled to public school which I will elaborate on after the transition is done. I will say that it was a heart wrenching decision but I am now making peace with it and Puzzle Boy couldn't be more excited for this new experience.

One thing about having 3 children that I find amusing is the comments from strangers when we are out, especially in the grocery store. If I had a dime for every "You have your hands full!" I could buy them some manners. Now I am sure some are just remarking but it makes me realize that 2 children is still the accepted normal. But, I enjoy just flashing a smile and replying with a hearty "Gladly!" and moving on.

Being winter I have found it is really hard getting out to the animals with a baby in the house. Ashamedly I will admit my dad has been doing a lot of my chores for me for which I am most grateful. We haven't been getting any eggs since we have been letting the chickens free range so I am assuming that they are laying eggs in inconspicuous places. Once we have butchered all the roosters we will clean out the barn and stall, make new nesting boxes and roosts and I will then let the hens out around lunch time everyday so that they can free range but also hopefully lay their eggs in the barn! I would really like eggs from them again seeing as that is what they are for.

So all in all Montana Man and I are exhausted from our life and caring for little brood but are happy to do so. I am so looking forward to Christmas as this will be the first year that we will be staying home and celebrating just us. Until then I will be getting the house decorated and creating the perfect recipe for gluten free cinnamon rolls which I will be sharing. December is always a busy month around here because of Puzzle Boy's birthday and the holidays but also because I always feel compelled to 'wrap up' the year. Next year I would truly like to get all my projects out of the way so we can spend the month of December only doing things we want to do. We'll see!

Til next time.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Coming Soon

Updates! Where the house is in it's painfully slow progress, how being a family of 5 is, canning for fun, attempting to re-simplify our diet and lower the grocery bill and processing heirloom breeds of chicken for our years meat supply. I'm giving myself a deadline so check back in a week for the first installment. What, you didn't think I was going to give it to you all in one go did you? I'm just not that kind of girl!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Homemade Gluten Free Pizza Crust

My older son has been gluten free for almost 3 years now and anyone gluten free or living with one can tell you that there are some really great products out there now! Pasta, cake mixes, cookies, crackers, pretzels and cereal are all things that we buy and are pleased with in the gluten free department. But, pizza had remained something to be desired either in taste, texture or both. Before I started eating gluten free myself (most of the time...) I had certain crust criteria I was fond of. Crispness, chewiness, thin but not too thin. When I tried gluten free pizza for the first time I was disappointed. I knew it wasn't going to be the same but I was not impressed. I have tried many restaurants crusts, store bought dough and recipes for homemade but still I was in search for one just right, one good enough to make pizza not seem like a facsimile of a sham. A few months ago I tried a recipe (this recipe) and it was good! Texture was decent, it didn't flop around when I picked up a slice or try to break my teeth when I bit into it. Flavor was mild and was a good background for the toppings. But, I am a tinkerer of a cook and also fearless to improvise when I am short an ingredient. Magically a few nights ago I discovered the best crust yet. Are you ready for this? It was crisp, chewy, thin but not too thin. It held shape from plate to mouth in hand, didn't hopelessly stick to the pan. It's still not regular pizza, but it is good. Here's how you can have good pizza too:

Flour blend:
1 cup sweet white rice flour (yes, it really does matter if it's the sweet)
1/3 cup sorghum flour
2/3 cup brown rice flour
1 cup potato starch
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 Tablespoon instant yeast
2 Tablespoons honey
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 cups warm water (110-115 degrees)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place all dry ingredients in stand mixer bowl and blend together. Dissolve honey in warm water and add oil. On low speed add wet to dry then mix on medium speed for 1 minute. It should come together in a ball and not be too sticky. Oil 2 large pizza pans well and your hands. Divide dough evenly and press into about a 12 inch circle with a slightly raised edge (this step takes time, press from the center out and keep it very even until about 1/4 inch thick). Pre-bake for about 10 minutes. Top as desired and bake another 10-15 minutes ( go for longer cause I like that crisp crust!) Let cool for about a minute and then remove from pan on to a board to cut. It may stick just a little to the pan but nothing a good spatula and a little loosening won't fix.

Now, the flavor is something I am still working on because it still tastes gluten free. Next time I plan to replace the water with warmed beer and add some fresh finely grated Parmesan. If it is a success I will add in the variation. Now go try this pizza!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

My Son's Birth Story

When you have only had one birth I think most will just assume the next will be somewhat like the first. I had hoped it would be quite different because laboring for over 24 hours is not exactly on my top ten list, but I had reservations that it was going to be much shorter. I also had expected to have him well before my due date like my daughter. From start to finish God has used this precious little one to show me that my plans and assumptions are insignificant and futile. He blessed me in innumerable ways and showed me that trusting Him was more important that trusting me. That being said let's get to the juicy details!

So, when I posted about being overdue I was only 3 days past at that point. I figured I was only a few more days away, foolishly. Because of my ginormous state and impending birth at any moment my husband decided because work was a little scarce that week he would stay home with me and work on the house as well as help me rest until I did indeed go into labor. On Tuesday I saw one of my midwives, Lindsay, and had her strip my membranes (which didn't really do much unfortunately). So we passed the days that week enjoying having each others company, going to breakfast one morning at a really neat vintage diner, watching movies at night and waiting for those darn contractions to take the shape of real labor. Thursday night we and my parents went to the county fair a few towns away. While there I tried to keep up with everyone and just walked right through most of the contractions I was having about every 10 to 15 minutes. I knew they weren't the real thing but a few were fairly "ouchy". I even wore my two year old daughter on my back for about an hour in the Ergo! By the time we went home my body was tired and I suddenly was glad that I was not in labor ;-)

Friday I had another day like a few weeks ago with spells of regular and then irregular contractions that ended when I went to bed. Discouraged I sent a text to my midwife Robin (who was on call) the next morning "Just another round of false." She encouraged me telling me it was just shaving time of my real labor. I was doubtful because I had checked myself that day (yes, I am one of those ladies!) and everything was the same as it had been for 6 weeks. I think if I have another pregnancy I will refrain from that practice because it really means nothing in hindsight!

All day Saturday I had a impulsion to be alone with Montana Man and go to the ocean. It was a weird 'craving' of sorts but my mom was willing to keep the kiddos so later in the evening we set off for a small beach about 45 minutes away. We stopped for some sandwiches on the way (and might I say that standard booths at that sandwich shop are not made for women that pregnant?) and by the time we got to the beach it was dark. The tide was at its lowest so we had to walk quite away from shore to find the water. It was beautiful with a huge orange crescent moon and a deserted expanse of smooth sand. We stood in the water only up to our ankles until they were numb from the cold and then started to walk back to the car. Of course once back to the car it took me a minute to get in because of a contraction and I had them all the way home. The stopped a bit before bed, again (can you see the pattern?).

Sunday! It's got to be today right? Contractions started up around 7:30, this time regular at 5 minutes apart and a bit more intense. With walking they were about 2-4 minutes and stronger but went back to 5 and easy once I stopped. Fed up and sleepy I laid down for a rest around 3:00 and slept til about 5:00. Contractions were quiet. MM suggested we go out for supper and a little reluctantly I agreed. It was just what I needed though. The kids had a great time and I was so glad we had that special time just the four of us! I was feeling pretty uncomfortable so I had told MM I didn't think I was going to be able to finish my meal after those hot wings! But, I did. He kind of smirked at me across the table like he knew something I didn't. Have I ever told you he has an amazing intuition? (A few days after the birth he told me he knew it was going to be the next day cause I took a long nap and was eating a ton, fueling up for the action! And, I was grumpy.) On the way home we stopped and got a couple movies. I finished both but hubby fell asleep during the last one. I decided not to wake him when I went to bed because I tossed and turned so much I knew he would sleep better where he was. Eventually he woke up around 5:00 am and crawled in bed with me.

Monday. Around 7:05 I woke up to a different contraction. This one was in my back even more than they had been and really crampy. I looked at my phone to see the time and then went back to sleep. Another one woke me up and looking at the time it had been 10 minutes. Ok... back to sleep. 10 minutes later, same thing but this one made me need to rock on my side a bit and hum at the peak. I thought, ok, if I have another one in 10 minutes I will get up and see if they change. Well I had another one in 10 minutes at 7:45. Once it was over I started to move to get up and I gushed! Startled for a second I then whacked Montana Man on the arm and told him my water just broke! I told him to grab me a towel so I could make it to the bathroom without soaking everything. Sure enough as soon as a stood I was soaked. In the bathroom I discovered another long awaited sign of labor, bloody show! Finally! I gave Kyle instructions from my throne (aka the toilet) to call my mom and see where she was. She was at the dentist getting her teeth cleaned! So, she would be back in about an hour or so. After accomplishing all my business in the bathroom and finding one of the postpartum pads to catch the fluid I started timing the now much more frequent and strong contractions that were making me hum and move through each. To my surprise they were only 2 minutes apart! Finally my brain caught up and I thought to call my midwife Robin (duh). She would be on her way after she got her kids off to school. A few minutes later she texted to say she was on her way but in the rush hour traffic so Brenda (another midwife in the practice) would be getting to me first just in case. I texted back saying they were already 1-2 minutes apart (no joke, MM was timing them for me) and getting harder but I was ok. I was on my knees leaning onto my rocking chair so I could rock with each one. I had to get up and go get another pad after a bit because I leaked trough the first already. So I walked around for a bit stopping to lean on something every couple of minutes.

Mom got back around 8:45 and shortly after Brenda arrived at 9:00. She checked his heartbeat and he sounded great. Not much later Robin got there followed close behind by Lindsay. Brenda said goodbye and went back home since she wasn't on call (she was just the closest at the time, I was glad to see her for a few minutes though!). I had texted my friends Lara and Megan who were my planning to be my other supports and they graciously rearranged their schedules best the could to be there as soon as possible. In the mean time I just labored away! I went from hands and knees leaning over a sleeping bag on my bed to sitting up and resting leaning back in between. I was most comfortable sitting that way with a heat pack on my lower back. Baby was moving quite a bit and we were having a hard time figuring out what position he was in but because of how I was laboring I'm sure we were all thinking posterior or close to it.

At 10:30 they took my vitals and after a little while I said I felt like moving but I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do. I was reaching the point where I knew moving a lot would be the best but having a hard time leaving my "comfortable spot". Finally I just switched back to hands and knees over my sleeping bag. Each time I got back in that position the pressure I was feeling lessened but the contractions got much stronger and closer together. Around this time MM got his laptop and tracked all my contractions with an app he downloaded. I kind of laughed and said it didn't really matter cause I was obviously in active labor! But, it gave him something do and feel useful as the woman that had gathered around me helped me focus and relax through each wave. By now Lara and Megan had arrived (I'm pretty sure? Lol!). I only rode out 3 or 4 contractions like I was before I was encouraged to try getting in the shower. Montana Man just hung out in the bathroom with me and he easily continued to track each wave as I am not a quiet birther. The shower really didn't do much for me so I got out after about 20 minutes. I asked to be checked once I returned to my room and I was so glad to hear I was a stretchy 5 cm and 90% effaced. Half way! From this point until about 3:00 I would mainly labor sitting in my comfy spot but every 20-30 minutes do a few contractions standing, hands and knees, or on the toilet dry heaving and shaking occasionally which made me thing I was close to or in transition. The intensity in those positions kept freaking me out but I wasn't about to admit that! At 3:15 I had Lindsay check me again and I was only 6 cm and still 90%. I was really discouraged and knew I needed to let my body stop trying to be as comfortable as possible and give in to the intensity. I wasn't tensing during contractions but I wasn't truly working with them either. I lay on my right side for a bit which upped the intensity and then went straight to the sleeping bag again. One last break in the comfy spot and I did what everyone wanted... I got up and walked.

Well it worked! Some how almost and hour passed with me walking and kneeling over the back of the couch so I could keep my weight forward hoping the little guy would turn. It was pretty obvious I was entering transition for real now because the waves were taking all my strength not to lose it now. I remember the last 20 minutes perfectly. I had an insanely strong contraction while standing holding on to MM. Then I had two more like it leaning over the couch and feeling a bit of pressure. I looked at Lara (who had left to take a test but came back!) and said I though I would be pushing soon. I sat in the rocking chair for a couple contractions to catch my breath and mentally try to prepare myself for the next stage. Back kneeling on the couch leaning on the back of it I had another really strong contraction and felt the baby move and rotate. When the next contraction started I felt him drop down and I was pushing full force with no control. I just yelled "He's coming!" and everyone ran! Lindsay managed to wrestle me out of my underwear while everyone else ran to the living room with all the supplies. Robin and Lindsay shoved chux pads under me as I got down on the floor. All this time I am pushing with no control whatsoever! MM was sitting on the couch in front of me and I just gripped and pressed my forehead into his arm like I was trying to hold on to him for some kind of anchor. Finally the contraction let up and I caught my breath. Not for long though and as I pushed again his head started to crown and was born. Lindsay unwrapped the cord that was loosely around his neck twice and I tried to push his body out. He wasn't budging or rotating. The contraction ended but I kept pushing praying he would just pop free any second. Robin and Lindsay had me step my right leg up and Lindsay reached a hand in and worked on getting his shoulder and arm free. They had me stand which brought on another contraction and finally, at 4:53 pm, I was able to push him out! I looked down and there he was! He was still and a bit floppy but after a few puffs from the bag he drew a breath and cried! Once he was breathing the handed him to me and I kind of pitifully looked for a place to sit down. Thankfully we had the birth stool in the house so I had a seat in no time and after a couple minutes I was able to deliver the placenta with no problems (Thank You Lord!). From me yelling that he was coming to this point it had only been 15 minutes, second and third stage done and done. I had not expected that!

I got laid down on the couch and they checked my vitals and the like. Little man needed some blow by oxygen for the first half hour or so and Robin held him belly down across her arm patting his back a few times to help him expel the fluid still in his lungs. After about an hour he was much improved. I nursed him for a bit and then he went to his daddy while I got cleaned up and they checked for tears back in my bedroom. Amazingly despite his size and having my midwife's hand way up there, I had only a couple tiny 'skid marks' at the top and bottom. I think we were all pretty amazed! When we weighed and measure him he was 9 pounds 7 ounces and 22 inches long! I hadn't expected him to be so large! After I got him latched on again I got to have a tour of my placenta which I was quite happy to get to do this time. It's now in my freezer waiting for a tree :-) Lara and Megan headed home after a bit to get back to their own kiddos, I was so thankful they were able to be there! Robin and Lindsay finished charting and doing last checks on me and baby and then went home also. After the kids went to bed Montana Man and I finally got to rest a bit and we spent the first night on the couch admiring the new little one that we had waited for.

Friday, October 3, 2014

He is Here!

After waiting and waiting our new little man finally made his appearance 12 days past his due date on Monday the 29th at 4:53 pm. I will post his birth story soon but the short story is I woke up, water broke, labored for about 9.5 hours and pushed for 9 minutes. He weighted in at 9 pounds 7 ounces and 22 inches long! What a chunk! It was a wonderful and wild home birth surrounded by an amazing group of loved support people. We are both doing well and I am looking forward to getting back to feeling normal!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

And the Due Date Passes...

Yup. I was due the 17th. To say I am surprised would be an understatement. After trying to hold him in for a couple of months fearing he would be born pre-term now I can't seem to get him to get out! So how am I doing? Well, besides going through a couple of massive emotional ups and downs (think crying for entire days and then happily cleaning the house for hours), not that bad. Only in the last couple of days have I become uncomfortable and moving around is getting to be a challenge. I'm not really that much bigger but all my joints are either loose or cramping up so getting off the couch or rolling over is both a chore and not pretty to behold. All in perspective though I am doing great for this stage of pregnancy.

Now, let me clarify something. I am not 'post dates' I am 'late term'. A term pregnancy comes in three phases: 37 weeks= early term, 38-40= full term, 40-42= late term. Anything after 42 weeks is then considered post dates and requires closer monitoring by your practitioner. Even after going past 42 weeks there is not necessarily any reason not to let the pregnancy to continue unless mom or baby are showing signs of distress. The fact that most OB's now make it common practice to induce by 41 weeks is not only needless but also is contributing to the high c-section rate and NICU admittance. Inductions are hard on mom but are far more hard on baby who is no longer in control of the birth. Yes, really. Babies are not just a helpless being being shoved out of your body, they work just as hard to be born as you do by positioning, releasing hormones to regulate the intensity and enduring your contractions (ever had a python give you a squeeze?). Reading this article really reminded me how waiting for my baby to start his labor was the right thing to do. Not that there was much I could do but after almost a week of using homeopathy to kick things into gear with no luck I have decided to give it up. I am not eating weird stuff or walking miles and miles, making my husband 'spend time' with me or getting my membranes stripped (although I might consider it next week if still no baby). All the natural induction things you can come up with on google are only effective if your are about to go into labor anyway. I understand from an impatient stand point why women jump at the offer to be induced, but I still don't think it's right unless for health reasons beyond swollen feet and achy hips.

So I have been cooking like a crazy person, keeping the house clean, got my hair cut, walked with a friend, spent time with my kiddos and puttered in the barnyard. The greenhouse has been closed up. Nothing left to do but keep waiting. And, I really can't think of anything better to wait for.

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.

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