Monday, May 30, 2011

Wrapping It Up: Day 7 of the Flats Challenge

Tomorrow morning I will be dumping diapers into the washing machine for the first time in over a week. WHEW. My back is killing me. I know that if I had to handwash in order to cloth diaper, I would. But man. Mother Nature blessed me with a slightly crooked spine, and that makes this kind of thing extra stressful and painful. I would probably have to experiment more with washing methods to figure out which is the least stressful on my back, as I only did the kitchen sink method (as described in the previous post), and then the bathtub just once (this last washing...which I waited waaay too long to do and ended up with 20 dipes to wash!). Regretfully, I didn't take any pictures of the bathtub method (sorry -- i know, bad blogger!), but I will describe it in detail below:

1. Dump out wet pail in tub to drain. Lean on pile of wet dipes to help squeeze out excess water (the poopy ones had been pre-rinsed in the sink prior to being thrown into the wet pail).

2. Plug drain and start hot water running, with lye soap bar sitting in the tub near the faucet. Place washboard in tub in scrubbing position. Separate the poopy dipes to one side of the washboard -- these will be soaped and scrubbed first to provide more suds for the rest of the stuff. (Trying not to over-soap again.) Shut off water when everything is covered (about 6" deep).

3. Soap the board and scrub each poopy diaper until all the poop is out. Do the same for poop-stained wipes, and nursing pads (not that they are poo-stained, just that I want to make sure they're extra clean). Stir everything together for a minute in the hot soapy water using large, wooden laundry paddle (I felt like I was sitting on the edge of a canoe, paddling the inside of it, heheh). Drain water, sweep everything to the end of the tub away from the drain, knead/press/squeeze out remaining water.

4. Replug drain, turn on warm water again. Fill to about 6" again, and shut off water. Stir with laundry paddle for a minute or two, lifting and dunking each dipe by hand. Drain water, sweep everything to the end of the tub away from the drain, kneed/press/squeeze out remaining water.

5. Repeat #4 for second rinse. After draining, wring each item thoroughly and toss into awaiting laundry basket.

6. Set up wooden racks outside, snap out each item (3x each per diaper -- woooo! the misting!) and drape over racks neatly.

I did this pretty late in the day and only had a few hours (or less) of sunshine left, so I had to bring them in and sit the racks under an A/C vent again. It was cutting it really close because I needed to have dipes dry by the time Brigit's bedtime rolled around (which is different every night, heheh). It ended up fine; the dipes were dry enough, and the covers were just slightly damp in the front velcro area, but she didn't seem to mind. :)


One thing I noticed during this last wash was that the dipes were feeling a little sticky as I wrung, snapped, and hung them up. I think there was a build-up of lye soap residue. I haven't seen any irritation on Baby's bum, nor any repelling, but I do usually use white vinegar in the first rinse cycle in my washer, so perhaps I should have been doing that with the handwashing as well. Oh well. I'm sure it'll come out in the wash (HA!) tomorrow. I mean, the fault can't be with the lye soap alone; it used to be the only option, and people still managed to cloth diaper (um...also the only option at the time ;)).

I do think that if handwashing dipes became an absolute necessity for me, I would not only do lots of experimenting to find the most back-friendly method, but I would most definitely employ some of my children, at least some of the time, to help. Hey, that's why people have lotsa kids...right??? Heeheehee...

Oh, and one more thing...I am seriously considering switching to flats!!! Like, full time! I am really impressed with them, and so thankful that this challenge introduced them to me! But, I will leave the details about that for my next post, in which I will publish my answers to the Challenge's exit survey. Stay tuned! :D

Friday, May 27, 2011

What I've Learned So Far...Day 5 of the "Flats and Handwashing Challenge"

This week has been interesting. As you may know, I am taking part in the Flats and Handwashing Challenge. Lots of experimenting (but perhaps not enough), lots of aching back muscles. I have found that the actual use of the flats has been no big deal. Sure, they hold less than my fancy dipes and thus have to be changed more often, but that's okay. Brigit is not used to not having a stay-dry liner, so she "asks" to be changed more often anyway. Always keeping us on our toes, that one!

My stash includes 20 (27"x28") flour sack towels (which I am essentially pad-folding with an angel wing poo-pocket), 4 medium Thirsties velcro covers, and a big wool soaker (handknit by me) for over the night diaper. (I am also adding a smaller pad-folded Gerber Flat (about 27"x24") inside the flour sack flat for overnight. No problems so far.) Yes, I am doing this overnight, too, even though the rules state that I don't have to. :D I realize that I could technically have one more regular cover and not count the soaker, but I already had 4 Thirsties covers and the snappi/pins thing just doesn't work well for us, so my ample supply of soakers and other pull-on covers (like these Dappi ones) was kind of useless this week. Incidentally, I am also including my flannel wipes and washable nursing pads in the handwashing. I chose to only use my Dr. Brown's nursing pads and none of my Milk Diapers (which I usually use overnight) because they are thicker and I was concerned about drying time, especially if I had no direct sunshine available (which in Florida, with random thunderstorms, you just never know), I worry about mildew from the humidity and too-long drying times.

This is the routine I've worked out so far (this may still change if I happen to wash again before the challenge ends):

Pail: wet (also serving as presoak). I'm pretty much keeping it in the bathtub, and running more and more water into it as the day goes on to make sure everything in there stays good and saturated. I've also discovered that it makes washing easier if I rinse the poopy ones in the sink (it's EBF poo, so, not too nasty). I squirt 5-6 squirts of half-diluted Biokleen Bac-Out over the mess a few times a day, too.

Wash: I am using my kitchen sink, old fashioned lye soap, and a washboard that I picked up for $10 at our local flea market. So...

1. Dump soaked dipes from pail into right side of sink to drain. Meanwhile, left side of sink is filling with hot water, with the bar of lye soap sitting on the bottom of the sink.

2. Squeeze pail/presoak water out of each individual item and plop it into the hot/soapy sink. Fish out the bar of soap, lather it up (as if washing my hands) then dunk bar and sudsy hands a few times, then place soap bar at the top of the washboard on the soap lip/shelf. Washboard is now perched legs-down in the sink.

3. Agitate the hot/soapy sink fulla dipes with a wooden cooking spoon. Start taking each piece and scrubbing on the washboard. Pee dipes are scrubbed very briefly, as the swishing and dunking in hot/soapy water seem fairly adequate for cleaning them. (I may skip the actual scrubbing of pee dipes next time, and stick to swish/stir/dunk.) Poopy dipes get spot treatment with soap, and extra washboard scrubbing until the poo stains are gone (taking much less work than I expected). As each piece is processed, it is re-dunked in the soapy water, wrung out, and plopped into the right sink (which has been filling with clear, cold water this whole time).

4. Drain left (hot/soapy) sink, spray out soap residue, etc., replug and fill with clear, cold water for second rinse. Swish/knead/stir the dipes in the first rinse water (right side sink). Take piece by piece, dunk, wring, and plop into second rinse sink.

5. Repeat #4 (except don't fill another sink with rinse water unless you used way too much soap originally -- don't ask how I know that :)). This time, wring extra well, and snap out a few times to get even more water out.

This pic would be my third rinse from day 1 when I used waaay too much soap. *blush*

6. Hang to dry on the wooden drying rack. I have two of them and ended up using both for today's wash, as I waited a little longer than before and the one rack was pretty crowded before anyway. Place rack in sunshine (not so today -- it started to storm just as I was finishing up the second my racks are blocking the entryway now, positioned under the A/C vent ;)).

Please pardon the naked 3-year-old in the background. LOL

The whole process takes 1-1.5 hrs and really hurts my back (remember, my spine is a chiropractor's challenge and is easily strained by moderate physical labor). That, and my baby inevitably started to fuss/whine/cry at some point during each washing session, when I would attempt to employ various older siblings to play with her and keep her happy for just a few more minutes... She did end up on my hip for a few stages of each washing session, which made it take that much longer. I know I could have put her on my back in the Ergo, but...well, I didn't. I was afraid the double strain on my back by wearing a 21 lb fatty on my back while hunching over the sink would end up forcing me to drop out of this challenge. :(

Like I said, I may be tweaking things a little more before Monday morning rolls around... (and PS - I might add more pics later ;))

"Big Families are the New Green" (Part 1)

These are my (rather long-winded) thoughts in response to this article.


Cars Count

I have often thought about how "efficient" it is that we cram 7 people into one vehicle on a regular basis. Sure, our 10-year-old minivan gets a measly 15mpg on average (city), but that's actually better per capita than a family of four driving a 45mpg hybrid (if my mental pseudo-math is correct). We do go places often, unlike the author of the article suggests. I try to get out of the house every day, even if only to the grocery store (and that, preferably with just one or two children in tow). We go to parks, homeschool events, the library, and playdates at friends' houses. And these things are located all over the metropolis, which isn't very green, perhaps, but at least our metropolis is relatively small compared to most -- the furthest we ever go is 30 minutes or less away from home, most being 5-15 minutes.

I have dreams of owning a Toyota Highlander Hybrid someday (seats 8 ;)), but that's like, what, $35,000? Not happening anytime soon. :/ My husband's car might not get much better gas mileage than our van, but he often fills it to capacity to go work out at the YMCA (while children play with friends in Childwatch). He drives to class at the college, yes. I have repeatedly considered becoming a one-car family, but just don't see how we could swing it without some major inconveniences. Not to mention that the resale value of our second car (9 years old) is pretty low, especially considering how many repairs it needs that we cannot afford on our current starving-student budget. The profits we would earn from its sale would not be worth it. Anyway, the point is that our big family makes the most of our vehicles. :)

Economy Size

Yes, it takes the same amount of electricity to light and cool (or heat, for a very brief part of the year) our home, no matter how many people inhabit it. We definitely use more water than most families, at least for laundry. I estimate that we have 10-15 loads of laundry to wash per week. We do have a "super capacity" washing machine, but it is an old-fashioned, lotsa water and agitator washer. We actually have an energy star certified washing machine in the garage that we purchased a few years back when hubby was working for Sears as a lawn and garden appliance repair technician (the job that he lost due to lay-offs in May 2009). We discovered, after 6 months of use, that this type of machine does not work for our needs right now. It does not get the job done for diapers or our children's filthy clothing. It will sit and collect dust in the garage until our current washer dies, or our children grow older and get less dirty, heh (and are all out of diapers). Either that, or we'll sell it...that's actually more likely.

As for bathing, that's another area where we are perhaps less than green. When the children were younger, we would combine their baths, to the point that it probably equaled an average-sized family's bathing habits. Nowadays, though, and perhaps this is just because it's Springtime and thus wonderful outside play weather, but the children are getting terribly dirty, and sometimes require 2 baths a day! Lately, before we can go anywhere, I have to do a wash face/hands/feet marathon with the children. Boy, do they love dirt. :D We still combine baths, though, and are now transitioning to showers often, which, with our low-flow shower heads, I'm hoping use less water than their "up to your belly-button" baths.

Then there's dishes. I think we only use about 1-1.5 dishwasher loads a day, but i'm sure we'd produce more if I cooked/baked from scratch more often (which would certainly be a greener choice, and is definitely a goal!).

~ To be continued... ~

Sunday, May 8, 2011

10 Things About Me...(and some thoughts on evil perfectionism)

I keep meaning to get on here and blog. I have sooo many ideas for things to blog about. I want to systematically document every "journey" I've taken toward every thing/value/philosophy in my life that I hold dear. My problem? I am a perfectionist. All of these articles I want to write will take time and thought. Those two things are hard to come by in my life. :) So, I rationalize, "I can't blog today because I won't have time to finish." (And I really hate not being able to finish something...I have what they call a "completion compulsion". And, of course, as I type this my baby is crying for me.....aaand, now we're NAK. :)) Well, that's gotta stop. I want to have a blog. I want to get these thoughts off my chest. I want to document my life. I love to write. I think I'm pretty damn good at it, too. And there's just something so very satisfying about clicking "publish post" and then seeing it in all its html glory. :D

So I have to get over it. I have to settle for less than my expectations. As my mother has said many times (and I have since made it my housework motto), "A half-assed job is better than none." So today, I am going to list (oooh, lists...I love lists) 10 things about me. And that's it. No long chapter for my biography today. So. Here goes...

- My family goes through at least 12 loads of laundry per week, and there's always a mountain of "miscellaneous" stuff in the laundry room.

- I'm a fantastic cook, but the (ahem) joy of cooking is greatly reduced by the necessity of it and my small, cluttered kitchen. I'm not so great with baking. :/

- I have been sewing since I was a little girl (making doll clothes with my grandmother), but I'd say I'm still at a beginner/intermediate level. Curves and gathers scare me. I need to conquer those fears. :P I do have a nice machine, though. Oooh, and I really want a serger.

- I looove emoticons. ;D

- I also love to type how I talk. So I am usually aware of any improper grammar/punctuation that I use....and I'm doing it for a reason. So there. :D

- I have a tendency to get really excited about an idea or project, then lose steam and abandon it. I could probably open a store with all my abandoned projects. I'm reeeeally hoping this blog does not become merchandise. (I think that, considering I have been blogging on and off for over 5 years already, we're probably safe. ;))

- I suffer from chronic back pain due to mild scoliosis that makes housework difficult and/or painful. This often makes me feel lazy and inadequate.

- I like to choose the lazy way of doing things. Like co-sleeping; I'm not going to get up a million times a night to feed and comfort my baby when I could do the same thing while lying half-asleep in my own cozy bed. And unschooling...who wants to deal with assignments or teach formal lessons on a regular basis? Not I, said the little red hen.

- My house is usually a mess, ranging from a simple mess to an O to the MG disaster. My children pretty much couldn't care less about the state of things, but it drives me batshit.

- I have known my husband since 6th grade. He thought I was gorgeous and I thought that was creepy. :) 10 years later, we finally got together...and the rest is history.

Is that 10 things already? Awesome. I'm done! Good night.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Flats and Handwashing Challenge! (and a tiny blog makeover)

I have taken some time this morning to make a lot of changes here on my blog in order to make it more...appropriate...for the public eye. I hid several posts that are very personal and/or FML-style venting. I want to be able to use this blog for positive things, more like recording the happy memories and successful accomplishments, as well as participating in all these fun blog events I keep seeing . (see this post.)

Example: The Flats and Handwashing Challenge. (Thank you to One Rich Mother for the heads up!) I have purchased 20 flour sack towels (about 27"x28") for a grand total of ~$20, and I'm gearing up to do this challenge, May 23rd-30th. The goal of the experiment is to prove that poor families who struggle to afford disposable diapers for their babies can save money (and help the earth!) by using cloth diapers, even if they have no washing machine. And as I have proven above, a modest stash of flat diapers can be purchase new for about the same cost as 2 weeks worth of name-brand disposables. Covers are a different story, though...I will be using self-made wool soakers and pull-on Dappi nylon covers that I already own. If one can knit, wool yarn for one soaker can be purchased for $4 on sale, and the Dappi covers are super cheap as far as decent covers go...but they do run big. I got all of mine here. I ended up using my Thirsties covers instead, because I rediscovered my hatred of Snappis.

The reason behind using flats is that they are the easiest to handwash, being only one layer of fabric (requiring less agitation than multi-layer diapers). Also, they are the easiest form of cloth diaper to come across, since all they are is a big square of cotton fabric, and anything from dish towels to t-shirts to receiving blankets can be used as such. Flannel receiving blankets, in fact, are typically 30"x30", which is the perfect size for a flat diaper, and such blankets are popular baby shower gifts that are practically useless after the first month or two of a baby's life. Therefore, they are cheap and easy to come by in thrift shops and garage sales (or a friend's attic ;)).

I am choosing to participate in this challenge to help contribute to the data collected to prove that cloth diapers are doable even on the tightest budget. Being poor is near and dear to my heart; I have been dirt broke multiple times in my adulthood, right now being one of those times (hubby is a full-time student, so our income consists of grants, loans, and other types of government assistance). I am thankful to already own a decent stash of CDs, and was even able to squeeze out the funds to purchase supplies for this challenge (and they weren't that much! I spent $30!).

I want to go to our local flea market and buy a washboard (~$10) to use during the challenge. I plan on using lye soap, too (which I already own). That way, I'm not only participating in the challenge, but I'm also getting to experience what it was like to wash diapers back in the pioneer days (an age with which I am thoroughly obsessed). :D I will be washing the dipes in my double kitchen sink with said washboard and lye soap. I'd originally planned to buy a washtub as well, in order to get the full pioneer experience, but then I realized that that would require hauling water, thanks. :)

And now, I am going to go throw all my new "flats" into the washer (gasp!) for a prepping. :)