Category Archives: Green

Cloth diaper love!

Having only been at this for a couple months, I am far from the definitive voice on cloth diapering advice :). There are plenty of other blogs for that! Really, I just love my cloth diapers so much I feel the need to rave about them.

We used disposables for the first few weeks, and after one very unfortunate public poopsplosion incident, we finally switched over and have never looked back. We like them so much that we lugged our entire stash with us to the beach last week instead of just a few small compact packages of disposables. Here is why:

1. They don’t leak. Maybe it was just the brand of disposable diapers we were using, but I never met one that didn’t leak. Haven’t had a single problem with our cloth diapers!

2. For some reason, in our house, running errands — especially to big box stores– is the bane of our existence. I just KNOW that if we used disposables, we’d find ourselves having to do emergency Target runs at 9pm on a Sunday. I like that with cloth diapers, I am always just a laundry load away from a replenished stash. Plus, I figure I have to wash his clothes less anyway since we don’t have to deal with leaks.

3. They don’t smell (yet) and when I am tired of having a nasty pail of dirty diapers sitting around, I don’t have to wait for trash day…they can just be dumped in the wash.

4. The environmental benefits may be debatable, but it is nice to know they’re not ending up in a landfill any time soon.

5. Cost! This is a huge one for me. I have spent about $200 on our entire stash. I have a few more of the expensive kind that I received at my shower or that I bought for fun but don’t really need to have in my regular rotation. As he grows out of our current stash I will need to buy larger sizes again, but there is also a large market to buy and sell used diapers, so you can recoup some of your cost. I love not having to spend money on diapers every week.

6. No gross chemicals or plasticky feeling against baby’s skin. I really didn’t like how the disposables would adhere to his skin, and also just get all bloated and fall apart when full.

An extra load or two of laundry a week is much preferable to us over buying diapers, but of course others may feel differently. It just depends on your chore preference, I guess!  Also, breast milk diapers are super easy because they can go directly in the wash. Once he starts eating food, I will have to dispose of the solids in the toilet some how, which of course adds an extra layer of complication. But for now I really feel that cloth diapers are much easier and cleaner than disposables!

Here is what we have in our stash:

Prefolds

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These are the old-fashioned kind of diapers your parents or grandparents probably used. They are just a rectangular piece of absorbent cotton, with a waterproof cover you snap on top. With a cover, you technically don’t need to fasten them together first but I find it much easier to secure the diaper with a snappi (no pins needed!). We have 30 in our stash plus 4 covers and that is about enough to get us through 3 days without washing (though I usually do a load every other day as the pail gets full!).
Pros: Very affordable — each diaper is maybe $1-$3. Low maintenance — the prefolds are not as finicky about detergents, rash creams, or line drying — just wash and go. They also don’t get an ammonia smell the way the microfiber does on my other diapers.
Cons: A few extra steps to getting these diapers on — easy, but not as easy as a disposable or pocket/AIO. You have to buy multiple sizes. You have to actually touch the wet diaper during changes.

Pocket diapers

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These diapers have a “pocket” that holds an absorbent insert.
Pros: Adjustable, one-size diaper that can theoretically work from newborn through potty training. Snaps or velcroes on, mimicking the ease of a disposal. You can adjust the absorbency for daytime or overnight. Fleecy lining stays dry to the touch, also like a disposable.
Cons: Some find stuffing the pocket to be an annoying extra step. You can’t use conventional rash creams or detergent with microfiber. “One size” may not work out that way in reality.  More expensive.

All-in-one diapers

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Often abbreviated AIO. Like pocket diapers, the cover and absorbent part are integrated, making these most similar to disposables. Unlike pockets, the absorbent layer is sewn in so you don’t have to remove or stuff any inserts.

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Pros: it doesn’t get any easier! Truly just snap and go.
Cons: Many are not one size, though the BumGenius Freetimes I have are. Again, you have to be careful with washing and rash creams. The absorbency is not really adjustable, so they may not work overnight for everyone.  Expensive, especially if you have to buy more than one size.

There are SO many different kinds of cloth diapers, and so many brands on top of that — all the choices can get overwhelming!  I like the simplicity and low cost of prefolds, but it can be hard to resist adding more “modern” cloth diapers to my stash here and there!  Do you use cloth diapers?  What is your favorite system?

-R

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Updates

Posting from my phone, seems like that’s all I have time for these days! So excuse the brevity, typos and poor iPhone photos :).

Okay, I know I said I’d update this blog at least once a week, and clearly I have failed on that count. We have been devoting nearly all of our free time to preparing the house for our new arrival in just an estimated 10 weeks!

New bathroom:

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Some new and old windows:

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Plus tons of painting, patching, stripping, electrical and miscellaneous sprucing up.

And of course, when you start opening up walls you inevitably discover more projects. Turns out our simple electrical job is not so simple and the house needs significant re-wiring!

But we are incredibly lucky to have such wonderful families who have devoted a sizable amount of assistance and sweat equity in this journey! I really don’t know where we’d be without them. SOL for sure! So perhaps I’ll run out of time before I have a chance to DIY a pinterest-worthy nursery. But you learn there are more important things. It really takes a village, and we are so lucky that this baby will be welcomed into his or hers with so much love.

So that is where I’ve been. When I have a chance to breathe, I’ll post about our bathroom, refurbishing the windows, and all our other adventures. Stay tuned!

Happy holidays! And happy news…

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Greetings and happy holidays!  And apologies for my extended absence.  The thing is, I just haven’t felt up to cooking, eating or doing much of anything these past few months.  I’m 14 weeks pregnant today and just now gradually emerging from the fog of sickness and exhaustion that was my first trimester.  Didn’t think my steady diet of bagels and clementines was really worthy of a blog post :).

We moved into our first house a year ago, on Christmas day, and I’m so happy with the difference a whole year makes!  This year, instead of unpacking boxes we will be hosting our first Christmas dinner, cooking in our new kitchen.  And of course, it would not be the holiday season without our first Christmas tree.

I’ve always been solidly on the real tree side of the debate.  The smell and texture of a live tree in your home is just one of those quintessential things about Christmas.  And I’ve always believed they’re the more eco-friendly option.  Artificial trees are made of petroleum, whereas real trees do cycle carbon, provide habitat, prevent erosion, etc during their lifetimes.

I have been reading recently, though, about the inordinate amount of pesticides and fertilizers that are used in many tree farms throughout the country.  Christmas tree farming is a long-term investment.  When you plant a sapling, it can be more than a decade before that tree makes it to a market.  The market also demands a perfectly shaped, fully and bushy tree.  This necessitates a pretty chemical-intensive farming model to ensure a large and speedy return on investment!

With the purging of chemicals on my mind lately, this concerned me.  How could I cope with the cognitive dissonance that perhaps, PERHAPS, my beloved real trees were not the most environmentally sensitive choice after all?  I started googling to see if there were any organic tree options in the DC area.  Turns out there is exactly one:  Licking Creek Bend Farm sells their sustainable Christmas trees to order and also weekly at the Adams Morgan farmers market.  So into the city we went in search of the perfect tree.

We came home with the most beautiful and fragrant concolor fir, cut only days earlier.  Its branches may be a little more sparse than your typical generic tree, but I think it looks natural and perfect in our home.  You’d think an organic tree would be astronomically expensive, but  they had a variety of price points and the one we selected was comparable to the prices you’d find at a nursery.

I also very much believe in decorating your tree with ornaments that are sentimental, meaningful, or handmade — no color-coordinated, themed trees in my house!  So since this is our first Official tree, it seems a little sparsely decorated as we slowly build a collection.  But I still love it.

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2012 so far has been a very special year to us, and I’m so happy to celebrate this holiday season with my loved ones and welcome in the new year.  Excited to see what 2013 will bring!  Best wishes to a beautiful holiday and prosperous new year to you!

-R

 

 

Why everyone should be planting leafy greens now

If you have ever once thought about giving edible gardening a try, greens — lettuce, kale, spinach, chard, cabbage, broccoli, etc — are what you should plant.  And you should plant them now.  Here is why:

1.  Greens are some of, if not THE, healthiest thing you could ever eat.  They are chock full of anti-cancer phytonutrients and fiber.  And they’re versatile and easy to work into recipes.  Tossed in a salad, sauteed with a tasty sauce, cooked into soups and stews, scrambled with eggs, chopped up and mixed into a casserole — I’m hard pressed thinking of a recipe in which greens would NOT work!

2.  They don’t need a whole lot of sun.  Fruiting vegetables need a full day of sun, but when you’re just eating the foliage, you can get by with less.  If your only spot for a container garden is in complete shade, such as behind a wall or building, you might be SOL.  But if you get even dappled shade (like, through trees), or 3-4 hours of sun, you can probably grow greens.  They won’t be so prolific and bushy as they would with full sun.  However, they will probably not bolt as quickly, lasting longer into the season.

3.  Greens are very frost-resistant.  I kid you not, I had kale and broccoli growing over the winter that was snowmageddon.  It was covered in snow for like two months straight.  And it did not die.  I think the snow might actually insulate plants and protect them.  You can plant most greens in the late summer, keep them going over the winter, and harvest them in the spring.  I know that chard will also keep through the winter, and friends have had the same experience with spinach.  As long as you don’t pick the leaves when temps are below freezing, you should be good to go.
Disclaimer:  I have apparently moved from zone 7b to 7a.  I don’t know if that half a zone will make a difference.  And I can’t speak for north of zone 7.  But south of zone 7 — y’all definitely have no excuse not to garden year-round 🙂

4.  Greens are a gift that keeps on giving.  The chard and arugula I planted this year kept coming back even after I cut it.  Arugula does not last through hot weather, but the chard is still going!  After I chop off the broccoli heads, I can usually get at least one more small cluster of broccoli to come back.  Kale will keep going, but it’s hard to get a second harvest in before it bolts from the heat.  Anyone have any experience with spinach or other greens?

5.  You can even plant greens in the middle of winter.  I’ve never tried this myself.  But this winter I am excited to attempt starting seeds outdoors with a mini greenhouse as seen here.  If it works in Canada, it should work in Maryland, right?

6.  In the middle of winter, you don’t have to worry about pests.  You can neglect them pretty well during the winter.  But just before frost sets in, and after the last frost date, do keep a watchful eye on your greens because as some of the few plants remaining, the bugs will be all over that shit. I’ve had luck with a sprinkling of diatomaceous earth, as well as some of these organic pest remedies from Fine Gardening.  Sometimes all it takes is a blast of water from the hose.

There are many reasons to grow your own food.  First of all, it is fun.  Secondly, while its unlikely you will grow and preserve enough to feed your entire family year-round without several acres at your disposal and full-time work, food no doubt tastes better when it is imbued with the satisfaction derived from producing it yourself.  Some vegetables, tomatoes and corn, for instance, actually DO taste 100% better when freshly picked from your back yard.  And finally, we can go a long way to protecting our earth, promoting sustainability, independence and self-sufficiency by using all available space for something PRODUCTIVE.  Grass serves no purpose.  Why not grow something nourishing?  Even if you just have space for one pot of herbs — give it a try. Grow something.

-R

Adventures in container veggie gardening: June update

I’ve mentioned before that in this first year of my garden I was hesitant to install permanent vegetable raised beds before I could better gauge the amount of sunlight I get and have the soil tested for heavy metals.  So far my experimentation with container gardening has been like any other season — hit or miss!

I planted some tomatoes and basil in this hanging grow bag.  They have been growing really well so far — look at that beautiful basil!

The tomatoes shot up while I was gone over Memorial day weekend and now they even have some blossoms.  We’ll see if they turn into tomatoes.  I definitely get a good 5 hours of sun in this spot, but I’m not sure if that is enough to produce fruit.

The good news is though, even if I don’t get enough sun for fruiting vegetables there is definitely enough for the foliage, so things like kale or other greens should work.  The chard I planted in my brick spiral garden is doing well!  I’ve already harvested it a few times so it looks a little sparse in this photo.  The arugula I planted already bolted; I cut it back so maybe it will re-grow some leaves at least once more.  The cilantro is also done.  I did put some sage in there as well that has survived!

I impulsively bought this poor tomato container at a plant sale this spring and have nearly killed it thanks to my failure to make arrangements for watering when I went out of town over a holiday weekend.  I forget how much water these types of containers need!  Nonetheless it is clinging to life still and is actually already producing ripe tomatoes.  Has been since the end of May.  I guess it got an early start in the greenhouse.  I’ve been enjoying the early harvest!

I repurposed an old shelving unit I wasn’t using as a planter for two pepper plants and an eggplant.  Again, the foliage is doing well, and there are blossoms, so fingers crossed for at least a little fruit this year!

My strawberries have survived, even as I am still learning the art of using a grow bag (watering is tricky!), and they are an everbearing variety so I get very little fruit at a time anyway.  But occasionally I am treated to an adorable little berry!

I ordered some more strawberry seedlings to fill out the rest of the container, and as luck would have it the shipment arrived while I was out of town on a holiday weekend.  A few are surviving but they are still so small it is very touch and go.

 

There is a mulberry tree in my yard which is preventing another few hours of sun for my backyard.  On the one hand I think the idea of a mulberry tree is quaint and it provides much-needed shade on these hot summer days.  But on the other hand I HATE that thing and am about to take a chainsaw to it myself.  Those stupid mulberries were everywhere!  In my gutters, littering purple goop all over my yard.  So gross.  Also my dog thought they were a fun snack and upon being let outside would rummage through the yard trying to collect them all.  As you can imagine that made for some rather nasty surprises once back inside.  I am going to see if I can just trim back some branches that hang over the house and which are guilty of blocking the sunlight.  Then maybe my plants will be a little happier.

You will note that all my photos are closely cropped — my yard still looks like a mess and now that it has become overrun by a species of mosquitoes that is not deterred by bug spray it is difficult to get out and work in the garden.  Baby steps!

In addition to my learning curve on the watering, another problem I’ve encountered are insect pests.  I made a simple organic spray that really seems to have helped keep them at bay:

Homemade Organic Pesticide
Steep 5-10 cloves of garlic and 2-3 tablespoons of crushed red pepper in a quart of water overnight.  Strain and pour into a spray bottle and add a few squirts of biodegradable liquid soap that is scented with lavender or peppermint.  Spray on leaves every few days.

Here is a list of additional organic ideas.  It is important that you practice organic pest control techniques on your plants because you want to be able to harness the power of beneficial insects — the pollinators and predators that will naturally keep things in check!

Ah, June, you always hold so much hope for the garden before things start to fall apart :).  How is your garden doing so far?

-R

Terrariums!

Happy earth day!  It’s a rainy day here where I live, but that hasn’t stopped me from getting my hands dirty with nature :).

Apparently, according to all the home/garden/design blogs I follow, terrariums are the latest new trend.  I’ve been eyeing some wardian cases for some time now, as I have a sunny windowsill in my home that has been crying out for some plants!  When I got one for my birthday, I knew I had the perfect rainy day activity.

Well, a rainy day has finally presented itself after a long dry spell, so here we are.  It was super easy to do and provides so much beauty.  It would be a great activity for kids, too.  Plants are also important for improving your home’s indoor air quality.

Terrariums are a good way to start if you’re new to this whole growing thing — they thrive on neglect and once you’ve set them up, require just a few sprays here and there to keep them happy.

 

The nursery I went to actually had a whole terrarium section, with tons of plants and supplies all sold together.  I followed the instructions on the package I bought, which pretty much was the same as those in the link above:

-Find a suitable bowl/dish/vase/case to plant your terrarium.  In addition to the case I received as a gift, I used an old vase I had leftover from my wedding years ago.

-Choose the plants you want, some taller, some lower, some green, some colorful…i.e. kind of like the container gardening adage, “thrillers, spillers and fillers.”

-Create your terrarium by adding the following layers:

1.  gravel/stone, for drainage
2.  horticultural charcoal, to absorb smells
3.  sand or moss, to prevent soil from seeping down to the bottom
4.  potting soil (if planting succulents, be sure to choose cactus potting soil)
5.  Stick your plants in the soil, creating kind of a mound in the center or back for more height.
6.  More soil around plants as necessary
7.  Decorative elements such as moss, stone, etc

Spray with a water bottle to keep moist.

It’s that easy!

-R

Earth Day 2012

Every day is earth day here in the Bounteous household…but for the rest of the world, Sunday is your opportunity to give back to the planet!  Here are a few ideas to get you started…
Beautify your community.  Take a look at your newspaper, or google around for some ideas and inspiration — many organizations will sponsor tree plantings, beach cleanups, and other volunteer opportunities to get your hands dirty, feet wet and the feeling of having contributed to make your world a better place.  Here in the DC area, the Anacostia Watershed Society will be sponsoring cleanups throughout DC, Montgomery and PG counties.  The Casey Trees Foundation sponsors tree plantings all the time throughout the region.

Commit to learning.  Ever wanted to take a workshop on butterfly gardening?  Composting?  Urban chicken raising?  Earth Day is a great day for your environmental resolutions.

New habits.  Continuing along the new Green Resolution theme…choose one thing for the earth you will start to incorporate into your routine.  Maybe you can commit to meatless Mondays, start recycling, bike to work at least once a week, switch your coffee to shade-grown, fair trade…Rome wasn’t built in a day; choose just one habit to begin with and let it slowly build into a more sustainable lifestyle.

I will be joining some friends this weekend at the Baltimore Eco-fest and hope to check out some of their vendors and activities, such as tree plantings, nature walks and workshops!

How will you be celebrating Earth Day 2012?

-R