The Diaper Debate

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A long time ago, when I was pregnant for the first time and we had many lofty ideas about our own capabilities, my husband and I talked about cloth diapers. We pretty much decided we are going to use them, for the sake of frugality, sustainability and baby’s skin health. It just seemed the right choice all around, until one day, when I was getting pretty big, we had the following conversation.

DH: “But where would we wash the diapers?”

Me: “What do you mean, where? We put them in the washing machine.”

DH: (wrinkling his nose): “What, you’ll put poopy diapers in the same machine that we use to wash our clothes?”

Me: “Not in the same cycle. We’ll wash them separately, you know.” 

DH: “I still think that’s gross. Think of all the bacteria that will be left over.”

Me: “Well, what do you suggest?”

DH: “My Mom always washed our diapers by hand.”

Do I have to tell you? We’ve been using disposables ever since. And at times I’ve been feeling guilty about it, too, especially when I haul out a big garbage bag full of almost nothing but diapers and think about it adding to some tremendous landfill.

It wasn’t just the gross factor that put us off; we’ve had plenty of poop in our washing machine anyway over the years, what with newborn blow-outs and all. There were periods when changing a poopy diaper equaled changing a whole baby outfit, every time. We’re still all alive and well.

It was also that conveniently made cloth diapers are a pretty hefty initial investment, one we hesitated to make, and I’m not up to sewing my own. And, of course, there’s the convenience; at times, I’ve been so overwhelmed by laundry (especially not having a drier, on long rainy weeks in winter) that voluntarily adding more seemed an effort of will beyond my capability.

As a compromise, I have tried doing early potty-training, with babies running around bare-bottomed around the house on many a summer day. The little tushies got a pleasant breeze, we saved some money on diapers, and I felt better about the ecological aspect of it all.

In the place where we live now, we have frequent electricity and water shortages, up to the point that everybody living in the neighborhood often gets requests to save on electricity and water as much as possible by trying to minimize the usage of air conditioners, ovens and, of course, washing machines. An extra load of diapers every day or two just doesn’t seem feasible in such conditions.  I actually believe that in Israel, where water is a precious commodity, bio-degradable diapers may be more eco-friendly than cloth.

There had to be, however, a compromise: green and convenient; eco-friendly but disposable. So lately I’ve started looking into the option of switching to bio-degradable disposable diapers, such as these. I’d love to hear from any of you who care to share your experience. Cloth? Bio-degradable? Plain ol’ Pampers?

Melons

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Above is one of the melons we grew this season. We only grew a couple of vines for the experiment, from seeds we saved a couple of years ago from an especially delicious specimen (which we bought at the store, by the way). We planted rather late and the melons sure took their time to ripen, but the wait was definitely worth it. The fruit was small, but very fragrant and sweet, since we allowed it to fully ripen on the vine before picking. I think I’m going to save seeds from this one too, to plant next year.

And, yes, in the background you can see some more hot peppers! The bounty sure doesn’t stop, and I’m going to make some more hot sauce soon.

You can read more about growing food from supermarket scraps here and here.

Yarn

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My mother-in-law has given me a whole bag of yarn which she doesn’t think she’ll use anymore. I haven’t quite decided what I’m going to do with it yet. There isn’t enough for a large project, but I will probably be able to make a hat or scarf or two. The smallest bits will go towards making doll clothes or hair.

I also shared some yarn-related family stories in my latest Mother Earth News post:

“Whenever I go into a yarn shop and look at all the stacks of brand-new colorful yarns of any type you might possibly want, I think of Grandma. What may be a hobby – and not a cheap one, either – to people today was a venue of survival to her.”

Last chicks of the season

Above you can see a hen hanging out with her newly hatched brood – probably the last chicks of the season (along with another brood that it due to hatch in a day or two), since it’s already October and egg production is going to decline as the days shorten.

We’ve experienced many setbacks with our chickens this season. We lost about a dozen chicks to an especially sneaky fox, and among the remaining over half were males. Then a lovely, seemingly healthy point of lay pullet just died unexpectedly. We know many people who gave up on poultry-keeping entirely following such disappointments, but in this area, like in almost everything else, perseverance is essential and will eventually be rewarded.

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And this is something I just had to share with you – no, this huge egg isn’t from our chickens. It’s a peacock egg we found on a day trip to a lovely park where these gorgeous birds roam around freely. Unfortunately it didn’t appear to be viable, or we’d take it to put under one of our broodies. It’s beautiful and reminds me of a turkey egg.

Your Own Hands

I’m very excited to share with you that I’ve begun working on a book titled Your Own Hands: Self Reliant Projects for Independent Living. The work is progressing quickly and I have plenty of interesting material to fit in. Prospectively, it will be a book with both a good amount of practical topics and discussion of local and alternative economy. I will give updates on the progress here and on my Facebook page.

As I’m aiming to create something more than a how-to book or social essay, I’m looking for real-life stories to add a more personal dimension, and here is where you come into the picture! If you are a homesteader, organic farmer, artisan, or local business owner; if you’ve built a unique and interesting house, created a productive backyard garden or designed a useful water-recycling system; if, in short, you have a story relating to any aspect of simple, sustainable, self-reliant living, I’d love to hear from you.

Simply write to me through the blog contact form and share your experience, along with your full name, place of residence and, if relevant, a link to your website or social media page.

Cats and chickens – can they coexist?

Read my latest Mother Earth News post to find out how this works for us.

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“Our chick season usually starts in spring and lasts throughout the summer. How would we keep our cats from going after baby chicks? Cats don’t usually mess with adult hens, let alone roosters, but chicks and pullets can easily fall prey to them. One way, of course, is to keep the chicks confined in a secure pen or coop until they are big enough to no longer be threatened by cats.

However, our cats and chickens – along with baby chicks – live together harmoniously and, so far, we have not had problems. What I find most interesting is that our cats will, unfortunately, go after birds – but won’t even blink when they see a chick passing right next to them.”

Easy coconut body butter

I got my hands on a nearly-discarded bar of coconut oil in my Mom’s refrigerator. At first I thought it’s some ancient soap, but when I asked and was casually told that “it should probably be thrown out, it has been here for years”, I took it for myself.

The internet is full of wonderful recipes for homemade creams, lotions, butters, balms and scrubs using coconut oil, and the simplest of them is this: just take some coconut oil (in solid consistency – cool it if you need to) and whip it with an electric beater until you get a smooth, airy texture, akin to whipped cream. I tried to do that, but the coconut oil itself was too thick to whip up well. I had to add a glug of almond oil – don’t ask me for quantities, but I think it was about 1 tbsp. of almond oil to 1/2 cup of coconut oil.

By the way, I used almond oil because that’s what I had on hand, but I daresay it’s also possible to use olive, wheat germ or grape seed oil, or whatever you prefer.

When what I had in the bowl resembled whipped cream so much that my daughters begged to lick the beaters, I stopped whipping and scooped what I got into a small wide-mouthed jar, which I refrigerated for an hour or so before transferring it to room temperature. Then I tried the body butter. It has a lovely creamy consistency and feels very pleasant on dry hands. And it cost practically nothing!

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In various recipes, I saw that people suggest adding a few drops of essential oils to your skin product. While I imagine a hint of lemon, orange or lemongrass wouldn’t go amiss if I had them on hand, I must say I simply love the pure natural smell of coconut, which is both gentle and delicious.

Result: easy-to-make, very affordable, 100% natural concoction that I wouldn’t hesitate to use even on small children or babies.