This Summer…

This SummerHey guys, I’m still here! I’m nearing the end of my pregnancy and a lot of things have changed in our lives.

Firstly, Matt changed jobs and we moved. We are now living with my mother-in-law in a beautiful town with horses next door. It’s an interesting adjustment for sure! You’ll all get to hear about our adventures homesteading while living with family members the way they did it back in the day.

OG has stopped napping (yikes!) so I have even less time for, well, anything. On a positive note, she is able to engage in self directed, independent play more now than she was before so I do get a bit of a break. I also have more help from family members so that’s been great too. She has also started having sleepovers at Oma and Pop’s house (my parents) so Matt and I have had a couple of nights off from parenting before the baby arrives.

Since I last wrote about our chickens we had a run in with a fox and two run ins with neighbor dogs (and a mystery run in which I’m guessing was a dog) plus a sour crop/pendulous crop issue. I’ll be getting into the details of all that soon I hope!

We’ve had a good summer here but I’m ready for Autumn! Next Wednesday is my due date so we will be becoming a family of four any day now. wow!

I’m also excited to get back to blogging. Hopefully I’ll be able to find the time because I sure do miss it.

How has your summer been? What are you looking forward to most this Autumn?

 

How We Night Weaned Our Daughter

How We Night Weaned Our Daughter

 

Things have been quite eventful around here. We just welcomed a new brother-in-law to the family (Congrats M&K!). I’m 20 weeks along in my second pregnancy and feeling very domestic. I’ve been feeling like household chores are super important and I simply must get things organized! (nesting maybe?). Therefore, my blogging has slowed a bit but don’t worry, I’m still here, just a little distracted, that’s all. Now I want to share something I’ve been thinking about for a few months now, How we night weaned OG:

There are many benefits in continuing to breastfeed past the first year but nursing at night can be exhausting. Night weaning is a great way to continue a breastfeeding relationship that might otherwise be cut short. When we night weaned OG it was the most amazing thing to be able to get a full night’s sleep again after 2 years!

We co-sleep. In our bedroom we have a queen sized mattress and box spring on the floor right next to a twin mattress and box spring that is nestled tight in the corner (so it’s like one big bed). The twin bed is supposed to be Olive’s bed but she often comes over into our bed at night.

When she was still nursing at night it was really difficult for me to sleep comfortably. I either had to nurse her in my bed and move her, leave her in our bed (and be forced to sleep on my side) or I had to lay in the crack between the beds to nurse her in her own bed, all of which resulted in poor sleep for me. So we decided to give night weaning a try.

I was very nervous that we wouldn’t be able to night wean without ending our co-sleeping arrangement. I like co-sleeping because I don’t need to get up if she wiggles out from under her blankets or wakes from a bad dream. I can just reach over and help her. I also knew that with another baby coming it would be easier to keep us all in one room, especially because Matt works overnights quite often. I also realized I couldn’t continue to nurse OG at night. Luckily we were able to come up with a way to night wean without ending our co-sleeping arrangement.

I read The No Cry Sleep Solution, which had great advice for night weaning and gentle sleep “training”. Though we didn’t do anything exactly as it was in the book, it was very useful in coming up with a solution that worked for our family.

How I knew OG was ready for night weaning

  • She was 2 years old (Babies over 6 months don’t need to nurse at night for food but may still need to nurse for comfort).
  • She would wake up often and cry for mommy milk but would fall asleep almost as soon as she latched on. It seemed like more of a habit than a need.

This is what we did:

Matt and I talked with OG for a few days before explaining the changes that were going to happen so that she wasn’t surprised.

Matt and OG slept in the master bedroom for a week or two while I slept in the guest room. Matt would soothe OG back to sleep when she woke. It wasn’t easy and I think he had a newfound appreciation of what I had been doing for 2 years!

I found it to be very helpful to be “tuned in” to OG. I could tell the difference between her “I’m unhappy” cry and her “I really need you” cry.

We believe that crying is sometimes just something that babies (and adults too!) need to do to express themselves. However, we believe in supported crying rather than leaving a child to cry in a room by themselves. And of course if their cry is an “I really need help” cry, then we help.

Matt supported OG while she was crying. When OG would wake and cry for mommy milk Matt would empathize with her (“I know you want mommy milk and you’re upset that you can’t have it), and he would offer his hand for her to hold if she wanted.

For the first few days or a week I would have to go back into our room in the early morning (or sometimes earlier) because OG wouldn’t accept Matt’s soothing anymore. That was fine though, getting 4-6 straight hours was like heaven at that point!

When it seemed like OG wasn’t waking for mommy milk anymore I moved back into the bedroom. For a few days I slept on the outside and Matt slept next to OG so he could continue to soothe her while I was in the room (I don’t know if this step was necessary but my thinking was that she would see that even though I was back in the room things were not going back to the way they had been before).

Soon I was also able to soothe her back to sleep without nursing using the same techniques Matt used (although she wasn’t always happy with it, and sometimes I would need to leave the room and Matt would become primary soother again). For a while she was sleeping from bedtime to about 5 am without waking (or at least being able to go back to sleep on her own).

I was getting some pretty good sleep in but OG was still waking up at 5am which was a bit early so I decided to set a new limit that she would not nurse until the sun came up. Using the same techniques as above this happened pretty quickly and she now sleeps until 6:30 or 7 most morning.

A few tips if you want to try night weaning:

  • Follow your child – If he is more clingy and cranky during the day after an attempt at night weaning he may not be ready.
  • Don’t underestimate the benefit of just one or two skipped night nursings! If your child isn’t ready for full night weaning you may still be able to get her to skip one or two early in the night so you can get more rest. An exhausted mom will know that 4 hours straight feels like a full nights sleep when you’re used to getting only 1-2 hours at a time.
  • Don’t try night weaning if there is some other big change happening, e.g. going to a new day care, moving to a new home, having a new baby, etc.
  • Keep in mind that if you work outside the home your baby may be nursing more at night to catch up on mommy time. If you are able, it can be helpful to increase daytime nursing and contact to try and minimize nighttime nursing.

 

Now it’s your turn! How did you get your child to nurse less at night?

3 Reasons Why I’m Not Vegan

Why I'm Not Vegan

I feel like I should preface this post by saying: I don’t hate vegans and this is not about why vegans are wrong.

I believe everyone needs to make his or her own choices in life and one way of eating may not work for everyone. The point of this post is to give a counter argument to the argument for veganism and explain why I’m not vegan.

Reason to be vegan #1: It’s healthier. Studies show people who eat animal products are at higher risk for many diseases.

Why I disagree: Firstly, I believe that a vegan diet can make some people healthier. For example, if they go from eating store bought bacon for breakfast to eating oatmeal, fruit, nuts and seeds instead.

But I don’t believe animal products in general are the reason many people have discovered health benefits from a vegan diet. A vegan diet is naturally higher in veggies and fruits, which would be a great thing for someone who never ate them before.

Also, since I haven’t found any studied directly comparing a vegan diet to a whole food meat eating diet I would guess that the studies that point to vegans being healthier than meat eaters was performed with vegans vs. people eating conventional animal products and possibly a standard American diet which is full of unhealthy choices.  If there was a study available that took into account (and controlled for) other health risks I would be very interested to see the results.

For instance, many people who choose vegan or vegetarianism are health conscious and typically don’t smoke or drink in excess. They are also more likely to eat more vegetables and stay away from sugar. If the meat eating group in the study were a group of health conscious, non smoking people too and especially if they chose only organic, grass fed animal products, I would highly doubt there would be any correlation between veganism and better health.

Conventional animal products are NOT healthy and DO cause health problems. Pastured animal products, on the other hand, are very healthy. Grass fed beef is ½ to 1/3 as fatty as grain fed beef. Additionally, grass fed beef provides two to six times as much healthy omega 3 fatty acids as conventional beef. Omega 3’s are an essential part of a healthy lifestyle, including lowering the risk of heart disease by as much as 50%!

Eggs from pastured chickens can contain as much as 20 times the amount of omega 3’s as conventional eggs. Source

Yes, you can supplements to make up for the lack of omega 3’s but I prefer to get as much of my nutrition from food before resorting to supplements.

What is very concerning to me about a vegan diet is the huge amount of processed soy products that many vegans rely on for protein. Soy is incredibly unhealthy. Soy can cause infertility, malabsorption of nutrients, and digestive and gut problems among other things. Eating soy increases your bodies need for vitamins and nutrients including vitamin B12, something non meat eaters are often deficient in.

Also, there are other food products out there that are vegan but definitely NOT healthy. Here’s a list of just a few of the junk food that is vegan. Therefore, vegan is not synonymous with healthy. Neither is non-vegan for that matter. The important thing is to eat real food in as natural a state as possible for the best health benefits.

Reason to be vegan # 2 It’s wrong to eat animals or animal products. It’s wrong that any animal should suffer to feed me. It’s wrong that an animals life is not it’s own.

Why I disagree: I DO agree that it’s not healthy or ethical to eat conventional animal products. But I also believe that we can be ethical meat, egg and dairy consumers.

We need to remember though, that many living creatures die everyday for the production of grain or vegetables. Plowing kills moles, mice, snakes, lizards, etc. and turning any piece of land into cropland destroys the home and food supply of many other animals. Not to mention the animal and human lives that are affected by chemical fertilizers and pesticides that threaten biodiversity. The point is, again, to avoid conventional food in favor of ethically grown and raised food.

I believe ethically raised animals lives are their own. My chickens are fed and kept safe in our yard. If it weren’t for our chicken coop and run most of them would be dead. That is just the nature of an animal so low on the food chain. Their lives are fast. They turn into food for foxes and other predators. I believe they are happy.

As for their eggs, many animals take eggs from birds. If we weren’t taking them then someone else would (mice? raccoons?). Nature is perfect and works on such an intricate level that most of us are totally unaware of the interworking of plants, animals and earth in an ecosystem. Hens lay about one egg a day yet have no interest in hatching them most of the time. Why would Mother Nature have hens lay so many wasted eggs if they weren’t meant to be food for others?

Reason to be vegan # 3 It’s more sustainable. It takes 15 lbs of grain to grow 1 lb of beef. Therefore, Land is better used to grow grains directly for humans.

Why I disagree: Again, I believe we can be ethical animal product consumers. That means supporting renewable agriculture. We should all avoid conventional animal products for health and environment reasons.

Firstly, I don’t recommend eating grain fed beef. Grain fed cattle often need antibiotics just to survive their unnatural diet. Grain feeding also increases bad fat content and decreases the good. Source

The grains that are grown to feed cattle are largely GMO corn and soy, which are grown in an unsustainable way. Therefore, it doesn’t really matter if the grains go to humans or animals, the practice is unsustainable already. As Dawn Gifford at Small Footprint Family writes:

“But here’s where the vegetarian argument ends: Whether you feed the corn to livestock or people doesn’t matter. A conventionally farmed corn or soybean field is a major source of greenhouse gases, air and water pollution either way. But a permanent pasture is a biodiverse, ever-cycling pump that continuously pushes carbon back into the soil where it increases fertility and builds topsoil.” Read more

Choosing a vegetarian or vegan diet over a diet full of conventional meat, dairy and eggs may be more sustainable but a diet made up of sustainably raised animal products and sustainably grown grains, veggies and fruits is just as, if not more, sustainable.

My dietary choice

I eat meat and eggs. I don’t eat dairy only because I’m allergic. We have chickens that are given organic feed and let out to forage as often as possible. I buy grassfed beef and natural or organic chicken depending on how much I have to spend that week. I also incorporate many real food vegetarian and vegan dishes into our meals. It’s tough because we have to avoid gluten too. Do you know how hard it is to find dairy and gluten free recipes that don’t include soy cheese or other nasty ingredients?

It’s not perfect but we do what we can to choose healthy, whole foods that are sustainably grown and raised while sticking to a budget.

The bottom line is that we all need to be informed about where our food comes from and make decision that are best for our families.

Do you eat animal products? Why or why not?

This post is shared at The Homestead Barn Hop

Steps to Simplicity: How to Enjoy Things Without Owning Them

 How to Enjoy Things Without Owning Them

Do you enjoy going to art museums? I do. I studied some art in college including a semester in London where every other class was spent at the Tate Modern.

(How lucky was I?)

Recently I realized something, though. I can use what I’ve learned about analyzing art to live a simpler life.

Let me explain…

When we go to a museum we are spending time admiring artwork in the moment. Owning a priceless piece of artwork is not within our reach so we enjoy it without owning it. We can feel how it makes us feel and appreciate the beauty of the artwork without wanting to take it home.

Why couldn’t we do that in other places?

Retail stores are designed to make us want to buy stuff (obviously or they wouldn’t last long).

When we see something we like in a store, along with the price tag there is a promise that by buying this item we will be able to recreate that same initial enjoyment every time we see it, wear it or use it, and conversely, without buying the item we will be without that joy. The truth is that most things that are bought on impulse turn into clutter.

As I’m writing this I can see a pencil (like these ones) that I bought many years ago just because it looked “cool”. Have I ever actually used it? Maybe once or twice—probably out of obligation. This pencil hasn’t provided me any joy over the years that I’ve owned it (maybe it’s time to get rid of the thing?), yet I bought it for that very reason.

So instead of adding to my life or creating joy, it is simply clutter, taking up space in my pencil holder.

If this pencil were beautiful and I enjoyed looking at it everyday then I would consider it a good purchase even though it’s not functional, but I don’t think it’s particularly interesting or beautiful anymore.

If I had treated this pencil like I do a painting in a museum I could have walked away without buying it yet I would have still enjoyed it’s beauty.

Thinking about items as pieces of art to be admired turns out to be a great way to avoid impulse purchases that just turn to clutter. By focusing on admiring an item we can stop focusing on whether or not to buy it. We can learn to enjoy things without owning them!

When I see something I like, I ask myself these questions:

What is my initial reaction to it?

What do I like or dislike about it (color, shape, etc)?

How does it make me feel?

How did the artist (fashion designer, pencil maker, etc.) use color, lines, and texture in interesting ways?

Instead of this question:

Should I buy it?

In what ways have you learned to enjoy things without owning them?

 

 

How to Homestead Without Buying Property

How to Homestead Without Owning Property

With the housing crash of 2008 and the current unpredictable job market, not all of us have the ability or desire to own property.

But, just because you don’t own 20 acres (or any acres at all) doesn’t mean you can’t homestead. As they say, homesteading is a state of mind, not a place.

Your homestead could be an old school bus, a high-rise apartment in the city, a rented suburban home or a 50 acre farm.

The important thing is to be content with where you are right now. You need to create the life you want right now instead of waiting for some future that may not happen.

After all, homesteading is about returning to our roots, making do with what we have, and leading a simple, yet full and rich life.

We started our homesteading adventures when we lived in a two bedroom apartment. We now live in a house on 20+ wooded acres, but guess what? We don’t own it! And we probably won’t be homeowners for quite some time.

There are many ways to have a homesteader’s heart without owning your own home. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

Simplify Your Life

Par down. Get organized. Stop the influx of stuff and embrace a lifestyle of production instead of consumption.

Start a Garden

Whether that means a container garden on your balcony, growing veggies in your flowerbeds or joining a community garden, you can almost always find a way to grow a few veggies.

Buy Locally

If you can’t garden, consider joining a CSA or buy your veggies from local farmers. You can find farmer’s markets at localharvest.org.

Raise Easy Animals

If you don’t have a lot of space or are just reluctant to invest in outbuilding that you may have to leave behind someday, you can still have animals.

Chickens are a favorite for backyard homesteaders and are becoming more and more common in suburban and rural areas alike. They are relatively easy to care for and provide fresh eggs that easily outshine grocery store eggs. We chose to build our chicken coop small enough that it could fit on the back of a pickup truck if we had to move it.

Other animals to consider are bees, rabbits, compost worms, or fish.

Find Ways to Reduce Your Waste

Composting, recycling, upcycling, or refusing are great ways to reduce waste. Use glass instead of paper, real dishes instead of plastic, dish rags instead of paper towels, etc.

Make Your Own Cleaning Supplies

I haven’t bought household cleaning supplies beside dish soap in a really long time. I make my own natural cleaning supplies and they work great, are super cheap and are not full of yucky chemicals.

If you sign up for my email updates you can get my free eBook, which has all of my recipes in it. You don’t have to of course, but I’d love it if you did ;)

Make Your Own Body Care Supplies

To save money and avoid nasty chemicals I make my own deodorant, bug spray, insect bite itch relief, leave-in conditioner and face wash.

Hang Dry Your Clothes

If you have access to a clothesline or space to put one up, use it! It saves a lot of energy and there’s nothing like sun dried sheets!

If you aren’t lucky enough to have a clothesline, simply hang your clothes on a drying rack. I have spent many a sunny day hanging cloth diapers on a drying rack on my deck!

Learn to Cook

Learn how to make your own cheese, butter, yogurt, kefir, salsa, soup, chili, etc.

Not only is homemade food healthier, it’s tastier and cheaper too. Learning to bake your own bread or make granola bars can free up some cash to invest in other homesteading projects or to put away for your dream homestead.

Learn to Can and Preserve

Food canning and preservation is a huge part of homesteading. Whether it’s a surplus of veggies from your own garden or a great deal on pallets of fruit from a local farm, a good homesteader doesn’t let anything go to waste.

I typically freeze everything because I don’t know how to can (yet!) and am still new at drying. It’s a wonderful feeling to look in your freezer in February and be able to pull out a bag of blueberries that did not cost you an off-season price.

Learn Other Skills

Learn to sew, use tools, fix an engine, knit, make soap, etc. All of these skills can be very valuable on a homestead and if you ever do buy a large farm, wouldn’t it be nice to already know how to do them?

This list barely scratches the surface of all of the ways you can homestead while renting. What are some of your homesteading challenges and how do you “make it work”?