Monday, September 30, 2013

Carnival of Natural Mothering: what 'natural birth' means to me

Welcome to the October 2013 Carnival of Natural Mothering! This article is part of the Carnival of Natural Mothering hosted by GrowingSlowerEvery Breath I TakeI Thought I Knew MamaAfrican Babies Don't Cry, and Adventures of Captain Destructo. This month's topic is Natural Birth Choices. Be sure to check out all of the participants' posts through the links at the bottom of this page.

When I hear the term 'natural birth', I think of a woman giving birth without unnecessary medical intervention. I think of a mother going into labor on her own, progressing on her own, and delivering the baby using only her body and the emotional support of those around her. I think of the body doing what it was designed to do, on its own terms, in its own time. 

From the beginning of my pregnancy, I knew I wanted to have a 'natural birth.' My mom did with me. My older sister did. And I just knew that I could too, and that I would. I don't know how to describe it really, but for me there just wasn't another option. I didn't even consider the idea of getting an epidural, and I thought about a c-section with dread. I knew it wouldn't be the end of the world, and I was thankful the option existed in case of an emergency. But man, the thought of it scared me.  

If I were to list out the specific reasons why I wanted to give birth naturally, it would look like this:

1. because breastfeeding was very important to me, and avoiding pain medication results in baby being born more alert and active.
2. because the idea of getting an epidural was scarier than the idea of not getting one (that needle. a catheter  scary stuff to me!)
3. because I wanted to avoid a c-section at all costs, unless it was truly a medical emergency
4. but most of all, because I wanted to see if I could do it. I wanted to feel the contractions, to feel my baby moving down the birth canal and closer to being in my arms. I wanted to know how bad it really was. And no matter how bad it was, I wanted to conquer it.

When I think of my own experience giving birth, I feel so very blessed. I truly cannot look back and say that I would change a single thing. In the end, it was both harder and easier that I thought it would be. It wasn't as painful as I imagined it to be, I never once thought that I wanted an epidural, or anything to relieve the pain. But it was emotionally harder than I realized it would be.

It was the beginning of labor that was hardest for me, since my contractions were very strong and close together from the very beginning, and since my sister had labored for over 24 hours with each of her kids, I just thought I would too. I didn't handle the contractions very well because I didn't imagine how they could get worse. But once I realized that I had to stop worrying and just be in the moment, my experience changed immediately. 

I felt my body doing what it was meant to do, and it felt good. I felt empowered, and it gave me the strength to continue on and reach my goal of giving birth naturally. You can read my complete story here. I found that reading natural birth stories and watching videos was very inspiring during my pregnancy and I encourage any pregnant woman reading this to do the same. Read about the experiences of other women and feel empowered through their success stories. Watch videos of natural births. Trust your body. And after all is said and done, even if your birth doesn't go how you envisioned it, accept your experience, learn from it and be proud of whatever you were able to accomplish. 

Bloggers, visit GrowingSlower to sign up to be a part of next month's carnival.

We hope you enjoy visiting all of the posts in the Carnival!
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yummy chia pudding

It's Monday again, always (for us at least) a day spend getting back to our weekly rhythms and doing chores, which sadly allows no time for blogging. Luckily I already had the pictures ready for this post so I'm squeezing a little bit of computer time while Riggs should be napping (he's playing in his crib, such a lovely trick...not) to type up this post before getting back to work. 

And there's plenty of work, believe me. The coop is done and the girls have been moved into their new home (stayed tuned for a coop post coming soon) which is great, but also means I have lots of cleaning to do in the dog house and run that we had been using as a temporary coop. 

But anyway, back to today's post: pudding! I don't know about you, but I've always loved pudding, especially in fall and winter. There's just something so good about it. Smooth and creamy, or with a little texture (think tapioca) I pretty much love all pudding. Unless it has raisins, that is; no nasty raisins in my bread pudding, please. 

I found this recipe in the January/February 2013 issue of Natural Health Magazine, and finally got around to making it last week. It is soooo good. And it pairs well with just about any type of fruit you have lying around. And toddlers love it, or at least mine does. Such a healthy 'treat' to serve up for the whole family!

Here's the recipe:

Banana Coconut Chia Pudding
2 cups milk (I used whole but the recipe called for skim)
4 TBS whole chia seeds
1 medium banana, mashed
1/2 unsweetened shredded coconut (I'm sure sweetend would work just fine if that's what you have)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 TBS maple syrup (recipe called for agave, but here's why I don't use it. Agave is sweeter than other sugars though, so you might want a little more than 1 TBS if you like things a little sweeter. It was plenty sweet for us with just 1 TBS of maple syrup)
pinch of cinnamon

1. Place milk and chia seeds in a saucepan over medium heat and bring to a low simmer, stirring occasionally with a whisk. This took about 5 minutes for me.

2. In the mean time, mash the banana.

3. When the mixture begins to thicken (took about 2 extra minutes for me), whisk in remaining ingredients and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Divide mixture into 4 small serving dishes and cool in refrigerator until firm, at least 1 hour.

5. Garnish with berries and serve. Yum!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

DIY Orange Peel Vinegar Coop Cleaner

With our new coop nearly done (stay tuned for a big post on the new coop, coming soon) I've been getting everything ready for moving the girls into their new home. One thing that's essential for having happy, healthy chickens is a clean coop.

We use all natural cleaners around the house, so why should the coop be any different? My favorite chicken-resource blog, Fresh Eggs Daily (LOVE this site), had a lovely and easy 'recipe' for a natural coop cleaner and I finally got around to making a few jars of it today.

I wish I would have made it sooner since it needs to sit and 'age' in the pantry for at least a month before it's ready to use. Oh well!

Even if you don't have chickens and a coop to clean, this spray works great around the house too!

Orange Peel Vinegar Coop Cleaner

four oranges
3 long cinnamon sticks or 6 short ones
2 long vanilla beans (need to be long enough to cut into thirds)
gallon of white vinegar
jars for canning
spray bottle (for when it's finished 'aging')

peel the oranges and disperse the peels evenly between the jars

break the cinnamon sticks in half (if needed) and place two pieces in each jar

slit the vanilla beans, cut in thirds and disperse evenly between the jars

fill jars with vinegar
seal jars
let age for about a month
open and enjoy!

*cinnamon and vanilla can be reused at least once for next batch

Super easy and I'm sure it will smell amazing when it's done! I think you could also use cheap vodka and it would smell even better since there wouldn't be any vinegar smell lingering. Lisa (from Fresh Eggs Daily) mentioned that she uses vodka in her other coop refreshing spray - here.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

fall craft: dried leaf garland

Riggs and I always go for a walk first thing in the morning. Never do I enjoy it more than in the fall, when it's still quite cold and frosty outside and the grass crunches under our feet. I love to look around and see all the different changes, each day there is more variety in colors with much less green and much more yellow and red.

I search for 'perfect' fall leaves, basically any that stand out and stir something wonderful inside me. It's been very special to share my leaf hunt with Riggs, who is very interested in looking around outside and touching everything that seems interesting. I make sure not to show him my most favorite leaves, however, since he's not too gentle when he picks them and they often end up torn in half and then thrown to the ground with a spirited 'Uh-oh', when he sees they've been ripped. 

Last week I gathered a few of my most favorite leaves during a morning walk, and I brought them in to dry and press. I love to decorate the house with subtle little signs of the season, especially during fall and winter, and I thought a dried leaf garland would look especially in the kitchen window. 

lovely colorful leaves with the stems still in tact (as many as you think you'll need)
a few sheets of paper towel
thick, heavy books
yarn or twine
patience while they're being pressed

1. go on a walk and gather leaves that speak to you in some way or another
2. bring them in and gently pat them dry
3. carefully tear or cut the paper towel sheets to match the size of your leaves
4. sandwhich them gently between two pieces of paper towel
5. place in the pages of a very thick book
6. set somewhere where they won't be disturbed (or put in the oven)
7. after a few days, gently check to see that they've completely dried and pressed. If they're ready, carefully tie the twine or yarn around their stems in even increments. 
8. hang somewhere in your home and enjoy :)

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Featured on Hand and the Heart blog today!

Last week my friend Andrea from Hand and the Heart blog asked me to answer a few questions for a feature post she was working on. I was more than happy to oblige and excited to be invited to visit her space! 

Today her post went live, and I'm telling you, you need to click over to her blog and get acquainted with five other lovely ladies she featured! Great way to 'meet' new bloggers and to find amazing, long-distance friends :)

Hand and the Heart

crochet pattern for chicken saddle/apron/sweater

Have you ever heard of a hen saddle or a chicken apron? If not you will learn all about them today! 

There are multiple reasons why a chicken will have missing feathers, from molting to over-mating to mites to pecking. Often times one problem will lead to another, which is the case for my poor girl, Clucky. She was 'thrown in' for free when I purchased my other three chickens - and let me mention here that I made a rookie mistake when I picked them all up. I let myself be bullied into buying them even though they weren't what they had been advertised as by the seller.

When I arrived at the seller's house, I realized that her chickens weren't pets at all and that they had definitely never free-ranged (something the seller had told me they were used to when I mentioned to them over the phone that that's the kind of chickens I was interested in). About 20 chickens were stuffed into a barn stall that had been (poorly) adapted as a chicken 'coop'. As I said, my mistake is that I didn't have to buy the four chickens I had come with the intention of purchasing. But I felt all weird and pressured and awkward and handed over my money anyway, despite not feeling the best about the situation.

I had been under the impression that I was purchasing two laying hens (the two Buff Orpingtons) and two pullets (the Black Austrolorps). The seller said she decided to give me Clucky for free since she was older and might stop laying soon (probably also because she's not even a full Buff, she's some sort of mix). She also mentioned that the two Buffs were 'molting', which isn't the biggest deal, except that most chickens don't lay when they're molting. So I wasn't getting two laying hens at all. I mean yes, they would eventually start laying again, but the pullets would probably lay before them, which completely defeated the purpose of purchasing older, 'laying' hens. 

Anyway, I could go on about that whole situation, but the reason I mentioned all of this in the first place is because while both Buffs did show evidence of molting, they both also showed evidence of over-mating. Since I've had them I've increased their protein intake to help them grow their feathers back faster and Duchess has nearly grown all of hers back in. But poor Clucky hasn't been able to, because she's at the bottom of the pecking order (literally). 

Luckily, there's a simple way to protect the raw skin from pecking so that the new feathers have a chance to grow in - a chicken saddle! There are many different 'designs' for chicken saddles/aprons, but they all pretty much boil down to the same thing: a piece of fabric covering the raw skin held on by loops around each wing.

First you need to measure your chicken to make the right size saddle for them. Clucky is on the small size so it was especially important to measure her instead of going with general measurements based on breed. 

First measure from wing to wing to get the width in inches you need to cover with your saddle. The fabric needs to tuck under the wing at least an inch to be held down correctly. As you can see Clucky's saddle needed to be about 6" wide.

Next measure from the base of your chickens neck to the base of their tail feathers. Clucky's saddle needed to be about 7" long.

You can adjust the size of your apron based on what parts of the back need protection. Clucky is missing feathers all the way down to the base of her tail feathers so her saddle needed to be as long as possible.


You will need about half a skien of worsted weight yarn. Wool is best, with cotton as the next best option. (I wouldn't recommend using red yarn since chickens are attracted to red things and like to peck them...sort of defeats the purpose ha)

Size 'I' crochet hook

yarn needle (for weaving in your ends)

an hour (at the most) to snuggle in and get to work!


*based on Clucky's measurement and my personal gauge - after you chain 26 you can measure it and see if it will be wide enough for your chicken

// Chain 26, turn and hdc (half double crochet) in original 25 scs. 
// CH (chain) 1, turn and hdc in previous 25 stitches.
// Continue until you've reached 90% of your desired length.
// Decrease by one hdc on the end of each row for the last 10%, an inch at the most (as you can see from my picture, I decreased earlier, but it ended up not being wide enough to stay put so I had to go back and fix it).
// On your last row, continue past edge to chain 20 and join to other side using a slip stitch. 

// Slip stitch through next 5 st (back down the body of the saddle), chain 30 (making another loop), and sl st in last 5 stitches. 
// sl st around the rest of the saddle to make a more uniform edge (this step is optional - it is only a chicken garment, after all).
// Fasten off, and weave in tails.

*obviously, I am not a professional pattern writer. I apologize profusely for the pure badness of this pattern. Luckily, this should be a really, really easy project and should be easy to figure out once you get going and from looking at my pictures. If you have questions don't hesitate to include them in the comment section and I'll answer as soon as I can! 

To put on:
20 st loop goes around the neck/chest
30 st loop, gently pull wings up through it, one at a time, so that it can rest under the wings to be held in place. Loop should rest around the chest. They shouldn't be too tight, make sure you can easily slip two fingers inbetween the loops and your chickens chest.

Clucky sort of hopped around and pecked at the saddle for a few minutes, then seemed to forget about it completely. When you bird hops and runs around, the saddle can get out of place, but after a day or two it should settle down where it belongs. Also, they should be able to go about all their normal activities...Clucky was in her dust bath about an hour after I put the saddle on her.

Let me know if you have any questions and any additional feedback (help with the pattern lingo, please?!) would be greatly appreciated!

Linked up with Nicole at Frontier Dreams for Keep Calm, Craft On {crafting on}.

Monday, September 23, 2013

second day of fall or first day of winter?

Yesterday was the first day of fall, and apparently today was the first day of winter! We woke up to snow, coming down in big wet flakes blanketing the trees with their poor leaves still on and causing the branches to sag with the weight.

My first thought when I saw the snow was excitement over seeing how Riggs would react to it. As soon as I heard little sounds coming from his room, I burst in (probably way too happy and excited for that early in the morning, poor boy) and nabbed him from his crib, hurriedly stuffing him into his vest, hat, mittens and boots and carrying him outside with me to see the snow.

He was baffled at first and looked around him with a very skeptical look on his face. But he quickly warmed up to it and was smiling and reaching for the flakes in no time at all. Luckily I was able to catch it all on video, and I've watched it a few times because it's just too cute.

I hope all you non-Alaskan's are enjoying your first week of fall, with it's beautiful colors, crisp air and that lovely fall smell that seems to seep from the trees and the ground this time of year. The snow is just starting to taper off here, and thought there's about an inch accumulated in some areas around the yard, I'm sure it will melt by this evening and we'll be back to fall by tomorrow. Happy Monday!