Monday, May 23, 2011

Out With the Old

I have been sewing a lot lately, Rowen needed some new diapers, and wetbags to replace some that were wearing out. (None of the handmade diapers are wearing out, we inherited a set of used prefolds from my best friend. They were well used when we got them, and we've put quite a few more miles on them since.)
This is round three for the diaper supplies, and I've changed some things from the original set. Most of the modifications have been with the design of the wetbags. I've made them bigger, my very first bag was something like 12x14" and these last two bags have been 13x19". I've also changed the zippers that I use. Instead of the really common (and pretty colored) polyester zippers, I am using the molded zippers. The teeth are bigger and tougher, which is good for the heavy duty use these bags get. We had problems with the polyester zippers wearing out before the rest of the wet bag. The molded zippers don't come in as many colors, but it's worth it for the increased durability. I've gone from two velcro hanging loops to just one. We never used both velcro loops, we always hung the bags with just one, so why waste the velcro. I've also stopped putting in the scrap of terry cloth that some people use to put essential oil on. Again, we never found a need to do that, so I just don't waste my time putting it in.
In terms of construction, I've changed how I put the layers together. I have two layers in my wetbags, one of the PUL material, and one of a cute outer print, usually cotton. (Some wetbags use a cute polyester material that has the PUL laminate on the backsisde already, I'm not that fancy.) I used to sew the two layers together at all the seams, thinking that would make them sturdier. Sturdier indeed, but it was also a direct pathway for seepage through to the cotton outside, which is not desirable. So, now I sew the two separately, joining them only at the top where they both meet the zipper. This limits the seepage through, it also allows the inner lining to totally flip out if needed for cleaning/drying.Don't be fooled by the weird perspective here, the wetbags are rectangular, this one just looks smaller at the bottom in this picture.
Future modifications, should there be a round 4: Dave has requested that the zipper open around one of the top corners. Sometimes, having a wider opening to get the dirties out would improve the laundry experience. With the old zippers I could match the size pretty closely, so this wasn't an option, with the new zippers, I am more limited in my sizes and so the zippers I chose are bigger than the top of the bag warrants. With all that extra zipper hanging out in the top corner, Dave thought it might be possible. (It is, I'll just need to figure out how to best arrange the seams.)

Other changes, include a lessening of the inner layer on the prefolds. Instead of 3 or 4 layers of terry cloth for the soaker layer, now I just use 2. I also felt more comfortable switching up the outer fabric, and I did a knit for a couple of the diapers, (teal and green) and a velour with a printed design on it for the others (blue Ooga Booga.) It's a little cuter than the plain, off white, velour. (Everyone knows cuter is better.) I still use the plain velour on the layer that's closest to Rowen's bottom, just to make sun bleaching easy.
Another recently complete project - a nice carry bag for traveling with a bit of sewing. I was going on a long work trip and I wanted a way to take my kniting and a small bit of handsewing. This fabric was one of those impulse buys, and I didn't have a plan for it, so I took the whole cut, (probably a half a yard) and folded it until I had a nice shape. A few quick seams, then a quick bit of yarn for a drawstring, and Voila! I love quick projects.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Storms and lessons learned

This past week hubby and I went to an adults only, burning man inspired, regional burn, (Interfuse).
This is not a post about drunken escapades or drug induced visions of utopia. (I say that because I have relatives who think that's the only thing we do at these events. Hi Grandma!) This is a post about lessons learned from an extended outdoor - no vending - no cabins - camping experience.

To set the stage for this tale, let's start at the beginning. We got to the campgrounds Weds afternoon. Immediately we realized the bag with the hand tools didn't get into the car. So, no mallet for the stakes, and no hatchet. We were coming in from out of state, so we didn't pack wood, our plan was to buy it once we got close to our destination. This didn't turn out as planned, either it was too early in the season or we were looking in the wrong places. So, we had no wood. (With no hand ax, it's probably best we didn't waste money on it.) Now, some of you are probably surprised we didn't turn around at this point and try again another weekend, but that's not how these events work. It's very communal. Both Dave and I were doing multiple volunteer shifts, so we knew we could easily skim wood from those. Also, at it's heart, the event is a burn, there's always lots of fires and lots of wood. We figured we could find a neighbor with fire and do our cooking with them, when we weren't being fed from the volunteer kitchen.
So, weds evening we were both fed from the volunteer kitchen, we got our camp set up and enjoyed a bit of sunlight and a pleasant evening. Thursday was the first official day of the event, and again we both had volunteer shifts, welcoming the new arrivals and making sure that infrastructure was in place to make the event go smoothly. We had cold breakfast, but a warm lunch from the volunteer kitchen and we scavenged wood to make a tasty taco dinner. Thursday evening started with some showers and drizzle, we cleaned up dinner, put out the fire and started to prep for an evening full of old friends and new friends and music and art. Most years the evening entertainment is best observed in wild skimpy outfits, (preferably homemade,) and cold beer in hand. As it was already cold and drizzly, we both opted instead for street clothes and jackets. We did get in some visiting and watched some fire spinners before things really got crazy.
We were halfway around the campground inner circle and the drizzle was picking up, so we cut across the burn space and started to head to our tent, thinking we'd take a break and evaluate whether we wanted to call an early night or find a cozy dome to party in for a little while longer. (Dome refers to the geodesic domes that are common at these types of events.) The decision was made for us when the storm slammed into the campground. We were still a ways away from our tent, but close enough that we kept to that heading instead of branching off to one of the more stable structures. We were both soaked in a couple of seconds. Still calm though, it was just a little wind and rain, right? We were almost to the tent when the worst hit. Crazy wind, almost knocked us off our feet. We were close enough to watch the wind snap poles on the carport that I had help erect for the gate greeters. These were not tent poles, these were aluminum poles a couple inches in diameter, with welded joints, fully staked down with ropes tied to rebar that had been pounded into the ground. The wind then picked up the fire, out of the burn barrel that was stationed at that greeter station, and sent the flaming wood and embers down the road, and straight towards Dave and I!! We turned our backs just in time and luckily escaped injury. We were less than a dozen yards from our tent then and we picked up the pace, passing by our neighbors who were desperately trying to keep their campsite together. We got back to our camp, we could barely see for the rain and wind, we grabbed our camp chairs and went to the tent, to find it had partially collapsed.
Of course, I had left my flashlight and headlamp in the tent, (I didn't want to get them wet) but Dave had his. So, I secured the camp chairs, while Dave went to look at the tent. After stowing them in a corner where they could drip safely, I went to help Dave. Basically, the side that was getting the brunt of the wind had collapsed. (In retrospect, after seeing the damage done to the carport, perhaps collapse was a better thing to do than breaking.) Dave took the lead, and re-staked things while I lent my weight to the lines to try and keep the walls upright while he staked. Teamwork prevailed and the tent was re-staked and held against the wind.
We then spent the next hour holding that side of the tent (from the inside) during strong gusts while simultaneously getting dry and warm and sopping up the puddles as best we could. We sleep on an air mattress, so most of the bedding stayed dry, except where leaks dripped down from the top of the tent. Those were easily dealt with, and we went to bed when the storm calmed, listening to the rain and wind, and relieved to have survived unscathed.
We woke the next morning, with new trouble. Most of our warm gear was soaking wet. We hung up everything in the eaves of the pop-up and put on layers of whatever was dry. Thankfully we had known the chance for rain was high and had packed 4 jackets between the two of us. It was barely adequate though and we resorted to draping our blankets over our shoulders to visit friends. We did make it through the day, although we lost a few of our neighbors who hadn't made it through the storm as well as we did. (Our corner got a lot of the wind as we were at the top of a hill with fewer trees between us and the storm due to the parking lot.) There were others who had to abandon their tents, and got adopted into other camps, because that's how burners roll.
The rest of the event passed without incident. Our soaked jackets eventually dried and we were nice and toasty warm for the effigy burn.

Lessons learned:
-Don't leave all the packing to someone who is also wrangling a 2 year old. This is not to put blame on Dave, this is to say that it's too much to ask of someone, especially when it all has to fit in a tiny car and demands a few repacks to get it all to fit. Another pair of hands and another pair of eyes would probably have caught things like the hand tools.
-Stake down everything. We would have been a lot worse off if we hadn't taken the time to stake down our tent, our rainflap and our pop-up. The carport that collapsed at the gate would have been a bigger disaster if we hadn't secured it to rebar stakes.
- Bring more blankets than you think you'll need.
- Be cautious of fires during a really windy storm. Even if the fire is a dozen yards away.
- Know your gear. Can you put it up in the dark? In the wind? With rain in your eyes? :-D Is your tent better in summer or does it work best in blustery spring and fall? We have a tent that's great in summer, but it leaks a little in heavy rain and doesn't hold in enough heat when it's cold out. We work around those things with layers and blankets and the air mattress to keep us out of drip puddles.
-Know who you're camping with. We would have been a lot more miserable, (and home early) if we hadn't been camping with a group of people who consider us family. Whether it was fire, wood, beer or a warm place to hangout for a few hours, it was awesome to know that our burner family had our back.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Spring Planting

Well, spring continues it's warm and welcome march. We've had a windy and stormy one so far. Thankfully the hardneck garlic that is a foot tall can handle the abuse. The onions are hanging in there, as are the cabbages and lettuces. Peas are up, and would be doing better if we could get some rain. There's lots of rain forecasted for this weekend, so hopefully they'll take advantage of that.
I've been planting seeds, as often as I can. Most of the beans are in, my usual mix of Empress and Purple Podded bush beans. I also have a lot of Runner beans planted, in an effort to tempt pollinators into my garden, and shade some weeds out of a trouble spot.
Potatoes are in the ground and hopefully going to sprout soon. (If I didn't kill them by putting them in too early.)
I have parsnips, beets, bok choi, radishes and swiss chard planted as well.
The tomatoes and peppers are still happy in the greenhouse. They won't go out for another couple of weeks.
I don't do all my planting at once. I never have the time for it. So, I'll plant one or two things a day, and somehow it all still gets done. I make sure I'm working in order of cold tolerance, so I spend the blustery early days planting peas, and then when things warm up I choose according to season length. (Things that need every last day of our short season get priority over those that only need half the season.) Sometimes I'm better at this than others, but that's my general plan every year.

Jess mentioned in a previous post how much she enjoyed my winter storage experiment, and how nice it will be to see it from the beginning. There is a lot of truth to that statement. Winter storage planning does start now with these small seeds. Really, it started last fall. I planted my hardneck garlics last October, and that's what I'll eat this winter. I do keep my storage numbers in mind when I'm planning the year's garden. I know, for example, that I want at least 50 garlic heads to get me through the year. I can't physically grow that many, but I easily have the room for 2 rows of 15, which gives me 3/5ths of my yearly garlic needs, from my front lawn. Leaving only 20 that I'll need to buy from a local farmer. Knowing that number makes it easy for me to buy all at once, when the price is right, instead of 1 or 2 at a time every week. To continue the example, I know that I have some jars of tomatoes left, but no jars of green beans. So, this spring I'm devoting more space to green beans and a little less to tomato vines. I always end up buying a bunch of tomatoes anyway to do things like sauce and maybe this way I won't have to buy any green beans. (And maybe my potatoes are dead and I can plant tomatoes in that spot! hahaha) Parsnips handled winter so well that of course I have another row of those planted in the garden. Beets though I'm pretty sure I won't store, I just want some for variety, so those are in a container, where I'll (hopefully) remember to harvest them nice and small and tasty.

You can certainly get by with just throwing seeds in the ground, and if you're just starting your garden adventure, there's no better place to start. But, if you want the most bang for your buck, and return on your time, put some thought into how you want to use the veggies, when, and in what amounts. :-)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011


Hard to believe this is the 200th post.
To celebrate, this post will be a rundown of the hippy causes, celebrations and events that I'm looking forward to this year.

I'm excited to report that Sharon is reviving the Riot for Austerity. Older readers will perhaps remember my posts with monthly updates on our family's austerity measures. (A search of the tag "Riot 4 Austerity" will bring them up if you're curious.) Here's Sharon on the start of the movement and a bit of the why behind it.

Almost exactly four years ago, my friend Miranda Edel and I were discussing the recent IPCC report on Climate Change and George Monbiot's book _Heat_ and the reactions that we got when we talked about about the sheer depth of the reductions in climate emissions that would be needed to stabilize the climate. Whenever we began to discuss emissions reductions on the order of 80 or 90% the universal reaction we got was that it was impossible - impossible to imagine living in the developed world on so much less. So impossible there was no point in even discussing or imagining it.

Miranda and I disagreed. We felt that this critical inability to conceive of what was necessary was something that we had to - and have to - overcome. Both of us were aware of material limits on a renewable energy build out, and the time frame for such a transition, and we knew that the evidence at the time increasingly suggested that we had to make our changes sooner than we could possibly imagine such an energy transition. Moreover, both of us looked at this through the lens of energy and resource depletion as well as climate change, recognizing that there were forces driving us towards a life with less whether we like it or not.

Someone, we agreed, had to take the very first steps to conquering the underlying doubt that we can change. Someone had to do the basic work of establishing a vision of a life in the Global North that doesn't include conspicuous consumption of energy. More importantly even, as long as we felt that our response to climate change and energy depletion had to wait on policy measures - to wait for the high speed rail lines and superinsulated new homes, to wait for carbon credits or whatever, we would not act. We needed to find a way to show that you can act right now - and make not a little tiny difference by carrying your cloth bag, but a big and measurable one - a change that nobody else thought was possible.

We stole from George Monbiot the wonderful line "Nobody ever rioted for austerity!" He was right - no population in human history has marched and demonstrated to have less. We figured we'd be the first.

Miranda and I set out to document our project and spend a year reducing our energy consumption by 90% over the average American's. What we didn't expect was that first dozens, then hundreds, and by the end, several thousand people joined us. We had expected to struggle. We hadn't expected to find community, and most of all, to have fun.
It's not yet up and running, there's talk of moving the group from the original Yahoo-group to something like a Facebook group. And of course, I'm still talking with my darling husband about how far we'd like to participate and what our personal goals will be. Watch for more updates, I'm excited!

World Naked Gardening Day is once again happening. This is year 6! May 14th, 2011.
Why garden naked? First of all, it's fun! Second only to swimming, gardening is at the top of the list of family-friendly activities people are most ready to consider doing nude. Moreover, our culture needs to move toward a healthy sense of both body acceptance and our relation to the natural environment. Gardening naked is not only a simple joy, it reminds us--even if only for those few sunkissed minutes--that we can be honest with who we are as humans and as part of this planet.

I'll be participating, but sadly not in my own garden. My garden is in the front lawn, on a semi-busy corner quite close to a catholic church and school. :-D :-D So, I'm sure I'd get a visit from the sheriff if i tried. Very unfortunate, but there's reality for you. So, I'll be participating, while at one of my other favorite celebrations, Interfuse!

Interfuse will be happening from May 12-14th, with Dave and I volunteering to help with the setup before hand, making it a really loong weekend of burner fun. 800+ burners, hippies and circus folk. With principles such as Leave No Trace, Radical Inclusion, Radical Self-Reliance, Radical Self Expression, Decommodification and Gifting it is a welcome retreat for this hippy. Leave no trace means when we're gone we don't leave behind trash, cigarette butts, damage to the environment, etc. Radical inclusion and self reliance means everyone is welcome, no matter how weird, but all are responsible for their own happiness and well being. There is no party planner, the fun is what we make on our own. Which ties into the radical self expression; art, costumes, shows are all encouraged and are given free reign. Nudity, burnable art, dancing, music, food, you name it, you'll see it at Interfuse. Decommodification means no money exchanges hands during the event, instead gifting is practiced, true gifts that have no requirements for equal exchange, or reciprocation.
In many ways Interfuse, (and other burner events) are like the Riot in that they strive to be an example, to prove that there are alternatives to the consumerist patterns that we live every day in the global north. To prove that there are other ways to organize and live peacefully.
Ticket sales are closed for Interfuse this year, but all are welcome to join the group and next year will be here soon. There are also other regional burns, if you don't happen to live in the Midwest.

World wide marijuana marches take place this month too.
The Global Marijuana March is an annual rally held at different locations across the planet. It refers to cannabis legalization related events that occur on the first Saturday in May, or thereabouts, and may include marches, meetings, rallies, raves, concerts, festivals and information tables.
A lot of them happened last Saturday, the 7th, but there are a few happening this weekend yet. As well as follow up events. Check it out!

This year will be another big push for the Friends of Iowa Midwives, we'll be trying once again to get legislation through the state legislature to certify midwives in our state. It's still too early to list events, but I'm looking forward to spending some time on it this year.

I'm excited to see how NW Iowa local foods expand this year. There seems to be a lot of energy bubbling around and I'm really hoping it coalesces into something meaningful. There's a school in the county north of us that's exploring local foods for kids lunches. And I'm still working (slowly) on getting a community garden in my own town. Expect to see updates on some of that.

Well, 200 posts seems like a small milestone, but I'm excited to share it with y'all.
Big shout out to my family, both near and far. And to my friends, I wouldn't be who I am without you guys. I love you all.
To my readers and followers, I don't know what to say. I hope you get as much pleasure and information from this blog as I do. I can't believe other people are willing to read my babbling, but I'm not going to stop, so hopefully it keeps on being interesting.

Friday, May 6, 2011


The Inadvertent Farmer is sponsoring another year of Kindergardens! The basic premise is to encourage youth to get in the garden, be it planning, planting, watering, weeding, harvesting or eating. :-D We do a lot of those things, and Rowen loves to be involved with all of it.

He's 2 now, and helps more and more every day. He's slowly learning how to stay on the path. He's a pro at watering. And loves helping to move piles of things into other piles of things. Sometimes those piles of things are of the same type, sometimes not. :-D

The other member of our family is my hubby Dave. He likes the food that comes out of the garden, but isn't as heavily involved in the day-to-day operations. Partly because I like it so much, and he knows it's my stress relief , as well as something I really enjoy doing with Rowen. He does heroically take over when I'm out of town for work travel. That always happens at least once a summer, if not more, so he keeps up to date with what's going in and what's coming out and always does a great job of stepping up to help out.

This will be my 9th year gardening my own plots, so I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about what's going on and what to expect. I love helping other gardeners, so if you're new here or new to the garden thing, feel free to hit me up for advice. I am in zone 4, so my knowledge does tend to lean towards short season problems and tricks, and I know less about heat/drought problems. But, some advice is universal.

This year we'll be gardening the main plot in the front yard. It's roughly 8 feet x 16 feet I think. We also have small gardens on the South and East sides of the house, and one on the South side of the shed. The smaller gardens have more of the flowers and perennials in them. I also keep a multitude of containers in production. Flowers, herbs, greens, veggies, whatever strikes my fancy and has a root system amiable to the container size I have available.

We don't have much that's specifically for Rowen to garden, he has a few pots that he can play with, and some tools, but usually he just helps with whatever I'm doing. He loves to help hoe and loves to steal my spade. :-D Mommy's tools are always cooler than his tools.

Join us for this year's Kindergarden blogroll. If nothing else you can get a weekly dose of cute kids outside.