Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Any new Kitten Advice for us?

I would like to blame the fact that we have adopted three (yes, three-- not one or two) new kittens on the friendly cat-loving volunteer at local shelter who told us all about her Tortie cat and how wonderful she is.

But I am afraid we can blame no one but ourselves for getting into this endeavor.

We have adopted three kittens, aged 4 and 5 months old, from the local shelter (Contra Costa County Animal Services~ which, incidentally, is quite nice and in Martinez, CA). We will go back to pick them up next weekend, as they need to have shots and have their reproductive qualities diminished.

There are two females and one male.

Any advice for us? Or name suggestions?
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Veggie Box Seedling Cover

We planted our seeds!

Then we got afraid of the birds and devised this contraption. It is two old curtain rods (wood pieces would work just as well- I was initially imagining a square box made of wood) with loose screen from the hardware store between them. The screen is attached to the rods with staples (the screen is stapled to itself and the rod is strung between it). We lift it off to water.

...no birds yet...
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Our First Sewing Project Together: Red Fleece Pants

Our child has a pair of pajama pants (aka split crotch pants) that I made for him in this material. For the past little while, he has been choosing his clothing sometimes, and always wants to wear them. Since we try to confine crotchless pants for inside the house, he has been often disappointed. He tries to convince me by saying, "Hole- sew right up" which is how he gets me to mend other items.

Yesterday he came into my sewing area and took this fabric off the shelf for about the tenth time. He doesn't pull anything else off. This time he said, "need pants" and, "sew right up." He pointed to the sewing machine.

I gave in.

So he and I spent the next 40 minutes measuring, cutting, and sewing the pants you see above. I used my favorite pants pattern in size XL (ages 2 to 3) with a 20" piece of 1/4" elastic for the waist (I had been using this size with 18" elastic and these pants are getting a bit tight although the length is still ok). The fleece is from JoAnn's and has little doggies on it.

He sat on the chair as I cut, giving advice like as to which cutting implemet to use. Then he moved to my lap. When I use the machine to sew, he likes to participate by turning it on, putting the presser foot up and down, putting the needle up and down, and cutting the threads each time I pull the fabric out. Yesterday he added helping guide the material through to his repertoire. My machine also has a slider which makes the sewing speed go faster or slower, no matter how hard you push with your foot on the pedal. I let him move that as I was stitching.

I was amazed at his patience. He even let me try them on him twice to adjust the waistband elastic.
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Monday, August 30, 2010

Baby-Led Weaning (overdue post re: introducing foods)

It occurred to me that I never raved (I mean, posted) about Baby-Led Weaning.   This is one way of introducing foods to your child when they hit the 6-month mark and beyond.

The methodology basically gives you permission to feed your child what you are eating instead of pureeing bland foods for them.  The idea behind it is that they will get a taste for real foods if they are given real foods.

Another important aspect of the method is giving them the food instead of feeding it to them.  For example, making matchsticks of foods so they can hold on and eat it themselves.  Or "loading" a spoon and handing it to them.
"Food is fun until age one," is one of the major ideas.  We basically thought of it as letting our child play with food instead of play-doh or plastic.  It allowed me lots of time in the kitchen (up to an hour per meal sometimes, but all babies are different) to get prep work done, cook, or clean.  We also got the satisfaction of knowing that our baby learned which foods are which at an early age.

Another leading idea is that babies have a choke reflex (we all do).  But theirs is closer to the middle of their mouth when they are younger, and, as we age, it goes further back, towards and into the throat.  This means that when they cough/ choke on something earlier in life, they learn how to cope with it before it is more of a danger to them.  All of this means that it is likely safer to let them cough/ choke a little (as long as their face is red instead of blue, of course.  Red means they are getting oxygen and blue- which we never saw, by the way- means you need to do some Baby Heimlich).  They quickly learn how to cope, and how to chew and swallow properly.

This video was taken of our 10-month old son eating a peach:

He rarely gets yogurt in his hair anymore, although there was a period of time in which he loved everything dipped in yogurt.

And please don't get too scared off by the pictures.  Yes, it really was this messy, and yes, it was only a phase.  He learned to eat a lot cleaner as time went on, and got quite proficient with cutlery pretty early.

Here is the book.  There is also a Yahoo! Group for people to support each other who are doing this, which is immensely useful, especially if you don't know anyone else who is doing it.

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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Toddler Curtains - BirdTalk Fabric

I actually sewed something recently. I have been doing a lot of hemming and fixing holes in things, but this was actually a real project. I made our toddler curtains for his new room. The room is still being set up in these photos, but the curtains are hung.
These are two-layer curtains. The front layer is Bird Talk Fabric, with little chicks on the white material and coordinating bird families on the green fabric. I topstitched lengthwise on the coordinating fabric to give it a little more color (I really like how topstitching looks).

The back layer is birdseye. Both layers are hemmed on three sides separately.

After hemming, I made the loops out of the coordinating fabric by cutting it 4" by 6" and folding it in and ironing it so they are 2" by 6" each piece. Then I stitched up and down each piece. I pinned the loops between the front and back layers andstitched across. Then I topstitched for the look of it and added strength.

The little guy looks at the curtains sometimes and says, "hold chicks," because the feed store we go to (for our chicken supplies) has baby chicks, ducklings, and baby bunnies they let us hold and play with. It is his favorite place to go. So the curtains are a talking point sometimes and we work on colors and talk about the feed store.

They also block light and add color to the room.
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Friday, August 27, 2010

Blackjack Fig replaces Nonfruiting Mulberry

Here is the mulberry tree (on the left) before we had it removed. It had had a long life but was fruitless (pun intended).

It took 3 guys to lift the massive trunk piece after they sawed and axed away at the tree and its roots.

We decided to put in a Blackjack Fig. The lavender around it is from where the veggie boxes were, although I really like it there and hope they survive the transplant. We have been having a heat wave, so I am hoping they will make it through. The rocks are from another part of the garden.

We chose a blackjack fig because my husband and I both love fresh figs. Blackjacks are naturally dwarf, topping out at 12-15 feet instead of 25 feet. They are also more local to Northern California where we live, so we thought it would do better here. In addition to loving figs, we thought a deciduous tree would be great for this spot. It is on the south side of the house, so the shade will be welcome in the summer and the sun will be needed in the winter. The book I just read called, "Introduction to Permaculture" made a great argument for edibles in specific places in the garden (such as this).

To plant it, we dug a big hole and placed it on top of some soil amendment mixed with the dirt from the hole. There are so many kinds of soil amendments- I used what the local nursery recommended for clay soils.  We filled in the rest of the hole with this mixture and patted it down, taking care to have the dirt from the fig and the soil around it even. We made a mound of dirt about 2' wide encircling the tree so that water will pool there and go to the roots instead of all around the area. We watered it deeply, then added some shredded redwood mulch around the base, making sure to keep it away from the base of the trunk so that it wouldn't rot the trunk but would help keep the soil moist. We watered it deeply again 2 days later, then will water it deeply weekly through the dry season. I read not to water new plantings too much or else they will rely on all that water. The same source said that infrequent deep waterings will cause the tree to set deeper roots while looking for the water table and not need to be watered as frequently.
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Video Calling the Grandparents

Sometimes the little guy wanders around the house babbling. The other day it was while holding a webcam and saying, "Oma Opa, Oma Opa, Oma Opa." That's what he calls one set of his grandparents (shown here). I told him No the other day and he said, "Gr'pa Robbie," the other grandparent that he does video calls with. His memory is amazing, and the associations are also quite impressive.

We use Logitech Vid for our calling, which is free if you or the other person use a Logitech webcam.  We used to use SightSpeed (before it was acquired by Logitech and became Vid). So my son has always had video calling in his life. He thinks that that is what the computer is for. Vid is a really nice program, and it has recently come out in HD. The video quality is really impressive. I like that my son can see his grandparents and he can have a conversation with them when they are far away. The telephone is hard for him because of when the breaks are in conversation and the flow is different than in real life. Video calling seems to mimic actual conversations better. My beef with it is that you need to stay stationary while calling, which is not his strong suit, and it is hard to stay in one room. I am looking forward to being able to use my Android to make video calls.
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2 of 6 Veggie Boxes are Ready for Fall Planting

After starting to make our veggie boxes, and cutting them to 5' by 3', I started one of the gardening books that I had laying around. It's called Square Foot Gardening. In it, Mel (the author) claims that he has the answer to all veggie box woes and makes a pretty convincing argument. After the convincing, he tells you to make 4' by 4' boxes with 3 feet between them. He wants them 6 inches tall and filled (by volume, not weight) with 1/3 peat moss, 1/3 vermiculite, and 1/3 blended compost (at least 5 different ingredients or types if you are buying bagged). He also wants you to make a physical grid on them, separating them into one foot square segments.

This changed our game plan slightly, and I am happy with the new look. We now only have four boxes against the house instead of all six, and two are on the other side of the lawn. The little guy and I filled two of them up this morning, and he happily helped me drill with the drill bits and then water the dirt as I got the twine in place for the grid.

In the book, he tells you how many of each veggie can go into one square foot, and says it helps you not waste seeds and to visualize your harvest by breaking it into smaller pieces.

We are excited to get planting!
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Here it is:
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Avocado Finger Sandwiches

These are made of little slices of avocado on little pieces of rice bread which have been toasted and buttered with raw butter. The little guy LOVES these for lunch these days. He likes to cut the smooth and creamy avocado himself, and put it on the bread. They are mouth-sized bites, which he also enjoys.

Raw butter has a high nutrition profile, and we try to eat it and give it to him as much as possible.  There is something about pastured cows and non-pasteurization that helps the nutrients survive.  To learn more, go to the Weston Price Foundation website.  It has a  lot of information.  The cookbook Nourishing Traditions also helps bring these ideas into practice.  It is a must-read.

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Thursday, August 19, 2010

Veggie Boxes in Progress

The new house has a great area on the south side that has been calling for veggie boxes. So I took some wood from a fence that fell down and placed it in 6 foot by 3 foot segments, with 18 inches between. I decided I could make six boxes.

Then my husband reminded me that the wood was 50 years old and some had termites and would deteriorate within a year or so if it had soil contact.

So we scrapped that idea (and the wood), and headed to Home Depot for some Trex decking, composite screws, and mending plates.  The mending plates are 4" long.  I am going to use 2 layers of Trex to make the boxes deeper.  The mending plates are to hold the box layers together.  I got 2 plates for each long side of the boxes.  I am going to do one full of dirt, and see if the short sides bow out.  If they do, I will need to add a brace to each short side as well.

Here is the now 2-year old supermodel/ superhelper with the boards, which have been cut to 5' x 3', with a foot allowance for between the boxes and the house.  We started screwing one together, and it took a while.  I think this may be a multi-day project.
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