Happy Homemaker, Ph.D.

A novice homemaker's attempts to use her engineering Ph.D. to serve her family

Cloth Diapering – My First Purchases – Part 1

Let me begin by saying that I am still tentatively trying cloth diapering.  I didn’t think it wise to put all my eggs in one basket (Sorry for the cliché, but we do have chickens.) without more understanding of the products and processes involved.  Let me also say that cloth diapering is much easier than I imagined, and I’m finding it quite fun!

Those of you who know me or have followed my blog know I’m an engineer by training and a former college professor of operations and quality management.  With that analytical background, I thought about doing a break-even analysis to evaluate the potential savings.  I started using factor rating to compare various cloth diapering approaches and to compare them to disposables.  (This method lets you include qualitative factors such as “ICK!” or easy-for-others-to-change rather than just the costs.)  But, I finally decided if I continued to deliberate, our coming child would likely be going on 2 years old before I made up my mind.

My thought process – without my quantitative analysis – included these considerations:

  • I wanted to buy enough cloth diapering supplies to make it feel that doing a load of diaper laundry was worth it.  (e.g. I didn’t want to buy just 2 diapers and be washing them as a load of laundry alone every day or two.
  • I didn’t want to commit to one diapering system since, despite my research and questions, I still didn’t know what might work well for me/us.
  • I wanted to try the night-time solution Coleen (from Sweet Little Blessings) recommended (a fitted diaper with a wool cover).
  • I wanted to make sure I had everything I needed to make a go of at least part-time cloth diapering.
  • I wasn’t sure on sizing for my toddler, and I wanted to have gender-neutral items since we don’t know Baby’s gender and since our toddler is starting to use the potty.
  • Our toddler goes through an average of 6 disposable diapers a day now at 21 months.  I wanted to purchase enough diapers to be able to diaper most of 2 days and then wash.
  • I wanted to try the “easy” cloth diapers, such as FuzziBunz or BumGenius, that my friends have had success with.
  • I also wanted to keep costs down, so I wanted to see if pre-folds may be a feasible option as well.

My order ended up being something like this:

  • 4 FuzzyBunz One-Size Elites (This may not be what you have pictured for a cloth diaper.)
  • 6 organic cotton pre-folds (Bummis)
  • 1 Whisper Wrap cover
  • 1 Thirsties cover
  • 1 fitted diaper (Bamboozle)
  • 1 wool cover

Within a day or two, I thought I had overlooked a few things.  Regular diaper creams can impact the absorbency of cloth diapers (from what I read), so I would need an alternative.  Also, an online video and friend’s testimony interested me in liners rather than a more expensive sprayer that attaches to the toilet.  I also figured I’d need a wet bag (place to put used diapers) for my diaper bag if I was using the cloth diapers on the go as well as a place to put the wet/soiled diapers at home.

My additional order included:

  • GroVia Magic Stick for a diaper cream
  • Flushable liners (toddler-sized)
  • A fabric diaper “pail” that hangs on the doorknob and unzips at the bottom (FuzziBunz)
  • A wet bag for the diaper bag that has a zipper to help contain odors
I also knew I needed some different laundry detergent and some lanolin for the wool.  I was able to find these supplies at a local grocery store easily.

In the next post, I’ll share a little about the process I’m using and how it is working for us as well as an evaluation of the products I’m trying (though remember, I’ve only been doing this a couple of weeks).

~Dana 

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Cloth Diapering – A Beginner’s Journey

I began thinking about cloth diapering before my first child was born.  My best friend had decided to use cloth diapers with her firstborn who was born a few months before my daughter, and she told me a little about it.  I decided that I didn’t want to try to take on too much at once, so I planned to focus on getting a strong start with nursing and then could explore changes to our system.

Nursing went well, but I was still working at the time and had to go back to teaching about 10 weeks after my daughter was born, so I put the cloth diaper research on hold.

I continued to think about the possibility, though.  I read other blogs about moms’ experiences and recommendations.  I bought an e-book that promised to pay for itself in saving the reader from mistakes in purchasing or care.  I heard from other mothers at church about what motivated them to use cloth and what was required.

Still, I felt overwhelmed by the many options and powerless to make a decision.  Cotton, bamboo, hemp, wool, and more.  What material is best?  All-in-ones, all-in-twos, pocket diapers, prefolds, flats…  What were each of those exactly?  I read and reread, trying to figure out the terminology, requirements, and estimated costs.  Would it really be worth it for us?  I wanted to try, but I also wanted to be smart about the needed investment.  Chad and I had visited a local store that sold cloth diapers before our daughter was born, but the store had since gone out of business.

I reached a point of desperation earlier this year, though, that pushed me back to the cloth diapering question again.  My toddler is a heavy wetter at night, often requiring either a change in the night or a change of everything (sheets, blankets, pajamas, etc.) that is soaked through in the morning with disposable diapers.  Besides the extra laundry, she would wake up and cry from the discomfort of the wetness.  While this is not a huge problem right now, I didn’t know if I’d have the capacity and patience to deal with these additional tasks after Baby #2 was born. I wondered if cloth diapers could somehow provide a solution.

Also, as I recalled the diaper changes of the first few months for my first child, I remembered an aggravating number of “blowouts” that created additional laundry hassles that I was interested in possibly avoiding.  I’d heard that cloth could at least potentially “contain” these messes better.  Yep, with Baby #2 soon on the way, I was interested.

I e-mailed Coleen, the owner of Sweet Little Blessings since she was referred by one of my long-time friends (Amy at Raising Arrows).  She gave me a recommendation for night time, and, to my delight, Raising Arrows began a series on cloth diapering within days of my inquiry!  (You can see the first post here with links to the posts that followed.)  The timing was also great for me because Coleen offered a 10% discount at that time!  What a bonus!

I debated and re-read through the many options, and finally, after two years of thinking about it, I took the leap to place an order.  I started the adventure two weeks ago.  The next few posts will share what I’ve learned in that time and how I foresee this approach to diapering working for us in the future.

~Dana

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The Chicken Chronicles – A New Home and a New Beginning

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My amazing husband is quite a handy fellow.  He can envision a project and make it come to life before I would even be able to decide what was needed.  I am continuously amazed by his abilities.

Regarding the chickens, I’ll show you some of his work.  Recall that I wasn’t too excited about the whole chicken idea at first, knowing I’d have my hands full with a new baby in a few months.  Chad took on the task of not only caring for the chickens, but also providing a great coop for them.  The coop we started with looked like this.

The chicken's first "house"

Since the existing fences made up two of the walls, Chad put this together very quickly.  As time passed, he added a “chicken run” so the girls could venture out at will to a small area of the yard without waiting for us to open the door.

As time went by, we realized a few limitations of this design.  One was a safety issue as we heard the chickens’ panic-stricken clucking one night indicated an intruder.  No one was hurt, but we realized the lack of a roof over the chicken run left the potential for predators to descend the tree and help themselves to our poultry.  The other was the height of the coop, which required us to bend over to enter.  That wasn’t a big problem, but one that was considered in the redesign.

I still can’t believe the amazing chicken house we have in our yard now!  Take a look at what Chad constructed!

The chicken house with enclosed chicken run

Side View of the Chicken House

Chad even provided landscaping as there are iris planted on this side of the house and native limestone rocks for decoration.  The rustic exterior even has a way of promoting poultry.

The roof is green tin, and the interior is very nice as well, including boxes for the chickens to lay, storage for food, and perches for the ladies to enjoy.

Real windows let in natural light, and Chad plans to put these on hinges before summer to aid in ventilation.  There are two doors, one that leads to the chicken run, and one that opens to our garden.  Chad has an eye for detail.  The chickens even have their own porch light!  (While there is electricity and a water line going to the chicken house, I don’t think the exterior light is wired for use yet, but it does add a special touch.)  Chad put cardboard around the door to help in insulating the inside during the winter months.  During warmer seasons, the chicken wire is uncovered to aid in ventilation.

So, this is where our little ladies spend their time when they’re not enjoying roaming the yard…

Except for these new additions!

The New Chicks

On Sunday, we picked out five new baby chicks so our toddler can watch them grow and so we can increase our egg production at home.  Chad picked out two Rhode Island Reds, I chose the black chick, and the other two are breeds that we are not altogether sure of.  They are pullets, though.  🙂  We bought another chick that we hadn’t planned on as well.  A straight run Cornish hen (we’ll see…) was bleeding and being continuously pecked by the other chicks in with it.  We thought he/she would have a better chance at survival with us than by remaining at the store, so we brought him/her home as well.  That chick is doing very well now!

Over time, we’ll see what these chickens’ personalities are, give them names, see how they all interact with each other, enjoy their eggs, and share their stories.  We really enjoy our little “micro farm” in town!

~Dana

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The Chicken Chronicles – Kidnapped!

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After Ethyl’s raccoon encounter, we were even more conscientious about closing the door to their coop at night.  But a few days later, we were surprised to find that Ethyl had disappeared during the day.  There seemed to be no signs of a struggle.

She was just gone.

Perhaps she didn’t trust us anymore and went out on her own, going on a last adventure like Bilbo Baggins taking off after his “eleventy first” (111th) birthday party.  Perhaps one of our now-country roosters came back to make her his princess.  Or, perhaps the raccoon — no, I don’t think too long about that possibility.  I like happy endings better.

I liked Ethyl, and I miss her still.  She seemed humble or at least resigned to her place.  She was a good and consistent layer.  She seemed somewhat alienated from the other hens, but she didn’t seem to hold a grudge.

Later on in the summer, we lost another chicken as well.  Stacy, one of the Leghorns, became ill and died.  Stacy had walked with a limp since her encounter over the fence, but you should have seen how fast she could run, even with that handicap!  She was always more of a follower (with Wilhelmina being a leader and more independent), but her loyalty to her white companion was admirable, and they were often together.

So, now our brood is down to five.

Wilhelmina hasn’t been the same since Stacy’s death.  She is no longer assertive.  The leader role of the brood has been taken over by Ginger, it seems.  She has stopped laying for the last few months.  (She is the only hen that lays white eggs now, so it’s easy to tell.)  She just doesn’t seem her old self since Stacy is no longer around.

Wilhelmina

Her brown “sisters” seemed unaffected by Ethyl’s disappearance.  Ginger and Big Red Mama have somewhat switched roles since they arrived, though.  That began during the summer when Ginger decided that she was going to be the first hen to any food.  That included helping herself to ears of corn off our garden stalks.  We were amazed at how she jumped to husk and eat the corn on the cob!  When the girls come running, she’s usually at the front of the pack.

The ladies came running toward me as soon as I came outside. Too bad I had the camera instead of some leftovers this time.

Ginger

Big Red Mama

Big Red Mama was so named because of her coloring and her attitude when she came to stay with us.  Her name is not any reflection of any Husker loyalties my Nebraska friends may imagine.  🙂

Pepper (a.k.a Kevin) has grown into more of an adult, taking her place among the others.  She used to stay close to Salt (a.k.a Barok), but now she feels free to be more independent.

Pepper

Salt, however, is going through some sort of phase where she is not leaving the coop when the others run out to roam the yard.  I thought she had perhaps become more maternal, feeling obligated to sit on the eggs while the other hens went off to have fun.  Yesterday, though, she was sitting in the cubby beside the eggs, so I still wonder.  We hope she’s not ill.  She really is a pretty hen.

Salt

These are our chickens.  Stay tuned for the next (and final – at least for a while) post that will show you the new house Chad built for the girls over the summer and a surprise!

~Dana

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The Chicken Chronicles – The Attack

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That is, most nights they were safely locked in their coop.  One night, we forgot to close the door to the coop.

Around 5:00 a.m. one morning, we awoke to the sound of the chickens clucking loudly.  This was about an hour earlier than usual for that time of year.  (They had been getting up with the sun around 6-6:30 a.m. usually.)  I asked my husband if they were alright, since it seemed strange for them to be up so early.  They sounded somewhat hysterical.

Chad got up quickly, not taking the time to dress, and ran outside barefoot, clapping his hands to make noise.  He saw two dark objects in the middle of the yard and ran toward them.  As he ran, one of the dark objects (that he quickly discovered was a chicken) was running toward him.  He jumped over her in pursuit of the attacker.  As he ran toward the redbud tree in the center of the yard, he saw the raccoon climb the tree.

Chad called for a flashlight, and I brought one as quickly as I could.  He remembered a shovel left near the tree and went back to try to displace the raccoon with it, but the animal somehow dropped from the top of the tree and escaped to the wooded area behind our yard.

Ethyl had been attacked.  The other chickens seemed riled but unharmed.  Apparently, Ethyl had been dragged from the chicken house toward the tree.  There were feathers all over the site where the raccoon had begun his work, but she was fine except for being scared and having a few scratches on her back.

We were more diligent in making sure we locked the door to the coop each night after that.  While we want to protect our egg supply and our small investment in the hens, we feel a great responsibility to look out for their welfare, to be good caretakers for these hens, and to give them the best lives possible, protecting them as best as we are able.

~Dana

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The Chicken Chronicles – The Pretty Birds Join the Brood

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With the introduction of the brown chickens, Big Red Mama, Ginger, and Ethyl, our yard seemed more full.  We were excited, though when our neighbors asked if we could care for their two Silkie hens they had bought as chicks earlier in the spring.  (They had just discovered that their third pullet was actually a cockerel and had to find a different place for him.)  I had only seen Silkies at the county fair and thought of them as somewhat exotic.  Their silky feathers, feathered feet, and poofy head feathers make them different and special.

Our teenage neighbor who had brought up the chicks named the white one Barok (since that’s what the other chickens were calling her.)  She named the black chick Kevin, having always wanted a black chicken named Kevin.  Chad named them Salt and Pepper after they came to live with us, but we refer to them by both names.

The Silkies - Barok and Kevin (a.k.a Salt and Pepper)


Salt and Pepper have been fun additions to our small brood.  They began laying last fall, shortly before the weather turned colder, and while this species is not known for strong egg production, they have been doing a good job of producing for us.  (Which has been good since Wilhelmina seems to be on strike this winter, and one of the brown chickens is also taking a break from laying.)  Their little pullet eggs are the perfect size to poach for our toddler’s breakfast each morning!

Now our brood was up to seven again.  Yes, there were definite cliques: the Leghorns, the Silkies, the younger Rhode Island Reds, and Ethyl.  But they all seemed to do well together, enjoying their time roaming free in the yard and closed safely into their coop at night…

~Dana

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