Saturday, July 31, 2010

Carrying On

Since we have the blessing of working at home most of the time, we get to be around Alten as much as we want. Which is, of course, constantly. The only downside is that, at best, you have one free hand. When holding such a young baby, though, one must support the head as well. That leaves one able to walk around freely, but not actually do anything.
Luckily, humanity solved this problem tens of thousands of years ago (if not earlier). The solution is to tie the baby to yourself! Gently, of course. We came across plenty of examples before Alten's birth, from reading Continuum Concept to talking with friends to seeing strangers in health-food stores. We were convinced even then that we were going to give it a serious go, with hopes that we would be able to work with our baby in the garden from the beginning.
The internet was, as always, our resource for what is possible. We found many examples, and put our favorites on our baby shower lists. To date we have three that we've tried and liked. And please remember when viewing the pictures: we haven't mastered them yet, so if the setup looks a little awkward it's because we're not pros. Yet.
Our first carrier was the of the "mei tai" persuasion. Its origins are Chinese, and it is basically a square piece of cloth with a fabric strip coming off each corner (here Margo is hiding the lower strap with her arm). Ours came from Mei Tai Baby, and was a gift from our former garden manager, Ellen. It was the first we tried Alten in, and it is how we found out that he reeeeally doesn't like being restrained. Initially he was fine in it while asleep, but if he awoke in it there was hell to pay. He's getting much more used to it, though. It's Margo's current favorite.
The next is a Baby Björn carrier, which was a gift from friends in Lakewood, Colorado. It's high tech, with metal and plastic and fabric and cool snapping things. It was the first one we could successfully keep him happy in, and is pretty easy to pop on and off. I have sported Alten around the grocery store a couple of times in it. I have also worn it in the woodshop, where it was comfy enough for him that he went to sleep while I was banging on the loppers that I'm trying to repair. The downsides are that it can only be worn on the front and that if you bend way over it feels like the occupant can fall right out. But it's great for walks and shopping.
Finally, my current favorite, the baby wrap. It was introduced to us by our friend Rebekah who, when we visited her family in February, gave us a complete workshop in which baby products and philosophies they found helpful. The baby wrap is a simple piece of fabric, in our case about 24" wide by 15' long, which you tie around yourself in processes reminiscent of origami. I was hooked by Rebekah's demonstration. Of further inspiration was the website, which gives instructions for more than 15 ways to tie your baby to you.
I like this one best at the moment because 1) Alten seems to tolerate it well, 2) it holds him very close to my own center of gravity, which is good for my back, and 3) he doesn't sway around in it as I walk.
We now feel confident in forging ahead with baby-wearing, and look forward to becoming more comfortable working in them.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Another Glorious Tool

We're building our tool base bit by bit. First came our spades and forks, both from Bountiful Gardens. Next, I am pleased to say, came our metal Haws watering can, also from BG. Pleased, because during Seed Propagation classes I would haul out the can and talk about what a great tool it was and that, despite its expense, it would be the first garden purchase I would make after spade and fork. (Then I would use it to water the flats we had just pricked out into, and everyone would ooh and ah.) There followed a string of other tools, like a rake, trenching spade, kama, pruners, sickles (which deserve their own post), and bow saw.
But the most recent is another classic in the small-scale world. Hula hoe, scuffle hoe, stirrup hoe; call it what you will, it fills a void. Once you start getting tools, you'll probably end up getting one of these. We use them to great effect one soil that needs a quick clearing of weeds or a little loosening up on top, and in between crops to take care of light weed troubles quickly.

After digging our first potatoes and harvesting our first grains we realized it was time, right then, to acquire our hoe. I went online looking at all the big chain stores in the area, like Lowes, Home Depot, and TSC (none of whom will I deign to hyperlink), trying to find the best deal to pick up on that day. Margo was on the phone catching up with our friend Elaine, who runs the butt-kicking CSA Everblossom Farm out in Adams County, PA. I was getting a bit overwhelmed, not finding a great looking specimen, so I had Margo ask Elaine where she'd go.

"Unless you have a really good hardware store, I'd buy from Johnny's. They sell great, sturdy stuff."
And I said "But we need it now. We'd have to wait to get it shipped. Where would you go if you wanted it now?"
"I'd order from Johnny's and wait. And then, later, I wouldn't be disappointed, because the tool wouldn't be crap."

While Elaine has many excellent qualities, two of the things I appreciate most about her are that she's straightforward and she has good judgment. Her advice carried, and soon after we ordered the 7" Stirrup Hoe from Johnny's Selected Seeds (and employee-owned company). And today it came!

Elaine's advice was really a reflection of our own tool-buying philosophy, which I had temporarily put on hold due to a feeling of urgency. When buying tools, only buy what you need. And, if possible, buy the best you can get. The best isn't necessarily the most expensive, but it will certainly not be the cheapest.

Our rationale is this: with a good tool you will work more efficiently and be a better steward of your resources Most of us nowadays don't have the skills to repair tools we break, but a good tool will 1) be less likely to break in the first place, 2) not be too flimsy to repair, and 3) will be worth the time, energy , and/or money to repair. Digging spades make a great example. We got a Clarington Forge spade for ~$70, which will last until the metal wears away, 30 or more years. If the handle breaks it can be replaced. It would be cheaper to buy a Craftsman digging spade from Sears for $25. They have a lifetime warranty, so when it breaks, which it will because the metal is pressed instead of forged, you just take it in and they'll replace it.

On the work end of things, a good tool allows you to accomplish your tasks with confidence in your tool. With a cheap tool you worry more about its limitations, and are not allowed give a task your all. The cheap tool will break more frequently, causing frustration and costing you time and possibly money.

On the resource end, a good tool may consume more resources or energy in its construction than a cheap tool, but the cheap tool will have a short lifespan. Then you'll need another, then another again. I note that fiberglass handles are quite popular, being more durable than wood. But when wood breaks it can be burned or cut into another handle. When fiberglass breaks it becomes trash and a health hazard. A future post will illustrate this reality with some personal experience...

So friends, buy worthwhile tools. Cast not thy talents into the abyss of cheapness.

I have been prevailed upon to include recent footage of Alten. This one highlights his cute hiccups.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Introducing Alten Lee!

I've been meaning to get to this post for at least a week, but have been somehow distracted by something cute and cuddly in the next room over...
Meet Alten! He was born in the wee hours, 3:57 am on June 28th, weighed in at 9 lb 9 oz, and was 21" long. He got a 9 on his 5-minute Apgar, for those of you who put stock in early standardized testing. Though he went a week and a half past his due date he came out with all the signs of being right on time.

The weeks leading up to his birth were getting more and more uncomfortable for Margo. We who once said "The baby can come whenever it wants" began saying "Ok baby, we are ready for you now."

In planning for the pregnancy we knew we wanted a home-birth if possible, and started seeing a midwife in California before we left. Between December and April we had no appointments, because we hadn't yet decided where we would be living. As soon as we set down our roots here in Ohio we started asking around, not even knowing if home-birth was legal in the Refined East. By grace we stumbled onto a home-birth midwife who is professional, knowledgeable, gentle, and inspires confidence and calm.We did end up birthing at home, in our bedroom, in a peaceful, safe atmosphere. It went beautifully, and I was grateful for the presence of our midwife and her team.

Above right shows Alten one day old on a changing pad made for us by friends in California. He's swaddled in a receiving blanket made for us by our Aunt in Florida because, as she said, "They just don't make those blankets big enough anymore."

At this point I would like to say that, from the time we announced the pregnancy up to this day, we have felt surrounded by the love and support of our friends and family everywhere. We've been given patience and understanding, money and gift cards, clothing and accouterments both purchased and hand-made, and words of wisdom and encouragement. We expect we will need a lot more of those last two, especially. Many, many thanks to all of you who kept us in your thoughts and/or prayers. Alten has a ton of aunts and uncles out there, and we tell him all about them :) And now for a bunch of pictures!

This is how Alten and I relax best.

And this is what a well-fed Alten looks like...

He has started training in his parents' disciplines. Here is some deep yoga (we think this is the one he has been rumored to practice for months at a time).

And here he is practicing his Aikido tenchi-nagi.

And finally, here's the whole family...
I think it is safe to say there will be more of this kind of thing in coming posts...