So after what was more rant and less blog I figure I’d better write a slightly more practical entry. The back yard has become woodwork central with the completion of the first planter box thanks to a bit of help from an old friend and some random hammering from our children. We shall call her, Tank! It turns out that the design is really quite full-on though does have the advantage of being able to be picked up (and I suspect given all the supports could be used as a bomb shelter). The other downside was that it took about 3 pallets to complete which is too many if there’s any hope to have many of them up and down the street. I’m currently building a more stripped down version which will be about 50 cm tall and have no base. My plan is to place this in situ and then dig down 10cm to form the base. With this design it’s
not only quicker but also will only take about 1 pallet per box so it’s more likely to be rewarding on mass.
Nikki has been busy making paper and has been practicing her paper making teaching. She has been collecting used Christmas cards from various parents and friends and turning them into pages and envelopes that she will gradually make into new cards. I think it is safe to say, judging from the piles of newly recycled paper all around the house that her process is improving and she is becoming more efficient so look forward to more photo’s of cool cards.
We have also passed a milestone. Out daughter has decided to stop wearing nappies at night. Actually that’s not quite true. She decided this about 4 months ago. It wasn’t that she didn’t need them, it was just that she decided that taking her clothes off and throwing them out of the cot was far more fun than wearing them. We survived for another 3 months through some imaginative uses of a sleeping bag and various karabiners, clips and pins. But the hot weather and her capacity to find a way around whatever strategy we used faster than we could invent a new one, culminating in her managing to wriggle her arms into her sleeping bag ‘straightjacket style’ and nude up, has meant that she has now gone nappy free. I will add a postscript to this by saying that whilst she is actually pretty good at staying dry all night I still foretell a number of midnight bedding changes in our future.
Given this occasion I thought it might be a worthwhile time to explain how we have survived for the last 4 years (and two children) with cloth nappies. Now I should say that young children are stressful and parents (especially really new parents) need to find their own balance and do not need to be (and are not being) judged by the likes of me. For us though the thought of contributing to the more than 1 billion disposable nappies that Australian’s use per year as well as all the other energy and environmental consumption made it a fairly clear choice.
We initially purchased about 12 of the ready sown nappies (Bee-hinds) with covers but also a whole heap of plain cotton squares. We also got given a number of others later on (Peapods) though these ones tended to leak more. Whilst the pre-sewn ones are great and far more absorbent I think it was the plain squares that actually made things more practical since they don’t take up much washing space and dry super quick. When we first started we bought some of those giant safety pins that I remember my mum using. I think I lasted about 3 days using these before the thought of having something so sharp and shiny near something so soft and squidgy (our son) made me think that maybe we needed to find another way. What we ended up doing was using the pilcher covers from the sewn ones over the top of both sewn and folded nappies.
The real trick, and I’ve got to say that it was mostly Nikki who thought it through, is the washing process and it went something like this:
- Smelly yuckiness into small bucket beside change table. We had a bunch of small cloths (colour coded white for bums and blue for faces since you don’t want to get that wrong) along with an urn filled with warm water instead of wipes. All whites went into the bucket.
- Every night that bucket would be sluiced (cute word for a not cute action) using our Little Squirt’. This is a great little thing since you basically just blast the offending material straight into the loo. Care does need to be taken though because the wrong angle and too much jet can have, ‘unfortunate results’!. At times we also used paper thin biodegradable bamboo liners that would get flushed too, though sometimes they got washed if they weren’t totally destroyed.
- The sluiced nappies would then go into a large bucket that was filled with water and sodium bicarb to ‘pail’. I’m informed that actually this stretched to two buckets at ‘peak nappy’.
- When this bucket was full it would be emptied straight into the washing machine, rinsed and then washed (with the excess water put down the toilet). Every now and then we’d also chuck in some white vinegar to take any residual bicarb out of the nappies. Nikki tells me that she thinks one of her friends put a ouple of drops of tea tree oil into the washing machine to leave them smelling nice.
- After that it’s was just a matter of putting them out on the line to dry, and having enough line to hang out what would at times seem like thousands of nappies.
Whilst this was not what I’d call fun and Nikki and I would generally try and cajole the other into doing the sluicing (“I’ll paint the house if you do the sluicing”) it was generally manageable. We did use disposables at times when we went away or when the kids has gastro sicknesses (the less said about that the better) and also at times overnight but the vast majority were cloth.
The big criticism of cloth nappies is that amount of water that they use which was not an issue for us since the washing machine, little squirt and toiled that we used is all fed by water tank. It did mean a lot of washing which would have used power but I’m pretty sure the balance overall is in our favour. So there you have it a cloth nappy process that has worked for us. It was definitely a bit of work for both of us but given the sheer number of nappies that children use I’m quite proud we’ve stuck at it. Also in a bizarre coming together of this whole post the cloth squares have now been repurposed for use in the ‘couching process’ of Nikki’s paper making. Now that’s recycling!