Wild Gardens for Busy Parents: Supports

Wild Gardens for Busy Parents July

Midsummer brings big growth, even to a semi-neglected garden. When your plants grow taller, you might need to add simple supports to help them grow to their full height.

July Garden Building Supports

Whether you planted seeds in the spring or bought garden store plants in June, July is the month that the plants need your support—actual, physical support.

One of my husband’s hops didn’t make it this year, so we filled in the space with two tomatoes and a chili pepper plant. Those tomatoes are huge and bushy, so we have surrounded them with wire cages.

Old hops are woody, but new hops are just thin vines. They need something to hold on to as they grow to 12-14′. It’s a light enough plant that string is strong enough to hold it up. We didn’t want to hurt the roots of the plant, so we didn’t anchor the string in the ground itself. We ran one string across the planter, tacked to the side; and we tied on another string to run from ground-level to the wire we installed last year for our grapes. (We actually did this last month, anticipating the need.) The hops have now reached the wire, which you can’t see clearly in the photo below except that the string stops in mid-air on the bottom wire and the grapes are creeping across the top wire.

Garden planter with hopsIn this fairly neglected, very small but wild-ing garden, you can see 10 food plants. From right: 2 kinds of heirloom tomatoes, 1 chili pepper, 2 kinds of lettuce (one from plant, one from seed), 2 kinds of hops, grapes, blackberries (mixed in with the grapes), and raspberries (the canes in front of the grapes). Not bad for a space about 3′ x 10′. Just outside this space, I have garlic that is ready, several kinds of mint, a lot of fennel, cucumbers that will probably succumb to the snails, summer squash, and zucchini. All I have are the 2-3′ wide spaces around my house and garage. I have flowers as well. I am not a gardener.

If I can do this, you can do this.

Assess the Support Need. Figure out if any of your plants need a little help. Are there any creeping vines or leaning stalks? While you are making your assessment, see if they need compost or manure.
Goal: see who needs help

Make or Buy Supports. It’s very easy to buy a tomato cage, and you can use it year after year. String is very easy when you need a minor support that isn’t meant to last. Wire provides a minor support that will last. We’ve used all three in this small space. It’s so easy, that I will probably stake a few of my heavy stalked flowers next year to keep them upright.
Goal: give the plants you have their best chance

Water? Make sure that all of your plants are getting the water they need. the top photo above was taken when it was 107 degrees outside (that’s 46.6 Celcius). It’s HOT. Don’t water your plants during the day. If the water droplets get on the leaves, the leaves can burn in the sun—and there goes your plant. It’s tough to see my sad lettuce every day about 2:00PM, wilted flat to the ground, but it perks up and firms up again every evening. Water in the early morning or in the evening. I have my sprinklers set to water every other day at 5:00AM.
Goal: keep the plants healthy and well watered

Total Cost So Far

  • String – $0 (on hand)
  • Tomato cages – $3 for 2
  • Total for July – $3.00 (supports)
  • Total for June – $16.50 (plants)
  • Total for May – $34.00 (manure, top soil, peat moss)
  • Total for April – $18.00 (hops)
  • Total for the year – $71.50

Total Time So Far

At this point, it takes a lot less than 30 minutes a month to take care of plants, unless you need to water them. It’s such a pleasure to cruise around my 30 square feet every morning, that I don’t even count that time. All of the work time putting up the tomato cages and hops strings was really more like 2-3 minutes, but I added padding. Now that the garden is looking so alive, I wouldn’t want you to think it doesn’t need you. So, 10 minutes.

  • Building supports – 10 minutes
  • Shopping – 1 hour
  • Digging & planting – 30 minutes
  • Previous time spent (research, prep, building raised bed, digging) – 9 hours
  • Total so far = 10 hours 40 minutes

I said no more than 30 minutes a month most months, so this is how you can spend this month’s 30 minutes.

  • Tie a string – 5 minutes
  • Install a cage – 5 minutes
  • Gaze – 20 minutes

It’s getting easier. If you want to get in on this easy action, go buy a tomato plant at the garden store. Put it in a pot so you can bring it inside when it gets cold. It isn’t too late to create a tiny wild garden.

See the Future Garden

My husband’s intention is to create a wall of hops. These plants are a long-term investment of time. They will create shade for our kitchen as well as feeding his brewing habit.

wild-garden-progress-07

What’s the Deal with Charcoal Bamboo?

Charcoal sticks

We often get questions about charcoal bamboo rayon and its emerging trend as a cloth diapering fabric. We don’t carry charcoal bamboo, and we want you to know why.

You may have seen charcoal bamboo rayon used for cloth diaper inserts or the absorbent inner layer of a diaper. You will notice because the fabric is charcoal grey. Charcoal doesn’t just refer to the nice, grey colour, though.

Charcoal bamboo is rayon with added nanoparticles of charcoal, which is made from bamboo. During the process of making rayon from bamboo (drying, aging, ripening—essentially cooking), other materials can be added. Any cellulose fiber can be used to make rayon, and many materials can be added to the goo phases of the process. In this case, bamboo is heated, creating charcoal, then the charcoal is ground into a very fine powder so small that the particles are called nanoparticles. (Nano refers to size. A nanometer is one billionth of a meter like a centimeter is one hundredth of a meter.)

Charcoal nano-particles can be added to any extruded fiber. You might find charcoal polyester fleece or charcoal microfiber in addition to charcoal bamboo rayon. All of these fibers are extruded—like pasta dough through a spaghetti press.

Charcoal bamboo and other charcoal fibers first came to the North American market through import co-ops—the same import co-ops that bring us cheap, unsupported diapers. We’ve talked before about the hidden costs of cheap diapers and of imports (labour, safety, quality, environment, sustainability). Basically, these products externalize costs. You save money in the short run while you and others pay in other ways. Cheap is only inexpensive when you don’t notice the ripple of consequences.

Questions We Hear about Charcoal Bamboo

Doesn’t bamboo charcoal nanotechnology kill bacteria?

First of all, what are you trying to kill? Washing diapers kills bacteria through heat and detergent. What more needs to be killed? Even if charcoal nanotechnology does kill bacteria, I’m not sure that this is a desirable characteristic of a diaper.

Second, I don’t know. I see that manufacturers of fabric make this claim, but I also see those selling bamboo rayon continuing to claim antimicrobial properties of bamboo rayon when the U.S. Federal Trade Commission absolutely states that there is no evidence in support of this claim for rayon. According to the FTC, “Even when bamboo is the ‘plant source’ used to create rayon, no traits of the original plant are left in the finished product.” Manufacturers and retailers continue to fight the FTC over this, and I see small cloth diaper sellers repeating claims that have been debunked. The only difference I see so far with charcoal bamboo rayon is that it is newer, so the claims haven’t been argued with regulatory bodies—yet.

Isn’t charcoal bamboo just another natural fabric?

What is often just called “bamboo” is bamboo rayon, a manufactured fiber. We wrote about the process of creating rayon from bamboo in “Hemp vs Bamboo Rayon for Cloth Diapers.” This manufactured fabric is made from natural inputs (bamboo and other cellulose), but the processing is far from natural. This is another issue that U.S. FTC takes seriously. Claim this is a natural or environmentally-friendly fiber, and they will sue. If you still see the claims, maybe they just haven’t gotten around to the lawsuit yet. They are already busy with bamboo rayon marketing and labeling claims.

I heard charcoal bamboo contain natural oils. Does it?

Sometimes I don’t even know where to start. Let’s start with no. Bamboo rayon has no natural oils. Even mechanically processed (non-rayon) bamboo has no oils. Rayon is not a natural fiber; it is manufactured fiber. If there are oils in your fabric, they are the oils added during the knitting or weaving process to help the fibers move through the machines as the fabric is created. Oils, sure; natural oils, not so much.

Is charcoal bamboo rayon approved for the North American market?

That is an interesting question, and I don’t know the answer.

I heard that charcoal bamboo rayon calms the mind.

I’ll just wait until the science comes in on that one.

Are You Willing to Submit to an Experiment?

I would like to go back to one very important point: safety. One of the most important complaints made about co-op diapers that are imported without regard for legalities is their lack of compliance to safety regulations.

The problem with cheaper materials isn’t just the potential de-lamination of a diaper cover, as an example. Smell that off-gassing? Those molecules escaping from unstable polymers have an effect on your brain and your body when you breathe them. That is why some phthalates have been banned in certain children’s products. Imagine what those unsafe soft plastics can do when placed against the most sensitive skin on your baby’s body. Soft plastics, though, are already under regulation. If you buy diaper covers that are CPSIA compliant, you know they don’t contain banned soft plastics.

What about nanotechnology? We mentioned the nanotechnology in conventional sunscreens last month. Those particles “are designed to be absorbed into the skin.” Can nano-particles of charcoal be absorbed into the skin? What are the potential consequences of that? Are other nano-particles added to rayon? Some textile processes use both nanosilver and nanocharcoal. Is that true of charcoal bamboo? We wrote about the use of nanosilver as an antimicrobial and found that the science showing potential harm is building up. Where is the independent science that shows no harm will come to your baby from absorbing nano-particles of charcoal through the genitals? What are the short-term effects? What are the long-term effects?

If that science isn’t available, using nanotechnology on your baby in this way is experimentation. This is the wrong way around. We don’t just try things out on our babies first then work out whether it’s safe. Prove safety first.

Let’s back up a long way and start over with the first question.

Why don’t you carry bamboo charcoal diapers?

We prefer domestic products over imports, and bamboo charcoal fabric and products are all imports. The same companies referred to in our Cheapie Leakies post are importing a lot of charcoal bamboo rayon products. Low-quality imports like this are just a non-starter for us.

We will not test new technologies on your baby. Until a product or material is proven safe, we will not carry it in our store.

We choose the simplest solutions that work for our customers. When there are already basic, natural materials that do the simple job of a cloth diaper, there is no need for nanotechnology just for the sake of the technology—especially when questions of safety remain.

So, no, we won’t be carrying charcoal bamboo products until or unless we become convinced that it is safe for your baby, until the benefits have been proven, and until the benefits of nanotechnology outweigh the benefits of natural fibers.

You can count on bynature.ca to look into new products, but we will not jump on bandwagons.

Yesterday, we asked what our Facebook followers thought of charcoal bamboo in diapers. Not one of the dozen people who answered was willing to experiment with this nanotechnology in diapers.

Related Articles

Cheapie Leakies - Cloth diapers in general have SO much value compared to single-use products. And, many cloth diapers that seem higher priced actually reflect the value of products made ethically and sustainably, not cheaply and without care for workers or the environment. These high value products are also safety tested to the highest standards, so you can be assured you’re buying something that is safe for your little one.

Cheap Products—At What Cost? - You already know what we think of cheap imports if you read our 6-part “At What Cost?” series last year on labour, safety, quality, environment, and sustainability.

Antimicrobial Overkill – Use of disinfectants such as nano silver in everyday situations is overkill. Even in more extreme situations, there is a lot of debate about whether the antimicrobial benefits outweigh the potential risks.

6 Questions about Natural Sunscreen That We Hear Daily – What are nano particles, and why does it matter if my sunscreen is free of these? The concern is that nano particles could enter the human body.

Hemp vs Bamboo Rayon for Cloth Diapers – There are efforts to add nano-particles of charcoal to make the fiber antibacterial.

Image © Dianazh | Dreamstime.com

Camping with Baby Round-up

Father and baby hiking

Wish you could go camping but worried about your baby? Worry no more. Many families continue camping even with a baby. You definitely need to prepare more than you would for adults only, but you can certainly have a successful great outdoors experience and a happy baby.

Read the articles below for a few of our tips to make your camping trip go smoothly for the whole family.

Camping with Baby Checklist

This is our must-have packing list for camping with babies. If you are already confident and ready to go, start here.

Camping with Cloth Diapers

How many diapers? Which diapers are easiest to clean? There are a lot of ways to make cloth diapers work while camping, so we gathered some personal experience resources as well as providing a general guide.

Hiking with Baby

Many of us combine camping and hiking. Here are a few safety, gear, and other considerations to make before you head out.

7 Tips for a Successful Picnic with Kids

If you aren’t quite up for the overnight experience yet, try a picnic. Once you see that the key to success is in the preparation, you might be ready for camping.

Cool Summer Babywearing

If you will be hanging out a lot in camp, be sure to have a baby carrier that fits the climate. We help you figure out which carrier works for the way you plan to wear your baby on your camping trip.

6 Questions about Sunscreen That We Hear Daily

If you are camping, you will be in the sun. So, grab the natural sunscreen. We’ve answered some of the common questions we hear about sunscreen.

Summer in Nature for Your Children

What will you do with your children once you are in camp? Explore nature. Learning about the area where you are going and knowing about plants and environment before you arrive will make it easier for you to talk to a young child about what they see around them. When you understand how your child’s interest will grow through different child development stages, you can feed the future interests now. This post will help if you want to dig deeper into the reasons children need to play in nature.

Have a great camping trip!

Image © Ilhaformosa | Dreamstime.com

I Am Loving Cocoon Apothecary – Review

Woman looking at rose hips

Natural skincare products are the clear choice, but which ones? To save you trying a bunch of different brands, I want to tell you about Cocoon Apothecary.

Yesterday I spent the evening with a friend I haven’t seen much for a while. When I mentioned my upcoming birthday, she said, “I want to say something, but I don’t want to offend. I just need to ask. You look younger than last time I saw you. How is that possible?”

Wow. How could that possibly offend? I came up with two possibilities: I’ve been working out, and I’ve started using a new line of skincare products. She said, “It’s your skin. Tell me about these products.” So, together we looked up Cocoon Apothecary, and she made me show her the exact products I’m using.

I have noticed a difference. I knew I was going to be writing about it this morning, so I’ve been asking myself each day what I think of each step in my skincare routine. That my friend said what she did yesterday is just happy coincidence, and it convinces me that what I’m seeing isn’t just my own wishful thinking. My skin is smooth and not dry even a full day after applying Cocoon products.

After writing about Cocoon Apothecary and my dry skin a few months ago, Nature Mom sent me samples to try. I wanted to follow up with a review of the products.

I’ve been using Jason Natural C-Effects products for years, and I do quite like them. This is specifically an “anti-aging” line. Do you see where I’m going with this? No one ever told me how young I looked when I used Jason. I haven’t loved the changes to their formulas, but I’ve kept using it. I used to love the smell, but it’s far more chemical now. Still, it worked better with my skin than other products I tried. But, this last winter I had terribly dry skin. Nothing worked to keep it from getting flaky. I resorted to using straight olive oil on my skin for most of the winter.

Until I tried Cocoon Apothecary.

Reading about Cocoon for the March “Winter Dry Skin” post, I just loved their philosophy and their open list of natural ingredients. Now that I’ve tried the products for a while, I love the products as well as the philosophy.

Petal Purity Facial Cleanser

This is my least favorite, because my skin doesn’t feel clean when I use this. It is applied on dry skin then rinsed off. I think I’m using it right, but I just don’t feel clean afterward. I have continued to use my Body Shop soap. I won’t be buying more of this. It was just the product that came in the sample, so I plan to try a different Cocoon Apothecary cleanser.

Rose Dew Facial Toner

After cleaning my skin, I just close my eyes and spritz this on. I go about my business for a few minutes, and the toner has done its work. It tightens without drying, which is a big help when drying is my biggest issue. No more rubbing on. I love that. The smell is rosey. More on that below.

Rosey Cheeks Facial Cream

My favorite product is the moisturizer. My goal is always to find lotion and other moisturizers that give a lot of moisture without leaving a greasy feeling or a waxy film. I get neither with this cream. It is thick, but it absorbs completely without leaving any unpleasant feel.

My one problem is the smell of both the Rose Dew Facial Toner and the Rosey Cheeks Facial Cream. They smell like roses. Some deep down memory tells me that roses smell like old women and funerals. When I’m using anti-aging skin products anyway, the last thing I want is to smell like someone’s grandmother. I asked my family if I smell like roses generally, and they said no. I made each of my children smell my face very closely after I had applied the facial cream about 8 hours before, and they did say they smell roses, but that it is faint. It’s a strong smell when it goes on. I miss the creamsicle smell of Jason, but I’m willing to give it up when my friends tell me I look younger than I did years before.

The most important difference I see between my old skincare products and my new favorites is that one just replaces moisture and the other also nourishes the skin. The Rosey Cheeks Facial Cream includes Rosehip Oil (trans-retinoic acid, which is likely one of the reasons for my younger-looking skin), Rose Absolute (not vodka but an antioxidant), Shea Butter, Avocado Oil, and Green Tea Oil. Intellectually, sure I know this is going to help, but seeing the change is still surprising.

Big thanks to Nature Mom for the Cocoon Apothecary Starter Kit. I’m hooked, and I’m planning my big order for more. I will be trying Rosehip Oil Facial Scrum. I’m actually excited about it. I’m not one to talk about cosmetics usually, but these cosmetics are different. If you are looking for not just natural ingredients but a nourishing skin care routine, try Cocoon Apothecary. Plus, they are Made in Canada, and I know that matters to a lot of our customers.

Image © Cynoclub | Dreamstime.com

7 Ideas for Outdoor Summer Fun with Baby

Baby sitting in the grass outside

If it’s your baby’s first summer, not quite ready to run around quite yet, what will you do all day during the summer? I have a few ideas based on the activities that my babies loved.

When I was a very new parent, there were days I just had no idea what to do. I would stare at my baby and ask her, “What do you want to do?” She would just smile at me. By the time I had a second baby, I knew that he was very happy to be my passenger. What I liked to do, he liked to do. So, I put him in a baby carrier, peeking over my shoulder, and I set off doing what I would have done anyway.

If you are looking ahead to the long, hot summer and wondering what to do, I have a few ideas for outdoor activities you can do with your baby.

1. Bubbles. My number one favorite play activity with babies is blowing and popping bubbles. One second they are there then they POP! No more bubbles. Who can resist a baby’s amazement the first time they see this happen.

2. Water. My babies loved water, especially splashing. They did not love the sprinkler, which they didn’t control. Go slowly so you don’t take your baby over that edge of excitement into worry and fear. I liked keeping the water movement under my baby’s control as we drummed and splashed in a bucket of water.

3. Garden peekaboo. Whether you have a cultivated garden, a wild garden, or a collection of weeds, it’s all the same to your baby. Sit the baby on the lawn and hide, popping up behind big plants. The simple movement out from behind leaves where you were gone then you are suddenly there can be a big surprise.

4. Lawn ball. Sometimes when it is hot, the lawn in the shade is still a bit cool. Sit on the cool lawn and roll a ball.

5. Music and dance. Grab something to shake or pound and head outside. Sing your baby’s future favorite song. Make sure your baby has something to grip and shake—a rattle will do. If your baby can stand, then dance! This was one of the our favorite daily activities, and my children still remember the songs we sang. We still sing them now as car songs.

6. Take a walk. Wear your baby in a kangaroo position or on your back, so it’s easy to look around. Just get away. Point out birds and animals. Involve your baby. You’ll probably have a sleeping baby by the end.

7. Picnic. The newness of a familiar activity in a different place is fun even if you just have your lunch then breastfeed your baby.

Nearly everything is new and exciting for a baby. Look for developmentally appropriate activities that let your baby use and improve motor skills, social skills, and language.

If you share in the delight your baby feels at every new and exciting thing, you can share a summer of discovery. Really, though, all your baby wants is to be with you. As long as you are there and having fun, your baby will likely have fun as well.

Image © Msghita | Dreamstime.com