5 Most Forgotten Necessities for New Seasoned Moms

Our Blaisey boy has been here for one month now. Talk about time flying. We’ve been intentionally savoring every cute little moment with him, but it’s still bittersweet to see him grow so quickly!

After a five year span with no babies, this little guy has been a real treat.

After a five year span with no babies, this mama has become very rusty!

In the first few days after he was here, I began to realize just how out of practice I’d become and just how much I’d forgotten.

(This post contains affiliate links.)

To help any other rusty mamas out, here’s my list of my Top Five Forgotten (or nearly forgotten) Necessities!

Nursing Bras – after a few years of living a more free and hippie style of dress, the need for a good bra completely fell off my radar, as they say. It literally never crossed my mind. Oops. Let’s just say it’s more of a necessity these days! I’m loving this brand that I purchased, a couple days after Blaise was born.

Nursing Pads – these go hand in hand. You forget what engorgment is. And it has to go somewhere! Maybe grab some extra t-shirts while you’re at it. You’ll need them for those middle of the night soaked t-shirt changes.

After Pains Remedy – this was actually on my list, but Blaisey boy showed up before I made it to the store. Especially if you already have a few kids, this is a must. Oy. The pain can be worse than labor!

Diapers – obviously, right? This is somewhere in the back of my mind. I love cloth diapers, so I was pretty excited about it all, but I don’t think I really acted on that. Thankfully, a couple sweet friends made sure I had what I needed before his arrival.¬† I had this brand on my amazon wish list and was gifted some. For the price, they’re pretty wonderful.

Boho Bandeau – my sisters have been singing the praises of the Boho Bandeau for years, but I’d never actually purchased one for myself. After long nights and showerless days, I figured it was time. This makes me look a bit more put together and hides my dirty hair pretty well!

Bonus Item: The Diaper Bag. I don’t think I’ve carried a diaper bag since I had some cutesie thing with my first. Diaper bags are less diaper baggie these days and my hands are a little more busy. I caved and joind the diaper bag club. It’s really nice to have everything all ready to go and to have what we need when we are out. Gone are the long days at home with babies and this little guy is often out and about. The diaper bag has been a savior.

Raising Backyard Hogs: A Beginners Guide

So, you have this great idea to put some of your wooded lot to use by raising hogs? Fantastic! Let’s do it! I had the same idea three years ago and have not regretted a moment of it. Yes, there was a time when eight piglets were running down road, or just the other day, a 250lb hog jumped out of the trailer just before I left for the butcher shop. Trust me, it’s worth it.

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After our acrobatic hog climbed out of the trailer, we stashed her in the chicken run until we could get the hog fencing set back up. The hens were not amused!

You’ll love it when every scrap from your garden, kitchen, butchering table, or dinner leftovers are turned into bacon. Even weeds, poison ivy, and, kitchen gray water gets devoured by pigs. Eventually, you’ll wonder how you ever got anything cleaned up without them.

According to Edmund Morris in the famous 1864 classic guide to independent farming, “The business of raising and carefully attending to only half a dozen hogs, is worthy of every farmer’s serious study and attention.” (link)

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These were our first hogs! They love the fresh air, green grass, and companionship.

The first step is to check and see if your land is zoned for agriculture use. If so, you’re well on your way. If not, you still may be able to raise hogs depending on your zoning and city/county ordinances. You can always raise them and see if anyone complains ūüôā

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Hog love the woods. Trees provide plenty of shade, lots of roots and plants for a snack, poison ivy to munch on, and best of all – hills and ravines to run up and down. Hogs are like children. They need a space to play, make a mess, and shade for an afternoon siesta.

Piglets

Piglets are known in the farming community as feeder pigs. A feeder pig is a hog that has been weened from it’s mother and is less than 40lbs, give or take. I would look for a producer who is trying to support the heritage breeds and understands the value of trait diversity. Remember, you want hogs that can withstand extreme temperatures, exposure to the outside elements, and have the natural instinct to forage. A confinement breed wouldn’t last a season in my backyard, hence, I stick to old world heritage breeds. I raise Hampshire and Herefords because they are the earliest recorded breeds in America and because it’s what my producer grows! If you are in the Indiana/Illinois/Ohio area, I’d highly recommend using Maddhawg Farms.

Shelter

Although hogs love rain and don’t mind snow, I went ahead and built a three-sided 4 x 8 pallet shed for them to at least get out of a hail storm.

4 pallets

1 sheets of 4×8 plywood (roof)

3 2x4x8

1 box of 2 1\2 in deck screws (T25)

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These hogs are supposed to be napping, but I see at least one eye open.

For the flooring, I went ahead and built a deck out of leftover boards. The deck extends further than the front of the shed, which gives them an area for kicking the mud off their feet before entering, but they really only used it for sunbathing. Silly pigs! Otherwise, it can just be dirt, but keep in mind that you’ll have to constantly add bedding. I’ve found that the bedding provides warmth in the winter and soaks up their urine. For bedding, you can use just about anything: straw, pine shavings, ampalaya vines, grass clippings, or whatever you have on hand.

Fencing

The big questions is how to keep them contained. When they are piglets, this can be tricky. The best way is to acquire some hog panels (cow panels have larger spacing) and metal stakes to create a pen in front of your new pallet hog shelter. In the beginning I used the metal wires shaped for connecting hog panels to metal stakes, but now I just use zip ties. Zip ties won’t hold in a 150 pound hog, but do a decent job for the piglets. Zip ties are much easier to remove when we are ready to remove the hog panels.

Wait…remove the hog panels? Yes, you don’t want to raise hogs in a confined area right? Remember, they are like children. Can you imagine raising children with no access to parks, green space, creeks, mountains, ponds, or lakes?

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Look closely and you can see the electric fence wire connected to the round red posts in front of the hog panels. In the foreground, are hogs that are already trained on the electric fence wire.

Once the panels are up, you can toss the piglets inside and start planning for your electric fence. The plan is to get the electric fence setup and train the piglets on one or two lines of electrified wire before you remove the panels and run the fence anywhere you want. They’ll respect it even though it’s only a line or two – as long as it’s set to the proper height. A pigs nose is very sensitive, so make sure to run your lines right at snout height. I run one bit lower, as well, just to be safe.

With this set up, I’ve successfully run electric lines through ravines, creeks, and in an open field. I prefer using the following materials, in order to get a no-hassle fence setup in about 30 minutes. (This post contains affiliate links)

Gallager 110-Volt fence charger ¬†– this is the only charger I would trust to really push back a big hog. It’s tempting to save money by going with a smaller charger, but the bigger one is worth the peace of mind. I wouldn’t use anything with less than three joules.

Gallagher Electric Fence Wire¬†‚Äď I love this polywire because it is easy to setup and wind up on a reel for storage.

Gallagher Wire Reel¬†– a reel is not absolutely necessary. You could wind up the polywire on a stick, but when it comes to setting it back up, you’ll be glad when the polywire isn’t a tangled up mess.

Zareba 50 ft Underground Wire¬† – after you measure the distance from your charger (mine is in the basement) to your electric fence, purchase plenty of hook up wire¬† the¬†underground electrical connection. I buried mine 6 inches deep with a shovel. It’s always nice to have extra for connecting gates, paddocks across a road or trail, etc.

Posts and Insulators  РI started with 25 posts and 50 insulators (two insulators per post). This will give you a decent size area for three hogs. You can also always add more later.

Clothesline Tightener

Bolt Connectors  РI use several of these on every electric fence setup to connect the hookup wire to the polywire.

Gate Holders¬† – Normally, I would just walk over the electric line when visiting the hogs and lay the posts on the ground when driving the trailer into their paddock. But last year, I started using plastic gate holders and now I’m never going back. It doesn’t take more than a few mins to setup.

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Feeding Your Hogs

Back to Edmund Morris,

“they shared with the cow in the abundant trimmings and surplus from the garden, eating many things which she rejected, and appropriating all the slop from the kitchen. In addition to this, we fed them twice a day with boiled bran, sometimes with a handful of corn meal, but never upon whole corn.”

In essence, you can feed them whatever you have on hand and for the most part, if they don’t like it or it’s not good for them, they’ll stay away from it. I’ve never had a hog that liked onions, potatoes, garlic, or peppers. So, don’t bother with those. In order to ensure that the hogs have a balanced diet, I would recommend that you purchase feed from a local grain elevator or supplier and only supplement 50% of their diet with food/garden scrapes. The feed ensures that they receive the proper vitamins and protein to grow strong and healthy. If you don’t have a lot of food or garden scraps, I would suggest looking at other supplement food sources to keep your feed costs down. Here are 3 that I use regularly:

Spent Grain – talk to you local brewery and ask them if they would fill-up a tote for you of their spent grain. Spent grain is the boiled grain used to make the wort. The wort is then poured into a secondary tank for fermentation, while the spent grain is dumped into a compost or trash bin. Yet, there are a lot of nutrients left in the grain and it still has about 8-12% protein (hog grower feed has 16-18% protein). If you are able to convince the brewery that giving you the spent grain is mutually beneficial, then you need to provide them with containers to fill. I’ve heard of farmers using everything from storage totes to trash cans to load spent grain, but you want to make it as convenient as possible for the brewer. I would highly recommend purchasing used IBC (intermediate bulk container)¬†or¬†pallet tank, which is a reusable industrial container designed for the transport and storage of bulk liquid and granulated substances, such as chemicals, food ingredients, solvents, etc. Be sure to buy ones used for food grade substances only.

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Typically, your brewery will have a fork lift to move the IBC/pallet tote to your pickup truck or trailer once it is filled. Once you get it home, you can use any number of creative or labor intensive methods of unloading it into the hog pen.

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The hogs love spent grain from the brewery, but always best feed it to them fresh. Since it’s basically, boiled grain, the moisture content is high and it’ll spoil quickly in the summer.

Food Distributor or Grocery Store –¬†unlike the spent grain, you have to be picky dealing with these folks. They want to get rid of everything to save space in their trash compactor, so I have a few rules on what I’ll pickup from a food distributor or grocery store with whom I have partnered for food pickup.

Rule 1: I only pick up bulk items that are in their natural state. Fresh veggies and fruit are the most common. I’ve picked up totes of apples, tomatoes, watermelon, cabbages, etc.

Rule 2: Don’t pick up anything with excessive packaging. Trust me! When you are opening a 1000 bags of lettuce and your farm is littered in plastic, you won’t be happy. It’s not worth the work. If it comes in large 20lb bags then that works. But opening individual salad bags then having multiple little bags of croutons, dressing, and cheese fall out? You’ll be cursing your beloved hogs!

 

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Although, the hogs aren’t allowed to eat junk food, we made an exception for the Button vs PeterXavier pie eating contest.

Community Garden

Just about every community garden has a scrap pile where everyone dumps their rotten veggies, vines, weeds, etc. Stop by with your pickup truck and help them clear it out! When I stop by the community garden scrap pile, I’m looking for melons, tomato vines, and pumpkins. Every garden has too many pumpkins.

Finally, have fun with your hogs. They are like children. Joel Salatin has a great line from his book, The Marvelous Pigness of Pigs,

“one of my favorite joys, is stepping across the electric fence to commiserate with a group of our pastured pigs. My special treat is to sit down, preferably on an old stump, get real quiet and still, then just wait. Sure enough those pigs eventually ease over to check me out. They snoodle up and down my pants pushing their wet noses into creases. Others nip at my shoelaces and chew at the soles of my shoes…the friendliest and most docile sidle up alongside and place a chin on my knee, waiting for a rub. Feel free to pet¬† your piglets often and they’ll reward you 6 months later with a gentle snout on your lap when they are twice your size.”

 

When Home Birth Doesn’t Work Out: Birth Story Part 2

For the beginning of this story, see my Birth Story, Part 1.

I arrived at my appointment feeling pretty good, but a little nervous as to how everything would pan out. I really didn’t want to get flack from a doctor about my home birth choices, my seemingly high risk pregnancy, or my supposed geriatric age.

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It turned out, I had nothing to worry about. The doctor was so sweet and understanding. She reviewed all of my issues and risks, but assured me that she would make sure everything went as smoothly as possible. She did reiterate that going past 40 weeks was not a good idea. I mentioned that I didn’t think I would, seeing as I’d been having contractions on and off, but she dismissed that as typical of a pregnancy with excessive amniotic fluid.

We chatted a bit more and then she wanted to check dilation, just to get an idea of how things we going. She immediately got a shocked look on her face and I believe her words were: “Girlfriend! You’re at 5 cm and need to go to Labor and Delivery!” My brain was saying “But I have stuff to do! The laundry! The dishes! Can I go home first?? I promise I’ll come back!” But I knew that this wasn’t my time to argue. She left to alert L&D that I was on my way and when I walked out of the room, I heard a nurse say “Do I need to wheel her over? {looks at me walking out} Oh, nope. She seems fine!”

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I called Andrew to let him know what was going on and then called my parents to let them know that the kids would be over soon. I drove myself over to L&D, which was mostly just driving around the parking lot, trying to find a space to park.

I got all checked in and sent to triage for monitoring and waited on Andrew to arrive. It was all pretty boring and uneventful. Eventually, my doctor came and determined that I was, in fact, progressing and sent me to be admitted. Que more waiting, aimless walking, and general boredom. I’d rather be at home doing laundry! I did struggle a bit with having nothing to do to distract me. I usually work, clean, and go about my day during early labor. Obviously, that wasn’t an option this time.

Things continued to progress, but I still wasn’t really uncomfortable. The nurse began monitoring baby and me again, which meant being in the bed instead of walking. About that time, the doctor came in to very carefully break my water.

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The main risk we were dealing with was a prolapsed cord, which could be extremely serious and result in emergency C-section (best case scenario) or even death. Needless to say, I was extremely nervous about break the water, but also felt more secure since we were at the hospital and I felt that my doctor was taking everything very seriously.

With great care, she broke my water and guided his little head down, to ensure that the cord wouldn’t prolapse. After this, I knew it was pretty much go time. I figured that, if I had to be in the hospital, I might was well take advantage and request just a bit of pain killer. I don’t remember what it was called, but they put something magical in my IV and I hardly even noticed when I hit transition.

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Soon enough, it was time to push, which turned out to be some sort of wacky show. I felt like those cows at Fair Oaks Farm where everyone stands around watching and waiting.

Awkward.

Finally, someone suggested a squat bar, but of course, no one knew how to use it. Thankfully, Andrew can figure things out, even under pressure. He got it set up for me and once that was situated, everything moved pretty quickly.

One big push later and we were holding our sweet baby boy.

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In an instant, our high stress, crazy pregnancy had safely come to an end. We were relieved and over joyed to finally have this little guy in our arms.

Bonaventure Blaise, you were worth the trouble, my boy. We are so happy to have you in our family!

 

When Home Birth Doesn’t Work Out: A Birth Story, Part 1

My boys have all thrown a monkey wrench into their births. My girls were pretty easy peasy. Bonaventure Blaise chose to follow in his brothers footsteps.

My last two births were sweet and easy home births. It was all so peaceful and comfortable, after having had some less than pleasant hospital experiences.

Everything went along swimmingly, until the 20 week anatomy scan. These scans are optional in homebirth, but I have always been a pretty stong advocate of checking everything out just once. At our scan, we learned that our little guy had bilateral clubfoot. This is a relatively common birth defect and entirely treatable. It also didn’t preclude home birth.

It did require having a follow up Level 2 ultrasound with a Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) specialist. He was a wonderfully friendly and informative doctor. After that first scan, he gave no indication that home birth was off the table, but he did request we come back for a follow up later.

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4D ultrasounds are pretty amazing. He still sleeps with a hand over his eye!

 

I wanted to skip the follow up and was, admittedly, annoyed by the entire process. But at 37 weeks and 2 days, we did the follow up scan. There, we learned that I had far too much amniotic fluid, which could cause issues at delivery. The MFM mentioned that I should be careful not to go over 40 weeks and requested that we monitor with weekly scans.

It wasn’t until I received his report the next evening – a Friday – that I saw that he had removed our possibility of having our home birth. Here I was: 37+ weeks pregnant, going into the weekend, and searching for an OB. I was feeling pretty lost and clueless.

Thankfully, I had many friends ready to help and was pointed in the right direction. I called an OB first thing Monday morning, poured out my ridiculous sob story, and was given an appointment at 11 the next day.

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Gardens don’t wait for babies. We spent Sunday of that crazy weekend gardening. I was sort of hoping it would induce labor…

When I left for my appointment Tuesday morning, Andrew joked that I wouldn’t be coming straight home. I’d been having contractions on and off since Sunday, but I definitely didn’t feel like I was in full blown labor.

(To Be Continued. It’s a bit of a long story.)