Archive for July, 2010

Although I can’t remember how it came up in conversation, I clearly remember the surprise on the young mother’s face when I told her I had used cloth diapers.  Not only did I wash those diapers, I hung them to dry out in back yard.  Oh, the shock… 

Now my babies are pretty well grown, so those memories are well over 15 years old, but it seems like yesterday.  Some things – like dumping a full diaper bucket into a washing machine – you just don’t forget.

After a cycle of really hot water and bleach, I used to put my baby monitor into the basket with the damp diapers and take them out to the rectangular clothes hanger that had been handed down to me from my mother-in-law. We lived in rural Kentucky surrounded by huge trees, so the sunlight was at premium.  That collapsible rectangle with its web of nylon ropes just fit into the only patch of sunshine. And, of course, as I told my young audience a while back, the reason to hang diapers was so the sun could take some of those yellow and brown stains out. It was my mother who let me in on the secret powers of sunlight on diapers. 

The truth is that my diaper decision was more economical than environmental. We were so broke in those early years that I was more concerned with saving money than saving the environment. After all, you could buy a dozen cloth diapers and use them for months for the same price as 24 disposable diapers.  But I wasn’t above taking credit for saving a little landfill space when my peers questioned me about by controversial decision.

Even 20 years ago, very few young mothers voluntarily washed diapers and the truth is, it’s not so bad. Mothers always have to deal with “stuff” they would rather not touch, it’s only one more unpleasant step in a process no one enjoys.  I could even argue that folding those soft, mostly white diapers fresh off the clothes line was kind of nice. But the truth is, even the power of the sun doesn’t take all those stains. The green ones were especially challenging.  

I don’t think I ever convinced my husband to take care of the all important dunking step.  Another clear memory: finding the used diaper pushed to the side of the changing pad, waiting for me to do the dunking.  But at least he learned not to stick the baby when he pinned them with the big, yellow ended diaper pins. Well, eventually he learned not to stick the baby when he pinned the diapers.

And then there were rubber pants. Do they even sell those now? I think today’s environmentalist moms have much better ways to cover cloth diapers. I would have loved the options they have now. I remember when I found brightly colored rubber pants that with matching T-shirts. I have pictures of my oldest wearing what I thought was ultimate in baby chic – a bright yellow T-shirt and matching yellow rubber pants that bagged around her diaper like a pair of birthday party balloons. I had to line dry the rubber pants too, because the dryer ruined the plastic.

My cloth diapers wearing babies haven’t had a chance to make their own decision on cloth versus disposable diapers. I haven’t had a chance to pass on my mother’s tip about drying in the sun.  But one of these days, I’ll have to tell them that cloth diapers really aren’t that bad.

What goes around, comes around.

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The Trash Wars

Every marriage has its issues and the longer the marriage, the more issues are likely to collect. My husband and I have a pretty long list, but then we’ve been married for a pretty long time. One issue that seems to keep cropping up is trash.
I remember when I was kid and trash was easy. You just put it into a waste basket and eventually someone emptied it and put the big trash can out on the curb once a week. I guess someone put it out once a week. I only know that the trash seemed to disappear without any effort on my part. It’s possible that my brother remembers it differently, but my parents based chores firmly on gender and trash was always a boy thing.
Nothing is ever that easy when you are married. For years my husband and I have fought about trash and recycling. I remember back when we lived in the suburbs and we had to pay an extra five dollars a month to recycle, in spite of the fact that some of what we recycled could be sold. I was O.K. with five dollars a month to make me feel better about my carbon footprint, but not my husband who has been known to be, well, a little frugal. So all those years we lived in the suburbs, I hauled my bags of aluminum cans to the local recycling center and in between we argued about the bags of cans that piled up in the garage.
Back then, a single bag of cans would attract every ant, bumble bee and cock roach in the neighborhood unless I disposed of it immediately, but I felt strongly enough about my carbon footprint to persevere. I kept saving cans, defending the practice, and hauling them to the recycling center.
When we moved out to the lake, there wasn’t an option. If you recycled, you hauled your own recycling into the all volunteer Community Recycle Center where the nice men used the profits in all kinds of community projects. Back when it was all volunteer, it was also conveniently located behind the Activity Center where I’ve spent a lot of time over the years. It was no problem to drop off my bags of cans. In fact I bought myself some plastic bins and started recycling plastic bottles, newspapers and cardboard.
For a while I used to donate my cans to the elementary school my daughter attended, but that got embarrassing. One of the volunteers there was the father of one of my Girl Scouts and he was impressed with the amount of “pop” cans I managed to collect.
“Your family must drink a lot of pop,” he said and I could only agree and hope that he didn’t notice our favorite brand was Keystone Light. It was better to drop them off with the volunteers I didn’t know.
I guess it was about a year ago when everything changed again. Unexpectedly, my husband started hauling in the recycling. It took some in depth investigation to discover why the cans and bottles were no longer pest magnets, but part of a responsible life style. Then I realized he had a partner in crime. His friend would pick him up and they would make a morning out of it. Visiting the new Recycling Center and then stopping for breakfast. Sometimes, they would make an extra stop at the place that pays for cans and pay for breakfast with the proceeds. That made my husband very happy.
Now we recycle everything. He rinses out all the food cans and milk bottles and puts them in my old plastic bins. We keep those Styrofoam cups from Sonic and all the used to-go containers. He collects every piece of cardboard and actually pulls recyclables out of the trash we bring up from the boat. He even made a new recycling bin out of our old dishwasher. Of course, it only has three sides and it’s too big to lift into the car or his friend’s truck, but we recycled it. We even recycle things I’m pretty sure the Center doesn’t want, but it’s not worth trying to convince him.

So it seemed like the trash/recycling issue was solved, but then he cancelled the trash pick up. I mentioned he was a little frugal, didn’t I?
It’s true that we recycle an awful lot of what used to be trash. And it’s true that I wanted to start a compost pile and stop buying all those bags of top soil every spring. But we still have trash and it was completely worth it to pay someone to pick it up. Instead he got permission to use a dumpster in town once a week and we buy extra plastic bags to collect enough trash to make a trip worthwhile.
So now the new argument goes, “I’m not putting that bag of trash in the trunk of my Civic.” So far, I’m winning.

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Fourth of July

We need more holidays like the Fourth of July.

First, it’s in the summer!  We need more holidays in the warm weather months when we’re already in vacation mode.

Second, it requires no expenditures.  There’s no gift giving and even the traditional barbecue is low-cost and optional.

Third, it’s really, really fun.

Since we moved to Beaver Lake, our Fourth of July fun is always on the pontoon boat. The pontoon boat is a perfect place to watch the fireworks set off at the nearby marinas.  Yes, perfect.  Even when it’s hot (and it wasn’t this year), the pontoon boat is comfortable.  We always have friends along, but there’s usually plenty of room, especially since someone is usually swimming.  Watching the fireworks while floating in the lake is even better than watching from the pontoon boat.

The best thing about our pontoon boat is the grill.  While other people fish, or sail, or ski, our favorite water sport is cooking.  We fire up the little propane grill and throw on hot dogs, hamburgers, ribs, chicken, steaks, fish, veggies, you name it.  When we have friends on board, it’s usually pot luck, so there’s lot’s of choices.  We may have a plate of hot dogs, a few chicken wings, store-bought potato salad, farmer’s market cucumber and tomatoes, veggie burgers, slaw, chips and cookies.  There’s usually something new and there are always old favorites.  All the cooking and eating gives us something to pass the time while we wait for the fireworks.

We tie up with other boats and pass the food back and forth.  Some years there will be eight or nine boats tied together and climbing between them can be a challenge.  There are always kids and dogs and all kinds of floating toys.

Then there’s the trip home – always exciting.  Usually we don’t stay out after dark.  The lake is our day time playground and by the time it’s truly dark in the summer, we’re ready to go home to bed.  But Fourth of July is different.  And it’s not just us.  When the fireworks finish up and the motors come on, there are hundreds of people feeling their way through the suddenly unfamiliar lake.  It can get pretty scary out there especially for anyone in a small boat. 

All those motors make waves and the waves can get high. One year they got high enough to knock one of our passengers and the lawn chair he was seated on completely over.  Luckily, he kept hold of his flash light.  But if you let the traffic get away, it’s easy to get lost on Beaver Lake in the dark.  It’s happened to us more than once. Perhaps the most embarrassing one was when we motored into an unfamiliar cove and ended up stuck on a rock.  It could have happened to anyone, but anyone else probably would have realized they were stuck instead of diagnosing a broken prop and calling for a tow. 

A summer holiday on Beaver Lake: food, friends, floats, fireworks and fun. What’s not to love?

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