I know there are a lot of people who are turned off by the “green revolution,” and really don’t appreciate snooty environmentalists acting all elitist. Well, sorry folks. Here’s another hippy post, but I promise not be elitist.
In my last installment of “being a hippy mama” I talked about cloth diapers. A lot of the things we’ve decided to do to “be green” are beneficial for us as well as the environment: we’re saving ourselves some serious green, which is a huge motivator. Choosing to be kind to the environment can sometimes be expensive (there’s a reason they call Whole Foods “Whole Paycheck”). However, one of the 3 R’s is reuse...which is what I’m going to talk about today.
Most of the larger ticket items I’ve talked about in my recommendations posts have been purchased secondhand, which has saved us a lot of money. We buy a lot of our stuff used, but baby stuff in particular is very easy to find for very little money - at some point every parent gets sick of having loads of plastic crap in their house, and they often just want it gone (which means they list it for cheap!).
In most cases we’ve recouped the money we spent by reselling the items after we’re finished with them; in some cases we’ve actually made money. Here are just a few of our purchases, all found on Craigslist:
Fisher-Price Papasan Baby Swing - Retail $159.99
Purchased $40, sold for $40
I had a hard time justifying the purchase of yet another large plastic baby thing that I wasn’t sure we’d actually use (as it turns out, this swing saved my sanity - to the point where we bought another one for the living room!). The swing was in great shape and looked clean, but I was still able to remove the padded part and wash it - good as new! We sold this sucker for exactly what we paid.
2007 Uppababy Vista Stroller - Retail $679.99
Purchased $275, sold for $350
I bought the Uppababy Vista when I was pregnant, thinking I would love it (after all, everyone raves about it!). As it turned out, I didn’t. As a bit of a tangent, Uppababy is a great company that really improves its products year after year. Thus, the 2007 Vista is not nearly as awesome as a new one, and I think that’s most of the reason I didn’t love it. But I digress. As I mentioned above, I purchased this stroller for $275, and sold it for $350. How did I make money on the Vista? It’s all about timing. When I was looking to buy on Craigslist, there were a ton for sale. I was able to negotiate with a motivated seller. When I decided to sell it, mine was one of two listed (the other was nearly brand new and twice the price), and I wasn’t in a hurry. I found a buyer who was very excited to take it off my hands. Win-win, as they say.
Fisher-Price Activity Table - Retail $50
This was a recommendation from a friend. At this point, we’d already realized that we shouldn’t buy any popular baby toys new. Charlie loves this even still, so we haven’t sold it.
2005 Bugaboo Frog (now Cameleon) - Retail $979
I’m a little bit of a stroller fiend. I thought I couldn’t be pleased, but this bugaboo has stolen my heart. It’s amazing to me that a 6 year old stroller could be far superior to brand new strollers. And with such a great deal, I am thrilled with my purchase.
These are just a few of the many, many things we've bought on Craigslit (including the office chair I'm sitting in right now!). A couple of items we haven’t purchased on Craigslist, and why:
- Car seat - did you know that car seats expire, and if they’ve been in even a small accident, you need a new one? We didn’t trust people on Craigslist to be honest - after all, you truly risk your child’s life if you put them in a faulty car seat.
- Stokke tripp trapp - we would have purchased this on Craigslist, if we had found it on Craigslist. But again, this is about the timing - right now there are a lot of tripp trapps on our local Craigslist, so I'm sure we could have gotten a better deal if we'd been willing to wait.
Tips for buying baby stuff used:
- Look for stuff used. I know this seems obvious, but I truly think most people don't even think to buy stuff used. They think whatever they find will be gross or that finding it will be too much work. Hopefully I've convinced you that buying used is not too much work.
- Be patient, if time allows. In an ideal world, you should start before you need the item, so you’re not desperate and can afford to negotiate. Sometimes (as with the Vista or the Tripp Trapp), timing is everything.
- If you're looking for something specific, set up an alert on Craigslist. Check out how to do that below.
- Don’t just check Craiglist: local baby swaps and yard sales are great resources.
- Resell it when you're done with it, so you don't have a ton of crap around your house (and you have more money to buy other, age-appropriate toys!).
How to set up a Craigslist Alert:
Craigslist alerts are a great way to find items that aren't posted very often. I have ongoing alerts set up for this Melissa and Doug shopping cart, and medium/large gCloth inserts. Neither of these items are easy to come by on my local Craigslist. Here's how to set up an alert yourself:
- Go to your city's Craigslist, and click on "baby+kids." Then enter your search term(s) and (if you want), what you're willing to pay. When you're done, click "Enter."
- Scroll to the bottom of the page. You'll see an orange button with the letters RSS. Click on that button. You'll see a whole page of code in your browser window.
- Copy that page's URL and paste it into your feed reader. Now you can be notified via your feed reader every time an item is posted on Craigslist that meets your search criteria.
I also recommend (if you're serious about Craigslist) the iPhone app "CraigsPro" which has the ability to set up alerts in the app, and also makes searching from your phone really easy.
That's about it for me! Got any other tips?
During the day, we mostly use cloth, unless we're going out (more on that below). If you're doing cloth with gDiapers, you have two options: pre-folds or the gDiapers brand gCloth. Pre-folds are really cheap, and all you have to do is fold them in thirds and stuff them in the gPants. However, they make for a really big bum, whereas the gCloth is much more streamlined (it's basically flat, but really absorbent). We used gCloth when she was in size small gDiapers (I found them on Craigslist), and we now use pre-folds (because I'm cheap - gCloth is REALLY expensive).
At night time, I find that the cloth isn’t absorbant enough. Thus, we use a biodegradable gRefill, which is more absorbant. To soak up the extra night-time pee, you can either use another gRefill folded in half underneath the main gRefill (which gDiapers recommended), or you can stick a couple of cloth “boosters” underneath the gRefill, which is what we’re doing. Once again, this has a lot to do with our pocketbook. We use Amazon's Subscribe & Save for gRefills, but they still aren't cheap.
- After she outgrew size small, we had to buy a lot of medium gPants new (I recommend buying them at Babies R Us and doubling up on coupons). It’s an investment upfront, but saves a TON of money over disposables in the long run.
- If you're wondering exactly how we get the pre-folds in the gDiapers (or want awesome close-up photos of every aspect of gDiapers), check out this post from Joyful Abode.
- I like gCloth better than pre-folds, but the pre-folds are much, much less expensive. I bought the pre-folds to fit the medium size gPants, but in retrospect, it would make more sense to buy the gCloth for size medium/large instead of size small. She’ll be in mediums until she’s 28 pounds, and the larges use the same size gCloth. Definitely more bang for your buck if you're going to spend money on gCloth at all. Otherwise, just be cheap like me and buy pre-folds. Three dozen is more than enough.
Last week I wrote a post about how raising chickens isn’t as easy as we thought it would be. In the comments, a few of you asked if I could talk about how much it costs to raise chickens. In my experience, you can make choices that make it either relatively cheap, or really expensive; I’ll talk about all these options.
Just to get organized, I’ll go over the few main expenses of raising backyard chickens first, and then I’ll expand on them in a moment:
- The chicken coop and accessories: This is the home where your chickens will live. It needs to provide a safe place for them to stay at night, and a comfortable place to lay their eggs. You will also need a container for their food and a container for their water.
- Food: Chickens eat a lot. They eat chicken feed and pretty much any scraps you give them.
- Chickens: Of course, you need to buy some chickens. Otherwise the other stuff is pretty pointless.
Okay, now let’s talk a little bit more about our options.
The Chicken Coop
When we got our first two chickens, Y and I bought a pre-made coop from a local feed store. At the time, we thought we’d only have two chickens, so it was a good size. We also thought it was a good deal. As it turns out, this was an expensive route to take. Chickens need a coop and an enclosed area on the ground, so they can peck at the ground and not get picked off by an eagle. This coop and run are sold separately. Total, they came to about $350-$400 with tax, and we only had enough room for 2 chickens.
After we realized that we wanted more than 2 chickens, Y decided to build a new coop himself (I just realized that I never posted about this specifically, and I really should!). This new coop is really high quality, big enough for six chickens, and materials cost about $200-250.
Some people aren’t as handy as Y is, or don’t feel like investing the time. If you buy your own coop, you’re looking at probably $400 (but you might luck out if you look on Craigslist, as the woman who bought our first coop did!). As backyard chickenry gets more and more hip, you’ll find a lot of options for pre-made coops. For example, at around $500, I think the Eglu (pictured below, photo source here) is really cool, but you’ll probably want more than 2 chickens, so you’re looking at the big one, which is more like $1000 with the run.
If you’re thinking about going the DIY route (or you’re just interested in learning about the different types of coops), Backyard Chickens is a great resource for the different types of coops, and they have a lot of examples of homemade coops. People are pretty creative!
As for the accessories–that’s another one-time investment. I’d recommend getting the largest food containers you can so you don’t have to refill it all the time, and figure out how to hang them–otherwise you end up with a lot of chicken crap in the food, which is totally nasty. We bought large metal water and food feeders at the feed store, which probably cost about $50 total. The photo below is Tulip with the water feeder.
Another expense we have is bark chips. While at the Sunset Festival this summer, I checked out Sunset’s chicken coop and was very impressed. They used bark chips on the ground (in fact, they just recently wrote a post about their coop flooring), and it cut down on the smell and the need to clean the ground every week (the coop itself still needs to be cleaned, though). I came home and told Y, and we recently got a bunch of bark nuggets (around $50) to cover the ground. The results have been miraculous. The poop falls between the chips, and it doesn’t smell at all. I’d even venture to say that it smells good. So if you aren’t planning on getting the type of coop that you can move all around the yard (a tractor coop), I highly recommend the bark.
Chicken feed is pretty cheap. We feed all organic pellets, which we get from a local feed store. We get a big 50 pound bag for $35, and it usually lasts about 6-8 weeks (for 5-6 chickens). You’ll also need oyster shells as a calcium supplement, which keeps the eggshells thick. They hardly eat any of these, and they’re only 55¢ per pound.
Another cool thing about chickens is that they love scraps and will eat almost anything; here’s a list of all the things a chicken can and cannot eat. Chickens eating spaghetti? Pretty hilarious.
Chickens vary in price. You can get them as chicks and pay about $2 per chick, but then you have to go through the trouble (and heartbreak) of raising them. There are also upfront costs for that, like heat lamps, etc. We found grown chickens in our area on Craigslist, and paid about $25/chicken. One thing to note: chickens don’t start laying until they’re about 6-7 months old, and after a certain age, they lay less. So if you’re buying a “used” chicken, do your research.
The fun part about choosing your own chickens (as opposed to getting a kit with chickens included) is that you can choose what breeds you get. And different breeds of chicken lay different colored eggs. We get white eggs, light brown eggs, dark brown eggs with spots, and olive green eggs. It’s really cool.
As you can see, the cost depends a lot on how much you choose to spend. How much are you willing to do yourself? We’ve spent more than we probably should have because we bought a crappy coop and didn’t plan ahead (although, we’ve been able to recoup (haha) some of our costs by selling stuff on Craigslist, so it’s not a total loss.
All in all, I’d say that unless you are super frugal and eat a lot of eggs, I wouldn’t do this to save money on eggs (at least not initially). We get about 2 dozen or so eggs per week for five chickens (when they’re all laying). However, for us it’s worth it not to support egg farms, and for the fun of it. It is really cool to have all these different colored eggs, and as I’ve said before: chickens are awesome!Comment
A couple of weeks ago, my friend N over at Two Chicks Nest sent me an article she found in the NY Times about backyard chickens. You don’t have to read it. Instead, the article can pretty much be summarized with the following:
The Bay Area is unmatched in its embrace of the urban backyard chicken trend. But raising chickens, which promises delicious, untainted eggs and instant membership in the local food movement, isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Chickens, it turns out, have issues.
They get diseases with odd names, like pasty butt and the fowl plague. Rats and raccoons appear out of nowhere. Hens suddenly stop laying eggs or never produce them at all. Crowing roosters disturb neighbors.
The problems get worse. Unwanted urban chickens are showing up at local animal shelters. Even in the best of circumstances, chickens die at alarming rates.
This, without a doubt, has been our EXACT experience raising chickens. See the two lovely ladies in the photo above? That’s Buttercup and Dahlia. Dahlia, the chicken on the right, died last month. She was one of my very favorite chickens, and she died out of the middle of nowhere. And she’s not the only one.
You may recall that I’ve shared the deaths of a couple of chickens with you guys; after that, it might seem like everything’s been peachy. But the sad truth is this: since we started this endeavor, we’ve had ten chickens. And we only have five left. Yes, that’s right. We’ve lost half of our flock. Rest in peace, Lily, Petunia, Marigold, Daisy, and Dahlia.
The truth is, there’s really no way to tell if a chicken is sick before it’s too late. We’ve rushed 3 of 5 chickens to the vet, only to be told that nothing can be done. Right now, out of our five chickens, only one is laying us eggs. Two chickens are molting (and we’re unclear when they’ll start laying us eggs again), one of them randomly stopped laying, and the other one has never laid an egg in her entire chicken life.
So yes, we are having problems, and there have been times when I think to myself, “this is too hard. I don’t want to do this again.” But those are usually times right after a chicken has died, or when one chicken (::cough cough:: Rosarita ::cough cough::) is squawking louder than I’ve ever heard anything squawk before.
This is not to say that we regret raising chickens–not by any means.
Raising chickens has been incredibly rewarding. I have a whole new respect for birds now, and an even more heightened awareness of the suffering chickens experience while being raised for meat and eggs. Each one of these chickens has a personality–they’re cute, they’re funny and they’re totally sweet. And as Y said, I’d rather live 6 months in our backyard than a lifetime in a factory farm, that’s for sure.
A few things we have decided on:
- We think raising chicks is a really educational experience that would be great for kids. However, if we need more chickens before we have kids, we will not be raising them from chicks. When you raise them from little bitty babies and then they die, it’s that much harder.
- Five chickens are enough for us. There’s really no need to have more than that.
- The eggs are absolutely, 100% worth it. First off, we know that we aren’t contributing to the horrors of animal torture (and seriously, that’s what it is), and secondly, fresh eggs are delicious. I shared some with my friend Cara, and she said she couldn’t believe what a difference they made. Y made us Crème brûlée over the weekend, and it was amazing.
I’m definitely not saying that backyard chickenry sucks, and I’m not warning against it. However, we were under the impression that raising chickens was “easy” and “impossible to screw up.” And to some extent, that’s true: after all, none of our chickens have died as a result of our screwing up. But really, when you have to bury half of your backyard chickens, you’re probably not going to be using the word “easy,” whether it was your fault or not.Comment
Y and I are new to gardening successfully. Very new. In fact, most everything I’ve ever tried to grow has pretty much died.
I’ve always said that I have a “black thumb,” but I’ve come to realize that a black thumb comes from being excessively lazy and forgetting to water. While I haven’t cured my excessive laziness, I have found a solution: it’s a drip watering system, which is on a timer. Hallelujah!
And yet, we still have some things going wrong.
The first disaster is a little experiment I did.
See this area of our back yard? It’s all deck and no dirt. As a result, it’s kind of unfriendly looking. Looking online for a solution a few months ago, I was inspired by an article I found online about growing lettuce vertically in rain gutters.
I decided to try it for myself and was very excited when my lettuce started to sprout.
And then everything died.
I’m not sure if I drilled too many holes in the bottom of each gutter or what, but the dirt dried out. And with it, my sproutlings dried out. The gutters also started to sag. Note to self: when trying this again, buy the stainless steel gutters instead of the plastic ones.
Not a pretty sight, is it? Even Lulu is trying to avoid looking.
You may be wondering what’s up with the wood strip above the top gutter. That’s Y’s attempt to save us from poisoning after we realized (too late) that the wood along the top of the fence is treated lumber, and that mature lettuce would be touching it.
So, my little experiment was a complete failure. I am undaunted, though–I’ll probably go get stainless steel gutters and try again.
Our other failure is with the radishes I planted. See that tangled mess on the right? Yeah, those are radishes. They’re tall, skinny, flowering and all over the place.
This wouldn’t be so bad, if not for the way the roots turned out.
Yeah. That looks nothing like a radish. I have no idea what went wrong.
I bit the root, and it DOES taste like radish, but it’s really “woody” tasting, which leads me to believe that they’re actually past their prime picking stage. That red part is sitting above the ground too.
Ugh. Any ideas? My thought is to pull them all out and plant more lettuce.Comment
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