Monday, May 12, 2014

Menstrual Cups (what the heck is it, and why you should consider using one)

This is a post talking about a certain time of the month that only women experience. Yes, I'm talkin' 'bout periods. To any male readers of this blog (Hi Dad!), I suggest you stop reading now. This post is for women only. Unless you want to hear about menstrual talk, then all I can say is that you have been duly warned. 

For all the women that read this blog and are tired of tampons and pads, feeling gross and hating when 'that time of the month' comes around... then I have great news for you! Menstrual Cups. Of course this is a topic that many people wouldn't want to discuss publicly, but I figure I am happy to put myself out there and even embarrass myself if it helps someone else. Many people that I have talked to about menstrual cups had no idea they even existed. So, my goal is to make you aware of an awesome device that will make your periods a lot better and is good for the environment too! Okay, hopefully I have convinced you that it is at least something to look into... let me tell my about why I started using one. 

This is a Lunette Model 1 
I bought this last year on Amazon for around $35. I checked on Amazon and it looks like you can get either Model 1 or Model 2, and the clear ones go for $32, and colored ones are a bit more. It even comes with its own satin bag for storing.

I forget where I first read about menstrual cups, but I loved the idea that I could reuse it every month and that I could stop wearing pads and tampons. I hated wearing pads, because they felt so gross, especially in the summer, and I felt like I had to live next to a bathroom for the week because I was constantly afraid of leaks. Tampons weren't any better. I hated how they made me feel dry, and I felt very wasteful changing them out every time I had to use the restroom. I hated all the waste associated with my period and the expense of having to buy disposable products all the time. I have a feeling I am not alone!

My Experience:
After I found out about the menstrual cup, I spent several months researching the different kinds to work up the courage to purchase one. I decided on the Lunette Model 1, bought it on Amazon, and then it sat in my cabinet for another month before I was brave enough to use it.

Finally, during a period in February last year, I worked up the courage the use it. There are several helpful tutorials and videos on how to fold it to insert. I use the C-fold with great success. The first day was awesome. I put it in, and went to school and could use the restroom without having to remove it. Unlike tampons, I couldn't feel it, and because it is silicone I don't feel dried out when it is in and it doesn't mess with the pH either. I even jump-roped for 15 minutes that first day and didn't experience any leaks. I was thrilled!

For the first couple of months of use, I was on birth control which made my periods very light. Then, in April last year, I finally worked up the courage to do another thing I had been scared about, which was stop taking birth control. I promise I will share my birth control story on here soon, because I don't think anyone should take it (and I took it for 3 1/2 years). But that is for another time. Anyway, I was nervous after I stopped taking it because my periods prior to birth control were heavy and very irregular and I was hoping that my Lunette cup would still work. 

As was excepted, for the first couple of months post birth control, they were very irregular. I had read Red Raspberry leaf could help with menstrual complaints, so last summer I started drinking infusions, and added a quart of Red Raspberry Leaf infusion as a uterine tonic once a week. Over the following months I noticed a HUGE improvement. I am happy to report that for the last 6 months my periods have been very regular, I know the day that I will start (which I could never do, ever since I started menstruating) and if I drink my Red Raspberry regularly as an infusion or a tea then I hardly have any cramps or discomfort and my period is less heavy. Actually, I read a post recently about how periods work by, and it makes sense that a tonic that nourishes the uterus like Red Raspberry would help to lessen the bleeding and reduce the occurrence of cramps and discomfort. 

That was a huge tangent, but basically when my periods got heavier after quitting BC then I had to relearn how to use the cup. I struggled with leaking for several months and got very frustrated. If this happens to you when you first start using it, don't give up! When I experienced this I was very frustrated and began looking for other options. But then I read some forums and blogs and found out that I needed to figure out where my cervix was (you will have to get acquainted with your personal anatomy for this part) and then make sure that the cup fit around my cervix by running a finger around the cup (I promise it is not as bad as it seems). Once I figured that out, things got a lot easier and now I only rarely have leaks that only happen occasionally on my heaviest flow day where I have to empty it more often. 

How I use it:
Okay, now you know what it is, and how to troubleshoot some problems, let's get into the details on how to use it. 

When I am supposed to start my period, I will sterilize the cup by boiling it in water for 10 minutes in a small pot reserved just for my Lunette. I am heaviest on my first day so I will wear a pantyliner just in case, and will normally have to empty it 3 times throughout the day. This is really easy. You just grab the tab, pull it out and empty it into the toilet, wash with soap and water (if you are caught in a public restroom you can just wipe it out with toilet paper, until you get home where you can wash it there). After the first day, I can insert it in the morning and forget about it until I go to bed, just emptying it every 12 hours. Also after the first day I don't need to wear pantyliners. Sometimes I even forget I am on my period since I can't feel it at all and don't have to wear any pads/pantyliners. For the record, I think this is totally awesome. 

At the end of my period, I wash it really well and sterilize it by boiling it for ten minutes in its special pot. Then it goes in the cute satin bag and gets put away until the next month. 

I am still using the same cup I bought 1 1/2 years ago. Since I only have to use 1 pantyliner a month (just for the first day). If I divided up the cost of the cup over the time that I have used it, I have spent around $2.00 a month. I expect it to last a long time before I have to purchase another one, so it get's cheaper every month I use it. This is infinitely more cost effective than having to buy disposables every month. Besides cost, it is much more comfortable, better for the environment and I promise your vagina will thank you!

The other thing that I think is really cool about starting to use something like the Lunette, is that you get more acquainted with your own body and your unique anatomy. You will learn where your cervix is, what if feels like, what your flow is like, and a lot more. I think this is really important as part of learning to know and love our bodies. Even if the journey to loving our bodies takes a lifetime, getting over our fear of 'down there' can be a huge step in the right direction. It can build a sense of empowerment and thankfulness for how God created us and the amazing things that our bodies are capable of. 

I hope I haven't scared anyone away with this post! haha I am just so happy that I have found this wonderful device that has changed my relationship with my period. My sincere hope is that you will read this and have the courage to give it a try as well!

I know this can be scary, so if you decided you want to try it out but would like more information, I am happy to answer any questions you might have surrounding this issue. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Garden Update May 7th, 2014

I am done with the semester!!! I am relieved and thankful that it is over. Between buying a house, moving to the new house, having 5 tough classes in school, working, starting an herbal school, and the responsibilities of day-to-day living these past four months have been the hardest I have ever had to go through. Many times I felt like I wanted to quit. But, I am now on the other side, I have survived and I am stronger for it. It pushed my limits of productivity and discipline and helped me to realize how much I truly can accomplish when I am dedicated and put my mind to something :).

Now for the good stuff. My garden! Since we just moved in January, I had very low expectations for the 2014 summer growing season. I didn't want to invest a bunch of time and money to get my hopes up and then not have anything grow. I have only spent $20 so far. $10 was spent on potting soil and the other $10 was spent on seeds. For the rest, I got old seeds out of the freezer from previous years and planted them in recycled containers on the porch so I wouldn't have to take them inside and outside and wouldn't have to baby them at all (less emotional investment, which means less devastation if nothing grew). At least I learned something from my damping off/mold fiasco from last year. Much to my surprise and delight, everything has sprouted and is growing nicely. I couldn't be happier!

Since I have a bunch of plants the next hurdle was figuring out where to put the garden. Currently we have a lot of trees but I found a location in the backyard that got enough sun and decided to dig 2 3x15 foot beds. 

I used the double dig method from the French Bio-intensive way of gardening. 

Basically,  I started digging the first portion of the bed, 1 shovelful deep and moved the dirt aside. Then I took a garden fork and loosened up the next shovelful deep. 

Then I added dolomitic limestone to raise the pH. 

Then I added in a few shovelfuls of composted manure (that I got from a local beef farm for free). 

Then I took the next portion of the bed, dug out 1 shovelful deep and instead of putting it aside, I shoveled it onto the cow manure from the previous step, loosened up another several inches deeper with a garden fork, added lime, and manure. Rinse and repeat. 

I dug one whole bed this way, and with the second bed I got halfway doing it the correct way and then I got tired and just loosened up the first 8 inches of dirt and piled the composted manure on top. At least it is better than nothing! 

This is also the reason I gave up halfway through the second bed. The dirt here is filled with big gravel and this pile is just what I picked out after hitting it with my shovel. I am sure there is much more that I didn't get. 

It was a lot of hard work but I am very proud of my newly dug garden beds. I will be putting 4 different kinds of tomatoes, cucumbers, cantaloup, green beans, okra, zucchini, peppers, and collards in these beds. 

I have also gotten lots of free plants from some very generous friends!

One person gave me anise hyssop, lemon balm, wild bergamont (bee balm), spearmint and peppermint. 

I put them close to the garden beds so when they flower they will attract pollinators.

I also wanted to plant a bunch of herbs and so I built two beds next to the porch for easy harvest when I am cooking.

There was a definite soil pan and I couldn't get more than 8 inches deep with the shovel so I dug out what I could and built up the beds with extra composted cow manure. 

Then I covered the beds in leaves as a mulch. 

In the first bed I have basil, parsley, greek oregano, and dill. 

In the second bed I have holy basil, borage, more parsley, and soon I will be adding thai basil that I grew from seed when it gets big enough. 

I also got some landscaping plants from a friend that I put in front of the deck. 

Here are my Delicious and Amish Paste tomatoes. 

Zucchini in the front, Burgundy Okra in the back. 

Tomatillos on the right, and then there is collards, cucumbers, and cantaloupe. 

Thai basil and regular basil. 

I am thrilled that the garden is doing so well and I plan to put up a fence to trellis the cucumbers and tomatoes this afternoon and then I can start planting everything out into my lovingly prepared beds :).

After the fiasco last year with all the damping off, I am learning that it is better to sow seeds and then forget (at least for me). From now on, I will just plant my seeds on containers outside where they can get rained on and sit in the sun and when they are ready to sprout they will. haha This means less emotional investment on my part and I think it makes the plants tougher. So, win-win. 

I am also learning that in order to move forward I just have to start doing something. I know that sounds so cliche, but for the last 3 months I had been brooding about where I was going to put the garden and not wanting to put anything in the wrong place. But, I had to get out there and start digging and just decide. Who cares if I have no idea what I am doing. haha! They are plants after all, and if it turns out they don't like where they are living I can always move them. 

I am really happy with how things are progressing and I will update again soon when we have our fence put up and all of our plants in the ground.

Thanks for reading!