A Multi-Fold Harvest

This year has brought some serious changes to our lives. It’s taken so many turns, it’s almost unreal. In my life, it’s been a multi-fold harvest in many ways and, despite the challenges that come with it, I’m thankful for every bit we’re blessed with.

A Literal Harvest

This year has kicked in my inner prepper. I’m trying harder than usual to prevent waste and keep stocked up, especially with food. My garden didn’t get as far as we intended it to. Still have the beds to build; the budget’s just too tight for all the materials we need (especially the soil and 1/2″ hardware cloth!). But, earlier in the year, I signed on with a local pantry that delivers.

We’ve received so much produce! In fact, we’ve gotten more than we can eat before it goes bad and we’ve even given quite a bit away to loved ones. That said, there’s still plenty and I’ve been trying to put it to good use…for later. The cherry tomatoes are great to dry and store. Onions and peppers can be sliced/diced and frozen. Many fruits can be dried or frozen also. For a load of citrus fruits we got (lemons and limes), we zested the skin and juiced ’em.

Dried maters…SOOOO tasty!!

Personally, I’ve focused on freezing and drying for preserving. I’ve never canned before and have that bit of apprehension many get. I do think I’ll try to can the apples though, as a sauce or butter, if I don’t dry them all. I’ll use some organic lemon juice as the acid and waterbath ’em. I don’t own a pressure canner (yet), which is why my green beans and corn got prepped for freezing too.

Meats and dry goods are being stocked too, as much as my budget can manage. Some comes from the pantry, some from the grocery, and some from the farmer’s market. If I wind up with a bulk package (say, of meat), I separate it into meal-sized portions, season/marinade and prep to freeze like that. I sort of winged it on the seasonings. If they turn out good, I’ll post the recipes I made up. All in all, I expect they’ll make for some tasty, quick meals on busy days.

I’m hoping to make time to put out some kind of fall garden, to ensure cool weather crops for fresh eats as Autumn sets in. Carrots, lettuces, kale, beets, turnips, and radishes are top on the list. Fingers crossed we can make this happen in time!

A Spiritual Harvest

This year has been trying for most of us and led us into new directions to cope. In my case, it’s shaken me out of my years long “out-of-practice” mode, spiritually speaking. I have a re-newed vigor for my Pagan faith and am looking to get back into old practices (like tarot/divination and herbalwork), as well as explore new ones (like journeywork and crossing the hedge). It feels like doors that have been closed are all opening back up at once. My empathic abilities are hitting new levels very quickly.

Puma illuminates the path, helps overcome
anxiety, and sees beyond what’s “normal”.

In prayer one morning, I asked for a sign of guidance, so I can be sure of my direction. You see, I’ve felt myself lost/stuck at yet another of life’s crossroads. To my right, just ahead of me, I received an immediate answer – my totem. It’s curious how I lean European in my Craft but my totem is decidedly Native American. I do have Native ancestors and felt this may have been sent by one of them. It was exactly what I needed and the answer came to me much quicker than normal. So, now I’m exploring Puma and the medicine she brings to one’s life. My Minister recently told me “step into your power”…it’s advice that matches up with my totem perfectly!

Another area that’s opened up is my innate desire to help others. I hate to admit it but, growing up, I encountered a lot of “takers” in my life. Sick of always being drained and taken advantage of by bad actors, I shut down. I think it was a protective mechanism, so I can heal the damage it caused (mentally and energetically).

Lately, it’s re-opening and I can’t help but feel it’s because the world needs so much healing right now. All the healers are likely being called at this moment. I’m still on an intensive healing mode, but I finally feel ready to begin helping others as well. I only hope I’m not jumping in too soon, or over-exposing myself to harm again, and serving only to further deplete myself. That won’t be helpful to anyone. Fingers crossed here as well that I can meet the call in full capability.

A Creative Harvest

This is another area I’ve felt has been shut down the last few years. The designing, the concocting, the sewing, the poetry and short stories…all of it seemed to have left me. It was like The Muses abandoned me or something and I couldn’t figure out why. Maybe because I was so depleted in so many areas of my life. It felt like a slow, painful death of everything that makes me Me.

Slowly, it’s coming back to me. Basic designs and words/phrases come out, asking to be brought to light. New skills are begging to be explored, like canning and embroidery. I have a renewed interest in things like making salves and tinctures. I suddenly can find the energy to at least start the processes of moving these things back into the forefront of my life. It feels like waking up from a terrible nightmare and realizing you’re safe in the warm sun of morning.

From Darkness, Light Is Inevitable

I can’t shake the feeling that things are likely to get worse before they get better, especially here in America. I encourage everyone I know to prep what they can and to encourage others to do so as well. I hope I’m over-reacting; this feeling is so strong. But, if I’m not, we’ll all need a stocked supply of necessities and each other’s help to maintain and pull through.

That said, I believe these dark times can be overcome. There will eventually be a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s inevitable because you can’t have one without the other. In the push-pull of it all, we will get to the other side of it and prove stronger than before.

Has the year shown you who you are? Are you prepared/ing? Have you received a call (of any kind)? What do you make of the lessons of 2020, personal or societal?

Feminine Care Prepping & Alternative Products

I’ma be real right now: Periods happen and they ain’t gonna stop just because things get crazy in the world.

If there were another shutdown, would you have your feminine care squared away?

This is a question that’s come up fairly often lately, mostly in mom-prepper and homestead groups I’m in.  It’s also one I’ve been meaning to cover here since before the pandemic.  Time has a way of just running over me, so my apologies for not doing it till now.

Please note… This post is more of a rundown on cost and available options, for stocking up in the event of an emergency.  It doesn’t cover the eco-friendliness of each option, a primer on cup insertion techniques, or a deep dive into each brand for each type of product.  I’d like to do a deeper-dive post at a later time, to cover more.   In the meantime, Wellness Mama has a good post on the eco-friendly aspect of the topic. 

So, are you prepared if we have to hunker down again?  Heck, are you prepared in the event of a financial emergency, or a natural disaster?  Feminine products can get pricey, especially for ladies with heavy flow. 

Stocking Up On Feminine Care

If you use disposables, such as pads, tampons, or menstrual discs, I’d love to talk you out of it!  If I can’t change your mind, though, you’ll at least want to make sure you have a supply that’s going to last you.  Personal care items and toiletries (toilet paper, feminine items, paper towels, etc) are expected to be in short supply this fall/winter.  With this in mind, I’d suggest having at least a 6-month supply on hand to ride this thing out.

Affordability

The cost of things makes it hard to stock up on a tight budget (I know!).  But, what’s the cost of running out and being unable to replenish your supply, or having to pay more to do so?  During shortages, prices often go up to re-balance the supply/demand aspect (notice how T.P. got more expensive this year?). 

Even in good times, it’s advisable to sock away a few dollars here and there.  $5 a week in a jar or savings account, over time, can make or break an emergency response.  It can mean all the difference between being able to take advantage of a solid stock-up deal, or doing without necessities at crucial times.

Use this guide to help calculate the cost of a 6-month supply:

List the items you buy  (tampons, pads, liners, douches, fem-wash, etc), with their associated costs, and calculate by how much product you use in a month.  Then, multiply that by 6 to get your estimated total.

For example, say I use 1 box of 18-ct tampons, 1 box of 24-ct backup pads and 60 pantyliners a month.  (I’m using my local Dollar Store prices here… your costs may be more or less, depending on your area, preferred store, and the products you use.  Adjust accordingly.).  My cost breakdown would look like this:

Almost $50 to be stocked on lady gear for half a year!  It’s a lot to come by in a pinch.  For many, at least where I’m from, this means buying 1-2 items each payday till your supply’s up.  But, if that’s the only way to do it, it can still get done. 

Alternatives to Disposable Feminine Care Products

There are alternatives to buying throwaway items.  While the costs are higher upfront, they last so much longer and will actually save you over time.  On average, items will last about 5-10 years.  I’ve found they can last even longer, with proper care.  Here’s a rundown of some available options:

Menstrual Cup 

With the exception of the Cincinnati-based Keeper brand, that uses rubber, these are made from medical-grade silicone.  They generally come in 2 sizes: pre-pregnancy and post-pregnancy, though I’ve seen some in Small, Large, & X-Large.  Each brand has their own take on the dimensions for the sizes they offer, so shop around and see what might be best for you.  I use a pre-pregnancy size LadyCup, despite having given birth twice, and feel that women should consider their pelvic size and flow more so than whether or not they’ve given birth.  We’re all different.

Using a cup requires a bit of a learning curve and a solid comfort level with your body.  You will be getting up close and personal with your lady parts!  Most cup users will tell you it isn’t so bad, once you figure out your technique, and that they’re actually more comfortable than tampons.  In fact, you can even wear one when you’re simply expecting your period to show up.  And a pantyliner or pad can be used as backup, if you’re worried about leaking.

Cloth Pads/Liners

These are similar to the plastic-y disposable pads available everywhere.  Except they’re cloth…and MUCH more comfortable, in my opinion.  Again, there are different brands and materials:  cotton or organic cotton, bamboo cloth, charcoal-ed cloth, and absorbent French terry cloth are used most often.  Most cloth pads have a PUL (polyurethane laminate) backing, to prevent leaking through.  Yes, it’s a type of plastic and that’s not an ideal situation but it’s a case of pros and cons.  Some women get by just fine with cloth pads that have no PUL backing.

Leaking is a concern many women have when considering whether or not to buy cloth pads.  It’s generally assumed you’ll bleed all through a few layers of cloth.  My personal experience is that they actually hold more and are less likely to leak than disposable pads.  I bought 2 sets earlier this year, one multi-sized set & one pantyliner set, to replace a set I made a decade ago…and they’re amazing!  Let’s just say that, when I cold-rinse them (a pre-wash thing), I’m still always surprised at their capacity.

Image found at Moon Time Store: https://shopperiodpanties.com

Period Panties

I actually don’t know much about these.  They came out after I done settled on what works for me.  Seems to me that, if you’re out and about or wearing pants, changing these several times a day may become an issue.  Or maybe I just have a hangup about that kind of thing.

As with the other options, there are several brands that offer their own sizes and price points.  These can fully replace pads and tampons or act as backup to your current protocol.  I’ve seen reviews that go either way.  What works for one lady may not work for another.  It’s important she know her body and understand its nuances, especially her cycles, when deciding on lady gear.

If you use these, know someone who does, or otherwise know more about them, please feel free to have your say in the comments.

Feminine Product Care

The main caveat on reusable lady gear is that you have to clean and dry them well to keep them in good condition.  For most, this isn’t a problem.  For some, it might not be worth the extra time or they just don’t want to bother with it.

For cloth pads and period panties:

These should be rinsed thoroughly in cold water (until the water runs clear) BEFORE washing with soap and warm/hot water or tossing in the washer.  This will ensure they’re fully clean and help keep smells from setting into the fabric from leftover blood. Both can be air-dried and I think that’s the recommendation for the panties (along with hand-washing).  However, with the clothies, I find a tumble in the dryer can ensure they’re good and dry for storing till the next month.  I tend not to put our “skivvies” on the line anyway.

With menstrual cups:

This process is quicker.  Rinse ‘em out, soap ‘em up, rinse warm/hot, and air dry before storing.  However, I have heard that certain types of soap (generally the more commercial, chemical-laden ones) can break down the material over time.  My personal solution is to use an unscented liquid castile soap with no essential oils added.  I don’t always use my cup and feel this, with the soap I use, is why it’s still near-new after all these years.

Cost Breakdown for Menstrual Alternatives

Prices do vary, depending on product, how many in a set, etc.  For cups, the general range is $30-45.  I got mine on eBay (brand new…don’t EVER buy used lady gear!) 10 years ago for about $25.  Back then, the LadyCup went for $40, so it was a deal. 

The range for cloth pads is about $9 to as much as $40+ for a “full” set.  They can be bought one pad at a time or as a multi-pack.  Buying singles can be cheaper, but one is sometimes as cheap as a comparable set of three. The sets I bought were $24 for the multi-pack and $12 for the pantyliner set (currently, they’re going for $26 and $13, respectively). With the free shipping, I spent $36.  Added to the $25 spent on my cup, I spent the same as 8 months or so worth of disposable product and have enough lady gear to last me till menopause! I’m turning 40 this fall so these may, legit, be the last items I’ll ever need to purchase.

The range for period panties runs roughly $10-44/pair.  This can vary a bit, depending on if you buy a set or singles, which brand you buy, etc.  Consider, though, that you may need 2-4 (or more) a day if you’re using them as your primary period product, multiplied by how many you’d need to keep the rotation going.  That’s a lot of $$ upfront, in my opinion.  If it’s an option you’re into, it might be worth it.  Personally, my frugal ass would give them a hard pass.

Are you stocked up on your feminine items?  Do you, or a loved one, use alternatives for your period?  What’s your experience/opinions on them?  Did I miss an option you’d like to see listed (maybe in the next post on this topic)?  Feel free to leave a comment below.

*I was going to include sea sponges to the reusables list but ran across sources questioning their safety.  Some accounts suggest they may include silica (glass? I should hope not!), are dirty (contributing to TSS and other infections), introduce too much oxygen into the vagina (messing with its natural environment), and so on.  If you know more about these, feel free to comment!

Cover Photo by Vanessa Ramirez from Pexels