Holistically Organized Multidisciplinary Endeavors Farm

Reflections on December, 2018

tempera paint, cob relief, earthbag build oklahoma, cob design, cob art, earthen art
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Winter Solstice 2018

As promised, here is our Winter Solstice tree, with borrowed lights and decorations thanks to Nana.  Standard Christmas tree lights use a lot of power by the way, so if you’re wanting to decorate while off-grid, I recommend looking into LED lights.  In fact, I’m adding these 4.8 watt lights to my Amazon wish list.  We were only able to have the standard lights on for the duration of this picture.  I know, that sounds sad, but we’re still using the same 2 little  marine batteries we’ve had for 4 years!  That’s impressive.  The kids didn’t mind a bit.  They were happy to decorate the tree.

To celebrate the solstice, we had some new friends from Texas, and some “Oklahomies” from our not so distant past.  We ate some wonderful roasted veggies and minestrone soup and chatted about being unconventional in our traditional southern states.  And we postulated over the shortest day length and its connection to our planet’s stance in the solar system.  Our friends all commented on our wonderful house progress and assured us that this blog is reaching people who need it.  That was a winter gift in and of itself.

Sink Island and Countertop

The rock and soil-cement sink island is complete!  Aaron pecked away at it with gusto this month and got the top layer level.

sink island, urbanite, soil cement, the helm,
Sink island work


sink island, plywood countertop, earthbag build oklahoma
Opening for “everything under the kitchen sink”


sink island, earthbag home, soil cement, urbanite, the helm
View from the top

Then he brought home a piece of plywood with a birch veneer to place on top.  We measured and cut, made sure the sink would fit inside nicely, and sanded the edges.  While it sat up on blocks, Aaron blobbed in some more soil cement, and we pressed the plywood down evenly on top.

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Adding the “glue” layer of soil cement

In hindsight, we should have gotten the 1 and 1/8 inch plywood instead of this 3/4 inch stuff.  It has a bit of give under pressure.  And, of course, we’d love a nice granite countertop, but look at what you can do with a forty dollar piece of plywood!

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Painting on the electro-solution

After setting some anchors and brackets underneath, we got out the Lichtenberg wood burner and went to town.  Check out this previous post on that burning technique.  Aaron painted the baking soda and salt water solution in a prescribed pattern, but quickly found out that the electricity wanted to flow with the grain, rather than where we wanted it to flow.

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Lichtenberg wood burning

We adjusted our pattern accordingly.  We also found that the electricity burned right through the top veneer layer and down into the lower layers, which isn’t really a problem, except that there are some tiny burns that appeared seemingly unconnected to the top layer burn.


lichtenberg wood burning, earthbag build oklahoma, sink island, plywood countertop, 40 dollars
Burning through layers of plywood

When we got to the sanding stage, we found out just how thin that veneer layer was, and sanded through in some areas.  Again, not a big deal.

sanding through, lichtenberg wood burning
Very thin veneer

Then we applied some stain.  I chose Ipswich pine because I thought it had a nice warm glow that wasn’t too dark.  We applied two layers of that and had to have the doors open on both ends of the house due to the can’s warning labels and the toxic smell.

lichtenberg wood burning, plywood countertop, sink island, earthbag home, home-farm, earthbag build oklahoma
wood burning phase complete

After the stain, we applied a layer of Spar Urethane and again, had to freeze our butts off while we aired out the house.  It took forever to dry.  We added extra in the grooves of the burns, with the intention of being able to fold some sandpaper and sand down in them to apply more.  They don’t seem to be drying completely.  The thicker spots leave a tacky stickum on the sandpaper.  More drying is in order.  Then we’ll add more coats and be able to show you a picture of the finished product.

urethane, plywood countertop, sink island
Medicine dropper gets urethane into crevices

Paint Project

In other artsy news, and because it’s been too cold to work outside, I started again on painting the sun in the west room.  I had to do some smoothing, some serious dusting, and then some trying out different paints.

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Smoothing the cob relief sun

I tried some tempera and some acrylic.  I thought I would like the gloss of the acrylic but I found that the tempera was actually really nice.  The bright colors are a bit much, but they are cheery for the winter time at least.  And, a 2$ a bottle from the school supply store, why not try out lots of different color options?  We can always have a paint party and paint over it.

tempera paint, cob relief, earthbag build oklahoma, cob design, cob art, earthen art
Brightening up the west room

Coming soon… A Bathroom Wall

If you are a parent, or are friends with a parent, you will surely have seen this meme:

bathroom privacy, toddlers, fingers under the door
Bathroom privacy

Parent goes to the bathroom expecting a little privacy, maybe even 2 minutes worth.  Bum bum bum… Fingers, matchbox cars, even forks come sliding under the door with questions like, “Are you pooping? How long will you be in there?  I found you!”  Now imagine there is no door!  Only tapestries.  Welcome to my life.  Since the beginning of this build, I have had very limited privacy in the privy.  Until now!  Aaron just purchased 2 doors; one for the bathroom, and one for the closet.  Here is the plan for the bedroom rocket mass heater-bathroom-wall-bookshelf.

illustration of bathroom wall
Quickly illustrated vision

You can see the two upright logs on either end of the bookshelf are supporting an upper loft area.  The logs are already cut, skinned, and standing in place and the door frames are built.  We have the boards for the decking on the loft and I am so excited to get those up there.  The door on the right is the bathroom door, which I cannot wait to hide behind!  We plan to use the loft as storage in the summer and bedroom in the winter.  The rocket mass heater, which is very poorly drawn (ahem, it’s my first ever) is surrounded by mass and built into a bench with back support.  It looks like a daunting project, but wood goes so much faster than cob.  I presume we’ll have the bulk of the wood-working done before February, and can begin the mass heater and associated cobbing then.

Family Values

The end of the year, or the beginning of a new year is a great time to reset your compass, either for yourself or your family.  I have to give credit to Rachel Rainbolt here, of the Sage Family Podcast for enlightening me on this topic of values, intentions, and priorities.  She’s a family therapist, as well as an unschooling mama, and her sage advice has really sparked some inward observation.  This self-awareness has opened me up to changes I see that need to be made in order for our littlest community, my family, to thrive.  This year, we spent a bit of time considering what our core family values are.  From integrity, to music, adventure, to hard work, discipline, and desire to learn, we’ve narrowed it down to this family motto:

Together we’re on learning journey for growth and empowerment.

This little motto will be there whenever we have big family decisions, or small sibling scuffles, by simply saying, What can I learn from this?  Or, what can I teach so that someone else will benefit from my epiphany?  I encourage you to ponder these ideas and come up with a family motto if you haven’t already.  Make a list of your intentions and priorities and then ask yourself if they are reflected in your time and resources.  If you value adventure, are you making time for it?  If you value reading aloud to your kiddos, are there ample books around and comfy places to read together?  If you value some privacy and alone time, are you discussing that with your family so they know to make sure you get some peace and quiet?  Rachel likes to say that you are writing your own family’s story, so be sure to title some chapters Adventure, Downtime, and Gardening, and take small steps each day that you can to fill those pages.  Align your compass with your values.  And I’d love to hear about them in the comments!

Family Adventure of the Month

Even though we try to make time for a family adventure each month, it just didn’t happen this time.  We had too much going on at home.  2019 will have plenty of excursions, I’m sure.

Books of the Month

Aaron: Deep Blue and it’s sequel, Rogue Wave by Jennifer Donnelly, a gift from Nana about Mermaids.  Okay for Now by Gary Schmidt, a young adult fiction story about a boy and his interest in the Audubon bird books. The Book of Speculation by Erica Swyler was a tale of circus performers that he whizzed through.

Julius: Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly, and finished The Boy Electrician by Alfred P. Morgan.  He just started Desert Or Paradise: Restoring Endangered Landscapes Using Water Management, Including Lake and Pond Construction by Sepp Holzer and Leila Dregger.

Mason: My dear friend brought this book over for our winter solstice party and I was so delighted because our library didn’t have it.  The Shortest Day, by Wendy Pfeffer.  I read to him, at least 3 times this month, Behold the Dragons, by Gail Gibbons, a book we found at the library with excellent illustrations.  Mason loved hearing his grandfather’s voice read The Night Before Christmas on one of those built-in recorder books.  We also read How the Grinch Stole Christmas several times this month.

Kyias: Getting better at sitting still to listen to books!  He likes his new Bob the Builder board books a lot.

Alison (the author of this blog): I have been reading several books and not making any leaps or bounds with any of them.  However, I still love my 15 or 20 minutes of reading time before bed.  I am loving Pam Laricchia’s The Unschooling Journey, which is also a journal, and I love journals. I get to write about our unschooling journey, as she unfolds the ups, downs and insights from her family’s journey.  I’m also reading Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson about a slave girl in early Boston.  I’ll pass it on to Julius as assigned reading for history.  And I’m slowly picking my way through the Enneagram Journey by Suzanne Stabile.

Our family read-aloud this month is Half Magic, by Edward Eager, recommended from the Read Aloud Revival podcast.  Julius and Aaron like to listen to it, but Mason finds it boring.  It’s not magical enough, he says.

I hope 2018 has been good to you all, dear readers.  Many blessings for a peaceful and progressive 2019!


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Hey.  I’m Alison; author, artist, and off-grid homeschooling mama of three.  I love painting, exploring the outdoors, and a hoppy IPA.  My partner and I work together to bring this website and blog to you.  We hope you enjoy!