Holistically Organized Multidisciplinary Endeavors Farm

Reflections on February, 2018

julius solar array lifting onto rails

Hello folks!  Welcome to Home Farm, where our children are always dirty, our blogs are always clean, and our projects are always unorthodox.  This month, as a monthly writing project, I assigned some blog-writing to Julius, our 11 year old.  I thought it would be great practice and a little bit of fun for him to read some previous blogs, take notes on our projects and processes, and contribute to the website.  And maybe it would be interesting for you readers to see what life is like from the eyes of kid growing up this way; dirty, homeschooled, free-range, and always encouraged to try new things.  So, for the rest of this month’s blog, you’ll find Julius’ writing in Italics, because changing the color doesn’t work for those of you on mobile versions.

Julius 11 blog computer
Julius, the blogger

The beginning of the month had been mostly cold spells, but recently it has warmed up, feeling like a chilly, moist summer day. Lately I have been tapping trees, a Boxelder, which is a less sugary type of maple, and a Black Walnut. With the Boxelder, I drilled a hole about 2 1/2 inches deep into the tree about chest level. Then I attached my square ice-cream bucket to the tree with baling twine and drove my spile through the hole I had made.  In about two days (emptying my bucket one day, then the next) I had about two pints of thin, sweet sap that had a slight nutty taste. That’s about a pint per day (and this is my first time tapping trees as far as I know). With my Black Walnut, I drilled my hole wrong and the bark was so thick, I could hardly attach my coffee can to the tree.  So I didn’t get so much as five drops of black walnut sap in them.

We have recently discovered several hidden alcoves among the small cliff face just behind and and beyond Oakridge camp and the surrounding houses.  This is so strange because this is the route we so often take to get from our house in the big pasture to the grocery store or Braum’s (never McDonald’s) and sometimes to my friend’s house.

My dad has been getting really pumped about building the solar array.  He spent hours drawing out the design and could hardly wait to finish the solar array, when we do, the key will unlock the door of opportunity (as my dad says). We will be able to get an incubator, which will allow us to get more chickens before they die. . . again. We will be able to charge phones, kindles, computers, and the air purifier that we hopefully, will eventually get.

That’s one of the hardest parts about living out here like this; technology is limited.  Most kids my age have at least an Xbox, if not a Playstation, a Game Cube, and several tablets.  We do get to watch movies on rare occassions, but we have to huddle around the tablet with the Bluetooth speaker.  The battery only lasts for one movie on a good night.  I’ve begun thinking that computer games used only for self-entertainment are for wussies, people with ghastly white faces and sunken, hollow eye sockets from staring at screens all day.

So what’s the secret to keeping our eye sockets lively and our skin vibrant?  Why, spending our warm February days outside building the solar array of course!  Aaron cut his pieces of aluminum rail and hoisted them up onto the steel-pipe frames.  I really sympathized with him for the patience it took talking to the customer service reps at Grainger about the difference between a nut and bolt.  He literally spent hours trying to explain what kind of nuts and bolts were needed to attach the brackets to the pipe.  Finally, the parts were delivered.

measuring aluminum rails for solar array off grid home farm
Measure twice to get it right!

Once the weather was decent, and after some finagling with the level of each one, they were fastened to the pipes with brackets.  Then the modules were wiped clean (after collecting a film from the warehouse they sat in for years) with vinegar and newspaper until they reached a blinding shine.

julius solar array
Lining up the rails

I helped lift up a couple of the modules while Aaron held them in place.  Then a friend came and did the heavy lifting part for me.  Yay!

julius solar array lifting onto rails
Lifting them up!

We’ve now got 14 modules in place and 2 more to go.  This friend and I talked about my dear hubby’s perfectionist tendencies.  They really paid off in this case because when you look up the surface of the modules, they are super flat, just like in those advertisements for professional solar installations.  Not that I doubted my dear old off-grid partner for a minute.

solar array february julius
Smooth operator

Inside the house we made great strides as well.  The floor in the middle room has had a couple of coats of Radon Seal, a spray-on concrete sealer.  We worried that it might smell atrocious and we’d have to evacuate the house after an application, but honestly it has no odor.   I actually thought maybe we’d been jipped and sprayed some expensive water on the floor.  The baby conducted an unintentional test on the soil-cement floor before and after its Radon Seal treatment by banging it with a screwdriver.  On the virgin soil-cement, the screwdriver left little dings.  On the treated soil-cement, the screwdriver left no dings!

radonseal soil-cement julius
RadonSeal on the steps


soil cement julius
Soil cement steps inlaid with granite scraps and sealed with RadonSeal


solar array julius radonseal soil cement
RadonSeal on the floor in the middle room

That was only after 24 hours of curing.  It is supposed to continue curing for 60-90 days.  It does leave a film on the granite pieces but this wears away with normal foot traffic.  I wouldn’t say the floor is moppable at this point, but it is less absorbent when hubby splashes coffee onto it.

Also in the middle room, the pantry doorway got a door.  It looks very nice.  And white.  I wonder how long that will last.  Maybe we should paint it.  I went to Lowe’s and brought home oodles of color sample cards.  I think we’ll paint the inside of the front door first and then see how it feels with that burst of color.  I’m thinking a bold turquoise.  We’ve also painted the back wall with an entirely made-up natural paint.  Here is the recipe:

4 cups water

1 cup flour

3 #10 cans of granite dust

You may notice that this is simply the alis, or earthen paint, without the subsoil.  You can find the recipe for our original alis earth paint here.  It paints on nicely, with minimal grit clumps, doesn’t dust or rub off, and has a nice natural white-grey tone.  It isn’t like industrial hospital-grade white, but natural light-colored stone white.  I think it will really brighten up the kitchen area.  I forgot to take a picture of it.  You’ll have to wait for next month.

One more little highlight from this month:

home farm arkansauce
13 years together earned us a parent’s night out
home farm julius
Arkansauce @ Willie’s Saloon in Stillwater, OK

Books we’ve enjoyed this month:

Alison: Daring Greatly by Brene Brown.  Interested in paradigm-changing parenting tips?  Did you know there is a difference between shame and guilt and that one of them is significantly linked to self-destructive behaviors?  Ever wondered what triggers your vulnerabilities and that these aren’t necessarily bad? Did you know that vulnerabilities are manifested in men and women in entirely different ways?  This book was mind-blowing.  I wrote copious notes in my reading journal and I am still trying to wrap my head around all that I’ve learned.  Wow.  If you have read this, or are about to, I’d love to talk about it with you.

Aaron: Taking a hiatus from reading.  Our library is very unhappy with our natural building habits.  By the way, if your books look like this, try using a pencil eraser.

dirty page ends
I built a house out of dirt. Must I wash my hands before reading?

If that doesn’t work, sand-paper on the page edges removes that sweat and dirt hand build-up.

Julius: Shakespeare Stealer by Gary Blackwood.  Farmer Boy, Little House on the Prairie, On the Banks of Plum Creek, By the Shores of Silver Lake, The Long Winter, and These Happy Golden Years, all by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  He was grounded from fiction, unless it was assigned to him for school.  We finally decided that Mrs. Wilder’s stories are more true than not, so after listening to the audio book by Cherry Jones, he practically inhaled the rest of the series.  And The Canterbury Tales: A prose version in modern English by David Wright.  This was also assigned reading.  And, when he became ungrounded at the end of February, he zoomed through The Battlemage by Taran Matharu, the third book in the Summoner series.

I also read Get Coding, a book that is a very good introduction to coding.  I made a website according to the book’s theme.  I haven’t hosted it online so if you want to see it, you’ll have to come visit.  It’s all about protecting the famous Monk diamond.  I’d recommend it to anyone who needs a basic tutorial of programming. 

coding book home farm julius
Coding for beginners

Mason: Coralinda Clatter by Mordecai Gerstein.  What a great story about a giant who fell in love with the moon!  Mason also enjoyed a Playaway (a pre-loaded audio MP3 device) of some Peter Rabbit stories read by Meryl Streep.  These stories made little Mason afraid of Mr. McGregor!  I had to explain to him that Mr. McGregor is not a bad person, he just doesn’t want rabbits eating all his vegetables.  I think we need to see the movie now.

Kyias: At 11 months old, Kyias is proficient at taking all the board books off the shelf and throwing them on the floor.  It doesn’t matter if we’re at the library, or Nanna’s, or home, he will find every single one and make sure it touches the floor.

baby board books library julius blog home farm
“I made this.”


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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!