Holistically Organized Multidisciplinary Endeavors Farm

Reflections on May, 2018: That’s a WRAP

cob

I used to stand outside the semi-trailer each evening while brushing my teeth, and look at our unfinished house with its partial walls and flapping tarps.  I would imagine how our lives would be once we moved in; comfortable, clean, and safe from the elements. Then I’d climb back up into that giant creaky box and try to sleep through its wind-thrashing rattling noises, and the smell of the mice and their nests.  I got through those nights of longing by reminding myself that it was only temporary.  I even made myself a visual reminder.

trailer, living off grid, earthbag build oklahoma, home-farm, temporary
Inside the trailer. Note to self

So many pieces of this house building project have been temporary.  We had a temporary roof made of tarp, fastened with staples.  That one didn’t last long.  We used the dreadful harsh glow of rope lights so we could see to cook supper for a while.  We constructed a platform for an exterior door to block off one room of the house to hunker down in for a winter.  And, we’ve applied several iterations of UV-protection to the exterior of the house; sand-paint, cob, latex paint and tarps.  Cob has been applied and removed by the rain more than once.  It feels so counterproductive to remove old cob, only to apply more.  But this time, this last last time, we’re cobbing again.

chinking cob earthen plaster home farm
“Chinking” cob

Chink, level, level some more, manure plaster, and then… we WRAP it!

WRAP is Water-Resistant Alis Paint.  I’m officially coining the term.  You heard it here first, folks.  We made an alis or aliz paint with wheat paste and subsoil for our interior walls.  See the March 2018 blog for more about using this sealer on our floors.  We wanted the same look and ease of application for the exterior but we needed a waterproofing agent.  Many natural buildings use lime plaster for this function, but Aaron wanted to experiment with other sealers.

water resistant alis paint, wrap, off grid, earthbag build oklahoma, natural building, eco-friendly, handmade home, concrete sealer
Siliconate for WRAP

After a few test runs with different amounts of siliconate, he came up with this formula.

Recipe for WRAP Water Resistant Alis Paint

  • 1 cup PS 101 Concrete Sealer from Concrete Sealer USA
  • 1 cup flour (Original post on Wheat Paste here)
  • 2 #10 cans subsoil
  • Add water to the consistency of sour cream

 

Instructions:

Add 1 cup water to 1 cup flour,  Stir.

Add flour paste to 2 cups boiling water. Stir thoroughly.

Simmer until opaque.

(You just made wheat paste).

Add water to subsoil until consistency of porridge.

Add sealer. Mix thoroughly.

Add wheat paste.  Mix thoroughly.

Add water to consistency of sour cream.

Apply immediately.  Do not store.

 

This makes about 1/4 of a 5 gallon bucket of WRAP which covers about a 100 square foot area.  We did some measuring and some math to find out the total exterior wall area, but for some reason none of us wrote it down or have the recollection of what that number was, but…  We figured we’ll be able to sufficiently cover the whole house with one application of WRAP, using less than one container.  The 5 gallon container cost $180.

It has rained several times, including one with driving rain that washed off some of the plain cob.  The WRAP wasn’t phased by these rains.  This is exciting!  This picture shows all the phases of exterior earthen plaster finish: bare bags, chinked cob, leveled cob and manure plaster with WRAP finish.

earthen plaster WRAP home farm earthbag build oklahoma
Exterior plaster phases on the west wing

Of course I’ll let you know how it holds up after a year and then 2 and 5 and so on.  For now, we’re feeling pretty confident about the protection this system will offer.

One summer, perhaps it was the summer of 2016, we cobbed with fervor, almost covering the entire envelope.  It looks like that’s going to be the mission again in 2018.  If you ever feel like a heady organic foot and hand exfoliation therapy session, come on out and sling some mud on the walls.  We had a little cob-slinging workshop with some friends this month and got some serious coverage.  We are truly blessed to have such motivated friends to help.

earthen plaster cob home farm
Plastering with friends is a pleasure

 

plaster party, earthbag build oklahoma, workshop, earthen plaster, cob, may 2018
Plaster Party!

I was averaging one batch of cob a day, so I figured with the help of our friends at our workshop, if we got 3 done, that would be fantastic.  But our friends were highly motivated, the kids were busy, and the weather was great so we managed 11 batches of cob!  We chinked from the large window on the left, all the way to the first pillar on the right.

cob
Exterior progress!

In other news, we purchased a water heater!  After finishing the plaster job in the kitchen pantry, we got a good start on installing the “dumb” water heater.  Aaron calls it dumb because it doesn’t have any high-tech or fancy gadgets to tell it when to turn off or on.  This means that he can wire the solar modules directly to the heater, without batteries, and we’ll have hot water.  Do you realize what a huge leap in comfort this will be?  I cannot wait to tell you all about my first hot shower!

water heater, solar power, off grid, earthbag build oklahoma
Our dumb water heater

Speaking of showers, we’ve had just enough to make our garden happy and healthy.  We’ve harvested lots of Pak Choy, spinach, and turnip greens for salads.  Our tomatoes, (grown from seed!) are looking fabulous, as are our strawberries.  You know who else loves the garden?  Our chickens.  Our moveable fence only keeps them out some of the time.  They sneak through holes and sometimes fly over the lower hanging parts.  So, we’re building the first installment of our permanent fence paddocks.

fence
Fence!

We’re using 50 T posts, and 300 feet of 2×4 “no-climb” 13 gauge fencing.  Perhaps this fence can double as a food-growing trellis?

earthbag build oklahoma WRAP
Getting ready for zoo animals

One particular chicken, Jessabelle, (no chicken has the same name for longer than 24 hours), was incessantly finding her way into the garden.  On top of that, she got a taste for cactus!  We might as well be called a cactus farm, for all that we have around here.  We decided to butcher.  The boys got to experience the whole ordeal of scalding, defeathering, butchering, and eating.  This bird was bred for eggs, not meat.  She was small and tough.  Good experience.  Excited for meat birds.

For Mother’s Day, we got my guitar fixed.  I’m super happy about that because I have so much time on my hands that I need to pick up some of my old hobbies, you know?  It needed the action adjusted; I could get it in tune on the lower frets, but not the high frets.  As with all the work orders at Jerry’s Music Emporium, they clean up the neck with linseed oil and replace the strings.  It is easier to play than ever before!

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Making music for Mother’s Day

 

From the Homeschool Desk

May has been exceptionally fun in the educational fore.  The Renaissance festival at the Castle of Muskogee called to us and said, “Huzzah! You are studying the Renaissance.  Why not come and see a jousting tournament, real-live blacksmiths, magicians, Scottish dancers, and bagpipes?”  The weather was perfect, the beers were many, and the experience was unforgettable.

Oklahoma homeschool off-grid
Huzzah!

 

renaissance oklahoma homeschool field trip
Trying on chainmail

Additionally, I instituted Monday movie night (on the laptop, as long as we’ve had enough sun to power the batteries).  We have watched the following “educational” movies:  A Knight’s Tale, The Da Vinci Code, Aladdin, and The Physician.  We watch a family friendly movie first, and then the more adult films after the littles go to bed.  I’m on the hunt for movies about Shakespeare, Galileo, and early Spanish explorers.

As part of Morning Time, I read aloud Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid and then we went to see the ballet.  Surprisingly, it was the Disney version, so the boys were utterly confused by the Sebastion and Scuttle characters.  But the sea witch’s performance was phenomenal!  The ballet used music from the Disney movie, some classical pieces, and some modern hip-hop with lots of bass.  It changed my perception of what ballet really is.

Books of the Month

Julius: Genius by Leopoldo Gout, Falcon in the Glass by Susan Fletcher, The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place Book 1: The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood, as well as finishing his third round of the Harry Potter series.

Mason: All the usual picture books.  Nothing out of the ordinary.  Lots of Suess and Sendak.

Aaron: I’ll just look at the 14 tabs he has open on the computer.  Looks like Scientific papers and journals about microaeration, HHO generator plans and schematics, cell biocathodes, Orion BMS operational guides, and, this one is fun: “Anaerobic Digestion and Electromethanogenic Microbial Electrolysis Cell Integrated System.” He also picked up Genius by Leopoldo Gout and finished it in 2 days.  Nothing too heavy or serious, you see.

Me: I’m trying desperately to get through the book Julius recommended to me.  The Apothecary by Maile Meloy.  I get in about 2 pages before I fall asleep.  It’s a great book, but not great enough to fight my exhaustion at the end of each day.

Next month we’ll be busy with digging out our cooling tubes in preparation for what appears to be a very hot summer.  If only there were a DC air conditioner that could handle the dump load from our solar array…  I’ll open a tab for hubby right now.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms who are reading this!  And happy homesteading!

cob earthbag build
The dirty life

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14 thoughts on “Reflections on May, 2018: That’s a WRAP”

  1. Great read! Glad the WRAP held up! We had some pretty heavy rain, so that’s promising! The renaissance festival looked too cool!

    Reply
    • Yeah, I think your family would enjoy the festival too. I love hearing when kids get experience with real food. You know, there are some people in this country who live their whole lives not realizing how much better real, farm fresh food is.

      Reply
  2. Oh yeah we’ve done the chicken thing with our kids. I think it’s a great experience. They were a little nervous at first, you know with the killing and all lol, but once that was done it was educational and they enjoyed it! Titan pretty much handled the eating part haha

    Reply
  3. What an incredible adventure! You all have accomplished so much over just a few years, and you have shared it all! So glad to have known you through Farm Beginnings.

    Reply
    • Well, Aaron knew most of what was in the video, but I didn’t. Yep, we’re looking into the mini-split air conditioners. They sound too good to be true! A little more research… 100 hours of planning, right? 😉 Thanks!

      Reply
  4. So cool, thanks for sharing. How long did it take you to build the earthbag home exterior and how much help did you have? Was it back breaking labor? Did you source the dirt on site or truck it in?

    Reply
    • Hi Bre,
      It took approximately 2 years to get the walls up. Just the two of us, working everyday that the climate allowed, everyday, all day long. It was back-breaking work, but your back gets used to being worked. I am a “complainer,” but I could see the progress happening and that kept us going without too much complaint. A friend and family member helped a handful of times with the wall-building part. TBH, we thought more people would come and help. We had a little more help when it came to cobbing and plastering. All the dirt was onsite! We only trucked in a bit of gravel for under the tires.

      It was another year and a half before the roof was finished. We were able to live inside the home with the temporary roof, but it wasn’t comfortable living until we got indoor plumbing and an earthen floor in the middle room, about 4 years in. It’s a huge time, energy, and money commitment, but we are debt-free and I can’t imagine having spent those years working on someone else’s dream!

      Reply

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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!