Holistically Organized Multidisciplinary Endeavors Farm

Reflections on Jan, Feb, and Mar 2019

springtime, home-farm, 2019, peach tree,
Springtime

Welcome back, my dear readers who have missed my monthly updates.

Aunt Debra, ye shall worry no longer!  We are all alive and well, even the last remaining chicken and guinea.

And welcome to those of you who are new to the blog.  I am so glad you found your way here, and I hope we can share some inspiration with one another.

Unfortunately, you’ll be seeing the blog less frequently for a while.  I’m going to aim for a quarterly or seasonal update and maybe some posts in between, when inspiration and time allow for some focus at the computer.  We have to prioritize what matters most in life, right?  Well currently, there are only about 14 major priorities.  That’s all.

Why the Hiatus?

After 6 years of living the unconventional lifestyle off-the-grid and loving the stay-at-home atmosphere, I jumped right into a full-time, 40 hour a week job, working for the man.  Can you believe it?  Now, I wasn’t out looking for a job; but a position opened up at the local library and after much consideration, we decided as a family that I should try it out.  As a homeschool mom and book-lover, what job could be better, really?

I work at the circulation desk, assisting patrons with their accounts, cataloging new books and materials, planning and implementing weekly Toddler Time, making posters, teaching Tai Chi, and my very favorite part: hosting book club!  The March book club title was Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, April’s was A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, and May is The Botany of Desire.  Showing patrons how to use the card catalog and all the online features that come with their library card is where my nerdy bookish heart thrives.  It’s really a dream job.

While it has been amazingly difficult to say goodbye to the baby who longs for his mommy and walk out the door in the mornings, it has been working.  Aaron is an excellent stay-at-home Daddy, presenting supper on the table each night when I get home.  The kids stay busy at play and learning, and help out with domestic, gardening, and house project tasks.

House Progress

And the latest house project tasks include:

Bathroom doors and custom hand-built cabinets!   I believe I talked about the bathroom door in the last post, but let me reiterate how much I appreciate the new-found privacy.  Just live in the same house as a toddler for about a week and you’ll understand.  And inside the bathroom, we have made great strides.  Aaron has been hard at work, gleaning new carpentry skills on these fantastic cabinets.

hand-made cabinets, hardware, bathroom, custom, DIY, home-farm
Custom cabinets

We picked out these lovely knobs and hinges from Home Depot to match our rustic steam-punk motif.  Aaron used some leftover boards from the loft for the frame of these cabinets for linens and towels.  After hearing from multiple natural home builders that storage space is often overlooked, we have been aiming to increase our storage capacity in unused space, such as the top corners of the bathroom.  Finally, we have a designated place for towels and washcloths!  The bathroom sink and vanity are still to come.  And eventually, all this wood will be stained like the one in this picture.

bathroom, stain, minwax, DIY, custom cabinets
With and without stain in the bathroom

Closet 

On the back end of the bathroom, and to the left of the bookcase, there is an odd-shaped piece of the round room that is perfect for a closet.  In the classic style of a seasoned unschooler, Aaron watched a few YouTube videos to figure out how to hang a door.  And now our clothes, coats and shoes reside inside of an organized, relatively dust-free environment.

Bookcase 

This built-in bookcase is part of the bathroom wall, which sits atop the soon-to-be rocket mass bench.  It is also the support wall for the loft, where our winter bedroom resides.  The spaces in between the raw cedar posts will get a smooth cob treatment before the rest of the wood gets a stain and sealer.  This sealer is a polyurethane and stain in one, by Minwax.  We liked the pecan color, medium gloss.

bookcase, handmade, rocket mass bench, loft, DIY, home-farm,
Bookcase

Since I do the staining around here, I can speak to the ease of this product.  It smells a whole lot less than the 2 coats of stain, and 3 coats of polyurethane treatment method we used for the kitchen counter-top, but I’m not sure about its durability yet.  It also requires constant mixing in the container or you’ll get some brushstrokes of stain, and some of urethane.  But it does look nice for now.

bookcase, built-in bookcase, loft, rocket-mass bench, home-farm, vase, pottery, pecan, medium gloss
Bookcase with stain and sealer

Kitchen Cabinets

We finally decided on DIY for our kitchen cabinets after seeing what’s available at Lowe’s and Home Depot, and customizing for the curvature of the wall.  Eventually we’ll get some glass-front doors on these beauties, but for now, I am so happy having a place to put some of our dishes.

round walls, cabinets, wall cabinets, DIY, custom built, handmade, kitchen, earthbag kitchen, home-farm
Hanging wall cabinets

Padobe

Now, from various off-farm sources we’ve accumulated quite a bit of paper waste.  Aaron soaks it in buckets of water for a day.  Then he adds subsoil, mixes with the drill, and slaps it on the exterior walls.  It provides an insulative layer to the earthbag wall.  By the way, this is called padobe, or paper adobe.  For a really nice introduction to paper adobe, check out John Annesley’s blog: Sustainable Buildings as Art.  A finish smooth coat and waterproof earthen paint will be added later.

padobe, paper, subsoil, earthbag wall, insulation, earthbag build oklahoma, home-farm
Padobe on earthbag wall

More power!

We moved the remaining modules for the array off the roof and attached them to the array.  Now that we have our new inverter, when the sun is shining, we can power every appliance in our house, heat water, charge phones and laptops, run power tools, and even style my hair with the curling iron in the mornings.  Ahhh, the luxuries of off-grid living.  Nighttime is a different story.  Our little marine batteries that we’ve been running on for 3 years, hold less and less charge.  In the near future, we’ll be upgrading our battery system so we have the same power at night that we have during sunlight hours.

power, off-grid, solar power, inverter, solar array, home-farm
Our new inverter

Garden

Try, try again.  We’re going to have a much better garden this year, I can feel it.  Do I say that every year?  Well, this time I mean it.  Aaron has been working on rigging a pump to fill a couple of cubies (250 gallon totes) from the creek so we have more water storage.  It is really a genius set up.  This water will allow us to supply water to our trees and vegetable gardens via drip irrigation.  We’ll also utilize some digestate from the biogas digester delivered through our fancy little timer pump.  It will provide a targeted drip of nutrients to the plants.  Just where we need it.

DIY Containerized Well!!

While wind, grasshoppers, and moles are big issues around here, our most limiting factor in food production is water.  If our trees and gardens had adequate water, they could better absorb nutrients and defend themselves against those evil grasshoppers.

water pump, DIY water pump, 5 gallon water pump, off-grid solar power water pump,
Housing for the filter assembly and well pump. Made from 5 gallon bucket.
handmade pump, water pump, DIY, off-grid, water pump, DIY water pump, 5 gallon water pump, off-grid solar power water pump,
20 micron whole house filter assembly. 8 filters connected with 3/4″ pvc fittings and attached to 4″ pvc with uniseals.
water pump, off-grid water pump, DIY, 5 gallon bucket, handmade pump, water pump, DIY, off-grid, water pump, DIY water pump, 5 gallon water pump, off-grid solar power water pump,
Assembly housing ready for well pump.
water pump, DIY water pump, 5 gallon water pump, off-grid solar power water pump,
Pump inserted and sealed inside using a standard 4″ well seal.

 

solar direct, 24v submersible pump, solar pump, diy pump housing
24v submersible pump. Cable and hose bushings made from concentric rings of braided polyvinyl.
bucket well, diy, home-farm, irrigation, creek,
We’ll just stick it out of the bottom a little to enable use of the ubiquitous 5 gallon bucket.
solar direct, 24v submersible pump, solar pump, diy pump housing
Before adding well seal.
solar direct, 24v submersible pump, solar pump, diy pump housin
Hmm. That handle feels a little flimsy.
solar direct, 24v submersible pump, solar pump, diy pump housing, handmade pump, water pump, DIY, off-grid, water pump, DIY water pump, 5 gallon water pump, off-grid solar power water pump,
Definitely not flood proof.
solar direct, 24v submersible pump, solar pump, diy pump housin
Getting better
solar direct, 24v submersible pump, solar pump, diy pump housin
Add a little foam board to keep things snug.
solar direct, 24v submersible pump, solar pump, diy pump housin
“That ain’t a knife. THIS is a knife,” Crocodile Dundee. Really, that handle isn’t going to fall off.
solar direct, 24v submersible pump, solar pump, diy pump housin
Attaches to log with hole strap and eye lag.
solar direct, 24v submersible pump, solar pump, diy pump housin
Ready for install.
solar direct, 24v submersible pump, solar pump, diy pump housin
35 watt module attached for testing purposes. Yep, it works.
solar direct, 24v submersible pump, solar pump, diy pump housing
Attached to log and suspended just under surface.
solar direct, 24v submersible pump, solar pump, diy pump housing
We probably should get that test module out of there before it rains.

And the result is that it pumps water all the way up to our house.  After 2 days of intermittent sunshine, we have filled one 250 gallon tote with surplus creek water for watering the garden!  This is a big breakthrough that will make life substantially better!

Pottery

Julius and I have been taking a pottery class at the nearby vocational school.  While 2 hours every Thursday evening is not nearly enough time to make all the pots I dream of, I have been able to get few pieces made.  Julius really enjoys the classic pinch pot, though he would rather use a pottery wheel.  I prefer slabs and coils.  Here’s a design inspired by our home.

coil pot, earthbag dome, pottery, clay, pottery class,
Coil pot earthbag dome

Back in January, we got snow!!  Real snow.  About 5 inches.  And it was that perfect wet, yet fluffy snow that makes really nice snowballs and snowpeople.  It didn’t last long, but that day that it hung around was not wasted.

toddler cute owl hat, snowman, oklahoma 2019, home-farm, homesteading, snow
This snowman needs a nose

The Books We’ve Been Loving Lately

Aaron: When he’s not incessantly researching about rocket mass heaters and biogas digesters, he’s been reading the first 2 books in the Ender’s Game series by Orson Scott Card.

Me: I traveled to India, (in my imagination) with Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, which I loved discussing in my brand new book club.  I have been steadily soaking in The Unschooling Journey: A Field Guide by Pam Laricchia for inspiration on our journey.  I love adding my thoughts and questions in the journaling pages as I read.  And, I just started Betty Smith’s A Tree Grow in Brooklyn, for the first time, though it’s been on my TBR for years.

Julius: Walk on Earth a Stranger, by Rae Carson is another one that I “assigned” for history that he just devoured.  Then we got her other books, The Girl of Fire and Thorns, and The Crown of Embers, and he read those in a couple of days.  He also read The Trail by Meika Hashimoto, #Murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil, The Smoke Thieves, by Sally Green, and the Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game triology.  I’m probably forgetting a few.

Mason: I’ve been bringing home a plethora of quality picture books that Mason loves.  I picked up a little-known picture book of Lewis Carol’s Jabberwocky illustrated by Kate Buckley at our book sale and I am so glad I did because it is one of his favorites.  We are trying to memorize it together. “Beware the frumious bandersnatch!

Kyias: This little guy, who is now in the “terrible 2’s” sits so pleasantly and listens to our read alouds, nearly every evening.  If he isn’t interested in the current picture book, he’ll grab one to look at on his own.  He couldn’t be a better student of early literacy if I asked him to.  His favorite book that he wants me to read and reread is Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina, because he gets to “tsee tsee tsee” like the monkeys.

Family Read Aloud: The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall has been a beg-for-more bedtime ritual.  We had several laughs with this story and loved the similarities in behavior between 4 year old Mason and 4 year old Batty.  We’ll probably read more of the series in the future.

What’s to Come

We’re going to be really busy in the coming months with outdoor work in the garden and little projects on the exterior of the house.  The bulk of our family’s birthdays happen in the next 3 months, so hopefully I can utilize some time off to celebrate.  40 hours is no joke, folks.  But it feels right, like I am contributing to the early literacy for so many children, including my own, and providing a small income to further our dream home.  Loving the life we live, living the life we love, right?  Cheers!

 

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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!