Holistically Organized Multidisciplinary Endeavors Farm

Reflections on August, 2018: Black Iron

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Black iron!  Last month I left you wondering what we’d use as a material for light fixtures.  Black iron pipe is quickly becoming a theme around here.  I like to think it fits well with our home’s emerging organic feel, which borrows from rustic, bohemian, earthy, and steam-punk stylings.  We traipsed around Etsy and Pinterest and found a simple method for rusting the pipe.

First, the pipe is pickled (soaked in) muriatic acid, then it is sprayed with a rust accelerator. The accelerator is made from a mixture of salt, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide.  We’ve found that keeping it out of the wind slows the drying, and helps the accelerator to age the metal.  When it gets the right amount of splotchy rust, we spray it with polyurethane to stop the rusting action and protect the metal.

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Black iron rustic sconce without polyurethane


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With polyurethane spray

Animals of Home Farm

Our sweet calico cat that had kittens died this month.  She must have eaten something poisonous because she vomited something very large and disgusting the day before her death.  And when I found her she lay next to her defecation and had lots of liquid leaking from her mouth.  Poor sweet Cody cat.  We hope she rests in peace under the catalpa tree.  We had a formal burial where we laid our hands on her grave altogether and said things we enjoyed about her.

Speaking of animals at HOME Farm, Azaylia Jane, the red-healer dingo mix went to the groomer’s and got a bath and a flea dip.  We are a pretty do-it-yourself family, but bathing the dog falls under the category of Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That Shit.  Her fleas are decreased 99.5% and those tiny ticks that sucked the life out of her sensitive ears are gone.  Plus she’s super fluffy and beautiful.  Check out this story I wrote about Miss Azaylia.

A not so beautiful aspect of animals is poo.  Especially when it happens right under our casement window that admits the nightly breeze into our bedroom.  So Mason and I collected some granite pieces and made a temporary patio under the window.  Since cats like to bury their waste this prevents the kitty poo from fragrancing our nightly reading in bed.  This is Cody cat’s baby, currently without a name.

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Where’s my litter box?

Advancements in Drinking Water

The sand bed filter has begun it’s processing.  It is supposed to filter out the impurities better and better with age.  I took samples of the pre-filtered water and the water we’ve been drinking, and looked at them under the microscope. However, it had just rained the night before so the storage tank I got the sample from was pretty clean to begin with.  While there were some algae, fiber and sand particles in the storage tank sample, it was a very minute amount.  There weren’t any in the filtered water sample.  No bacteria or any noticeable movement was visible on the slides.  Sorry folks, no spectacular difference was found between our samples. Additionally, we compared our samples against distilled water.  The filtered sample was visibly indistinguishable from the distilled water.  So, we’re drinking the water that we’ve collected and filtered from the sky!  How’s that for self-sustaining?


sand bed filter, rain water, august 2018, home-farm
The sand bed filter

Here’s the setup:  Water enters at the top of the white barrel on the left and flows down through the sand.  The filtered water flows out and into the blue barrel on the right. The pump is controlled by a timer to lift the filtered water into the old dog food container so it can gravity feed back into the sand filter.  The level of the water in the filter is controlled by float valves.  We’ve added an expansion tank to reduce the times the pump comes on when removing water for consumption.  And we make a note to point out the rack underneath that is built from black iron pipe.


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Filter system and expansion tank

Building hack

Aaron wanted to make sure I made you aware of this little building hack:

This is a piece of 3/4 inch black poly pipe, with screws piercing the pipe on either end.  Aaron holds this little “staple” up onto a pipe he wants to fix on the wall and screws it in.  Can you screw into earthbag walls?  You betcha.  This particular staple is the housing for a pump switch.

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Black poly pipe “staple”


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Black poly as housing for a switch


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Close-up: black poly switch housing

He has used these staples for various other projects as well.  Here’s our filtered rain water charcoal filter and dispenser crock, attached to the wall with black poly staples.  After moving through the sand bed filter, the water is pumped through this 1/4 inch clear tube, which comes through the hole in the wall, up to the top of the PVC pipe, where it falls down through activated charcoal and into the crock.  It tastes great.  P.S. This shelf is going to look more elegant in the future.  And the pipe will not be visible because it will be on the closet wall (other side of this wall) and dispense into this crock.  And the wall will be painted a nicer color.  And we’ll do something about those wood anchors.  It’s not done yet!  #vulnerability

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PVC charcoal water filter attached with poly “staples”


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Current drinking water set-up

We don’t feel like it’s necessary to run potable water to all the faucets, so the water crock dispenser is the only drinking water. This set-up works fine for us, but maybe in the future, the kitchen sink will be potable.

Though there aren’t a lot of pictures to convey this endeavor, Aaron has been doing a lot of electrical work, adjusting the water heater so that it will run a direct load for the solar array, and adding a light to show us when it is on and actively heating the water.  We have several more outlets inside and one outside now.

Tree Update

As part of our holistic household water management plan, one basin of our kitchen sink drains to a bucket, which we use to flush the toilet.  Our toilet is a 1.8 gallon flush and it gets flushed probably 3-4 times a day in summer and 6-8 times a day in winter (noone wants to go outside to pee in the cold wind).  This setup is great for reducing the use of several gallons of fresh rain-water.  However, we have to watch the bucket to prevent overflow, and we have to lug the heavy bucket to the toilet in the next room.   The other sink basin drains to a black poly pipe outside near the biogas digester where we empty it daily into a 3 gallon water bottle.  The bottle previously and loyally carried water from the parent’s house to ours for 3+ years.  Now that we have our drinking water covered, we are reusing it as a slow drip irrigation bottle with a tiny hole drilled in the bottom.  After filling it with the greywater from the sink and bathtub, we set it on the ground next to our baby trees.

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Mulberry baby with greywater irrigation and grasshopper netting


mulberry tree, grasshopper control, home-farm, black iron, august, 2018
Mulberry: safe and sound

After years of watching our trees suffer and often die from grasshopper pressure and drought, we finally accepted the conventional solution!  I picked up this weird fabric (above photo) from the Goodwill.  It was one of those You’ve Seen This on TV products: An insect door with two flaps of netting where the outsides attach to your door frame with adhesive (yuck!) and the insides of the two pieces are held together by the cheapest magnets you’ve ever seen.  What a POS product!  It works great as tree protection though.  The magnets were even helpful in attaching the netting to the makeshift frames I came up with.


The netting in the photo below was from a mosquito net we used to use last summer when the house wasn’t fully sealed up.  It could still be used as mosquito netting; I only cut off the bottom 1/4 of the fabric.  While at first we thought it was working well we can now tell it’s not going to work. The grasshoppers are eating the netting to get to the trees.  We need to invest in some commercial insect netting.

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Mulberry, just after netting

The above photo was taken just a couple of days after covering it.  Immediately, it threw out several new leaves and shot up a few inches.

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Mulberry 2 weeks after netting


grasshopper protection
Look at it thrive! Oh no, there’s a hole.

And, these trees just appeared down here in the hole we dug for the walapini.  There are at least 3 cottonwoods and 1 willow.  In the fall, we’ll transplant them to a more desirable location.  It is quite amazing how these trees are virtually unaffected by the grasshoppers, but any trees we plant, get decimated.

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Volunteer trees in our future greenhouse


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Closer shot, in case the previous one just looked like pasture

Here’s another one that popped up inside of this tire.  I could transplant them now, but a Wiseman told me to always transplant in the fall.  I think I’ll wait until they lose their leaves.

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Cottonwood baby

It’s been really hot.  Just when the forecast tells of cooler temperatures, the humidity spikes.  Our little fans are so nice when this happens, but I am so stoked for our air conditioner to be delivered.  Hopefully I’ll be able to tell you about it in September.

Books of the Month

Kyias (17 months):

Mason (4 yo): Lots of picture books, and Charlotte’s Web was our family read-aloud.  It is amazing how wiggly Mason is at bedtime.  It seems like he could hardly be paying attention, but he is absorbing every word because he’ll say things later on that directly correlate to little instances in the book.  For example he’s been asking about animals talking in real life, which prompted a great conversation about animal communication in parrots and chimpanzees.  And, while looking closely at a garden spider’s web, Mason reminded me that spiders start their webs from the outside and work their way towards the center.  And, while playing with small farm animal toys, he kept referring to the pig as “some pig.”  His memory amazes me.

Julius (12yo): Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, Rick Riordan’s The Son of Neptune, The Mark of Athena, and he reread books 1, 3, 4, and 5 of the Last Olympian series as well as The Lost Hero, book 1 of the Heroes of Olympus series.  He and his dad both read The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore.

Aaron: Fablehaven by Brandon Mull, The Other Einstein by Marie Benedict, Tiger Moon by Antonia Michaelis, Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins, and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore was his most interesting narrative in some time.  It detailed the conflict of George Westinghouse who was being sued by Thomas Edison, and this is all through the eyes of Westinghouse’s lawyer, Paul Cravath.  While it has been fictionalized to create a fascinating narrative, it is based on historical events.  Nikola Tesla’s eccentricities are mentioned, and both Julius and Aaron gasped at some of the events in the story, so it must have been good.

Alison: I have bumped reading up on the list of priorities.  Not sure what fell off the other end, but if it’s important, it’ll present itself again, I’m sure.  I read Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart.  You may know her from the Drunken Botanist book.  This is her first historical fiction novel.  She did a great job of plopping the reader down in 1914 New Jersey (with historical accuracy) and creating an interesting and relatable character.  Not my favorite, but a fun cozy novel.  I would recommend it to my aunt who lives in that state.

Special thanks to my Georgia Earthbag buddy who used to send chocolate, but now she sends books, which are equally as valuable, albeit longer lasting!

Our local library started a new book club!  I am currently enjoying our first book, The Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline.  I love being able to talk about a book after reading it, so I am beyond excited to attend that meeting.

Adventure of the Month

Because it’s my birthday month, we went on a little outing, first to the Asian Buffet, where will stuffed ourselves with delicious stir-fry veggies, fried wontons, little shrimps, and little colorful cakes.  Then we drove up to the “old mountains” near Medicine Park and hiked a 2 mile figure-8 trail.  We haven’t been hiking for quite some time, so I was exhausted toward the end.  We heard the strangest noise in the trees by the creek, a loud chirping of some small animal and then a growly beast devouring the whimpering creature with lots of snarling and gnashing.  Probably a daily occurance there near the wildlife refuge, but it sounded like Jurassic Park to us.

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Birthday hike


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Hitting the trails

If you enjoy this blog, check out our other social media outlets such as our Facebook page: Earthbag Build Oklahoma and if you read this blog in an e-mail, feel free to forward it to a friend.  Word of mouth is how we get others on board for a more sustainable livelihood.  Happy Homesteading!

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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!