Holistically Organized Multidisciplinary Endeavors Farm

Reflections on December, 2023

training cows

Projects

The Boys’ Room

We installed radiant flooring! Currently, our heating situation is the rocket mass heater in the living room. It warms the room, and the adjacent bathroom and loft, where we sleep at night. It also keeps the overall house at comfortable temperature, as in, if you are coming in from the outside cold and wind, you’ll feel relief. But it doesn’t really get to the boys’ room in the way that we’d like. So, the radiant flooring we hope, will help to balance the temperature of the house overall. Plus, who doesn’t like toasty feet on the floor?

First, we removed lots of dirt and leveled the floor to the bottom of the stem wall of tires. Next, we laid down some of our trusty 6mil plastic sheeting to create a vapor barrier. Then we poured roughly 8 inches of styrofoam-crete, making a nice layer of insulation. The styrofoam-crete is also rodent resistant. On top of that, we smoothed a 1/4 inch layer of concrete as a cap, on top of the styrofoam-crete. Onto the cap layer, we laid 6×6 inch concrete mesh and simply put heavy objects on top to hold it down. It had previously been in a big roll, so it wanted to curl up on the edges.

We laid the radiant floor tubing in a circular pattern all around the room. It enters the room from the kitchen, circles around toward the middle, and then circles back around to exit at the kitchen. We attached the tubing to the concrete mesh with little stands called chairs. These hold the wire up off the floor about 2 inches, leaving room for some concrete to fit. Zip ties secured the tubing.

radiant floor tubing installation
Installing radiant floor tubing

Then we bought concrete! We ended up getting 4 pallets of the stuff, which was 2 loads from Home Depot on the farm truck. We used our concrete mixer to prepare the concrete.

pouring bags of concrete into mixer
Reviving the concrete mixer

The mixer was from the previous project of adding concrete to the earthbags above the arched windows (stabilized earth.) The concrete layer surrounding the radiant tubing is 4 inches. This task took two long days. It was very difficult to step in between the wires to pour the buckets of concrete into the floor and use the magnesium float to push it in and around the tubing and smooth it out on top.

slab of concrete on radiant floor tubing
Concrete slab progress

We used the transit and it’s little flashing red beam to level the floor. Then, after 21 days of curing, we added some stain; Desert Gold as the base, and Copper Canyon as an accent.

Concrete slab over radiant flooring
Smoothing the concrete slab

Even after doing several calculations, we were short 1 bag of concrete! We had to wait a day or two for more reasons to visit the hardware store, to get more concrete. Funny, not funny.

radiant floor tubing exposed
Not enough concrete
washing the concrete floor
Washing the concrete before staining
earthbag home room interior

Lastly, we squeegeed on the sealer. The floor is smooth and a bit slippery, making it fun for “ice skating” with socks on. The next step in that room is to finish the plastering on the wall, and paint the cob around the doorway to look like giant stone blocks. Think castle archway. We also plan on building a loft, similar to the living room’s loft, so the boys have an upstairs and downstairs. “Bunkbeds 2.0” if you will.

Intensive Grazing

Aaron’s been working on moving the cows more intensively. There are more cows now too. By utilizing electric polywire to make lanes, and moving the cows frequently (4-5 times a day) we get really efficient use of the grass. When the cows have a lot of room to roam, they get picky and only eat the choice grasses. By squeezing them in a small area for short periods, they wont be as selective about eating the grass. Also, their manure patties and urine get much more evenly distributed as well which puts the fertilizer where it needs to be. The cows are very healthy and happy. And, as we will soon see in the Spring, the land benefits greatly from this method. This is part of regenerative agriculture.

training cows
Working with the cows
cattle
Mooove us around for better pasture management!!

Aaron is also very busy designing a permaculture-based system of silvopasture for our surrounding acreage. Silvopasture is a type of agroforestry that involves grazing livestock and trees on the same land. The goal is to create a managed woodland pasture that provides both forest products and forage.  Stay tuned for more on that.

Art, Finally

Now that the house is more comfortable, and the kids are more independent, we finally have more time to devote to our passions! Mine is painting. I just love getting lost in the process of choosing colors, adding textures, and creating beautiful art on canvas. It started last summer when I saw some videos of Olga Soby “pouring paint” with various techniques and a magic additive called Floetrol, that allows the paint to flow on the canvas. I fell in love with the fluid nature of painting in this style. Starting with 4×4 inch tiles and happy results, I quickly moved up to larger and larger canvases. I even made some of my own canvases. I have many of the pieces available for sale, or just for your viewing pleasure in The Gallery.

Our Facebook page was Stolen!

If you follow us on our page, Earthbag Build Oklahoma, I’m sorry to say you will no longer see any updates there. Back in July 2023, I attempted to upload some pictures of some projects, only to find out that we could not log in. Someone took over the admin access, so we are unable to log in or make any posts. We are deeply saddened that the 10 years of progress on that page are essentially lost. It’s all still there, and the thief has not altered the page or made any terrible posts, but we can’t add anything to the page. We’ve reported it to Facebook, and emailed them directly, to no avail. It may help to have some of our followers also report the page.

Unschooling

Our big kid, now a teenager, has decided that off-grid living is not for him. At least, being so secluded with no vehicle is too limiting for his need for connection with his peers. So, he now lives with his aunt, in a bigger city, here in Oklahoma, where he attends high school and works a part time job. We don’t blame him, and are proud of his independence and ability to take control of his life. He’ll be graduating high school, come Spring!

The little guys, now 9 and 6, are thriving here on the homestead. They do a lot of self-directed, online learning. Kyias is using ABC Mouse, and is proving to be quite the reader, with decodable books. Mason uses a variety of websites, including; Khan Academy coding, Night Zookeeper for Language Arts, Duolingo for Spanish, Prodigy for math, and Minecraft education edition for many different subjects. They both spend a few hours each morning on their learning. And the rest of the day is spent at play, which is of course learning as well.

We are really enjoying the free Home Depot kids workshops! Once a month we get over to pick up supplies for the house, and the boys get to build a new project. They even get an apron and a new pin to add to it each month.

kids building wood crafts at home depot
Home Depot for the win!

Books of the Month

I just finished City of Girls, by Elizabeth Gilbert. I love how novels can transport you to a different time and place. This one was in 1940’s New York. What fun! I also must give a big shout out to Spotify for having a huge collection of books available on audiobook with premium membership. I found Rick Rubin’s The Creative Act: A Way of Being on there after reading most of it in physical form from the library. Don’t you just love it when the author reads their own book? I have listened to many sections several times. His way of writing is so inspiring.

Mason read A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz. He’s also pecking away at A Dungeons and Dragons Player Guide, in hopes that he and Daddy can begin a game.

Kyias is doing really well learning to read with Bob Books and decodable books I print out from The Measured Mom. They are free and he enjoys them. Both boys are also enjoying our read aloud, Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan. We get so many laughs from his writing.

Here’s to wishing you all a very happy New Year.

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!