Holistically Organized Multidisciplinary Endeavors Farm

Reflections on October, 2018

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I love October for the cooler temperatures, and the diminished flies.  The leaves change color (not like the brilliant Illinois colors) but pretty in their own Oklahoma way.  I get excited about beginning new novels with Julius as his homeschool year begins this month.  To read about the past year of homeschool, check out this post.  I enjoy the change of scenery and focus as we move from outside work to inside work.  And it’s fun to be with the kids and watch them collect massive bags of candy on Halloween.

October also brings some worry about the approaching cold.  Will our house be warmer this year?  The season’s cloudy days mean that less power comes in from the solar modules, which isn’t usually a problem, but we do have to keep an eye on the batteries and inverter to make sure we don’t overdo our power consumption.  My SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) kicks in around this time.  The fact that we have three children and constant work on the house tends to keep me busy enough to combat the downward spiral of negative emotions.  Being really busy and having laptop issues is the reason this blog is a bit late, by the way.  (No need to worry, Aunt Debra.)

The worst part about the overcast skies is that vibrations carry farther across the landscape, so I can hear a loud booming bass from the military training site at Fort Sill.  This irks me to no end sometimes.  I know that if I learn to appreciate the reasons why they are blowing off cannons all day long, I could tolerate it more.  However, having a proficiently trained standing army just in case the United States is attacked, hardly justifies the incessant rumble in the background of my home life.  (In my opinion.)  If they could just do the training on Monday Wednesday and Fridays from 10am to 4pm, I could be prepared with my speaker cranked up and a good dubstep playlist to combat the noise.  Alas, there is no recognizable pattern to the noise pollution.  It seems to be every minute or three all day long on most days of the week in October.  I am at least grateful they only fire the cannons in the day time.

House Progress

Our solar heat pump and mini-split air conditioner is installed and running!  The indoor unit is about 18 inches tall and 3 feet wide and is mounted on the wall above the future kitchen cabinets.  Its oscillating vent blades and LED display on the front face of the indoor unit make it seem like a spaceship appliance.  It is crucial that we not lose the remote, as it is the sole way to control the unit.

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Solar air conditioner indoor unit


solar air conditioner, earthbag build oklahoma, october 2018, home-farm
Indoor unit with fancy display

The outdoor unit is set up about 15 feet away from the back of the house and so far, I don’t think I can hear it running from inside.  Aaron built a very nice stand for it with some oil pipe and his superior welding skills.  He wanted it to be up off the ground to avoid debris, rodents and foliage entering the fan, or people sitting on, or placing items on top of the unit.  Here are some photos of the installation.

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Solar air conditioner outdoor unit on stand


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Outdoor unit front

As you can see, only the man who makes the rules about not setting things on top of the unit can actually set his coffee cup on said unit.  Only during installation of course.

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Outdoor unit close up

It points a gentle flow of warm air down toward the table where we sit for meals and projects.  It doesn’t seem to be loud or rattly.  We’ve only had one day so far where the outside temperature was chilly enough to try the heater, but it seemed to heat the middle room satisfactorily.  More updates on that as the winter weather sets in.

In working toward the goal of finishing the front of the house before the winter, I’d say we’re right on track.  I have plastered up one of the front pillars and have only the remainder of the front door arch to cob.  Many times when I am cobbing, I have these ideas about adding little decorative cob sculptures and relief designs here and there.  I typically talk myself out of them because they will make the space look crowded, or I can’t decide on exactly what design to place where.  In the space under the front windows, I kept imagining some sort of design, symmetric and simple.  I wanted it to represent or symbolize some deeper value that we hold in our family culture.  However, the more I thought about it, I realized that I was putting too much value on this simple artistic accent.  So I took an idea and just went with it.

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Cob relief design under front windows


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Simple, artistic accent with cob

It doesn’t symbolize anything, other than perhaps the obvious flow of creative intention.  I am very happy with how this turned out and think that it accents the door and windows nicely.  The next batch of manure plaster will smooth it up.  We haven’t decided on paint colors for the front of the house, but I am certain they will look lovely… eventually.

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Partially completed front archway

We still need to sand and paint the trim board just below the roof, and add some more thin trim around the windows.  The door will need a new paint job, and caulking needs to be applied to seal all the windows.  I think we can accomplish most of that in the coming months.

While I have been adding the cob and plaster, Aaron has been removing the old.  We find that if we leave any of the old soft cob (very weathered) underneath new, the plaster has a tendency to crack.  Aaron hates to remove the old cob partially because it is mundane, chipping away at dirt, but also because it is removing previous hard work.  This is the last, last time!  All the plaster we’re doing now is the final coat.  Once the water-proofing cactus juice paint goes on, it’s done.  We expect there to be touch ups and more coats of paint over the years, but no more cobbing.  Won’t that be a pleasant time, when we don’t have to cob anymore?

Looking ahead to the winter months, we plan to get our rocket stove built and hopefully running, which will lead into the bathroom wall and loft above.  I am really looking forward to having a bathroom door!  We are also going to try out some papercrete on the ceilings for insulation and beautification.  And  a countertop for our sink island is in the near future.

Garden Update

Our usually disappointing and occasionally gratifying garden has produced the biggest pumpkins in the county.  Ok, I don’t actually know who won the prize for biggest pumpkin at the state fair, but we have some enormous pumpkins growing in the previous year’s chicken and charcoal bed.  We believe they probably started from leftover seeds in a pumpkin our friends brought to us.  They grow vegetables for market, so it is no surprise that they had a delicious variety.  The pumpkin they brought made at least 4 pies.  These babies are just starting to turn orange.  Pumpkin chili, pumpkin bread, pumpkin waffles.  What else could I make with pumpkin pulp?


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A quarter for comparison

Another thriving plant this year is our sage.  I can’t remember ever having sage with leaves this big.  This plant has done really well tolerating the heat and grasshoppers.  Next year it may be more of a bush.

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Thriving sage plant

Lastly, our pepper plants finally produced some peppers.  I think we started with 6 plants back in April.  One of them died at transplant.  The others were alive, but not doing much.  They would produce flowers, but no peppers.  We have harvested about 20 little cilantro peppers and 2 of these habaneros.

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Habaneros in the garden of 2018

Adventures of the Month

Our family adventure this month was to Arkansas for the Hillberry Bluegrass Music Festival.  Some of our favorite bands played as well as some new artists that we need to check out more of.  We met up with old friends and made a few new, even some who live nearby!  While it rained nearly the entire time, it was still enjoyable, even though some of the music was enjoyed from the comfort of our air mattress in the tent.  Give me a break, it was the last night, and I was so cold and tired!  This festival was the most family-friendly we’ve been to.  They had a kid tent with activities for them all day long, workshops, a magic show, a parade, and evening bubbles on the lawn.  And this wasn’t your average festival with yoga in the mornings.  There was yoga, no doubt, but there were also workshops on square dancing, essential oils, crafts, and even a workshop on improvisation and jam session etiquette, which I attended and enjoyed.

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The Lil’ Berries tent at Hillberry


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Wire wrapping workshop

The best part about this trip was what an amazing learning experience it was for Julius.  He attended a mushroom hunting workshop as well as a wire wrapping workshop.  He met a rock and crystal vendor family who quickly adopted him and sent him off with a box of rocks to peddle around shakedown street.  In this adventure, he learned the names of a bunch of rocks, got experience with selling items, and made a little money.  That’s not all.  He made bubbles the size of cars and got the recipe for making the best and biggest bubbles.  He danced, enjoyed this freedom, and generally had a blast.

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Giant bubbles!
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Bubble master at Hillberry

After that adventure, Aaron and Julius went on their own father-son rockhounding trip back to Arkansas.  They dug up boxes and bags of quartz crystals, enough to decorate several cactus gardens around our house.  Camping for 5 nights on their trip, they got in some hiking, some navigation practice, and found some lion’s mane mushrooms to eat for dinner.

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Rockhounding quartz in Arkansas


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I like big quartz and I cannot lie


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Score! Lion’s mane mushroom


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Lion’s mane tastes like steak

Books of the Month

Aaron has been slowly working through Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer.

I finished A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman which I am so glad I finished.  It was a surprisingly uplifting story despite the main character’s mission to off himself.  From this book, I have decided to refer to all inferior coffees as “burnt fox piss,” and will try to remember that the mean people in life may be that way because life has been hard on them and not to take it personal.  I would recommend this book to my Illinois parents, and my godparents.

I have also been reading The Read Aloud Family by Sarah Mackenzie and can’t wait to begin some book-club style discussions with Julius based on the tips she’s presented.  And yes, even if you listen to every Read Aloud Revival podcast, there is still plenty of information you can get from this book.  I am loving it.

Julius read Catherine Called Birdy by Karen Cushman as a history-related assignment.  Holes by Louis Sachar got several laughs and inspired me to read it also.  He started Clan of the Cave Bear, but I don’t think he got halfway yet.  On their rock-hounding excursion, Julius read Hatchet by Gary Paulsen and read some of it aloud to his dad as they bedded down in the tent at night.  This makes my heart so happy!  Last but not least, he’s been skim-reading The Rockhound’s Manual by Gordon Fay.

Mason has been asking a lot of questions about space so we’ve been reading several non-fiction space books.  I had forgotten that shooting stars are actually comets!

Kyias likes Hand Hand Fingers Thumb by Al Perkins because he can dance while we read it.  So far he seems to be the most musical of my children.

Our family read aloud this month is Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard and Florence Atwater.

Thanks for reading, and happy homesteading!


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1 thought on “Reflections on October, 2018”

  1. Loved the update!
    I think we may get that mini-split in the future!
    I’m sure Aaron will enjoy into the Wild, I read it several years ago and find myself thinking about those stories often.
    Great idea collecting crystals. We camped at Mt Ida almost 15 years ago and have wanted to go back.. it was great to see Julius in the hole digging.. I have an almost identical pic of Christy. LOL
    The cob door designs look great! Love the symmetry
    Best wishes, Kyle & Christy


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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!