Holistically Organized Multidisciplinary Endeavors Farm

Reflections on Winter 2020-2021

rocket mass heater

Howdy folks!  Wow what a shit-show 2020 was for us all.  Plenty of ups and downs have kept our lives anything but boring.  I’ll just lay out the worst of the shit-show right up front here.  The love of my life built a company from the ground up, investing all his pay and hours into this operation.  One partner, his mentor, passed away from Covid and the other elected to not pay my man for his contribution of 60 hour weeks for nearly a year.  We are devastated.  The stress of all the time spent for nothing is a huge weight.  Get it in writing people!  Sign contracts.  Trust no one.

On to the Fun Bits!

gummies basket, business card, home farm hemp
Our gummies, ready for store display!

The online CBD store is now open!  We’ve got Home Farm hats and Full Spectrum CBD gummies for sale so far.  We’re working on bringing you some other organic, home-grown products as well.  Click Here to check out the Shop!

I have been really enjoying all that I am learning from YouTube and tutorial sites about web design, and the workings of running an online store.  If you’re interested, (or want to help!) I use Elementor as my site-builder and WordPress.org for all the website stuff.  Obviously I’m not a pro yet, but I think people can easily navigate the website.  

Since my sweet man has been around the house more, we’ve finally begun some new projects.  We decided to DIY yet another aspect of homesteading; drilling our own well!  We got a DVD and a well-drilling kit from drillawell.com and started learning.  Aaron taped all the pipes together and set up the settling pond and the barrels.  He bought a used air compressor.  In hindsight, perhaps air compressors are not something you should buy used?!  We got fourteen feet down and realized that we’d have to operate on the air compressor before continuing.  

air drill from drillawell.com
The drill
hole for drill
The hole!

For a couple weeks, it was a long and arduous process of disassembly and replacing parts.  Then we got another used compressor and the process got remarkably faster.  Some days we drilled 6 inches.  Others, we drilled 2 feet. 

drilling the well

Making adjustments as we went along made the process easier and faster.  The pallets surrounding the hole allow a place to stand so the infrequent overflow of water doesn’t create a mucky puddle.  We put up some scaffolding to hold the pipe up.  Adding a wall of tires helped with wind and noise reduction at the well site.  

Then Aaron wanted to try an ancient technique he’d read about called a ground pounder.  It’s basically a pointy drill hammer that your drop into your hole to break up the hard ground deep down at the bottom.   He erected a tripod and pulley system, along with a see-saw to pull the pounder up and let it slam down.  The sound of it hitting the bottom is like a distant plunk, even through several feet of water. 

ground pounder
Ground Pounder
ground pounding
Ground-pounding drill-surfing

Using the ground pounder in conjunction with the air-drill really gets the depth that we’ve been aiming for.  I believe we have put in around 150 hours of drilling at this point and we’re nearly to 50 foot deep.  

There is a cool resource online through the Oklahoma Water Resource Board that shows nearby wells, their use, their depth, and other interesting information.  Our closest wells hit ground water at 40 feet and 15 feet.  The well itself has to be much deeper in order to have a bit of a reservoir, so we’ll have to keep going once we hit water, but I have faith that we’ll get there.  Just think: a garden that survives past June, a natural swimming pool, and no more trips into town to do laundry!

Into the Kitchen

Upgrading the kitchen has been one of my favorite projects because it is enormously rewarding.  I am now the proud owner of a 13 foot long, 2.5 foot deep, wrap around counter top.  Include the sink island, which is 7×3.5 and we’ve got approximately 60 square feet of counterspace!  In the book, Pattern Language, if I remember correctly, he suggests at least 9 feet of continuous counter length.  Ours is about 13 feet of continuous countertop.  

I was worried how we would possibly manage to build square cabinets to fit on a round wall.  Basically, we built the base cabinets a few feet apart, so there is a space in between which is narrow at the front and wider at the back.  I remember my dad explaining that we would have a weird triangle shape in there and we do, but it is the perfect space for open face shelves.  Hubby made these shelves removable (even under the countertop) so if we ever decide to put tall things in there, we can.  Overall, I am super happy with the look and feel of the kitchen cabinets.

design install countertops
Square cabinets on round walls conundrum
lichtenberg wood burning, base cabinet coutnertops, home-farm, diy
Lichtenberg wood burning on the countertops
lichtenberg wood burning, base cabinet countertops
Beautiful dendritic patterns

Of course we had to continue the wood-burning pattern from the sink island to the perimeter counter.  Aaron loves the Litchtenberg wood burning technique as much as I do.  We went for a wave-like pattern, concentrating the burns onto the areas opposite of work spaces.  Sometimes the burns reach down through the layers of plywood instead of stretching out across the counter.  When that happens, it leaves deep pock marks, which we filled in with lots of spar urethane.  Because of the variation in plywood, one counter piece is darker than the others, but we’re probably the only ones who’ll ever notice.  I’m trying not to let it drive me crazy. 

kitchen countertops
On par with my dream kitchen

Upgrading our comfort: Heat

Another project we started is the rocket mass heater in the living room.  The floor in that room is subsoil that we’d intended to be a subfloor for an earthen floor, or tile.  Over the last couple of years, that floor has degraded, getting continually dusty and rugged.  So we ripped up chunks and made a big-ass inconvenient hole.  Yippee!  

ripping up subfloor, aircrete, foamcrete, living room
Inconvenient hole

Then we made AIR-CRETE!  If you don’t know about air-crete, aka foam-crete, you’ve got to check out what people are doing with this stuff.  The gist is, you make foam with Dawn dish soap and water, then you add concrete, mix it up and pour it into a form (or a big-ass inconvenient hole in your floor) and it hardens.  It’s light as air, has an R value of 3 to 6 per inch, and strong.  Imagine millions of tiny bubbles encased in concrete.  

foamcrete, aircrete, home-farm.org
Pouring in the foamcrete

If we were to put our rocket mass stove directly onto the dirt floor, a whole bunch of heat would dissipate into the earth and be lost forever.  If the earth beneath the stove is insulated, the heat stays in the mass and in the room.  The mass acts as a battery, storing heat for hours and hours, keeping the house warm long after the fire has gone out.

filling in the base, rocket mass heater
Filling in the base

So we made a 55 gallon drum batch of aircrete and poured it in the hole, roughly 10 feet by 3 feet and about 6 inches deep.  Now, we’re cobbing the mass that will become the stove bench.  

Nearly everyday we make a batch of cob and fill in the space between the bathroom and living room to serve as more heat-storing mass, as well as privacy for the bathroom.  Previously we just had some tapestries there.

rocket mass heater
The core!

Rocket mass heaters are varied because people are varied.  While there are guidelines for duct diameter, number of turns in the ducting, and height of the riser and barrel, no two RMH are the same.  We ordered our Matt Walker core from Rocketstovecores.com and so far we’re very pleased with it. Some people make very beautiful and ornate stoves, while others are rather plain.  I’m not sure what sort of decorating will happen with ours yet, but I know it will be satisfying every time I sit down to warm my bum.

rocket mass heater
The barrel and bench
rocket mass heater
Crafting the feed tube

Spring Cleaning

With Spring on the way, I felt I needed to get organized and make some space in the living room.  After all, the big-ass inconvenient hole in the floor turned into a big-ass bench that takes up a lot of space.  So, the 2 bookshelves had to go.  They were full of picture books, text books, art supplies, games with missing pieces, and some baskets of random junk.  I Marie Kondo’d the hell out of those shelves and moved them into the boys’ room.  Then I moved the filing cabinet and really opened up the whole space.  Now it’s time for a real facelift.  Goodbye dusty, dirt floor!  We dug up a section of floor, poured some air-crete in, smoothed over it with a shell of Portland cement and sand, and laid some tiles.  I think they’re called Manchester, 8×8.  After laying a couple of rows, we decided they are way too busy and we’ll just use them as accent splotches throughout the room.  

tile living room
Manchester tile in the living room

Date Night

Another thing we do in the winter is an anniversary date.  Because we don’t know exactly when we met, we try to aim for sometime in January or February.  Being busy little creatures, we didn’t get to do a date night until March, but that’s okay.  Axe-throwing is so much fun!

axe throwing
You better axe somebody!

Home Farm Reads

Our favorite family winter reads:

Half Magic by Edward Eager.  This is a middle-grade chapter book that is hands-down, one of the best read-alouds for a variety of ages.  There is some historical context, some magic (of course) and a bit of old-fashioned humor.  Highly recommended.

Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke.  The illustrations are the best in this picture book.

A Very Witchy Spelling Bee by George Shannon.  Both of the littles (4 and 6) love this picture book that secretly teaches spelling and reading.

Honest History Magazine is quite fun in our morning time routine as well.  I sometimes pair an art project with a particular reading.  

Bedtime Math by Laura Overdeck is our new morning time read-aloud.  We pick a page, read the little story, and do a teeny bit of math each morning.  It’s like a brain vitamin.

The teenager is in public high school now, so he doesn’t read for pleasure anymore.  I got him Grace Llewellen’s The Teenage Liberation Handbook, but he’s doing his own thing now.  Gotta give them teenagers their space, ya know?

As for myself, in my teeny little snippets of time, I have been soaking up The Power of Showing Up: How Parental Presence Shapes who our kids become and how their Brains get Wired, by Dan Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson.  The Mindful Way through Depression by Williams, Teasdale, Segal, and Jon Kabat-Zinn has been providing some helpful nuggets (winter is hard for me).   And, I keep opening, but not quite staying awake for Radical Compassion by Tara Brach.

Here’s hoping for the end of this global pandemic!  Thanks for joining us on the farm.  We love comments, shares, and likes.  And, we’re happy to answer questions about earthbag building, digging big-ass holes, and unschooling wild-ass children.  Peace!

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8 thoughts on “Reflections on Winter 2020-2021”

  1. Wow, I’m totally intrigued with the AIR-CRETE method, and I’m definitely going to check out the CBD store. Sorry to hear about your loss, losing a someone close is always difficult.
    Overall, I’m totally impressed by just about everything you two have done. Keep it up, I love reading about your new projects. And a self-drilled well…amazing!
    -Willie

    Reply
  2. Such a great update!
    Congratulations on the all the progress. I am very excited to hear about how the well works, we may pursue something similar in the future. Luckily now we still have our rain catch, but we are we need to update that to store more water.
    We have really enjoyed building with a AirCrete so far, another useful tool in our belt. And it looks like we both have the exact same rocket stove! We got our plans from the same place. I found a company in Houston that sells the insulation boards. So many people are building things but without insulation, it ireally doesn’t work very well.
    And you reminded me to get the book “a pattern language“
    Best wishes, Kyle & Christy

    Reply
  3. You guys are so cute and inspirational! Thank you for sharing! People like you are saving your kids and others. Would love to visit.

    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!