Reflections on April, 2017

April showers are no match for our homestead endeavors!  We made some real progress this month.  First and most importantly, we are totally and entirely waterproof!  No more buckets to catch drips from the roof.  No more hot black roof heating up the house in our long summers.  No more flappy, degrading underlayment material up there.

Because of a great blessing from family, we were able to hire a professional spray-foam installer.  He sprayed the roof with 1-inch over the porches, and 2 inches over the interior of the home in the space of about 5 hours.  We were going to be adding foam at a much slower rate, had it not been for this blessing.

Spray-foam application, professional-style!

Spray-foam application, professional-style!

 

Spray-foam roof

Spray-foam roof

 

The elf shoes of a professional spray-foam installer

The elf shoes of a professional spray-foam installer

Yes, we can walk on it.  Yes, I think it’s fairly hail proof.  The night immediately following application, we had some hail.  It wasn’t golf-balls, but bigger than marbles.  No harm to the foam!  It does degrade in the sun, so we have to protect it.

Now the task at hand is protecting the foam with elastomeric roof coating.  We’re using Henry’s 587 Durabrite White from the Depot.  This stuff is thick!  I was trying to think of a way to describe it, and the closest thing to it’s viscosity is over-mixed pancake batter.  But really it’s thicker than that.  We got a 55 gallon drum to cover nearly all of the first coat.  We’re having another shipped to finish the remaining bare spray foam and to do the second coat.

Elastomeric roof coating

Elastomeric roof coating

I thought the rain would sound different through the insulation, but it only muffles it the tiniest amount.  During heavy rains, we still have to speak up over the noise.  It does take care of a lot of the whistling noise we heard through cracks in the roof.

The west room continues to progress nicely.  We finished leveling the floor on windy days.  Bringing in wheelbarrows of dirt was a slow but steady process.  Aaron chipped away at the wall of dirt that’s higher all around the east of the house.  The top loads with top soil were dumped in the front to extend the flat “yard,” and the sub soil loads were dumped into the west room and subsequently rolled over and smashed down by all manner of trucks, tractors, and matchbox cars.  Then, in between feedings, I scraped and leveled, leveled and scraped.  I sprinkled more on low spots and scraped again.  And leveled and scraped.  (I’m not very good at leveling).

Leveling

Leveling

We decided that breaking the floor into sections would be more manageable, so we’ve done the first third so far.  We used a ratio of 1-9 Portland cement to subsoil.  Like I have mentioned before, we don’t mix anything in the wheelbarrow; a tarp is the most efficient way to get a really uniform mix.  Then we shoveled it into our 1/3 space (sectioned off with some 2x4s) and leveled and tamped, tamped and leveled.

Always mix on a tarp, not in the wheelbarrow

Always mix on a tarp, not in the wheelbarrow

Our new floor is about 2 inches thick.  Aaron thought we should try sprinkling some charcoal on it to make a pretty design.  Not so sure we like it.  Not so sure we’ll do it on the next section.  Anyway, the last step was to wet it, so that happened relatively quickly with the hose.  It was surprising to see how much water soaked in.  It seemed like we could just add more and more until it finally began to pool on the surface.

Stabilized earth: wetting the floor

Stabilized earth: wetting the floor

There are no cracks yet!  It seems like there is a rough crumbly texture on top and it might be high in the middle and lower adjacent to the walls.  If we ever do a protective coating or tiling, that will take care of that.  Overall we are happy with this method.

2 inch thick fortified earth floor

2 inch thick fortified earth floor

Side note on house performance #1:

The outside temp has been 80 degrees for the past 2 days, but the inside has stayed rather like a cave, at 63.  We’ve been keeping the doors and windows closed, and after being outside in the sun, coming in feels like walking into grocery stores’ air conditioning door blowers.  I guess, without the blowing.  Before we had the insulation on, the afternoons would get mighty toasty inside.  I hope it continues to perform this well in the summer.

Comfort!

Comfort!

For Easter, my mother in law gifted us with some chickens; the gift that keeps on giving.  We had to build a new coop since our last one was demolished by Saul.  That’s the name I’ve chosen, after much deliberation, for the wind. I don’t think Saul can tamper with this new design.  There are 9 chickens, one of which has feathered feet.  The boys like to climb in and “humanize” them every other day or so.

Building the new coop

Building the new coop

 

The boys working on the coop

The boys working on the coop

 

The wind can't hurt this moveable chicken coop

The wind can’t hurt this moveable chicken coop

We’ve got this propane tank right?  It holds 500 gallons and we figure that with the stove and fridge, we’ll have used all of it in 4 years.  We are able to use the methane from our digester to cook on occasionally as well.  Aaron has discovered through research that cactus makes an excellent feedstock for the methane digester.  His goal is to have a better setup for storage for the methane and an abundance of these cactus to feed the digester so that in 4 years, we’ll run all our appliances on methane.  The prickly pear cactus is pretty resilient, so at the least, it adds a nice touch of life to the landscape.

 

Prickly pear cactus and future feedstock

Prickly pear cactus and future feedstock

We’ve done a little bit of gardening in between feedings.  Aaron put up this lovely trellis, now that we have a porch to hang such a thing.  So far we have some green beans and indeterminate heirloom tomatoes planted under it.

Lovely trellis

Lovely trellis

We planted some seeds in our sunken garden bed, but right after, we had a heavy rain and I’m pretty sure many of the seeds were washed away.  As part of our homeschool unit on botany, ecology, and our modern food system, Julius will be planting some seeds into the keyhole garden bed.  More on that soon.

Side note on house performance #2:

Our overhang now creates shade enough that no sunbeams make it into the windows.  Just as we planned it.  Just in time for the cooling season.  It is so gratifying when designs function as planned.

Lastly, I have designed myself a 2017 Reading Challenge, and as it appears that I may actually follow through with it, I think I’ll share it with you.  I’d like to move beyond my comfort zone a bit with my book choices.  Graphic novels and romances are not my thing, so I thought I should give them a try.  I also want to expand my horizons in a worldly way, so that’s why I’ve chosen a book in translation and a book with a setting in another country.  As you can see, I am right on target if I read one a month that I can mark off this list.

Reading Challenge 2017

Reading Challenge 2017

The book I read that isn’t listed on my challenge yet is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak.  I really enjoyed this long, young adult Nazi Germany novel.  It was sad but had so much love in it that it didn’t disturb my highly sensitive postpartum emotions.

Another WWII novel

Another WWII novel

Aaron read The Complete Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  It contains 5 books.  He kept reading us excerpts of funny parts.  Just enough to spark Julius’ interest and refrain mine.  Maybe its space.  I don’t like space.

Julius is working on Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma young reader’s edition for homeschool.  He also read the next Erin Hunter Warrior book in the series.  And March, the graphic novel listed further below.

And, while Mason hasn’t had as much book-reading attention due to baby needs, we did find this gem at the library:

Books!!

Books!!

Happy Earth Day.  Happy Easter.  Happy Homesteading!

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