Reflections on July, 2016

The fireworks were a blast. The flies are terrible.  The heat is miserable.  Happy July.  The end.

Well that’s what I felt like writing during my 102 degree fever on a 102 degree day near the end of this month.  Why did I have a fever?  I don’t know.  I’m better now.  There is more to this month than that though.  Quite a bit more.

First off, as usual, I’ll talk about the unusual weather.

This summer has been the nicest one I’ve experienced in Oklahoma yet.  When my dad came to visit he commented on how exceptionally green the landscape appeared.  Typically around this time of year, due to the lack of rain, everything starts to get brown and desiccated.  Fortunately, we’ve had a few days with midwest-like cloud cover and a couple of rains.  The garden perks right up with an even watering from the sky.  The wind has also been surprisingly tolerable.  When we’re working outside, we can do so all the way up to about 2pm before it gets uncomfortable.  We could push ourselves to work longer into that hot part of the day, but we’ve got the luxury of a roof over our heads now, so why stress?  Additionally, we’ve found that full days of strenuous progress are usually followed by lazy days of recuperation, so we tend to limit our stamina-testing activities.

I tell ya, it sure feels nice in our middle room during that hot part of the day.  Besides the obnoxious flies, there is little to complain about.  The south wind blows directly into the room which is of course, totally shaded.  The granite pieces on the floor remain slightly cooler than the room temperature so we typically sit on them while we do our reading and visiting.

At the beginning of this month, just after a nice rain shower, we noticed some cracking in the bags on the north side of the house.  We debated what exactly was causing this and decided that the bags on the north side had been left uncovered for longer than the south side bags, so the plastic got brittle.  With rains, particularly rains that get down in through the top of the wall, water is allowed to creep down to the lower bags and cause a tiny bit of expansion; just enough to crack the paint.  This has caused us to really get to work on the porch, and thus the wall in order to keep it dry.

Cracking bags

Cracking bags

We’ve had lots of visitors this month, all with comments of approval for our dirt castle.  My parents and younger brother, my Godparents from Chicago, my sister and her two boys and about twelve 10 and 11 year olds came in celebration of our son’s decade birthday.  We had a successful scavenger hunt, like last year, and even though we hadn’t planned on it, all the kids stayed the night – girls in one tent and boys in the other.  Some kids commented on how great the house was coming along, others complained about using the outhouse, and one said that he was going to build an earthbag house when he grows up, only his would have an upstairs and a pool.

Decade birthday bash crash out

Decade birthday bash crash out

A friend of ours who lives nearby finally made it out to see the house said that surely there will be a news crew out here soon.  A week later I posted this picture on Instagram:

Drawing attention from the Discovery Channel

Drawing attention from the Discovery Channel

And an unknown person commented on it asking for further details about featuring us on Homestead Rescue on the Discovery Channel.  Apparently, there is some homestead guru who travels around to people’s homesteads and gives them advice on how they can improve their site.  I wonder how much he knows about permaculture.  Anyway, I don’t think we’re far enough along on our homestead to have someone point out all our weaknesses.  Perhaps if we were guaranteed they’d pay for a well to be dug…  If we’re going to be on TV, we’ll let you know.

We also had a friend bring his two friends who enjoy manual labor (in exchange for prepared meals and shared beers) and they blasted out a bunch of man hours taking pallets apart and hoisting logs up for the veranda.  Julius got to practice a lot of chess as well.  Those guys can come back and hang out anytime.

Chess

Chess

 

Working buddies!

Working buddies!

Our cement pillars look fabulous with posts on them!  We got five upright posts on and four hinges (those are the cross-beams that connect the uprights at the top).  Each of those hinges hold 4-5 porch beams that extend out from the house and rest on top of the hinges.  Everywhere that two pieces of wood meet, there is a bolt of all-thread.  Where the wood rests on the wall, there are two pieces of rebar pinning the wood to the wall and resisting upward lift.  Our big guy has been a great help with tightening the bolts and fetching batteries for the power tools.

Big guy helps tighten bolts

Big guy helps tighten bolts

 

Father and son building buddies

Father and son building buddies

That’s one of the issues we had last year with only one solar module and one marine battery.  It didn’t hold enough charge to charge power tool batteries more than twice a day on sunny days.  Now, with two marine batteries and two solar modules, we can charge tool batteries all day long.  We have two batteries, so Aaron uses one to cut rebar or drill holes in the wood, while the other battery is charging.  Then, they get switched out.  They’re Makita Lithium Ions in case they sound appealing.

We had most of the posts and beams left over from the reciprocal frame roof, but we have had to head for the woods to do some cutting.  We’ll need to make another trip or two before the porch is finished.  After this much experience with it, I really enjoy working with cedar.  It strips very easily (with a butter-knife) and it is fairly light weight once it has dried a bit.  It also looks great with knots and gnarls.  And cedar has natural insect repellent properties.

Aaron does an outstanding job of making all the logs fit together.  The toddler knows exactly what’s going on.  He says, “Daddy build Lincoln Logs?”  We’ve got about 2 feet of pallet-board decking extending out over the porch beams, which creates lots of shade all the way up until about 2pm.  The shade makes a nice area for… taking apart more pallets!  I am a master of pallet-disassembly at this point.

Yes it hurts my back

Yes it hurts my back

I wouldn’t say I’m a master at cobbing in bottles yet, but when we get all those gaps above the walls filled in, I might be.  Aaron got to borrow his grandfather’s wet-tile-saw and he’s been getting lots of bottles cut.  We’re trying for 2 different sizes, a 4 inch bottle and a 5 inch bottle, so that when we tape them together, we’ll have 8 inch and 10 bottles pairs that when sitting on the wall, leave a little shelf inside for lights or knick-knacks, or whatever.

Taped together bottles for the stained-glass effect

Taped together bottles for the stained-glass effect

It takes a lot of cob to fill those areas!  All the cob that washed off the walls is fairly easy to wet and rework for this purpose.  We decided to only use clear bottles on the exterior side of the walls so that optimal light comes through.  Unfortunately all our favorite beers only come in brown bottles.  Coronas are not our favorite, but we drink them on occasion (for the sake of the house of course).  We’ve also decided to use the larger wine and liquor bottles on the south side where the lower winter sun will shine through and light up the room, leaving the smaller beer bottles for the north, or back of the house.  Because they are so set back in the wall, you don’t see them much.  But I think in winter, they’ll really pop.

Above the wall, below the ceiling colored bottles

Above the wall, below the ceiling colored bottles

Speaking of bottles, we took some of our guests on the southwest Oklahoma wine trail and visited a winery we hadn’t been to before.  Entwined Vines Winery is just west of Anadarko.  I met them at the farmer’s market while selling my soap.  They have a very nice tasting room, where John has his art displayed.  My favorite wine of theirs is the Tempranillo.  If you are in the area, I highly recommend a visit there.

John at Entwined Vines Winery

John at Entwined Vines Winery

And now, for book talk!  The decade-old child of ours began and finished Rick Riordan’s latest Trials of Apollo, that he got for this birthday, and read 2 books from a really cool book set that his grandparents gave him about surviving natural and human induced disasters.  He read the one about Hurricane Katrina, and the one about Pearl Harbor.  I wanted to save these for when we began homeschooling, but what can you do when your kid is a voracious reader?  He also started Mio My Son by Astrid Lindgren, for the 3rd time.

Hubby hasn’t finished his Herman Wouk book yet.  He claims he didn’t know where it went.  I’m looking at it right now, from our card table in the middle room.  It’s really because he’s been working his butt off on this porch, and I am more than appreciative for this.

The toddler has been steadily absorbing all the colorful pictures in board books from the library.  And for myself, I had to pause To Kill a Mockingbird because I had an e-book on hold and it came in.  I had been waiting for some time, so I figured I should read it while it was available.  They don’t have hard copies at either library, so the Kindle version had to suffice.  Anyway, Ready Player One is now officially in my top 5 favorite novels.  Ernest Cline crafted such an epic story that just works on so many levels.  I give it points for creativity, imagery, teen love, environmental awareness, feminism, lessons on friendship, sticking it to the man, and bad-ass robot fight scenes.  And I’m not into robot fight scenes. Yeah, it’s about video games, but it’s about so much more.  I bought the book in hardcover just because.

In August I’ll get back to Harper Lee and let you know how great it feels under our veranda!  And a great big Happy Birthday to America this month, because there aren’t a whole lot of other countries where a family can own land, research their way through building and maintaining a homestead, and practice whatever religion they please.  I am grateful for the freedoms we still have.  Summer blessings of freedom and happiness to all my readers.

 

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