Reflections on July, 2017

What a contrast this July has been compared to last year! Saul, my name for the wind, has taken a hiatus for some reason.  I usually complain about his presence, acting like a blow-dryer in the already hot, dry climate.  But this July, I’ve secretly been begging for him to grace us with a breeze to move the air in the house.  We haven’t installed the earth tubes yet, for financial reasons, and so we have a particular routine for cooling the house.  We have 2 casement windows in the west room and a screen door on the east room.  If Saul is cooperating, we get a decent cross-breeze.  But when the outside temp is 95-100, we keep the outside, out.  Windows are only open at night to allow the cool (75-80 degree) temps in.

Sleeping doesn’t come easy with that kind of heat.  As I lay down in bed at night I am always reminded of The Help and her evocative descriptions of the heat and what a Godsend the day was when they got an air-conditioner installed.  That was the 60’s.  We don’t lack AC because it has yet to be invented; we lack it by choice, in this insane off-grid lifestyle.  It’s only temporary, I keep telling myself.  Soon enough, we’ll have the cool underground air from the earth tubes.  For a refresher on how earth tubes work, read this post.

Luckily, it only reached 94 when we celebrated the big guy’s 11th birthday.  And there were clouds!  We had a great time playing the cotton ball game, the present-unwrapping-musical game, and the annual scavenger hunt.  Last year, the kids requested that I make teams, so that’s what I did.  Some clues were way too easy, and others were a bit too hard, but everyone made it to the final treasure (the candy hiding in the dog food bin).

birthday scavenger hunt

Scavenger hunt clues

 

cotton ball game

The cotton ball game with teams!

We also did a variation on cow-skull painting; we painted cow vertebrae instead.  The vertebrae look (to me) like Star Wars spaceships, so I thought we should paint them as such.  I applied a coat of black and silver spray paint to them first, and then let the boys use colored paint to make them “pop.”

bones from pasture

Cow vertebrae

 

cow bones

Painting “pasture trash.”

 

paint cow bones

Painting the “ships.”

 

toddler paint

The toddler loved this activity the most

 

Then we sprayed an acrylic sealer to protect the paint.  Most of the boys were nowhere near as excited about these spaceships as I was.  And one saw his vertebrae not as a vessel for flying through space, but as a mammoth on one side and an elephant on the other.  Art is always up for interpretation, I told them.  Maybe next year we’ll do skulls.  Oh, and having a freezer makes ice-cream cake A LOT more feasible.

ice cream cake

cow paint

Cow vertebrae-turned elephant

 

cow paint bones

Finished cow vertebrae spaceships

For progress on the house this month, Aaron has been bringing in LOTS of dirt. to bring the floors up to level.  I’m going to write a post called “In Hindsight,” that will describe all the things we wish we’d done, or hadn’t done, like toting all the dirt out of the centers of the rooms.  We did use a lot of that dirt for filler in the walls and for cob and landscaping, but we sure wish we had it in there now.  The dirt for the floors is coming from east of the house where a future patio will reside.

I have been busy stomping in the mud and slapping it on the walls.  I have one half of the room done; the more difficult half (yay!) and now I’m working on some sculpting.  What fun it is to create functional and beautiful relief images on the walls!

cob on interior walls

This half is done being cobbed!

We have just collected some cow manure to experiment with our final layer of earthen plaster.  We’ve read about several recipes for earthen plaster, and the the big takeaway is that you should use what you’ve got for filler, unless you’re into spending a lot of money on external materials.  And Borax.  Everyone suggests using the mold inhibitor in all finish plasters.

cob plant holders

Built in plant holders

Our research suggests the addition of flour paste as a strengthening agent so we’ll try adding that as well.  It reminds me of paper mache and will probably be just as long lasting.  Since I have very little experience with sculpting, I’ve started small and will work my way bigger and wider with this over-the-archway-sun design.

sun cob design

Sun cob design

In other news, we let the chickens out for a little jaunt.  We’d been keeping them in the chicken tractor to keep them safe from our biggest predator: the hawk.  We move the tractor every other day and they seem to look forward to each move; the opportunity for more grasshoppers and seeds.  They haven’t laid any eggs yet.  The little bantam rooster has the cutest morning crow!  It reminds me of Simba from the Lion King, when he tries to roar like his big fierce father, but out comes a little meow!

chickens outside

Chickens get a taste of the outdoors

We’re not eating the chickens yet, or even their eggs, but we are eating from the creek!  Aaron got an old trident from his grandpa.  He is not learned in this art, but managed to spear us a long-nose gar!

gar fish

Long-nose gar from the creek

 

We asked Google how in the heck to get through its tough armor-scales.  Aaron used the angle-grinder to cut through the 1/8th inch scales of the huge fish.  We read that the eggs of the gar are very poisonous so we fed them to the methane digester instead of us.

long nose gar from creek

My, what ginormous teeth you have!

We cooked the little chunks of fish in a batter with Tony Catcherie’s seasoning and fried them in lard.  They tasted more like chicken than fish, which the kids and I liked.  We also tried boiling some pieces in water and then dipping them in melted butter.  I know, it sounds delicious, but it was underwhelming.

cutting the gar fish

Fileting this guy was tough enough to require the angle grinder

 

Books of the month:

Papa: Tess Gerritsen’s The Bone Garden, Tom Clancy’s The Teeth of the Tiger

Mama: I’ve been pre-reading books for homeschool and taking a break from anything too heavy.  Frindle by Andrew Clements was a delight of course, because it’s all about words, and taking a stand.  Bud, Not Buddy is such a good book, I want to re-read it with all my boys when they get to the right age.  Christopher Paul Curtis has such a talent to put you right in the shoes of little Bud, in his adventures during the depression.

Big Guy:  The Order of the Phoenix by You-Know-Who.  P.S. This month is the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter.  Are you feeling as old as I am right now?  And Frindle by Andrew Clements.  We will never call a pen by it’s former name ever again.

Middle Guy:  Excellent library find: Zen Pants and Zen socks by John Muth.  These are awesome little nuggets of peace and harmony.  The Zen panda reminds us to play rescue instead of good guys, bad guys, which gets so tiring if you have a handful of boys like we do.

Zen lessons from a panda named Stillwater

Zen lessons from a panda named Stillwater

Little Guy: I know, he’s not even sitting up yet, but it’s never to early to begin building the association of books and reading with love and comfort.  Pat the Bunny does exactly that.

Lastly, I told you I’d let you know what we decided to do for the swingset.  We pulled up all these pallet blocks out of the floor in the middle room and put them out here as a playground patio.  I know, they won’t last forever, but they look nice, suppress the weeds, and prevent mud puddles under the swings.  As always, it’s a work in progress.

pallet blocks under swingset

Yet another use for pallets

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