Summer is upon us. The heat is on. The grasshoppers are just beginning to annoy our gardens, and all the rain has caused an explosion of mosquitoes. It hasn’t been miserable yet, so we’ve made some progress here and there.
Remember the drilling I was telling you about? Aaron and the big boy worked diligently on cutting brackets from a discarded I-beam and drilling holes in them. I painted them with a brown-colored Rustoleum paint and Aaron got a few of them fixed in place on the pillar bases.
We are waiting on the chainsaw to be repaired so we can begin standing up the cedar posts for the porch. I cannot express my excitement for this task. While in Colorado, I noticed a few porches that used evergreen posts and I just fell in love with them. A house in the country with a wrap-around porch; isn’t that just the epitome of the homestead lifestyle?
The country life that has any rainfall usually has mosquitoes too, unfortunately. We’ve had more than our share of those annoying buggers. Surely it doesn’t have anything to do with the big boy’s tire fortress? One of his tasks for the month of July is to drill drainage holes in all these tires so we can keep them around for future projects.
Market was good this month. For those of you who aren’t subscribed to this blog, you may have missed my post on soap. You can click here to read about my soap ingredients, why I make soap, and why you might want to ditch your store-bought big brand soap. This market was a little more special than usual. They call it “Dog Days” and have a local veterinarian with discount shots. I made a special doggie shampoo bar with Rosemary, Lemongrass, Cedarwood and Neem, all of which have insect-repellent properties. The big boy and I bathed my dearest Azaylia and brought her to market to show off the shampoo. While nobody knelt down and smelled her as I imagined they might, they did comment on how pretty she was. She never gets tired of hearing that. (More about the adventurous life of Azaylia Jane here). I had 3 return customers and had to make up some more batches this month.
Another thing I made this month was a solar oven. I simply googled some pictures of others’ homemade solar ovens and spent less than 5 dollars on spray paint, aluminum foil, and a piece of glass, and put this together:
We tried it with and without the foil in the inside and it only got to 210 degrees, enough heat to make some cowboy coffee, but not enough to bake cinnamon rolls or a pie. Aaron is working on a new design with a cooler that will hopefully cook some meals for us. It is way too hot to use the barrel stove inside the house now.
Part of the reason that the house is so hot is that is has a black roof. The Grace Ice and Water Shield protected the house and kept us dry in the winter and spring and now its cooking us. I was up on the ladder inside the house cobbing in some bottles above the wall and I could feel the heat radiating down from the ceiling.
We began latex-cementing the roof! Everyone keeps saying they’ve never heard of such a thing, even in the alternative home-building community, so at the bottom of this post, you’ll find links to all the places we’ve found to learn about it. Basically, we use 2 parts Portland cement, 1 part latex paint, and 1 part water and mix it up with the paint-mixer drill attachment (off-grid style).
Then we pour it on some 80% shade cloth which was previously stapled to the roof. It appears to be making a nice hard impermeable layer. Subsequent layers (we don’t know how many we’ll require yet) will contain charcoal for further stability and insulation. Plus, the inexpensive charcoal will replace a portion of the high-priced Portland cement.
The shade cloth is woven in such a way that it resists fraying which is cool because we bought a large piece that we’ve been cutting into manageable sizes. It has some seams running through it and so we learned to put the seams down, to avoid awkward lumps.
We also started cutting bottles, a long anticipated crafty house building activity. I really enjoy the creative artsy parts of home construction and this is one of them. We’ve been collecting bottles, mostly wine and beer bottles that are unique colors and shapes. These will go above the wall and under the roof, where we previously had bags of straw stuffed to keep out the cold. We decided that colored bottles should go on the inside and clear bottles on the outside to let in the most light. We’re going to need a lot more bottles, so if you’re planning a visit during the summer or fall of 2016, bring some bottles.
And finally, we are so thankful that a friend gave us this little gift because the summer heat is fast becoming intolerable. Such a simple contraption has kept our kiddos busy and cooled off during the hot part of the day. It’s even better with the Easy-Up shading it. Our house becomes more like a home every month and this month, with Aaron mowing the “yard” and the kids splashing in the pool, it feels like a little slice of the American dream, off-grid-style!
Book Talk for the Month:
For my continuing education/self-help book, I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic and I cannot express how much I loved it. The first couple of chapters were sort of like, “uh, is this all there is to this book?” But, because I had previously experienced Liz Gilbert from Eat, Pray, Love, I knew I should keep reading. I am so glad I did. I read it in less than a week; thankfully we had some rain that kept us from doing anything momentous. The content was inspiring yet practical with personal stories, general suggestions and a couple of ah-ha moments. I love ah-ha moments. I highly recommend this book to anyone who’s ever had an idea, didn’t follow it through, and later in life, wondered what would have happened if they did. So really, I recommend it to everyone. Except my husband, but he’s pretty picky.
Okay, I read 2 self-help/personal growth books this month. The second was Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler. Let it be known: This is not the Rhythm Method! My father-in-law made the joke:
You know what they call someone who uses the Rhythm Method?
Ha. Nope. This is FAM, the Fertility Awareness Method, in which a woman tracks her cervical fluid, cervical position, and morning body temperature all in a handy little chart. She can then determine which days are safe for making babies, or not making babies. The Fertility Awareness Method also allows a woman to be aware of signs and symptoms of cervical cancer, menopause, and other conditions. The woman well-read in FAM may know her body better than her gynecologist!
I also began a classic fiction novel, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I feel as though I am right there in the deep south of Alabama with little Scout and her big brother. I can almost hear the mosquitoes and flies and feel the dampness of Maycomb County. Oh wait, that’s reality. I’m wishing we had screen doors now. While it has taken a few chapters to get used to her writing style, I am really enjoying the story and I can definitely remember thinking the way Scout did when I was very young running the streets of our neighborhood in the dog days of summer. I can certainly understand why this book is on must-read lists about American history.
Aaron is reading Herman Wouk’s A Hole in Texas, about a physicist and the Superconducting Super Collider. Go ahead, say it out loud.. Now do a mad scientist laugh.
The big boy is working on Torn, Margaret Peterson’s The Missing novel series. I want to call it historical fiction, but I can’t be sure of its accuracy, so I’ll call it a fictional young-adult novel with a bit of history thrown in. Torn deals with the 17th century, a ship called the Discovery, time travel, and an alternate universe. He blasts right through these, but he’s really excited for Rick Riordan’s newest book, which might appear at his upcoming birthday.
The little boy is enjoying Alice Schertle’s Little Blue Truck and the companion book, Little Blue Truck Leads the Way. We read them each at least twice a day. When you can stand to read a board book that many times, you know it’s well-done. The verses are comfortable to read aloud and the illustrations are so cute, we’ll be keeping these books even after our kids are grown.
And lastly, on the subject of books, I keep seeing gorgeous photos on Instagram of people’s books, so I thought I’d take a photo of our growing homeschool shelf. It takes up one 3-foot wide shelf right now, but I imagine that it will soon encompass the entire bookshelf. You can follow me on Instagram as alisonearthcrim.
Links to Latex-Cement information:
Google “Acrylic Roofing Handbook” by Conservation Technology PDF (nice illustrations)
Search the Forums at Permies.com Lots of discussion on latex cement and other roofing options.
VelaCreations has a nice post with lots of information here.
Owen Geiger’s post with more links on the topic.
Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!