Ah, the most glorious month in Oklahoma is upon us. May is gorgeous. It is fresh and green and alive and there are perfect days with sunshine and a slight breeze. These beautiful days coupled with the prospect of summer travels conjure up feelings of ultimate soul-satisfaction.
I usually save the book chat for last, but I have a feeling I can orchestrate a lovely transition into house-building highlights. Here goes.
The Martian by Andy Weir is absolutely fantastic!! Yes, I used two exclamation points there. I listened to one of my favorite podcasts, “What Should I Read Next?” and discovered that this book would be perfect for my husband’s insatiable appetite for science fiction. Not surprisingly, he read it in two days. Worried that it would be way too sci-fi for me, I kept setting it aside next to the laundry and dishes and granite-flooring projects. Then one day, I picked it up and the opening line did exactly what it’s supposed to and sucked me in. One line! It was an easy read, but not immature. The imagery is excellent; I felt like I was right there with him on Mars, and right there in NASA’s offices, with all those unique and well-constructed characters. I want to buy gift copies for all my friends and family to read and enjoy. I almost don’t want to watch the movie because I’m sure it will miss some of my favorite little moments in the adventure.
As I was recommending this book to a friend, he asked if I could relate to the Martian environment, being desolate out on the prairie. After some thought, I began to notice many parallels. The HAB is roughly the same size as our home, the wind is obviously similar, and the dust on Mars is likely the same color as our red Oklahoma dirt. And then there’s this little scene:
“I average a hole every 3.5 minutes. That includes the occasional breather to let the drill cool off. I learned this by spending all damn day drilling. After eight hours of dull, physically intense work, I had 137 holes to show for it.”
This is exactly what the boys in my life have been working on this month. Drilling holes in the brackets that go on the piers for the porch, and drilling the holes in the piers themselves. I was really worried about drilling into the concrete, but the hammer-drill does a fine, albeit time-consuming job. Due to the battery-powered drill, and the need for it to be charged after every hole, we can get about 8 holes drilled into the piers on a sunny day. (Solar power, remember?)
Because I haven’t actually been out there to see our 9 year old drilling holes in the steel brackets, here is what he had to say about that process:
“Oh its horrible. I just press on a lever and it drills down. I used to not use a lever and it was really hard, but now we have a lever and so its easier. It takes maybe 15-20 minutes to drill a hole.”
He’s an honest kid.
I really hope to be able to tell you about getting our wrap-around porch and roof finished this summer, but with travel, the toddler, and the soap market, I can’t promise anything.
The soap market, you ask? Yes, the first Saturday in May was my first Oklahoma farmer’s market experience and it went really well. People were very interested in my soaps and stopped to smell them and chat about a range of topics from how the soap is made, to skin conditions, to what the heck beef tallow is. That last one surprised me since we are one of the biggest beef producing states in the country. I took 3 different types of soap to market; lemongrass, lavender, and lavender and oatmeal. I nearly sold out, so that Sunday I buckled down and made 4 more batches to bring to the next market. I also made a very special doggie shampoo for the market’s “Dog Days” event where many a pet owner will see me at my booth.
I have a Facebook page for my little soap business where I share pictures of the soapmaking process, worldly soap news, and interesting soap-related links. You can visit it and like the page if you want to make me smile. Being an introvert, I had a little anxiety about selling my product, but people are generally kind and I should probably not worry so much. After the market was over, my social meter was filled to the brim and I was ready for some farm isolation.
During that time, we played with granite scraps on the floor of our middle room. Its only temporary, but it sure looks nice.
I also made some granite paths under the areas where rain comes off the roof in deluges, and around some garden areas. I just love piecing the granite scraps together in interesting patterns.
The gardens are alive, by the way. Not thriving, but also not dying. The plants and I are very grateful that we’ve had some rain this month. One of our snow-pea plants produced a single cute pea-pod which was quickly eaten by the toddler. My corn looks starved for nitrogen and my cilantro, which grew so well in Illinois, is just barely showing signs of growth. I look back on my Illinois gardening days with envy. With each year of Oklahoma gardening there is just a pinch more soil biology and promise for future gardens. This fall, we are definitely going to plant some cover crops to aid in that process.
Our soil is proving to be sufficient enough to keep all our baby trees alive thus far! Of the three hickories we planted, only one has woken up and pushed out some leaves. Those two sleeping hickories are our only concern. All the other trees are alive and well.
We did have a little trouble with some of them lacking nitrogen. The leaves turned very red and gave us some fright. We read online that a quick remedy is to collect our human urine and water it down to about 1 part urine to 10 parts water and apply to the soil surrounding the tree. This worked great! All but one of those trees (one got too much and is showing signs of nitrogen burn) that were suffering have bounced back and look great!
Thanks to our new chipper-shredder, our trees have also benefited from a heavy layer of mulch. My dear partner is enthusiastic about new endeavors, but this chipper-shredder really put a sparkle in his eye. It’s just a small backyard chipper-shredder, allowing no branches larger than than 3 inches in diameter, but it really shreds! Like a backwards Mary Poppins bag, Aaron shoved in huge branches to be quickly and efficiently devoured by the machine. We filled up kiddie pools of shredded elm and cedar and distributed them around all the berry bushes and trees.
Book Talk for the month of May:
The Martian, as I mentioned before, I highly recommend for anyone who’s ever felt isolated.
I am still working on The Writer’s Jungle for my homeschool research and I feel like I can really take my time with it now because I have joined a Facebook discussion group about it. The link to that discussion group is here. They decided to take the reading of that book slower than I like, at 1 chapter every 2 weeks, which at first I thought was too slow, but now I’m seeing that with life’s business, I’m okay with that time-frame. I also started Taking Charge of Your Fertility by Toni Weschler because I’m sick of oral contraception. I’ve gotten through the first chapter and can see that it is going to be a very comprehensive study into the way my body works and a great introduction to the most natural method of family planning. Julius read The Ranger’s Apprentice book 3 by John Flanagan and began reading the last book of the last series by Rick Riordan, The Blood of Olympus. We are still working on our family read-aloud, The Hobbit.
One of my favorite books to read to the boys is Bill Pete’s Big Bad Bruce. I had it in the form of an audiobook on cassette tape when I was little and can still hear the voice of the cackling witch (I think I do a pretty good job with her voice). Bruce lives in Forevergreen Forest, but at the end of this fine month of May, we visited Evergreen, Colorado and noted how much it looked like the forest in the illustrations. And on our last night staying with friends there, we heard a loud crash and looked out in the front yard and saw Bruce himself sauntering away from the knocked over garbage bin! The toddler, all big with his newly discovered communication skills said, “baayer?” “Outsshide?” and then, “More?”
Ending on a rather delightful note, I got a very special tree for Mother’s Day. A Santa Rosa plum that we all planted together, the permaculture way; digging a hole much larger than neccesary, making a mound in its center, spreading each and every root out in a radial fashion, and replacing the dirt with screened and fluffed soil. Then we planted a few comfrey plants and some cover crop to prevent grass growth. We watered it well and it appears to be doing just fine. I can’t wait to eat Mother’s Day plums!
We had to keep the guineas from eating the cover crop seeds, so we set up the portable fence. No more guinea problems!
Thank you, my readers! Even if there are only a few of you, you give me some external accountability in maintaining this website. I do enjoy writing these blogs and I hope that they are enjoyable for you and I hope that you can learn something from our endeavors. Don’t hesitate to send us an e-mail, comment below, or visit our facebook page if you have more questions about earthbag building or parenting off the grid, or you want to come visit. We can usually respond within 24 hours.
If you live a similar lifestyle, then Happy Homesteading!