Reflections on May, 2017

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there!  I am serious; mothering is hard work.  We have 3 children, 2 dogs, a cat, 9 chickens, 1 remaining guinea, and 35 cows to care for.  Building a home with no electricity or plumbing, out on a windy prairie, and trying to keep everyone alive and well-fed without losing our heads is no easy task.  Now, I’m not saying that mothering in a climate-controlled environment with running water is any easier.  I’ve done both.  And actually, in some ways, our lifestyle is easier.  Take the runaway naked toddler.  Living in town, this is a problem.  Living on our homestead, it’s not.  We don’t have to keep our dogs on leashes or limit ourselves to hens rather than having a protective rooster, and I can hang my laundry on the line without fear that my neighbors will see my underwear.  There are pros to country living.

The same goes for mothering.  Some days we get very little work done on the house because of “poop-mergencies,” mastering difficult concepts in our homeschool, and dropping everything to breastfeed every 3 hours.  But then there are those moments when the naked toddler looks up at the stars that we can see so brilliantly, out here away from the lights of civilization, and he starts singing Twinkle Twinkle out of tune, but heart-warming nonetheless.  Or when the 5th grader makes a connection between his biology lesson and the weeding he’s helping me with in the garden.  Or when I’m exhausted from shoveling dirt and sit down to nurse, and just before he latches on, baby takes a moment to gaze into my eyes with that soft, toothless smile.  So cheers to all the moms!  Even if your kids (or animals) don’t show their appreciation, they love you to the moon and back, and I appreciate you.  🙂

During our free-time (ha!) we’ve been pecking away at the floor in the west room.  We only lack one section now, having done 3 that have gotten better and easier each time.  We’ve upgraded our process by smashing the chunks of dirt and sifting them through the vibratory separator.  And while we’ve had trouble keeping the tamper from sticking to the wetted floor,  we’ve still been able to tamp it before all the cement reacts.  Read about beginning this process here.

Vibratory separator for sifting floor soil

Vibratory separator for sifting floor soil

Our floor sections turn out hard with no cracks, though they do have little depressions from standing water and tamping indentations.  The floor scratches easily with hard objects.  However, the plan is to buff these out somehow before we apply the protective coating and sealer.  I am open to suggestions on this.  Linseed oil is recommended most often, but I’ve heard it breaks down in the sunlight, and we’ll have plenty of that in this room.  One option is cement paint that goes on basement floors, but that would cover the beautiful warm earthen color, which is all the hype in earthen flooring.  I read in this blog that gum turpentine can be used along with linseed oil for a hard, moppable finish.

Soil cement flooring and the first step

Soil cement flooring and the first step

We’ve also begun the step into the middle room.  This will have a circular “landing” in the archway and another rounded step up into the central room (kitchen).  We have talked about using the round granite pieces, cut-outs from faucets and pipes, to grout into the steps.  We’ll see when we actually get to that point.  We don’t have much play in the height of that step due to our low archway.

Soil cement as grout for concrete chunk step

Soil cement as grout for concrete chunk step

Since the weather has been gorgeous, I’ve been planting in the garden.  Now that the roof is done, we feel like we can branch out away from exclusive house work and give some attention to the garden and other landscaping projects.  I was so inspired by my father’s back patio that I spent nearly an entire day just looking at and daydreaming about our future outdoor kitchen and back patio.

My dad's back patio in Illinois that I envy

My dad’s back patio in Illinois that I envy

We’re not even close to having something like this, but it is important to have a muse.  I finally got our birdhouse gourds fastened to the bird perch.

Birdhouse gourds (we grew)

Birdhouse gourds (we grew)

We grew these gourds the summer of 2015, when practically everything else was eaten by grasshoppers.  They dried for about 2 years.  Then we drilled 1 inch holes and painted them before coating with a couple of layers of Mod Podge.  The one on the left is screwed to some wood, which is screwed to the board.  There is a screw sticking into the nesting area, which may or may not disturb the birds.  The other two are tied on with baling string, after much finagling.  I’ll let you know if we get some guests in any of them.

Birdhouse gourds waiting for tenants

Birdhouse gourds waiting for tenants

I have planted some cilantro, dill, basil, carrots, green beans, 3 varieties of tomatoes, peppermint, banana melons, burgundy okra, bell peppers, and beets into our new sunken garden beds, and corn, watermelon, and peppers into our keyhole garden.  I was worried about the freshly planted seeds when a deluge of rain filled up the beds, but as you can see, they maintained their straight little rows!  We are working on some compost tea to give these plants a boost.

Our cilantro and carrots are off to a good start

Our cilantro and carrots are off to a good start

Mother earth is quite proud of her plantings as well.  We have such a variety of wild flowers around us including; Indian paintbrush and Indian blanket, bee balm, coreopsis,  perennial sunflower and geranium, and quite a few others of which I have yet to learn the names.

Wildflowers!

Wildflowers!

Our prickly pear cactus is also in full bloom.  It is a spectacle to see how fast they grow, and often from the willy-nilliest of plantings.  Julius literally scattered some of them about last fall and they have popped out “leaves” and flowers already.

Prickly pear

Prickly pear

Prickly pear in bloom

Prickly pear in bloom

Though May is my favorite month here, I am relieved to tell it goodbye because it means we are past the biggest threat of tornado activity which could destroy our precious few baby trees.  Feast your eyes on this marvel of a storm front that barely missed us:

Cumulonimbus on the move

Cumulonimbus on the move

May books:

Julius (10) Omnivore’s Dilemma Young Reader’s Edition by Michael Pollan, which took him longer than his fantasy books, but he managed.  He was really impressed with Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm and wants to go visit!  He also read The Forgotten Warrior, The Last Hope, Night Whispers, and Sign of the Moon, the Cat Warrior books in Erin Hunter’s series, and Happenstance Found by P.W. Catanese.

Me: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, to cross off a young adult novel on my reading challenge.  I started another book for my facebook book club called Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese, which is long (almost 500 pages) but I am loving it!  It has lots of medical references that I never thought I would be interested in, and the language is beautiful.  It’s about twin boys, literally cut apart at birth and raised by the surgeon who almost killed them during delivery in Addis Ababa.  The book follows the lives of the twins as they get older and move to other places, so it has some really interesting geographical aspects.

Aaron: Reboot and Rebel, the duology by Amy Tintera, The 47th Samurai by Stephen Hunter, and Finnikin of the Rock (The Lumatere Chronicles Book 1) by Melina Marchetta.  I’m getting really good at picking books for him.  I just skim the young adult section for dark-colored fantasy books that don’t involve WWII or zombies (there are more than you’d think) and he typically devours them.

Mason (2 and 11/12): I have invented a miracle for breastfeeding mothers with toddlers!  You get the baby nursing, have the toddler pick a book they can easily hold and open, and have them turn the pages while you read.  When you’re done reading a page, say “Bing!” just like those old books on tape.  Its good to start with books with only a few words on each page.  He and I love reading this way.  I’m sure the baby enjoys it too.  This month we read the Star Wars felt picture book no fewer than 11 times.  It only has one word on each page, so the story-line is a little different each time.

Next month’s possibilities: Priming and painting the wood trim around the roof, putting up gutters to collect more rainwater since our invisible gutters didn’t pan out, and finishing the floor in the west room.

 

Happy Homesteading!

Happy Homesteading!

 

 

 

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