Living in an off-grid situation makes one resilient, creative, and open to utilizing resources in a way that most people might never imagine. It makes one more independent and less reliant on external inputs. It also makes one sincerely appreciate the very on-grid occupation and practice of modern dentistry. Some off-grid folks are so gung-ho about living independently that they turn their nose up to our current medical and dental professionals, leaving their health in their own hands. This is not a bad thing. In fact, many of these people are absolutely healthy and rely on foods as medicine. Herbs, mycological tinctures, and plain-old healthy-living practices keep them in top condition. There are many studies claiming that kids who grow up on farms have far superior immune systems. I am a believer in all things holistic and natural, but I am not about to settle for a cup of tea to “take the edge off” of an impacted wisdom tooth.
Many teenagers go through the 3rd molar extraction procedure, almost as a rite of passage. I was given this option, while still on my parents’ insurance, but I declined, naively thinking that my wisdom teeth would cause no problems. There are dentists who believe that this extraction has become a routine, yet unnecessary procedure, and that many oral surgeons do it in the interest of their own pockets, instead of the patients’ sockets. (I just couldn’t help myself).
So, when my wisdom tooth started bothering me, the oral surgeon recommended I have all remaining 3rd molars pulled. Being a virgin to in-vitro anesthesia, I was extremely nervous that I would be put under and not wake up. As I breathed the nitrous into my body, I noticed that the dental assistant’s smock had snowmen and reindeer on it instead of Halloween decorations and I immediately felt safe and secure. (Christmas decorations usually do not invoke such comfort, by the way). I swear I heard a tool drop on the floor, and I felt some movement in my mouth, and then I was awake, being wheeled out to the car, where my gorgeous husband and chauffer was waiting for me.
The dentist explained that the older one gets, the more connective root tissues grow down into the jaw-bone, making the procedure more painful and the recovery time longer. I so gratefully appreciate my husband’s parents and their comfortable home with running water, heating pads, freezer with ice packs, and all the Netflix a healing gal could ask for. It was 4 days and 1000 milligrams of Tylenol with Codeine later, that I could actually walk around and function like an average American. And another 2 days before I could function like myself, climbing up and down the ladder to apply cob and operate power tools.
On the way up to Yukon, where the dentist’s office was, we got to drive through an area full of new development. Suburban sprawl from Oklahoma City has spilled out towards Yukon, boosting its economy and attracting many new residents. The houses were quite beautiful and I could see the appeal for that lifestyle, somewhat. Gated communities have a façade of safety and togetherness, but looks can be deceiving. I think it would drive me crazy to live in such close proximity to my neighbors. That drive made me appreciate our wide open spaces with ample room for growing food and undertaking so many homesteading projects that urbanites would never attempt.
We did attempt and succeed at constructing the third and final reciprocal roof frame with Grandpa Mike’s help. This time we used oak which is about 3 times heavier than the cedar we used on the first 2 roofs.
It was the easiest and fastest assembly of them all, I suppose because we’d had lots of practice. Our 9 year old helped tighten the eye bolts that will hold the cable to help prevent any lateral forces from the roof onto the walls.
Because Grandpa Mike was there to help, I was able to get lots of video, which I will eventually compile into a neat how-to video. It feels great to look at the house from afar and see that it has roof frames on top of all the walls.
Our new front door and its accompanying handle really add to the look and feel of the home. The door is white, with a long, double glass window, which we hope will allow maximum solar energy to penetrate in the winter. It feels strange to have to remember to close the door. A door. What a luxury! We also purchased, but have yet to install the door for the east room. It has no window, but is very sturdy steel.
To cut down on wind, Aaron put up some corrugated tin over the window openings. It feels so nice inside now without the wind gusting in. Another luxury. Our home is getting more comfortable by the minute.
A lot of our time this month has consisted of disassembling pallets. Aaron found that if they soak in the rain first, the wood gets softened and then they are easier to pull apart. He uses a crowbar and a regular hammer, and sometimes a 2×4 to pry up the pallet slats. Then, all the nails need to be removed. That’s where our 9 year old and I get to be really helpful. Sometimes it seems that the people who construct the pallets get trigger happy with the staple gun or the nail gun, because there will be 5 staples or nails within a 1 square inch area. Those are a bit of a pain to remove. If you are reading this and you are a pallet assembly person, please refrain from over-using your nail gun.
We have found that during these mundane tasks, podcasts are very interesting to listen to. We use our handy Bluetooth solar-powered stereo to play TED talks, NPR shows, Brains On Science and other podcasts. We find them to be a great replacement for TV and movies. We like to listen to them in the evenings as well, after the sun has gone down and we’re just winding down for bed. I imagine that this is what it was like for people in the 20’s who owned a family radio and sitting around it together was a memorable and fulfilling pastime. Except nowadays, we have a lot more options.
This month Aaron attended a mushroom cultivation class in Oklahoma City, presented by Radical Mycology, where he learned oodles of information about growing edible and medicinal mushrooms. I bet you can guess what he’s doing right now as I publish this blog; starting mushroom cultures in their little jars. We have the Elm Oyster that has been shown to boost the productivity of brassicas, the Lion’s Mane which stimulates growth of the myelin layer on nerves and may help people with MS, the Pearl Oyster which is super yummy and bioremediative, and the King Stropharia, a mycelial workhorse and compost generator!
While Aaron attended the weekend-long class on mycology, I visited with our earthbag building buddies in Watonga. They have made some great progress on their home and are now ready to begin their first reciprocal frame roof too!
We are both so blessed to be so close to each other (only an hour and fifteen minutes away) and be working on the same alternative home-building endeavor. It is an absolutely mutually beneficial relationship because we learn from each other, help one another out, and give constructive criticism when there is virtually no one else in our area able to give it. And they are interesting and fun too! What more could we ask for?
Next month, we plan on getting the east room more winterized, by moving the rocket stove in and stuffing all the air-ways with bags of straw. Of course, we’ll need to disassemble more pallets and continue decking the roofs. I will be attending a certified lactation counselor training in Oklahoma City, which I am pretty excited about. I don’t know when I’ll be able to put that training to use at this point, but someday I’d really like to be able to assist new mothers and their families with breastfeeding. After nursing 2 babies, I know what an amazing bond occurs between mother and baby and I know there are many mothers who want that bond, but have lots of questions or don’t have the support they need. Wouldn’t it be rewarding to visit brand-new babies and mothers and help to create that bond? I think so.
Cheers to breastmilk, mushrooms, and pallets!