Reflections on March, 2016

H.O.M.E. Farm from afar

H.O.M.E. Farm from afar

I thought March was supposed to be rainy.  We’ve only had a little rain this month.  I sure love the “spring green up,” with all the new life growing up in the pastures.  The redbuds are the first to bloom.  They started showing their girly pinks around the 12th of this month.  Then the few dogwoods give a burst of white.  And then everything else sort of gets the hint and starts producing this pale, virgin green that we don’t see for the rest of the year.  The colors of the landscape are like a symphony in this way.  It would be neat, though I’m sure someone has already done it, to take short video clips of the different colors appearing in the spring and then waning in the fall.  Then they could all be spliced together into a brilliant show of nature’s colors.

On March 1st, we exercised our right to vote in the Oklahoma primaries.  That day reminded me of a paradigm shift I had in college.  I attended a question and answer seminar with a candidate running for governor.  She explained how the voting process works in Illinois and in the country, as well as what her ideas and projections were for her term, should she be elected.  It was very informative, particularly because I hadn’t had any education on our country’s civics since I took the respectively named course in high school, many years before.  Because of the structure of our democracy, which appears to be a two-party system if you ask any major newspaper, people feel that all the votes are going to either this guy or this guy.  There are other candidates, but they have no chance, so vote for the lesser evil, they say.  That was seemingly the case in the 2012 election.   Well, voting for the lesser evil is still voting for evil.  We should all vote for who we truly want to be in office, or so I was told in the seminar.  The candidate who represents our values should get our vote.  However, It has come to my attention that this year, many people are not happy with any of the candidates, and so in this case perhaps voting for the lesser evil is the thing to do?  I do know one thing.  Those who chose not to vote at all are doing a huge disservice to this country.  By not voting, you’re potentially voting for the worst evil!

So I urge all my readers and friends and family to vote! You have a right and a responsibility.  Plus, you get a cute little sticker that you can adhere to your shirt while you take a selfie that you can post on Instagram and Facebook.  If that motivates you, so be it.

Meanwhile, back at the farm, we’ve been busy planting fruits!  I am very excited that we now have 2 varieties each of blackberries, raspberries, and blueberries.  I told “the toddler” the other day that we were going to check on the berries, to which he responded with mouth-chewing noises.  He doesn’t use a whole lot of words yet, but you could tell he was ready for some sweet treats.  He loves fruit.  In fact, if we let him, he would literally eat 14 bananas.  That’s one word he vocalizes (in baby babble).  Nana!  It will be really exciting when, later this summer, he’ll actually get to pick some berries and eat them right there!

How great it would be to have a U-pick business where customers could visit the farm and fill baskets of berries!  I sometimes fantasize about having multiple and abundant income streams.  Along with our berries, we could sell honey, gourmet mushrooms, raw milk, and soap!  Ok, I’ve been listening to some really inspiring woman-powered entrepreneurial mom podcasts.  I have the entrepreneurial hair again.  It has popped up many times in my life, but has repeatedly been choked out by life’s circumstances, i.e. building our home.  It will need an outlet eventually.  You can’t just bottle up creativity.  I’m pretty sure that can feed depression and anxiety.  I just need to find a way to make my passions profitable.  My partner and I don’t value huge monetary wealth, but obviously we do need some steady income.  I’ll keep you updated on that.

One of those income streams may come sooner than later.  I’ve been making soap.  Because this land of cattle ranchers has provided easy and inexpensive access to beef tallow, I have honed my skill of rendering the stuff.  It’s quite easy really, but does require a watchful eye to prevent burning.  And then there’s the actual soap-making, after the tallow has been rendered.  I think I’ve found an economical and luxurious recipe, after making a couple of test batches.  It’s an art and a science, requiring math, chemistry, creativity, and patience.  I won’t tell you which of those I’m not very good at.  So far, I have produced off-white colored bars in lemongrass and lavender.  I plan to give it a shot at the farmer’s market early in May.  (The bars have to cure a bit).

Soap creations!

While we’re on the topic of soap, remember those soap berries I talked about?  Well, we gave them a couple tries and they seem to do the trick of washing.  In the first load, I used the berries as-is.  The clothes got clean, but the berries hadn’t changed in texture or even opened up at all.  So for the second load, I split the berries open with a knife.  I am pretty sure that the clothes were a smidge cleaner the second time.  Now of course, laundry washed with soap nuts won’t have that Gain-clean scent, but that is to be expected.  And I could link you to many a study showing how all those phthalate-scented laundry detergents are harmful to skin and water.

Remember how I talked about hiding comfortably in our one-room earthbag home on the prairie?  I mentioned how it was a sure sign of increasing comfort because we had a hard time actually getting outside to work on the house, but that would change in March, right?  Eh hem, we have been enjoying the fruits of our labor, but we have also made some notable progress.

The middle room has gotten some serious rain cover.  We even put some things inside of it that needed to stay dry.  Imagine that!  Granted, it still has a 6 foot hole in the middle of the roof, but the walls are dry now.  I stuffed feed sacks full of straw in the gaps above the walls, just like we did in the east room.  It stops a lot of wind from coming in.  One day I blinked and Aaron had put together the mini reciprocal frame of 2x4s to help close that gap.  We are so close to having that room totally dry.

Mini recipri-frame

It also got a window!  We put in one of the two 3×5 fixed panes and it looks great!  While it is a double pane, it’s quite big so I’m interested to see how it performs in temperature extremes.

Outside looking in

Outside looking in

And just below that window, there is now a plant in the floor.  Okay, it’s in a terra cotta pot in the floor.  Because, when you have a dirt floor, why not?  It was a tree that was gifted to us when my mother passed, so it is kind of important to me.  Then, as a fun distraction from working, Aaron layered these interesting pieces of granite all over the soil surface.  He assures me they are for moister retention.

Plant in the floor inside the house. Why not?

Plant in the floor inside the house. Why not?

Granite soil topper

Granite soil topper

We’ve continued attaching trim around the front of the west room.  It looks so much more complete with that little touch of shiny metal.  The underlayment looks really professional as it lays on top of the metal, complementing the color.  Speaking of underlayment, it is again, a test of my fear of heights to be on that steep pitched west room, but we’ve managed somehow.  That fear will go down as one of the most stressful aspects of building my own home.

Trimming the front overhang

Trimming the front overhang

One last tidbit I’d like to share is that my big kid and I visited the bigger library in the bigger town near us.  We have a small local library, but it is pretty limited.  We got a library card at this larger library and our eyes lit up when we read in the rules that our checkout limit is 80 books!  He got some Greek Gods graphic novels (his current favorite genre) and I picked up a couple homeschooling books.  This new discovery brings me to a not-so-novel idea I’d like to share with you.

If you noticed my post on my favorite podcasts, you’ll know that I’ve been absorbing a whole slew of information on education, learning styles, resources and curriculum, and books. Lots of books. I have 3 book lists in my phone, 2 in a homeschooling ideas notebook, and at 1 on a scrap of receipt paper in my… oh where did that one go? I have also printed book lists from the Read Aloud Revival and The Institute for Excellence in Writing. My Instagram feed has rapidly grown in size because I’m following a handful of new fellow book lovers. One of them is Anne Bogel, or the Modern Mrs. Darcy. She gave me this great idea for how to read books without getting bogged down reading books. Funny sort of irony, huh? Anyway, as per her recommendation, I’m reading 3 books at a time, one that is strictly for fun, one that involves whatever passion I’m pursuing at the time (kind of like continuing education) and one that challenges my intellect and requires more brain exercise.

My pleasure read is Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin about an ambitious mountaineer who builds a school for girls in Pakistan.  My mom read this probably 2 years before her passing and raved about it.  She wanted me to read it so badly, so I am enjoying it now.

The continuing education pick is The Writer’s Jungle, a guidebook for teaching writing in the homeschool setting by my home-education guru, Julie Bogart of the Brave Writer program.

And because my research in classical methods of home-education is pushing me to read the Classics, my brain workout book is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.  I’m listening to it via audiobook, which is helpful because the dated language from England is a bit foreign to me.

Oh, and our current read-aloud is The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

I think I should include this list in all (or most) future blogs in the hopes that my readers will be open to discussing books with me, I can drive my fantasy of starting a local book club, and because books are simply wonderful.  So, because no homesteader would be mentally stimulated enough without a basic home library, I’ll be including my 3 current reads on this homesteading adventure blog.

Looking ahead to April, I’m hoping we’ll get some more things planted, we’ll get some more roof done and make some more soap.  I’m also looking forward to rainy days so we can read.

From the little dirt homestead on the prairie, peace to you all.

 

 

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