Reflections on September and October, 2017

Ah, the power of music!  I’m going to let you in on a little October secret: if you are facing a tumultuous task, turn on some music.  You won’t be disappointed.  I  have been nudging Aaron to get us a subscription to a music service for a long time.  “It will motivate us to get work done,” I said.  “We need some music variety to get us moving around here,” I nagged.  Well, I got a little birthday gift a while back and we finally decided to put it to a pleasing and practical use.

After a bit of research for a music service that really serves those of us with limited internet, we signed up for Spotify.  I don’t know that we’ll ever go back.  Spotify allows us to download 3,333 songs for offline listening.  And get this: no ads!  None.  Similar artist recommendations, yes.  Notifications about artists we like playing live in our area, yes.  Podcasts and talk radio, yes.  Thousands of artists, yes!

And we have been motivated more than ever before!  Lots of plastering, cobbing, artistic detail work, clean-up of messy cluttered areas, organization and proper placement of tools are the items we’ve been continually crossing off the list.  And man it feels great.  At times, we just look around and talk about what a great job we’ve done.

So here’s what we’ve been listening to:

Kaleidoscope Jukebox, The Human Experience, STS9, SoDown, Pretty Lights, and Bassnectar mostly for those stay-up-late-and-get-the-batch-done nights.

Nahko and Medicine for the People for the cobbing detail work and stomping in the muddy cob itself.

Arkansauce, Leftover Salmon, and Grateful Dead for pretty much any task.

Oh and the playlists Brain Food, Chill as Folk, and Mellow Beats are where its at for motivating music around our house.  What Spotify playlists get you going and keep you motivated for creativity?

And here’s what this music has inspired us to do:

We’ve changed our method of soil-cement floor installation.  Previously, we mixed the soil and Portland cement on a tarp dry and poured it into the space and then wetted it with the hose.  We did this mostly in the west room where we now have a good amount of cracking.  We can feel the actual plates of stabilized earth wiggle on top of the packed earth underneath.  So Aaron tried something new.  He mixed the soil and cement on a tarp, wetted it, and then troweled it on, much like you would do an earthen floor.  After experimenting with that method, he then had the idea to set some of our granite scrap pieces in the floor first and then use those for leveling “islands” which could then have soil-cement troweled around them.  This method has proven to create a very hard and quite pretty floor.

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Soil-cement and granite scrap flooring

He has discovered The Most Efficient Way to mix the soil-cement and water on a tarp.  It’s called the Volcano and Mason (3) is an expert at pushing in the sides slowly so that the water sinks in and doesn’t spill over the edge.  He even told me once to back up and let him show me the right way.  Like father, like son.

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The volcano wetting method

Another great discovery is that keeping the floor covered with tarp for a month (optimally) really reduces cracking.  And of course then we got excited all over again about the multitude of granite pieces we have lying around.  Now, these floors may ultimately be covered by an earthen floor, but this makes a functional and pretty subfloor in the meantime.

We have also completed much of our step work for our multi-level home.  I can remember being a kid and thinking that my friend’s “split-level” home was so cool.  And now we have one.

Our window sills have come a long way and utilized the granite scraps as well.  Sheesh, I hope the guy who supplies the granite reads this blog!  We had trouble deciding whether the sill should stick out further than the wall, so one window doesn’t and the others do at differing amounts, but hey.  Character, right?  I just love the look of them.

window sills earthbag home october 2017 music

Loving the window sills

I got giddy thinking about accent pillows to put in them for little nook spaces.  I love the idea of sitting in a window sill like a cat, warming up in the sun’s glorious rays.  And then hubby rained on my parade by completely filling the window sill spaces with plants that needed to come in before the frost.  We compromised and I get one free window.  The other 6 are for plants.  That’s fair right?

earthen home october 2017 music

Gorgeous window sill progress

Our super cool sun/sunflower hasn’t had as much attention as I would have liked to give it, but it has improved some.  Our friends came and helped out with it some.  We added some granite chunks there, too.

granite scraps embedded cob sculpture october 2017 music

Granite scrap accents to the sun flower cob design

Plastering happened again!  I really enjoy it… once a month.  We make pretty big batches so that we use exactly one bucket of cow manure for good measure.  It’s amazing how different it feels squishing between my toes.  The manure gives the mud a frothy texture.  Maybe that helps the smoothing quality on the wall.  My arm gets tired too, but it’s nothing compared to the cramping that happens in my hand.  With good electronic music, a couple of Sierra Nevadas, and some dedicated family baby-sitters, I was able to complete the underside of the archway and go from the far west side (let’s say 0 degrees) to just shy of 180 degrees.  And it looks great!  It really makes the spice rack pop.  I’m going to make you wait on pictures of the spice rack by the way.

The borders of the archways have been growing as well.  It takes a massive amount of cob to build out our massive archways!  We’ve decided on a blocky pattern for the middle room.  The little blocks can hold pictures or little kick-knacks, or maybe even tea-light candles.  I listened to some Indian-themed electronic music while I sculpted the top of this archway.  We had to use all the words that came to mind to describe the archways so that we could get them to match.  One of them looked Indian, Aztec, and Indo-European, while the other, taller one looked like southwest Texas, Roman Catholic meets Taco Bell.  Needless to say, the latter one had to be revised.  It now looks more Indian.

The middle room’s food pantry floor is complete with soil-cement and granite scraps!  And the middle room’s lower floor is now totally level and has a tiny portion stabilized.  We’re going to need to purchase more Portland cement.  Small sections at a time are the most feasible with the baby, and curing times, and the middle room being the highest traffic area in the house.  We’ll probably get that floor complete during November if all goes well.  An earthen floor is in the pipeline for that final floor, but for now, it’ll be granite scraps and good old soil-cement.

earthen floors october 2017 music

Studying up

Alis, or aliz, is a clay paint that has been used for centuries as a sealer and paint for earthen and adobe walls.  We’ve been absolutely astounded at how gorgeous this stuff looks.  It is practically free, being made up of subsoil, wheat paste, and water.  And it paints on so smooth.  It gives that southwest look that is matte, warm, sturdy, and somehow comforting.  We love the color of our subsoil, but are ready to experiment with pigments and colors.  We plan to try some sifted granite dust for a very light or almost white color.

alis paint over earthbag walls october 2017 music

Alis (clay paint) gives the most beautiful finish

Our recipe for alis (clay paint):

1.75 buckets dry and sifted subsoil

6 cups wheat paste (2 cups flour, 6 cups water)

The subsoil is first mixed with water, much like cob without fiber, on a tarp.  Thoroughly stir 2 cups wheat floor into 2 cups water.  Then add mixture to 4 cups boiling water.  Continue mixing and heating until paste becomes translucent.  The wheat paste is then poured in (hot) into the wet subsoil and mixed with the paint mixer attachment on the drill, add water to achieve a sour cream consistency.

It was recommended to wet the wall first for proper sticking, but we’ve painted plenty and it goes on just fine dry.  We used to have issues with little bumps and crumbles, but found that sifting the dirt first creates a stunning, smoothish finish.

Food on the farm:

Our chickens are laying eggs!  They are the classic brown farm eggs and they taste great.  And we did harvest some food this year, thanks to all that wonderful rain we got.  Plenty of green beans, okra, and a few tomatoes.  Having finally grown some of our own food is music to our ears and nourishment to our bellies!

okra baker creek

Okra! Baker Creek’s burgundy variety

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Burgundy okra tastes just like green

A tiny piece of big news:

We now have more solar modules!  We took a leap and purchased 18 280 watt modules.  This is 5 kilowatts of power.  Go ahead, check your electric bill.  Yeah, we’re going to have a lot of power.  They are huge and will span a large area.  I am not totally happy about the placement because I feel like the array will stand in the way of our only pretty view of the landscape.  But Aaron assures me that the array is quite tall off the ground and the view will still be visible from our back patio, underneath the array.  Now, arrays are typically built with pre-made and ordered kits and are built by a team of professional installers.  That being said, Aaron is going to build our array as a ground mount frame from 3″ oilfield pipe and install the modules himself.  I can’t wait to show you pictures.

 

Our 6th grade homeschool year begins!

I was super busy last month coming up with all the curriculum, focus, and book lists for this year’s plan of action.  In following with The Well-Trained Mind’s chronological approach to history, we’re moving up through the Middle Ages and Medieval Times.  As I was going through the events and important people and places that we’ll cover, it became clear that all the exciting stuff happens toward the end of the year, closer to the Renaissance.  So, we’re focusing more on reading great literature and preparing for the research paper that he’ll write.  I’m way more excited about it than he is.  Often, my enthusiasm rubs off on him, so hopefully that will be the case with this project.  Beyond the usual math, Latin, and history, I have come up with this list for assigned reading:

6th Grade Assigned Reading List

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Beowulf by Seamus Heaney

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

And Then There Were None: Agatha Christie

Crispin by Avi

The Midwife’s Apprentice: Karen Cushman

Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales

Shakespeare’s Scribe by Gary Blackwood

Understood Betsy by Dorothy Canfield

book pile boy 6th grade homeschool eclectic october 2017 music

Our first day of 6th grade

A note about last month’s blog:

You may have noticed there was no blog for September.  Well, actually there were 2 blogs, they just weren’t the usual Reflections entries.  They were about the part-time job that I signed up for homeschooling our son.  I had been saving files of pictures and keeping little notes about all the assignments we completed and books we read and places we went.  I called it the H.O.M.E.School Journal: 5th Grade Review and you can certainly check it!  The other blog was a list of 9 Secular Podcasts for the Homeschooling Mama for those of us who need some inspiration and direction.  Feel free to check that one out too and add to the list in the comments if you know about more.

Books of the month:

Aaron: Tiger’s Destiny by Colleen Houck, Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, and Avenged by Amy Tintera

Myself: Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham started out as such an excellent book, until it was stolen right out of my Kindle!  And now the waitlist is more than 10 people and neither of my libraries have it.  Ugh.  I tried to read Lord of the Flies with Julius, but it was difficult to concentrate on in my tiny window of reading time in bed at night.  I also began reading Wonder by R. J. Palacio and I can say with confidence that I will finish it.  What a heartwarming story!

dreamland burning kindle tusla music

An awesome read about Tulsa’s history

Julius (11): Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, Tiger’s Curse and Tiger’s Destiny by Colleen Houck, Golding’s Lord of the Flies, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, and he began reading Wonder, and loves it as much as I do.

Mason (3): Both bigger boys have been enjoying the nights when I have the energy to read Mrs. Piggle Wiggle aloud.  I had never heard of her until my mother-in-law mentioned one of her “methods” once.  I had to make sure she wasn’t a real person.  The stories are pretty easy to read aloud with funny character voices and each one has a bit of a moral that we talk about.  Mason has also been getting into audiobooks.  Our library has Playaways, which are pre-loaded mp3 players.  You just insert a battery and earbuds and you’ve got a read-aloud.  Great for busy cob-sculpting moms who feel guilty about not reading to their sons.

What’s in store for next month:

I’m hoping we’ll get the middle room’s stabilized subfloor done.  I’d really like to get lots of cobbing out of the way because the soil we’re bringing in and the water from outside is getting really cold!  I mix it with my bare feet remember.  And, I’m hoping that hubby can get some parts ordered and begin the giant erector set that will hold our solar modules.  Happy Halloween folks and Happy Homesteading!

october 2017 music

 

 

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