[Jo] We were almost pounded to a pulp today! Two inches of rain in under an hour, and an uncountable amount of hail–the most I’ve ever seen fall at one time. And this after another inch of rain a few days ago. Our outside plans were put on hold–and we got precious little done inside either. Planned on working on the electrical board for the solar array and put up the solar panel brackets outside, also wanted to plant some more trees, and had a bag of iris to put in. But too wet, and leaking inside as well. Temperature plummeted, had on two sweatshirts and a poncho. In one brief dry spell, used the tractor to haul in the wood stove. Uncrated it (dispossessing the two mice of their cozy abode), and dragged it inside,Â so heavy, couldn’t have moved it without Belinda there. Spent the afternoon screwing and unscrewing various pieces; many holes of course wouldn’t line up properly. Finally got the body put together. Need to get the roof adapter, then canÂ run the pipe up, and fire it. Think we’ll be needing it pretty soon. Bloody cold working with wet mud plaster.Â Eventually the water stopped flowing OVER the culvert, and went back into its proper channel. It started to rain again around four, so we packed it in, put the truck into four wheel and went mud bogging across the arroyo. We’d been entertaining the thought of having to spend the night, but were too wet and muddy, and just wanted a hot shower….
[Anna] This is a rather long essay on unschooling, shyness, and socio-political commentary. If this bores you please skip down (or up) to the homesteading essays.
For the last few months Iâ€™ve been chewing over the idea that like-minded people that primarily live and socialize with like-minded people tend to create a polarized society. This can be seen in the increasing polarized Christian right and progressive left movements. These thoughts were stimulated by a study I heard about where they put groups of people together. Some groups were all situated on the left side of the socio-political spectrum, some on the right, and some were mixed. In the all-one groups people who were more moderate on personal surveys tended to answer to the extreme when the group discussed the questions first. In contrast, people in mixed groups who were extreme in their personal surveys tended to answer more moderately when discussed within a group that had mixed opinions on the survey questions.
What Iâ€™m mulling over is how this impacts my family, my values as an unschooler, sustainability groupie, and agent of responsible social change and community. Somewhere I read (Iâ€™m loosely paraphrasing) a debate about whether certain books should be recommended to new unschoolers or people exploring unschooling because those books might lead them back to the mainstream way. Is this a valid worry? Should we be steering new adult unschoolers anymore than we steer our children? A friend of the family has a book (that he devoured) on all the best rhetorical arguments in favor of fundamental, evangelical christianity. Does unschooling, or any of the lefty movements, need such a book? By the way, it seems to me that the progressive left is floundering and has less political power than the Christian right? Is it because not enough of us read the how-to books and we donâ€™t meet once a week to consolidate our faith in progressiveness and be lead on how to convert the wayward?
I attended two days of the Live and Learn Unschoolers Conference in Albuquerque. I wasnâ€™t able to attend the remainder because weâ€™re trying to finish up the barn studio/apartment on our farm and the weekends are the only time all the family workforce can get out there. Anyway, of the four fireside chat I sat in on, I felt that an overwhelming theme of the disparate topics was how to deal with the unconverted â€¦ those afraid that unschooling would create dumb kids. How does one deal with both family and stranger criticisms. I picked up (perhaps others donâ€™t) an undertone of fear of rejection or judgement by others â€¦ an overwhelming need to buffer oneself with like-minded people who support and understand what unschooling families are doing. Perhaps it was just the sessions I sat in on. Since my son is 2yrs & gravitated towards talks for newer unschoolers or unschoolers with little kids. Although, the diversity chat also had a similar undercurrent to it â€¦ are we looking for diversity among unschoolers or just plain diversity? And hour talk on that topic just left me uncertain on what we were supposed to be talking about. It was interesting but too short. I should have sought those attendees out and opened it up for more discussion.
Iâ€™m shy. I try to smile and make eye contact to invite others to talk to me but my husband says itâ€™s the wall-flower smile and doesnâ€™t work. As a result I didnâ€™t get to explore these topics Iâ€™m gushing on about here with others during the conference. I wish I had set up to meet with the others on the Homesteadinâ€™ Unschoolers blogring. I met Danielle on Friday afternoon and so briefly got to chat during a fireside session. We had to leave before I could chat anymore in order to meet with my husband. I realized looking at the blogring last night that meeting her in person changed how I read the blog and made it more personal â€“ even after such a brief meeting. Sam became a real person rather than just a photo. The effect was interesting. I started trying to view the other bloggers as real people and not just internet figments. Iâ€™ve noticed that each time I, or often someone else, joins a new yahoo group they introduce themselves by listing what theyâ€™re into (e.g., we â€¦ breastfeed, cosleep, EC, non-vax, cloth-diaper, AP, unschool â€¦). This seems to a be system of the developing soundbyte culture and seeing people as truncated labels rather than complex, whole beings. Perhaps this is contributing to the things that are separating Americans into camps. Perhaps we need to slow down, relax and get to know our neighborâ€™s complexity and not just their blog, internet personalities. Perhaps this is convoluted but I too am a product of Western, school-based education and have had to struggle to learn how to verbalize my feelings.
This morning I quickly checked the Harvard Anthropological Lit Review article research database. I found 15 articles for â€œhome schooling,â€ (most which werenâ€™t related to homeschooling as Iâ€™m thinking about it), 5 articles for â€œhome schoolâ€ and none for â€œhomeschooling,â€ â€œunschool,â€ or â€œunschooling,â€ Is there a dirth of research on the cultural aspect and impacts of this topic or what!
I think what Iâ€™m trying to pull together is this issue of family/stranger rejection of unschooling, fear of this rejection, & the need to create a like-minded cocoon to resist this rejection. Ironically I havenâ€™t had to really deal with this rejection. My extended family is supportive and Ericâ€™s extended family doesnâ€™t criticize enough to set my teeth on edge or get worried about it. They basically listen when I respond to questions and seem to be openminded. This may change as Bruce gets older but weâ€™ll cross that bridge when it pops up. As for strangers or acquaintances, I tend to either ignore them or put on my professor voice and after 5 minutes they retreat in horror of any further lecturing.
So this cocoon of like-mindedness seems very necessary for emotional support and sanity, especially when youâ€™re doing anything unusual like trying to live sustainably or, even worse, unschooling â€¦ basically whenever you are bucking the mainstream, the system. But what are the repercussions of this cocoon if it is too insulating? Iâ€™m not real sure. I think the various â€œcocoonsâ€ in American society overall are creating fissions that could exasperate social problems. On the other hand, I think the cocoons are a response to the degradation of community created by increasing mobility due to automobiles and loss of identity into the soundbyte society.
So my ultimate question is how does this affect me, my family, my parenting. I donâ€™t know. Perhaps being aware and vigilant is the main thing. I still desire the warmth of like-minded cocoon but I want to be open to new things as well and respectful of other peopleâ€™s choices even if I think theyâ€™re totally missing the point. I want to hope society and the planet donâ€™t get screwed beyond redemption. I want to help others become more like me â€¦ more sustainable â€¦ more in keeping with my family values â€¦ but, as any good, crazy anthropologist I also wonder in the back of mind is this really the best way. Am I being aware and respectful of the cultural relativity differences or should I just take my stand against unsustainability (including industrialized education) as one of those things that are immoral to all life, like nuclear weapons and female genital mutilation â€¦ Iâ€™m still finding my way around male genital mutilation but based on the label I used I think Iâ€™m starting to take a stand.
[Anna] We had a pretty productive weekend. We finished the rastra wall and got the layout staked for the plum/pear orchard. We’ve stakes for 15 trees that will be fed from the barn studio graywater. I think we have around 12 trees ready to plant. We were totally suckered into buying another plum tree at Home Depot yesterday. We usually try to buy from small nurseries but this was a “Bruce” plum! So I had to get it right ???!!!
Bruce was too cute as a helper. I dropped our concrete scoop (large dinty moore stew can from last weekend) from the scaffolding behind a bunch of stuff (boxes, a matress, tables) that was too tightly packed for me to crawl through so I was getting ready to move everything then I saw Bruce. I showed him the can through the tiny toddler sized crack and asked him if he would go get it for me and he did! All sizes are important for this homestead!
We poured another test patch of earthern floor under where the gas stove will go. We’d hoped to get the icebox test patch poured too but ran out of time. For the gas stove test patch we experimented with pigments (yellow ochre and black iron) that we got from the NM Clay Co (very reasonbly priced). We tried painting and smudging with alis and then with just sprinkling with the dry powder on the wet, smoothed floor. The dry powder seemed to work best but you have to be careful about not dusting too much or the color is overwhelming. Jo is going to try hard troweling the dry powder on the leather dry mud and see if that works better. I also want to try using red ochre & see if we like the color better.
The wood stove and rocket stove test patches are almost dry (after almost 9 days). The hard troweled surfaces do look a little better. The spots that the kid and dogs didn’t walk on look even better. Dappling with kaolin clay mix on the brown (our clay) mix looks ok but the white is so cold. We really want a warmer feeling which is why we’re trying the other pigments. So far we haven’t had any cracking which is just really weird. I totally expected some. Maybe as the test patches further cure we’ll get some cracking or maybe you have to do much bigger areas than 3×6′. Or maybe the concrete fiber I threw into the mud really did make a difference (I just put in pinch for about 5 gal worth of mud). This is the reinforcing fiber you put into concrete to prevent cracking. I forgot to put any fibers in the gas stove test patch so we’ll see if the fibers make a difference.
[Anna} The raspberries at the in-town house are fruiting crazy. I thought I would get enough to jam today but Bruce ate a cup while I was picking and then proceeded to eat another cup in the house while I was measuring. So now I'm making apricot-raspberry fruit crisp in the solar oven ... we've finally enough sunlight briefly I suspect during this very heavy monsoon. I've been getting a really nice oat flour crust/crisp/shortbread utilizing Jenny's (Ironwood Farm) tip on grating frozen butter. Perhaps a cup of raspberries will get into the freezer and maybe by the end of the season we'll have enough for a batch of jam. Usually Bruce eats all the pickings before they even get into the house though ... I'm posting the recipe I've made up but the ratios may be off since I never measure anything really. I know I filled the pan (a clay tortilla warmer that I've never used to warm tortilla but is heavenly to use in the solar oven) with apricots and mixed w/ the other filling ingredients. Then I sprinkled 1 c of raspberries on the top so they wouldn't get crusshed. I think the pan I use is 9". I may need to reduce the sugar in the fruit filling but it probably depends on the fruit being used.
Fruit Filling: fruit to Â½ fill pan, Â½ c sugar, cinnamon, 2 T cornstarch
Dough: 1 cup oat flour, 1 t cinnamon,Â½ t salt,4 T brown sugar,1 t xantham gum,Â¾ stick frozen butter,9-10 T milk,Â½ c rolled oats,Â½ c chopped pecans
Preheat solar oven (or gas oven to 350).
I tried out the bumgenius cloth diapers with a doubler last night. No leaks, even after breakfast (he won’t let me touch the diaper until after nursing and eating). So I’m very excited. I decided to give up not buying AIO or pocket cloth diapers (since I don’t have the time or space to sew some) because he’s going to use the potty like he did before he turned one. I’m so sick & heartbroken using the disposables (plus they cost around $30-50 for the unbleached per month). So now that I bought the diapers maybe he’ll all of sudden decide he wants to use the potty again
I need to find the energy to hang laundry. We caught a cold at the Live/Learn Conference and I’m totally dragged out.
[Anna] We’re almost done with the rastra wall (east of the barn studio/apt). We still need to pour the top course with concrete. I think the next step entails putting in the joist work for the 2nd floor and then framing in the 2nd floor’s east wall (which we decided not to do with rastra - not sure why - perhaps too much concrete would be used).
Mom (Jo) and I also were watching the earthern floor test patches we poured last weekend dry. We poured the samples under where we plan on putting the rocket stove (so it doesn’t matter if they’re bad) and the wood stove (which we need to dry so we can put the stove in). We used a mix with a clay soil that was probably 80-90% clay. I did 1 part clay and 4 parts masonry sand. I thought about upping the sand but after mixing up a batch it seemed like there was hardly any clay present. So we decided to wait and see what happens after if dries. It has been so cold and rainy/humid that it isn’t drying real fast so we don’t really know how much cracking we’re going to get. I hard troweled one area after it dried overnight but I think I may have done it too soon because the mud seemed to tear a bit with little bubbly areas. It did get rid of trowel marks from when we first poured but I can’t really see much difference from areas we didn’t hard troweled. The patch under the wood stove looks significantly better than the rocket stove’s. Probably because we cordoned off the wood stove patch so the dogs and boy wouldn’t walk on them. Bruce, and the dogs, managed to walk through the rocket stove test patch twice in less than 24 hours. He only walked through the wood stove patch once
Tomorrow we plan on pouring more test patches under the gas stove and refridgerator areas. We want to test some ideas for varying the floor pigment.
Labor Day weekend we began erecting the Rastra wall that will enclose the first floor of the barn apartment. Hurricane John was spinning far off to the Southwest of us, covering us in thick layers of clouds and fog, butÂ only a little rain. It kept it unseasonably cool which we were not completely prepared for. We had decided to camp out for the whole weekend as we like to do when we have three days in a row to spend up there; it saves us time and fuel to camp out for two nights. Though the nights were cold, I would rather work in cool weather than hot. Our productivity level rose to meet our capability level with crushing force. Even with the help of Chris Altenbach on Saturday and Belinda on Monday, we still accomplished only a fraction of what we intended. Having never worked with Rastra we took the claims of ease and speed a little too literally. We also found that we would need three times more concrete than we had anticipated. In the end we had poured a small concrete slab for the bathroom (the rest will be earthen floor) and erected 5 of 7 courses of Rastra, gluing them all together with polyurethane foam and pouring the bottom three with rebar reinforced concrete. It was a lot of work. We were all very tired and sore, and I think we all had a welcome sense of accomplishment despite our wild expectations.
To save on concrete we took some of the holes and packed moist dirt. We could have left them empty but the concrete might have flowed over to them. After considering several options for blocking the holes we decided that moist adobe mix, which we happened to have on hand, would make an excellent filler, possibly even adding strength to the wall.
Camping up there (which means laying out mattresses in the barn, no tents) allows us to connect with the place a little more. Waking up there and seeing how things are, not having to wonder what happened there last night, gives me a good feeling, like I belong here more than when I am just a frequent visitor. Also, staying the night gives us time to actually enjoy the place, such as hiking, documenting mushrooms or practicing archery. Those activities are crucial for allowing us to connect to place. Otherwise, for me, its just another job. Once we get a few more amenities in place we will be able to spend the night there more easily.