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Craft... and Crafty. Affordable house kit find- natural, reused, recycled wood.

From the second David Day's fabulous casa ti house kit design was laid before me, I have dreamed, imagined myself in my future home. Which bedroom will be whose? Where will the dining table go? How to furnish it?
(Luckily, for myself, an avid thrift-er, I have kept an eye out for good finds and amassed a basement full o' furniture over the years with which to trick out our prefab-ulous house. Here's an example of just a few o' the things I've collected & reused over the years!)

I have imagined all sorts o' frugal, crafty solutions for the interior wall. See, drywall just doesn't "do it" fer me; I like natural, I like patina, and, even the green alternatives for drywall were a little too smooth for me. (Watch out, there's Bryan Adams in them thar link!)

So when a friend on twitter messaged me that a historic college, Virginia Military Institute, had torn up it's maple basketball floorboards and was auctioning them on, I *jumped.*

Let's just say... those salty builders bidding against each other had no chance. In the last 12 seconds, I swooped in and stormed off with over 5,000 square feet o' solid maple history.

So our casa ti interior will now be lined with beautiful, durable, historic maple boards, reflecting my passion for history yet maintaining a natural, modern design.

Now lissen here, you crafty VMI alumni or lovers of reuse: I am not going to need 5,000 square feet o' boards. Certainly I can find ways to use it all, but if anyone is interested in adoring the history and natural beauty of this maple in their own home, direct message me. : )

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Crafty Growing Power

Erika and her dad win the crafty award of the day. Guess that's why THEY get the MacArthur award and I don't. ; )

Here I've been sitting smug with my high-wheel cultivator and all along Erika and her dad frickin' got out a bicycle wheel and some old parts years ago and...
(Clap clap clap clap clap... ovation, everyone! Cheers!)
Beautiful. Next generation crafty-ness.
Flinging late season rose petals from my garden wildly towards Chicago.

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Modern SIPs House Kit: Foundation Work Video And Photos!

Ah, fall. It's been rainy and we all have colds.

So when the 4 year old whined that she wanted to stay home and play "pony"... recognizing that this time of year we pretty much camp every weekend and will be doing so for the next few weeks... we conceeded.

The Boyz, adventurous, strode off to the land; The Girlz, keeping close to home, had a lunch date with Mr. H and the H's two daughters: Three happy girls talking about ponies and unicorns while Mr. H & I split a hot saki and gorged on delicious Asian food. : )

Our modern house kit foam is down, the foundation and radiant tubing are being laid, and pretty much from now on you will quickly see our prefab hybrid SIPs house become complete.

Our fabulous contractor Ron thinks it will take about five days to put the SIPs panels together and frame the windows /doors /interior load bearing wall for our modern house, fyi, for your own evaluation and estimates.

In the meantime, here are some pictures and videos of the land taken by The Boyz... happy and muddy and running loose in the wild. ; ) Keep yer eyes peeled for next week's installment of Green Modern Kits: SIPs House Kit Construction Continues On Our Modern House!

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I loooooooooooooooove you!

Emotionally, it has been a hard summer and fall.
We come full circle on a lifetime of personal things I need to discard, so we can grow free and healthy. I am frustrated I have allowed so much heartbreak over things I should have left behind long ago.

And right in the middle of it, one of you sends an email, out of the blue, that ZAP! hit me right when my heart was clenched, I was down, and... thank you.

I went to a ho'oponopono workshop this week end...a kahuna way to clear negative memories and become conscious. So, I that vein, I love you. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. thank you. Say it to everybody and everything in your world."

I am sitting here GRINNING, giggling, and ready to pass it on.


I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE YOU!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hope it brightens someone's day... thank you, reader. It did mine. : )

Here's some links to whatever the heck she was talking 'bout!
(Great information, and love the personal responsibility angle, 'cause you all know I'm all about that!)
For those of you who can't heal those breaks, it's ok.
I get it.




Videos and Photos and Press, Oh my! And then... there's the Amish. : )

Today I ordered our super-cool siding (a $5,000 deposit I had saved myself, budgeting tightly, not increasing debt / not taken out on our potential loan, thank you very much, therefore one more thing that will be "paid for"/ saved for/ don't need no debt fer ; ) ), and on Monday the foundation work began.

We will camp this weekend, so expect more pictures and video soon. : )

My challenge: That what makes this project even more special in my heart prevents me from well-documenting/doing the usual b.s. video/interviews/pushing for publicity it as it occurs because:

Our house kit construction is being built by a team of local Amish!

The Amish refrain from photographs, because it violates their belief that photography is vain/a 'graven image.'

My friends that know and work with them well have been given permission to take images of, say a field where they are working in the distance, for the purpose of showing what a farm looks like (to your right is my friend G's farm who took this picture with their permission); but having just met them, I wouldn't dare impose.

I'm just going to have to work around it, so expect lots of pictures of my VERY handsome contractor Ron instead of "Ron and his crew!" and pictures of us out there when everyone's left. Not quite my original picture of "documentation."

Despite that this is my business... I won't have it any other way: I concede.

I support my community, and am grateful to have the wonderful people who strode beside us as new neighbors, making sure we were exposed to the best craftsmen... Besides, we already have others in the pipeline of building so let them get all the attention! : )
(Ya hear that Ohanahaus and Canada1? ; ) )

Amish are wonderful neighbors. We've enjoyed getting to know the children that man the stand where we buy our bread and relishes weekly, and my children have grown up playing "Amish stand"-- seeing children involved in commerce, involved in helping their family.

I found an interesting post regarding the Amish, and how local communities have accommodated themselves to benefit the new Amish communities, therefore economically benefiting their own business- check out - and see that picture of Walmart that even created hitching posts for their buggies! (Yes, of course I have mixed feelings about Walmart! That's what intrigues me further! It certainly says something about the Amish buying power that a large national business would build hitch posts for their buggies!)

If you are curious about the Amish and their views regarding technology, I encourage you to read this: It really explains the thought behind their decisions, and I have to admit it makes a lot of sense.

An excerpt:
"Rheingold notes that the Amish 'mold technology in the service of community. If we decided that community comes first, how would we use our tools differently?' Or, as an Amishman has said concerning whether a new technology will be acceptable, does it 'bring people together or draw them apart?' Answers to such questions often determine the 'ordnung,' the rules of the Amish church community, often unwritten, about what is and is not acceptable.

But the Amish concern is not just over how technology might change the community, but also the individual. One man noted that it's not just what or how you use a technology, but 'what kind of person you become when you use it.' When I asked an Amishman why an electric refrigerator was not acceptable, but a propane gas one was, he simply said, 'You've never seen a bottled gas television set, have you?' The implication here was not that electricity was bad. The concern was what would come with it --- TV, radio, computers, the internet, and all the influences of the modern world and media. 'Electricity is a hotline to the modern world.' "

And here's a great article on the Amish incorporating solar power within their community!

Any-hoo, keep yer eyes peeled, we're documenting (as we can! ; ) ), building, and hoping to spend Thanksgiving in our own net zero house kit casa ti...

Just as you have traveled a journey to get to your green, efficient home goal... our own dream spans generations of hope and dreams (and MOD STYLE!)...

The land becomes named after being abandoned in the 1800s (yes, it *is* Higher Ground.); and we, stewards again.

For the quail we will make sure they have their brush; the woods, crop tree release to free the trees to better grow, healthy. And over the years we will not only improve the soil that was previously farmed, but the wetlands and streams, letting them... be. Not developed, nor sold into parcels when development encroaches.

That is my pledge.

Sincerely yours,

Copeland Casati

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It's A Small World After All...

Disney's "It's A Small World" Techno Remix - video powered by Metacafe

And... we headed to the land.

After a hiatus from the hot, still, summer heat in the fields, when we head instead for water to fish and sail, this time of year signals the return to camping, to gorgeous, colorful fall weekends on the land.

We hurry there, all packed up and practical, seeking its loud, whispering excitement that you can only experience and hear... if you learn to listen.

We met with Ron, our fabulous, revered contractor. We owe Ron and his wife, Judy, so much. We are grateful for their welcoming us into their lives.

We sat down at the picnic table under the oak, crunched numbers, stood up, made Pythagoras' triangles, pondered over a compass, and... laid out the home site.

...Er, again.
(And yes I'm getting Ron to write up a "from a contractor to you" bit o' advice to better foster good working relationships for a blog post...)

Example #1: "Do not take your eyes off of 5 year old who might then decide house markers are fun things to launch."
This time we used metal poles and pounded them in.


Example #2, to obviously not be late to meetings...
We were ten minutes past our allotted meeting time.

However, we had good reason (and called thirty minutes ahead to notify him from the road), that even Ron had to concede and laugh:

I found my doors!

We were truckin' down the road, loaded down with dogs and chilluns and homemade sandwiches and passing about apple slices, when, at a yield sign about 2/3rds of the way there, lo and behold...

A yard sale!

Now, I'm trying to be strong these days and resist the siren's thrifty call.
But as we pulled past, both of us, our sharp, jaded yard sale eyes skimmin'... we both gasped: old, weathered DOORS!

I have always said I wanted the juxtaposition of smooth, modern concrete (for thermal mass), with the modern beautiful design of David Day's casa ti, interspersed with very natural, clean elements: finished interiors with wood, built-ins... and then, my Virginia soul insisted: old, old doors that remind me of the old 200 year-old homes in which I've lived, my old farm, recycled, reused, and giving that... that certain something, I can only describe as HEART.

Saving the stories in those doors, I always imagined to myself (before ever even seeing them).

And here they were: with two adorable children manning their yard sale booth, I peered closer to read the sign:

"Old Doors & Windows. $2 each."

I felt like such a thief...
I insisted on paying...

It took awhile for handsome husband to lash the doors securely to the top of our car.

So those children told MY children stories, and boy did they have stories. They spoke about growing up in Utah, and how their dad had been raised in West Virginia, and they had family in Virginia, and how one day their mom decided to get on the internet and find them (a family of seven : ) ) a new place, a community place... and that's how they ended up here.

I can not begin to tell you how wonderful these children were.

And they even had a cute beagle named Maisy (Jetson Green, you'd better watch out on the cute beagle front! ; ) ) who threatened to lick my children furiously.

Right when I was about to kidnap them, their dad walked up and introduced himself.

Turns out he is in the green building business as a cabinetry craftsman who even worked on the interior of Anthony Brozna's EcoSupply Center and it was... just... so... fortuitous?
...What makes the world go round?
...We might have just made new friends? : )

Really, everything their children had told me about the *why's* of how they came to *be* in this beautiful, rural area of Virginia mirrored our own thinking... we exchanged contact information, and I look forward to getting to know all the people we met that day better. Professionally, and with our families.

(Oh, by the way- he mentioned those doors came from a Fan house he had worked on and that they were from 1905. Yes they're tattered. But that's exactly what I've envisioned all along! History!)

So that's when we notified Ron we'd be a few minutes late, as we were now trundling down the highway at a significantly slower pace.
: )

So, our project update? Foundation foam is in the shed, as is radiant tubing. Foundation is marked, and work begins Monday.

Best part of the day?
I'd have to say, aside from the *gorgeous* weather, the unending view, the rolling hills, mountains in the distance, children giggling, dogs tussling, and, rarely for me, serenity?

Best part was standing within those markers, imagining, all of us:

"And when I'm cooking, I'll look out and see between those two old oaks, and the ridge of foothills far away."

"And HERE is where your room will be..."

"When you wake in the morning, you will see... this."

Here's some more pictures, hope you enjoy!

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A lovely evening at Green Drinks: UVA's EcoMOD / Eco.House

We had a lovely time at Richmond's Green Drinks at Built Gallery!

The latest Green Drinks revolved around UVA's ongoing prefab, SIPs hybrid, and restoration projects, ECO.HOUSE / ecoMOD

John Quale, LEED, Director of ecoMOD at The University of Virginia gave a great overview of the project, bringing colleagues and participating students into the brave fray.

Who Was There?
Well, you, of course! Just for fun here are some pictures from the event:

My notes:

  1. I found it interesting that the day before the EcoMOD/Eco.House presentation / Green Drinks there was a big ole discussion on Jetson Green ("Prefab is Not The Answer to Affordable, Modern & Green Homes"- and Tree Hugger and other sites' responses to that article about whether Prefab is really the way to go.

    Especially read Lloyd Alter of TreeHugger: 1. Another Opinion and 2. Refab Now!

    UVA's project has had a hand in all aforementioned and argued disciplines: prefab, hybrid SIP, and Refab.

  2. Furthering the Refab discussion, here's another great TreeHugger article that made me giggle and clap:

    The Net-Zero Energy Now House is Really Boring.
Well, we are off to camp.
Looks like those UVA students have been doing a little camping of their own this week
... ; )

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Foam Again, Foam Again, Jiggety Jig!

Foam Again, Foam Again, Jiggety Jig! Insulating your home is not just about the SIPs panels that come with our Green Modern Kits SIPs house kit.

As the weather turns cooler, think of being outside on a frosty day: Bundled up with a hat, scarf, nice warm coat... and...
no shoes?
Think of the exposed skin losing heat as it gets sucked away in the wind and cold.

Your house is like that too- despite the SIP insulating properties to ensure your home is tight, don't forget to add insulating foam underneath the foundation!

So, our house kit construction begins:

My handsome husband took the morning off of work to drive out and receive our foam as it was delivered by truck from the factory. And when he returned, I asked anxiously, homesick, "Was the land beautiful?" "It was."

To save costs and be more "green"/not using a delivery for a single purpose, we asked the factory to use "Piggybacking."

Think of Piggybacking as carpooling for freight products! Instead of truck one (and we're talking eighteen wheeler trucks!) driving Cargo1 to North Carolina, it can make stops along it's way and drop off packages 1, 2, 3... that reduce its wasted space during a drive, making delivery more efficient.

Piggybacking is more efficient and less wasteful for the company, while usually decreasing the cost for the consumer! (And that ain't no pork I'm tellin'!)

Keep yer eyes peeled, because yes, finally, it all begins.

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Richmond's Solar Sidewalk!

I know I blogged about InLight, Richmond's first "Art, Turned On" addition to First Friday and celebrating 1708 Art Gallery's 30th anniversary last week.

But for you geeks like myself out there, thought I'd expound more on the technical green building/solar information as well as the volunteers whom made the Solar Sidewalk possible.

('Cause. I'mma geek. Better than playin' with Legos!)

Scott Kyle, the green building architect who created this piece, explains:

"A quick description of the system:
Two Kyocera 65 Watt PV Modules, 24V Solar Lighting Control, & two 12V Concorde SunXtender Deep Cell Batteries.

This is what is showing up in my truck and on the roof with the guys from Cityspace Construction (, who volunteered time and materials to the cause.

Thanks also to Kenny, whose rooftop apartment we have to go through every time we have to access the roof.

Next, there is 24V DC wired from the roof to inside the window seat at the storefront of 1708 where there are two 25W LED Fiber Optic Illuminators (

These are state of the art illuminators with very high light output and very low current draw, ideal for photovoltaics. If we would have used halogen, which is standard for fiber optic illuminators we would have had to have added four more PV modules (yes there is a lesson here for homeowners and their appliances and lighting).

The fiber optic (plastic filaments) bundles are divided into four smaller bundles from each of the two illuminators where they are brought to each of the eight concrete panels in metal conduit that are then covered in sidewalk cement.

That's Stan Webb of Concrete Ideas handling the fiber optic cables. Stan's company manufactured the fiber optic concrete panels in their shop in Richmond. The PV modules are illuminated at dusk and stay on for a set period of time (currently 8 hrs - long enough for staggering club dwellers to see their way home by). The PV controller takes care of the battery charging and control of the on-off cycle. "

Thank you, Scott, for sharing your wonderful project with us!!!!
Er, see ya at Green Drinks Thursday! : )

There is no photograph that can accurately freeze-frame/capture it, except to see/experience it.

Below is my video where I tease Scott (his wife has a degree in sculpture)...
but it kind of gives you the "experience" of seeing this nice addition to Richmond at night...

A great addition to the Richmond arts scene- it is a good time to be in Richmond!

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As this week has been one discussing finance, thought I'd share an insider's explanation.

As this week has been one discussing finance, thought I'd share an insider's explanation of our current national loan crisis.

This was sent to me by a close friend, and no, I'm not gonna tell ya any clues about who wrote it, I will only say: they are seriously on the inside and this is their take on why and how this disaster came about.

Now what you need to do is... page through it on the lower left of the screen. Actually do please take the time to read it, overcome your "oh there's stick figures and I get the joke that the industry is bad so I can leave this now." Because, really, even in the joking scenario, there is a lot of truth.

Here is another article I ask you to read (sorry, did I mention that when you sign up you get homework? ; ) ): Why hasn't the mortgage meltdown burned these lenders?

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Toot the horn! New Loan!

Toot the Horn! Big News!
Hey, y'all! We just got another, better loan!

My off grid prefabulous house kit is saved! (Honestly, it was never in danger and you know I don't want a big ole loan anyway; I just was in shock that we'd have to go from threadbare to... Every. Dollar. Counts.)

We had originally decided to take out an equity line of credit over a construction loan because of the green building elements we aim to do. I mean, this is Virginia, the state that does not give tax credits for solar. Do I honestly expect my local banks to understand rainwater collection systems, much less composting toilets? Er, nope.

We had used Colonial Farm Credit to purchase our land, and when, on Monday, USAA reduced our loan, decided to approach them for options. Well, thanks to our good credit, we were able to get another loan.
Lemme tell you a little about Colonial Farm Credit. When we purchased our land, we paid our usual mortgage check to them, la la la, not thinking anything about it... Then, in January, we got a letter.

Colonial Farm Credit is not a bank, but a co-operative, part of the Farm Credit System which was founded in 1916.
"Our cooperative structure means that a portion of the profits generated from our lending activity is returned to our borrowers in the form of patronage refunds. These patronage refunds are based on the proportion of interest earned on an individual loan. This significantly reduces the cost of borrowing for our customers."
As a member, you pay above-market interest rates (currently 7.5%). At the end of the year, they disburse the profit.
And what do you know, but attached to that letter was...
A check for $1,400!!!
And the next year? More!
How can you not love a co-operative that benefits the people?!?

From their website:
"Patronage Program
"We put our profits in YOUR pockets!"

As a Farm Credit borrower, you become a member of a cooperative - a business that is owned and controlled by the people using their services. As a cooperative, we can return the profits of our successful operations to our members - the owners - in the form of a patronage refund. This year we are returning over $6.9 million to our customers!

These dividends are based on the amount of business that you do with the cooperative and can significantly reduce your cost of borrowing money.

At the end of each fiscal year, Farm Credit determines its income and expenses. Income remaining after all expenses are deducted (net income) can then be distributed to members in accordance with the bylaws of the company.

Your board can elect to; retain all of the net income to strengthen our capital position, or distribute some or all of our net income by declaring a patronage refund."

Oh Colonial Farm Credit, I love you.

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Just sharin': A beautiful article in Virginia Living on my beloved cousin, Nancy Ross Hugo and her wildlife farm, Flower Camp!

Thought we all needed some happy fun news after this week:

Virginia Living's Paula Steers Brown covered my beloved cousin, Nancy Ross Hugo, and her wildlife farm, Flower Camp!

I *so* can not wait to tease her about that Jerry Garcia reference in the first sentence:

"In Virginia, in the world of gardening enthusiasts, Nancy Ross Hugo is the equivalent of Jerry Garcia- she makes us all want to leave our day jobs to follow her."


Congratulations, Nancy Preston!!!! : )
(What her family calls her)

As someone who is enmeshed in the web and has loved all the wonderful people and information I have encountered thanks to the internet, I thought this great quote from the article could also apply to our wonderful lil' green online community:

"The group discussion around the campfire, when everyone pulls up an Adirondack chair, turns individual thoughts into collaborative experience."


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*Sigh*: Despite Stellar Credit, Loan Reduced.

Guess we're paying for all the people that made irresponsible loans possible.

USAA just called to say that because of the housing market they're reducing our home equity line by 20k. We now have to build the casa ti with 20k less. And even then it was on a shoestring.

What that means is that we will have a shell.

Unlike some other prototypes, nothing has been donated on this project.

Secretly, I'm excited: Bring it ON. See how far we can go with what we have, and make it wonderful.

(As I mentioned in an earlier post, anyone that wants glossy can just head on over to XYZ Mags, 'K?)

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