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Reuse, Recycle! Vintage Hat Friday!

I've had this song stuck in my head... so now I'll put it in yours.
'Cause Halloween is ever-y daaaaaaaaaaaaay... I'm not the one that's so absurd!

Any-hoo, it has been a *busy* week for us as we have been in meeting after meeting and getting closer to finishing the first modern furniture kit by Akemi Tanaka. Frankly, we're exhausted! But in a good, satisfied "we did it!" way.

So heeeeeeeeeeeere's... Vintage! Hat! Friiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiday!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Celebrating reuse, recycling, and just an excuse for us to wear a vintage hat!!!

My four year old has deemed that Amy looks like a bee-yoo-tee-ful Princess!!!

Amy: “God Save the Queen”:

Ok, I know what you’re thinking. “Um….what part of that is vintage…or recycled…or anything?!?” I’ll admit – not as much as usual, but I do have a few aces up my voluminous sleeves.

1. The fabric used for the blue overcoat was from a bolt I bought in a thrift store in 10th grade.

2.The necklace is another high school vintage thrift find (from Italy!)

3. The outfit was sewn by my grandmother, myself, and my mother in law Ginger (then my future mother in law) for a high school musical (Camelot). While there is nothing particularly vintage about that, I like to imagine that putting enough time and effort into the costume allowed it to hold up beautifully long after the high school theater department was done with it, and saved it from being thrown away and taking up space in a landfill as so many other costumes are fated to be.

4. And my very last Ace – The Crown. The ‘hat’ today is made of the trim off a vintage mirrored tray. And while part of me thinks “Ack – I used a vintage mirrored tray for parts!” part of me is darn proud of my high-school-self’s’ ingenuity. So it’s Vintage and Reused! And there is corn embossed in it, so I suppose you could also consider it an endorsement for agriculture…if I was desperate. Which I AM!

Have a wonderful and safe Halloween!

Copeland: Well, like I said, it has been a busy week and I've been scrambling. On top of having three jobs I love, I've been in business meeting after business meeting *while* also getting my children ready for *their* Halloween parades today!

But I've certainly been channeling the pirate this week, personally and at work. So in that spirit, I decided to depart from my planned "elegant and proper, show 'em you can clean up well" and instead decided to... Stand And Deliver: I call my outfit, "RUINED!"

The hat? I can't remember when I acquired it... years, poor thing.
The dress? Even longer. When I bought it in an old junk shop down on Broad, it was already threadbare. But I've always loved this dress... and have worn it ripped, shredded, soiled, to many an occasion. The "A" I pinned on the Halloween I was pregnant... heh, heh... The other pin? Oh, that was where the pin on my voodoo leather jacket went! I finally found it! All this time it was on this dress!
The gloves? Remember that estate sale Amy and I went to a few weeks ago? Well... Fitted leather gloves, three bucks! Amy even helped me fix them! (So is that fair to use in my costume? Hmmm... maybe I'll switch them out...)
The hose? Bright pink fishnets! That I bought VINTAGE from the 1960s, still in the package, in a vintage store! (So yeah, they get a little baggy 'round the ankles after a few minutes...)




While our Net Zero Modern House cures: Eero Saarinen Exhibit at the Virginia Center For Architecture!

While we're waiting for our modern net zero house foundation to cure, I went to the Mod Mid-century Eero Saarinen Exhibit at the Virginia Center for Architecture with our friend Tony.

Y'all are so sick of me blah, blah, blah-ing about the house kit, modern design, etc.

So here's just a bunch o' modern furniture pictures we took!

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Streams, web, markets, more.

In my other company there have been a lot of arguments lately regarding how the web connects and plays into "marketing" and how it can put voices together, regardless of where they are.

According to some, data is a silo. To others, data is an ever-changing "stream" that gathers information from many springs to converge into a roilin' creek-full o' information. Still more attest that it's not all these different things but all part of each other, integrated- how our experience is not many channels but *just* the web.

For myself, it's meaningful because voices previously lost can now be heard:
For example, Lewa Children's Home, which historically relied solely on their own subsistence *and* on large donations from big international charity groups- connections that were difficult to make in the first place as they had no internet, can now connect on Face Book not only to new potential international donors, new *and* old volunteers and friends, and keep in touch easily with far-flung family, but they are now able to expand their *local* market earnings and self-reliance by selling cheese online to local Kenyan markets. (And *check out* their cheese --> isn't it beautiful?)

So streams, silos, and plain ole web:
Really, it's bigger than that.
Complicatedly simple.

On twitter I remarked,

"Streams? Web? Convergence? Bigger than that. Connected, all."


Thought this animation shows it beautifully: nature, data, voices, the environment...
All, *everything* is integrated, touching each other.
This is obviously not a new concept.
I was just... mulling over it in my small brain.
: )
(Plus I'm *always* up for any excuse to play Erik Satie!)




Modern Net Zero House Kit Update! Foundation Pictures!

Blah blah blah.
Before I go into that, I'd like to share an email exchange I had with a dear friend of mine this weekend from back-in-the-New-Yawk-Citay-days, who is now living in Tokyo. (But of course she is.)

K. has always been international, and I knew well her tales about her childhood between India and Washington, D.C. and many other environs.

So when I emailed for her vote in Vintage Hat Friday, I got the weirdest response:
"Hi, Copeland!! I'm in Cambodia, visiting my school! It's been an amazing week, the kids here have blown me away. Dirt poor and yet so motivated to learn and to get ahead in the world. Great to hear from you. How are things going in Virginia - I'm returning to Tokyo tomorrow. Love to you and all your gang in the meantime!!! K"
Huh? "I don't remember you in *Cambodia?!?*" I typed back.
"No, no, no - I built a school in Cambodia, a rural school for 414 kids, about an hour south of Phnom Penh. I fundraised to build it and supply it with five computers, a power generator, a water well, electricity, satellite, books. I met all the children and it was a glorious experience. I continue to support them to help them get access to education. Will write more when I return. Love, K "
WHA?!? Rewind: "I BUILT A SCHOOL." And (laughing) if any of you know K., you know she DID.

Honeychiles, I just want to remind you it's alllllllllllllllll in what YOU do, and that... you can do it. Ok, I won't get all sappy, but... K., my dear, from across the world I am *hugging* you so hard and am SO honored you are my friend, despite my silliness and pirate acts o' badness.

So... on to the house kit!
Well, it rained buckets yesterday, from dawn 'till dusk. TORRENTS.
But when we awoke, there was blue sky and lil' bluebirds o' happiness:
Suddenly, we decided: We WILL go to the land!
The land was still shakin' off the rainwater (over 1 1/2 inches yesterday/last night) when we arrived.
Mud don't scare ME!
Bring it on.
So... here's the foundation...
Enjoy the *obviously* professional, highly-thought-out, informative, modern architecture video:

And some pictures.
Enjoy. : )

...AAAAAAAAAAANd.... some more more videos.
Very professionally taken, you've obviously noticed. ; ) Dag we had fun.

Ok, I'm giving myself a high-five for this, called it like I saw it. We have two 400+ pounders on our family farm right now; I grew up *hearing* of occasional bears there, obviously when we bought *this* land if you've been following along we've tracked the imprints, but this was the first scat, I found in two places (gee, was wondering why the usual bobcat scat was more scarce!). Again, SAFE CAMPING AND LIVING keeps humans and wildlife... safe.

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Vintage Hat Friday! Reuse and Recycling in the Modern Workplace!

Yes, it's that day again...
And I don't know about you but I wore waaaaaaaaay too many suits and dresses for work this week. So when Vintage Hat Friday rolled around...

Copeland: My strategy was simple! Why dress up, when you could just... be?
So, this morning, I woke up, looked in my closet and...
I would like to call this ensemble...

Ode To Scrap Bar, NYC!

Ah, those were the days your makeup (lips, eyes AND nails) consisted of one hue: BLACK.
Here are the reused, recycled items I am wearing:

  • The hat originally said, "American by birth, southern by the grace of God." I found it when I was sailing in the Chesapeake Bay years ago, reached down as I was hiking out on the trapeze, and scooped it out of the water. The original owner had taken a black marker and blacked out the "American by birth" part, which cracked me up endlessly. This hat then left the rural Virginia waters to live in the East Village of New York, then the staid 8ieme of Paris, before returning to its roots.
  • I purchased the leather jacket from a dear, starving-artist friend (who's no longer starving :) ) when he couldn't pay rent. This jacket has quite a story. The original owner was my friend's roommate, but it turns out that he was a bank robber (for real!)- so it ended up with my friend, who then took it to New Orleans, where apparently a band of naked voodoo dancers danced on it before he sold it to me. Maybe this leather jacket brings certain vibes with it, I don't know, it certainly has seemed to take a shine to me and has settled down quite nicely!
  • The shirt, a customized-with-dull-scissors-cutting-out-the-collar Harley Davidson tee, has *not* been recycled, but is certainly vintage... er, at this point. See that picture of me shooting in the post below? I think I'm wearing it there, 'cept it's new!
  • Ah, the shoes. In the East Village it was quite popular to have your Converse customized-- PUNK ROCK PLATFORMS! Woo. Yes, one would then teeter from biker bar to biker bar in these thangs... not that I *ever* spent an evening doing that!
  • The necklace? My great-grandmother's. I used to run around in her velvet flapper dresses and beads paired with combat boots... still saving the dresses for my daughter...
  • And the watch. You may have read *that* tale... again, recycled, reused!


My theme this week was vague – but as I buttoned my high necked ruffled shirt all the way to it’s top button the thoughts “Victorian” and “equestrian” were floating somewhere in the forefront of my muddled thoughts. Somewhat more prominent was my desire not to wear anything resembling what we’ve already worn, so I dismissed offhand anything pink, all black (there goes half my wardrobe, lol!) or 70’s. But I have to say that I think Copeland has achieved that goal far more decisively than I this week!

My clothes were entirely thrift store bought and mostly vintage – boots, vest, skirt, and shirt were all Goodwill.

I suspect that the shirt in particular is relieved to finally be worn with the dignity to which it was probably accustom. I bought it initially because I needed a shirt for a pirate costume, and I must admit that it has been worn to many a Halloween party over the years, partially unbuttoned and peeking out over a corset. As I exclaimed to Copeland while telling her how I ended up with this shirt – “Yay Swashbuckling!

The hat was purchased at my first ever Halcyon rummage sale some years ago. I have to admit I’m tickled at having my first chance to wear it out. I love its shape, and the precise way the netting moulds itself to the curve of the hat.

Here is our first submission, from Tony, a realtor, channeling all his inner cowboy with his vintage hat:
Now this one tallllllll, coooooool, drink o' water!

Ok, Jane, the blonde below, wanted to add herself to the competition, so here ya go:

But who cares 'bout these other folks!




Story of Green Modern Kits. Where I ramble on endlessly about land, life, and the pursuit of gorgeous green design, affordably. Tiresome!

I was invited to be on a green design panel tonight for HausTalk. Yesterday, I was sent an itinerary, which made it clear I was to speak about Green Modern Kits.

As my hesitation kicked in (I thought I was just helping out to foster conversation- I know this is going to surprise people but I'm comfortable on the internet but in real life?!? I am shy! I was going to talk about outdated zoning and why citizens should be allowed to have urban chickens!), after some thought I'm going to use it as an opportunity to tell my story, the story of how Green Modern Kits became reality.

I really hope I don't bore you, you don't have to read this, house kit updates coming soon!

Warning to all! This is a Reeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeally Looooooooooooooooooooooong Post!
It's the longest, rambling, long-winded post EVER!
(Really! I'm so sorry! I just wanted to set this down for myself, to turn over in my head and consider. I'm only using the end part, the part where I talk about what happens *after* I kidnap the architects and industrial designers, for HausTalk.)


It all started with land.
I grew up with a family farm, 180ish acres on the banks of the James River. It was part of my family waaaaaay before I was born. My entire childhood and young adult years were spent fishing, wading, swimming and floating endlessly in inner tubes with fish nibbling my toes in the 35 foot deep pond, hiking briskly through the woods, whiling away the days on the porch, doing nothing. I was born with land in my heart, in my soul.
And then, when I was 32, it was lost.

That is another story, one that could fill volumes.
In my heart, I still walk and love every inch of that place... the pawpaw trees, the gravestones, the old bell on the top of the hill used to call in the horses, the quarry, the flooded woods with boats in the trees, the civil war trenches, the quiet fields, the old house, over 200 years old, the original barn, the warm smell of horses that filled the stalls in the new 18-stall barn, the summer kitchen where people from all over the world, mainly Kenya, would gather after running the Rotherwood Races (back then we pelted runners with water and doled out salt tablets), the mahogany stairs, the multi-level rooms upstairs, the old house I recall, before it burned: the smell of it, that red-clay and seasoned wood smell you only encounter in very old homes. The cannons on the front porch, the roses climbing to the balcony, my great-great grandmother's quilts on the beds, the pear tree the bears would climb... the ornate woodworking that made my granddad fondly refer to its architectural heritage as, "Steamboat Gothic!"

Then the sudden fire that took that dry old house down like lightening, the empty, charred foundation, the rebuilding of the new house with a modern open great room, a fire pole to shimmy down from the loft, the Chinese lacquer furniture, a gift from my Hong Kong aunt's family, and scattered bluegrass tapes and cds from our cousins in Tennessee, The Dismembered Tennesseans.

So, it started with land. And land lost.

A few years passed.

One day, scanning another boring money market statement, I realized,
"This money is just sitting here, doing *nothing.* Why don't we instead buy land?"
We both have land in our blood. Land, preserved.
We can see that investment, play in that investment, raise our children with that investment, and besides, you can't go rolling around a bank vault, but think of the fun we could have purchasing land! And protecting it! Growing it! Doing our part to preserve rural property already on the market instead of some developer getting it! Being one more person joining a rural community that recognized the value of protecting it!

Isn't the end result supposed to be that you buy your end-of-life community? Why not invest in it now?!? I mean, what the heck are you supposed to *do* with your moneymarket fund? Why not join an awesome community *now*?

So I started to research.
Research is actually a big part of my other job.
And extensive research plays a huge part in every decision for Green Modern Kits.

Now, before you start thinking we're wealthy: We're not. We work hard, but spend our money differently: we drive cars we pay for in cash (usually about 5k, then fix 'em), don't send our children to private schools, shop at thrift stores, have little use for credit cards, have no desire to keep up with The Joneses, and save, save, save.

So, for those of you thinking about buying and preserving land, here is my research and "why's" of how I found our little piece of eden. (Email to friends, below, outlining why I'm not crazy. Ok, maybe I am, but not when it comes to business / frugality / investments.) Skip over this part if you're not interested- it's long!
Business analysis: Listening to my real estate, chambers of commerce, and senior living/lifestyle community clients, I started searching for land that satisfied the following criteria:
  1. Near historic landmarks/history
  2. Surrounded by close towns with festivals and music throughout the year
  3. Are those towns positioning themselves to be developed or preserved? I looked for areas where people understood the value of farms, preservation, etc. for tourism. I was looking for something that would appreciate in value but in a community where development was not an interest. Who will be the next Charlottesville? Williamsburg? Do they have cultural events?
  4. Is easily accessible. Mustbe within 2 hours of Richmond. Who wants to spend the weekend on a big commute? And when we move there, we're still within easy reach of our longtime friends and family, being just over an hour away.
  5. MUST have infrastructure for investment purposes: hospitals, other services close by: Farmville and Appomattox are within a 15 minute drive.
The Charlotte County area met that criteria.
  1. History:

    1. Well, let’s start with Appomattox- you may have heard of that if you’re a Civil War buff… ; ) Less than 15 minutes away!
    2. CharlotteCounty: The land is located in historic Charlotte County. Charlotte County Courthouse is about ten miles away.
    3. Red Hill:Patrick Henry’s residence:
    4. Civil Rights History:
    5. More history links:

  • Music:

    1. Appomattox has a “Friday Cheers” once a month:
      What fun to take off early on a Friday, and head on over to start your weekend right!
    2. Check out the local band Deja Moo! How can you not love a band with that name?

  • Local Festivals/Powows/Antique Tractor events—fun things to do with your grandchildren! ; ) (hee hee couldn’t resist that one)

    2. Antique Tractor Festival
    3. Charlotte County events:

  • FISHING/Hunting:

    1. Holliday State Park Deep in the heart of Appomattox-Buckingham State Forest Holliday Lake State Park is a paradise for the outdoor enthusiast. Fishing for largemouth bass, crappie and bluegill is a popular activity in the 150-acre lake within the park. The nearby state Department of Game and Inland Fisheries delayed-harvest trout stream allows anglers to fish for brown and rainbow trout. The park also features excellent trails open to hikers, bikers and equestrians. Read more here!
    2. Twin Lakes State Park:
    3. Virginia’s Largest Lake!

      1. i.
      2. ii.
      1. Here’s what Charlotte County has to say about hunting and fishing:Read more here!
      2. The Land: We often flush quail as we roll down the drive. Deer, turkey & bear is abundant.
    4. Accessible: Just take 360 and cut over to 460. Once you get past Brandermill, it is a 70 mph easy drive on four lane roads—so easy! And beautiful! Just one horse and dairy farm after another. And the location of Pamplin is central to area attractions: Appomattox, Charlotte Courthouse, Farmville, Charlottesville, Buggs Island, Richmond. All an hour and a half away. So you could spend weeks there, and have interesting things to do with friends.
    5. Let’s talk about Pamplin! It’s a cool ghost town. Literally. And there is a library in the old train depot. They are trying to turn the line where the railway came through into a hiking and birding trail.

      1. Here’s the Train Depot:
      2. There’s a historic Pipe Factory:
      3. The BIG NEWS around Pamplin is that someone is OPENING A BBQ JOINT- so imagine being on your quiet, peaceful land yet having a jumpin’ bbq/bluegrass joint five minutes away. YAY!
    6. Let’s talk about Charlotte Courthouse! A historic town where the courthouse was designed by Thomas Jefferson.

      2. Lots of national register listings:
    7. SCENIC. Rolling hills filled with wildlife yet the land is easily farmed (vs. buying property in the mountains) with plenty of streams and water accessible.
    8. A WINERY OPENED!!! Check it out!
      Spring Creek Wine Cellar

  • So that’s my overview of why this is a prime location surrounded by historic and national park resources with a wonderful, close community
    That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it. ; )
    We bought 55 acres. And started to camp. : )
    And some years (and many mortgage payments) passed.
    Our household income grew a little, and one child was now in public school vs. preschool we had to pay for... so...

    Maybe it was time to build a green, mod home.
    As we no longer had to make one child's preschool payments, that was X amount we could slide over to house construction, and with the raise, if we kept at our current spending levels, well, then... that together could pay for something affordable.

    ...I began to research. (Always an auspicious start to my tales...)

    I didn't just want affordable... I wanted GORGEOUS! GREEN! ENERGY EFFICIENT! My dream house!!!! Because this is where I will live when I'm 70! Small enough to clean but big enough to have the grand kids over! Off grid so I don't have to worry, as a retiree, about heating bills!

    And I looked. And looked.

    And fell in love with one unaffordable prefab house after the other.
    $300 a SQUARE FOOT?!? Zen Gardens and breezeways but only ONE bedroom?!?
    These were certainly not *my* lifestyle...
    What was out there that was semi-affordable and modern was not passive solar / not built for other green features such as cross ventilation, etc.

    I researched shipping containers, and loved the recycled/reuse theory. Then realized that once I dragged a container out to the land it would be $9,000 and then I'd just have a hot box with no windows or doors. And it was downhill from there. I know, I know all those XYZ people you're going to now mention- remember, I *research?* But at the time they were not affordable, nor passive solar.

    I had to think about investment, not that I ever intend to sell, but... when you start talking *money,* it is practical too also consider what worth others would find in it, *just in case.*

    So once I realized the real costs of creating a real house outta shipping containers, I ditched the idea as not being affordable, and not having a layout I liked.

    I researched steel framing companies. There's a *bunch* of 'em out there! I found the cheapest on Ebay. Got some nice quotes, but then realized the added cost of paying someone to come in and insulate, plus... well... there was that leeeettle thing about gorgeous design I was missing.

    Then I discovered SIPs (structural insulated panels).


    And then saw a plethora of modern house plan sites with ugly "Our-Plans-For-Free-No-Shipping-Costs-Either!" designs with tons of hidden fees, as I researched company after company after company.

    What's a girl to do?
    I want a green, energy efficient, kickin' mod awesome house.
    And I'm looking at these... ugly... boxes.

    So, I kidnapped some architects.
    Held hostage, I told them I had two requirements:
    1. That the designs be passive solar, so that when the sun is low in the winter, it enters to heat the house, and when the sun is high, the sun can be blocked.
    2. That they favor practical bedrooms over amenities- I envision these homes accommodating young families, yet practical for all life stages.
    3. (Ok, fine, there were three:) Design what YOU want. You have no client looking over your shoulder, you're the designer, design what YOU love!

    Someone out there in the world will "get" it!!!! : )

    There ya go.
    It was really as simple as that.

    Oh I forgot the part where I negotiated hard for weeks to get the low volume pricing with the SIPs manufacturer, researched the other vendors for cladding, rainwater collection, etc. but that's boring, right? ; ) Thaz just business stuff!

    We have two lines of modern house kits. David Day Design's casa ti, and Grace Street's The R1 Residential.

    Then came the cottages...
    From Seattle, Gelotte Hommas brought out the Bienvenue, Midway, and The Sinda.

    And let's not forget Akemi Tanaka!
    This fabulous industrial designer is *almost* finished with her furniture kit that does multiple things in small spaces.

    And... Big News soon...

    Any-hoo... That's my one rare moment of actually talking about the "why's". The architecture and industrial design stories are more fascinating- they should post here their own take.

    I will work on that.

    *THEIR* stories are fascinating.
    (Sorry for boring y'all! I'm just writing this all down in my head!)

  • As I Often Say: Green building for the rest of us!

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    I just got solicited by a timbering company. For my trees. That I'm preserving, THANK-YOU-VERY-MUCH.

    Oh. Yes. I. Did.
    Look at all their pretty graphics, you would almost think they were green.

    Since I don't curse, please take a few moments to pause and chew over in your mind what verbal assault might occur aloud from someone who has passionately railed against clear cutting and is a huge enthusiast for preservation of our natural landscape upon receiving a direct mail piece from people who are using FEAR TACTICS to acquire timber from land owners.

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    The Cure

    We are now just sittin' here, whistlin' and whilin' away time as we wait for our concrete-with-recycled-content house kit foundation to...

    ; )

    THE CURE will take awhile, so in the meantime I will jump onto other relevant subjects (not that I *ever* digress...).

    Fortunately I have other things to keep me busy: Akemi Tanaka's furniture kit is almost done, and I am now approaching the best solutions to make it available to modern design furniture enthusiasts, affordably.




    Lewa Children's Home: Fall/Winter Update 2008

    This post has nothing to do with modern design nor vintage hats.
    This is a subject much more dear to my heart: The Lewa Children's Home in Kenya.

    The Lewa Children's Home is a Home for Orphans, Abandoned, Destitute and Needy Children. The Home, Farm and School were an initiative of and founded by Phyllis Chepkoech Keino
    I thought someone out there might enjoy reading the latest newsletter from my family friends, who run and founded the Lewa Children's Home.
    I will be thinking about how I, in the green building industry, can help them... they are an amazing organization. In short, Phyliss has taken in abandoned children my entire life (er, actually... longer!), regardless of tribe, and has created an oasis for the desperate.
    Dear friends of Lewa Children’s Home,
    We hope each and every one of you all is well! Kindly find our September Newsletter for 2008; this will be our last one for this year. Otherwise, all our news worthy updates will be posted on our facebook page of our group —Friends of Lewa Children’s Home. You can become a member and/or support our cause—Lewa Children’s Home, Eldoret, Kenya .
    Since May, the Home has admitted a total of 13 children in total; 4 babies-all whom were abandoned and taken to the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital (MTRH), 3 from Eldoret Street Rehabilitation Program and the remaining 6 from the Internally Displaced families as a result of the 2007 post-election violence.

    The (6) six children were abandoned by their mother at the Eldoret Show ground-IDP camp. The father, a shoe-shiner and the sole breadwinner could, not afford to meet all the family’s needs, as he too was living at the camp. As a result, the father would spend most of his time trying to look for ways to feed his children, which meant leaving the children alone for long periods of time. The eldest girl (age 12) would take care of her 5 siblings in the harsh environments of the IDP camp. The situation at the camp exposed the children to inadequate food & shelter, cold & rainy nights, desperation and to a point of abuse by the elder men at the camp. The 6 children were brought to the Home on 27th May 2008 and were eventually reunited with their relatives on September 2nd 2008.

    All our children in school are doing their best in school. We managed to attend academic meetings, personal school visits and reviewed all progress report forms of all our children for the second term.

    During the August holidays, 14 of our children were baptized by our local Catholic parish priest. The event was a success as all the children participated actively in all the church proceedings; singing, Bible readings and prayer requests. The children also participated in various weekend activities such as a sports day, which was arranged by one of our volunteers from France.

    In general the children had a good holiday, assisting with work duties both at the Home and the Farm. The holidays also saw the older boys moving into the old round house which had been renovated due to lack of enough space in the main house. They were all happy as they also got a fun patron who lives with and assists them at the same time. Furthermore, a general meeting was held with all of our children concerning issues as their general behavior, discipline, and conduct with fellow children and workers. Responsibility was the main issue in addition to, their personal feelings about life at the home and at their respective schools as well. A few days after the meeting, we had great changes from everyone on all the issues raised at the meeting.

    On health matters at the Home, the children have been falling sick more often than usual; most concerns being malaria, and chickenpox-which circulated from Kipkeino School to the Home. All our children of different ages were affected. Benard Kamar, one of our toddlers, managed to attend his eye check-up at Kenyatta National Hospital , Nairobi , thanks to his donors.
    Compiled by Social Worker Lillian Nyongesa

    Since the beginning of August, the Farm was busy preparing for the 2008 harvest season; this meant that the forage harvester needed to be in working order, all 4 tractors have to work and the trailers need to be adjusted to be able to take bigger loads. It is a bit like a circus really! As it only happens once a year and if all- no mechanical failures, good weather conditions and dry farm roads- goes well we usually finish within 3-4 weeks. If the situation is ideal we only stop the forage harvester in the evening as it gets dark and we fill and cover the silage pit after 3-5 days of harvesting.

    Unfortunately, this has not been the case this year. The last week of August saw us starting off very well. The silage harvest was going on well and on a speedy note but when September rolled around, things went down hill. The first two weeks of the month it rained nearly on a daily basis- a total of 136 mm up till the 14th of September. Off-loading the trailers with the chopped maize is done manually, so when it rains we have to stop. Furthermore, the amount of rainfall in such a short period causes the roads to become impassable and some of the maize fields were water-logged. In such situations, we are required to wait for 1-2 days for dry weather in order to continue, which delays the whole process.

    The third week of September, FarmChem-Seedlinks a Kenyan based company selling farm inputs like maize and vegetable seeds etc, used our small holder unit (zero grazing unit) to demonstrate some of their maize and vegetable varieties to farmers from within the district. Having seen the small-holder unit (a small farm of about 1 ha. that caters for 2 cows) they then visited the large scale farming system on Baraka Farm. The farmers were very interested in the dairy cows; as we explained to them how the cows are kept, fed and taken care of from the day they are born until the day they have their first baby calf.

    The biggest obstacle to improved milk production in this area of Kenya is the little/poor fodder that is available for the animals. Improved genetics are more and more accessible to farmers and the infrastructure in the milk industry has also improved tremendously in the past 6 years, as dairy meals (concentrates) are made available. The quality of the dairy meals may not always be good and the price often high compared to the milk prices farmers receive. As a result, we still see fodder production as lagging behind to what it should be considering the location we are in which is relatively fertile and with a pleasant climate. Improved fodder production on farms could create employment and improved living standards for families through higher milk production.
    Our horticulture department, especially our vegetable production needs a lot of attention. We are trying to focus on improving the soils fertility through the addition of organic matter (i.e.: farm yard manure, compost & green manure), the use of non-acidic, cheaper and regionally produced fertilizers (i.e.: rock phosphate, lime) and the need of a regular water supply to the growing plants. In the dry season that sounds logical but in the rainy season bouts of dry spells of 2-3 weeks or longer can also occur, especially when the water supply to the plant is far from ideal. Therefore, an irrigation system (i.e.: watering-can, overhead sprinklers or drip irrigation) is then essential, especially to harvest a good crop of vegetables after 3-4 months.
    Compiled by Baraka Farm Manager, Jos Creemers

    The last few weeks of the second term of the year were exciting ones for Kipkeino School . The 10th Annual Sports Day was held on June 21st and was probably the best ever. Kenya Power and Lighting donated numerous quick growing eucalyptus trees and as parents arrived they each had to plant a tree with their child. The trees are thriving and will supply the school with firewood within 6 years. The planting of trees for fuel is an on-going process on the school compound and at Baraka Farm.

    Sergoit House made a clean sweep of the Junior and Senior Trophies and emerged the overall winners, followed by Elgon, Ndalat and Cherangany. The Guest of Honour was the famous Kenyan athlete, Ezekiel Kemboi. The parents’ team once again proved too strong for the staff team and won the tug-of-war.

    July saw the long awaited return of the Administrator, Mr. Paul Scott and his wife Liz. During his stay in UK he had been hospitalized and had a total hip replacement. The arrival day was graced by the Bishop of Eldoret, Cornelius Korir who said Mass in school and blessed the whole community.

    The first 2 weeks of the school ‘holiday’ were still very busy with activities which included the following:
    · The Senior Girls’ Choir traveled to Kisumu, on the shores of Lake Victoria , for the Annual Music Festival. They managed to score 85% in their class and were placed 4th in the Republic of Kenya .
    · Bongo Patrol of the Kipkeino Boy Scouts’ Troop headed off to Nairobi for the annual camp competition. Due to miscommunication, they arrived a day late and lost some initial marks, but they fought back bravely and managed to obtain 7th place out of the 18 finalists present.
    · Three patrols of Girl Guides entered the District competition at a school on the outskirts of Eldoret. Drakensburg Patrol came 1st followed by Atlas Patrol in 2nd position and Everest in 4th position. The first 2 patrols now have to succeed in a Provincial Camp to decide who will go to Nairobi in December for the National Finals.

    In the following months the school will embark upon the next phase of development. We are in urgent need of a sick bay where those boarding children who fall sick can be treated by a qualified nurse and, if necessary, spend a peaceful night away from the hustle and bustle of the dormitory.

    We also need a well equipped laundry so that children’s clothes can be washed, dried and ironed. At present, the older children do most of their own washing as this is training them for entry into secondary school where they will be in full control of their own personal belongings. The clothes of the younger children are washed in a bath and ironed on a table.

    One other requirement is a water purification plant which will make double sure that the water in the school maintains the necessary standards of purity.

    Bread and Water for Africa has already supplied the funding for the completion of most of these projects and work will start in early October and continue into the new-year. We are grateful to our donors for the assistance in getting the infrastructure of the school completed.

    In other news, Kipkeino School is one of an elite group of schools worldwide which are classified as “Olympic Schools”. The teacher designated to be the coordinator in the school, Mr. Roger Ogola, has already attended Youth Fora in The Czech Republic and Austria and will attend the 6th World Forum on Sport, Education and Culture to be held in Busan , South Korea during the month of September. This is all sponsored by the International Olympic Committee with the aim of teaching the Olympic principles to the Kipkeino children who will then spread them to schools in the area.

    We also look forward to the end of this year when we intend to hold our Thanksgiving Day when we recognize the work and achievements of 2007. This would normally be held in January but that was not possible or appropriate this year. Those involved will be the entire school community whose members work tirelessly for the children entrusted to our care.

    We look forward to continued peace so that we can continue with our work of educating young Kenyans to be upstanding citizens of the world.
    Compiled by KKS Administrator, Paul Scott

    Lewa Community Health Centre
    We are still in the process of drafting our proposals for a community health centre on the farm. Fundraising efforts are under way.
    We thank you for all your support and always assisting us with our work.

    Sincerely yours,
    Phyllis Keino


    Join us on




    Vintage Hat Fridays! Vote for ME!!!!

    Wow, it's pouring rain here- NOT the day to wear hats dependent on glue!
    NOR is it a good day for flash... man this camera did not put us in the best light! (Er, anyone got a soft-focus filter I can borrow? ; ) )

    So... Welcome to Vintage Hat Friday!
    Stylin' Reuse Celebrated In The Workplace!

    I had a feeling Amy would arrive in a pillbox or something, so I decided to take a 1970s loose Sexy Sadie angle to her prim elegant look. Just as I suspected!

    She arrived, sharp and ready for the fight.

    Bring it on!

    My silver jaunty hat will kick your pillbox any day! Vote for meeeeeeeeeee!

    (Amy says I look like I'm going to a horse race. 'Chile, I'm gonna take her prim-n-proper money and RUN!)

    My strategy was simple:
    There were two things I knew about Friday.

    It was supposed to be cold, and there is a fantastic rummage sale going on at Halcyon Vintage Clothing.

    My strategy was based on staying warm and being able to shop and try things on this afternoon. My small, structured hat is yet another gift from my grandmother, and I paired it with a store bought skirt and a vintage blouse.

    My purse is a purchase from my last foray at a Halcyon Rummage Sale.

    Happy voting!




    SIPs Modern House Kit Construction Continues: Smooth Sailing With A Great Contractor!

    You know your contractor is awesome when the entire day sails by and suddenly, you stop and realize, "OH MY GOSH We poured the foundation today!" Choosing a great contractor for your modern house kit makes all the difference between SMOOTH SAILIN' and STORMY SEAS! (Ok, forgive my analogy, I'm a pirate! I can't help the comparisons!)

    Any-hoo, *That's* how much I trust and am confident in our fabulous contractor, Ron Bernaldo of Giant Oaks Construction.

    Here's his account:
    "At 5 a.m. The crew showed up.
    The plumber had pressurized the radiant heat tubing yesterday and I checked on that and the gauges, it all looked good.
    The first truck arrived at 6, and they came one after the other, we never had to sit around, but worked continuously.

    I felt like there would be enough cement, so I called the factory to put the last truckload order on hold. It *was* enough, and I was able to save you the cost of that truckload- $1,000.

    (Copeland's note, yes, at this point I kissed him!)

    ...And by 8 a.m. the trucks had left."
    (Here's a picture of Ron and his wonderful wife dining with us on the land at our picnic table last year, he's looking over the casa ti elevations in this photo.)

    I asked Ron if he had any advice for working with a contractor.

    • He recommends working with a contractor that has a variety of experience, not just residential, as commercial / light industrial skills also come in handy with modern SIPs homes
    • He enjoys the fact that when constructing a house kit (vs. a developer with modern house plans) you have a LOT more contact and decisions with the home owners, so make sure the contractor you hire is interested in your journey, and enthusiastic about SIPs, your questions, and your education as a home owner building their dream
    • And in that regard, if you feel like there are ANY reservations in ANY of the people involved: the wife, the husband, the contractor: Don't do it!

      Without a successful team your house kit journey is much more difficult. You must deal with and enjoy dealing with other people.
      (Copeland's note: Our interaction with Ron underscored the many, many decisions we all had to sit down and make together, and the education we had to go through with Ron as we, like most of you, are not architects but home buyers.)
    • He also emphasized contractor's experience. In his opinion many younger contractors don't yet understand the importance of promptly returning phone calls, showing up (and your crew!) to the job site on time, coordinating the flow of trucks and people and materials so that it is seamless... which then saves YOU time and money.

      Now I know I'm going to get flack for this ; ) ... but in Ron's opinion he thinks a contractor needs fifteen years of experience to have the depth of conducting all these pieces (cement trucks, crew, SIPs delivery, cladding...) together into a final symphony!
    • And don't forget the subcontractors! Ron says he has never been happier with the people with whom he's working on these projects.
    Anyway, we will post more pictures and videos this weekend... in the meantime, please cross your fingers that the bears won't walk on the foundation tonight!

    (Although that *would* be kinda cool, no? Immortal bear tracks across an otherwise smooth-as-glass surface?)

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    Modern House Kit Update and The Saga Of VMI's Basketball Court Continues!

    Anyone here like puzzles?

    'Cause we're gonna be putting together 5,000 square feet o' VMI basketball court soon... think of it:

    The Challenge!

    The Fun!

    This is better than the crossword in Sunday's Herald Tribune!

    Or not.

    Any-hoo, Handsome Husband went out to check on the house kit progress, bush hogged the field, and unloaded the VMI floorboards. The rest of this post are his words, hence the sudden dignified tone. Enjoy.

    "I got up at 6 am, made coffee and hit the road to approve the foundation preparation and receive the VMI Basketball Floor delivery.

    As I was emptying out the shed for the floor the plumbers pulled up and I handed them the PEX tubing I had ordered. I began bush-hogging but Ron, the general contractor, soon arrived and we approved prep work.

    (Radiant Heat And Off Grid Foundation Video:)

    I returned to the tractor for an hour and the flooring arrived. We have a 20x20 shed and the fork lift was too tall/big so we ended up getting the plumbing crew, which had just finished installing the radiant heat loops, to help and were done within an hour.

    (VMI Floorboards Unloading Video 1 of 3)

    (VMI Recycled Boards Video 2 of 3)

    (VMI Wood Reused In Prefab-ulous House Video 3 of 3)
    (Copeland's note: Oh. My. Gosh... can you believe we were actually thinking we could just rent a U-Haul and drive to Lexington, load the wood *JUST THE TWO OF US*, drive to the land, and then UNLOAD it?!?!? Soooooooooooo grateful to Bill Miller of ZellerMiller Companies, a VMI alumni who heard of our plight and used his construction connections to help, Bill Miller SAVED US by putting us together with these people to deliver the wood.)

    I invited everyone to lunch, and as we left I noticed a flat tyre on my car - upon return to the site the delivery guys hadn't left yet and raised the car with their forklift so that the tire was changed quickly.

    When I finally made it to lunch we spoke about alternative energy and it turns out that the plumbing company has done several geo-thermal projects."

    (Copeland's note: Psssst! Check him out, Mr. German-techno-music being a *total* boy and driving around the house kit listening to country. He is having waaaaaaaaaaaay too much fun out there!)

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