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7/26/08

Even in BBQ, Branding.

I'm on vacation in Ocean Isle, North Carolina. Day 1, I've already plucked a working watch from the surf, recycled it and claimed it on my wrist. I haven't had a watch in about eight years, so I'm feelin' pretty smug over my sea-sopped trophy. (A Timex Flix Ironman, by the way!)

After an afternoon in the waves, we were pretty hungry and made the rare decision to eat out. We had driven six hours to arrive, had a few provisions but certainly not enough to put together a dinner. Dinner out? I was relieved.


After reading branding tweets for weeks, I thought I'd share the story of Bart's BBQ.

Why did we decide to eat there?
My father told the story about how, last year, we had sent him out to pick up some good ole North Carolina BBQ. Once he got there, he realized he had forgotten his wallet. "I can tell you my card number, " he volunteered. Sensibly, the owner declined. My father thought about the horde of hungry grandchildren back at the cottage, the time it would take to drive back for his wallet, the return drive. Right then the owner's daughter looked at my father and stepped up: "Dad, I trust him."

My father left with BBQ.
In one instant, that shop now had several loyal enthusiast (yo, we were a horde) families, of course returning because their BBQ (and fixin's!) is superb, but also because they gained our loyalty through their kindness.

So here we were, a year later, bringing ten new customers into their store.
On our drive down, my husband and I had discussed at length that during economic hardship, there was always room for businesses that excelled.
And as I read the menu, the story of Bart's BBQ caught my eye, and every ad / branding / engagement article I had happened across in the past few weeks was summed up in one paragraph: the story, the voice, the commitment to excel.

The Bart's BBQ Story:
Joey and Anne Margaret Bartholomew are the owners and operators of Bart's BBQ, with help from their children Trip (17) and Katy (14). Joey is a former textile salesperson for Springs Industries. Anne Margaret is a CPA and former banker. Joey grew up in Raleigh, loving frequent pig pickins. During our 17+ years in Charlotte, we annually organized a summer pig pickin for our neighborhood swim club. With this experience under his belt, and having worked in restaurants as a teenager, Joey realized he could have his dream life (including golf and boating) by relocating and opening Bart's. We fell in love with Sunset Beach many years ago, so it was natural to look here for a new venture. We decided in November 2003 to make a major lifestyle change, and the dream began! Bart's opened on March 23, 2004, and we've been going strong ever since. Providing our customers outstanding service is our #1 priority, and we appreciate your comments and suggestions. We sincerely appreciate the opportunity to serve you, and hope you will dine with us often.

Bart's, we look forward to many more years of your fantastic BBQ, onion rings, homemade Brunswick stew, and hushpuppies!

To learn more about Bart's, please visit them at:
5850 Ocean Highway West, Ocean Isle, NC. 910-287-7522.

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7/20/08

casa ti update, camping, and a new barn!

For the first time ever, we decided to camp when... well, when most people would consider it normal camping weather.

Because we have no shelter aside from our Scotty camper on the land to avoid the high heat of summer, plus we sail, we tend to camp September--> end of November/beginning of December, then March--> May. So I guess we lean towards extreme camping ; ) - when heavy down sleeping bags, multiple layers and hats on heads in bed are a must. Often, during those times we um, tend to dress in blaze orange, as not only is it freezing, it's hunting season.

So it was very strange to shed those layers, open up the camper windows, and let in the gentle summer evening breeze. It was also vastly different because normally I have to make sure the camper is completely ready around 5-ish for the children because once night falls... it's DARK. Instead, last night I felt like the sun never quite set- the dusk seemed to slowly linger and never quite slipped; to then regain strength and return as dawn.

But before we relaxed, we first had a meeting with our contractor. This is where the project turns from a Modern SIPs House Kit company, to where you start reading about a family building their dream. AND the mistakes and successes and trials and tribulations that we encounter as real people, and our own personal zero energy off grid decisions in conjunction with what you get with the house kit.

So let's start with the mistake.
I let my husband review our project. This is what happens when you marry a handsome MBA who wants to audit everything. And then he looks at you with that look and you say, "Awwwww, you're so cute, sure, why not?"

We then slipped six weeks behind schedule, the draftsman my husband supposedly hired never did squat, our contractor lined up new work, and now we have to get in line behind everyone else because we missed our scheduled opportunity to move ahead and have this house built in JUNE.

Ohhhh, yeah. It's totally our fault.
I am grateful our contractor didn't fire us for wasting his time.

So yesterday we reviewed EVERYTHING. And it was good. Because when you are planning a zero energy off grid house with all kinds o' stuff in the poured concrete foundation, you only have one chance to completely evaluate, think through, and get it all right. Our meeting yesterday confirmed... it's right. It's good. And Ron even sent us off with some corn and lamb ribs which we gratefully accepted (and will have for dinner tonight!).

Now here's another thing about our personal casa ti project:
Let me tell you about the crew: It's going to be Ron, and then the crew is made up of four men:
Three Amish and a Mennonite.

See, it can never be a 100% Amish crew because they need someone to drive 'em around and use their cell phone! Hahahaha! I'm excited. But it's a double edged sword: what is exciting for me as a person is bad for me as a business! Amish don't allow themselves to be photographed, much less videotaped, as it symbolizes vanity to them. We respect that. So getting shots of the house kit being assembled / videotaped is going to be interesting. So don't expect a lot o' close up shots of people. Maybe they'll let me film their hands. I don't care, I love it anyway and can't wait to get to know them.
But I'm jest warnin' ya, it ain't gonna be the typical house erection photos!!! ; )

Speaking of those nice Amish men, look what they did in the meantime!
Our barn! (Fine, actually it's a shed, but my children are calling it a barn so there ya go.)

I'm so thrilled with this "barn."

I trusted Ron and the Amish and they delivered. Since we had no idea what we needed, we told them what needs to go there and let their experience take on the project. A-plus, guys!

It's exactly the size, quality, and placement for security and convenience, and amazing craftsmanship to last... well, to last.



Really incredible worksmanship. I loved looking it over, marveling at how well it was put together. If this is an indication of future work on our house kit then... I am super, super excited.

So now we need to focus on improving the fields this fall. And in September, we start our OWN Green Modern Kits house construction.

In the meantime, here's some pictures from our weekend on the land. : )
Hope you enjoy.
We went for lots of walks (to the end of the property & back), ate lots of berries, chased lots o' grasshoppers, and generally just hopped around. The dogs are WORN OUT with adventure. And we are still smiling.

Last night I also listened to coyote howl for hours. Tried to capture it on the audio that was on my camera (which takes lo-grade movies sometimes, like the video in "My Mom Can Tie A Bowline Faster Than Your Mom" post) but it didn't work, I guess because it was picking up the silence in the camper and not the (loud!) noises outside. Oh well, there's plenty o' coyote, but it still was cool & eerie.

Oh. The scythe.
I'll explain quickly:
SOOOOOOOOOOOO much more efficient than any weed whacker, for smaller jobs when you don't want to drag out the tractor! Our purchase of several "old fashioned" tools (like the scythe, seed drill, and high wheel cultivator) were not so much out of nostalgia, or the fact that they don't use fuel (although that IS a bonus) but because, well, they're just so darned efficient! We have not been disappointed, and recommend them highly.

Enjoy!










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7/18/08

Green Drinks! 'Cause it's always fun when yer drinkin' green... ; )

Went to Richmond's Green Drinks last night, at Built Gallery. Built Gallery's exhibit revolved around the Southface Eco Office, targeting to be the south-east's first LEED platinum new construction building designed by Lord, Aeck & Sargent, and Jim Nicolow presented the project.

"Jim Nicolow, a nationally recognized expert on sustainable design, joined Lord, Aeck & Sargent in 1997. Jim leads the firm’s Sustainability Initiative, overseeing the incorporation of sustainable design strategies and features into the firm’s design projects. As one of the firm's first of a growing number of LEED® Accredited Professionals since 2001, Jim has extensive knowledge of the U.S. Green Building Council’s (USGBC) LEED rating system and drives the firm's efforts to help other architects become accredited.

Jim is a frequently published author and noted presenter at conferences nationwide, including the Labs 21 Annual Conference and the USGBC’s GreenBuild International Conference & Expo."

Last night's sponsor was CKB Swanson, who provides fryer oil service management to restaurants, Waste Vegetable Oil (WVO) distribution, and sells biodiesel processors. But even more importantly, the owners two young daughters were with them and got a round of applause and recognition for recently donating their hair to Locks of Love! : )

What I like about Green Drinks is that whether you are an architect steeped in green building or just a non-industry person interested in "being green," people are welcoming and friendly. I met two girls separately who had just moved to Richmond, didn't know anyone, and had shown up alone just because they were interested and wanted to meet people... I hope they felt welcomed! I admired their initiative and bravery!

From Wikipedia:
Green Drinks is an informal networking event where environmentally minded people meet over drinks. Started in London in 1989, by Edwin Dashefski and friends, it has spread to 30 cities in the United Kingdom, 49 in the U.S. and many more in Canada, Germany, Poland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Chile and Puerto Rico. As of March 2008, there are 350 Green Drink Chapters worldwide.
To learn more about Green Drinks in your own city, please visit GreenDrinks.org. If you don't have one in your city... then, whatcha waitin' for?
Start one! : )

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7/17/08

Trademark!

I just opened the mail, and with the bills and statements was an official looking package.

I opened it, and found a very pretty, diploma-looking certificate, even with a gold-star-seal-official-shiny stamp on the bottom, saying that Green Modern Kits is now officially TRADEMARKED!!!!

This is especially sweet to me because a few years ago another one of my businesses, Copeland Casati Media C3, was hurt by marketplace confusion by a supposed advertising / creative non-profit that used the same C3 as a logo and was ironically supposed to be helping creative businesses like myself. They rented to people who directly competed against me in the marketplace (my clients started asking if I had moved), as well as was founded by an ad agency here (my business was advertising and technology), and when I asked them to stop using a shared identity, they refused, saying it was inconvenient for them to do so because "they had already printed up their stationary and cards" even though I had been in business eight years before they existed.

Ironically, this "non-profit", owned by an ad agency that then, in the non-profit's name, got their foot in the door to pitch some mighty large local corporations. The Creative Change Center was, I guess, not creative nor ethical enough to change.

Despite that people now jokingly refer to me as "The Real C3" now, it is still ethically not right and still confuses potential clients (I had one even call down there looking for me this year!).

So, here's to Green Modern Kits bein' all official-like an all. : )And for similar reasons, I dedicate this post to Eco Geek and Muhammed Saleem!!!!
May the bullies never rule!

Now I can stride ahead even more happily with what we're doing on Green Modern Kits, and we do have some exciting things in the works for you this fall.

One more reason to make our zero energy house party even BIGGER! Woo! Details comin' soon!

: )

P.s. How ya like my monk?
He never tells my secrets.

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7/16/08

The Greening of Camouflage Netting

Oh, yes.
A year ago, we were discussing how to enhance our casa ti's passive solar functionality during the summer to help keep the sunbeams from heating up the house. Our green Virginia architect, David Day, suggested a seasonal canopy. He and his wife used camouflage netting on their own porch: it billowed gently in the wind, yet, with the holes throughout, let in little beams of light here and there while still providing shade. The effect was fabulous: The light colors (white and a light, light blue) interspersed in the netting combined with bits of sunbeam made you feel like you were in an organic, moving, magical woods.

But there was just one drawback: Cammo is made of polyurethane. And I don't care what their industry sez: It just don't feel right.

I giggle as I begin my quest and type into the search bar: organic camouflage netting.
I bet that's one Google doesn't see often! ; )

A result pops up: "Natural, Organic products 8x10 Pro Series Ultra-lite Camouflage"
What? This can't be real.
It wasn't.

But I did find EcoVeil!
"EcoVeil™ is a non-PVC screen cloth, with healthful properties. Constructed in the same manner as ThermoVeil®, a core of TPO (Thermoplastic Olefin) fiber filaments with a TPO coating, EcoVeil™ has similar characteristics to ThermoVeil®, plus the added benefit of being very environmentally friendly.
  • The first "Cradle to Cradle™" shade cloth
  • Is more than PVC free
  • Can be reclaimed and recycled
  • Is durable and washable
  • Is anti-microbial
  • Is flame retardant
  • Optimized and under continuous improvement by MBDC, a product and process design firm founded by William McDonough and Dr. Michael Braungart
  • Selected by Environmental Building News as one of the Top-10 Green Building Products of 2004"
Although I wish I could find something with the more interesting texture/color properties of the aforementioned camouflage, I feel better about choosing the EcoVeil.

Can't wait to seek shelter under the shade in my very own casa ti!
I picture slow afternoons, lazily sprawled in a comfortable chair, just lookin' at the view.
...With a frosty mint julep in my hand. ; )

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7/13/08

casa ti update

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know!
Believe me, I have been waiting for this longer than any of you. ; )

So here's my update on our zero energy casa ti being built in central Virginia, in response to a reader's question today on our own experience with building loans and how we, personally, did what we did.

"...Where do I get info about getting loans for buying land and building. Right now I’m pre-approved for a FHA loan.

I hope I’m wrong with my assumptions but I have a feeling I can get a loan that's good for building a (green modern kit?) home.
thx

-Sarah"


Dear Sarah,
This is what we did, and I would love for those in the business of green loans to chime in:

We did tons of research then found our land on UnitedCountry.com. I looked for areas close to history and culture and within 20 miles of infrastructure (hospitals, jobs), where rural land was available but where people were of a mindset to preserve instead of develop, and community was strong.

Got the mortgage through Colonial Farm & Credit. They are great because they are a co-op, and when their entity makes money, we got a check at the end of the year as "shareholders"! I would look around for a similar land cooperative in your area.

We paid off the land for a few years, and enjoyed camping there, then saved up for (My! Yes, disclosure: I'm GreenModernKits.com and GreenCottageKits.com) our passive solar modern house kit. And even then we didn't jump on it.

For the past year I've been throwing extra money to the factory, so that by the time we ordered our kit... it was paid for! AND I've paid off the windows!

But that's obviously not going to *finish* the house.

We decided to refinance our primary residence instead of going for a construction loan because... well, let's face it, Virginia is not the most progressive green building state. A lot of the things we expect to do... well, have not been actually accepted yet by traditional construction loans. By using a re-fi loan, we can do more cutting edge things and then wait for local zoning to catch up since it is not yet our residence.

When the children are older we will sell this house and use those funds for our financial security. This is not just about "being green" and preserving land where you can purchase those parcels already on the market to preserve; yes, it's all that, but it's also about financial freedom, making different choices than many who have a similar income to become debt-free. And telecommuting is on the rise; so our move could easily be sooner than later.

In the meantime we will spend the next years helping the land: practicing crop-tree release, encouraging quail and other wildlife habitats that have been in decline, gently working through no-till agriculture to grow food yet encourage quail in existing fields, and dismantling a dangerous falling-down tobacco barn for reuse on the property.

What I will love about living in an off grid house is that I can be older yet secure about not having to pay those $500 monthly heating bills, and that by selling our city house we will have everything paid off, living debt-free and not a burden to our children.

Ah... but how's the project going now?

Well, my fabulous contractor is back from vacation.
: )
And really, he's worth the wait because I trust him and it's not his fault my husband did a last minute (I hate being married to an MBA!) systems audit / foundation plan audit that held everything up 6 weeks since he then only did it on the weekends. (Ah, my cute, sweet, dear, thank- goodness- he's- handsome- or- I'd- really- be- letting- him- HAVE- IT- right- now husband.)

(Grrrrrr)

So... onward!

Oh p.s. though: As of this week: We have a barn! Not very mod but made by the Amish in the area, therefore supporting the local community.
: )

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7/12/08

Honey Do!

This is the fun part: Finally, I am creating the "honey do" list of... stuff my HUSBAND needs to do so that as soon as the casa ti is finished we can put it all together in the interior quickly. Interior design choices are an area where people can take deliberate steps to reuse, recycle and reduce their lifestyle while creating a welcoming environment they will happily share with friends and family.

(Ooooookay, maybe I'll help him a little... : ) )

Fortunately, through years of using eagle eyes while thrift shopping and scouring local yard sales, we have squirreled away some fabulous, recycled finds. But now we need to buff 'em up, and have 'em ready and waiting for the move.

Recycled / reused items include:
  • A precious 1950's blonde desk/drawer for my daughter's room $15
  • A long, simple yet formal Owen-Suters mahoghany dining table $150
  • Dining chairs - you won't believe 'em till ya see 'em but they're so simple and mod and beautiful $15 a pop
  • Knoll couch found in an antique store that specialized in "Virginia colonial" $65 Bwha-hahahaha!
  • Two matching coooooooooool open ended rounded corner bookcases, veddy mod $30
  • A Danish 1950s china cabinet $100
  • 12 piece silverplated flatware- an entire set from the 1960s $65
  • A plethora of assorted dishes / serving pieces / bowls etc. Hmmm... I have no idea the actual cost as I've been collecting that stuff for years but I assure you they were cheap, cheap, cheap!
  • Various recycled lamps (I'm sure I can spare a few in here ; ) ) $10-ish bucks a pop
  • Awesome coffee press of unknown origin but makes like 18, yes, 18 cups! Woo! $5
  • Cool 1970s fabric art piece I bought at a yard sale for $15
And now, to look for and try to find in our local reuse stores like Habitat For Humanity's Restore and Caravati's:
  • A cool tub (more on that later because there is a feature David Day designed that I need to be careful of when choosing a tub plus it needs to fit with a composting toilet in that space)
  • Plain sink for the kitchen island (more on that in a later post)
  • Marine stove top (propane powered since the house is off grid)
  • Juice glasses for thirsty-clamoring-for-water children!
  • Wine glasses for, um, thirsty-clamoring-for-wine adults!
So... sweetie-my-dearest-husband... that's all we have to do!
Get on it!
; )

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7/11/08

Our latest house kit! ; ) Designed by my 5 year old!

My 5 year old just handed me this... just had to share... it's amazing what little ones soak up.

I have never directly had a detailed discussion with him regarding passive solar or our house kit technology or green roofs or any of that.




I am one proud momma!

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7/6/08

400 years... and still sailing.

Spent the long weekend on the Chesapeake Bay with two friends and their children. M. and I immediately hit it off when we realized we were both the only other modern day brides we knew whom had received guns as wedding gifts, and have many of the same outdoor interests: archery, fishing, sailing, camping, and agriculture.

Sailor husbands, a shared love of history, their two children who immediately fell in with our children cemented the friendship.

What I love about sailing with Mr. H. is that, as a history teacher, he pulls in something interesting of note to every adventure we have. As a Virginian, I've grown up with this history- I have 1600s settler and Indian blood, so, heck, my family lived it! But his recounting of our tales makes it new and exciting, for myself, my immigrant husband, and the next generation.

Yesterday, at a leisurely 12ish knots on the Bay with the children, we discussed Captain John Smith's near-deathbed at what is now known as Stingray Point- so named because he was stung, and then, with the help of the Indians, taken to a point to be "healed" with mud, now appropriately named Antipoison Creek. We sailed in sight of both.

Pochohantas was born nearby, and here, pirates pillaged and prospered.

Our discussion turned towards alternative energy, and wind power.

As sailors, we know the winds and tides better than most. But as a green building gal, I explained my hesitation- that what wind we harness on the water is not so accessible inland in most places, so for ourselves, it is just not as efficient a technology.

For other alternative energies, I look forward to see what comes to the marketplace in the next 18 months. It is an exciting time for energy.

Coming home, we took a detour off the interstate and traveled along the *old* highway, route 60, which was the main road in the '50's & '60's. I always love these lanes, because you travel from town to town, and can really see the spirit and strength of entrepreneurial communities, despite massive corporate culture. Cultural, historic, small town tourism is on the rise.

And thank goodness. For much of the 80s till now they struggled against NAFTA, against larger cities, faster processing plants, outdated industries. They still do, and many business models need to be re-thought or abandoned.

People are finally looking at themselves, their small, beautiful parades manned by volunteers, realizing their culture is not only valuable to themselves, but others- a rise of gentle tourism, helping these communities economically, bettering their schools, their industry, and financially allowing them to preserve their structures.

We passed a Bicentennial farm and admired new additions to the local culture, like a Mexican restaurant and little specialty stores... these are places where you should stop, enjoy the community, make friends, take in and hopefully preserve the beautiful scenery.

As people start to look more close to home for their vacations, as the rise of eco-tourism spreads, as communities begin to realize the value of bike trails and their local culture, maybe more of these small towns will experience a resurgence. I hope so.

By the way- for those with a love of history- in researching Bicentennial farms I randomly came across this great link of Virginia historical markers- http://www.markeroni.com/catalog/cats_tag.php?tag=virginia&country=USA&state=VA

Here's some other photos that didn't fit into the post...

Hope you enjoy.

And one more thing: To all the regular, fellow die-hard volunteers that read this, wherever you are in the world, that make the parades happen, that carry on community sports, veterans, the Rotary Clubs, the Moose lodges, the Shriners, the many wonderful organizations that make people laugh, feed, encourage cultural exchanges, that glean from the fields for the foodbank, and help in any way your local community:

THANK YOU.
Thank you for all you do.

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7/1/08

73 Acres. Preservationists, let me know!

73 Beautiful acres available in a historic, stunning setting in central Virginia.

Patrick Henry's Red Hill, Appomattox, civil rights, Amish, cultural events at Hampden Sydney and more all within 15 miles.

Email if you're interested. $255,000.

This is my public service announcement to help get other fun, green people in the area! A friend is selling off part of his farm, 73 acres, and he is wonderful and would make a great neighbor. The road where the farm is located is also where a lot of Amish families live.
This farm is right down the road from us- we would love to get fun but sensitive-to-the-land people there.

Did I mention a winery just opened up?
Above is a picture of the Amish harvesting hay.

See it all here! Be our neighbor!
Telecommute and be part of a wonderful, small town, entrepreneurial community!

http://picasaweb.google.com/ge.geier/73AcresForSale02

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