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Net Zero Prefab House Kit Open House! 1st Open House Of Our Modern Energy Efficient Home

Did I mention it rained?

I will NEVER complain about rain.
But it's admittedly inconvenient for a Prefab Modern House Kit Open House.

We awoke, it was drizzling.
We arrived at the prefab house, it was raining.
The sun never emerged.
Actually, it's still raining, heavily. I think I just saw the Porta Potty float by, waving and gallantly saluting farewell like a Captain downed with the SIP, er, ship.

We were soaking wet at the prefab open house.
"Well," I looked on the bright side, "at least we'll be able to hang out and spend some quiet time together!"
The green building architect of our net zero off grid prefab, David Day, smiled, agreed.
Ron, Our Fabulous Contractor, stormed in, stomped the mud off his feet and stated with a scowl, "Rain."

I was sad because I really wanted for people to make "a weekend" of it- to enjoy the beautiful sights, the camaraderie of our friends, the bike ride past historic farms...

I knew other children and dogs would visit- and imagined the chases that would ensue!
I envisioned us walking the fields, wearing everyone out on a hike on the property, people relaxing in fold out chairs near the south tree line and contemplating the modern house kit for their own purposes...

I didn't want people to travel and not get to know all the kind people and wonderful, historic, fun things to do in our area. I mean, who are we kidding? - We have history throughout, and, heck: A WINERY minutes away!

But... it rained in buckets.
Oh well, people would just come to the next Prefab Open House and then really enjoy it in the spring, I could show them around...

Or so I thought.

It was 1:02.
"Well, we haven't seen you in *forever*," I started, turning to David, "we can at least have a nice, quiet day hanging out together!"
As the words came out of my mouth, a pair of headlights turned onto the field.
"Ohhhhhhh my gosh. "
As soon as I said that, the second set of lights rounded the bend.
And right behind them... it was a line! And one after another, they parked!

I just can't even start to talk about the day after that.
I hope that those whom attended will share their pictures, video, thoughts here.
(Yes, I lost my camera the night before at Richmond's InLight...)

I want those that came to know... thank you all so much for coming.
Just as you say you read MY voice, I have enjoyed following your own stories through email and our exchanges via the internet.

A lot of beautiful, honest, open faces.
Farmers, families, designers, international colleagues traveled SO far, and... we had rain.
Oh, not just rain: A MONSOON.

But on the SUNNY SIDE...

Heck yeah, we crammed people in, unstacked chairs (isn't that what we bought 'em for?) and it was still airy!

And, on a rainy, no sun at all, Almost October chilly day... inside in the prefab, thanks to the SIPs, it was HOT!

Speaking of outside in the rain... people were walking around in that muck taking gray wet pictures of the prefab house kit in the RAIN!
"No, don't worry, sweetie! I already took & blogged those pictures on a nice day! Don't get cold!!!!! I don't want you to get sick! Dontcha want to come in?"
Inside? 75 to 72-ish degrees.

I asked, "Now that y'all have noticed the difference of passive solar energy efficiency WITHOUT systems in the prefab, do ya mind if I crack a window now?"
They voted, "Aye!"

And talk about putting Small Footprint to the test - after seeing about forty people in that front room, I now know what Thanksgiving will be like with a bunch o' friends & family!!!

I enjoyed so much putting the emails to the faces. I want y'all to know I wanted this to be more than a Prefab House Kit Open House.

Thank you all for coming from far-flung states and cities.
It was a pleasure to meet you all, thank you for bringing all your fun moments I will always remember: a gifted child playing music, all of your kind eyes, a pair of basketball and bow enthusiasts (to whom I proudly showed the VMI basketball court and my Fred Bear recurve), European and Africa connections, sweet dogs I *wished* could have raced about and played across the field with our own dogs, all of your great questions...

I felt like we were wearing you out when we spoke but then the attendees had one question after another- well researched, it was a dialogue, not a lecture, which is what I had hoped.

Thank you all so much for driving so far on a miserable day to visit us in the prefab house kit.

--Copeland Casati

P.s. Sharing comments from visitors:
(I will be adding comments, photos, etc. as they send them in here.)
"It was a pleasure to meet you and your family, Mary Beth and I enjoyed another adventure...the weather didn't bother us but I wish it could of rained the day before or after for your sake....I loved the house, before seeing it in person I always felt it wouldn't have enough light for me but on the contrary I felt very good in it, very seemed solid and will be a couple of years before I build, I have 2 lots connected to the lot I live on in an 1861 money pit I will be following your blog I'm definitely interested in all aspects of the project, edible landscaping is important and I see your doing that, very smart and innovative team.....thanks for your warm hospitality.....


Thank you for opening up your house (future home) to us strangers. We really enjoyed the visit even with all the rain. Seeing the house in real life is quite different than following your blog.

We really enjoyed our visit and look forward to the read your progress on your blog. I did notice on the landscaping design that you are building a root cellar. I was wondering if you had any more information on it that you can share with us.

Again thanks for opening your house to us.

James and Robin
Baltimore, MD "
*Thanks to George Geier, who shared his pictures with me so this blog looks nice!*

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Modern Prefab House Kit: Preparing For The Prefab Open House

Sharp eyes might have noticed the top south cladding panel on the modern prefab house kit was a bit... muddy. As the last panel in the stack of cladding, it had been a victim to the rain and gathered mud before the Amish installed it. Normally this would be a simple annoyance, but when you're a net zero off grid passive solar house with the systems not yet in place... well, it's not like you can just pull out a hose and wash the prefab house off, is it?

I, already overwhelmed with work... avoided the issue over the summer.

But the Prefab House Kit Open House loomed...
we found an *excellent* solution!

There are sprayers you can buy that pump - ironically, for this eco house, the sprayers are intended to spray pesticides. (Oh, the irony!)

But for us?

Cleansing water swept the dirt away,
and the prefab house kit is shiny again!

Prefab House Kit: Finally washed the mud off the modern house kit! from Copeland Casati on Vimeo.
The weekend in the prefab was full of such serendipity:
The tractor had a flat; oh the stress of "how-much-we-had-to-do"... It was imperative to get the wheel to the closest tractor repair shop, fifteen minutes away, in historic Appomattox before noon. We piled into the car... and ended up whiling away hours there.

We strolled the streets, taking in the old homes, storefronts, and history. We leisurely ate at Granny Bee's (now don't you evah be in a hurry at Granny Bee's... and make sure you get the stewed tomatoes & spoonbread with your meal!). The 6yr old got a hair cut. And I found a new favorite thrift store.

You may have noticed I'm not only an enthusiast of cutting-edge modern design (,, but a huge fan and avid preservationist of old architecture. (AND love old cottage architecture redesigned for the next 200 years:

Here are some pictures from Appomattox- and yes, I will get a better picture of that log cabin next time...we were driving quite fast to make it to the Tractor Store in time before it closed... I highly recommend taking the time to visit Appomattox if you are here next weekend for the Prefab House Kit Open House. You could start your day there, walk around, shop, eat lunch, then head over, or, if you stay the weekend, visit the next day. Here is what one bed & breakfast recommends, and also check out Tour Appomattox for events.

We then raced back to Richmond the next morning to support good friends and research for juvenile diabetes by participating in the annual Juvenile Diabetes Research Walk.
What a weekend.
I wouldn't have traded it for the world.

And yes, the Passive Solar Prefab Open House IS next weekend.

Wish me luck... with muddy children, dogs, and Handsome Husband undoing my every broom sweep and cleaning... it will be heartfelt but certainly not over planned. This is more to see the structural insulated panels (SIPs) in the prefab house kit before we finish it in affordable style.

We will have prefab green building architects from Green Modern Kits and Green Cabin Kits present. Unfortunately, despite their enthusiasm for biking, our prefab cottage architects involved with Green Cottage Kits are unable to attend- as they are in Seattle!

I am looking forward to welcoming our prefab enthusiasts, neighbors and family friends to our special community here in historic, rural Virginia.

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Modern Prefab Update:

It is morning in the net zero prefab house kit.
I am blearily sipping coffee, and the 5 year old just walked up and said,
"Momma? This feels like home."

Last night both children woke up separately, and with them, individually, we finally watched the stars and listened to the coyotes howl together.

It has become habit here for the 5 year old to awake waaaaay after the animals have melted into dawn and sit with me, along the south windows overlooking the trail, loudly chattering while seeking wildlife.

So for her to finally join me before dawn, in the dark, and quietly listen to all the night sounds as I always do, alone, was... so nice to share it with them, for I have been listening for years by myself while the family slumbered... You should have seen her bright eyes and smile: she heard the coyotes, an occasional cow, and many birds of the night.

She even saw her first shooting star. : )

Sooooooooooo... Let's talk about the bedrooms.
We have neglected that middle bedroom while camping in the prefab.

We have two queen sized air mattresses on which we've been staying while camping in the house kit.
We put one in the west bedroom, and one in the east, which is supposed to be our room. Through this sleeping arrangement over the past months, I am now rethinking it- the west bedroom, intended to be the 6 year old's, might actually work better for the adults- we are tending to sit at the dining table at night, so I imagine that might be the "late night talking area" vs. the other side of the common room, and the east bedroom is closer to the bathroom so it might be better for the 6 year old when he has little friends stay the night.

So as we re-think the purpose of the east & west bedrooms, I suggested,
"Why don't y'all sleep in the five year old's middle room tonight, and we'll try out the west bedroom?"

It didn't work out that way.
Somehow a child fell asleep on EACH bed, so the boys were in the west room and the girls in the middle bedroom.

And let me tell you... that middle, overlooked bedroom is FABULOUS.
It is PERFECT for a little wildlife watcher!

When she awoke, instead of leaving the warm bed for the rocking chair along the south windows to seek animals, we just turned over under the covers and looked out that long, vertical window where we had a clear view of the field. I am certain she will see many things over the years from that lovely view.

Because the house kit is made of SIPs (structural insulated panels), the inside sounds tend to... stay inside.

The dogs were being loud- the mastiff-mix happily-with-tail-wagging-and-heavy-breathing his acknowledgment of our nighttime alertness, the other shaking his tail happily and jingling his tags as he greeted us, and Handsome Husband... well...
Handsome Husband was snoring.

So, from the comfort of our bed, I reached out and opened that vertical window, and suddenly the night sounds filtered in.

Similarly, those high windows in each bedroom ROCK. During the day, they allow light in while providing privacy. At night, I tell the children to lie down, heads on pillows, and look up: they are perfectly placed to view the stars!

Although progress has been maddeningly slow (no one's fault but our own), it has really given me time to evaluate how we are *really* using the space, vs. as I had envisioned we would.

Imagine if I wanted to switch rooms after decorating one room very mod and adult, the other decorated for a little boy! So by camping in and using the space thus, I can make sure everything is finished where it is appropriate for YEARS of use and enjoyment.

Now I am off to sweep (again, thank you, myself-in-another-dimension for NOT choosing bamboo and embracing the easy-to-clean concrete with fly ash! My other-self-NOT-in-another-dimension would have LOST IT when the 6yr old decided to give the dogs "dirt baths" whom, after I finished sweeping, came in to flop...and it was awhile before I noticed the piles of dirt here, piles of dirt there... "What the heck?!?" then he 'fessed up...) and organize as Ron will build bathroom walls this week, just in time, for... well, one of my best friends is supposed to visit next week from NEW YAWK CIT-AY and I am taking her camping in the prefab house kit.

Handsome Husband is busy recycling leftover wood from framing to make stairs, and the 6year old has proudly added a um, nice doormat he snatched from the waters of the Bay while sailing last weekend and thinks it's perfect to reuse here.
I support his enthusiasm to reuse! But... um, it's not quite mod.
But, hey, it's reuse, so I applaud.

(So if you come to the Prefab Open House September 26th and notice a faded doormat that's all frilly / West End housewife-y, that's the story behind it. Please tell the 6year old you think it's a *lovely* addition to the decor.)

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In Praise Of The Clothesline

A few weeks ago I read a local article about a very controversial and thought-provoking subject: Clotheslines.
Really! (Read the comments in them thar article, they're interesting!)

In this article, a Richmond realtor went on about the detriment clotheslines are on a neighborhood and its property values.
"'They're unsightly by most people's standards,' said Jeanne Bridgforth, a Realtor with Long & Foster in Richmond. 'It gives an atmosphere of decline. You don't sense you're in a well-heeled neighborhood when you see people hanging their laundry out to dry.' "
That weekend I was on my regular run on the Bay... and it suddenly occurred to me,
"Heeeeey. Wait a minute... CLOTHESLINES!!!"

With the article fresh in my mind, I couldn't help but giggle and be slightly indignant at that realtor's attitude, when RIGHT HERE IN FRONT OF ME was a community happily waving their undies in the breeze, and let's face it... these are valuable properties.

So this weekend I set off on my run with a camera and a 6year old to scout out clotheslines... and was not disappointed.

This area of the Chesapeake Bay was settled by fishermen and sailors, that tend to pass on the property and notion that nature (and use of the sun, stars, and wind) is something to be valued and utilized... a very sailing and family oriented place. See, one thing about Virginians is that, well... they tend to be practical, and frugal: here, clotheslines make perfect sense.

Because of the preservation of the natural landscape and creation of an active sailing community, this area has become, well, it's valued for dollars much more than what the original families bought them for... yet maintains a down-home community sensibility. Normally dollar values would be completely tacky and unmentionable to discuss; this is a dear place that is focused on sailing, fishing, family, and having a good time. Here, I rarely brush my hair, and would never think of lipstick.

However: In honor of all of the proudly ululating clotheslines facing discrimination, I present:
Million Dollar Clotheslines.
(Who ARE these people? ; ) )

These clotheslines gaily wave back to you, dismissing the McMansion Vinyl Suburban Covenant Realtors who protest them, and stand in solidarity with their happy, solar-dried brethren elsewhere!

Like urban farming, may *everyone* have that right, not just those that can afford to.

(For those that are interested in the architecture and this area of Virginia, here are some more posts with pictures:)

(Photo on left taken by Peggy Morland, a Virginia gal proudly flying her clothesline here, and in Australia. Nice colorful clothespins on your line, Peggy!)

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Net Zero Passive Solar Prefab House Kit Update

I wish I could talk more... but I can't. I am on serious deadlines this week. Instead, I share more photos of the net zero prefab house kit, and some small, treasured moments from the weekend:

(Make sure to read the comments on the prefab photo slide show, that's where I posted more information. )

...Looking at lizards sunning themselves on the prefab:
Ron, Fabulous Best Contractor Ever:
"Oh, those are The Average Lizards. All the good ones now work for Geico."

Being invited to a church pot-luck in a community of 199, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by bicentennial farms, and, in the midst of the service, they focused on Heifer International, a VERY worthwhile organization (read their history and mission), their work not only with nations abroad but this sermon focused on...
URBAN COMMUNITY GARDENING AND SUSTAINABILITY (those of you that know me in real life will start laughing) and, in the midst of a 101 year old church in the middle o' nowhere, the video playing, WHO SHOULD POP UP but Erika's DAD, Urban Empowerment And Sustainability Expert Extraordinaire, Will Allen of Growing Power, in their fantastic video! That was pretty amazing. But then again, they're all amazing people.

It underscores how connected and understanding of the bigger picture the people in smaller, tightly-knit communities are... but then again, don't we all form our own communities and towns where ever we are, even on the 'net?

And, Dear Reader, Amuse Yourself With My Excerpt From A Letter to Our Fab Prefab Open House Visitors: : )
(Pssst: please let me know if you want to come visit the net zero prefab modern house Sept. 26th, just email c-o-p-e-l-a-n-d (remove the hyphens) (then add an at- @)


"Hello, Prefab Passive House Kit Visitors!!!!

We are so excited to have you visit on September 26th!!!!!

David Day, the casa ti prefab green building architect, will be on site Saturday, September 26th from 1-3, as well as The Most Fabulous Contractor Ever, Ron Bernaldo, to answer your questions. There will also be a green sustainable landscape architect, and hopefully some systems and factory representatives present to give you more information if you like.

As you know, we have some great events going on that weekend – a bicycle ride, a winery and farm open (on Sunday, if you stay in nearby accommodations), and more – you can learn more about the area (including accommodation information) and what is going on here:

Now, to remind you, a few house keeping items:

1. Please remember the interior of the house is still under construction. Interior framing is complete, so you can envision the space of the rooms, but we currently have no interior walls or systems in place.

2. This also means our bathroom is not complete.
We currently use a shovel. So make sure to stop at Farmville or a nearby town before journeying that last leg! (I will try to find a porta-potty to rent, but please do remember this is rural Virginia… I don’t know if I can even rent one!) (Later Note: I was able to rent one! Do not fear the shovel.)

3. We have children and dogs. Please tell me if they make you nervous and I will chain them all to a tree.

4. Because I have young children and dogs, no matter how many times I sweep and mop the interior I guarantee there will be muddy paws and footprints and hair for you to notice. Please tell me this bothers you so I can have an excuse to chain ‘em to a tree for even longer.

5. This is real nature. So please take all food items and trash with you so that the bears, bobcats and coyotes don’t eat us.

6. Speaking of… we also have copperheads (do not run through brush! Watch and scan where you walk!), black widows (don’t grab armfuls of wood without looking carefully!), an ancient barn that will fall on your head and most certainly kill you if you get near it, poison ivy (look for “Leaves of three! Let them be!”)… Did I miss anything? Hmmm… I’m sure something out there has rabies and will certainly jump you with my luck. Are you sure you still want to come?

7. Oh yes, The Big Buck. If you see him give yerself a high-five because that is like spying a unicorn in the mist.

8. Please keep a close eye on your children! For all the reasons aforementioned, (did I mention we have coyotes the size o’ shepherds?) as well as the many pointy, dangerous objects I haven’t yet thought to even think about yet.

9. By clicking on the link below to get instructions to the land you understand that this is real nature and will not hold me liable for your poison ivy, etc.

10. Oh, an astute reader just pointed out I forgot to mention you can also fall down a groundhog hole running in the field and break your leg (Thanks! Guess the Visitor Tag-Football Game is off!).

11. I will have some snacks and punch but will be cooking nibbles without a stove… NEXT YEAR I will impress you with my deft culinary skills."
(And yet they're still coming? A lot of them? Someone had better bring a guitar...! Hint hint...)

: )

I am very much looking forward to meeting the nice people who are traveling near and far to visit us.

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