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7/28/09

Prefab Modern House: Walking Around Systems And Closets

Earlier this week I posted on the modern prefab house kit's list of systems. Here is a video where Handsome Husband walks through the prefab zero energy house and gives you a sense of its space, especially in regard to closets and systems areas.

Prefab House Kit- Explaining Closet and Off Grid Systems Spaces from Copeland Casati on Vimeo.



I have noticed Handsome Husband has more detailed insight into the "hows" and "whys" of the systems and space. I also noticed he envisions several things I did not know about- like the bookcase / closet in our east bedroom? Wow, that was a surprise, especially as I have already collected two cool mid-century bookcases to use in the house...

By the way- we have a new label for our blog category list, design fight, in case you would like to follow it.
; )

We are currently getting the quotes to install the systems... and then apply for the bank loan to finish the remainder.

For those of you that want to tour our modern prefab house kit just to see how the structural insulated panels and passive solar works, there will be an Open House in central Virginia for an off grid zero energy prefab passive solar casa ti from Green Modern Kits the weekend of September 26th / 27th.

More on this later, I am still organizing it, but if you are interested in touring this prefab off grid zero energy modern house kit, there is also a wonderful bike tour going on: Bike Heartland. Bike Heartland is a fun bike tour that goes all weekend long through a gorgeous, historic area of Virginia. Make sure you contact Nancy Carwile on that site to let her know you're coming / register so she can prepare for you.

I am also working with some local farms to have other activities like tours of natural, community supported farms, and a winery that will be open for you to enjoy, and more, so pack your tent or secure lodging and come on down!

Gene and Evelyn McCluney own Springfield Creek Wine Cellar, and know people will be stopping by, (they are open that Sunday, not Saturday, as they will be at a wine festival that day) but if you're a largish group you might want to give them a call:

Our hours of operation are from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Groups by appointment.

To find us take Route 460 to Pamplin City. Take Rt. 47 South (Thomas Jefferson Highway) approximately 2.5 miles and turn left onto Rt. 663 (Baker Mountain Road). The winery entrance is one half mile on the left. Tasting Room is located in the back. We can be reached at (434) 248-6981. E-mail info@springcreekwinecellar.com

For accommodations, see here (camping at the Heartland Bike Tour), here (Charlotte Courthouse bed & breakfasts), here (Appomattox bed and breakfasts), and here (Farmville lodging); and also be sure to visit Miss Emily's, where Necia and her husband will show you great English hospitality.

To attend, you will need to send me your 1. name and 2. email so I can send you directions and the program schedule as it shapes up. If this interests you, shoot me an email here: copeland [at] greenmodernkits.com

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7/26/09

Prefab House Interior Framing Complete, We Turn To Systems

We spent a lovely few days in the prefab house kit... the interior framing is done, and now I need to turn Handsome Husband over to guest blog, because I have zero interest in procedures of interior construction, I just want to move in.

The off grid prefab catches the breeze. We never would have camped here in the summer, but now, with shelter, we are comfortable even on hot Virginia days. That is not to say we're anything close to air conditioning; but remember, I always set the air conditioning to 82 degrees in our existing house regardless; each time I checked the temperatures in the prefab house kit it hovered between 75-80 degrees in the afternoon. And the breeze... we picked a great spot for the house kit- it sits on a high area, the wind sweeps up the road, funneled by the trees, right to the house kit, and sways gently through it.



I encourage you to go through our prefab house kit exploits in the photos above, the pictures have a lot of comments on them; I am a little tired from the weekend to write much more!
: )

Some of my favorite moments included visiting Mrs. Esh at her Amish store and running into our friend George there, wandering off to pick wildflowers, then returning to the prefab house to find Ron & Judy sitting at our picnic table... they had taken some time off from their weekend to stop by and it was great to see them.

If you recall, in order to finish the off grid prefab house kit we needed to get the framing done, then give Ron a systems list so that he can get quotes from the plumber and electrician, at which point we apply for a loan to finish off the remainder of the house.

Well, last night Handsome Husband finally sent Ron the systems list for the off grid, zero energy house:

Here is the list of systems we would like installed in the off grid modern house.

The casa ti shell you have erected for us provides a passive solar design with a highly-insulated building envelope.

We chose a concrete slab as the foundation to provide a thermal mass to store heat both from the solar radiation and hydronic heat delivered via solar hot water collectors.

In addition we want to power the systems and our extremely basic power needs exclusively via a photovoltaic system.

Our water supply will stem from rainwater collection, purified physically and by Ultraviolet light.

We will have a composting toilet (not mentioned below as it is already on site) with liquid waste running to a septic field that will also absorb the kitchen sink drain while the shower and vanity will drain as gray water to our orchard.

Here are the parts lists for the systems, I would like to meet with you as soon as convenient to go over this:

Solar Power:

Qty Item Price Extended
4 Mitsubishi MF125 Module $ 595.00 $ 2,380
1 CHARGE CONTROL: Xantrex C40DD $ 146.00 $ 146
1 TriMetric Battery Meter
C- 40R/50 Remote Digital Display with 50' cable
$ 115.00 $ 115
4 Trojan T-105 6V 225A Battery $ 135.00 $ 540
1 INVERTER/CHARGER: Xantrex TR2424
24V 2400W 100A
$ 995.00 $ 995
1 I- TEMP plug in battery temp sensor $ 29.00 $ 29
2 36" interconnect cable w/ fitts $ 18 $ 36
2 10' 10ga combiner cable $ 20 $ 40
1 Outback Combiner box $ 125 $ 125
2 Outback 15 amp PSPV breaker $ 12 $ 24
2 DC Lightning Arrestor P-31 $ 35 $ 70
2 AC Lightning Arrestor P-31 $ 35 $ 70
1 4/0 inverter cable set 10' $ 140 $ 140
4 16" 2/0 battery interconnect $ 12 $ 48





solar power total
$ 4,758

Water:

Qty Item Price Extended
2 Stiebel Eltron SBB 300 S
80g sgl exchg tank (heat)
$ 1,000.00 $2,000.00
1 Stiebel Eltron SB 150 S
40g sgl exchg tank (DHW)
$ 560.00 $ 560.00
2 Bosch AquaStar 1000P tankless propane
this would be installed behind a mixing valve
one for DHW and one for heat
activates above 0.5 gallons per minute (gpm)
$ 350.00 $ 700.00
1 water pressure tank
$ -
2 2 zone, 3 loop ea. Manifold
Mr. PEX 103B-50P - 3 Loop Radiant Heat Manifold Package (1/2" PEX)

pexsupply.com
$ 174.95 $ 349.90
1 water supply pump
$ -
2 TACO 007 Ciculator for Zone Heating Circulation Performance Data
Flow Range: 0-20 GPM
Head Range: 0-11 Feet
Minimum Fluid Temperature: 40º F (4º C)
Maximum Fluid Temperature, Cast Iron: 240º F (115º C)
Maximum Fluid Temperature, Bronze: 230º F (110º C)
Maximum Working Pressure: 125 PSI
Connection Sizes: 3/4”, 1”, 1-1/4”, 1-1/2” Flanged

The Taco 007 Cartridge Circulator is designed for quiet operation in a wide range of applications.


Available in cast iron or bronze construction with universal flange-to-flange dimensions.
Unique, “00” family replaceable cartridge contains all of the moving parts so you can service it easily instead of replacing the entire unit.

pexsupply.com
$ 72.95 $ 145.90
1 TACO 0011 Circulator for Solar Loop Circulation Performance Data
Flow Range: 0-28 GPM
Head Range: 0-30 Feet
Minimum Fluid Temperature: 40º F (4º C)
Maximum Fluid Temperature: 230º F (110º C)
Maximum Working Pressure: 125 PSI
Connection Sizes: 3/4”, 1”, 1-1/4”, 1-1/2” Flanged

The Taco High Velocity Series 0011 Cartridge Circulator is specifically designed for high-head/medium-flow applications in large residential/light commercial closed-loop hydronic heating and chilled water cooling systems.


Exclusive, anti condensate baffle (ACB) protects motor windings on chilled water jobs.
Available in cast iron or bronze construction—Bronze can be used on open-loop systems.
Unique, “00” family replaceable cartridge contains all of the moving parts so you can service it easily instead of replacing the entire unit.
Universal flange-to-flange dimensions and orientation allow the 0011 to easily replace other models.

pexsupply.com
$ 335.00 $ 335.00

get remaining pieces: valves, thermostat, actuators


water total
$4,090.80


Air Quality:

Qty Item Price Extended
1 VHR 1404 Air Exchange Heat Recovery
Ventilator (Fantech.net) 120V 1.4A
(what is difference of SHR 1504 1.5A?)
$ 700 $ 700
5 remote light switches
http://www.adhocelectronics.com/Products/Wireless-Lighting-Control
$ 150 $ 750
5 A-Ceiling Fan 24v
http://www.backwoodssolar.com/catalog/fans.htm
$ 135 $ 675
2 A-Swivel Kit $ 20 $ 40

air quality total
$ 2,165


Rainwater Collection:

Qty Item Price Extended
1 WFF 100 Vortex Filter with extension (2,000 sq.ft.) $ 757.00 $ 757.00
1 Goulds 1/2 hp, 115 volt, Cistern pump, with:
stainless steel base plate,
1 1/4" nozzle,
1 1/4" discharge,
hose,
floating filter
$ 899.00 $ 899.00
1 1,700 gallon below ground tank
133" length x
55" width x
66" height
$1,445.00 $1,445.00
1 Purification Kit including
1 x 8gpm UV light,
2 x 20" Big Blue Housings with 1" fitting,
2 x Brackets for Housing,
2 x Wrenches,
1 x 20 Micron String Wound Sediment Filter, Carbon Filter.
$1,475.00 $1,475.00
1 baffle above entrance and root cellar (see landscape drawings

1 root cellar and pump room per landscape drawings

1 downspouts on North matching scupper boxes and method to handle drainage

1 gutters on South, with downspouts routed across baffle at entrance to above ground cisterns


rainwater total
$4,576.00


Miscellaneous:

Qty Item Price Extended
5 remote light switch kit - simple

http://www.adhocelectronics.com/Products/Wireless-Lighting-Control

http://www.adhocelectronics.com/Products/Electricians-Builders-Contractors
$ 149.00 $ 745.00

miscellaneous total
$ 745.00


Total Systems cost:

area cost
solar power total $ 4,758.00
water total $ 4,090.80
air quality total $ 2,165.00
rainwater total $ 4,576.00
miscellaneous total $ 745.00
grand total $ 16,334.80

We have geared our own zero energy systems list not towards how MUCH we can do, but how little we can use to be comfortable, functional, but not in excess of power needs. Another house kit purchaser, depending on their needs and climate, might need larger systems, but I want to see how comfortable I can be with less... we shall see.

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7/20/09

Momofuku Pork Buns Done Southern Style, Honeychile.

This post is for my dear friend V., her sister B., and my cousins C., & C.!
When I was in New York this spring for ICFF, walking to a party on 2nd Ave., I was introduced to the joys of Momofuku steamed pork buns.

I mentioned they not only promoted local food, but equally the local farms- writing the farm names along with the menu items on their blackboard.

Well, it is now cucumber season, and I recalled the sweet / savory taste of those pork buns and thought I'd do a Momofuku Done Gone South version.

So, I present...
Momofuku Done Gone South:
Cucumber Sandwiches with BBQ!
(Oh yes, I did.)
  • First, go to the Amish store and get some of Mrs. Esh's white bread. This bread has a great texture and consistency because, like the steamed buns, it has a slightly sweet, yeasty, dense taste. If you do not have Amish living nearby (I realize most people don't), maybe try dinner rolls or anything heavy, slightly sweet.
  • From the garden: cucumbers & spring onion (or scallions).
    Slice the cucumbers and follow this recipe to give them that Momofuku taste / texture.

    ***What this recipe doesn't mention is that it is clear you need to drain the cucumbers after it has time to mix with the salt/sugar to give it the same firm texture as those in the Momofuku buns.

    Plus: Note I never follow directions: I peeled & sliced up a bunch o' cucumber from the garden, added the salt & sugar, drained after a few hours, decided it needed more salt & sugar, drained... then, at the end, when putting them on the sandwiches, decided to not only drain but pat 'em down on a dishtowel to give the cukes the right consistency. (Don't tell me you use paper towels in your house... that is NOT practical or environmentally friendly.)
  • Thinly, thinly slice the onion.
  • Purchase locally made BBQ- the lightly sweet, not vinegar kind (sorry, North Carolina, this is the Virginia version with tomatoes!).
  • Cut the bread into squares, 4 per slice, to give it the appearance of your usual cucumber sandwiches, and add to platter. Or, if you do not have Amish bread, I bet you could pack the ingredients into a dinner roll that is slightly sweet, opened & folded over.
  • Top the Amish bread squares with a slice of pickled cucumber, then a bit of onion, then a dollop, and when I say dollop I mean a DAB of BBQ! (Otherwise it will overwhelm the tastes.)
And there ya go, yer done!
Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.


(Actually, this pic on the right has too much BBQ on it- make it a smaller dollop.)

Here's some pics of the tray, and then I headed off to Girlz Nite where my friend Melanie also made a delicious HOMEMADE BLUEBERRY COBBLER for the feast! Yum.

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7/19/09

Prefab Zero Energy House Kit: Interior Framing Begins!


It is morning in the prefab zero energy house kit, and I am sitting here, in the middle of nowhere, typing on a laptop.

It's a little weird, good, sad... by having better internet connection (remember the boat battery hookup with the blackberry??? I'm no longer on the new boat battery for power, I'm on the old tractor battery! AND have an added device, a "personal hot spot" to better telecommute.), I can work from this rural area for longer periods of time.

However, let's face it: shouldn't I be outdoors right now?

Well there's plenty of time for that: I'm just on my first cup of coffee, so while I wake up I'll update you guys on the prefab interior framing progress!



So, now you can now walk around the inside of the prefab house and finally "see" the dimensions of the rooms. Several people have asked me if "there is enough mechanical / closet space." And, as I trace the spaces, the dimensions, I can't help but think, "who the heck needs more?!?" Seriously, folks, not only are the closet dimensions adequate, in my opinion they are generous- don't forget the ceilings are really tall so you could use that upper space for even more storage. (How many shoes do you need? ; ) )

I wondered what the spaces would feel like with framing. I do not feel confined, in fact, the front area, even with the addition of the dining table that seats eight, feels open and airy; the bedrooms are ample. The air mattresses we currently sleep on are Queen-sized; so you can now see, with the framing outlines, that there is plenty of room for desks and dressers.



But then again, I'm the owner. Of course I think it's perfect! However, yesterday Dolores, a house kit enthusiast, paid us a visit. So this was our first real-live non-biased non-family/friend visitor who wants to build a prefab casa ti in New York but wanted to check it out first. (Don't forget we're having an official Open House the weekend of September 26th & 27th to coincide with a lot of fun stuff in this historic area if you want to stop by! More on that soon, mark your calendars!)

So, dear readers, meet Dolores:
Here is what a total stranger thinks about our prefab off grid house: (she doesn't want to be seen so until I can get the sound off the video I'm just going to put her text here- just imagine her talking with a cool New Yawk accent : ) :)
"Hi, my name is Dolores. I'm visiting the casa ti because we're interested in buying it, and it's a lovely place.

They have dogs around (laughs, dogs amble into camera view)... and they've delineated quite nicely the space (sweeps arms)- You can see where the rooms are, the doors, closets... and it's enough closet space for people who are not pack rats. (we laugh)

Um... (looks up) the ceilings are quite high, so you can add extra storage up above you... and (starts walking through the rooms) it has a nice feel to it. (looks down) The concrete is beautiful. And the bathroom is an okay size (nods)... I'm from New York so I don't require too much space, this is a nice house for people who want a simple life and a clean slate to come to or live in.

(sweeps hand to front room) Out here is a living room/ dining room / kitchen combination that's not complete yet but it's quite lovely- you can see the windows and doors drape across the front of the house, there's also a side door for extra light and another entrance... and it's an angled ceiling so it gives the space a greater feel.

It's quite gorgeous, I think that you'd love it!"
(Thank you, Dolores!!! We do love it!!!)
Now, 'round here parts, strangers don't stay strangers long. So after Dolores got her fill of the house kit I said, "Hey, I'm going to go find the Amish, want to come?" She did.

Everyone told me where it was (remember the original stand we visited moved), but in these parts the directions are, "Well, you go down route X and then by the guy who sells shotguns, then look over near there on your right and They'll. Be. Right. THERE."
Oh.. of course.

So Dolores and I headed out down the road until my internal navigation system suddenly deemed that "this feels close." We slowed, and there was the Amish saw mill. Dolores turned in. "Oh, no, you can't do that!!!" I warned, but Dolores is from New Yawk : ) and dismissed my being-raised-with-farms-rules with a, "Maybe we can ask some one..." and there was no one, so she turned down a drive and as my protests rang further we saw a woman by a barn. I apologetically grimaced as we approached, and as we neared, I saw she was Amish. Not only was she Amish, but she was hitching her horse to her buggy, which was loaded up with her family.

"I am SO SORRY we couldn't turn around and are lost and are trying to find the stand to buy bread..." I quickly apologized, but thankfully was met with a smile. "That would be my mother, Lydia Esh, and they are just the next road down. " We thanked her profusely, apologized again, and headed off, where we then found her mom. Now you know you can't take pictures of the Amish, which is why the house kit construction pictures never showed the crew that built our prefab house. But I wonder if Mrs. Esh will let me take a picture of her store; I will ask her next time to show y'all how nice it is... there are quilts, wooden chests, children's toys, jams, relishes, breads... and even a pet chicken named Betty, yours for $5.

Both of their homesteads are beautiful: solid, immaculate homes and structures, bountiful gardens... happy farms. And when we passed Emma in her buggy on our return, we all waved at each other... Turns out her brother, Lydia's son, with others, were the ones that helped put together our prefab house kit! Thank you, Dolores, for going with me!

Now, one thing you need to know about farms: If you do not know the occupants, whatever you do, do not go on the land. This is why I so strongly protested when Dolores turned down the drive. One of my friends almost shot an encyclopedia salesman a few years ago similarly: seriously, think about it: You're in the middle of nowhere, on hundreds of acres alone, and a stranger is trying to access your house? What would YOU think? (The poor salesman- he was peering into windows at dusk when my friend showed up behind him with a rifle at the ready... )

However, if you KNOW the farm, around here it is the opposite: People come a-callin'. Telephones are often out, cell phone coverage is spotty, so when you know someone is "at home," well heck you just go and visit 'em.

So we had several friends stop by yesterday, including James Scott, whose family used to own this land and whose parents still live two doors down. Mr. Scott tells us so much history about the area, about the land we now own, and what he thinks we should do with it, and we listen: he knows all about the things we have discovered, and more. He thinks we should put a pond in near the old tobacco barn and knows all about the spring-fed stream and old breached pond...

We were all sitting there, enjoying nice breeze and the view inside as we discussed the prefab construction (he was very interested in the structural insulated panels) when, suddenly, there was a buzzing and bumping heard against the clerestory windows.
"Dag," I thought, "that's one big horsefly!" It wasn't.



We then decided to install the rest of the window screens...

...Our adventures continued further yesterday, but I wouldn't want to bore you.

It was an unusually cold summer evening, so we closed the windows.

I awoke this morning, then, sleepily, after awhile, thought out of curiosity to check and see what the temperature was inside the prefab house kit, it read 75. (Handsome Husband says the weather service said it was in the 50s last night...) And that's with NO SYSTEMS installed yet to heat the house other than the energy efficient SIP and passive solar design!

Now I have finished my coffee, so am off to play outside this prefab-ulous house. : )
...Off to pick blackberries for breakfast!

P.s. Interior design:
  • You may have noticed we added a reused dining table originally from our local modern design store, La Diff, to the house kit - it seats eight, and we also are reusing some Xylon chairs by Giancarlo Piretti, which we bought after being used originally in the cafeterias of Circuit City. We picked them up for a very good price to reuse in the casa ti!

  • ...Handsome Husband also nailed up more sconces to the walls. #designfight
Ok, ok, maybe they're looking rather cool now... and heck, we only have one camping lantern and no lights yet, so any illumination is welcome...
Hmmmm...

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7/17/09

Sustainable Landscape Architecture For The Land Surrounding The Prefab House


Ohhhhhhhh this off grid zero energy prefab house is never going to be done.
Ohhhhhhhh I'm exhausted (but excited).

Ohhhhhhhh. Wait a second: Once the prefab house kit is done, there's more to do:
The Land.

Ohhhhhhhh.

Well, thanks to the sustainable landscape architect Heather Barber of Topos LLC, our sustainable land management plan has been expanded beyond crop tree release and bush hogging.

And if you thought it took long to build the prefab house, wait until we journey years to gently shape the land to function more sustainably.

Great. I just set myself up with decades of more work. ; ) And we have no money.
But the landscape architecture plan by Topos is delicious.

And I mean that literally: There's blueberries and a root cellar in them thar plans!


So, c'mon, what are you waiting for? Let's check it out!

Heather Barder of Topos Land Planning Design Richmond
From Heather, the landscape architect of Topos LLC:
"casa-ti is a remarkable example of how far prefab residential architecture has come. this greenmodernkits kit home is located on 55 acres in a heritage area in the western portion of virginia. the most exciting yet challenging thing about the casa ti project is that it contradicts any idea that the landscape is a stayed design, or an anchor for the architecture. we are taking a very historical site contextually speaking and turning it on its ear...creating a post modern design that connects the home with it’s expansive environs. i think the opportunity to design a functionally sustainable, yet whimsical site plan for casa ti is a true honor and an evolutionary process. we are talking about the first kit / prefab modern home that is completely ‘off-grid’ / fully sustainable in the state of virginia.* this shows that the greenmodernkit home can translate anywhere, in any capacity. it is my job and again, opportunity, to create that threshold between the prefab sustainable home and the environs in which the owners choose to site it. this is a luxury for me. i can take a very simple form of architecture, which has it’s own inherent beauty in that it’s simple, and connect it to it’s site through the landscape architecture. whether it is urban, sub-urban, or farmland, the modern pre-fabricated homes that are greenmodernkit homes do, in fact speak the language of their location. and it’s a language that is very sensitive to the people living in it as well as the environment."

[ *Heather said we're the first off grid prefab in Virginia, I haven't heard of any others, but I don't know for sure if that's true... will research, but no, I haven't heard of any other modern prefabs that are off grid here... ]

Wow, Heather, I'm honored by your words! When Topos originally inquired into what our landscape architecture would be, I laughed and replied, "Um... a bush hogg, Handsome Husband and a shovel?"

I thank Topos immeasurably for giving OUR FAMILY the opportunity, through their experience, to turn an abandoned, briar-filled plot into, one day, a sustainable farm.

So... let's go through it:

  • Starting with field #1, Topos created a figure 8 access road which allows us to easily navigate the drive, house, and shed while maintaining the field. This eight acre field was previously farmed. By bush hogging it regularly we have been reducing the briars which had cropped up before we bought it, and will start planting cover crops to enrich the soil this fall. Wildlife such as quail will be encouraged through allowing patches to not be mowed but to create the habitat quail, turkey, and rabbits enjoy.
  • I also envision field #1 being used to grow potatoes and garlic...
  • Field #2 is downhill from the house kit. Rainwater will easily help irrigate it.
The area around the prefab house is geared for high traffic and fun...
more on that in a minute!
  • Back to Field #2: Being downhill, rainwater will naturally run towards this plot, and if you can look closely Topos has created furrows and a collection area for water- which is the way they used to irrigate fields in times past.
  • Not only will we be using that existing field for crops but it will also harbor fruit and nut trees, and a berry hedge.
  • This area is surrounded by woods that had been cut-over twenty-ish years ago. Lots of pine, cedar, but a surprising amount of diversity in the trees- poplar, birch, hickory, walnut...
Ok, let's get to the prefab house kit area:


  • Pavers made with recycled fly ash for high-traffic areas in poor soil areas
  • Cisterns for rainwater collection
  • Baffle (you always wanted to know what a baffle was, didn't you?)
  • Root Cellar
  • Terrace for High Traffic Areas
  • Retention Pool (more on what this does later...)
  • Blueberry Hedge
  • Berm to lounge against while watching Casa Blanca projected onto the side of the prefab house like David Day always wanted to do with a bunch o' friends
  • ...and more...
I will go into this, and more, later, but in the meantime need to pack up for another camping weekend in the prefab house kit! In the meantime, check out Topos, a modern landscape architecture firm!

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7/15/09

Prefab Homes Mentioned in Design * Sponge!

We were thrilled to hear our affordable prefab homes were mentioned in Design *Sponge's Richmond city guide! Several of our prefab architecture firms are here, including Grace Street, who designed The R1 Residential prefab, and Tektonics, who designed the Green Cabin Kits prefab homes. (Grace Street's R1 Residential architect, Morgan Pierce, is in their San Francisco office enjoying the Pacific breeze.)



From their site:
"Design*Sponge is a daily website dedicated to home and product design run by Brooklyn-based writer, Grace Bonney. Launched in August of 2004, Design*Sponge was declared a “Martha Stewart Living for the Millennials” (NY Times, 2008) and features store and product reviews, city, product, and gift guides, diy projects, before & after furniture and home makeovers, home tours, recipes, videos and podcasts, and trend forecasting."
In the meantime...
We hope you all have been enjoying your summer.
Here, hedges are filled with blackberries, the children are barefoot chasing chickens, dogs lounge hotly against cooler floors, and we are hard at work to offer you affordable, prefab house kits.

Prefab HouseRon is busy framing the interior, and we will check on his progress this weekend. It has been a frustrating week for him- his generator (don't forget he's building the house kit off grid) died last week, was a few days in the shop for repairs, then, after dragging it out to the land, broke again Monday. We ended up going ahead and buying our own generator at that point, as we will need it anyway for our off grid systems back up.

I am looking forward to visiting this weekend and seeing the changes in the prefab house!

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7/12/09

Food, Inc. And Local, Affordable Food


Last night I went to see Food, Inc.
In my opinion the movie did not have anything new to say about Big Agribusiness but it was well worth seeing, to see how many key people in government that have determination over our national food policy have previous relationships with companies like Monsanto, as well as reaffirm the fragility consumers have over their food choices.



The panel discussion that followed the movie included friends Lisa Taranto of Tricycle Gardens and Lisa Dearden of The Center For Rural Culture and The Goochland's Farmer's Market. The audience participation was lively- I particularly liked a cardiologist who said, "Everyone complains about the high cost of eating better, but don't understand that the medicine to treat the ailments caused by poor health and not eating well are more expensive. We all need to understand that we, individuals, need to be responsible for our own health."

One question asked repeatedly was "How can we make good food affordable for those that need it most and can't afford it?"

We rely on the grocers, the farmers. We can vote with our purchase dollars, telling these businesses that we, as consumers, want humanely raised, pastured meat, and fresh, local vegetables. But what was not discussed was that not only should you take responsibility for your own personal health (eat well, work out, to prevent sickness and disease), but that each person should have the RIGHT to responsibly grow their own backyard (and frontyard) veggies, that each person should have the RIGHT to responsibly have a few laying hens and mini-goats for (here's where I reel it back to economics) AFFORDABLE fresh eggs and milk for their family.

Have you seen the statistics on childhood diabetes and obesity lately?!?

Address affordability, health, passing on a sense of connection to animals and land to our children while providing them exercise:
If you have a back yard: Get some frickin' chickunz.
I promise you, your children will chase and play with those chickens allllllllllllll day long, while teaching them about animals and where their food comes from.

For those (including zoning) that feel chickens are messy and smelly, I offer up an urban coop for your inspection.

Chickens naturally want to be in the brush, scratching for grubs while being protected from predators. So in your average residential back yard, they will be eating the japanese beetles from underneath your rose bushes, hiding in the acuba, pecking through your ivy. Therefore, their "mess" remains in areas that are not trafficked by the rest of the family.

...If only the dogs behaved so!

Unfortunately, many counties and cities have forbidden responsible urban farming.
Did you know that a pair of mini-goats, each about 50 pounds, can provide your family with a gallon of fresh milk a day? Both of my dogs are larger than that. My local zoning says I have have three dogs - so I could have three 200 pound mastiffs - yet won't allow a few laying hens in the same back yard?

This is where we, as consumers, need to not only buy locally, eat well, but tell our local government that it should be everyone's right to be sustainable, to have, if they choose, those affordable, healthy options for their family.

P.s. If you like, join our FaceBook urban chicken group, CHICKUNZ, and if you're local, sign the petition for urban chicken in Henrico!

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7/11/09

Itchin' for Prefab Off Grid House Kit Completion!

Hope y'all are having a great weekend and had a great Fourth of July!



This is the latest in the prefab house kit journey I thought would have been over with and completed last year. But as we are taking a frugal "pay as you go" / incremental approach, it just takes longer to achieve. This goes against my "Point A" to "Point B" nature. ("Are we done with this already?") But it has also taught me some valuable lessons, and this whole experience has made my life better.

Ron is framing the interior walls, I will ask him to send some pictures if he has time... and our next steps for the prefab house kit will be to get final estimates from the electrician and plumber for off grid systems installation.

I want to talk about something I have been chewing on over these weeks: With every change of direction and pause, our course might change, but it frees us to new experiences.

I was thinking about that over last weekend, which we spent on the Bay.

Two stories:
  • Story 1:
    This spring we eagerly awaited the annual return of The Amish Childrens' Stand (their stand is open from March - November).
    For over four years, our ritual has been to, after traveling for an hour and almost at the land, stop, purchase our cookies, bread, and relishes, then unload- and remain- on the land.

    Finally, after several checks to see if they had opened yet for the season, we drove past and saw the stand, open! But as our car slowed, we realized it was not the Amish family but another farmer selling flowers and not the food we love.

    Where to find the Amish children?
    We were told they now operate their stand off of their homestead.

    Prefab House KitTheir homestead is the same distance from our land as the original location; but now, instead of stopping off the interstate, visiting the stand, then ending up (and remaining) on the land, we now have a new course:

    Unload on the land, unpack into the prefab house kit, run about, then head down a beautiful country road below our property to their homestead; a direction we would not travel unless to go a further distance to Charlotte Courthouse, which we now can explore and enjoy as part of our weekend perimeter... enhancing our interaction with the community and area.

    All those years camping in the 1960s Scotty camper, stopping at the Amish stand, then tumbling onto the land and remaining there? We were so happy! But insulated.

    Story 2:
  • After a lifetime of driving from Richmond to my parent's house on the Bay, dropping our suitcase, and heading for the water, we were suddenly compelled to search for our own, rowdier pool. I mean, if you were my aunt, would YOU want a bunch o' chilluns running loose willy-nilly all the time? We decided to seek more chaotic waters... and give her a break from our dishevelment.

    I asked friends involved with a local boatyard if maybe, just maybe, they might create a "family pool membership" for those who didn't need a boat slip but just wanted to use the pool that were already customers.
    They did.
    And it opened a whole new world for us.

    We are now part of the boatyard community, where you see the same families often but also meet new people passing through from all over the world. We now drive through the town, which means again that we are integrating ourselves more instead of, like on the land prior, insulating ourselves.

    And we're having a heck of a lot of fun: at the boatyard pool, by using shared community space (very smart growth, no? : ) ) you can strike up friendships and conversations over all sorts of stuff - last weekend I was swinging my legs in the pool with another woman, our children splashing us, while discussing the cemetery industry! (And yes we discussed green burials.)

    When we have dinner at the boatyard, strangers and old friends come together, each with their own dish, to create a FEAST, and a special evening full of interesting, kind people and fun.
These are just two ways my intended, efficient path has diverged this year, making my life richer. How about you?

Next up:
Pictures of interior framing of the house kit, zero energy systems installation, and landscape architecture!!!

Yes, I got the landscape architecture plan this week and am SO excited to start talking about it soon... all I can tell you now is that it involves blueberries... and a berm. : )

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