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Good Friends, Bluegrass, And An Unfinished Zero Energy Prefab = Great Times.

Welcome to The VIDEO Version of another weekend in our zero energy prefab house kit.

Zero Energy Prefab House Kit - Sadly Leaving After The Weekend

Yes, another prefab-ulous weekend camping in our zero energy prefab house kit, still under construction.

As you know, our zero energy prefab house kit was up in days. But the finishing of the house, much less the farm, is long term.

Above is a clip, at the end of all our fun, after a very special weekend in the off grid prefab house with dear, dear friends, lotsa cheap beer, and loads of adventure.

Last time The L's were here, we had nothing to offer them; no prefab, no shelter, just raw, scraggly land and one lone picnic table. And they came, any-hoo, and stayed the day. Because that's what good friends do.
This time? We camped happily together in the zero energy prefab house kit.


But enough about me. 


Where were YOU at Holiday Lake 4-H's 1st annual Brew & Bluegrass festival with Windfall, The Sigmon Stringers, The Half Bad Bluegrass Band, and Surefire Bluegrass Band?!?!?!?

You know, the one with Virginia breweries, wineries and a gorgeous lake setting straight outta Switzerland except it's not Switzerland, it's Virginia! 

I'll forgive you for not knowing about this fantastic bluegrass festival (yet) as it was their first year. 

But I'd better see you next year...

Where else can you see FANTASTIC bluegrass music... 

...while imbibing from local breweries and wineries... a beautiful lake front setting...

...with charming cabins to stay in for pennies (Ok $12 but SERIOUSLY folks) and spotless facilities at your disposal...

...with even wildlife stopping by to enjoy the show?!?

All together, raising money for a great cause: 4-H Camp!!!

Here's some snippets: If you like what you hear, make sure you visit the Holiday Lake 4-H's page where you can then scroll down to each band's photo, which takes you to their website and purchase cds there. (Apologies I did not get all the bands because it only occurred to me to take snippets after I had had my second glass of delicious Spring Creek Wine Cellar wine.)

Holiday Lake 4-H 1st Brew & Bluegrass #1 .

Holiday Lake 4-H Brew & Bluegrass #4

Holiday Lake 4-H Brew & Bluegrass #2

Holiday Lake 4-H Brew & Bluegrass #3
[Thatz our sloppy, off key, enthusiastic chair-side braying affecting their nice melodic tune in this camera-held video. Apologies.]

Whomever put forth this first festival knows what they're doing.
Next year, not only would I love to see a redux of the fantastic acts that played this weekend, but I humbly also nominate Thomas Bailey, The Dismembered Tennesseans and Bluetick Holliday to come play as well.
I bet I might be able to twist their arm fer ya, if you like... : )

Now before you think I'm Little Miz Bluegrass, it's not the only music I listen to.

In fact, Handsome Husband found a great tape I made for him years ago - in my height of Goth days: instead of Side A and Side B, I had labeled this tape as having the Doom Side and Gloom Side.  It made for great car music on the way home as we traversed sunny happy gorgeous scenery...

We're raisin' our children all proper-like in expanding their music knowledge: Not just Brahms to Bluegrass, but this afternoon? Ziggy Stardust, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, and The Damned.

As we wound our way back to Richmond, it occurred to me:
We could start a band, enter next year's Brew & Bluegrass fest, 'cept all we'd play are bluegrass covers of The Cult and aforementioned bands... 
It could happen... it could!
 It soooooooooooooooooo could.

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Playing Hooky In Our Zero Energy Off Grid Prefab House Kit

Don't worry, architects. I counted tonight and I have NINE incredibly detailed systems unpublished posts, with manufacturer and product names, for our net zero energy off grid prefab house kit systems posts to share soon. 
But right now I'm playing a bit of hooky before summer ends.

So: If you recall, I was last musing on interior framing and finishing in my own zero energy prefab house kit.
I'm still musing on my "why close up a wall when you can LATCH it and fill that interior space between framing up with stuff" theory.
I further pondered this as I canned this week (fifteen quarts of pasta sauce.... and many more sessions to go....) for the first time this season...

(I'm really into "bright" sauces right now. "Bright" means lots of lemon, fresh herbs, tangy and zangy and fresh. I hope to can quite a bit of that sunshine away to combat the heaviness of winter in the next few weeks, before fall sets in. This time, I made two batches: One half was a basic marinara with bright bits of basil from our garden, and the other half was a tomato lemon lavender sauce from The Frugal Gourmet.)

In a small footprint green home, every inch matters and shouldn't go to waste... Think of all the canned goods you could store in those interior wall spaces!

With SIPs, you don't needn't worry so much about your exterior insulation of the prefab house kit.

But for the interior, my "latch and store" theory we consider for our own prefab house kit depends on Handsome Husband's query:
"What are the sound insulation properties of books and jars and jars of canned and dried goods and rolls of toilet paper within a wall?"

Here's what I think: So far, we have not been bothered by adjoining room sounds as we camp in our own under construction zero energy off grid prefab house kit.  If there's an issue, we could always go back and add insulation to the interior walls, I mean, heck, it's latched... but I really don't see an immediate need.
So far.

In the meantime, I'm doing the usual pack-up-and-make-lots o'-food-and-gather-books-and-clothes-for-the-weekend routine. Here's one thing I'm making:
Lemony Ricotta Pasta with Basil
serves 6
1 lb good-quality pasta, in a short twisted shape or with a hole (such as penne or gemili)
1 15-ounce package (about 2 cups) fresh ricotta cheese
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons good-quality olive oil
zest of 1 lemon
juice of half the lemon
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 loosely packed basil leaves, sliced thin, as in a chiffonade
Set a pot of water to boil. When it boils, add a few teaspoons of salt and the pasta.
In a metal bowl wide enough to fit over the top of the pot, mix together the remaining ingredients, excluding the basil. When there are about 2 minutes remaining in the pasta's cooking time, place the bowl over the pot and slowly stir the ricotta and other ingredients. You should see it loosening as it warms.
When the pasta is cooked al dente, drain it, add the basil to the bowl of sauce and toss with the drained pasta.
As usual, I did not follow directions at all
I brought out some of the whole frozen-fresh tomatoes I always keep handy in the freezer, frozen at their peak, sliced 'em into nice thin bits (the skin peels off so easily when you wash the frozen tomato in hot water, accomplishing two jobs at once), sauteed 'em in good olive oil until the water cooked down, & turned off the heat. Over that I shook kosher salt, added glugs and glugs of lemon juice, and stirred.

Then I added the rest of the sauce ingredients: Dollops o' ricotta, shakes & shakes o' parmesean... and finished the sauce with freshly ground pepper before stirring in penne pasta and fresh basil from our garden.
It's a bright and happy sauce. : )

This will be perfect to serve lukewarm within our picnic basket feast at the bluegrass festival Saturday...

In the meantime, I have an itch to create.
Sometimes it's not just about reuse, it's not just about starting from scratch, but, like our own zero energy prefab house kit, I can take parts and make a hybrid.

I am really into lighting right now...
It started with The Cloud (more on that soon), and now I consider lighting again as we install the electric boxes throughout the prefab house kit.
We are repurposing old materials for lighting in our off grid zero energy prefab house kit.
Here is a hint:
Ok here's another:
Ok I'm having too much fun.
...To Be Continued...
But now I must hurry to finish work then pack for another glorious weekend in our still under construction prefab house kit!

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Maybe, just maybe, if I eat one sun-ripened tomato sandwich a day... summer will stay her languid departure..

Summer Sandwich:
  • 1 sun kissed, never put in a refrigerator, preferably from your back yard ripe tomato 
  • Sliced white bread (we usually use grain, but for this sandwich it really does need to be white)
  • If you don't make your own, the only thing you are allowed to slather one slice of bread with is DUKES Mayonnaise
Slather one slice with mayo, top with layers of sliced tomatoes, sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper, top with remaining bread, and squish it down lightly so it all melds together. I *dare* ya to try to eat this with your hands. Make sure your cloth napkin is at the ready. 




Old Time Hillbilly Music and Prefab House Kits. Sung through the heart, through the nose.

Sometimes, when you've been working too many hours for too many days for too long without a vacation...
it's easier to slip into darkness.

I am giving my children endless, unscheduled summers running wild with imagination and stacks and stacks of  books, chasing down and romping with big Shop Dawgs and complaining chickunz, looking like Cave Children to the rest of the world around them...

But I have been working hard.
So, to escape, I recall some of my own favorite childhood summers, spending hot sticky weeks in Lookout Mountain, Tennessee: Visits to my cousin's grandmother, who let us dress up in her gorgeous clothes, then fed us avocado and lemon salads on nice china for lunch...  Flying in a single engine plane with Fletcher, piloting us all down to Suwannee, Florida, to visit the alligators and locusts while he taught Lucy and I how to fish... the alligator in the back yard pond, the roaming tusked boars, and when we, being kids, put blobs of Fletcher's shaving cream on every grasshopper / locust hopping about in the yard...

I often use the song below, although about love in a different way, to poke light through the dark heavy felt of reality descending when I need it most.  It always reminds me of my family in Tennessee, with whom I spent some summers, and Fletcher singing his heart out with just his voice and a fiddle in The Dismembered Tennesseans... and lifts me.

All of these songs make me soar. Here's the original, Bill Monroe:

Here's Fletcher's story:

One day, I will tell the stories of our first prefab house kits, happening now, built in states far, far away, and some near... they are going up now.  I will tell the stories of the nuances and site obstacles to overcome, to look back, years later, to the family stories within each household told as they live there...

In the meantime I dedicate this post to old time music, stories passed down, histories created, and passing on knowledge and hope and history to and through my friends and inspired by a founding member of The Dismembered Tenneseans, Fletcher Bright.

[As they ask in this video... "Is there a tune this man doesn't know?"]




The Cloud: Part One.

When you sign our agreement to purchase a prefab house kit, it also comes with some questions for you, as a client, to answer, so that you can better plan your future green home.

One of the questions we ask is, "Would you like wire chases in the roof SIP in your prefab house kit, and if so, where?"

This way the plant can customize the roof SIP (structural insulated panels) to your own desires, best fitting your own purpose and individual interior design scheme.

When WE, as our own consumers taking OUR prefab house kit to zero energy through off grid systems aided with the prefab house kit's passive solar design, answered that question, we said:
"Naaaah. We don't need no wire chases! Let the mutha [track lighting] RUN!
RUN, track lighting, RUN! We don't need no AC let the DC power RUN!"
Ok, maybe not exactly like that, in those words.

[Sung to: The Roof! The Roof! The Roof is ON FIRE! If you've never heard of this rap classic (I hadn't until Crazy Mark Colton came along) here's the song, below: And yes, okay-fine, that was a stretch. And no I don't often listen to rap but these guys are fantastic.]

Obviously nothing is on FI-YUH on the zero prefab project right now, but the above video is my homage to Mark Colton who used to sway his head back and forth from one shoulder to the next pumping his arms in some crazy circle while bellowing this song out to the world when we were kids.  Mark, know I can never discuss roofs without this song in my head, ever.

Like the late 80s, this track lighting idea is full of angles and cables and shoulder pads.
Well, maybe not shoulder pads, but we have created... A PAD.

Actually, it's not a pad, exactly, although if it were a floor built-in detail (hey! cool idea!) it could be inspired by lily pads.  But as this is on the ceiling, instead:
We call it... THE CLOUD.

We will talk about this in lots more detail over the next month.  But I'm excited, it's a heck of a lot of fun, and it involves drilling holes in suspended stuff and an homage to Christmas Lights and twinkling stars while providing a practical efficient space for electrical system access WHILE creating happy, filtered light.
It will be a bit of fun detail to the large southern space, yet sleek and subtle...oh, you'll see...

We spoke about the roof a lot this weekend.
Not just on the interior, but on the exterior as our zero prefab solar systems become secure.
In using this space over time, we're seeing our original ideas evolve as to how we, as a family, are actually using the space: ORGANIC systems design, based on an original practical design, which most people do not have the opportunity to do.

So, we changed some things.

Like got a coolio wood cook stove, for example as backup to the off grid radiant heat.

Now we have an unplanned chimney pipe in the middle of the elegant, airy room (and external air supply through the slab) that we need to gracefully exit, and we are going to send it through The Cloud. 

Heavenly, isn't it?
[Handsome Husband quips, "Maybe not heaven, but The Bean Stalk..."  Shush, Jack.]

BTW: Here's some pictures and examples of where our contractor cut access to the SIP *WALL* wire chases for electrical boxes, etc.  The wire chases runs consistently, you, with your contractor and code, just need to determine what the best plan is for you where to place the outlets so it is tailored to YOUR interior design and plan.

Y'all gotz any other requests? Discuss it with us when you place yer order...
On the request line... : )

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Leaving The Zero Energy Prefab To Explore

I was feeling very Alice In Wonderland this weekend, and ready for journey...
As usual, we raced the sun, speeding to the zero energy passive solar house kit.

When we arrived at the zero energy off grid prefab house kit, we didn't know Toga, Virginia, existed.  We always pick up the local papers from the country store as we head in, to see what's going on that weekend in the area, which is how we discovered Toga, and its annual fund raiser.

We now have been to Toga, Virginia, and returned not wearing wine-stained bedsheets with olive branches in our hair, but with memories of a sunny afternoon of bluegrass, antique cars and tractors, children's games, BBQ and great country food all for a good cause: Fighting cancer in their community.

If you plan to visit this area of Virginia in August and want to stop in the Appomattox area to see history, also call ahead to the Toga Volunteer Fire Department and ask about the date for this fundraiser when making your plans. The town is right past Appomattox Court House National Park, and after you've had your fill of food and music, on your return you could spend the afternoon cooling off in Holliday Lake State Park, before heading back for dinner in Appomattox.

If you have young children it's easy to entertain them without waiting in line; and if you enjoy bluegrass and BBQ you will find yourself happily munching away while watching great local music playing, joking, and bantering between the musicians on stage to the musicians in the audience enjoying the show...

Then walk off your Southern Food Coma by scanning the antique cars and tractors!

I am always a sucker for a fundraiser. And especially one that supports the fight against cancer!
This year a name seemed familiar as I saw the trophies donated in his honor.
And I suddenly recognized, and remembered, and realized how much this event is not just about helping, but about healing.

I am really glad we were able to meet this community.  We will be back, annually, bringing friends.
Sunday we headed over to Frog Bottom Farm for a potluck...

It was a great weekend, where we realize and appreciate our quality of life in Pamplin, surrounded by good friends, rich history, and unexpected opportunities that lead to new friends and adventure.

Next up: The Zero Energy Prefab House Kit Electrical Meeting!

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Energy Usage In The Average Home Vs. Consider A Passive Design Prefab With SIP

Ok fine maybe y'all don't speak German ; ) so let me explain:

From Der Spiegel, this is a chart explaining "Energy Use In Private Housing."

Let's take a look at it.
The orange? Lighting.
Gray? Appliances, including communication.
The ugly greenish shade? That's cooking, drying, and ironing.
(You can make my sliver even smaller on that, do I look like a gal who irons?!?)

Now here's the interesting part:
The slice o' purple? That is what it takes, in the average home, to create your hot water.
And that big ole hunk o' red? That's what it takes to heat an average house.

So take away the huge amounts needed to heat your home and water because you have a passive solar off grid prefab house kit?
And consider how little energy you'd expend to maintain comfort in your home.

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Dinner Party Fridays

I'm supposed to be on vacation but am postponing it until things calm down around here...
No, really, I *am* going on vacation.
...Some time! Soon!

Any-hoo, because technically I'm supposed to be on a beach this week, although I have my head down and am working hard, I am a bit more silly in my thoughts...

On twitter, I have always been adverse to tweeting my own Follow Friday Recommendations.
I always appreciate the kind people who RT and recommend me, don't get me wrong! 
But to do my own #FF always seemed more like homework instead of fun...
My thinking is that if you pay attention, you can discern with whom people you are interested interact frequently - that is how I usually come to follow people I don't know.  If someone I find valuable is speaking about a shared interest often to someone else, I follow that other person and rarely regret it.

So, as I readied for our In Real Life Last Minute Throwdown Dinner Party last evening, I wondered, "Wouldn't it be so much more fun if, instead of tweeting out Follow Fridays, one instead published Dinner Party Guest Lists?"

So, just for fun, let's take a drive through possible Dinner Party Hashtags With Guest Lists!

 Upon reflection maybe I shouldn't call it Dinner Party Hashtags as often our entertaining involves daytime activities, but regardless of the hour, these groups would certainly foster great conversation and camaraderie... and don't forget, it's not just about the guest list, it's also about the food.  I'm thinking of the menu I'd serve with each hashtag!

  • @JetsonGreen (As in, Preston Koerner and his family)
  • @RangerSusie
  • @MaggieStitches
  • @ChrisCheatham
  • @StefanBoublil
  • @RVAMedia
  • @DougMeacham
  • @anodyne2art
  • @Refuel
  • @PaulSpicer
  • @Tree_Top
  • @SuButcher 
  • @AJLeon
  • @AultsFamilyFarm
  • @FrogBottomFarm
  • @ClaiborneM
  • @TricycleGardens
  • @RuralCulture
  • @Cocoxochitl
  • @Genevelyn
  • @YahyaHenry
  • @Macelleria (in real life, not her twitter feed, which does not properly represent the Violetta I adore!)
  • @Holistica
And you? Who and what hashtags would you add?




Exhausted, if I could ask for anything, it would have been what we did this weekend.

Exhausted, if I could ask for anything, it would have been what we did this weekend on the land in the passive design off grid prefab house kit.

Arriving late, we lost our oft-run race against the setting sun, dragged in suitcases and provisions via lanterns, and fell to bed quickly.

Appomattox Court House National Historical Park
The next day brought new territory:
Through Virginia's National Park Service, there are free day-long history programs for children in Appomattox Court House National Historical Park and Pipsqueak #1 was finally old enough to participate!
This day's subject? American Indians.
"Early American Camp - July 31
Discover what it was like to live in Appomattox during Colonial times. Learn American Indian hunting skills, make and keep your own pinch pot, and make an Owner's stick. Learn to play Colonial era games and how about textiles (carding wool), and cut your own silhouette."
That left Pipsqueak #2 to entertain for the day.

While Handsome Husband was delivering Pipsqueak #1 and running tractor parts errands, Pipsqueak #2 and I built a temporary closet- a second-use recycled portable closet donated by a friend & coworker (thank you, Amy!).

It was a great Girls Project Teamwork Together Boo Ya! thing-a-ma-jig to occupy an hour...

She was really into it and helped me piece together the parts, often having to take them apart again and put 'em back together again properly...
(Oh. Like I can read directions.)

Pipsqueak #2 and I couldn't believe how TALL the closet was, once completed.
"Wowee. That can fit a lot of kitties, ponies and unicorns!"
(OR, neatly organized down comforters, sheets and blankets, honeychile.)

Then we organized further, going through "Throw it into the Portable Closet #1" into which we've hidden things, actually, EVERYTHING this year, and seperating it all, organizing further... It was amazing what, and the VOLUME  we had somehow stuffed into the original recycled temporary closet #1 (donated by friends who moved to Columbia)! So now reused closet #1 has practical tools and pointy things, and reused closet #2 houses soft warm cozy things like blankets and bed linens. And maybe kitties, ponies and unicorns upon occasion.

And when that was done, and Mission Accomplished with 6yr old?
We decided to visit Mrs. Esh's Amish Store for provisions.

Peach Jam From Mrs. Esh
Can you believe that Handsome Husband has never been to Mrs. Esh's Amish Store?!?
It's because he's always bush hogging or building something!
With the children this age and younger, I would do these things like go to the Amish Store on my own so he could Get Dangerous Things Done without children afoot.

But now they're older, we're more secure with a structure, and so we resolved that from now on, he needs to take the time out to accompany us for this ritual of stopping by, exchanging greetings, picking up dinner rolls (right off the oven this time!) and jam, and visiting.

On our way, we stopped by the D's; they were in the middle of pickling cucumbers.

And that's how we somehow weasled a gracious invitation to dinner. : )
Which was lovely.
And involved homemade peach ice cream.
And halfway through the evening? Sweet rain.
(Probably the one thing sweeter than home made ice cream in this drought, no?)

Sitting on their porch, listening to the rain as the children and dogs romped and the adults spoke into the evening... for the first time all week I found myself smiling... Thank you, D's...

These fields have been in drought so long, livestock have been struggling so hard through this heat, hearing the steady pat pat pat of light but steady rain was... so comforting, soothing... happy...

This weekend was all about respite.
Some of my favorite moments?
Napping On The Day Bed... Hey, Wait A Sec, Dog!
  • Exhausted, lying down on the day bed along the opened windows and the wind washing over me as I napped, allowing myself to surrender consciousness... and awake, mid-afternoon, refreshed.
  • Visiting Mrs. Esh's Amish Store and hearing her answer an out-of-town-er's question, "Yes we do accept checks..." They were grateful and surprised, thinking they'd have to find an ATM in the middle o' nowhere to get the handmade table with which they'd fallen in love.  Mrs. Esh reassured, "We do accept checks, we've never had a bad experience! Well, there was one instance where a girl had switched banks, but she fixed it..." and I thought to myself that I would like to incorporate a bit more of Mrs. Esh's optimism and faith and outlook this summer.  I'm normally a "glass is half full" kinda gal, but sometimes when you're just so exhausted, you need to be revived by watching others' happy outlook.  It really is contagious, kindess and happiness and joie de vivre...  Thank you, Mrs. Esh, for perking me up.
  • Chasing grasshoppers and butterflies with the 6 year old, and admiring the captured-then-released lizard of the 7 year old...

  • Reading into the night at the candlelit table with Handsome Husband, both of us absorbed in our books with lights flickering and rain gently tap tap tapping on the rooftop...

    "Israel On The Appomattox
    A Southern Experiment in Black Freedom from the 1790s Through the Civil War"

    by Patrick Ely
  • And of course dinner with the D's, with the children and camaraderie with their family and we were so appreciative that they included us when the parents were returning to Tennessee for another few months, having us on their last night all together on the farm for awhile... we are deeply grateful.
Thanks to this weekend, I'm reminded to Keep On The Sunny Side...
Which is good news for those of y'all awaiting SOLAR SYSTEMS information we are using in our off grid prefab house kit, which will be in the next post!

And speaking of Sunny Side... As in Sunny Side Up... as in within Urban Back Yard Chickens...
Here are some eggs from a friend's average-sized fenced-in back yard's happy flock in the city of Richmond: Hormone free, free range urban eggs, folks. Enjoy.

I'm also thinking about Nooks And Crannies.
We already planned lots of built-in spaces, closets for our prefab passive design house kit.
But the longer I live with these open spaces, the more I wonder, "Why close them up at all?"
I wonder why we couldn't have panels, with latches, that could open or close wall panels as needed. Those interior wall width dimensions are slim, sure, but... you never know when it could be useful... Imagine filling a wall with canned goods, pickles, jams... Or in the bathroom, a years supply of toilet paper (ok, maybe not so picturesque... ; ) ) or, er, scented candles... Why not? What's the harm? And, like so much unexpected things we've done this year... you never know when it might be a cool use for something! You could always add insulation within if you want to muffle noise... but why not leave it accessible? Because so far, I haven't been bothered by noise... to consider...

We shall see...

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