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Off Grid Zero Energy Prefab House Kit Systems Update

I am going to divide this post into Off Grid Zero Energy Prefab House Kit Update, and... 
Copeland Rambles On And On, Off Topic About Her Weekend.
'Cause I know how you green building people roll.

[But for those few of you that like our weird adventures, scroll to the end! Scroll to the end! There's adventures!  And Amish recipes!]

Off Grid Prefab Systems Update:

When planning to make our modern, passive solar prefab house kit into not only a zero energy but off grid home, we spoke with our solar systems vendor who recommended we put the battery banks in the center of the prefab house kit, which we then worked with our contractor to adjust the house kit's floor plan accordingly from the prefab architect's original floor plan design.

However, our building inspector did not like that setup, as he is concerned about the fumes and corrosion, especially within the tight envelope of an energy efficient SIP house.

So we then moved the battery bank placement outdoors -

Our building inspector stopped by last week and still has concerns - he would like the battery bank placement three feet from any window.

This presents a dilemma - because the solar systems / power are DC, distance is critical between the inverter and the batteries - we want them to be as close as possible, within ten feet of each other.

Although SIP (structural insulated panels) are super strong (stronger than traditional stick built homes), you have to realize that those batteries are HEAVY, about 90 pounds per battery, so placing the battery bank on the roof is not an option.

We will now need to move the inverter accordingly, but who wants to place thousands of dollars worth of equipment outside?
Stay tuned.

Composting Toilet Update

It is clear that when I selected the non-electric composting toilet years ago (yes, years ago, I like to plan in advance), that I envisioned a quiet life further down the road, where Handsome Husband and I would lounge in retirement viewing The View while sipping, er, hot cocoa, and the kids would be off in college or, I don't know, touring with a punk band in Europe or something...

That quickly changed as we became more and more integrated with the land, the community, the adventures... We then began to speak of, "in five years..." (Our children are in a special program that ends after elementary school, so they do need to stay in the city until that ends, hence, in five years.)

And as our friends caught on to how special this area of Virginia is, regular weekend guests became the norm.

Bad news: The non-electric composting toilet needs a larger capacity to accommodate all these people. We have created a rockin' modern prefab party house that we will move to sooner than we originally thought (the destination date keeps getting shorter and shorter, meaning a family of four daily use with plenty of after-school and weekend friends!).

Good news: It IS possible to upgrade what we have currently to an electric, 8 person capacity!

Bad news: It costs almost $500. AND we need to consider the power now for that. AND ventilation / power draining effects within the off grid zero energy SIP house kit.

Good news: But oh well at least now we won’t have to generally worry about capacity!

Oh, by the way - my beloved ex-roommate is heading down from Neeeew Yaaaaawk Cit-tay to visit next weekend!  She works in fashion - is the director of yada yada something something for some fashion designer called Vera Wang.
; )
You might suspect that all those years living in New York surrounded by P's style and fashion sense were sadly wasted on me.
You are correct.

You also might suspect that I might neglect to mention to my beloved New York Fashion Director ex-roommate that she will be answering nature's call with a composting toilet all weekend.

Copeland's Rambling Weekend In The Prefab Part:

I was honored to have been asked to attend the Blessing of The Hounds.
As a longterm volunteer with our local SPCA who, with each hunting season, dealt with the influx of abandoned and pretty-feral-and-negligently-lost hounds, before you criticize, realize 1. every single one of these hounds at this hunt club has a wired collar so that their family, who calls each of them by name, will not lose them on the hunt 2. these hounds are beloved, treasured, and trained.  Like every culture, there are those that have integrity and kindness, and those that follow sport without ethics or reason. This club loves to ride, reins in the hounds when needed, and spends their days chasing coyotes, fox and an occasional bear without incident.

The Reverend stepped forth, and waded through the hounds and horses.

As we gathered, one leading hound sniffed the hem of her starched priestly vestments, approved, lifted a leg, and whizzed.

I counted at least two other hounds who, in the next solemn interval of prayer and circumstance, followed suit...

Never say spreading the Good Word is easy...


Later, we decided to pay Mrs. Esh's Amish Store a visit.
Mrs. Esh's Amish Store

Such a beautiful day! Everyone was in a great mood, and it had been a few weeks since we had seen Mrs. Esh, so we had fun catching up.

We were talking about our cookstoves, and how she cooks in the summer (of interest to us, being off grid as well, and thinking of my family's ex-farm's summer kitchen vs. what others do and what we're thinking of doing ourselves at Higher Ground)... and then we were talking about raising children bilingual, the Amish with their old German dialect, we with our German, and the conflicts one has in multiple languages, like when you teach pets / livestock commands in one language then switch to another... That doesn't work!

I asked, "So, do your children study in German when at school?"
Mrs. Esh: "We school in English, because we must communicate with the world!"

To me, that says it all - the Amish we know desire to retain their privacy, their inward structure and beliefs; yet they embrace the world around them, not reject it. They want to be, and are an integral part of, their diverse community.

That's why you find a graceful Amish mom hanging out with a pink-haired punk mom, talking chillunz on the weekends!...

On the way home we stopped at the farm store, and passed an Amish buggy on Route 666!
I enjoyed checking into Foursquare and noting that. #TechGeek

(P.s. Do NOT take pictures of an Amish face / close up of a person, that is against their beliefs and disrespectful. But Mrs. Esh said I could take pictures of buggies / the store / farms, hence these photos.)

In the afternoon, we headed over to Pamplin City Library's annual book sale.
And dragged away over two boxes full of new (old) books.

Now. How many people get to have an old 1900s RAILROAD DEPOT as their local library?

Well, we in Pamplin City are graced with trains.
It's lovely to look up from stacks of books and through the ancient bones of the library architecture to watch the trains rumble past...

Pamplin City Library - An Old Train Depot

Although steeped in technology, we will *always* be book people. Science books, sailing books, Heidi, Swiss Family Robinson, a book on canning and preserving, french books, german books, literature in french, literature in german, literature collections, encyclopedias... that is just part of what we carted away, for............... $33!

I think we will no longer concern ourselves with how to finish the SIP in the zero energy off grid prefab house kit. It is already clear this off grid prefab house will be finished with its walls as books. ; )

And to close this atrociously long blog post?
I have a real treat for you guys. 
Mrs. Stoltzfus wrote a cookbook.

Why is this important?

It is important because one of our Amish neighbors 1. wrote and published a cookbook, which thoroughly interests me because it's geared towards wood cook stove off grid living, and 2. because, well, you won't BELIEVE the recipes.
I will share three recipes, expecting you to purchase her whole cookbook, because, as a person interested in food, if your ears are already perked up, well... ohhhhhhh, myyyyyyyy, gosh.

If you enjoy cooking, please order her book!
$11 + $2 shipping, check made to:
Mary S. Stoltzfus, 474 Butterwood Road, Charlotte Court House, VA 23923

The book is chock full of cooking tips, wonderful breads, delicious desserts, all kinds of dinners, plus the traditional Amish fare like how to make pepper jelly, jams, etc.! 
If you cook, you will enjoy this book.

Now here's the part that has me giggling - if only Jamie Oliver could see this:
Mrs. Stoltzfus also includes recipes for what we think of as the worst of processed, factory farmed food:
CHICKEN NUGGETS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
If only our school systems served chicken nuggets like THESE!
These are the only chicken nuggets I will ever allow my children to eat, much less enjoy making on the wood cook stove in our off grid zero energy prefab house kit!

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