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P. Visits The Off Grid Prefab House Kit Still Under Construction : Solar Cookers, Scythes, Hand Washers And More

P. visits the passive solar, off grid, still-under-construction prefab house kit!

My beloved New York ex-room mate came to visit us in the off grid passive solar prefab house kit!

You may recall I neglected to tell her she'd be answering nature's call on a composting toilet all weekend.

No, I waited until her looooong train ride from New York was over, when it was pitch black dark and we pulled in to the remote gravel drive of Higher Ground, in the middle of nowhere, where her cell phone no longer worked, to break it to her.

Did I mention she's a Director Something Something at the international fashion house of Vera Wang?
She paused, her pupils contracted slightly, her smile faltered for a split second, then she bravely said,
"Sure! Show me how it works!"
(Thaz mah P! I love her so!!!! And I think she's even going to come back!)

P. with the fairy ring we found in the woods...

Cozy and warm in the off grid passive solar house kit!
I also forgot to mention we have no heat, and that it was going down into the 30s.
But I explained the passive solar design of the prefab house kit, the energy efficiency of the structural insulated panels (SIP), the down comforter that was on her bed and, just in case, she could always borrow one of my many BLAZE ORANGE HUNTING CAPS to wear to bed if she was chilly! #FashionStatement
; )

The next morning, cozy and warm in the passive solar house kit even without heat, over steaming delicious coffee made with our non-electric coffee pot and grinder, she remarked, "You know, it never occurred to me until I got here but then I wondered: How will you do XYZ without electricity here? Like making coffee! I immediately thought of my kitchen, and my electric grinder..."
That was after P. and my Pipsqueaks happily ground coffee beans in the "old fashioned" non-electric coffee grinder... and the coffee was delicious.

Then she asked, after a pause, incredulous, referring back to the composting toilet:
"Why doesn't it SMELL?!?"
I explained how it works...

Yet, as I mentioned, it IS clear we need to beef up the composting toilet to electric, powered by solar, to accommodate more people. That is in the works.  You also need to make sure everyone uses the composting toilet properly: for example, we returned from one excursion with the entire SIP house, envelope tight, modern house closed and functioning to... the smell of sawdust. Everywhere. Someone had not closed the lid on the composting toilet before we left! But it smelled like SAWDUST, which we sprinkle daily down the hole... Not, er, you know...

Saturday we had a blast taking P. to Clover Hill Jamboree in Appomattox. There were pig races, historical interpreters, history, hay rides, train rides, pony rides, fried pickles, kettle corn, brunswick stew, square dancers, bluegrass, gospel, and even a castle made o' hay!

It was fantastic, and the whole thing was... FREE.
All put on by volunteers from Liberty Baptist Church in Appomattox.  THANK YOU, LBC, your hard work and always-smiling volunteers were.. *Amazing.*

From New Yawk Cit-tay to Pork Chop Downs!

We strolled through the historic settings they had to show : an old school, general store, a "poor house" cabin where you were allowed to live when times were tough and paid your keep by working on that state farm (that was welfare back then), a blacksmith shop, and the carriage shed with all sorts of non-electric farming implements... it was interesting to see those historical tools, considered, today.

Gadgets, trinkets, just plain fun or... useful timeless tools improved with technology?

Y'all know all about our scythe, the seed drill, and my many fun (and sometimes sketchy) cooking experiments with solar cooking.

They are fun, but honestly, I enjoy testing and using these tools to compare them with what XYZ "solution" the average household has been trained to believe is better in the past fifty years.
Is it?

I use the solar cooker efficiently each weekend.  That allows me to set in lunch while we run off and have adventures without burning down the prefab house kit.  We return, hungry and tired, to a hot meal ready to eat.

The coffee grinder? Entertainment for the children while we slowly wake up without having to draw power from our solar energy system (once it's hooked up).

The solar shower has served us well slung over the limb of an oak, and now, indoors over a livestock trough doubling-as-a-tub. (More on this later. I'm voting the livestock trough-as-bathtub experiment with a thumb starting to turn down while Handsome Husband is enthusiastically voting with thumbs up.)
Previous location of solar shower: Hanging from the oak.
Here's the latest on the solar shower: 
In honor of P's visit, we brought the solar shower INDOORS.
In a frenzy on Friday, I ran to the hardware store and explained my dilemma to the clerk:
"We have a livestock trough we're using as a bathtub, so it's free standing..."
(I think this is when I lost him...)
Brightly I continued: "I'm feeling crafty and want to make an enclosed shower curtain rod, how hard can it be? I bet I could just string together some metal somethings. You got any metal thingys?"
Response: Averted eyes, shrugged shoulders, "Ummmmm..." as he looked for a quick getaway.

That is when a *fabulous* crafty couple spoke up!
"We've done something similar!"
We huddled together and her husband started grabbing parts.
Seriously, these people spent over a half hour helping me, while I struggled with two hyped up children running wild in the aisles of Power Tool Land.  I think they felt rather sorry for me, and I am grateful.

In the end, here's what worked, with modifications from Handsome Husband to attach one end to the wall vs. completely free standing:  (All for $22! And I got to feel crafty! And P. had access to an indoor shower! In a livestock trough!)
  • A threaded rod that we bent to make the rounded end
  • Metal conduit, cut in two
  • Chain and a hook for the ceiling, then other end attached to the wall with nails
Also consider also our Lehman's hand-turned washer.
I was compelled to purchase it just as I have purchased many of the prior tools because it was:
  1. non-electric
  2. used less water
  3. and we all know this one: I was just frickin' curious to see how (and how well) it worked!
Did you know the average laundry washer uses 33 gallons of water?
I can wash a load with 2ish gallons. And the washing time? Two minutes.
Power consumption? None.

Oh wait. Here comes P. riding the dirt bike, which I detest for all the oil-eating noise-making reasons you might imagine, that Handsome Husband delighted in bequeathing our young children.

["WHAT? You got a WHAT?!? Why can't they just frickin' ride their BIKES around the frickin' field?!?"]
Y'all should email him and tell him to listen to me more.

What P. doesn't know is that Pipsqueak #1 deliberately put the bike in 2nd gear before sending her off with a push. Tally ho!

Tally Ho Patricia!

Speaking of Tally Ho, we had a great time at The Pipsqueak's riding lesson, where Mrs. W teaches riding without reins until you learn how to communicate with the horse through your body language. What a great way to teach children about these large animals: before you even get on the horse, you must help and brush the horse, communicate with it, and then ride together, working with the animal. Perfect.

P.s. For my beloved vegetarian P, here's the recipe she requested that I reheated in the solar cooker:
(It's a hit with all, I'll be making this again!)  There's also one last video after the recipe.

From "The Indian Vegetarian Cookbook" by Lustre Press / Roli Books (Get it! Great recipes!!!)
Cottage Cheese Koftas In Spinach Curry
*As you know I never follow directions or measurements!!! If you follow the directions it will certainly come out different than what you ate at my house!!! Plus I don't know what deep fry is (I mean, I've heard of it but wasn't raised that way) so I sauteed a whole hot mess o' kofas or whatever it's called in a overly-hot protesting pan!*
Kofas: Cottage cheese, mashed 500gm
Potatoes, boiled, mashed 250gm
Cornflour 3 1/2 tsp/ 35gm
salt to taste
pepper to taste
vegetable oil for frying

 Spinach 1kg
vegetable oil 3 1/2 tsp /35ml
Garlic, chopped 1 tsp / 3gm
Tomato puree 1/2 c. / 100ml
red chilli powder 1/2 tsp / 1gm
tumeric 1/2 tsp / 1 gm
coriander 1/2 tsp / gm
salt to taste
water as needed to keep it saucy
garam masala

*it is clear even now I did not follow directions. I always add more garlic, spice, veggies, um... everything?*

  1. Koftas: mix ingredients. Divide into balls. Heat oil in wok, deep fry until golden brown, remove and drain. (Yeah, I ended up with mashed potato yumminess mess kinda sautéed in a pan. I added it as the 1st layer in a casserole dish. It was deelish. Oh well.) 
  2. Gravy: Boil spinach, drain, when cool blend to puree. (Who has time? I did not puree. I just threw that spinach back in the pot with... the next step:) Heat wok, add garlic, spinach. Cook 2-3 minutes. Stir in tomato puree, mix well. 
  3. Add red chilli powder, tumeric, coriander, salt. Cook 4-5 min. Pour in water, bring to boil, stir in koftas, (I just had a mashed potato-ish layer, topped with spinach/onion layer) reduce heat & simmer 5-7 min. Stir in garam masala & cook till the curry has reduced in half. 
  4. Carefully remove koftas with spoon and place on serving dish (see why it's better to have a mashed potato layer? This is WAAAAAY too hard! Placing on a serving dish?!? Beyond my skill set.), pour the curry on top and serve hot with indian bread.
We're now unwinding, already talking about how much we miss P., how many Ladybug board games she would patiently play over, and over, and OVER with the Pipsqueaks... All I know is, I can't wait for P. to visit again. Room mates are like sisters, you don't have to explain anything, entertain each other...  I can't wait for her to come back this summer so we can do all the other local adventures we discussed and considered, like visiting vineyards and swimming and canoeing at Holliday Lake State Park!

P.p.s. Still impressed with that straw castle? Mere pictures do not do it justice. See the video of teeming children like ants on an ant hill, below! Gives new thought to straw bale construction!

Clover Hill Jamboree

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At 10/26/10, 9:32 AM , Blogger roger said...

This is making me SOOO jealous!

At 10/26/10, 10:35 AM , Blogger Passive Solar Prefab Homes said...

Don't be jealous, I'm sure there's lots of neat things to discover in YOUR neck o' the woods, you just have to dig around to find them!
: )


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