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10/25/10

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

Gravy:
 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?*

Method:
  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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10/17/10

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.
Correct-a-mundo!




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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10/11/10

Off Grid Prefab House Kit Construction And Systems, Considered

It was a *glorious* autumn weekend in the Old Dominion, and we left the off grid zero energy prefab house kit to wade into the wonder of pony rides, carnival games, firestation competitions, cauldrons of Brunswick stew, old crafts / iron-making skillz demonstrations, bluegrass, motown, gospel, funnel cakes, snowcones and railcar tours of the trains at the Appomattox Railroad Festival.

I have no pictures of this because...... I lost my camera.
Well, I lost it until Sunday, when, after our guests departed and all the fun was over, I discovered the camera..... at the bottom of my purse.

So check out last year's Appomattox Railroad Festival pictures, what a great event!
(Wow, it's crazy to see the home site a year ago in these pictures!)


Again, as the temperature outdoors vascillates from sunny short sleeves mid-day to sweaters and socks at night, we marvel at the coziness and warmth within the still-no-systems-installed off grid prefab house.

And realize this will be one of the last weekends at this stage, with no heat except that of the passive solar house kit design, the thermal mass, the energy efficiency of the SIP (structural insulated panels)...


Zero Energy Passive Solar Prefab House Kit

Before you know it, the radiant heat will be radiating, the cookstove will be cooking, I will be making huge pots of stew to feed masses of cold, hungry chillunz seeking warmth from the frosty, wet outdoors...

I'm excited.
And nostalgic of the past years of survivial camping...
But not nostalgic enough. ; )

We had friends visit, so for the first time, our prefab house kit was graced with... a baby overnight camping-in-the-house-kit guest!  That was fun. She is at the cute babbling age, full of wonder and enthusiasm, and we had a great time passing her about our arms, giving her parents a (milliseconds) break.

HOWEVER, I realized upon awakening the morning after our dark Friday arrival that................................... maybe this wasn't the greatest weekend to have a baby visit: we are under construction again and there are electrical wires................ everywhere!
(Don't worry, not hooked up, but still!)


Pat Root is working hard on wiring the off grid zero energy house kit, and my staging of the illusion that this is an actual livable home has succumbed to the reality that we are, face it, still under construction!


Baby survived, happily gurgling.
It is a gorgeous, gorgeous weekend. I am reading "The Hornbook of Virginia History" in the middle of... Virginia history.

In the meantime one child is thwacking bbs into homemade targets while the other builds a stick house, and momma is off with her bow.

-later-

Jason Dorris stopped by, and we had a good, quick meeting to get us through the week.

We are rethinking placement of the solar energy batteries.  
Suggested by the solar company, the solar battery bank placement was not embraced by our building inspector, so we will contact the SIP manufacturing plant engineer tomorrow to see if our default engineering of our prefab house kit will accommodate moving the battery bank to the north roof.

We are also installing the new firebricks in the wood cook stove and sealing and adjusting it to be acceptable within a tight envelope of a SIP house.
(How do you like my huge cast iron pan, below, already on the stove top?)
Huge cast iron pan, my triumph of a find in the local thrift store!
Handsome Husband working on the cook stove.

Aaaaaaaaaaand the composting toilet.

Pre-Composting Toilet Bathroom View
Well, I don't know what is going on psychologically, but it appears guests are compelled to embrace the throne a little too enthusiastically.  I might have to inquire on an upgrade / expansion of capacity.

It must have been all those years of camping on the land where we'd nod vaguely in the direction of the hills, hand 'em a shovel and say, "Bathroom's over there..."


Which also relates to our next future construction stage: plumbing, and water in the off grid zero energy prefab house kit.

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10/1/10

Who Are We Kidding. It's A Prefab Party House! Big Ugly! Come Baaaaaack!


If you recall, I left the off grid green prefab Sunday having just finished seeding the field as it started to rain.
Well, it has rained every day since then. So we have nothing new to report on the mounting of solar heat for the zero energy passive solar prefab house kit.

This weekend? I'm gone.

 

Are you gonna miss me?

Oh, don't you worry. Guess who I brought on to keep you company?
Remember my Nekkid Friend Big Ugly Lauralyn?

She wrote down her forthright thoughts after visiting us in the off grid zero energy prefab house kit, and here they are, with her photographs.
Well, not her nekkid pictures, but her house kit photos...
Aw, come on, don't be so disappointed, this is a CONSTRUCTION blog, not Sex In The City!

BIG UGLY NEKKID LAURALYN VISITS THE OFF GRID PREFAB HOUSE KIT!

Big Ugly and
A Strange Figure In The Background

"Recently, I had the honor and the pleasure of joining Copeland and her family at their beloved zero energy prefab house kit - in idyllic Charlotte County, Va... I am so grateful that I didn't make the grave mistake of waiting any longer than I already had - to finally go and see for myself, how the project is coming along.

Up until the time of my visit, I had followed the construction progress via Copeland’s regular updates on her blog…and although her recaps of each subsequent trip to “The Land” (as the family refers to their property) have kept me informed, I am admittedly more of a ‘hands-on” learner. And so, until I was literally there on site, pointing at things and asking questions as they arose - I was (for the most part) fundamentally ignorant about applied off-the-grid living.

Over the course of the last couple of days leading up to my mini-retreat, the recent installation of the composting toilet fairly well dominated all dialog between Copeland and me. I was overjoyed to learn that the “pee pail” was now obsolete (hooray!) and I felt justified in greedily calling first dibs on christening the new potty since I was to be the guest, after all. But in my haste, had I not erroneously signed up to be a guinea pig of sorts? I mean like seriously …what if I did it wrong and there was I dunno – a malfunction, or…an accident or - perish the thought I should break the revered composting toilet……or something…

Big Ugly Composting Toilet

Upon further consideration I decided to forfeit what I'd previously considered to be the privilege of a houseguest thinking, “Mmmaybe I’d better let someone more knowledgeable or brave test those waters (in a manner of speaking, of course).

Copeland, her kids and I traveled to “The Land” together - which was great, because not only did it afford my old chum and me - hours during which to enjoy long-overdue girl-talk, but it was also as if I had my own private tour guide interjecting interesting information about the region, and pointing out landmarks as we made our way there. The closer we got to our destination, the more rural and scenic the countryside became, and the more Copeland’s enthusiasm crescendo-ed. I relished seeing my dear friend so palpably smitten with the geography and community that ensconces her prized slice of heaven.

One particular highlight (especially for me) was our snap-decision detour onto a mostly abandoned Main Street on the edge of the town closest to “The Land”. As an amateur photographer I was drawn to the decay of the derelict buildings and I could not wait to come back and explore…I should also mention, that before I returned home, I had no more space left on the memory card that I specifically cleared for the trip. Never before have I filled my camera in such a short amount of time. And that was even after I’d deleted a bunch of the duds in order to make way for more good ones! Needless to say, the prefab, “The Land”, and the surrounding environs are photographically – beyond compelling and inspiring.


We arrived on “The Land” just before sunset, so there was some urgency to bring our things inside and get the house illuminated before dark. You know? I’d just completely overlooked the fact that the solar-powered electrical system was still a few weeks away from completion. I’m conditioned to enter a house, flip a switch, and have light. But here’s the thing - not being able to do so, didn’t matter a bit - because by now all this stuff is second nature to Copeland, she has a system and it’s terribly efficient. Before I’d even finished fetching our bags from the car, she had the place aglow in candlelight, her kids were eating dinner and she was nearly done making the beds…amazing…


I was delighted that I hadn’t missed the opportunity to stay (at least once) in the candle-lit house before the power was hooked up. It was not only ambient and relaxing but it also helped to instill a much greater appreciation for what Copeland and her family have dealt with over these many months, in order to stay in the prefab for the sake of enjoyment as well as to keep tabs on construction. Not the least of which - the absence of utilities that I personally take for granted, e.g. heat, running water and on-demand lighting.


Over the weekend, as Copeland answered my many (sometimes absurd?) questions, and as I followed her around in the midst of her routine, I realized a couple of things:

1.) When the prefab is completed, and the Casatis are enjoying its cozy yet modern aesthetic and gloriously efficient and green functionality, I dare say that after staying there time and time again over all four seasons - washing outside under the solar shower, reading by candlelight, bundling up for warmth, storing food in a cooler, cooking on a camp stove and using a pee pail for well…you know...staying in the house with a solar-powered electrically run – pump for the collected rainwater and lighting and heat and refrigerated food and of course – the composting toilet…will feel downright decadent…

but…

2.) After hearing about their plans to cook meals on an antique wood-burning cook stove, and wash laundry with an OLD school wringer-washer and hang it out to dry on a line, and take baths in a livestock trough and so forth - my admiration for the Casatis’ commitment to living as green as physically possible, increased exponentially…but I also now realize that I myself, as a dreaded consumer, would find what they will consider a comparatively easy lifestyle - to be difficult to pull off day to day. I live my own life in such a reprehensible hurry, for instance - I have four kids and need the option of doing many loads of laundry and fast.

Suffice it to say, it was just the most wonderful thing to have no choice but slow down and live simply, and conscientiously – even if for only one (pre)fab-ulous weekend…with Copeland and her family on “The Land”…

Footnote: The composting toilet was the absolute shiznit - and it wasn’t even scary, at all! Ok, so it was kinda big and imposing (my feet didn’t quite reach the ground) and it did feel sorta wrong to exit without flushing, and pour in coffee grounds and sawdust when done…but most importantly - it worked! And with no drawbacks at all that I could see (smell?)…Honestly? Since being back home, I’ve felt guilty every time I’ve thrown my coffee grounds away… "

Copeland's Note:
Can't wait until Big Ugly Lauralyn comes back again, next time hopefully with her children!

I realize most of our prefab house kit clients will have zero desire to strip away the energy use as much as I do. For myself, coming from a family farm where there was an outdoor well pump before in-house water, I remember lesser but efficient systems and re-embrace it.

A lot of it makes sense - like our non-electric coffee grinder. Why add electric? Add coffee, turn the handle! Some of the later inventions, especially in appliances, are just pure lazy.  Thrift stores are full of those 70s "time savers," usually touting, As Seen On TV. Really? Do I really need a plastic egg peeler? Or do I just frickin peel the egg?!?

With our professional overworked backgrounds in technology, for ourselves the choices we make for our own zero energy house kit are about Doing Lots More With Less, and approaching life as One Big Science Experiment while relearning how to relax.  This is where we want to spend the rest of our lives, doing more with less, and not needing or depending on energy wasting, oft-breaking tools to do so.

And who are we kidding? This structure t'ain't austere: It's A PREFAB PARTY HOUSE!!!
Lauralyn! Come baaaaaaaaaaaaack!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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