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1/23/11

Prefab Home's Zero Off Grid House : Kitchen And Tub

It was either we, or the HRV and reused claw foot bath tub we bought off Craigslist for $200, that would journey in the car to the zero energy prefab home this weekend...

It is freezing. So I hung back with the chillunz and made oatmeal cookies (remember, we're trying out grains to grow and this week is Oats Week), while Handsome Husband transported the HRV and an antique refinished claw foot tub out to the prefab house kit.



In honor of our claw foot tub being dragged out to and installed in the prefab, here's a claw foot tub I found made out o' Legos! Our 8 year old is impressed.
Lego Antique Clawfoot Tub by Lego Master Builder Jonathan Eric Hunter.

Yep, the livestock trough we were using as a tub just didn't cut it in the end. But will certainly be recycled in the field... as a livestock trough.

More on Max The Plumber later - here he inspects the claw foot tub. In Germany, you'd call his level of expertise between a Master Plumber and Engineer. Welcome, Max, to our off grid prefab house project. We are grateful to have you.
The HRV has arrived!

Awhile ago, we mused on how we might best utilize the off grid kitchen in our off grid zero energy prefab house... and we revisit that now:
(Way too clunky, this needed modern refinement, but we were writing down initial purposes,
space in this first kitchen island idea...)

Here are my off grid modern kitchen notes, since:
  • Immediately after that kitchen post, that perfect, top opening freezer model I feel in love with was discontinued. Finding AFFORDABLE top opening drawers on refrigerators is difficult. For off grid, nigh impossible. But take heart - many people are just taking chest freezers and turning them into fridges. Still.  (also: see here!)  YES we could purchase the off-the-shelf perfect refrigerator for zero energy off grid living; but you know me: It is hard to resist a Crafty Affordable Science Project! 
  • The pots & pans needed to be reversed with the fridge in the original sketch- why locate the fridge so close to the hot wood cook stove (which would be to the left of this area)?  
  • We no longer need the compost well (that lift-able lid to the left of the sink where I could amass scraps to then carry to a composting pile outdoors every week like we do in our current home) because kitchen scraps are easily tossed into our composting toilet daily!
  • We found the antique wood cook stove, then modified it for a SIP / energy efficient / tight envelope house, which changed the game considerably- now those pots and pans storage illustrated previously, above, are within the cook stove base, and the extra cast iron pans I intend to hang within reach. Plus I no longer need to worry about solar cooking a big ole Thanksgiving Turkey! (Impossible...) It will be easily achieved now, in autumn's chill, while providing warmth, thanks to mah cook stove oven! (Did I mention I love my cook stove? I love, love, LOVE my cook stove...)
  • Again: With the cook stove: We are implementing summer burner plans: To switch over from wood to a usual, expected propane burner DROPPED IN to the cook stove top, for summer use. You'll see, it will be cool... and we have our usual, beloved solar oven for regular, easy oven heating... 
  • And more on summer: Later, we could implement a summer kitchen, just like on my, and my husband's, ex-family farms, for bigger jobs... Except this one will be the very low cost version vs. sturdy separate structures... more on that this spring. Think: How To Build An Earth Oven and such... I mean, heck: we have PLENTY of clay in Virginia... and it will keep the children busy.
  • FOOT PUMPS. When water is scarce, why let it run?!? 
    We got an EZ-Flo Commercial Foot Pedal for about $50. SO worth it. They usually retail for $150.
You may have noticed we love to have friends over. And that I enjoy cooking... Each time, our friends ask, "Why don't you just bring the dishes over to our farm and we'll just stick them in the dishwasher for you?!?"


No, really, I refuse politely: I LIKE washing dishes by hand on the picnic table in twenty degrees outdoors in January. From a frozen water cube forgotten outdoors the night before. Often, in the rain. IT'S FUN!

Also note our dishes are vintage. Discovered in thrift stores across Virginia, I may have scored some beautiful bargains but treat each pattern as if it were my Herend Queen Victoria. Clinking and clanging that old mid-century pottery in a dish pan isn't great for stewardship, I assure you.

We're going to cave: Give me mah dishwasher. [Eventually]
I consoled myself with Tree Hugger's analysis that really, it would be more efficient and conserve more water in the end! We'll just need to do more research on what will be most effective and a low power draw for an off grid prefab home.

Dishwashers are *energy hogs* - having solar hot water already heated will help.  See, the key is to have the water already hot via the solar water heater, so the dishwasher does not need to expend the energy to heat it. Here's what the 2009 Solar Decathlon participants used.

Here's our revised Kitchen Island, illustrated by Handsome Husband:
Concrete wraps the cook stove, adding thermal mass, consolidating it with the kitchen work area and sink.
The work area will reuse scraps from the VMI basketball court cut off when we created walls, and reused *again* to create a "butcher block" work space!
Back view: Cook stove now on right. The concrete will create not only thermal mass but a bar counter! Woo!
The ends of the kitchen island can be lined with more reused VMI basketball court, and shelves would be nice, to have a handy store o' Jefferson cups, wine & juice glasses at the ready!

The sink is actually going to be a double sink, which does two things: It allows us to wash dishes efficiently by hand in the meantime, and the second sink will act as the air vent needed for the sink in lieu of a pipe through the ceiling!


Behind the kitchen island, built in to the wall, here are our needs: Like farmhouse kitchens in the past, we will need storage for spices, flour, pasta, food mills, a work space, and utensils. I am hearing some doubters behind me in my male Greek Chorus that follows me on this off grid saga. Step aside, gents.

Here's a great antique example of a practical, functional kitchen farm cabinet with mills and grinders and spices at the ready:


This is my first pass at a modern version:
Sorry it's kinda light. Always exceedingly sophisticated,
I used crayons to draw this.

Next to it would be the refrigerator.

I do hear tell that Jason, upon hearing this, has volunteered to Be That Guy to tell me that due to our extra off grid systems space requirements, We Do Not Have The Space For This Cabinet, in order to preserve Our Marriage. You are a brave man, Jason Dorris. : ) I'm *jest sayin'* that IF our systems space allows... this is what I want. It's practical, functional, timeless. I understand it will be shallow dimensions, due to the off grid systems around it. But that doesn't mean it can't happen!


EET EES POSSIBLE!!!!! C'est tellement possible, messieurs.



Lordy, Lordy imagine the beating of my heart when I discovered the original dual temperature control, two drawer Haier freezer with which I had fallen in love originally was AVAILABLE. And for $299. Used as expected, this 5.3 cubic foot model uses normal amounts of energy.

But if we modify it...

Someone out there is saying, "Wait. If she's turning a freezer into a fridge, WHERE'S THE FREEZER?" Don't forget - as originally planned, our freezer will be on a separate system, most likely in the shed or root cellar.  We don't use the freezer for daily use - another reason why our refrigerator is small - local food is preserved, seasonally used, or still in the ground - so you don't need conditioned storage when the fridge is for just what you're using that week.

The freezer *will* need to be large- when I buy lamb, for example, we buy *A* lamb. Hello, venison. Hello, my regularly purchased quarter-of-a-cow...

Any-hoo, back in Richmond, my day kinda went like this:

In the meantime, I made cookies, soup and stock and, as I separated the fat from the chicken stock, I reminisced about when my old boss David Rothkopf made me eat smaltz (and drink a tad bit of vodka) at Sammy's Roumanian Steak House, in the East Village.

Max The Plumber starts work on Monday, installing the HRV, solar hot water tubes and finishing up the plumbing. THEN WE CLOSE THE WALLS. And interior design begins. Wow. The next weeks will be a blur!

And before you know it, it will be spring and I will be back in New Yawk for ICFF, y'all... My East Village Honeys: Prepare!




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