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Prefab Home's Zero Energy Systems Update: A Chest Freezer Turns Into An Off Grid Fridge, HRV Progresses, A Farm Auction, 4-H, and Old Time Music!

An off grid green prefab home where chickens and goats and dogs and children
and parties and noise and even straying cows will always be welcome.

This is the last I will say about the feathers flyin' over urban chickens. #FamousLastWords
Prefab house kit updates after this brief, fine-feathered jump.

Ultimately, the urban chicken issue in Richmond / Henrico is an educational and cultural divide, as well as an unwillingness of zoning to look at what their professional colleagues are doing nationally today in regards to sustainability.

In summary:
[Prefab house kit updates coming up, after mah rant!]
  1. Urban chickens highlight an cultural and educational divide – neighbors that garden love them, those that have Pizza Hut deliver nightly and ChemLawn maintain their lawn don’t.
  2. Note the rise of preventative medicine as doctors are educated on - > educate patients on eating more healthy, better. With that education, eating lifestyles change / awareness of the benefits of local, non-factory farmed food. Neighbors adverse to chickens are most likely not connected to their food source.
  3. Backyard eggs are HEALTHIER:
  4. The real deal on USDA:
  5. Rise of people enjoying and relying on food gardening -> gives way to urban chickens as urban communities become more interested in sustainability.
  6. It's about the right to provide your family with healthy, humanely treated, local chickens & eggs.
  7. UN Human Rights Declaration, Article 25
It's Friday. There's nothin' left for us to do but head out to our friends' farm potluck and cry into mah drink.

As we high-tailed it out of Richmond, we left it all, them all, all of last week, happily behind.

We raced out to the prefab house kit, threw the dogs within the prefab, hastily dropped the kids off at 4-H for their first weekend camp experience, then hauled back over to our friends' farm, Frog Bottom Farm, just in time for dinner. *Phew.*

Welcome to 4-H!

We spent a lovely evening visiting our friends Lisa & Ali... To anyone gathered there that night (and it was a feast!) the issue of a few birds in a big, fenced in back yard was... silly. We left it behind, and instead focused on the delicious food and kind company (also in attendance were our dear friends Steve & Chris of Aults Family Farm, and new friends Eli of Eli Greens and Darby & Adam of Fertile Crescent Farm).

Freshly roasted (from their BACKYARD) chicken (ok fine I had to mention that...
; ) ), hearty lamb stew, a variety of delicious greens, cobbler, chocolate mousse... are you hungry yet? We eat WELL at farm potlucks. What fun! What good eating! Thanks, Lisa & Ali...

At one point someone was talking to Handsome Husband about our off grid prefab house.  Now, the prefab house kit itself, the SHELL / weather tightness might have gone up in a week but you may have noticed we are, um,  taking our own darned sweet time finishing it.  "Your prefab house looks fantastic..."
"Oh no." I assured. "I just clean up and make things look pretty each weekend and then pretend that it's a real, finished home. Plus I'm really good at cropping children's toys and beer cans out of photographs."
[I will now entitle this photo, "I Give UP!"]

We are UNDER CONSTRUCTION again with the plumbing, HRV, and solar heat installation to a point I can not delude myself otherwise.

Prefab Home - Off Grid Systems Update

Take a look:

However, refocused and well fed, I am happy to report that the HRV installation and ductwork is going nicely and should be finished next week. Also the VMI basket ball court on the hall ceiling looks rather awesome!

It was an extremely windy day, with *high* wind everywhere that blew the car back and forth across the road as we drove. It's always interesting to be in the prefab house kit on roaring days like this because inside? Inside, it's still. Not the whiff of a draft. You could watch a speck o' dust slowly, slowly descend. IF you wanted to. I did. Pretty neat. The only draft I ever get is if someone walks past me. It's like a human cutting a wake through the air - "Whoa, what's that? Oh, Handsome Husband just walked past."

When we arrived in late afternoon, within the passive solar off grid prefab home it was 63; when we returned later that evening after a fun night out and the nightly drop in temperatures (*with no wood stove yet lit*), it was 60.8. Now we're firing up the cook stove, but with a sweater on I am definitely not shivering, and remarkably cozy.
And, after this week, tired.

And for our next trick, we will
turn this freezer into a solar powered fridge!

Now I get to play with my Big Experiment, turning the Haier Chest Freezer into a off grid, energy efficient fridge. I *love* its dimensions. It actually matches the space I would use, if anything it's rather big, especially as I can more and more...
So everybody STEP BACK. And, er, someone hand me a wrench. Or that thingy. The screw driver thingy. Yeah, that one.
'Cause I am going to...
Oh wait. Handsome husband is already messing with my project.
"We will take off the top."
"You're doing WHAT?"
"The fridge will be in the kitchen island and will take up precious counter top space with its top lid.(The counter top will be more basket ball flooring stood upright and glued like a butcher block).You replace the top, with a section of counter top split in half so that we can open either side without having to shuffle bowls and cutting boards off of the surface. The other part of the counter top is occupied by a double sink (one with a removable cutting board lid for the same reason)."

Hmmmm... Um... To consider.
Meanwhile, I worked hard slowly waking up in the sunshine sipping coffee and watching Handsome Husband unscrew the grill, then turn the appropriate screw accordingly to adjust the freezer thermostat to be more like a fridge.  We turned it twelve full turns counter clockwise, and will see what the temperature reads as we experiment over the next weeks as we put it to use. The outer dial is set to 1.
[NOTE: Later: Wanted those interested in the chest freezer conversion to know that in the end we couldn't quite get the manual temperature to adjust so successfully converted it by attaching a power timer device - set it to turn on for 1/2 hour every 2 1/2 hours and that works *great*!]

Now... off to the Annual Madisonville Farm Auction!

Not a mile up the road, the annual Madisonville Consignment Auction was taking place.
EVERYONE was there. 
For many, it is a day long event- half the family is buying while half the family sells.
There's kids playing football, moms selling stew and bbq, the Amish had a huge tent selling sandwiches along with their usual fare of jams, breads, pies...
And in the corner of the field? Way far away? An enthusiastic game o' volleyball.
Let me tell you, there is NOTHING cuter than seeing a gang of Amish kids playing volleyball with a bunch of kids in camouflage.

Heading next to the recycling center to recycle the boxes in which the chest freezer & solar hot water tank came, we were pleased to learn about a new recycling program Charlotte County is implementing- "Take What You Want, Leave What You Don't"! Yep, Charlotte County is the ONLY local county that has EXCEEDED its state-wide requirements for recycling, and it taking it to the next level- freecycling! Nice.

Back To The Wood Cook Stove!
With the work on the HRV, the prefab house kit's efficiency is being affected again, but not nearly so as when we were installing the inverter.  Like then, we will take extra care to re-insulate any penetrations / thermal bridging.

An efficiency note, regarding our sealed up, fresh air piped in, retrofitted old cook stove: Once thing we've noticed about the chimney is that there is no smoke emissions, which means we've dialed up the cook stove in its efficiency to where it's... how do you explain this? It's almost like it's a flame-less fire? There is no wasted output that goes up in (literally) smoke? I'm so thrilled this special antique was able to be retrofitted to continue to work and function, today, and for many more decades...

More On Our Prefab House Lay Out With Off Grid Systems
A big, honkin' solar heat tank.

Because we chose slab on grade vs. a basement, and because we chose to be an off grid zero energy home, we have to adjust a bit to accommodate our off grid prefab's systems.

Where I would like to have an airy transition between the middle bedroom with a translucent, shelved wall that would allow light to filter through while allowing privacy, where I would have my kitchen farm cabinet with a work station and lots of open cabinets for my vintage pottery... we have SYSTEMS.
Big, honkin', awkward, but off grid STUFF.

Check out our solar tank, waiting in the corner to be installed. ->
We have one tank for domestic hot water, and a larger one for heat (pictured), because we have two systems- one is open loop, one is closed. So we might (hopefully never) run out of hot water but we won't run out of heat.

With the solar panels installed and the beginning of the solar hot water tubes rack, the prefab house kit is beginning to lose its airy open elegance and start to look like a machine. I embrace that. Like a daunting Clearly A Machine Not A Mini-Van sports car, it looks ready to elbow out the competition and race race race to the "I don't need ya, Big Oil!" finish line. And with "Inherit This, Childrenz, One Day, And You Can Be Sustainable Stylin' Too" durable, timeless style.

[The casa ti could be much 'softer' if one clad it in reclaimed wood, etc. I just like the hard, industrial, machinery style.]

And Community Gathered. Again!
ANY-HOO, dusk fell and we headed into the city, Pamplin City (which, by the way, being population 199, is like five times bigger than Madisonville), for an Old Time Dance with bluegrass and old time music featuring Deja Moo! Who were playing with some of their friends! And we even won a Deja Moo CD in the raffle, which now holds the honorary title of "This was the first cd ever played in our prefab house and it's from Deja Moo!"
We're thrilled!


An evening of bluegrass and old time music, lots of smiles, all ages dancing, everyone in a great mood raising money to help restore the Library / Train Depot.  I love how it is just yards away from the train track, and right in the middle of the Tennessee Waltz the train rumbled through!

Pamplin Depot Library Fundraiser

We're now back at the house kit, with the Deja Moo cd playing in a laptop, tapping our toes and reading and smiling that we are so fortunate to be here.

On our way back out to Richmond, we stopped by our oldest and beloved friends here, Steve & Chris Ault of Virginia's renowned Aults Family Farm, who then, knowing we were now urban hen-less, loaded us up with FOUR cartons of pullet eggs (my favorite) and homemade goat cheese... now THOSE are good neighbors, dear dear friends, OUR community.

Like many of our friends already here, we're taking month after month, year after year, to slowly get here.
Weeks like this remind me why.
Now we return "home," to a chicken-less yard and violet-obsessed neighbors.
Is that really home?
Maybe, even still under construction, home is already here.
Pamplin Depot Library Fundraiser

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At 3/1/11, 12:01 PM , Anonymous Lisa said...

You know, that mousse was made from our layers' eggs too! Yum. So glad you got some eggs from the Aults to see you through these next days.

What a lovely weekend, all of it. Next year I want to go to the Madisonville auction too! Is it the same weekend every year, do you know?

I'm curious to know too how camp was!

At 3/1/11, 3:30 PM , Blogger Passive Solar Prefab Homes said...

I can't wait to talk to you about camp, they had a SUPER time. The auction is the same time every year so next year we can all get organized and head over at the same time, then maybe over to our house for lunch!

Thanks for such a wonderful, wonderful evening, as you can see it was exactly what we needed to lift us from the week.


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