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6/6/11

Prefab House Kit : Off Grid Home Site Is Graded, Cistern Work, And Musings On Appomattox


I did not expect it, but upon arrival to the zero energy, off grid prefab home, WOW what a DIFFERENCE the grading around the prefab home makes!!!




No longer does the slab show; it's now tucked snugly away, already increasing our energy efficiency with insulation underneath, around, but now: topped with earth!  Instead of hills off to the side, we now have a gently sloping area, easy to maintain and mow without concern the tractor will tip. But the most  noticeable difference is we no longer need to step UP into the house- the landscape is now level to welcome you out for your next adventure on the land!!!!

This is a *lot* deeper / bigger than it looks!


Look at that Future Natural Pool! I tell ya, it IS hard standing around in this heat staring yearningly at that dry, barren basin. But my imagination gives me hope: I picture lush reeds, cool respite, even a bit of shade somehow (I have been thinking of some creative approaches to that, by the way, that don't involve leaves...).

Saturday morning we headed into Appomattox for riding lessons and to celebrate the antique store B & L's twelfth anniversary in business!




We became fans of B & L's awhile ago when I discovered the left room with all the neat nick-nack finds, and were welcomed warmly by Linda and her husband, who grew up and fell in love here. I love to hear Linda's own growing-up-with-a- wood cook stove stories.  I have gotten quite a few useful pieces for the off grid prefab home from them - cannisters for flour & sugar, cute 1970s kitschy owls to put in "The Woods Room," and my beloved, HUGE cast iron pan for the wood stove! (Ahhhh, that pan. Can you say, "Hello, friiiiiiiiiiied CHICKUN?)

Let's switch gears to briefly discuss urban planning and tourism.
Appomattox. Please do not move that visitor's center.
1. It is a friendly, historic, welcoming building - a train depot! Charming! And it's already paid for!
2. It is in the midst of your retailers and restaurants!

Are you kidding me? Picture it: Tourists arrive to the Visitor Center because they want to orient themselves and discover what to do next. They've just driven awhile, and just want to relax and stretch their legs. Thankfully, Main Street welcomes them with plenty of parking, and interesting things to explore while they revive their weary legs.
So.
Don't greet them on the highway (Ew, cold & desperate, honeychiles, cold and desperate).


This is not South of The Border, this is Where Our Nation Reunited! 


(Does this remind anyone of that Desperation Scene in Cars? Where the lost cars encounter desperate townsfolk?)
Don't set upon them on the interstate, instead, gently happily lead 'em straight into the true, warm, welcoming heart o' Appomattox!


[re: Desperation Scene In Cars. Watch: Ok fine I couldn't find the scene I wanted where I could embed it- where Van and Minnie (get it, Minnie Van, ha?) get lost and meander off the interstate to be scared off by the heartfelt enthusiasm of Radiator Springs, now forgotten and bypassed by an interstate...Don't bring the town Visitor Center to the interstate, bring the tourists to you!...

As we drive out to the land each week, we see more and more of Virginia becoming destroyed, molded into Anywhere USA... weekly, quickly, it happens and the local character is demolished with bland new, insipid structures.  For the record, I see LOTS of value in being Appomattox, Charlotte Court House, Brookneal and more right now, *preserving* what is special and different.]



Even people on bicycles and motorcycles feel comfortable navigating Main Street! Sidewalks welcome all with a gander to stroll! These visitors have spent hours driving; they don't want to stop at some new, could-be-Anywhere USA Rest Stop to then... get back on the highway! (How impersonal!)

Picture: They enter the Visitor's Center, peruse the walls of pamphlets, use the restrooms... Now what?
Here's what: They want to sit & read over their options. I mean, they don't know what's going on this weekend aside from the one Destination Event they came here for, right? How do they discover everything else?!? Ahhhhh look at those lovely sidewalk benches! Just the thing! Let's sit down in the shade and ponder this stuff.

"Hey wait, didja see those Antique Stores, Herb?" (Myrtle is off like a shot, down the street, with a map of antique stores in her hand.)
Herb: "Waaaaait, Myrtle! Did ya see this place Baines Books & Coffee has MANDOLINS?!? And aisles and aisles of books on history and best sellers and classics and anything you want to read?!? And they have an OLD TIME BAND playing tonight, and some darned good scones!!!! Did you see the flyer at their counter?!? It says there's also a band playing in the park Friday!"

Myrtle and Herb spend three or four hours shopping, taking a walking tour of all the historic homes, snapping pictures, and creating memories as they spend dollars on and around Main Street.

Now it's time to check in to their bed & breakfast. They've put their drive behind them, and are already relaxed! Tomorrow? They'll have a great breakfast before trundling happily off to the other end of town, to check out the new branch of the Museum of The Confederacy of which they'd read so much! Which, providing the counterpoint and balance to retail, leads as a gateway to their next stops for another great day: battlefields at Appomattox Court House, camping, Blue & Brew festivals at the 4-H, delightful respite and swimming at Holliday Lake, hiking, the many lovely discoveries as they venture further out before returning home.

Please don't move the Visitor Center. 
Moving the Visitor Center is a bad, bad urban planning idea.

Speaking of tourism, and discoveries:
I discovered two things today I did not know along this street I thought I knew so well.

That Dollhouse Museum, which we regularly pass and never seems open: we may not have stumbled on it open yet but I did finally learn its thoughtful history:




And in The Appomattox Gallery, I finally wandered into the far end of the store, where, to my puzzlement, I saw:

I don't smell restaurant smells...?
(Well, wait a second, they're offering sandwiches and salads so no, it's not like a belching smellz burger joint, folks!)
Ooooh. I adore cucumber sandwiches!
Look. At. THIS:

I present:
Tea!

Charming tables draped in vintage linens, pretty crockery, all just waiting, ready, quietly for Ladies To Lunch to arrive. The tea room is open... seven days a week, from twelve to two.

As an outsider I had to stumble on it several times to discover it, she, who, all along, was ready and waiting for us.
Now.
We.
Know.
Do it!

Make sure you also wander down to Antiques & More, just a half block further. She has a house full o' old finds, a beautiful smile, and doesn't want the Visitor Center to move, either.


While I'm on a tangent, dreamily picturing myself as Mayor For Life of Appomattox, (That's 'Supreme Dictator Empress Yes Ma'am' to you...) let's discuss the new farmers market.
Now, I know something about farmers markets, having many of my friends here (Aults Family Farm, Frog Bottom Farm, Eli's Greens, Fertile Crescent Farm...) being well known & beloved farmers in our Richmond markets & CSAs... but I also helped (and still do) Lisa Dearden start up one of the biggest farmers markets in Virginia, with over 47 farmers / vendors, My Manakin Market, this spring.

So. Appomattox. Back to yooooou.
Lose the Friday evening market. Open Saturday morning. Sure, you then don't have the "convenient" rushing-home-from-work crowd (they're going to Walmart anyway, no?).  Instead they'll return, refreshed and happy to see their friends and neighbors as they socialize and shop before the heat and chores set in.  With that, you increase your audience as day-trippers and weekend tourists roll by. Previously, tourists might arrive at 10-11ish, as nothing was open before then. NOW they can leave at the crack of dawn, drive an hour or two while they chat, wake up, get excited about their APPOMATTOX WEEKEND, park, walk to the market (because of course your market will not be in some Random Automobile Parking Lot In An Industrial Area but on the field in front of the court house or at Wilburns, all walkable and easy to then walk to the stores as they open!)...

Taaaaa-daaaaaa! Ok now let's move on, and back to the off grid prefab house kit construction.

We also did, thanks to Justin Layne, quite a bit o' Bulldoze-Tree-Release this weekend.
What. You've never heard o' Bulldoze-Tree-Release?!?
Well, take the philosophy of Crop Tree Release, and add a bulldozer.
Dagged weed trees...
Now, a scrawny stand of oaks can spring free to grow tall...
The old cedars are not strangled...
and an orchard will be born.

I'm Officially calling this next part of the post, A Very Bad Idea.
Which the childrenz enthusiastically refer to as, "Snorkeling In The Cistern!"
Which takes Dumpster Diving to a whole new level.


The guys dropped two pipes into the cistern, plus needed the pump placed. The pipes must be retrieved, so Child Labor was Conscripted, who happily squeaked their enthusiasm.

Do not try this at home, we opened all the ports for air & light, and disclaimer, disclaimer, disclaimer, yada-yada-yada.

"Hey, Momma. Do you want to watch?!?"
No.

Do not try this at home, folks.
In fact, let's just never do or mention this again.
Childrenz: "IT WAS LIKE STAR WARS!!!!!!!!!!! YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

On a quieter note, the birds were calling and calling to each other all weekend. I heard quail, owls, some interesting calls I can't identify, and thankfully, the whippoorwill I have enjoyed for years!
But wait! It gets better! This time I SAW HIM!!!! Sadly, YOU can't see him, because was so dark, but there he was on the ground right near the tire swing & wood pile singing his *heart* out. And then, a *BAP!* - something explodes right above him, and I think it was his mistress landing to pay him a visit. Check it out!


Whip-poor-will

Ahhhhhhhhhh, summer nears, and with it my House Frau In The House Kit emerges.
I began to attack the construction mess and now insist we begin to put this house literally in order.
So no more soldering, sawing, and sanding inside guys, y'hear???



As I began to frantically, desperately sweep my off grid house kit back into a home and not a job site, I dreamily dreamed of water in my cistern, rain barrels, and natural pool. Water. Water...

When it heats up in Virginia, that just means you head to water. Just like these guys!
Somehow I don't think our building inspector would approve:




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