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7/25/11

Passive Solar Prefab Home : We Return!

The passive solar prefab faces the heat wave... and wins!
Just got off the phone with the family who visited our prefab home last week!
I was worried. I mean, how would their children react to 1. no tv 2. no video games 3. power conservation 4. water conservation 5. no air conditioning?!? Much less 6. THE COMPOSTING TOILET.
They had a blast. 
The mom: "We owe y'all some more bb gun pellets..." 

So, finally, we're back at the zero energy, passive solar prefab house!


Just like in winter, when the temperatures outside plummet into the teens and we camp in the prefab house, still without heat (at least this winter we had the wood cook stove) to see how far we could take our comfort level (we were comfortable!) in the passive solar, energy efficient prefab home, this weekend we headed out to the land with an extreme heat advisory:
"By 6 p.m., the city’s heat index was above 106.
The National Weather Service continued its heat advisory for the area today, warning of dangerously hot conditions, and urging residents to avoid outdoor exposure if possible.
The advisory lasts from noon to 8 p.m. today, cautioning that heat index values could reach 110."
From my friend Tricia G. in Deltaville,
via ImNotRightInTheHead.com
My mom: "Don't go out there, you will surely diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiie!"
[Well, that's translated from her Southern, Virginia Mother speak, which was truthfully: "Have yew re-con-SID-dered traaaaaans-port-ting the childrenz oot they-ah (waves hand, vaguely, in the direction of Farmville) in this heeeeeet?"]

We waited until the sun was setting to head out, so not to stress the dogs. It was hazy and over 100 degrees in Richmond.

I have noticed that the prefab home's placement on the land is not only great for passive solar functionality, but, because it sits atop a hill, there always seems to be a gentle, gentle breeze, even in  summer.

I opened the windows wide, and the night air entered.
We slept well.

At six, I rose and closed up all the windows tight, with the indoor temperature reading 79.  At 9:30, the temperature inside the prefab read 83. But our thermometer temperature thing-y is high, high up on a book case- it didn't feel that hot at all, especially with the ceiling fans...?

I came prepared for the heat with a few tricks I picked up from spending summers, without air conditioning, at Camp Moorehead in North Carolina: Thermoses and spray bottles are filled, then stored in the refridgerator so if (when?) you really DO get hot, you can mist icy spray towards yourself, through the air.  I can't tell you how many times after a long day of sailing we girls would sit, with our spray bottles, in the bunkers all crowded around one lone fan... misting... misting... talking... and that's how we spent our late afternoons before the heat finally began to wane in those hot, hot cabins.

I made sun tea, to then cool and store in the fridge, preparing for an afternoon of glasses routinely filled, sipping, sipping through the haze. The children got out board games and happily played.

Then we headed into Appomattox.


At 3p.m., we returned: it was a billion kazillion katrillion degrees in the field- those are the *official* figures! Inside the passive solar, zero energy prefab home with no air conditioning? 88.

YOU might think that's hot, but guys, the dogs weren't even panting. 
The children cooled off from the hot ride in from town by taking a 2" bath in cool, cool underground cistern water. We relaxed as the wind kicked up and hope of a rain storm arose.

Around 4:30 we broke out the Chilled Water Spritzer and *everyone* was amazed at how well just a few spritzes work, misted over heads and chests, cooling the body and air! We are in some of the hottest days, ever, and here we were giggling and refreshed and comfortable thanks to energy efficient passive solar design and a few tricks like ceiling fans, closing and opening windows when appropriate, and... water spritzers!

So, no, I don't feel the "need" for air conditioning, even on the hottest days of the year, if this is the worst we endure in the passive solar prefab. It was certainly hot, but unbearable? Not.

For a sleepy, historic Southern town under the duress of extreme heat, Appomattox was *rocking!*
What I especially appreciated was that each place we visited were all entrepreneurs doing great things to make this community so... vibrant, special, fun... 

As usual we started out at Baines Books & Coffee, and B & L Sales.
Here's Mr. & Mrs. Shupe of B & L Sales showing us some Halifax cantaloupes Mr. Shupe picked up in Forest!

Check out the Halifax Cantaloupe Festival!!!! We will have to visit this festival one year!

We also found some art we could NOT pass up at B & L Sales. 
I somehow managed to scrape together the finances to purchase this art for our mod art collection:
One for him, one for her. The farm house goes
in the "Woods" room, the other, well,
hopefully it will fall off the wall and break, soon.
She *loves* it.
Total investment? $6.

Then we took a risk and ventured farther for lunch to El Rodeo.
Now, I don't know about you, but my idea of good eating is not usually off an interstate, in a shopping center... But every time I saw the name El Rodeo an inside voice told me to consider trying lunch there.  I kept thinking, "This is either going to be really, really good or we will be extremely disappointed." 



We can't wait to go back!
The chips were warm, the guacamole homemade, the restaurant is run by family members who, like many of us again, are incorporating their children into their business...

Don't expect fancy; it was almost like you were visiting someone's Mexican Momma who could whip up refried beans and rice and real tortillas and was always feeding friends... (check out the rice- it had bits of peas, beans, peppers... it was the real deal, and delicious with a hint of lime)... The customers, when waiting to pay, spoke with and knew the children.  There was even a cute nephew visiting from Richmond (hey, *we* have a cute nephew who visits from Richmond! : ) ).

On the walls, handpainted murals. On your plate... ooof, we're still stuffed! Look up into the center of the room: They made it appear as if you are seated, at tables al fresco, right outside a home's roof line. Another marguerite and I will feel I'm really in Mexico!

Back into town, this time we strolled through, as we usually do, The Appomattox Gallery
Then on to Antiques & More, whom we also love to visit...
You know, they also have a shop on Church Street, and I have never gone, so Pipsqueak #2 and I resolved to go.  As we headed towards Atwood Street, however, we were waylaid!

To my daughter's delight, we happened upon the Grand Opening of Sweet Gallagirls, a dessert shop created by a mom, Lara Gallagher, who is due any moment with her fifth child. Pipsqueak #2 and the Gallagirls made  fast friends. Eating free samples of their delicious truffles certainly helped to break the ice!



Back at the passive solar prefab, around five the storm broke and we threw open the windows to the cooling rain.

Remember when, at the first sign of thunder or storm, we'd pack up hastily and flee because we had toddlers in a camper about to become mired?

Now we *love* the beautiful, breezy rains that slide over the fields, quenching the plants, cooling the land, awakening the frogs and plants to sing! And here we happily sit, cozy, comfortable, with the breeze channeled through the prefab house to cool every room... Beautiful, beautiful rain!

THIS is the sound of a cistern filling:


This house is so gorgeous & breezy in the rain...  The frogs are chirp, chirp, chirping in Frog Pond, aka The One Day This Will Be The Natural Pool... I love listening to the frogs, especially after the trouble they've had in recent years. So cool, so cute, so earthy!

Maybe we have Parisian frogs?


Dusk ebbed, the rain settled, then waned. Mist blanketed the ground.

Like high sparks rising off a camp site, the fireflies emerged and danced in the lower field.
Frogs sang from the pond, the trees, the woods...
and katydids whirred, whirred, whirred: surround sound in branches.

We turned our chairs around from the dining table, with windows wide open, to sit in the dark, facing the vibrant chorus and display downhill, and enjoyed the show.

At seven, it was 76 as we closed the windows for another hot day.

The rain, and ensuing heavy mist are perfect, perfect, perfect for nourishing the grass seed I had to plant in June! The mist remained, and, with it, a respite from the heat until the sun rose further.

So Handsome Husband bush hogged, and the children "mopped" the prefab, which sorely needs it after about two years with no water... but... when an eight year old mops, it was a bit of a mess.
So this is how we sopped up extra water from the prefab's concrete floor:

Starched white clothes do not exist in this household.

One thing I'd like to note in this extreme summer heat in regards to the passive solar prefab- see how the solar collectors have full access to the sun? Yet note how directly underneath is always in shade.
Niiiiiiiiiiiiiice.

The passive solar design allows daylight within the prefab home without heating the slab.

As the afternoon temperatures rose to Officially Sweltering, we chased each other indoors, ceiling fans whirring, spray bottles spraying, or quietly read books, resting.

Cool as cucumbers in the passive solar house, mom. Coooool as cucumbers.
Or, at least, comfortable as you get in this heat.



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