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Prefab House : Passive Solar In December As We Discuss "Stuff," Economy, Community.

At the passive solar prefab, not much is happening in terms of off grid systems.

Completely our fault, we have fallen behind on septic and solar hot water installation as Handsome Husband finishes his first weeks in his new D.C. job. We're excited about D.C.; Ohhhhh, but our hearts are here.

So this weekend, we are dragging more stuff out from Richmond to the land.

I know, I know, don't get me started on stuff.
I admit I was quite surprised, when packing, to finally face just how many collections of mid-century vintage china I have collected over the years.

It's not that I ever intended to be a Vintage China Whore.

Just as I never intended to be a Vintage Coat Whore.

But when it comes to reuse, recycling, appreciating and preserving found objects, well, I'm a kinda a ho for reusing and preserving coolio stuff. Great design, discarded, then found before it was smashed, and hence preserved, is something to cherish and appreciate! Yes, I'm guilty.
I'm going to blame it on my background in supporting preservation with the HRF & APVA. See, totally altruistic, ha.

When I find these gems, sitting unappreciated in some random, far flung thrift shop for $2, I think, "Don't they know that's Arabia?!? How did it come all the way from Finland to sadly end up here?!? I must save this coat / china / funky lamp and give it a loving home in a family that appreciates it!"

We also moved our beloved, notorious Urban Coop here this weekend... you know, from the neighborhood / unsustainable city that took our hens away...
Urban Coop to RVA, "Cluck you!"

That, like everything dear to our hearts we drag out to the prefab house, solidifies the fact that this is our home. The children can't understand why we're not "home" yet. Here, for them, has for forever been home. Even before we had the prefab house. A look back:
Where we started: first, camping through the seasons, with a 1 & 2 year old.
Wandering woods before we had shelter.
Then we acquired a shed...
Before finally, the foundation began onto which we build our passive solar,
off grid forever lives.

While the ground is still not frozen, each week as we can we plant, plant, plant more fruit trees, berries, and even, this weekend, a camellia to help conceal the battery bank from view, while providing me with fresh flowers in winter.

We saw the first sprigs of walking onions coming up! So excited for this hardy perennial to be already taking root.

On the car ride out, we had some provocative conversations regarding the United States economy...
Here's what Handsome Husband said:
"The US economy has grown over the last decade because private households were able to increase their spending by getting more and more into debt. The housing boom allowed people to borrow against imaginary increases in values of their homes - and spend. Everyone says that the majority of the US economy is fueled by private consumption. Foreign investors have not only bought this private debt as a 'secure' investment but have also bought US government debt for the same reason, making it cheap for both the government and private households to borrow. None of this is news but I began thinking about the German economy: How can Germany afford its much more expensive social services and still carry a low deficit AND significant growth of GDP? My suspicion is simple: The German economy is based on the success of its products in export markets, creating a trade surplus (taking more money in than spending on imports) i.e. PROFITS increase capital in German markets rather than DEBT. Food for thought."
Here's some links you might find interesting:
Ironically, in finding y'all the link to The Story Of Stuff, above, I saw they've just come out with another movie, that ties into our car ride conversation.

And here's a critique:

Both sides have points with which I agree and disagree. What do *you* think?

We headed in to Appomattox for the Christmas Parade with ice skating, carriage rides, and great local music and businesses to explore. Here, the community is still a majority of local business, full of old friendships, while welcoming newcomers.  In Appomattox, Pamplin, Charlotte Courthouse... the region is full of creative and business talent, with many families earning multiple sources of income, while also always planting food gardens so they're not so dependent on just "a job." Our neighbors are a good example: a family with an electrician career who also has a horse lesson / trail riding business while now building cabins for tourists to enjoy their farm on the weekends, while growing their own food and raising their own meat.

When electrician work is scarce, they still have multiple sources of income. When work is plentiful, they take the profit to expand their farm's functionality, like digging the pond / building cabins.

Towns like these might be, again, the future of the United States, not un-sustainable Suburban Anywhere, USA.

The childrenz loved the rink. You should have seen it- a rink full o' kids, wiping out. "Aaaaaa!" (bam!) "Oooooo!" (splat!) But I assure you, it was the highlight of each (runover, crying) child's memory. And when their parents said, "Ok, you've clearly had enough, poor thing!" they wailed, "Nooooooooooo!!!! I wanna skate!"

Here's Shakygrass. Can she sing or what?

Even Elvis paid a visit! Who IS this kooky awesome kid?!?

The music in south central Virginia is amazing. And the teens amaze me- in medium-sized cities, morphed with suburbia, teens have a totally different, non-centered outlook. Here, the kids are... it's hard to describe: centered, embracing  themselves with all their quirks, confident. They will do well in the world.

We wanted, as every year, to stay for the actual parade and lighting of the windows... but sadly had to return by dusk back to Richmond. Next year, we'll stay to the end.

Copeland's Venison Mushroom Ragout
Layer in a crock pot, set to 350 - 375...
  • Chopped Onions, layer one.
  • Ground venison, layer two.
  • I had opened, so threw in, a 1/2 a can of canned tomatoes, onion, garlic sauce
  • and then decided to add another can of canned tomatoes, onion, garlic & diced eggplant sauce
    (So if you don't can, then first chop & cook up some garlic, onions, and tomatoes. And maybe throw in some eggplant, in other words.)
  • LOTS of mushrooms, not cut too thinly, I usually halve the small ones & cut the big ones into 3
  • lots and lots of red wine!
  • Add salt, pepper, marjoram, & thyme to taste. 
The red wine cooks down a bit, don't forget, after you've cooked it a few hours... 
At the end, you can add it as a sauce over angel hair pasta and sprinkle with lots of parmesan if you like, or just serve it on its own. Make sure you break up all the venison into smaller bits once it cooks.

P.s. Here's another article for my Non-Existent Book Club In The Ether:
Class warfare: Should the rich be condemned?
No, but everyone, regardless of income, needs to live by the same rules, taxes, laws... and many do not.
This article does not take into account that if you create environmental pollution by creating businesses that just take resources / pollute their community like the steel factories that makes someone rich while exploiting the earth, then their money needs to restore and prevent it from ever happening again.

And, Zoning At 85: Is Zoning Still Necessary? (A must-read article!)

And for parents with children begging for a cell phone, Hang Up Those Cellphone Pleas (great points!)
"If you haven't established a college fund for the child, then the kid shouldn't have a cellphone. Don't allow your child to talk and text away money that could help pay for tuition, or at the very least buy textbooks."
That's frugal, practical advice, no?

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Thankful At The Off Grid Passive Solar Prefab Home Over Thanksgiving

Hey, y'all, it's Thanksgiving!
We spent Thanksgiving at my parents, then the long weekend at the passive solar off grid prefab house.
We are sooooooo Thankful in so many ways...
I am especially thankful today for *awesome* nephews who play football with my 9 year old.

Whether it be at Grandma's...

...OR tossing the ball at the prefab house.

Off Grid Green Prefab Building Note: This prefab house is still under construction. Next up to accomplish are the solar heat, septic, and *then* we can close up and finish the interior walls. The green you see are the SIP (structural insulated panels) still exposed.

We are thankful for the journey of and excited about The Very Interesting Year.
We are super thankful for our coolio, efficient, modern, off grid passive solar prefab house!

As I type, three childrenz are in three adjoining beds all staring up at stars, endless stars, cozy under blankets, giggling and talking (can ya please stop talkin'?) and watching shooting stars, watching stars, watching stars.

Handsome Husband, working in DC, didn't arrive until Saturday.

I thought this would be hard to do all by myself, and after living in New Yawk Cit-tay so long certainly I have no driving skills, but Friday I not only hauled my precious childrenz and Shop Dawgs by myself to the land, but I lugged along a trailer full o' shelving and organizing whatnot, and at the last minute tossed in Nephew #3 into the car... Heck if I'm going to do this Full On Independence Thang, I might as well add as many wrenches to the mix and conquer my fear of breaking down with a car full of beloveds!

Honeychiles, it's called seasoning the pan.

We had a blast. They talked and talked and talked as I drove... and they lessened, unknowingly, my apprehensions.

Like the drill sergant I am, we expediently unloaded and were all "Oh my gosh the sun is setting soon, we have to get X, Y, Z, and PDQ done NOW!!!!!!!!"

Until, seeing the gate open, Mr. J. S. came-a-callin' with his 5year old grandson. And, all swathed in blaze orange, with lots of whoopin' and noise making, he helped throw footballs and rake leaves over the younger generation.

Just so many moments, this weekend, knowing we're doing the right thing...
Having some friends over for a Soup Dinner, seeing Nephew #3 and Pipsqueaks interacting with them, making their own friendships with the adults, who, very generously, offered, "Come to our farm tomorrow, we'll have work for you."
"We can do chores tomorrow?!? YAY!!!!"
They understand these kind adults are doing something nice for them, not just chores - there might be a little shooting, if they're lucky a little horse /goat / sheep petting, maybe a little riding, a little friendship on their own... which is so important for children, forming their own relationships...

SIP house, interior still not finished.
Mr. B enjoyed watching Pipsqueak #1 and Nephew #3 take turns shooting the bb gun...
"It's a shame they have to always shoot one at a time... send 'em over tomorrow."

Dinner commenced, a lovely evening followed. Handsome Husband put on Sally's cd, my Oldest Friend #2... [she's in a band called HEM] and it was like hugging my sister albeit in New York, here, in our home...

Nice evening.

After everyone left, we kept playing Sally... Pipsqueak #2 started to dance, Sally sang, I washed dishes, and thought about all the people saying grimly, "Wow, that's going to be really hard on you guys..." about our lifestyle choice to live between the land and D.C....
If this is what hard is, I embrace it.

Here's Sally singing, live, "An Easy One," which we know this year won't be.

I really was missing Sally, listening to her sing at dinner unexpectedly.
I was telling our friends what it was like, growing up with Sally singing, and how she ended up in a band.
Here's her story.

We discussed how, by being exposed to other families, living with The O's, growing up with Sally's parents The E's, we felt SO. Much. Love.
And that conscious moment, where we chose, "We want to be like they are, love, laugh like they do..."

As Sally sings, in My Father's Waltz,
"Throw your overcoat over a chair
and lay all your lazybones down... May this night keep you here til tomorrow..."

What Sally touches on is something Nephew #3 now understands:
"I used to think it was weird y'all were always 'Gone to the land'... but now... " and he shoots me that beautiful grin, a face full of light and smiles, and I know he now knows what we know:
He now feels, first hand, the shelter, comfort, the warmth of friends, community here.

Off Grid Prefab Green Building Note:
Still without solar hot water, hence no radiant heat yet, the cook stove keeps the prefab cozy. Note the fresh air supply hose on the right provides fresh air to the stove so that, with (critical in an energy efficient home:) sealed combustion the stove does not affect indoor air quality.

Today I am thankful for so many great (country) neighbors who have become great friends.

I am also thankful, the day after the Soup Dinner, that no one else in my family likes salmon.
I am eating leftover salmon dip with leftover cornbread for breakfast, and it is gooooooood.

Salmon Dip
Mince 1 onion & put in mixing bowl with 1 pack of cream cheese + horseradish as you like. Heat a tad so the cream cheese mixes easier, & mix up with a (drained & boned) can of salmon and glugs of lemon juice. Refrigerate, then shape into an oval, serve with crackers or toasted bread. I like my dip with lots of horseradish & lemon!

I am thankful for no tv.
Pipsqueaks gotta make their own fun.
Yesterday? A boat made out of duct tape and found objects.

That them thar is a catamaran! I think.

Today? Thanks to the deep generosity of friends, I sent the childrenz first to The B.'s to do chores.
"What chores do ya need, Mr. B?"
They walked in, and apparently Mr. B said, "There's a gun. It's now yours. Go play."

And that's how we ended up with two bb guns. They are *thrilled.*
(And Mr. B.- I make sure they shoot five minutes
and then *switch* by the way, just fyi.)

We're *all* having shooting competitions now! (*Thanks* Mr. B!)

After lunch, they headed to The W's to work.
They *love* working at The W's... they actually fight (really, seriously) over shoveling manure.

Pipsqueak #2 had been *begging* to ride bareback, so today, since they worked enough mucking stalls (with great glee) to Mrs. W's approval, was Bareback Day.

Green Building Note: I am thankful for reinsulating well around the penetrations we poked in last year. This was the first winter in testing afterwards, and it has been great to see no effect on our function after we re-insulated. Always be sparing and judicious with penetrations!

And I am very thankful for the beloved, amazing mid-century house we will soon be leaving.
I wish we could pick it up and plop it down in a neighborhood it deserves.

Don't think I'm crazy, my parent's own home you see at the beginning of this post was built in 1801 and moved in the 1920's from a farm in Hanover to Richmond cit-tay.

This mid-century house, full of life and parties and an international, eclectic feel, deserves better.

But it's time to focus onward, and onward is towards, gypsy-like, Higher Ground and D.C.
Here's to The Very Interesting Year, and to finishing the passive solar off grid prefab home!

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More Thoughts On The Off Grid Passive Solar Prefab's Fencing, And The Very Interesting Year Begins

We stayed in the city this weekend, but that didn't keep me from musing on the off grid passive solar prefab... 
At the passive solar prefab house, we'd been busy posting rifle-totin' trespassers OUT: Yes, folks, it's that time o' year:
Rifle season has begun. 
From now until January 7th, blaze orange, with more blaze orange, is our favorite, favorite, favorite color scheme.
[Note to family confused by my freakishness because sure we wear blaze orange but what's the big deal?: Our property backs up to where a hunt club leases with members that travel 3+ hours to hope to bag something. Yeaaaaaaaah, now you get it. At the ready.]

We may be thinking about how to keep crazy rifle-totin' trespassers out, but around the off grid home, I'm thinking about how to keep things IN.

Beginning with the landscape architecture plan for the off grid passive solar prefab home, we now tweak it a tad, with the documentation on that beginning here.  We rethink the gorgeous hard lines of the original landscape architecture for a more realistic, organic feel as we now know, two years later, how our family really uses that living space surrounding the off grid prefab.

Considering boundaries of keeping things within, and keeping things out, I consider solar fencing.

Now all of our farming friends use fencing to keep livestock OUT. Think: Squares or circles of fencing penning animals in the fields to keep them contained AWAY from the house. What if we, instead, use fencing to keep animals WITHIN the house site area?

Consider: We have an old, old feral cat we captured adopted years ago that expects outdoor time, but we would prefer for him to not be eaten by coyotes. And our 14 year old toothless, hairless dog is not getting any younger and I suspect sometimes that his mind might (hence he begins to...) wander.

Consider: When we had urban hens until our city neighbors took them away (Don't. get. me. started.), our fenced in back yard was perfect for a small flock to freely roam, improving our back yard soil, reducing pests and weeds, without mess, giving us great delight as we'd look at them outside, they'd look in at us...

Containing our hens in an urban environment via a backyard fence worked great. But in the country, you've got more predators...

Consider: A solar fence, easily turned off for toddlers when they visit, still would help contain childrenz from the One Day This Will Be A Natural Pool even though we know visiting parents would not take their eagle eyes off a child, it just helps to make us all feel a smidge more safe.
At Richmond's 2nd Annual Coop Tour, I was inspired by a great coop & pen built among the trees - it gave me some great ideas for keeping chickens happy and healthy yet secure from predators when we're gone.

I also found two plans for automatic coop door openers / closers for weekends when we're away:
Now you can't talk fencing without calling up the Aults. 
So I did.

The Aults are our wonderful friends and country neighbors who raise 
and more
on their sustainable, natural farm

So they have a LOT of experience penning stuff up.

We spoke about the lay of our land, our plans...
...and this is what I've come up with: (Click to see the larger image)
Red = Solar electric fence
  • Contain animals and childrenz so tha' baaars don't eatz 'em.
  • Maintain clean, modern lines with the fence visible as little as possible by connecting the fence strategically: 
    • With the berries / Food Hedge: It wraps so that the fence along the north is on the south side of the hedge, hiding the fence from a visitor's approach, and on the east side of the hedge, it hides the fence from within the home. Note about that berry area: That area rises then descends to the field, to prevent water from going against the house. So we 
    • On the southwest, that part is actually downhill so it won't be as much in vision within the home as you think, and that west part won't be seen unless you're standing right there looking out from the southwest window
  • Connect the fence in a way that you can enter the prefab house without having to shut off the electricity. 
  1. Barn faces south, sheltering from the north wind.
  2. Fencing around the food garden is higher, to try to prevent deer 
  3. White fencing / Barn = Phase 2: Depending on what livestock we have, this will be altered.
I'm looking forward to hearing what our seasoned farming friends think about my fencing plan!

By the way: Handsome Husband began his new job in DC. 
Daily, he commutes by train... Our journey of The Very Interesting Year has begun. Already, a pattern emerges: Hearing the train toot gently in the dark as I sit, working at the laptop, children asleep, as it pulls into Richmond now has special meaning for me- Handsome Husband is home from DC!

In the morning, he leaves the children love notes to discover in their breakfast bowls...

This isn't easy; but we can do it, even love it, with a lot, a lot, a lot of love.

Speaking of bowls... at some point over the holidays you'll likely be cooking up some roasts and stuff. Here's an idea on how to turn leftover gravy and meat into an Imitating A Fast Food Idea That Then Is Done Healthy that you and your children will love with items you probably already have on hand.
Have y'all seen those KFC Mashed Potato Bowl commercials? Oy, that "cheese," much less the chicken nuggets, doesn't even try to look real.

Copeland's Take That Fast Food, My Mashed Potato Bowl Rocks! Lazy Comfort Dinner
  • Bake potatoes. While hot (use a mitt!) slice 'em up (cut the skins small so they're not bulky; don't forget the skins have lots o' vitamins!) and mash with salt, some butter, and then fold in whatever gravy / tasty yummy leftover sauces you might have.
    That's Layer 1.
  • Layer 2 is shredded mozzarella, montery jack or cheddar cheese, depending on what you like / have on hand in the fridge.
  • Layer 3 is leftover bits of meat - tonight I used sirloin from Boxwood Beef!
  • For the adults: Fry up some onions, until carmelized. Top your bowl with that, mix it in, and you've got serious gour-metz comfort food goin', honeys.  You could even add in some cooked green beans or corn as a layer over the potatoes... Yum!
I'm thinking a lot about our The Very Interesting Year of change. 
For too long, we toed the line, and now we're set free to return to our gypsy roots while maintaining a firm footage in our homestead, and our hearts.

Really, is this what you want your life to be: Just birth, school, work, death?

Staying in town this weekend, we had the opportunity to visit some entrepreneur friends that have made this city GREAT. Despite itself. This is the Richmond... the wonderful Richmond dear to my heart, MY Richmond:
We went up to Church Hill to a friend's art gallery / opening night at her Eric Shindler Gallery... and saw lots of friends. : )

I met a great gal (and talented artist, see above) who just canoed from the James River all the way down the Intercoastal Waterway to Key West. (What?)

Went down to a friend's bar, The Camel, who has always supported local musicians and community, to see the No BS Brass Band raising money for the **food bank**... And saw lots of friends. : )
Never heard o' No BS Brass Band? No video does them justice.
Think: A wall o' brass. This comes across as a-tad-off on video.
It's not.
Just... GO. They are freakin' FANTASTIC!!!!!!
(...And I am dedicating this part of the post to Justin Anthony. : ) He will Loooooooooooove them.)

We went to a birthday party for friends at Cocojo's, which showcases local artisans. : )
"Cocojo & Co is an artisan business. The products, jewelry, art, and wares found at Cocojo & Co are produced locally by local artisans. Artisans at Cocojo & Co are able to grow, sell, market and promote themselves at their pace." [Happy Birthday, Jo and Sherrena!!!!!]

The next day we brunched at another dear friend's sassy restaurant, Banditos! : )

Look at all our amazing friends who are entrepreneurs making this city great!!! Go, they!

I'm still so shocked when people say they'll miss us... we never go out. We have spent these past years with any waking moment focused on The Land. We're grateful our friends still speak to us, much less traverse the mileage to see us on the land, that people even remember us. Usually we have no babysitter, no nights out...

So to be here on a rare Richmond weekend, speaking to people when they ask about Our Plan For The Very Interesting Year, I expect them to say "Good riddance!" To instead, come home, glowing, over the lifetime of kind, kind, kind friends we have in this community who actually told us they felt our departing would be a loss... Richmond y'all are still a part of us, but honeychiles this city needs to get with it. That is my gentle soon-parting-for-now advice. I can't continue to penalize my family for being here.

I love you I love you I love you so Freakin' Grow Up and see what Every Other Livable City Is Doing.

Late night out... too much fun...

Saturday we awoke, bleary after a waaaay-too-fun night, to leaf blowers here in Non-Culture-On-The-Edge-Of-The-City-Almost-Burbia...

Apparently not-a-one of our neighbors knows what a rake is.
Their "Leaf Problem," pre-blowout, is hilariously sparse.
Yet the leaf blowers have been going, non-stop, since 7a.m.
(These are the same neighbors who fly up in arms, concerned they *might* hear a hen cluck.)

[Cluck *them.*]

Anyhoo, I am off to the grocery store. It just occurred to me that in 8 years (8 years!) of "living" here with a grocery store three blocks away, not once have I ever seen a neighbor shopping for food.
Suddenly, my mind is struck-
OhMyGosh OhMyGosh -- Wait.
Could my neighborhood be filled with...

From How To Kill A Zombie:
"To kill zombies, you need to destroy their brains. The most surefire route is simply lopping off the cranium with a chainsaw, machete, or samurai sword. Mind the follow-through, however-- anything less than 100 percent severance just isn't good enough."
Dag. So they can't be zombies, because clearly they're *already* missing their brains.
So I won't blame them no' more... they cain't help it.

[Why has no one started a Zombie Neighbors With Leaf Blower meme yet?]
These folks are not zombies but they're bluegrass players, that's almost as effective, maybe?

But if they're not zombies... and they don't eat real food... then what ARE they?

"...People tell me there ain't no use in tryin'...
We have got to get outta this place / if it's the last thing we ever do!
'Cause there is a better life / for me and you!"

It is not just our neighborhood.

What is happening with the United States?!?

Police officer pepper-sprays seated, non-violent students at UC Davis.

Handsome Husband, ex-European military, appalled:
"I'm pretty sure that is not allowed in the rules of engagement."

I have mixed feelings on the actions of Occupy Wall Street movement but I empathize with the feeling that... that we are losing our culture, our community... that things are not right.

When you see this video, something crystallizes: A recognition - We Have Seen This Before.
Dumbfounded Disgust... Opening Into Horror... And Resolute:
Shame On You. Shame On You. Shame On You.
(Who do you serve? Who do you protect? Who do you serve? Who do you protect?)

This would be a good time to re-read Voices Of Dissent: Critical Readings In American Politics.

The Idiot.

These tumultuous days are emotionally and politically hot. And sour. We're working towards the sweet.
Here's Hot & Sour Soup except I call this...

Copeland's Centipede Soup
Not quite following this recipe, I instead...
  • Sauteed in sesame oil some meat bones and minced ginger.
  • I walked into the winter garden since I have no bamboo shoots on hand and instead got some nice big leaves of bok choy, washed and shredded them, then added, with plenty of water to create broth, to what will now be the soup.
  • I sliced oyster mushrooms up & threw them in.
    They look just like centipedes!!!!!
That them thar is a centipede.
  • Slice and dice up some firm tofu. Throw that sucker in!
  • Add barbequed pork (remember that arm roast beef BBQ I made earlier this week?)
  • In a bowl, I mixed up sugar, soy sauce, and sweet & sour chili sauce. Then I threw that in.
  • I had a quart of chicken stock I had made last week in the fridge... I threw that in, too.
  • When everything is good & cooked, stir in some corn starch & a beaten egg to thicken it up, then glugs of rice vinegar to sour it.
  • I have not yet won over the childrenz to this culinary masterpiece.
    As I place steaming bowls on the table, Pipsqueak #2 is chanting,
    "Centipede Stew, it's just for You!"
As much as I have been skeptical... Girlz Got A Point.

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Where Things Look Dire At The Prefab House And Then I See Design*Sponge's Grace Bonney So It Turns Out Alright After All

The Off Grid Prefab Thinks About The Icky Stuff: Septic.

This week I have been conferencing and emailing with the Department of Health, Building Inspector, and the Contractor in regards to septic / a drain field when used in conjunction with an off grid prefab house.

They're goin' to where the future septic site is goin'.

The already approved septic site is 1. uphill, and 2. in the field, which is why we balked.

Pumps = drain on our off grid prefab's energy.

But then we realized 1. the drain of energy is just a few lightbulbs' worth a day so not a big drain on our off grid systems, and that 2. even if we paid money to have an alternative, expensive septic system designed by engineers placed downhill where it doesn't even officially perk... it would still need a pump, as it would require drip tubing at 1/2 gallon an hour.

So if both scenarios *potentially* require a pump, and the downhill scenario isn't even sure to perk... then forget it, embrace (for once?) the conventional.

Really, why would I spend extra money on something like septic?

As I told John Schofield, "Heck, I don'tz need no fancy schmancy engineering. If I'm gonna spend extra money on something, I'mma gonna put it towards the This Will One Day Be A Natural Pool. I mean, it's not like my childrenz can go splashin' in the septic."
Future Natural Pool

Articles of note this week:
(Sorry. I don't belong to a Book Club, so you're it. Read this stuff.)

U.S. Divides Into Land Of Rich & Poor, Study Says
"Middle-class areas shrink as America divides into 'two-tiered society' of rich and poor ..."

I have read similar articles. But I just keep turning this data over in my head, from an architecture / urban planning standpoint, educational, economic, future job prospects...
And cultural, underscored, again.  What will our regions look like when we distance ourselves so much that we no longer feel a connection / view ourselves as community?

Has the "American Century" ended? What will that mean for us? The world?

All reinforced by an article I read in the Atlantic,
"The Rise of the New Global Elite
F. Scott Fitzgerald was right when he declared the rich different from you and me. But today’s super-rich are also different from yesterday’s: more hardworking and meritocratic, but less connected to the nations that granted them opportunity—and the countrymen they are leaving ever further behind."

There are many threads within these three stories that internally I untangle.

One thread is how we can do so much more, with less, when our architecture functions, allowing residents to reduce costs and dependency on inefficient fuel.
Reading Mel Starr's data on Fuel Poverty, Roof-Renting, And Feed-In Tarrifs, I mentally picture the ramshackle rural homes I know so well, where the cladding whistles and the windows blow artic breezes throughout, where dangerous wood stoves affect air quality without heating the living space...

Of course I compare that with the passive solar energy efficient prefab house kits...

I think about homeschooling. Because, like the Mega Elite, by homeschooling my family will not be tied within the constraints of a school, or school district. I wonder if this lifestyle, of being able to jet to the Turks and Caicos, to New York, to Europe, is why so many of my very-advantaged friends are homeschooling.  I know education is critical to them, and their children's well being; but these are also families that... travel.

So, strangely, by choosing homeschooling so my children can be on the farm, grounded, yet able to spend a few days in DC with Handsome Husband who is now working there, going back and forth by rail as we like, am I also giving them an advantage not just in the closeness of our family but...

But is there something I'm touching on, the beginning of a trend that might not be great, but with roots in exclusion?

I have great respect for teachers.  It is a great profession.
There are many great professions.

What if more and more families decide to stop being dual income (don't worry readers, I'm not going anywhere, professionally, ha!) to have one spouse teaching... what would that do to the profession of school teaching? Just like the rise of programs like Turbo Tax & QuickBooks affect the profession of book keeping / accounting to an extent... It's just something I'm considering: What will it mean for the profession, and what will that mean for the students?

I work with a homeschool-raised colleague. He excels. Many of our rural neighbors homeschool, and now, many of my wealthy urban friends do.  What are the common threads?
From the USA Rich / Poor Study:
"More than half of children from high-income families finish college, up from about a third 20 years ago. Fewer than 10 percent of low-income children finish, up from 5 percent. 
William Julius Wilson, a sociologist at Harvard who has seen the study, argues that “rising inequality is beginning to produce a two-tiered society in America in which the more affluent citizens live lives fundamentally different from the middle- and lower-income groups. This divide decreases a sense of community.” "
HOWEVER: Homeschooled children tend to take more community college courses during high school, earning academic credits earlier, thus removing time, money, and other obstacles from their quest to become college graduates.

But maybe there is potential socio-economic opportunity, for all.
From WSJ's My Teacher Is An App:
"In California, Rocketship Education, a chain of charter hybrid schools that serves mostly poor and minority kids, has produced state test scores on par with some of the state's wealthiest schools."

Where am I going with this thought? There's something I just keep mulling on as I touch all these pieces in these stories...
And then, there's the provincial cities.  Oh no, not the smaller towns, they get it. We're talking cities that don't look at  competing cities' zoning deeply and ask...
"#RVA looks to *another* "livable" city for advice, this time Pittsburg, which, of course, ALSO allows urban hens, like every other city they've recently looked up to (Austin, Raleigh, Portland...#ListGoesOn)."
When is RICHMOND going to get it?

Fortunately, Richmond got it this afternoon. Or at least for a little while, at Richmond Magazine's RHome event featuring Grace Bonney of Design*Sponge.  The room was packed with creative professionals, and Grace Bonney's talk was interesting and inspirational as she not only covered the history of Design*Sponge, but what I found exciting was how she is purposely showcasing and supporting the underlooked, not-yet-known design professionals, the teams behind what might one day be a brand, the entrepreneurial cultures and consiously supporting small business.

Maybe there's hope for us yet!!!

Because, like the aforementioned articles, Grace Bonney also addressed COMMUNITY.
Not bemoaning its loss, but how she (and we) do our part in fostering its future.

I hope I can find her talk online, because she reinforced some inner tenets I have within my own businesses, and for this little pensieve of a personal blog on our prefab modern home construction (with pretty much everything else under the sun thrown in).

As Handsome Husband doesn't read my blog, I can say here that of course I grabbed up her book Design*Sponge at Home and asked her to inscribe it for a Certain Someone And Their Honey-Do List... who might receive it at Christmas... : )
[Or not! Depends on how much he gets done on that Honey Do List! ; ) ]

I can't wait to read a design book that not just covers great homes, but celebrates Do It Yourself How-To and Unorthodox Style Personalities!

All that information on How To Do Stuff right before we start Doing Interior Design Stuff By Ourselves at the off grid prefab! The How To Hang Wallpaper chapter is for you, Handsome Husband...

Read RHome's interview with her, here.

And here's RHome's online version of their article on us, here!

Great news, I found her talk online!

I like her forthright advice to 1. stay employed in as many jobs as you can until you are so overwhelmed you *must* choose to commit to just one / to not be afraid of trying to do many jobs & responsibilities 2. her control of investing in herself, of maintaining financial responsibility towards herself and others and 3. reinvesting and encouragement of her own community and to 4. live your life the way you want to live.

Grace Bonney also mentioned she's loving food blogs. This is not a food blog. 

But I do sometimes end our off grid prefab construction posts with a recipe or two at the end...  
So, I hereby end this post for ya with some food.

Copeland's Pulled BBQ
  • Cut off extra fat from an arm roast.
  • Crock pot at 350 for hours until tender the arm roast, 1-2 diced onions, any leftover pureed sauce from pizza-making, (recipe below), and a bunch o' ketchup or pureed tomato sauce.
  • Remove roast and, in a large bowl, take two forks and start shreddin' that up. Now, as your arms tire, you know where the "Pulled" part o' the barbecue comes from. I often take a sharp knife and divide the big ole roast into hunks first before attacking it with forks.
  • Now separate the fat from the delicious sauce still in the crockpot (which you will reuse in future dishes throughout the week), and pour that hot mess allllllllll over the arm roast-now-turned-BBQ, YUM!
Copeland's Venison Pizza
(I've been eating this all week!)

  • Make dough.
  • Sauce: I always make a tomato, onion, garlic & diced eggplant sauce in the summer, then can. The childrenz won't touch it with a ten foot pole. SO, when I make pizza, I take a large jar o' eggplant sauce, puree it when they're not looking, and voila, PIZZA SAUCE that they *love.* 
  • Top with sauce, red pepper, kosher salt, light cheeses like mozzarella or montery jack. Cook, adding the  already-slow-roasted venison slices at the end so it doesn't dry out, along with dried herbs, to taste.
  • Be endlessly amused as you, finishing adding the toppings, watch the pizza trucks in front of your kitchen window hurriedly pulling up to your neighbor's homes.
Keep on the sunny side, y'all. 

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