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Cozy Passive Solar Prefab House Kit Living: Off Grid Is Easy Even When It's Cold Outside

Brrrr it was crispy cold outside!
Ahhhh but we're cozy in the off grid prefab, playing dominoes with the Pipsqueaks, and lookin' at the stars.

Our beloved, sealed combustion wood cook stove took the passive solar prefab quickly from 63 when we arrived, just after nightfall, to 73. When the fire goes out tonight, we lose one degree an we'll awake, comfortable despite the frosty air.  We are relieved as we re-enter winter to see that despite poking a bunch o' holes in the prefab's envelope last season, thanks to re-insulating well around each penetration, our energy efficiency has not been compromised.

Green building thoughts: I read two articles this week and am really thinking about the general state of contractors, builders, and even most architects still within the United States. I had an awakening this past week while being around An Average Corporate Architect (and I now realize how rarefied my green building-ness has been, up until now: I realize the average architect nods cursorily at the LEED / Governmental standards because they have to, not because they have a passion for it). For allllllll the architects and contractors and builders I have known for years that "got it"... I now know that within our social sphere we are spoiled, because we get it and want to take energy efficiency and function to the max. The advantage is we get to compete, worldwide; and that within the US "excellence"  is hence easier to achieve. Always strive to be better... And the best.

So, to lead this reading discussion, first, I read, "Beyond Fabric," a great read from the UK if reducing  complicated code and maximizing efficiency is your thang... (it is, mine!)

Then, two seconds later, THIS comes across my desk, regarding the USA:

One culture is embracing and looking ahead. The other is a donkey dragging its hooves. THIS is the crux!

I think, "Really? REALLY, people?" Where's the excellence, yo. Why is green building / sustainability in the USA still such a hurdle for many in the industry and average community to not just look at the data and "get it"?!?

You know, we are grateful *every day* in many ways that we landed in big ole beloved Pamplin City, even in green building: Every single contractor, inspector, plumber, electrician  et al we have met has been not just interested in the construction of the off grid SIP home, but excited. In fact, most of them apparently have tromped through our home when we weren't even there, and given us their approval! (Thank yew... : ) And yes, I love it when these stories come to light. It means a lot about how this wonderful community is willing to think.)

So: it's now a frosty morning... but inside the passive solar prefab? Waaaaarm and toasty. The wind is gusting over the fields. Inside the prefab house a feather could drop straight down, slowly.
I love moments like this when I can live visibly the science of better green building.

I am thinking... thinking about how, when we finally arrive at the prefab at dusk, there is this sense of... not excitement, which you would expect after all our adventures, at all; instead, it's a sense of throw-your-things-inside-and-we-are-HOME, of finality, of comfort, of you-can-finally-rest. The adventures are the bonus. The great friends here? Never under-appreciated.

Right before lunch, we headed into the city. 
You know, Pamplin City Population 199 And We Don't Want One More!
There was a chili cook off and an art show in the train-depot-turned-into-the-library!
We saw friends! And ate! Well!

DID YOU KNOW... Did you know that we have our very own GHOST TOWN in our fair city o' Pamplin Cit-tay Population 199? (Hey. We're like FIVE times bigger than Madisonville, yo! Cit-tay, we are.) Today, after the art show in the train depot-turned-into-the-library, we wandered over with the D.'s and peered into the storefronts.

Many of our friends here can recall when this stretch was still occupied with local businesses.

We, with The D.'s, were discussing what we will do with the ghost town when we win the lottery and purchase it tomorrow.

So, this is what I will do.
When I win the lottery tomorrow, I will turn that building on the end back into a bank.

But it won't be a bank. It will be a financial & grocery cooperative. Thankfully I have no idea what I'm talking about, but since, as of tomorrow,  I'll be a ka-zillion-aire-ess I'll just hire someone to think that part through. Here, we all work with farm coops financially when buying land; maybe there is a way to open this into a hall of some kind o' farmer co-op whether it be food or finance? Or both?

The building in the center?
That'll be my diner: Copeland's Diner.
'Cause my name already sounds like an Angry Master Chef Kinda Guy anyhoo. Has a nice ring to it, don'tcha think? I promise we won't be angry. All staff has to don pink starched dresses and wear rollerskates. Staff gets points for days they show up with a bouffant, even the guys. And of course in the back yard I'll have a seasonal LED light-strewn, picnic table filled Biergarten available with local beer & wine!

That parking lot along the Train-Depot-Turned-Into-The-Library is crying to be turned into a farmers market... especially as the High Bridge Trail comes through... but only if there are tourists.

Now that I've won the lottery and am a bazillion-katrillion-aire-ESS... We'll need a bike shop, with bike rentals, so tourists can come to ride the High Bridge Trail, and then turn in the bikes at other points along the way. You should drive here, rent a bike, ride to Farmville, have your car parked and waiting for you there thanks to our cheerful, young, now-have-jobs-thanks-to-you-the-tourists-and-are-responsible-drivers, so that you could then hop into the river and go canoeing, have a super dinner, before driving home... Or, conversely, arrive in Pamplin to then go horseback riding (they're even building cabins around the pond  at Maple Brook Farm where you'll be able to spend the night!) and visit our local vineyard, Spring Creek Wine Cellar! And stop in and visit me while I'm slinging hash at Copeland's Diner.

Later that afternoon, with visitors, we did just that: We headed over to Spring Creek Wine Cellar, where our  Pamplin Cit-tay Preserving And Protecting While Welcoming Tourism Plans deepened further with each sip o' wine. That's on a need to know basis. Hear any more, and I'll have to keel yew.
Spring Creek Wine Cellar

Thanks to Mrs. Piggle Wiggle, we had just cured our children's first unfortunate episode of Answer-Backer-Itis. Now, politeness restored, we were confident we could bring our sweet, graaaaa-cious childrenz back into the public eye, into a Vineyard Setting where the adults could enjoy a wine tasting, and the childrenz could play about the boxwoods and in the gazebo... yet always with the knowledge that the fence to the cattle was hot, and that they could immediately die a thousand deaths in many different ways if they made bad decisions. Eh, deadly stuff? Who cares? This afternoon was for the adults.

The light lengthened... and after a happy long day full of adventures, we tucked ourselves back cozy into the prefab, for a quiet evening making wolf packs out of modeling clay and contemplating crisp stars from the comfort of the toasty prefab.

Sunday, while maintaining a gusty Autumn Bluster, the day warmed up considerably. The Pipsqueaks continued to prepare for winter, by piling leaves, then climbing in. Just before they disappeared from vision, they sent out cheery, "Happy HIBERNATION DAY!!!!"s to each other.

I prepare for winter with cook stove cooking.

Copeland's Venison Stew
  • In a dutch oven, layer chopped turnips, carrots, venison, mushrooms and kale, because your Handsome Husband threw out the turnip greens and now knows better, and knows that next time you use turnip greens. (Make sure the turnip greens, er, kale are layered near the bottom otherwise it gets crispy NOT-that-I've-ever-done-that...) 
  • Add red wine, broth and some salt and pepper. 
  • In a few hours come back and eat it. Realize you shoulda diced and shredded everything and take a knife to it, cooked. Realize that actually the venison, stewed in big hunks then gently pulled apart, is better that way. Serve.
  • It is super good topped with a mild cheese like Montery Jack or Mozzarella if you want to cut the sharp root-vegetable-ness o' the stew.
Copeland's Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Toss Brussels sprouts with a tad bit o' olive oil. Top with chopped proscuitto. Throw, covered, inside the wood cook stove about 20 minutes. Remove and sprinkle heavily with parmesean.

Copeland's Chestnuts Roasted On An Open Fire
Wash, dry, and place chestnuts in a vintage vase to be admired on a mid-century Danish coffee table.

  • Eventually become bored with chestnuts as a decoration.
  • Pull out the cast iron pan and pierce each chestnut shell 2-3 times so it doesn't explode and place them in the pan & cover. 
  • Forget the open fire part and instead leave 'em on the top o' the cook stove, until you remember them again. 
  • With one hand gloved in an oven mitt, hold each hot chestnut while you use a sharp knife to "X" the curved side. Serve hot & piping! Start peeling back the shell, eating quickly, and remember Paris in November! 
  • Now if you really want to do Paris-In-Pamplin-City right, throw 'em in a paper bag, and eat the chestnuts hot while you take a brisk, blustery cold walk around the field.
    Now you've really got a little Paris-in-Pamplin-City going!

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