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1/26/11

Prefab Home's Plumbing Begins! And... Noodles. Everywhere.

With Max The Plumber at work in the zero energy prefab house kit, we got busy ordering the next parts and pieces and planning further for our next steps through spring.


Handsome Husband and I are still in disagreement on the Rainwater Cistern and System, and even the vendor. It will be frustrating to have this plumbing completed AND NO WATER SYSTEM IN PLACE... but that's what I expect... we shall see!

Picture it: I will enter my beloved solar powered passive solar prefab home, happily exhausted on arrival, drop my things, glide into the bathroom where I will spy the relaxing, welcoming claw foot tub and... No water. Still. Dag. #Drat

BUT: Once the plumbing is completed, we will get to close up the walls, and that means INTERIOR DESIGN!!!! PAINT!!!! VINTAGE WALL PAPER IN PLACES!!!!! Picture all the green of the SIP (structural insulated panels) covered in these pictures, below!






We ordered the freezer-to-turn-into-a-low-energy-fridge, we got the claw foot tub, now let's FINISH THE WATER SYSTEMS PIECE so we can frickin' CLOSE THE WALLS, turn on the faucets, and move on to... PAINT CHIPS! 

Any-hoo...let's talk about preservation. 
As in, food. Yes, sorry green building folks, but I'm posting more recipes. Last year we amused ourselves with Vintage Hat Friday; this year, I guess I've got recipes to get me through the dark winter days.

Our great friends and neighbors Chris and Steve Ault of Aults Family Farm brought a carton of eggs to the soup party in the zero passive solar prefab house last week. "I didn't know if your hens were still laying..." she said... Heck ya I'll take your winter eggs; I'm still getting a few eggs a day (thank you Rhode Island Reds) during these dark months, but this was the prime opportunity to test out a great way to preserve extra eggs, especially in spring: EGG NOODLES.

Thank you Granny Miller for detailing the instructions, so I could then ignore her sage advice and measurements and instead decide to start my FIRST NOODLE MAKING PROJECT with... twenty-two eggs and a boatload o' flour.
(Actually, I just used one of those flour packages + handfuls of whole wheat. I think.)

Of *course*, to mix it up a bit (read: to not follow directions, again), I added some whole wheat... um, what else... Aw, heck, I forget but here, below, is what I have to add to Granny Miller's great egg noodle post:

1. When making noodles with a six year old, expect the result will be bricks. Thin, even noodles *matter* - thick noodles turn into... well, let's just say one HOUR after boiling those logs I've got legs up on straw bale and cobb, Dwell: are you listening?!? #Bricks  #PastaFramedHouse (Hmmmm. Wonder what the R value is on that...)

2. Rulers rule.
As in, that ruler I was bequeathed when I became a Paul Harris Fellow? Now I can live Rotary in more ways they ever expected as I evenly and accurately slice through dough thanks to that ruler. #ThankYouRotaryILoveYou




3. Always mop the floor before you harvest the noodles. Um, no reason... Not that my floor would not be IMMACULATE and IMPECCABLE with all these chillunz and dawgs. And: Get a large container you can hold in one hand, while turning the noodles upside down with the other - let them drop into the container (note to self- drape noodles loosely when hanging), i.e. upside down chopstick shaped noodles. It's kinda like apple picking a bit, and you don't think of that when you're MAKING the noodles, now, do ya?!?

4. This is a great, practical, fun family activity.
I have always grown food my entire life... But never cared to make pasta. Having the extra eggs finally motivated me to preserve our eggs further just as I do vegetables - and Handsome Husband and I chatted and laughed and rolled and sliced while the two children delighted in being Noodle Runners - we had strings ALL OVER the kitchen... and I sent the 6 year old to school with a scalp full of flour the next day (she can thank her brother for that) when Noodle Making extended into the evening later than anticipated, hence no bath.



It was fun. Try it!

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1/23/11

Prefab Home's Zero Off Grid House : Kitchen And Tub

It was either we, or the HRV and reused claw foot bath tub we bought off Craigslist for $200, that would journey in the car to the zero energy prefab home this weekend...

It is freezing. So I hung back with the chillunz and made oatmeal cookies (remember, we're trying out grains to grow and this week is Oats Week), while Handsome Husband transported the HRV and an antique refinished claw foot tub out to the prefab house kit.



In honor of our claw foot tub being dragged out to and installed in the prefab, here's a claw foot tub I found made out o' Legos! Our 8 year old is impressed.
Lego Antique Clawfoot Tub by Lego Master Builder Jonathan Eric Hunter.

Yep, the livestock trough we were using as a tub just didn't cut it in the end. But will certainly be recycled in the field... as a livestock trough.

More on Max The Plumber later - here he inspects the claw foot tub. In Germany, you'd call his level of expertise between a Master Plumber and Engineer. Welcome, Max, to our off grid prefab house project. We are grateful to have you.
The HRV has arrived!

Awhile ago, we mused on how we might best utilize the off grid kitchen in our off grid zero energy prefab house... and we revisit that now:
(Way too clunky, this needed modern refinement, but we were writing down initial purposes,
space in this first kitchen island idea...)

Here are my off grid modern kitchen notes, since:
  • Immediately after that kitchen post, that perfect, top opening freezer model I feel in love with was discontinued. Finding AFFORDABLE top opening drawers on refrigerators is difficult. For off grid, nigh impossible. But take heart - many people are just taking chest freezers and turning them into fridges. Still.  (also: see here!)  YES we could purchase the off-the-shelf perfect refrigerator for zero energy off grid living; but you know me: It is hard to resist a Crafty Affordable Science Project! 
  • The pots & pans needed to be reversed with the fridge in the original sketch- why locate the fridge so close to the hot wood cook stove (which would be to the left of this area)?  
  • We no longer need the compost well (that lift-able lid to the left of the sink where I could amass scraps to then carry to a composting pile outdoors every week like we do in our current home) because kitchen scraps are easily tossed into our composting toilet daily!
  • We found the antique wood cook stove, then modified it for a SIP / energy efficient / tight envelope house, which changed the game considerably- now those pots and pans storage illustrated previously, above, are within the cook stove base, and the extra cast iron pans I intend to hang within reach. Plus I no longer need to worry about solar cooking a big ole Thanksgiving Turkey! (Impossible...) It will be easily achieved now, in autumn's chill, while providing warmth, thanks to mah cook stove oven! (Did I mention I love my cook stove? I love, love, LOVE my cook stove...)
  • Again: With the cook stove: We are implementing summer burner plans: To switch over from wood to a usual, expected propane burner DROPPED IN to the cook stove top, for summer use. You'll see, it will be cool... and we have our usual, beloved solar oven for regular, easy oven heating... 
  • And more on summer: Later, we could implement a summer kitchen, just like on my, and my husband's, ex-family farms, for bigger jobs... Except this one will be the very low cost version vs. sturdy separate structures... more on that this spring. Think: How To Build An Earth Oven and such... I mean, heck: we have PLENTY of clay in Virginia... and it will keep the children busy.
  • FOOT PUMPS. When water is scarce, why let it run?!? 
    We got an EZ-Flo Commercial Foot Pedal for about $50. SO worth it. They usually retail for $150.
You may have noticed we love to have friends over. And that I enjoy cooking... Each time, our friends ask, "Why don't you just bring the dishes over to our farm and we'll just stick them in the dishwasher for you?!?"


No, really, I refuse politely: I LIKE washing dishes by hand on the picnic table in twenty degrees outdoors in January. From a frozen water cube forgotten outdoors the night before. Often, in the rain. IT'S FUN!

Also note our dishes are vintage. Discovered in thrift stores across Virginia, I may have scored some beautiful bargains but treat each pattern as if it were my Herend Queen Victoria. Clinking and clanging that old mid-century pottery in a dish pan isn't great for stewardship, I assure you.

We're going to cave: Give me mah dishwasher. [Eventually]
I consoled myself with Tree Hugger's analysis that really, it would be more efficient and conserve more water in the end! We'll just need to do more research on what will be most effective and a low power draw for an off grid prefab home.

Dishwashers are *energy hogs* - having solar hot water already heated will help.  See, the key is to have the water already hot via the solar water heater, so the dishwasher does not need to expend the energy to heat it. Here's what the 2009 Solar Decathlon participants used.

Here's our revised Kitchen Island, illustrated by Handsome Husband:
Concrete wraps the cook stove, adding thermal mass, consolidating it with the kitchen work area and sink.
The work area will reuse scraps from the VMI basketball court cut off when we created walls, and reused *again* to create a "butcher block" work space!
Back view: Cook stove now on right. The concrete will create not only thermal mass but a bar counter! Woo!
The ends of the kitchen island can be lined with more reused VMI basketball court, and shelves would be nice, to have a handy store o' Jefferson cups, wine & juice glasses at the ready!

The sink is actually going to be a double sink, which does two things: It allows us to wash dishes efficiently by hand in the meantime, and the second sink will act as the air vent needed for the sink in lieu of a pipe through the ceiling!


Behind the kitchen island, built in to the wall, here are our needs: Like farmhouse kitchens in the past, we will need storage for spices, flour, pasta, food mills, a work space, and utensils. I am hearing some doubters behind me in my male Greek Chorus that follows me on this off grid saga. Step aside, gents.

Here's a great antique example of a practical, functional kitchen farm cabinet with mills and grinders and spices at the ready:


This is my first pass at a modern version:
Sorry it's kinda light. Always exceedingly sophisticated,
I used crayons to draw this.

Next to it would be the refrigerator.

I do hear tell that Jason, upon hearing this, has volunteered to Be That Guy to tell me that due to our extra off grid systems space requirements, We Do Not Have The Space For This Cabinet, in order to preserve Our Marriage. You are a brave man, Jason Dorris. : ) I'm *jest sayin'* that IF our systems space allows... this is what I want. It's practical, functional, timeless. I understand it will be shallow dimensions, due to the off grid systems around it. But that doesn't mean it can't happen!


EET EES POSSIBLE!!!!! C'est tellement possible, messieurs.



Lordy, Lordy imagine the beating of my heart when I discovered the original dual temperature control, two drawer Haier freezer with which I had fallen in love originally was AVAILABLE. And for $299. Used as expected, this 5.3 cubic foot model uses normal amounts of energy.

But if we modify it...

Someone out there is saying, "Wait. If she's turning a freezer into a fridge, WHERE'S THE FREEZER?" Don't forget - as originally planned, our freezer will be on a separate system, most likely in the shed or root cellar.  We don't use the freezer for daily use - another reason why our refrigerator is small - local food is preserved, seasonally used, or still in the ground - so you don't need conditioned storage when the fridge is for just what you're using that week.

The freezer *will* need to be large- when I buy lamb, for example, we buy *A* lamb. Hello, venison. Hello, my regularly purchased quarter-of-a-cow...

Any-hoo, back in Richmond, my day kinda went like this:

In the meantime, I made cookies, soup and stock and, as I separated the fat from the chicken stock, I reminisced about when my old boss David Rothkopf made me eat smaltz (and drink a tad bit of vodka) at Sammy's Roumanian Steak House, in the East Village.

Max The Plumber starts work on Monday, installing the HRV, solar hot water tubes and finishing up the plumbing. THEN WE CLOSE THE WALLS. And interior design begins. Wow. The next weeks will be a blur!

And before you know it, it will be spring and I will be back in New Yawk for ICFF, y'all... My East Village Honeys: Prepare!




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1/17/11

We're Gonna Get Right Back To Where We Started From

There were some gorgeous, dramatic skies over the off grid, zero energy, passive solar prefab house this weekend...

Soooo... now we have... solar power, hence light, connected within our passive solar prefab house's south room. (The north half is not connected yet as the walls are not closed up due to our still trying to track down the plumber!)


Our electrician Pat Root (again) had (another) great idea to pick up some LED Christmas lights on clearance and string them back into the north side of the prefab home from the south.
Brilliant.
Happy.
It's Christmas. All over again. : )



You should have seen the children, giddy and happily squeaking, hands full with strings of LEDs, while Handsome Husband obligingly hung them according to their whims as darkness fell last night.

The Prefab House lit up.  It was joyous.

But rewind: Earlier in the day, we headed into Appomattox where I found two gems: The first, a collapsible laundry drying rack, HUGE, bigger than my mom's, for much less than what she paid. (I love thrifting...) It will be so useful for winter laundry and drying egg noodles! (More on that soon!)


What a GEM! Watch out, New York ICFF friends and family. I think I've found the most awesome gift from Virginia to give you when I head north for ICFF... the recipes are A-MAZING. If you like, you may get your own copy of Old Timey Receipts from Appomattox here.

Always zero energy, it's still strange to now have solar power at our fingertips in our off grid prefab home. I'm cracking up watching the energy expenditure of our household - due to the passive solar prefab's great daylighting, and the reused antique wood cook stove for heat, I'm seeing .01- .0something as our wattage expenditure whenever I look at the inverter... the battery bank is always at "100% charged"... 

The prefab house kit has now stood up against its prior energy efficient statistics, even after this fall's penetrations: As you may know, we've been enduring crazy frigid weather in Virginia. I looked at our temperature gauge: the high in the prefab house kit last week  was 72, the low, 41.

I don't like that 41 reading AT ALL. But let's evaluate: The lows outside were a pretty steady 15 each night- the prefab is using its "standard" package SIP, not the thicker SIP walls, we now have several penetrations, and heck, it was freezing - these readings were recorded while we were gone (although I assume the 72 was when we were there with the cook stove?) for the most part, during a cold, overcast winter environment with nothing but passive solar? That's pretty good.

Oh, by the way-  if anyone's seen Mike The Plumber, let us know, 'K?   [I think we found a new plumber.] There is a season...


We may have no radiant heat yet, we may have no winter toilet (which stopped composting once it got cold, but I have high hopes for it once the radiant heat is working), we may be in a construction zone...

But that won't stop us from having some neighbors and old friends over for a soup party!
We ran over to some neighbors and friends we hadn't seen in months, and invited them over for a big ole bunch of nothing: A pot of soup, some home baked bread, appetizers (detailed in last week's post), wine, beer, and we were down to about TWO CUPS of potable water so I was really hoping they chose alcohol by the time they arrived. We were also missing butter, which we forgot, so let's just hope it was a REALLY good soup and REALLY good bread.

It was an Early. Noon. Sunday. Supper.
"Dear Lord, we gather, and hope our guests like PBR and wine, because we have no water to offer them, but plenty of food..." The soup turned out great.

Copeland's Collard Soup
Jefferson Cups are a wise addition when you have concrete floors...
  • Sautée well plenty of minced garlic, onion, and turnips (cubed in small bits) in good olive oil   
  • Rinse & wash & pick out stones from lentils + black eyed peas, then add to soup mix (you want beans at ½ to ½ with veggies) 
  • Sautée a bit then add hand-crushed canned tomatoes in bits + the juice and a can of tomato purée + (kosher) salt + water, stirring (I like the granular but not too big texture of kosher salt, try it vs. the bland tiny grains) until you get a nice soup texture vs. stew  
  • Add sliced 2" long rectangle of collards and simmer until fresh but soft, so that the taste is soft vs. harsh 
  • When you reheat you might consider adding more water / broth, also consider sautéeing a ham bone in the reheating pot, adding a bit of water / broth before adding the more solid already-made-ahead soup, honeychile, to simmer on the cook stove.
The soup party was special. Friendships deepened, new friends were made. I kind of want to talk about it, because of my interest in history, but... don't want to talk about it.  But it's Martin Luther King Day, so I will.

As usual, we had invited our neighbors The S's, and an hour into the Soup Party, as usual, they hadn't shown. Suddenly, here they come! Mr. S entered, with a woman I had never met (our direct across-the-land neighboring farm), and announced, as emissaries for their families, they were there to acknowledge our invitation, thank us for it, and go

I said, incredulous, “Well, can’t you at least have some SOUP?” 
“No.” “May I get you some WATER? A BEER?”
Yeah, you know me, I had them sitting down and eating soup before they knew what hit 'em. : )

ANYWAY, Mrs. C, who accompanied Mr. S, has four children around our children’s age, and enjoyed hearing about Sister and HER four boys... we were all getting to know each other, when she spied my old college trunk which I now use to store my kitchen things in until we build cabinets:
“Why do you have ‘Copeland’ on your trunk, do you mind my asking?”
“Well, that’s my name, I’m named after my family in Edenton, North Carolina…”
She responded, “MY family is from North Carolina and are Copelands…!”
I said, “Well, I hear there’s some Cherokee there?”
She: “*MY* family has Cherokee, there!”
We just kind of stared at each other and grinned in disbelief, trying not to tear up… 
HOW FATE MIGHT LAUGH to seat two strangers together, in a tiny town, at a rural dinner table, who just might be far-flung cousins?!?


Sometimes you have to reach out, and remember how to get right back to where we started from...


"...Ooo and it's alright and it's comin' 'long
We got to get right back to where we started from
Love is good, love can be strong
We got to get right back to where we started from..."



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1/12/11

Building Code And The Future! And, Um, A Bunch Of Recipes.

Passive solar, energy efficient prefab house kit from Green Modern Kits!

Green building geeks: The rest of this post has nothing to do with green building. So I'll start this with a VERY intriguing code / architecture / passive house post I came across this week that might affect YOU:

"Air Admittance Valves (AAVs) failure, or 'Can you depressurize a passive house?' " 

WHY does this post fascinate me?
Because it discusses a tight, energy efficient, passive house under construction where the building inspector is concerned about applying code not to the existing, energy efficient current building scenario, but to what *might* happen down the road *if* future owners added penetrations to the structure. 

There you go: There is your green building intellectual bone: Discuss.

Due to sleet, the children were out of school, and as the afternoon descended into chaos (I can only try to telecommute for work for so long after X hours of "Let's Pretend We're Three Year Olds" and battles over Whose Lego's Were Whose forced me from my desk continually),  I thought it would be a good day to do a taste test of grains to see what we might grow this spring. We purchased barley, amaranth, sorghum, wheat, oats, and buckwheat, and will experiment throughout the next weeks to see which we like the best / yet might grow best in our Virginia conditions. MY vote is for barley. #beer

So we made Winter Barley Soup.
[I *was* going to call it Casati Family Winter Barley Soup, but the 8 year old said, "Nah, leave out the name, we don't want people crowding around us all the time because we can cook."
Ha. I broke it to him that no one cares about his Momma's soup... but was flattered he liked it so much.]
Here's how we made it:
Winter Barley Soup:
  • Sautee minced onion, garlic, green pepper (which I diced & froze this summer)
  • Add local, natural ground beef
  • I had already canned, then opened a tomato marinara, and made some pureed tomato soup with leftover chicken stock earlier this week, so, after the above was softened & cooked, I added this to the pot. You can add hand-crushed canned tomatoes and beef broth if you don't have something similar on hand.
  • handfuls of barley
  • Add enough water or broth to turn it into soup, then simmer until it cooks down and becomes stew, at least an hour
  • dollops of sweet pepper relish from Mrs. Esh added a touch of sweetness / roasted flavor
This was requested to be packed into their school lunch tomorrow. [Casati Family] Winter Barley Soup was a hit. 100% local, healthy, no additives = happy children eating good, fresh food... at school.

Then, because they were still squabbling, we made amaranth popcorn (do NOT use oil! Shake shake shake the pan.).  Here's a video I found on YouTube that shows you how:

Our amaranth popcorn was a disaster because the 6year old was SO disappointed the popcorn actually turned out to be the size of a pin head. I thought it was cute, but hard to pack for a school snack...
They voted to Feed It To The Chickens. Dag. But I will continue to experiment with amaranth.

What I like about amaranth is that you not only get a high mineral and vitamin grain, can eat the leaves like spinach, but it's also adaptable to high temperatures and rather purty. It will hopefully do well after seeding the field last year with clover, which added nitrogen; and I can broadcast the seed *then* mow the field, which would give it the 1/2 inch of cover it likes to do well & sprout without tilling.
A sleet-y day like this was also a good excuse to keep the kids busy making appetizers to freeze, to then have on hand in the coming weeks to serve to guests this winter. I decided to make some of my own family's recipes, most from Mother.

Note that my Mother is neither a cook nor a localvore ("What's a localvore?"), so you will need to adjust everything accordingly. Gracious there is a lot of butter & cream cheese - serve with lots of vegetables! Don't make more than two or three of these at a time to serve or you will all surely die!

Spinach mixture - form into small balls.
Mother's Spinach Balls
2 boxes frozen spinach (What ev. I just threw a gi-normous bag into the bowl.)
2 c. herb stuffing mix (Dump in a bunch of assorted multi-sized frozen bread crumbs, plus herbs, salt)
1 minced onion
6 beaten eggs
3/4 c. melted butter
1/2 c. parmesean (a HALF cup? Is she kidding? I scattered it liberally all over, honeys.)
1 t. garlic salt
1/2 t. thyme
1/2 t. black pepper

Mix & form into balls. 350 degrees for 20 minutes OR cook 10-15 minutes then freeze.

Mother's Cheese Balls
1 c. sharp cheese (Grated by our faaaaabulous Salad Master! If you ever find one in a thrift store, GET IT!)
2 T butter (what the heck. measurements, again.)
1/2 c. flour
dash of cayenne
25 medium olives, well drained

Cream the cheese with butter, blend flour. Wrap about a teaspoon of dough around olive, cover completely. 400 degrees for 15 minutes. *Copeland's note: This by far takes the most amount of time. Picture: You are taking pieces of the mix and pressing it between your palms to make a dough to then wrap an INDIVIDUAL olive in, evenly. But it's worth it, it's worth it! I added lots more cayenne so I will watch with great interest our guests as they pop one into their mouths. #Experiment #WhoNeedsMeasurementsAnyHoo

Mother's Walnut Dip
1 8oz package cream cheese
1 T. grated onion
1 whole garlic, minced
*Mix the above, then chill. On a nice platter, make a flat wide circle or oval about 1" high, then atop it add:*

Topping: Heat below, then add in the chopped pecans or walnuts, cool until then thickened, and spoon over and on the sides of the cream cheese mix. Serve with wheat crackers.
1/2 stick of butter
1/4 c. brown sugar
1 T Worcester sauce
1 t. brown mustard

*The Walnut Dip + consumption of alcohol = well, it's addictive. Be warned.

Grandmother S's Cream Cheese For Fruit
2 8oz packages of cream cheese
1/4 c. butter
1 c powdered sugar
2 T orange juice
1 T grated orange rind (or more) >> more! more!
1/2 t. vanilla (or more) >>are you *kidding* me? slosh that stuff in

Mix, form into an oval or whatever (my words). Grate orange peel also on top. Serve with sliced apples, pears, whole strawberries, it is DEElish. (My words, again.)

There you go. Enough winter appetizers to kill an elephant. I am now ready for guests.
Oh, P.S. This is SO in honor of my dear friend Big Ugly... enjoy. She's had a little trouble with some PTA moms lately...
 

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