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Big Bucks, Bold Moves, And Inner Peace At The Passive Prefab Home.

Plans a-hatchin', stuff a'-brewin', all sorts of
Goings On A-Going And Not Just At
The Passive Solar Prefab House!

[P.s. Someone forgot their camera and had to take horrible
cell phone pictures this weekend. Ugh.]

We are flush with celebration.
THE BIG BUCK MADE IT!!!! S. just called to tell us, you could hear her smile through the phone.

Now when he ages, he will be harvested, quickly, humanely, than taken by coyote.
But for now: Let him reign.
[Not our buck. OUR buck is magical, mystical, ethereal. Like a unicorn, yo.]

You see, when you take SIXTEEN BUCKS in a morning like those four idiot Drive-Here's do... Don't you realize you're chipping at the gene pool, dudes?!? Plenty of does you coulda taken but then that wouldn't make much of a story, no? That's where REAL hunters, not you, consider conservation...

We have more Big News:
We are in the process of selling the mid-century house!!!!!!!!!!!!

Without even going on the market, we've sold our Oasis In The City to friends who are in the branding, design & architecture fields, who have young children who will love the yard, the gardens, and parents who will be super stewards who appreciate the history and architecture of our home. [And we can visit them, because they're friends!]

Immediately we started blurting to each other, "You can move things into the office now for storage, if it makes it easy, if you want" "Do you want the playhouse? Our children have outgrown it..." "I will be focusing on the garden on the land, please do work in the yard/ make your own garden so you don't have to lose a food season just because we close in spring / summer..."

We decided to negotiate well fed. So we literally broke bread- still recovering, I hung back at the mid-century with the children going down at bedtime and sent over homemade hummus and Handsome Husband to finalize the details.
How we do business 'round here...

THAT is how property should be sold. Like Flossie who, with her husband, built this house and loved their children in it, who sold us her home only after we wrote her a letter, in turn, this exchange of property entwines our families and friendships... we will have to throw a party.

And Now? We're Back At The Passive Solar Prefab Home!
And... I forgot my purse. You know, the one with the BRAND NEW camera within?
I just *know* you will adore the scratched gauzy lens of the cell phone pictures for this episode...

I console myself over my forgotten purse fate with:
It's almost time to order new business cards!
"Copeland Casati
Green Modern Kits / Green Cottage Kits / Green Cabin Kits
Please inquire for this week's location.
Pamplin City / DC / RVA..."
but there's one more thing we need to do... stay tuned.

Inner Peace
At one moment, after adding to the crazy scenario I can't quite yet reveal, I asked The Quieter Child, checking on her, what she thought. Her dark eyes deepened. Her mouth curved, and her smile slowly expanded into a full, sure grin.
She calmly met, and looked serenely back into my eyes:
"I have inner peace."

I have deeply Buddhist friends, but this is a seven year old. My heart stopped.
"Why... where did you hear that?!?"

Mouth laughing, coming-in-teeth askew, deep eyes steady, sure in her answer to me, she delighted, at I being ridiculous for not knowing:

"Oh, Momma, Kung Fu Panda!"

Off Grid Passive Solar Prefab House Update
Handsome Husband finished work on the Maytag Washer!!!!  He remains deeply impressed by its simple, functional, timeless design.

He also began taking measurements for the built ins we have planned in the closet / systems spaces, to then begin sketching designs so that we can then pay our friend, who has the carpentry skills we lack, to complete.

Pat Root, we're lookin' for ya! As the mid-century modern progresses towards its sale, we need to gather the team to finish this longterm, pay-as-you-go project. Chiles, we need to get a certificate o' occupancy rollin' by summer! (We are working on the Where To Stay part as the prefab house finishes completion in the meantime. Two children, two dogs, a school semester to finish, a move, all while working... easy!)

In RVA Green Drinks News...
Some of y'all might recall when, a few years back, Richmond Green Drinks was privileged to have Jim Nicolow present his project, Southface Eco Office, targeted to be the south-east's first LEED platinum new construction building designed by Lord, Aeck & Sargent...
[You can even take a tour of Southface Eco Office, here!]

Well I just got a little update on what Mr. Nicolow is up to this year, from my Green Drinks partner in crime, Scott Kyle, LEED ap.

So what new coolio project IS the esteemed Mr. Nicolow up to right now?

*That's right: pigs.
I love the story. But as someone who has also fought the good fight for urban hens, it IS a bit baffling that people need to continually expend so much time, energy, and resources on local officials who are clearly not keeping up with their industry.*

In my other industry, technology, if I were so uninformed I would be hopelessly an out-of-date dinosaur with no clients. Why is this attitude so pervasive with officials in the USA? Isn't keeping up with zoning and urban planning trends part of their job? Much less sustainability?

Instead of being frustrated, I will look to spring.
I am busy reviewing what seeds I saved and what seeds I will order this week.

Which brings me to this week's tech / enviro news...

Anonymous Takes Down
Now I don't condone using illegal methods but I won't deny a little piece of me secretly cheered. Now let's take them through the proper legal channels to ensure they don't hurt average families further. Because not everyone reads ingredients like my kids.

It is getting more and more difficult to avoid GMO. You might recall I made up a little ditty for my children awhile back:
 "4 is poor. 8 we hate; but 9 is fiiiiiine."
This helped them memorize the meaning of bar codes, or PLUs:
"The code is usually a four-digit number, currently in the 3000–4999 range,[1]identifying the type of bulk produce, including the variety. A fifth digit may be prefixed to the number to indicate if the produce is organic (prefixed by a '9') or genetically modified (prefixed by an '8').[2]"
4 is poor. = If it starts with a 3 or 4, that means it was grown on a conventional, pesticide-laden, not much thought for how the land is preserved farm.
8 we hate; = GMO, enough said
but 9 is fiiiiiine. = Organic

The seafood industry is even starting to implement its own codes, to ensure that your fish is actually... fish.

"Adherence to the IFPS's PLU standards is voluntary, including the decision to label produce as organic or genetically modified.[2]"
As consumers become more educated, I suddenly am noticing... PLU discrepancies. Intentional?
It's not just organic: Are you being misled by your favorite "All Natural" brand?

Why in the world would an organic brand NOT use the indicative PLU?

And more:
Systemic Problems with Organic Labeling and Signage: Widespread Market Place Misrepresentation

Book Club
After many years of hard, hard work and frugal savings and decisions, we are having some blessed moments and we think, with each unexpected turn of good fortune:
"Ours, ours, ours- this is all ours, as in: our family, with you, our friends: How can we help, who can we invite, think of the fun and chaos and EEEEEEVERYBODY, ALL of our friends who will enjoy it...Bring your dogs, All Are Welcome, just come!"

More on that, next week.
The trees are budding, spring's a-coming, and
we're going to have some crazy news soon,
keep your fingers crossed for The Crazy Family
that lives in the off grid passive solar prefab house kit!

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Considering Off Grid Prefab Living From A Rainy Weekend In The Mid-Century Modern House.

Our off grid passive solar prefab home, late last weekend, in sunnier times.
This weekend? It rains.

We returned last weekend from the passive solar prefab home, and, back in the city, there appeared on our doorstep A Dear Friend, L.L., hugging me despite my exhausted coughing: She arrived, armed with a weapon:
Hot, steaming pho.

L.L., at the prefab house earlier this fall...

I already brag on L.L. Actually, I brag on all my friends...
: ) because they're the best! (Y'all might have noticed, in this Supposed Prefab House Off Grid Construction blog... I digress often- I do like to talk about my loved ones, a lot.)

But: Seriously, how many friends do YOU have that argue in front of the Supreme Court of Virginia or whatever it's called? [Note: I don't know anything about law. But I do know a heck a lot about arguing a point.] Go, L.L.! Whatever the heck it is you do!

So there was L.L., with hot, spicy, chicken-broth-healin'-vegetable-and-herb-laden pho, and I just could have cried over all the love around us last weekend. People, just, you know, being people that love us... [We love them more...]

With as much disgust that ended the year, within the first week of 2012 we were paid in full (and more) with happiness & love. How can we not be ok, quickly cheerful again, when we are surrounded with so many loving, fun folk?

I thought back to the day when, years ago, I asked L.L. and her family to drive allllll the way out to the land and spend the day with us in the field, gathering at the first thing that transformed An Abandoned Field into a One Day Home... so L.L. and her family came out, and sat with us, in the middle of nowhere at... a picnic table.

A picnic table was all we had to offer our guests, and yet they came.

Even in those days, with no shelter, no toilet, much less no energy efficient passive solar prefab home, we had good times.

So, it's a rainy weekend, so, still recovering, we remain at the mid-century modern.

We've finally freed ourselves in many ways this year, so Let's Talk Freedom.
Freedom Of Food
As Chef Ellie says, "Via King Corn and Food Inc. movies, where Midwest potato farmers refused to feed their families the conventional potatoes they grow and sell to large food corp, because of the high level of pesticides and fertilizers. Now, watch this, which also made me think about the sterilized GMO plant seeds. "

Freedom Of Speech
Last week the internet made its voice clear against SOPA.
What does a bill like SOPA / PIPA mean to our world?

Freedom To Brag Some More On My Friends
Newsflash: Buy Fresh Buy Local Chapter Could Come to Central VA

If this happens, this would be *great* for our region, solidifying the Appomattox / Charlotte Court House / Brookneal area, so like Staunton, to be better known as a great healthy food / culture hub, another marketing opportunity that goes hand-in-hand with vineyard, history, and music tourism. [Plus the article features our very dear friends at Ault's Family Farm!]

Freedom of... Bees. 
Looking To The Land, At Higher Ground
We've also been discussing bees a lot. For a few years, I've been thinking about a hive...

As I type, bees are in legislation:  Virginia Senate bill 354 proposes a $200 tax credit for bee hives
I think: That would greatly help cover initial costs for critical need...

And via a friend, Carter: "-Honeybee population is declining at 1/3 a year & GMO corn is emerging as the culprit. Virtually all GMO corn is treated with neonics pesticides like clothiardin, injected in seeds to infuse the plant; later infecting the nervous system of insects touching it. If GMO corn kills bees should any human or farm animal eat it?- Should the public serve a cease-&-desist to Monsanto?!"
Honey Bee Problem Nearing A Critical Point

In Virginia, It Rains
So I will rest and continue to recover, while researching more for off grid / green building items that might be of use at the passive solar prefab house.

Green Building Roundup:
  • Here's a GREAT article on American Passive House Network by +Lloyd Alter. I love the analogy.
  • Inspector Gadget
    Here's a neato thermostat readers might like that another reader sent in: NEST : The learning thermostat.
    VERY cool. Once we get the radiant heat finished in the off grid prefab home, this could be VERY useful.
  • It's A Wrap
    Choosing the Best Housewrap: A New Standard for Weather Barriers

    "It's not easy being a weather-resistive barrier (WRB): it has to stop liquid water, be tough and not tear, but also be flexible to wrap around building elements. And it often needs to be vapor-permeable to promote drying." 
  • Solar Industry Issue: Solar Fees By Utility Companies
    PUC rejects SDG&E’s proposed ‘network use fee’ for solar customers
    "A plan by San Diego Gas & Electric to charge a “network use fee” to users of solar energy was stalled Wednesday at the California Public Utilities Commission.At a presentation to a committee in November, SDG&E presented the charge as a fairness issue, since solar customers are hooked to the grid but not paying for the upkeep of wires and other infrastructure.The plan, part of a wider proposal to restructure its rates, met fierce criticism from area politicians and green energy proponents."
  • Off Grid Security
    I'm not concerned about when we're home. We have fantastic neighbors, and everyone knows better than to go onto private property, unwanted, when the house is habituated. BUT as, for the first 1-2 years, we will be stepping between Higher Ground & DC, I am thinking alarm systems for off grid scenarios, because in our area homes are broken into when not always occupied.

    Here's one that looks promising: Honeywell's Vista 20P.
    Aux. power 12VDC, 600mA maximum
    • Seven hour standby at 400mA aux.
    load with four amp hour battery
    • 16.5VAC/25VA transformer
    • Alarm output 12VDC, 2.0 amps max.
    From a poster,
    "They have a power calculator (see link) that may give you an idea of the power draw.  Below are some figures for when the system is in standby/alarm:

    Vista panel: 85mA/160mA
    6160 keypad: 45mA/150mA
    5881EN receiver: 60mA/60mA
    Wave siren: 0mA/500mA!PowerCalculator.htm

    The alarm uses a wall wart that you could plug into a Kill-A-Watt to get a more accurate reading I suppose.  This system also has a 12V backup battery.  The alarm can be configured to sound from 4-16 mins.

    Regarding computer tie-in, you could use a AD2USB adapter which  can be configured to send emails or text messages.  Not sure if you want to run a PC 24/7 though." (Oh, I do...!)
Frugal Financial Planning
On this dreary rainy weekend as we recover from being ill, I am using the time to plan purchases, one a week, until we move. That way it doesn't have to be a financial cost all at once, therefore easier to stay within budget instead of using credit, and gives me time to think, thus making better financial decisions.

Here's what's on the 3 Month Wish List / Plans To Acquire:
Note how much we invest in vegetables & meat, an upfront expense but when you compare what organic costs in the grocery aisle and that this helps greatly to feed a family of four... quite an astute investment!
  • Vegetable seeds for spring & summer (I usually spend $150-$250)
  • Beef share deposit for Boxwood Beef $200 (then two more deposits)
  • Another Freezer. This time to be used as a freezer and not an off grid fridge. Because where the heck are we going to put the beef. I'm thinking another top-opening Haier so the cold air doesn't fall out, yet will not need the 2nd drawer, surround it with insulation, and powered from the (eventual) root cellar via solar. $279-700ish + a solar panel
  • More trees - quince, for jam, and a few fragrant additions: winter sweet, lilac... $100ish
  • The aforementioned security system, about $100
  • Fencing: This will be an ongoing project, but at the least we'll need electric fencing around the garden in year one! And ideally around the home site, to protect the feral cat & hens.
  • Food Dehydrator (I am going with the Excalibur, via this informative article) $100-$200
Book Club
  • Let's Think The Economy

    • Umair Haque expressed,"There's no recovery because it's not a recession. It's a transformation. We're not making it. Yet."
    • U.S. economy losing competitive edge, according to Harvard Business School survey I've said this before but I think the way to succeed in the long economy is 1. multiple revenue streams - not dual income, I'm talking about multiple skills that you enjoy, then employ to help your family not only make ends meet but excel while 2. taking an Old Testament approach to money lending, taking on debt, buying large equipment or new cars or the latest iWhatever when you can instead excel while saving.    
    • What price the wages of sin? Dido Sandler looks at investment ethics and religious belief 
    • Avoiding debt / loans the Amish way
      I had a great conversation with a colleague this week. He was home schooled, and we were speaking about how important it is to work through your teens & throughout college, to pay for education and living expenses... we then agreed that even if your college is paid for, you need to work so you can save up for a house *and* children, even before you've met a spouse! That is completely normal for our Amish friends, but I suspect my colleague and I are in the minority of that philosophy in the city...
  • Think The Garden
    Looking at the prefab home,
    the garden will be on the left <--
    fenced within the edge of this picture
    and herbs right outside of the prefab.

But before you start thinking seeds, you MUST think about your soil.

Raining, it was a good weekend to cook. 
Home made yogurt, bread, pizza, lentil soup, and even sheets of marshmallows. Now of course I'd never use corn syrup for the marshmallows! Just add more sugar (2 cups vs. 1) or replace the amount of corn syrup with organic rice syrup or such.

I *learned some lessons,* ha! Make sure you whip the egg white until it's SUPER STIFF, I just haphazardly whipped it... THEN I decided for fun (Handsome Husband had just made bread and the oven was cooling down) to pop it in the oven to see if it made it less sticky (I should have added more sugar, beaten the whites more) and THEN IT CARAMELIZED into a HUGE STICKY MESS...  [However, that carmelized, too-sticky mess was... delicious.]
Handsome Husband : "Um, you're gonna clean that out of the pan, right?" Um...
It got me thinking about cooking in the off grid prefab home: I would not have wasted solar energy consumption on beating silly eggs and sugar for 15 minutes!  

Which made me think about canning:
Where I currently can...

At the off grid prefab house I use 1. the solar oven 2. a camping stove and 3. the wood cook stove to cook. None are practical for maintaining the time and temperature for canning. Thank goodness we are right down the road from Prince Edward Cannery!
"A Cannery is a facility equipped for preparing and heat processing food which is then sealed into jars or cans. People bring in produce from their own gardens and through their own efforts, preserve it for future personal consumption.

The Prince Edward Cannery provides an opportunity for home canners and commercial canners alike with an inexpensive and effective method of preserving large amounts of food. Many prefer canning foods over freezing foods because canned foods store longer and are free from chemicals and additives. Fruits, vegetables, preserves, jams and jellies, as well as meats and fish, may be canned. Come see the Cannery for all the different things we can."
Pipsqueak1, shocked: "I don't want to go inside a cannery!!!! That's like a yellow bird or something, gross!"
Um, that's a CANARY, kid.

Copeland's Crock Pot Yogurt
I marked where the temperatures are,
and for how long...

  • In Crock Pot, er, Slow Cooker: Heat milk (NEVER ultrapasteurized) to 185, i.e. to scalding, stirring once it's hot, about 2 1/2 hours. What this does allow some of the water to evaporate, making it thicker, and also pasteurizes it if you have raw milk.
  • Then set it to 110 via water bath or leaving it for an hour alone to cool down to 110... I made two notations on my dial, so it's easy for me to just turn to the proper temperature even though my dial settings don't go that low.
  • Ladle out some milk into a bowl & mix with starter, then return it to the pot, & stir it up. 
  • Dial the dial to 100, or just a tad lower, and leave for 7 hours. When you return you might see some green liquid / more cheesy look. Now the longer you cook it after 7 hours the more sour it will become, so do keep an eye on the clock.
  • Refrigerate a few hours before serving. If you eat most of it within a few days you can use the remainder as starter, as the bacteria will still be growing.
Copeland's An Indian In Appalachia Soup
This takes the basics of good ole Southern Lentil Soup and makes it a tad Indian. Because, why not. It's raining. What else am I gonna do.

Instead of the traditional ham hock, which would overwhelm the Indian spices, I threw in a piece of fat from an earlier Boxwood Beef meal I had saved this week. An Indian In Appalachia Soup served with some of Handsome Husband's bread fresh out of the oven... Ahhh.
  • Saute thinly sliced garlic, onion, carrots in a bit of grease or oil, with the piece of fat if you have it.
  • Toss in some canned tomatoes (not too much, this isn't tomato soup) and stir & cook until the onions & carrots are soft.
  • Add chicken stock and (washed) lentils, season with kosher salt, and simmer until done with the piece of fat and a bay leaf (about 30 minutes).
  • Turn off heat. Remove bay leaf & fat piece, add turmeric, cayenne, cardamom, and curry.
  • Loosely puree (or mash, but it's that final touch that makes it more a smooth Indian vs. a chunky southern stew), serve.
Hunker down, eat well, and hug your loved ones! 
Which is exactly what I will do until our next adventures at the passive solar prefab home.

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Prefab Home's Passive Solar Adventures Include Farm Feasts, Off Grid Systems Musings, Puppies And Horses And... Off.

Gimme mah modern prefab home over any of yer suburban boxes, chiles.
Step aside.

Our arrival to our prefab home was delayed a bit as we stopped to shoo a cow off the highway, but back at the off grid prefab home we happily are!

Light streams in, the cook stove is going, my coffee is percolatin', the Pipsqeaks are hopping about like fleas, the dogs are gravely doing their hard duty keeping the beds warm, and Handsome Husband and I are slowly waking from a very fun evening spent with friends.

Tour guide for the passive solar prefab.

Yesterday a Scottish couple toured the passive solar prefab, to see for themselves the structural insulated panels, the passive solar design, the difference between the outdoor and the indoor temperature even as we began to get the cook stove going. They are interested in an off grid prefab home; who knows, maybe there might be a casa ti prefab outside of Charlottesville, soon!

We then headed over to The A's, who were having a huge feast and big send off for friends who are sadly leaving the area to farm in Floyd. (But exciting for them! Floyd is amazing! And now we'll all just come camp on their farm for Floyd Fest, ha! Oh, yes, Adam & Darby, we will... ; ) )

A feast it was.  You can buy property anywhere. But you can't buy community. We are so grateful to have lucked into the metropolis of Pamplin City-population-199, a place filled with so many people full of love.

Picture: A happy farmhouse filled to the top with swaddled newborns, toddlers toddling, children chasing, laughing adults.... spilling out into the yard, older children were entertained herding errant chickens back into their pens, groups hovered warming their hands around the Roasting Pit, played horse shoes, and my own Pipsqueaks began their love / hate affair with a Ram. Who, as nature's instinct overcame, backed up, rushed angrily intent, wanting to nail them into the ground with all his force; then, nurtured: begged them for a pet and kiss. Oh, poor ram divided, frustratingly (for he) by the metal gate from his prey and adulation...
"I want to kill you but PLEASE pet me..."

I suspect, fixating like that with your instinct mixed with raised-as-a-pet companionship craving, that you won't last long on this farm... [Note to all: Do not raise a ram as a pet.]

Stiff Medicine
I am recovered, mostly, but still weak. Knocked down a peg or two, this cold that would not leave weeks ago morphed slowly into bronchitis / pneumonia. You might not have noticed, but I do tend to enjoy the burn of cutting it as close as humanly possible the amount of work I can embrace. Finally, last week I gave in to bed, medicine, and doctor's orders. I am very grateful for the friends and colleagues that made the week easier for me, with Handsome Husband working in DC. I'm especially grateful for A.H., who took the children home from school.

What was interesting was the reaction of the Shop Dawgs. They shivered with each coughing fit and I realized that in their eyes, their future was uncertain. There goes the pack leader! She's ebbing out! Sheesh, boyz. Before you start elbowing each other in hierarchy I WILL RISE (thank yew, antibiotics I usually shun...). I'm better now.

But it made me think, and realize what so many in rural communities face: no easy access to doctors, no one to drive them when things get bad (so you'd better not let it get bad, Copeland)... I am humbled and wiser, mentally noting lots of things to prevent this from ever happening again.

Composting Toilet Note
I explained the composting toilet's strengths and faults to the Scottish couple, who are interested in one. I have written in more detail about this previously; but one thing I haven't mentioned is that in the winter we put a weighted piece of plywood, with rubber on the either side to create a seal, over the composting toilet opening. This prevents backdrafts from the cold air outside being sucked into the toasty prefab. The composting toilet industry really does need to rethink their designs as homes become more tight and efficient.

Magnificient Maytag
I'm impressed by how impressed Handsome husband is by the old Maytag Wringer Washer... "Its design is ingenious..." he mumbles as he heads to the shed for lubricant.

"It might be an energy hog (we don't know yet) but the trade off is it uses little water and... it has great design. My first impression when looking at the guts of the washer is that everything is over engineered yet simple. The motor drives the washer over a belt. The drive gear powers the washer as well as the wringer. You pull the red knob in the front to engage the washer gear and you turn the lever on top left to engage the wringer. The pump is engaged by a lever on the right that simply pushes the pump drive (rubber wheel) against the inside of one of the 2 pulleys. I don't see how this could ever fail. The overall condition of the washer is surprisingly good - likely it just became outdated and was put away."

In the summer I'll easily use the Lehman's Pressure Washer. But for indoors in winter, I'm looking forward to trying out the reused Maytag.

The Buck Stops Here
After the massacre on the last day of Deer Season (Really, guys? You *needed* to take SIXTEEN deer in a morning? You need SIXTEEN deer to get your family through the year, really?), I took a stroll to the bridge and tobacco barn and back. Two doe tracks, one young, one larger, one fawn... and finally, a buck. But no Big Bucks. Still keeping my fingers crossed, we know they took over four of The Big Bucks... purely to brag.

We Move On
After years and years of volunteering for the Children's Home Society's Community Resource Board, I am rotating off as I will not be based in Richmond, although I will still be in town several hours a week for work matters. This means that I will be looking towards DC and Pamplin City to find something new for which I can donate time, but I am very aware of my restrictions: As we will have no consistent, fixed address, I can not commit to board meetings or monthly events.

That's why Gleaning is on the top of my list.  No monthly teas and hoo-ha meetings, I will have no babysitter, but chiles, my chillunz and I can get busy picking up produce! I'm also looking at seeing how I might attend DC's EcoWomen and DC Green Drinks, when I'm in town...

I haven't even thought about leaving Richmond Green Drinks yet, which I help Scott Kyle with as a co-host. We've done some incredible green building programming in Richmond... I don't want to think about not being involved... That would truly be too sad. So... I won't think about that, and all the friendships I've made there... my children have enjoyed growing up with Green Drinks...

But! Puppies And Horses And Kitties And...
Often, on early afternoons, we head across the street to The W's to visit, shovel stalls, and ride. Today we met their 8 week old Great Pyrennees puppy! This dog, while a part of the family, will also have the job of guarding livestock.

Get Off
We embrace our journey to Off.
Off grid, Off the beaten path, Off on adventure.
And for Certain People? Off Limits.

To those whom I know, "Baby, you ain't my friend..."
Peace, love, and NYC.

[For those that loved this subway video, (I did!!!) here's the story on how it happened. Enjoy.]

I see I will need new business cards. 
"Copeland Casati.
Of No Fixed Address: Pamplin City / DC / Richmond.
Please inquire for this week's address."

Our lives are so full, we're so grateful.
I think about the smiles we encountered in just these past two days... We are ALL looking ahead.

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Prefab Homes Seasons Swirl: Sustainable Cities, Hunting, Seed Saving, And The Suitcase Of Spice.

After the holidays, it sure is great to come back to Higher Ground.
We cozily crashed. We cooked. We hiked.
Thank you for nurturing us, land...

We are SO happy to be back at the prefab house, enjoying the prefab's off grid, passive solar function combined with the cheerful, restorative qualities of the land we aptly named long ago, Higher Ground.

We are showing the Richmond Mid-century Modern home to two couples this week... and it's not yet even officially for sale.

Who knows, maybe we will have some news, sooner than expected... in the meantime we continue to pack and organize to officially put the mid-century on the market this spring.

We will miss the mid-century house, terribly. If we can, I'd like to ensure this lovely, loved home is passed on to really good stewards...

By selling our mid-century home we will then finish the off grid passive solar prefab house, get our certificate of occupancy, move in, *and,* at our age, be mortgage free. While loving our jobs. And allowing the experience, for a year, to have a foot on the land and a foot in DC. Independence, and adventure, await!

I am keen to finish these last little things to make this prefab home officially habitable! Septic, solar heat... and to *finally* hide those green walls, paint, and hang lights!!! 
Actually, we *did* hang another light this weekend... a puddle lamp... one of three over the kitchen island...
For the kitchen island area... two more to go...

Because we just can't help ourselves, even though we know better. #ConstructionDustAwaits
In case you're ever wondering, that's why we still have the lamp shades & art wrapped, where possible.

Now before I go all agriculture-y on you, I'm also thinking about sustainable cities and zoning... and what Richmond has yet to do before it even gets close to what these DC, Baltimore, and Boston officials are discussing.  From the Urban Land Institute, they discuss the success of Hamburg's (Handsome Husband's hometown!) sustainable initiatives:

"Public officials representing the planning departments in Boston, Baltimore, and Washington, DC respond to a presentation on the success of urban sustainability initiatives in the city of Hamburg. They address the problem with motivating U.S. citizens to take climate issues seriously when energy prices are lower than other countries along with what each city is doing to be more green."

More DC Urban Initiatives:
Pedal to work for $20 a month: Federal agencies boost bikes with subsidy for workers
“ 'The purpose of the Bicycle Reimbursement Program is to reduce traffic congestion and pollution, as well as to promote wellness among federal employees,' says a memo circulated around the department."

I'm already envisioning Handsome Husband on his bike pedaling from Dupont Circle to the Orange Line...
I'm looking forward to connecting with colleagues there in green building, starting with DC's EcoWomen & DC Green Drinks, and being closer to many old friends in NY...

I had a great time speaking to DC EcoWomen in 2009, I'm very much looking forward to connecting with them again.

Stripped To The Essentials: As we will be The Casatis Of No Fixed Address awhile, it occurred to me as I cooked tonight that not only will I have a constant suitcase, but also a little traveling case in which I will carry my spices. No matter where I land, daily, I will have fresh underwear, a tidy dress, sturdy boots, and jars and jars and jars of spice.

I'm going to look like a drug dealer, aren't I. Pssst: Yo, yo yo: I've got yer coriander, I've got sticks of cinnamon, whatchoo looking for. Fresh ginger? Easy, right here, hold on, I know I've got a packet of that stashed somewhere...  Flour? Got that too, fresh milled.

At the passive solar prefab home, our indoor temperature recorder (Oregon Scientific) tells us the lowest temperature the prefab home experienced within (with NO heat just the energy efficient SIP and passive solar design) was 45... this when, earlier in the week, we had Arctic weather coming down from, I don't know, the Arctic, and the reading outside had lows in the teens. That's consistent with other readings we've taken when it was in the teens outside.  (Note: We are now in a different scenario- it has wildly vacillated by the weekend, into the balmy '60s!)

Handsome Husband: "You could survive in this prefab house, without heat, in a harsh climate, even without adding thickness to the SIP, and the house itself, even without heat, doesn't get hurt!"

NOT that I would be comfortable at 45!... I prefer 68 to 45 any day, ha, but consider that's the house *without* any systems heat when temperatures are in the teens.

[And when you add a simple, beloved cookstove, still without true working systems, which then, once lit, quickly brings us into the 70s indoors?!? Niiiiice.]

Anyhoo. Before I start talking country, I just wanted to show you something this guy I like to read on the internet dug up this week:  Stars, animation, Orson Wells and Plato.
*ONLY* Stefan Boublil, only Stefan Boublil could ...
[Commentary: ]
And right when I was thinking about how much I am looking forward to gazing at the winter sky this weekend.

Ah, stars, galaxies, worlds away... 

Big news in our world, DEER SEASON ENDS!!!!
"Arrrroooooo, last day o' deer season...!
Now to find those carcass parts left by
hunters in the fields
and ROLL in 'em!"

Don't get me wrong: I strongly support deer hunting by responsible hunters. There is an overpopulation problem. I *love* venison. [And note: Donations of venison sausage are eagerly, always accepted to help continue to keep this blog running. ; ) ]

This Deer Season? We've got about 15 more minutes... We're now drinking a toast to The Humongous Ethereal Big Buck We Admire, that we might see him another season. The Big Buck is bigger than a horse, fer real (kinda) - we've seen him twice... May he reign another year.

However, there is an overpopulation problem we need to cull, and I am grateful always for the gift of meat whose life was quickly ended so it could nourish my own family.

But you can't live through deer season without having firsthand exposure to IRresponsible hunters. They run their dogs across your fields (don't they realize that fearful chase ruins the meat?), shoot into your perimeter (usually from the road), power ATVs through your woods... and basically prevent responsible, intelligent people from safely working in their own fields, on their own land, from riding their horses, from getting work done, therefore affecting many rural BUSINESSES and families who can't let their children safely play... except on Sunday.

That's why, as an environmentalist, I support the Sunday Ban. 

Delegate Pollard opines, "Environmentalists Should Help Repeal Sunday Hunting Ban" 
[Read the comments! ]

Prefab house is hiding, y'all!
Sheesh, you illegal poachers, begone!

I think the real issue here is that most hunters now (thanks to development, hence loss of nearby land on which to hunt) have to travel so many hours to hunt, almost always on leased land, so have no connection with the neighbors, the local community, and just want to shoot... something. They're antsy to make their travel hours, limited therefore to a weekend because they're not willing to give up a work day, "worth it" - and reckless.

Rural landowners don't have this inconvenience and can certainly crack a shot any moment they legally want in a season. Except Sunday... and I assure you most local landowners have little desire to hunt on Sunday because you're off doing everything else you couldn't get done that week because of deer season.

Six days a week is plenty, local hunting interferes little with work schedules because it's dawn and dusk you're active. Sunday isn't the real issue, it's loss of local hunting habitat.

During deer season, Sunday is the only day many local rural businesses can responsibly do business that depends upon the weekend without endangering their clients during deer season - like riding lessons, businesses catering to outdoors tourism on the weekend (think of what a pretty day it would be for this town to potentially rent bikes and sell food to those hiking on the High Bridge Trail!)...

Our friends don't even do trail rides on Sundays during deer season, just in case. That's lost revenue to rural local communities because of hunters traveling from afar. As I mentioned, if you're a *local* hunter you can hunt any weekday dawn & dusk you want without taking time away from work or family to do so. Hunters that come in from afar hurt local family and business activity for months while leaving no money in the local economy. (And no, to be fair: it's not just visiting hunters, there's plenty of local IRresponsible hunters too around here...but the ATVs and dogs are overwhelmingly coming from afar.)

I also don't understand why, every year, irresponsible hunters are not held accountable when they do kill someone. From this week, just a town or two over, one man shot a neighbor on the road: "Chatham Man Killed By Neighbor"

Why are incidents like these dismissed as "accidents" and not labeled, "The idiot *chose* to shoot at something that was not clearly identified as a deer and so now, through that bad decision, someone is dead"?!? These incidents are not "accidental." People should be held accountable for their choice to not identify what their target is.

And as deer season ends, it's now that time of year:
Time to pour over the seed catalogs.

Santa brought us grape vines, mushroom buckets, an olive tree... but now I'm looking towards what to plant in early spring. Here are some of my choices this year for *early* planting- mache corn salad will be new this year, and then the tried-and-trues: more compact lettuces, tatsoi / bok choy varieties, carrots (especially as we clearly have a 7yr old Rabbit Pipsqueak), creases, onions, onions, onions, garlic, garlic, garlic and new: ginger! Can someone please tell me how I went a winter season with no kale? I still can't figure out how that happened. Plenty of mustard greens, bok choi, cabbage, collards... but where the hale is the kale. I have no idea. I can't believe I'm actually going to have to buy that stuff, because with winter full on, I'm craving it.

Moving Thoughts: I will really miss our peach tree when we move... We've already planted peaches, apples, blueberries, and more on the land, but our urban peach tree was positively prolific, and we have a year's worth of jam to thank for it. None of the fruit trees on the land are really producing... yet.[2011 Apple tree harvest? Two apples.]

I am hoping to cart out cuttings from the urban elderberry bush... and resolve to increase my elderberry jam output this year, as three delicious jars filled with super anti-oxidants just didn't cut it. That stuff is nectar.

Harvesting peaches with the H's...

Apparently, we have a 7yr old Elderberry Monster in our midst, who demands it on everything she can.

I have been gathering, since the end of summer, as always: seed.
I casually save seed. 

When I say "casually" that means I dry it, throw it in a big bowl in a dark, quiet drawer, then, come spring, carry the drawer outside and throw it all into the dirt and say, "Fly! Be Freeeeeee!"
Surprisingly, it usually works. But I've decided, with my disgust of Big Ag and people who don't get Urban Chicken Keeping, that doing things like this are a duty, and resolve to take it more seriously this year.

Here's a neat lil' pdf on the basics of seed saving.
And it even makes you feel punk rock. Enjoy.

And I love this Seed Saving Handbook, so easy to use!

I'm also thinking about where to put a root cellar...

We Recovering Family-olics: As expected, they're still scurrying in the walls, out of sight. We've regained our cheerfulness, actually already forgetting them all, again. This happens routinely. Except... no longer, because have you really broken the cycle if you're still exposing them to the still healthy, next generation? Having a lifetime of many healthy, lifelong relationships (including my oldest friend, Pipsqueak #2's Godmother, who visited over the holidays), with healthy people who have seen up-close-and-personal what I will just call, *that*... and having them support us, reassuring us, "No, you're not crazy..."...  We're now more than ok.

Copeland's You've All Lost Yer Meatballs Linguine

1. Meatballs:
Combine minced onion, bread crumbs (when you start a boule, or cut a crust, just dice & throw that in a small container in the freezer until it's full and then you make stuff like this. Cut 'em up, minced. Deeelish, with all those sourdough / rye / sesame unexpected breads, yum!), basil, oregano, kosher salt, ground beef -> into meatballs. Fry in olive oil, set aside. (If you still have breadcrumbs left, I do, save them in a bowl... you'll add them in a moment.)

2. Sauce: I brought up two jars of onion / garlic / *sliced* not diced tomatoes. You do what you need to do if you don't have that on hand. Heat it up to simmer (always careful with self-canned goods), while boiling yer pasta. Add salt, basil, oregano, etc. to taste.

3. Pile It On: Butter up a baking dish. Drain pasta in colander, return to pot, throw in lots juice from the sauce in with the pasta, so you have seasoned pasta in juice in one pot and now a chunky pasta left in the sauce pan. Layer the pasta into the baking dish, sprinkle with Parmesan.Top with a layer of sauce. Then add meatballs. Then sprinkle with parmsean again, then top with any breadcrumbs left over, then another layer of sauce-mixed-in-with-anything-left-over-from-the-meatball-pan. Refrigerate if you want, then bake to serve for guests.

I hear more Arctic weather is a-brewing. Our advice? Hunker down with your friends, i.e. family, get cozy 'round the cookstove. Bitter temps are a great time to warm up with loved ones- gathering and storytelling, cooking and eating, everyone staying up too late, then slumbering in through a cold winter morning, children and dogs sneaking in the beds, and hot coffee passed around with blankets still around you the next day.
Once forces are slowly gathered: a hike.

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