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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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At 1/22/12, 4:12 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Every time I read yer posts, I feel like I've been hugged to pieces :)

At 1/22/12, 5:28 PM , Blogger Passive Solar Prefab Homes said...

Best. Compliment. EVER!!!!!!!!
(And that's because you were!)

At 8/20/12, 6:11 PM , Anonymous Sheri said...

I miss my family at home when I read your article. I'm working away from home and whenever I go home we always got a bonding with my family celebrating and we cook everything we could think of. I just love your article It reminds me of my family. (^_^)


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