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5/29/12

Passive Solar Prefab Home Adjusts For Seasons, Off Grid Appliances, And An Ugly Garden

What a week in the passive solar prefab home.
At least now the sun is shining and the solar panels for the passive solar prefab are fine!


But I wasn't laughing, just days ago...

It was the last week of my children's school.
"May we please watch some Avatar? We have no homework and the battery bank is at 77%..."
My children are using solar power in arguing for a movie, lol!

And then, lickety-split, school was over.
Disarray

We are still in boxes, with no closets or shelves. On Week 2 of another cloudy, rainy week...

And our beef share was on the way, with no off grid solar freezer yet arrived.


It should have been disastrous.
Except that, when, after much panic, the freezer arrived (mere hours before the meat) and I was the only adult within miles to accept it and anguished, "How the heck am I supposed to get this freezer in all by myself?!?" I began to panic, panic, panic when the TRANSPORTATION guy, NOT a delivery person, NOT his job, who also has a family with young children while he travels, looked at what was going on and my brave smile and probably pictured his own family... He got off that big rig truck, loaded the freezer onto my trailer, drove my car down the drive, unloaded it, and pushed it into place.

Transportation Guy, I know I said this over and over, but I'll say it again: "THANK YOU and deepest regards and warmth to your family and, just: THANK YOU."

"We're SAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAVED! The solar freezer is here ahead of the beef!!!!!!! And I didn't need to ask any neighbors for a FAVOR!!!!!!"

Giddy, elated, almost smug at how easily that had miraculously transpired, I went to plug in our SunDanzer Freezer and... it was DC, duh. I don't even know where the DC outlets are. (Our off grid prefab home is wired for AC *and* DC.) And we're still not done hooking everything up. Our electrician is nowhere to be found, I've been trying to get him out here to finish solar water installation for weeks. If he hasn't hurried to install our hot water, he certainly is not going to drop what he's doing and come out here for beef...

Deflated, with months of meat barreling down upon me, I panicked, gave in, and called some friends.

"WHAT? Well SURE you can borrow a cooler, but why don't we make some room in one of our farm freezers and, wait: you *know* I'm also a licensed electrician, don't you? ...I'll be right over."
Saved!

It could have been a horrible day.
It could have been a devastating day.
Instead I feel so grateful, filled with so much kindness and love... this day, with everything that should have gone wrong... went right.

I would like to dedicate this song to our dear, dear friends here and the kind people who crossed our path during a really difficult week and made it better: 


Off Grid Freezer For The Prefab House
Immediately, I was impressed with the extremely low energy usage of the Sundanzer Freezer. I loved the experiment and cost effective chest-freezer-turned-into-an-off-grid-fridge we implemented for our off grid refrigerator.  But there's no comparison on energy efficiency; and when you have two weeks of cloud cover in a solar home, you really realize that what you saved in cost, costs you in energy consumption.

The meat arrived, and we also are putting the freezer to other uses:
Homemade lime popsicles. 
Margaritas.

Cooling food and ceiling fans are another method of "air conditioning" when you live in an off grid home... we think it works really well.
'Round here, it's never too early for popsicles
and a game of bocci...

Passive Solar, Energy Efficiency In The Heat
As they did for centuries before HVAC, I employ the old but effective tactic of ooooooopening the windows to embrace the cool air at night, then at dawn I close them up tight.  The structural insulated panels and energy efficient windows hold in that cool air, even as the outdoor temperatures quickly rise with the sun.  Ceiling fans and the clerestory windows also move hot air out in the afternoon, until late afternoon, when I open it all, again, and the sweet breeze resumes.

Solar Panels, Seasonally Adjusted
After two weeks of cloud cover, I was puzzled, no, concerned when the sun shone yet the battery bank charge did not spring back as usual.  Then, "Duh!": Our panels still sit upright for the low winter sun! Time to adjust the pitch of the solar to embrace the high sun! Effectiveness, restored.

Winter Angle:
Summer Angle:
Actually lowered, a tad more...

Ugly Gardening
I mentioned I am building "steps" in the worst Virginia clay soil around the prefab home.  It does two things: provides a trench for plants, and is also a way of slowing runoff. Besides, you've got to start amending that bad soil at some point, might as well seed seed seed and plant plant plant.

The plants are taking to it, better than expected!
I also strew newspaper right before a rain last week, intending to anchor it down neatly, then cover with manure. The manure didn't happen, the rain turned into a breezy storm, and now that area looks positively hideous.

BUT: When, intending to clean up my failed attempt this morning, the first unsightly sheet I removed revealed: not only that there was *much* moisture underneath, but: a nice fat toad seeking refuge in the clay soil desert!
Look closely & you can see the outline of more
moist soil where the paper was... and... a toad!

Until I can hide its function with manure or compost? The ugly newspaper stays.


ReUse
The Pipsqueaks got busy with that Off Grid Freezer box and built their own modern coop:
*Totally* done on their own, no help!
I think it looks rather mod and coolio!
"So do we!"
[Who needs toys. Just getcher childrenz chickens. And discarded boxes.]
Note there is always a horse
in any self portrait she draws...


Reading Club:
In 80 Years, We Lost 93% Of Variety In Our Food Seeds
The End Of Fish, In One Chart


I See The Benefits Of Biodiversity And No Pesticides In My Own Back Yard
I awake several times a night.  It's not insomnia; no, I am just An Observer.
Lately I have been treated to my own private ballet: In the dark, you can faintly see the field, and the treeline, beyond. Then more dramatic than any crashing cymbal symphony, more thrilling than any baseball game fireworks, yet elegant in its silence: SOMETHING dances. Over the fields they blink, even higher than the tree line! I don't think they're fireflies, no- they are the size of birds! They flit and glow and flare SO beautifully, dancing over the field and trees, white glowing apparitions that torch then fade, torch then fade... cool.

The deer are bedding down in the oats, which also will provide a buffer to my growing food garden- they can munch on the various things I've seeded in the field without impacting my vegetables.  And I am looking forward to exploring the grains I see ripening- oats, rye, even some amaranth popping up as seedlings...

In the meantime, we're staying cool in the heat thanks to the energy efficient prefab home.

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