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Reflecting on Passive Solar Off Grid Living, In A Prefab

"I hope that when Santa lands on the roof he doesn't break any solar panels...!"
-- Worried Pipsqueak 2

Lucky for us all, he didn't!

We're merry, but the weather is not! 

I had mentioned living off grid in a passive solar prefab home is much like sailing: Small footprint means you stash and have nooks and crannies *everywhere* you find a space. Everything has its place. 

Or at least as much as possible as you can have things be in place, in a family with two children, three dogs, nine chickens and now... two horses.

Yes, you heard that right:
Santa brought horses.
According to the Pipsqueaks,
they now have two moms:
Me, and a leopard Appaloosa.

At The Passive Solar Prefab, It Was The Best Christmas Ever. 

Last Christmas had been The Worst Christmas Ever, so please understand these happy pictures are soothing to us, not meant to show off *things* but to lovingly share how we are so thrilled to finally be in a warm, loving community surrounded by kind people and new family members.

But first, we had a beautiful dinner with our dear friends and co-conspiritors, The W's.

In Stall #2... !
A beautiful, sweet, Percheron / Arab.

Then, after the W's departed and the Pipsqueaks opened their stockings, they discovered a letter from Santa, who directed them to the shed, where they found a saddle, with a note that said, "This is the Sharing Christmas. This saddle is yours, to share. Now GO TO THE W's! What's in Stall #2 is yours! What's in Stall #1 is for Momma and Papi."

The horses did great- despite the GALE outside- there was rain and high wind and things rattling all over and through the barn walls... But the horses were nothing but happy & calm during the Christmas Chaos.

Now if only this rain would let up and we could go RIDE!  

Living off grid in the passive solar prefab also means you watch the battery bank percentage, and, like sailing, adjust your home energy use accordingly. It has been an overcast winter. 

And, like when Hurricane Sandy rolled through, casting over a week of gray throughout the region, my eye is glued the battery bank percentage.

As far as we know, we are the ONLY off grid home, much less prefab house, that is *completely* off grid, not even with a generator!
"Look, ma, no generator!" [Yet. Maybe.]
Nope, those solar panels aren't charging furiously
in all this gray weather!

But is it worth it? I enjoy adjusting my energy use as I do a sail. But when you have to cut lights, cut computer use... The whole POINT of living this way is to live MORE modern, more freely, freeing yourself of debt and dependency so you can LIVE BETTER. Living day after day without proper hot baths because you turned the solar hot water off to conserve power, bathing warmly only via water heated on the cook stove is not better.
We realized... the battery percentage was set by default and NOT FOR OUR PREFAB'S SMALLER SYSTEM! All this time I had been panicking over the percentage dropping below 70- edging closer to the dreaded 50%...

We realized: It was set all wrong! That even if I had gotten to FIVE PERCENT it really would have been 80something percent!!!! AAAAAAAA WE ARE SAAAAAAAVED!

So, after a week of gray and rain tempered with occasional sun, this is what I noted this morning:
And although it is gray, the sky is bright, and the battery bank is CHARGING. YESSSSS.

Sooooo. The Mayans were wrong about the world ending last week;  and we were wrong about the battery bank. Yay!

Jumping for joy over the battery bank's new reading
on our neighbor's Shetland pony.

A lookback on DC:
We laughed several times last week in conversation in DC as people asked us questions about our off grid prefab home. No, we're not preppers. Yes we have lots of friends in a small community. NO, Appomattox is not in Maryland. (Seriously?!? I am revoking DC's history and geography cards, yo.)

Architecture Note:
Heeeey! DC commits to its first Living Building!  

We live in a "living" building, an affordable, off grid prefab home that changes function with the weather...
...but let's talk more about "living" in DC!

DC is, notably, a higher density area than Our Fair Cit-tay, Population 199.
[Shush. I'm giving a report.]
After ice skating: education.
With the higher density, we had more opportunity to encounter fortuitous blessings of seeing such crazy intersections of mankind, with grace and laughter and weirdness and love. Actually, lots of love. In a weird but good way.

[Read: We rode the bus a lot (and had a homeless guy sing "The Greatest Love" to us, after telling us, seriously: "Protect them." We looked him in the eyes with love and nodded, "We do.") and we encountered an Absolutely Filled With Love Awesome Cafeteria Lady in the National American History Museum.]

What I appreciate about "living" in DC (when I'm there, that is) is that the bus stop is ONE block away, and we ride it all the way down to the Museum of Natural History. Such easy access to the goings-on on the National Mall...

There's ice skating...

It's so easy to access. When we tire? We just go home.
For those that wondered what our DC apartment is like:
Tiny, the puppy, is bigger than our apartment, yo.
[The couch folds out to turn the first room, which has
a breakfast nook / lounge area / kitchen / fireplace,
into a big bedroom. The children's bedroom
is in the back.]
Last week we paid a visit to the Star Spangled Banner...
I had no idea the flag was SO HUGE, no wonder it was so easily seen during the battle! Because cameras are not allowed, here is a video on this very interesting exhibit:

Original Star-Spangled Banner Debuts in New ...
...and enjoyed the rest of the National Museum Of American History.
We admired many artifacts, including a famous pair o' RUBY SLIPPAHS.

Meandering south down the National Mall, we REALLY appreciated the Yuletide exhibit at the U.S. Botanical Gardens - adorned with wreaths and ornaments, landscape architect Paul Busse replicated landmarks on the National Mall and Capitol Hill using pine cone scales, willow, pods, grape vines, and acorns!  It was *magical.*

There were fairy hide-outs and trains and tiny places to explore.

The U.S. Botanical Gardens, by the way, helped create The Sustainable Sites Initiative.
"Healthy landscapes have the capacity to enhance and regenerate natural resources and ecosystem health. The central message of Sustainable Sites Initiative(tm) (SITES(tm)) is that any landscape - whether the site of a large subdivision, a shopping mall, a park, an abandoned rail yard or even one home - holds the potential both to improve and to regenerate the natural benefits and services provided by ecosystems in their undeveloped state.

While standards existed for sustainable structures - "green buildings" - until 2009, there were no comprehensive guidelines and performance benchmarks for those who want to create and measure sustainable landscapes. Yet landscapes have great potential for both environmental good and severe environmental damage.

The Guidelines and Performance Benchmarks 2009, which includes the Rating System, can be used anyone in the design, construction and maintenance fields, as well as homeowners, governments and those who maintain existing green building standards. As these guidelines become the accepted practices, they will transform the ways we design and build on the land."
I appreciate the culinary and cultural opportunites we share in DC.
The childrenz had their first Korean food at Mandu.
I enjoyed watching the smoke billow out of their ears.

We loved returning to the Spanish restaurant, Estadio...

Albeit Country Kids, the Pipsqueaks do love exploring everything in DC... even the squirrels.
"Can I catch a squirrel?" "No."
"Can I catch a squirrel?" "No."
"Can I catch a squirrel?" "No."

The squirrels and pigeons are used to tourists tossing treats. They're not expecting The World's Fastest Chicken Chasin' Kids to be loosed on their city... Squirrels & Pigeons: "EEEEEEEEK!"

Seriously. Ya get the kids off the farm...

And speaking of the farm... we appreciate DC, but the entire time, home was in our hearts.  So at the end of the week, we skedaddled back to the off grid prefab home and homestead.
Our chickens even welcomed us back with a song!

We were tired. The cook stove fed us.
I made the best tired home food ever, feelin' very Appalachian:
Fresh bread out of the oven, slathered in butter + a bowl of pinto beans & collards stewed all day on the cook stove in salt & stew bones / meat. Oh, my gosh. We were full & warm & quiet. Mmmmmmmm.

In DC, we had used the city as an opportunity to eat out, not junk, but to embrace the opportunity for new culinary experiences- Korean, Mexican where there was ne'er a Sombrero in sight, Spanish... Back at the prefab home, I was inspired to do a take on Estadio's fava bean / pimento spread:
Estadio Bastardio'd FavaBeanArDio Spread:
  • Boil up some fava beans until soft
  • Puree with some roasted almonds, roasted red peppers, pimentos
  • Salt, olive oil, lemon juice added to puree
  • Add *really good* olive oil to the base of the serving bowl. Then add the puree. 
  • It would be nice to garnish with the crispy baked bread - like crackers - but who the hell does that in real life, add crackers around it instead.
  • Toast pine nuts if you have them and puree them in; I didn't have any on hand. Drat.
    What the bean spread looks like at Estadios.
For Christmas dinner I pulled the pureed figs I brought back from summer's time in Deltaville to glaze a chicken surrounded by a variety of sausages from our dear friends and neighbors at Ault Family Farm. Forget surf-n-turf; we Turf-N-Turfed it. Dee-licious.
Our neighbors' Ault Family Farm chicken & sausages, of course.
Reading club:
Hope y'all had a great holiday. At the off grid passive solar prefab home and now farm, we embrace 2013's adventures. 

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At 12/29/12, 3:20 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

My, it's been four years since I showed up on your doorstep the first time. The time, it sho' do fly. Happy New Year!

At 12/29/12, 7:29 PM , Blogger Passive Solar Prefab Homes said...

**Happy New Year** Justin!!!!
I'm excited for 2013, and I know y'all are too!

I can't believe it has been that long. But look at the Pipsqueaks- when I started this blog Pipsqueak 2 was in DIAPERS!


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