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3/25/12

Reigned In By Rain: No Passive Solar Prefab House Visit, And Mid-century Modern Yard Sale Is A Wash Out

Passive solar prefab off grid home in drier days...

Our plans to finish spring planting at the passive solar prefab house this weekend were waylaid by rain.

As was our yard sale back at the mid-century modern.
I mean, I *know* the weather predicted showers, but they do that all the time and nothing happens...
So we got busy- the plan was to have the yard sale in the morning, then high tail it to the land to finish getting the potatoes in... I got up way too early, freaked out (because you always have to stress before a big project, no?), laid out our wares, and...
Vintage, vintage, vintage


And then... It didn't just rain, it was an endless DOWNPOUR.
The yard sale was a washout!
We hurriedly threw tarps over everything, but what were we thinking? The ground was sopping, and the tarps? The tarps just turned our yard sale into an assorted, yard-wide collection of 4" deep wading pools.
Wheeee! [*sob*]

But not before we accrued $170 to be used towards solar fencing to keep our chickens safe at Higher Ground! For some reason, even as it poured, PEOPLE STILL CAME! [What is wrong with you folks?!?]

I was handing out hot pink ball gowns to little girls, some of my funkiest stuff went to a great lady in her 60s, a '40s smoking jacket to the dad of Semiprecious Weapons (who tours with Lady Gaga!), and we just enjoyed the, uh, DOWNPOUR while meeting some very nice people!

Hot, homemade cookies
for Determined Yard Sale-ers.
[Note the parsnips coming up through the
"We Are Selling The House" mulch... LOVE IT]

In a way, this rain forced us to have a quiet, quiet weekend despite the packing and moving chaos. The whole Selling The Mid-Century Modern saga has left us emotionally and physically spent. It was a good weekend to hunker down and watch movies, recharging our batteries before the Frantically Packing And Moving resumes this week.

But I rued that we missed a weekend finishing spring planting back at the passive solar off grid prefab house.
With spring sprung early at the passive solar off grid prefab house... I'd like to mention some gardening notes.

For those of you who follow permaculture, where you work with nature to choose the best sites, tools, and plants to have multipurpose functions, there was one thing I did I thought I would mention about also making yearly decisions, always keeping your mind open to gardening decisions on a case-by-case basis, not just saying, "And here in the garden is where I [XYZ]."

As I mentioned, this month spring arrived in full force, way too early. In March, my cabbage seedlings were already bolting! So what to do about the traditional spring crops of lettuce, peas, spinach, etc. you ordinarily plant this time of year which would, this year, most likely overheat and flinch in the early strong sun and hot temperatures?

Not the usual place to plant, suddenly I started pondering the north side of the prefab house: There, it would be cooler... get less strong sun so that those spring crops could slowly grow, strong...
Usually the swale between the field and prefab house could easily be too wet, but... I don't know, it just seemed like the right place to plant! I didn't plant in the deepest depression- but along it, along the shade and exposed sun, mentally asking, "What needs more sun? What would I like to grow more slowly, cooler, via a tad more shade?"


The soil there is sandy, and I thought, "You know... this might just be perfect this year for potatoes and carrots!"

And being so close to the house? It might deter the rabbits and deer. Might.
We... shall... see!

[Psst: If you're just getting into gardening, here's a great article on how to create a soil-rich, weed hampering bed. ]

Speaking of spring, it's That Time Of Year in the South- to consider how to protect your home from termites. Did you know ants are termites' enemies? And moisture is their friend? To consider, how you can change the environment around your home to be less hospitable to these insects.

Get Connected
In rural areas, internet connection is critical... and apparently so is tv.  A Deltaville friend tells me this is all the rage at the marina:

I'm wondering if I might fashion something similar to help boost my internet connection on the land...
Because although we have connection, often it is not fantastic at Higher Ground, and I am always looking for ways to guarantee I am able to connect easily...

The next weeks will be busy.
Packing, moving, schlepping, organizing...and, at the same time, construction in not one but TWO houses- finishing our home, in the passive solar off grid house, while waiting out construction from afar in the 1800s In Town Farm House. Which has a certificate of occupancy... yet promises dust, mold, mice, ruined walls, oh so many discoveries as we take on too much, again.


To say we will be all over the place is an understatement.
PICTURE IT: Instead of The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants, I'll be The Sister With Traveling Childrenz, Dawgs And Chickens.

Speaking of chickens... Another RVA family has been cited by outdated zoning officials for hens. They moved here from hen-legal Chicago via great corporate jobs...
Guess they won't be staying long...
Because, seriously, *what kind of place* takes FOOD from people's FAMILIES?!?

There are many people who will no longer penalize their families for living here... many people do have a choice and don't have to take cities who refuse to see what zoning is doing, nationally.
Time to fly the coop to more sustainable environs.
...I'm sorry for those that don't have that choice, and have to stay, and whose families are deeply hurt by UNsustainable Richmond zoning officials.
May it come back to haunt them.

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3/18/12

At The Passive Solar Off Grid Prefab Home, Spring Sprung.

We are back at the off grid passive solar prefab house and it is SPRING!


And guess what? We sold the mid-century modern... But this time, it's done. We are now full on intent on finishing this passive solar prefab, finally.

Friends asked, upon our announcement, "Are you sure?!? Is it signed?!?" It is.

And they're a *very* nice family. Really good, smart, fun people, and yes I told them to keep the hedges up. They, like we, love the mid-century modern, yet appreciate how isolated you can choose to be, there. Country in the city; Your own oasis.

Anyhoo, albeit mid-March, the fruit trees are in bloom, the azaleas are starting to open: This weather is crazy amazing!
#Upside: Windows & doors flung open in the mid-century modern, catching spring breezes.
#Downside: "Oh my golly, I think I just ate a fly."-6yr old

At the prefab modern home at Higher Ground IT WAS BEAUTIFUL.
Spring has sprung in Virginia, and everyone hurries to get their final potatoes, peas, lettuce and spring vegetables in. My cabbage seedlings are already bolting! In *March!*

You can see already the passive solar of the prefab going from embracing the sun's rays to gently stepping back, shading... [Note: Due to the hot Virginia summers we actually built out our overhang by a foot so the standard prefab package would still have the passive solar prefab design embracing the rays more at this time of year. However, it is the end of March so yes with spring brings more shading!]

Yet within the prefab, the light is bright! I will use pictures of worn out snoozing dogs as an example:
As they snooze, you can see their surroundings are filled with daylight.





Goodness gracious. Look at all those lounging dogs and light.

A neighbor stopped by, and, while shooting the bb gun with Pipsqueak #1, we discussed the land, commiserating where to put the vegetables (he agreed, along the field), where to put the potatoes (in the more sandy soil, in the field below), and, as he shot, how he could drop someone at X point away, waaaay down in the field. We jokingly chided him, "Aw, no you can't!" But he knew we don't doubt him.
"When the Klan would come through, they never stopped at our house. Never. They knew we S's are marksmen."
THE KLAN?!?
You just quietly absorb some things, and, later, turn it over in your mind and reflect on maybe some things your friends have been through you hadn't considered.

I'm having quiet moments of thought, thinking about our life in the next year:
On one hand, I picture all the windows open in the prefab, peacefully telecommuting on the land; on the other- I see the door to an English basement on Dupont Circle open and I, Handsome Husband, three Hounds From Hell and two children BURSTING out to the street...

Ah, But... Recipes.
Anyhoo, the Asian market had huge beautiful bags of basil & dill so what's a girl gonna do. Of course I got them! Dilled potatoes gets old fast... I was going to Indian It Up...  and instead brought that curry back to a salad: I made Dilled Mung Something-Or-Another. And fresh almond garlicky pesto rigatoni pasta. I also spread out lots of great stinky cheeses & homemade Very Lemony Hummus served with delicious olives. Salad with balsamic, oil, s&p, & drips of a squeezed orange over lettuce with sliced avocados. Perfect for a Tangy, Savory Spring Weekend.

Copeland's Dilled Mung Something-Or-Another
  • Sprouted Mung Beans, soaked 10ish minutes
  • A big packet of fresh dill, stems removed & fronds sliced up
  • Spicy Mustard (I used G's horseradish mustard)
  • Balsamic Vinegar
  • Lemon Juice
  • Olive Oil
  • Kosher Salt 
  • Hot sauce of choice

After the mung beans are soaked, heat a pan, add olive oil, add the beans, sautee awhile so they're kinda crisp, add enough water to let it then soften a bit, turn off the pan, then add a tad more olive oil, this time with mustard, vinegar, a few glugs of lemon, salt, hot sauce. Keep stirring so the taste blends well. While warm, add the fresh dill & stir so that it wilts in the pan. Yum. If I were really hot I'd even slice up some lettuce & toss it all together, adding more oil & vinegar & not wilted dill to turn it into a crispy salad. Maybe even with a dollop of sour cream on top if I'm feeling super luxurious. Or just let it shine as it is, healthily.

Every time I enjoy stinky cheese I feel my Not-My-Father close, and think back to living in Paris, to evenings full of laughter around the dining table, the room filled with the O. Family Craziness... and miss them all, terribly.

Over warm stinky cheese spread over fresh bread I learned how to love, to be loved, to know I was loved, and How I Wanted To Be One Day When I Was A Parent.  I decided I wanted to be That Family, The O's.  I hope (and think we are) we are giving that warmth to our children, and that their friends feel it.

So it makes perfect sense that while undergoing two (three? Do we count DC?) moves, a puppy, six quickly growing chickens, and children being pulled in and out of schools that we also bring a total stranger into our home. Stay tuned.

Wants And Needs
Things I Want
  • A tv tuner so I can watch the silly tv shows to which I can match socks and fold shirts
  • A food dehydrator. Summer's bounty will be here before you know it!
Things I Need
  • A certificate of occupancy. Please, Santa? But before Santa can deliver that, we need to finish the indoor of the off grid prefab house!
  • An electric fence. To keep chickens safe and, turned off, visiting toddlers alive and corralled.
  • Modern Outdoor Lights. Because as charming as it is to grab lanterns to escort our departing dinner guests as they stumble to their cars... well, let's get them some light. 
  • An off grid freezer, asap. Our meat share arrives in two months. DIDJA HEAR THAT, HANDSOME HUSBAND?!?
Ahem...
And: YO! SHE SAID GET HER SOME LIGHT!
Ok, here's is that I'm liking:
Pinero Wall Sconce
Simple, friendly, a beacon.
Because who needs a bunch o'
modern metal touches when
you have a modern metal house, yo.

And seriously let's talk about solar lighting. I am *sick* of every year buying some solar lights and having them disappoint me! STOP BEING SUCH WIMPS! I need some manly solar lights. Solar lights that will withstand chickens sittin' on 'em and Handsome Husbands bush-hogging about them. It also doesn't help that a Certain Puppy has a penchant for sitting next to a solar light, leaning into it, opening his puppy mouth with sharp puppy teeth and gnawing on the solar panel... Baaaaaad dog!

Reading Club
Is mercury in your drywall? Better coal plant regs lead to more toxic gypsum.

Prefab Passive Solar House Update:
We met with Pat Root of Root Electric, and have A Plan For The Next Few Weeks.
Next we contact everyone else- septic, final plumbing, building inspection...
In the meantime, we get access to the Deltaville Ramshackle Farm House (which, however, DOES have a certificate of occupancy, or COO) April 1st, and will frantically move things in there so, when our Richmond mid-century house closes on May 9th, we will have somewhere to live, with a COO, while we work on getting our COO at the passive solar prefab home.

Sound complicated?
Somehow, as we add each layer of Craziness to our fold- squawking chickens, yelping puppies, an end-of-school-semester move... somehow we become more centered, more serene, more confident in what we do.

With each chaotic step, we're more open to doing things people might think impractical- like jumping in with a horse into a cold pond in March- and discovering how much fun, joyous, and memorable a March swim can be.
 
 
 
 
 
 
We're grateful.
We're grateful for every. little. thing. we encountered this weekend.
We explored Amelia...

Met (finally!) my Foursquare Nemesis(es? ; ))... who love history and music and neat discoveries like we do... : )

Before settling in to our chores and joy of the land.

The blurred big chaos is quickly sharpening into focus - it's about the little things, like shoveling stalls, spending time at the W's pond, and, when the bush hogg stalls and I think, "I should probably go check on him..." I look out the window and see the lone figure of Mr. S walking across the field, towards the stalled tractor... and then, together, with the tractor purring, they return to sit and visit together...

Anyone can buy land. But you can't buy community.
S.W.: "Did you see the claw marks on the trees on the back of your property?!?"
I: "Awwww, that's nothing. We're from Richmond. A few claws t'ain't nothing- Cougars surround us in Richmond's West End, too."

I am now off to plant potatoes.
Have a great week.





 

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3/11/12

Modern Prefab Home : Passive Solar With Puppy Included

Modern Prefab Home, Puppy Included.

The way This Puppy has worn me out, I'm considering offering, for a limited time, a prefab modern house special:
Modern Prefab Home : Passive Solar House With Free Puppy, Included!   

"You're gonna what?!?"


Any takers? Because this puppy is NAUGHTY. ; )
Ok fine.  Sorry, people: this puppy is a keeper.

WELL. All I can say about the weekend is that if the architect of our other modern line of  passive solar prefab homes- Damon Pearson, LEED ap of our Green Cabin Kits and his lovely wife, G., are coming to visit, then THIS might be the weekend to build my coolio modern chicken pen!

OR... not.
Architect, Pipsqueak's Toy Horses

Architect, shooting.

We lounged in the passive solar modern prefab. The Pearsons enjoyed seeing how the passive solar off grid house worked, Handsome Husband reviewed the systems, and went over where we are in in the project, and our final, next steps.  Instead of chores, we spent the entire weekend relaxing- Pipsqueak 2 learned to knit, we strolled a bit through Farmville (the REAL Farmville, folks...)... and, back at the prefab home, lounged on picnic tables gazing at the stars.  Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Learning to knot... er, KNIT...
We LOVED j fergeson gallery in Farmville!
High Bridge Trail...
 

Now, after alllllllll this fun, it's time to get back on this off grid prefab house project!

Next week we meet with Pat Root of Root Electric to get back on his schedule for completion of the off grid radiant heat and solar hot water.  Then I have to track down a certain Amish gentleman to finish the interior of the SIP.

Me, to Mrs. E, an Amish friend who recommends him: "And how do I reach him? He doesn't even know I'm looking for him."
She: "Well, you just go down this road, then over there, across some fields, and if your car gets stuck just keep walking..."

I'll keep y'all posted on The Huntin' Down Of Amish Carpenters... Wish me luck...

It was another strange weather week, where we began with snow and ended with sun.

"WE'RE IN A SNOW GLOBE!!!!!!!!!!!!"
-7yr old, looking out from the expansive glass of the mid-century house.


Yet now, days later, the fruit trees are blooming, the roses are budding, and it's time to get ready for next season's food garden! 
I've got the seeds...

Seed drill leanin' against the prefab,
all ready to work... but where to garden.

BUT WHERE DO I PLANT?!?
Not in Richmond... that's... for... sure.


Thoughts on Environmentally Friendly Households
Listening to tv this week I pondered how different our household really still is from so many average family homes.

Commercial: "Are YOUR kids using HOUSEHOLD PRODUCTS to get HIGH?!?"
I, jokingly: "Honey! Quick! HIDE THE VINEGAR & BAKING SODA!!!!"
#AnotherReasonToGoGreenLOL

Vinegar & baking soda are not the only cleaning products we need to green... I don't know if it is ever possible to *completely* make a safe anti-freeze, which we will need in our solar radiant heat tubing, but here's a try:

Contractor Tip
Thinking of the radiant heat loop completion, I researched Better-For-The-Environment antifreeze: (Ok, this is the good, better, best approach, not the holy grail of a-baby-can-lick-this-anti-freeze-off-the-floor-and-be-better-for-it, folks...)
So, yes: Things start to resume in the pay-as-you-go-Slowest-Fast-Prefab-Construction ever. The house kit itself was up and weather tight in a week. But now, seasons later of frugally saving-then-spending-for-the-next-construction-step, it's time to finish this home so we can truly relax... and start living.

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