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7/30/12

Still On The Water, Hunting.

We are still unable to return to the off grid prefab house.
I miss my energy efficient house, darned it!!!

Apparently, it's a mess, everything is moved around, in boxes AGAIN, there's sawdust everywhere, and so we're just gonna stay put, near the water. Not that I'm complaining.  
Not that I'm complaining,
but we really, really, really miss Pamplin...

Nothing left to do but lie low and hope the bees are busy from afar.
But wait!
Are those teens, far on a dock, I spy?
I'm marching over to go check that out.
SHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!
Be very. Very. QUIET.
Yo. You in the back: ZIP IT.
Lie low.
I
am hunting
teenagers.

I mean, seriously: How hard can this be?!?!
But, here, in Deltaville, every child is either 20-25 or 8 and under, it seems...
Teens are elusive creatures.
And I've got a cute French teen to mother. Darned if I'm not going to find that child a herd.

With the French kid in tow, I... am... tracking... teens.
I've observed and noted their watering holes,

their trails,

their feeding habits.

Today I tracked several nice teens!
I, to A: "Shush. I see teens afar on the dock, lounging. Grab your towel, let's GO! I'm tracking."
A., smiling: "Yew just dew z'at Copeland thinggggg yew do!"
I, to A., kind of seriously: "You know, I could have been a GREAT spy...!"

Herd O' Teens, Accomplished.
Look! I was able to snap some pictures of The Elusive Teens, ranging free in their actual habitat!

I feel like a wildlife rehabilitator, releasing the Teen into the herd.
To be fair, I consider what a city host family might be like: usually both parents working, so if there is no teen in the host family, the young children would be in daycare, and she'd be alone until 6ish until the family returns to go eat at Applebees or, uh, Chik-Fil-A before bedtime! (Gross.)
Here, at least, if we're bored? We're still feral, and free... (and eat well...)

(And while we're being feral, we're in good company, sailing and fishing and Tall Tale Tellin'...)

Pamplin Cit-tay and Deltaville might not be renowned Big City destinations.
Our streets might not have names known to the rest of the world, but...
I wouldn't trade these towns for anything.

Here's some more pictures from the week, of we being feral.

[I love this garden planted by my friend Jen, in her boat yard...

She rightly knows that sailing families do not have a plot of earth at the ready, so planted a garden for the passing sailors... to pick and add to, as they please... I hope you enjoy the thought and kind intentions, as I do!

With our return to Deltaville, there was the heart ache of seeing the Deltaville Maritime Museum fire disaster up close as the monthly Farmer's Market still took place, defiant of the damage, embracing their community.



[Please bear with me through the 15 second commercial to see the director give her interview, the day after:]


This museum WILL rebuild. It is the heart and history of the community, and continues to be the town's center, even after the despair just a week ago, after the fire.

Pssst! By the way, the French girl loves roller coasters.
Can you *imagine* me, in a line-inundated, artificial food dye, plastic place like that?!? With litter?!? Everywhere? And foot-high sodas and foot-long food?
No. I'm throwing her out there to survive a theme park with someone else!!!!
(Theme parks. Litter strewn germ-saturated grossness. ; ) Ugh.)


My nephew told me what they do to save money when visiting theme parks:
Yes. This is a recipe, lol, of what I had better never ever see any of you doing:
  • Go to the nearest 7-11 next to the entrance of any horrid theme park before you buy your ticket
  • Get a cheap-o, horrible, instant cup-o-Ramen and add hot water to it until it is "cooked"
  • Drain out the water so you just have the noodles
  • Add condiments, lots of condiments- top it with the chili intended for hot dogs, a little ketchup...
You have just made... SpaGHETTO-os.  
Gross! I will be having a talk with my nephew about this "food."

We Don't Need No SpaGHETTO-os.
WE canned real food this week.

I canned Concord grape jam thanks to the old vine outside the In-Town Ramshackle (note the cinnamon & ginger in this recipe), elderberry jam, and mango salsa.

Reading Club


Elderberry Jam
I had been seeking high and low ever since we sold the Richmond house for elderberries... unexpectedly, I found the mother lode, in a friend's waterfront back yard.  Yessssssss. So yes, we WILL have elderberry jam through the coming winter to give us shots of sweetness with plenty of vitamin C...
Crab Pick Pasta
This pasta has no crab- it's so rich you can feed it at a crab feast for the vegetarians and honeychile they'll feel enough buttery richness to believe they've been pickin' crabs for hours!
  • a stick of butter
  • fresh asparagus, 3/4 of an inch cut
  • lime juice
  • fresh grated horseradish
  • olive oil
  • fresh salt & pepper
  • pasta
  • parmesean
Melt butter, add asparagus, horseradish, s&p, some glugs of olive oil to make a heart-attack inducing sauce. Throw in lime juice until you feel better. Toss in pasta, toss, add parmesan all over, more s&p to taste, and when you think, "Wow. This is so rich yet fresh, like you've been picking crabs for hours..." then serve it.
Welcome, Katchina!
Back in Pamplin, the foal we had been waiting for at our neighbors and good friends the W's finally entered the world!!!! Her name comes from the native-american term for "sacred dancer." What a beautiful filly!
Katchina, we can't wait to meet you and see all our friends soon, back on the land, finally home in our off grid prefab home!

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7/22/12

The Sustainable Community Loses An Important Voice. We Return To My Hometown, And Leave With France.

It is with great sadness that the sustainable building community this week lost a bright voice: The architecture/ engineering professional, Mel Starrs.

The UK, and all involved in sustainability, architecture, and engineering standards, lost an important voice, too soon. I am still shocked by the sudden passing of Mel Starrs... I can't just tell you why she was important- only if you read her blog, her tweets, can you understand how her questioning, in-depth knowledge, and passion that spurred on her profession. And her humor... I am just truly so sad. She welcomed everyone.
http://www.melstarrs.com/elemental/2012/07/17/mel-starrs-6-september-1973-to-14-july-2012/
More on the impact Mel has had on her friends and colleagues:
http://www.bdonline.co.uk/news/mel-starrs-%281973-2012%29/5039883.article#.UAaZF-moymg.twitter

Su Butcher set up a storify account which curates some of her posts and remembrances. Please read it... http://storify.com/subutcher/mel-starrs-6-9-1973-to-14-7-2012

Back in the day:
My non-professional data collecting...
Back in the days when we were, for fun, measuring the heat loss of our off grid prefab home when it was still really under construction and we were basically camping in the shell, in really cold conditions, Mel would always ask what the data was, supportive, knowing that I was just glancing at a temperature reader vs. professionally collecting data or doing an energy audit.

I just loved her humor and... and she was just a really cool gal.
RIP, Mel.


My professional report:
"It's freakin' cold! Yet the temperatures drop within
the prefab, without heat, at 1 degree per hour."
Thanks, Mel, for your interest.
The prefab home in rougher times.
Can't wait to break in the radiant heat in the slab
this winter! Ahhhhhh.


At The Passive Solar Prefab Home
At the passive solar prefab home, electric work continues! Also, the plywood to cover the interior of the SIP (structural insulated panels) is scheduled to arrive early this week, and Tony & Dustin have been busy readying for its arrival.


At The In-Town Ramshackle
We were not there. We were in Richmond, picking up our FRENCH EXCHANGE STUDENT, A.!
We have often mentioned that the remote beauty of the area that surrounds the passive solar prefab, in Virginia's Appomattox/ Charlotte Court House/ Brookneal area, with its gorgeous trees and farms and music and good food in the beautiful foothills with mountains in the distance- how it reminds us of France, of Switzerland...

Each time we travel a vineyard, eat great homemade cheese, or stop at a friend's farm with beautiful backdrop of hills and mountains as the sun sets, we think,
"This is just like France, but in our back yard!"

Well, now, France has come to us. Welcome, A.!
We drove to Richmond to collect A. from the airport, and spent a few days there.

Back at The Ramshackle, Tony, after working on the passive solar prefab in the 110 degree heat without air conditioning, happily acquiesced to stay at The In-Town Ramshackle (and return to the water) so I would not have to lug three wild dogs and six clucking chickens to my parents Richmond home.
Not that they were invited...
Dogs?!? And CHICKENS?!? HERE?!?

Good thing he stayed, because with the intense, crazy storms and rain that came through, they revealed more not-yet-addressed roof leaks in the old 1800s farm house. He stayed busy.
 

Meanwhile In Richmond, We Showed A. Around.
On Saturday, I thought I'd show her some history and art. So:
On To The Virginia Historical Society (whose exhibit on the beginnings of Virginia I enjoyed *immensely*- this is no dusty, file ridden museum!)!

On, To Hollywood Cemetery!

A.: "Mom. And then my weird host family took me to... a cemetery. For... fun." ; )
[So, for the record, here is why Hollywood Cemetery is cool: ]
Architects & historians:

From the web site, http://www.hollywoodcemetery.org:
 "Much more than a cemetery, Hollywood is a living story in stone, iron, and landscape. It recalls Virginians of bygone years whose lives shaped and influenced our own. With stunning views, Hollywood overlooks the James River, near the site where Captain Christopher Newport planted a wooden cross a few weeks after the founding of Jamestown. Hollywood Cemetery was designed in 1847 by the noted architect, John Notman of Philadelphia, and has been operating as a cemetery in Richmond since 1849. Hollywood serves as the final resting place of two American presidents, six Virginia governors, two Supreme Court justices, twenty-two Confederate generals, and thousands of Confederate soldiers. Its status on the National Register of Historic Places recognizes its importance to the nation. Hollywood is also the beautiful resting place for a host of men, women, and children from all walks of life. Together, their lives represent the story of a community. Hollywood’s paths wind through 135 acres of valleys, over hills, and beneath stately trees of natural beauty and tranquility. The architectural beauty of monuments, statues, buildings, fences, and tombs enhances the setting.That scene appears to be unplanned. Yet skillful design, faithful stewardship, and nature’s blessings have combined to make Hollywood perhaps America’s most historic and beautiful rural cemetery. These attributes have uplifted the spirits of thousands of visitors since 1849."
On, To The Museum Of The Confederacy!

On, Through Shockoe Bottom!

On, Through Richmond's Harlem Of The South, Jackson Ward!

On, Through Northside!

On, To The Arts District! And The Downtown Artwalk Block Party!


And then Handsome Husband taught A. how to make bread.

And about Hank Williams music.

It's all in a day's work, folks. That chile' is now cul-tured up! And we edu-ma-cated a nephew at the same time!

Reading Club:
Our prefab home utilizes passive solar,
opening & shutting windows at night/day,
and ceiling fans in summer but
admittedly on 110 degree days,
one might yearn for more cooling...
I use spritzed cold water but
others have other ideas...
"Ever heard of Strong Towns? Try now.

'We need to end our investments in the suburban pattern of development, along with the multitude of direct and indirect subsidies that make it all possible. Further, we need to intentionally return to our traditional pattern of development, one based on creating neighborhoods of value, scaled to actual people. When we do this, we will inevitably rediscover our traditional values of prudence and thrift as well as the value of community and place.

The way we achieve real, enduring prosperity is by building an America full of what we call Strong Towns.'

Wow.

This isn't your typical sustainable-city analysis. Strong Town centers its vision on the intersection of sustainability and sound city financials, similar to how we view the high yield of ecosystem services.

So take a look at this website, learn from it, and then take those learnings to your own city and community, to create 'neighborhoods of value.'" Read: The Growth Ponzi Scheme
P.s. Check out this hilarious yet sad video someone in tech made for the Chesapeake region:


What is so frustrating in this video is it portrays exactly my experience- you give helpful, researched data, the zoning person across from you repeats their bias & misinformation, lol!

All this debate on air-conditioning, as we, again, expect more heat, heading our way.

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7/16/12

At The In-Town Ramshackle, We Visit The Back Yard Mediterranean

The In-Town Ramshackle adventure continues.
But back at the off grid passive solar prefab? Work continues.
Yay.

Back at the prefab...
FINALLY the SIP
(structural insulated panels)
are being covered...

The Bachelors, aka Anthony Caprara Restoration and Realty, despite a really bad, debilitating case o' poison ivy, are on the land, at work on the off grid prefab home.



At at The In-Town Ramshackle, I am finally, after weeks of "setting up," beginning to relax.

It is a gorgeous, blue skies, perfect sailing kinda day.
The cicadas sing, a breeze blows, I am already thinking about sailing out to the sand bar...

Pipsqueak 2: "I can't take this anymore. Let's GO HOME." She misses everyone. All 199 inhabitants of Pamplin Cit-tay. We all do, too.

But: Child, enjoy the brief Season Of Children while you can. Your Pamplin and Richmond friends will visit you; but here, home schooled, here is where you have the opportunity, once a year, to have throngs of childrenz. Pirate, sailing childrenz at that.

One thing that has surprised me after leaving Richmond for the off grid prefab home in Pamplin and then to buy the In-Town Ramshackle (in the Chesapeake Bay town where I've spent a lifetime of summers and now share with our next generation pirates) is how...

How there was NO transition for the children to Pamplin. In our hearts, Pamplin (and the still under construction prefab green home) has been home a long time before we moved there. Not once did they look back to Richmond when we left.
Architecture is nothing without community... we have tons of friends and family in Richmond, we love Richmond; but: we're really happy in Pamplin. Deltaville and DC t'ain't bad, either.
Occasionally the Pipsqueaks will say, "When will [XYZ Richmond Friend] come to visit?"

But that's because they're used to all our Richmond friends visiting us on the land, or at the Bay, even when we lived in Richmond.

What I did not expect was how, in the midst of the summer Bay environment they also have grown up in, splashing and sailing and pirating, they still yearn for home, for Pamplin, for the off grid prefab home, for the fields, for their neighbors, their friends there...


And that's ok. But we're not going anywhere yet. There is a strong Bay breeze, cool welcoming pools, sandbars to conquer, and a tiny air conditioning unit at the ready when the 100+ Heat Waves break upon us and my asthma kicks in.

What I thought would be a back-and-forth-over-the-summer I now realize, thanks to asthma, will be "for the season" every year.
But who's complainin'?
I'm in my back yard Mediterranean. With old friends.


Caribbean, shimear-a-be-an.
Who needs a plane ticket to a far-away vacation where you don't know anyone when you can have this, with dear friends:




Pipsqueak 2 had her first Spend The Night Out [Without Her Parents Going Somewhere With The Friends Too] Night Out... In typical pirate fashion, her first Spend The Night Out was... on a boat.
Next to a lighthouse.
Handsome Husband: "WHAT IF SHE SLEEP WALKS?!?"
Um... well... she's never sleep walked in her life so can we just hope she doesn't and if so, knows how to swim and can we just throw in a little fairy dust as we toss her into the brink?


In the summer heat, with the H's over, I served Molded Food
Just you wait until I move on to Molded Meat. I'm not kidding. The French even have a word for it- Chaud Froid. I am a huge fan.

For the doubters: I present: My molded food.
My take on aspic molded food, yo.

(Replace icky ingredients like "cherry jello, with 100 artificial ingredients and red dye to boot" with unflavored gelatin + pure juice & a little sugar, fyi, when converting old recipes...)

Molded Aspic:
First layer: In a saucepan make lemonade: lots of lemon, some sugar, water. Simmer and add unflavored gelatin until melted. Cool.  In a mold arrange olives & ripe cherry tomatoes, quartered, in patterns. Carefully spoon the lemonade mixture over, chill in freezer. I was not careful. It shows, lol.
And yes those are vintage Arabia plates...
found in the local thrift shop...


Middle: Mix some of the lemonade/gelatin mix with dill and sour cream. Once the first layer has set, spoon this on top. Chill.
Last layer: Add tomato juice and more unflavored gelatin to the remaining lemonade mix. Even some tabasco or horse radish if you like. Add to the second layer, once set. As usual... I was not careful. So there.

Fruited Floppy Fruit Something:
First layer: Carefully arrange hand picked black berries (the last of the waning berry season!) with pieces of orange, and pour the lemonade mixture over it. I... was not careful.
Second layer: Again, a lemonade / sour cream mixed with the first ripe cantaloupe of the season! And some leftover berries & orange. Carefully spoon in over the first layer, once set. I... yeah, forget that careful layer stuff. I've got guests in two hours.
But seriously, even though it deflated as soon as I unmolded it: It really was refreshing and tasty.

Melanie's NONmolded Peach Bruschetta: 
Slice fresh peaches, wrap in foil, and grill.
Slice french bread. Top with a peach, a slice o' mozzarella, basil, and drizzle with balsamic. Broil. Yum.

Reading Club:
  • Consumption is out. Apparently thanks to the 'giant flea market that is the internet' http://t.co/AU7KFhwU (Well that makes sense! For myself, it was never fun just going out and buying something when you could restore or recycle!)
    "The concept of shopping has shifted from owning stuff to buying into new ideas. Compared to previous generations, Millennials seem to have some very different habits that have taken both established companies and small businesses by surprise. One of these is that Generation Y doesn't seem to enjoy purchasing things."
  • Urban Planning: Cities are considering the use of analytics to predict traffic jams an hour before they occur.
  • New superbug in (factory farm) chicken: >Backyard, organic is best... 
  • What Climate Change Looks Like: DC Airplane Sinks Into Boiling Runway ow.ly/c9lGN (I knew someone on that flight!)
Next week? France.
You know, Handsome Husband and I always remark how much these beautiful moments in Virginia remind us of southern France, of far-flung Islands, of Scotland, the foothills of Austria...
Well now? France comes to us. Stay tuned.
"GRAND MAAAAAAAAAAA!
WAIT!!!!!! Can I spend the night?!?"
"Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!"
Drat.
Operation Pass The Kids Off Onto The Sailboat
As They Pass did not work as well as I hoped.
They're wolves, by the way.
"No, we're ocean wolves!"
Oh, ok...! Yes, you are.

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