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9/30/12

Prefab Small Footprint Living: Top O' De World

Despite our recent thievery devastation, we are on De Top Of De World. ...Because it's so beautiful here.
Because the police are on it, so we don't have to constantly think about it.
Because they have the police on them, and more and more of their associates are being implicated, while we're surrounded with loving people... who make us laugh, through our pain.

Yet... as much as you want to fix  the people that brought this pain upon your family,
those are their tools to wrap their hands around, IF they ever choose to do so, to fix themselves.

So let's talk instead about our next prefab house, this one, one of our modern prefab cabins from Green Cabin Kits!
Tuesday I will teleconference with the client and her contractor to discuss rough deadlines and the specific home site where the prefab home will be erected. From there, the architect of the Dogtrot Mod modern prefab home gets pulled in, then the distributor, to further schedule and, if necessary, make adjustments.
I will have more updates next week!

Meanwhile, we stayed busy this weekend.
First, we watched sorghum molasses being made!


The cool overcast day was actually perfect for whiling away a few hours paddling molasses, eating delicious stew, and making new friends on a beautiful farm, with the dramatic backdrop of the Blue Ridge mountains in the distance!


Then, we spent the rest of the afternoon picking up acorns at Madisonville Presbyterian for a conservation project- Virginia extension agents are requesting acorns from several native species, and there's a big ole chestnut oak right in front of the church, so after Molasses Makin' we went Acorn Pickin'!

When I say everyone helped gather acorns... EVERYONE helped.

Pipsqueak 1: "Geez. I thought we were going to work and work and work but that was a lot of FUN!"

Pipsqueak 1 is also preparing for his upcoming birthday.
He has decided to make his own party favors: clothespin guns.
Siiiiiiiiiigh...

Homeschool:
Did I mention I love Mr. Naussbaum?
There, I said it.  I LOVE MR. NAUSSBAUM!
3rd Grade:
Great review / study links, here, for all subjects.
Social Studies:
4th Grade:
He *loves* BrainPop.com...
Science: Ok this is spy gadget stuff but Pipsqueak 1 loves the experiments and if it helps foster a love of tech and science, great! Here's one spy manuever he wants to build as a science project to add to our arsenal of intruder-proofing we are now implementing:

Moving allows you to rediscover forgotten, now enchanting things.
My children are LOVING the refound (and thankfully not destroyed in their toddler phase in which it was given) Robert Sabuda's Winter's Tale. A pop up book that now makes them "Ahhhh" and "Ooooo"- "How DID he DO that?!?" Now, at their older age, they are carefully opening and closing the book and appreciating its craftsmanship.

Feelin' hen pecked in the disarray!

I am ready to get over this move. Enough unpacking just on the weekends! Enough re-arranging furniture! Enough undone everything, still! Argh!
Ahhhh, the boxes, THE BOXES!
Oh, who am I kidding. This is going to take forever, isn't it.
Well, I resign myself, but warmly: for the rest of the year I will not apologize for the mess or stress over the dusting as I work on interior organization.
When you run four businesses and homeschool, unpacking from a move has to take a back seat. Let's just hope that back seat is stylish, like in an old fashioned, old time-y hot rod.

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9/23/12

Prefab Living, Small Footprint, As Footprints On Our Hearts Wane.

It has been a long, hard week at the off grid passive solar prefab home.

We have been filing police reports, insurance claims... and, once a guest in our home, the thief confessed.
I had to take quite some time off of work to deal with the theft... and am now catching up frantically with work deadlines.

So: An adamant, angry denial ebbed into confession. And now?
The trumpet was returned, but the rest of the family silver unreturned, a valuable ring missing, our family and children's heritage still mostly missing... It was interesting how his tune changed from adamant insulted denial to Let's... Make A Deal.


In tandem, someone commented on an old post, and I re-read it... it resonated for me, personally not professionally, for so many reasons: http://prefab-green-home.greenmodernkits.com/2010/09/now-reason-we-here.html

So. When you're overwhelmed, doing too much, and under too much stress, there is nothing left to do than to can 50 pounds of pasta sauce on a cook stove to keep yourself distracted.
[I am never doing that again.]
(Not the amount- but on a cook stove. When I see my Amish neighbor L.E. this week, I will be sobbing.
But then again, I'm sure she's more modern and on propane, lol!)

I will never allow ourselves to be victimized by Song And Dance People. Ever again. No matter how much they lay claim to our person.


Best library book this week:
When Marian Sang, by Pam Munoz Ryan, about a singer whom I adore, Marian Anderson.


In a way, our journey is about freedom...
We assert the right to consider and evaluate those whom have laid claim to us, and to leave.
Freedom.


Reading Club:
Maybe when you, thief, think you're really winning... the rest of the world sees you, true.
You cut out o' there.


The weekend dawned with an invitation to a football game.
My old Goth self cringed, while I, my Now, thoroughly enjoyed the Americana scene, right out of Friday Night Lights.
After, we stopped in Charlotte Court House and admired where Patrick Henry and John Randolph argued state's rights...
...played on the cannons...
...Finally ending up at my Amish friend's, L.E., where I recounted my cook stove canning woes.
She is on wood too, not propane. She soothed: "Yo. I'mma gonna come over and check OUT yo canning apocalypse mess. If yo stove has issues, I'll slap it silly."

[Ok. The Amish don't really talk like that.
But after a hard, hard week, it's nice to know my Amish friend has my back...]

With the police handling the thefts, we focused on working on the predator-proof-chicken pen so I can leave every now and then for DC. 
[I wonder if this cages in childrenz, too?]
Handsome Husband continued reusing scrap wood to build shelves...
At one point we headed into Farmville.
Crossing the street, I overheard a 20 year old
say to her parents,
"Now THIS is a small town."
She has no idea.
#Population199


With his Swiss Army Knife always pocketed, as we strolled the historic Longwood University lawn, Pipsqueak 1 challenged me to a game of mumbly peg.
Mumbly Peg Ninja.
Step back, Son.

I won.
I turned to Handsome Husband: "Did you ever think, growing up in Hamburg, Germany, that one day you would marry the Camp Manakin Mumbly Peg Champion?!?" He rolled his eyes. What. I'm serious!

A lovely afternoon froze, when, sauntering about, so happy to be in Farmville, expecting to use some of his money from his own personal money bag for a yogurt or similar treat, Pipsqueak 1 pulled out the worn, crinkled bag he carries carefully when going on adventure, full of lemonade stand and birthday money, and asked,
"Momma. Why does my money bag just have coins and a dollar in it now?"
We all... stopped. And immediately knew the answer. I'm so sorry, honey.

One thing I admire about the children is that they register truth, then move on. I'm continually amazed by how UN-scarred they are by the people who have hurt our family so deeply this year.
It must be because we are surrounded by so much love. From those that matter.
I can honestly say our children are healthy, vibrant, happy.


Back at the passive solar prefab house, I unpacked and unpacked and unpacked into the new shelves, and then? Decided I was going to shift the entire house around.

Expect beautiful interior shots next week.
Or? At the very least, expect a big ole mess.
Off Grid Notes:
Remember the chest freezer we turned into an off grid refrigerator?  The top works, but the bottom never really holds beer or vegetables quite at the right temperature... it's an affordable off grid refridgerator solution for now, but I know that in 1-2 years after we get settled in we will revisit that decision. Hey, for $250 vs. $2,500 for a proper off grid fridge, it is a good choice for now.

Exactly A Year Ago Handsome Husband Ran To New York As The Company Where He Worked Was Sold, AGAIN, and our One Day We'll Live There / Pay As You Go, Slowly Plan to live permanently in our beloved prefab off grid home turned quickly into the Now Plan.

In spite of the tumult and the boxes and the construction that is finally catching up with our schedule, when I look at the fading light over the trees and ridges settling into a beautiful starry sky... when we see our friends, so often, for unexpected potlucks during the week... 
There is never a moment I don't love it here, finally home.

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9/16/12

At The Passive Solar Prefab Home: Closets, Kleptos And Community

I know this will shock you, but living in a prefab home chock full o' boxes because you don't have closets built yet is NOT FUN.

So Handsome Husband reused some scrap wood to build rudimentary closets this weekend.

Pipsqueak 1: "So THAT'S what prison beds look like!"
I don't care what you think, Pipsqueak 1, I love them. Reused wood frames = less boxes! I'm thrilled to have somewhere to finally start to put things. Bring on the prison beds! Fancy schmancy built-ins can come later... if ever. I'm liking their depth- everything stacked instead of focused on hanging; and deep enough I can put last season's category (shirt, skirt, folded dress) behind the current season. It looks very retail. And prison bed-ish. Yay.

During fall is when you really notice the passive solar prefab's functionality- you go through September and October as the ground crisps and the evening air cools, and yet, still with no heat turned on, you enter the prefab house there is a marked difference: You awake, warm and so cozy, then go to let the dogs out and BOOM!- feel that cold outdoor air. In the afternoon, we throw open the windows to catch the now-warmer day's breeze. I really do feel like we have to cool off the house before night approaches!

Not having to use heat during these months means I do a LOT of solar cooking.  So busy unpacking, the solar cooker makes hot grilled cheeses and heats up casseroles freeing me to do errands and work.

Septic, finishing the pond dam, and a root cellar have *finally* begun. Well, at least the leveling part. They have to level so that we can have a gravity fed septic field, as, being off grid, we want to minimize energy use as much as possible.

The children loved the huge construction equipment in the field and the fresh level ground... they rode bikes over it, ran over it, walked around it like they were on the moon... and even, over it, flew a kite.
How Boys Fly Kites

I didn't even mind so much when the children climbed onto the roof, so long as they couldn't get back down. #AhhhhQuiet
"Momma, ha HA, we're up here on the ROOF!"
Ha, ha, Piiiiiipsqueaks, Momma took the laaaaadder...
Ah, it's so nice and quiet now...

It seemed like the perfect beautiful Get Things Done fall weekend until, making soup, after a hectic week of boxes and children and dogs and chickens all flying through the air, I finally made a proper meal and went to reach for the soup spoons.

Which were gone.

Fifteen settings of family silver.
Handsome Husband's beloved trumpet.
Stolen. Along with all the silver.

I know it was fifteen settings because they didn't have time to grab the knives...
It's as if they grabbed from right, to left, were interrupted, and didn't have time to grab the last bin of silver.

They also stole our family sterling serving pieces from the 1800s.
They stole the 1908 silver trumpet that had been passed to Handsome Husband from his father.
We're still discovering what was stolen, heartbreak each time.
This was all for our children. If they didn't mean so much to us, don't you think we would have sold them?

No forced entry.
No boxes torn apart looking for stuff... no, these were people who walked in, knew what they were getting, knew the boxes held nothing of value, and left.

I know it's "just stuff." But these are family pieces, for our children, to then pass on to their children, that we now don't have. Someone... stole... from our children.

Heartbroken.

I wondered if we'd go to our friends' farm potluck, I didn't want our shattered selves to infringe upon their joy...

We went.
I'm glad we did.
It is a balm to be surrounded with good people.

I made Fall Remembers Summer Pasta.
In summer, I toss diced really ripe tomatoes + mozzarella + fresh basil + good olive oil, salt, a touch of balsamic and let it sit, shake it up, let it sit, then serve the next day.

But it's fall, and fall wants something more hearty, yet the fresh ripe tomatoes remind you that you still have summer's glow in the day.
  • *Fresh* *ripe* tomatoes, diced. If there are only mealy tomatoes available then forget making this recipe.
  • Diced mild cheese like montery jack or colby
  • 1 Onion, a little larger than minced, and I solar cooked them a little so they're still crunchy but not too strongly raw
  • Dried basil, be generous...
  • Penne Pasta (again, I solar cooked it- the secret is, unlike most solar cooking that does not need any water, you DO need to cover pasta with water! Solar cooked pasta is very starchy because it doesn't come to a boil, so the starch sticks to the pasta, but really good.)
  • Good olive oil, salt, pepper and be generous with the balsamic
  • Olives would be REALLY GOOD in this!
The potluck ended with a farm tour. It was nice.
A. gives a tour of their farm...

We're still going through the house looking for stolen heirlooms.
I'll try to end this on a bright note.

Reading Club
  • Preservation awareness: Virginia 'Scenic Byway' Route 5 does not have to become a 4-lane highway. www.tinyurl.com/SignToSaveRoute5
    [Why, Richmond, WHY would you destroy Route 5?] http://www2.richmond.com/news/2012/sep/04/why-richmond-why-route-5-corridor-study-ar-2168584/
    "Those rural qualities include Colonial history, John Smith and Pocahontas, plantations and beautiful agricultural landscapes. There are more than 30 historical markers and two major Civil War battlefield sites. The rural New Market corridor made Preservation Virginia's 2012 list of the Most Endangered Historic Sites in Virginia.

    The roadway that is now Route 5 has connected Richmond and Williamsburg for more than 400 years, according to Nicole Anderson Ellis, a Varina resident and a leader in the opposition to the Route 5 Corridor study. In addition to all the great scenery, the area is frequented by thousands of cyclists. Within the next two years, the area will welcome the completion of the Virginia Capital Trail, a 55-mile bike and pedestrian trail that will connect Richmond and Williamsburg."
Homeschool
Science this week (study topic: electricity) has compelled Pipsqueak 1 not only to want to build a wind turbine (he lives solar so that is now boring to him) but he now desires a CNC machine
Alllllllllll in good time, kid.
[Here's what he wants to do:]

And my 9 year old is ALL. OVER. THIS: Teen launches space camera and takes pictures of earth!


4th Grade
We will go on... a little less open.
As I explained to my sister, "I can't take these people any more. I have the right to live unattacked, unstolen from, I don't understand why those I am supposed to love hurt us so... I have the right to not comprehend and walk away."

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9/10/12

And IF We Returned To The Passive Solar Prefab, We Might Have Found It Fall.

WHAT IF your summer construction projects were not complete on your off grid prefab home ...yet it was a must to return?
Change Is A-Comin'!


WHAT IF one moment you were jumping off the dock and living in bathing suits...
AND THE VERY NEXT DAY, in southwest Virginia, you arrived, stepping fully into fall?!?
 WHAT IF in the morning, you left the salty Bay, smelling of crabs, with sand in your shoes...
Arriving in flip flops and a sun dress... to quickly don autumn boots and jeans?!?



WHAT IF you returned and the prefab house had no internet, was still incomplete, and full of boxes?
[Still with no closets to even be able to begin to unpack?]

If that ever happened to me, I probably wouldn't even show ANY pictures of the chaos, I'd be so overwhelmed.
But IF that happened... we would be SOOOOOOO glad to be home. 
Finally! We spy the filly!!!!

It is also that time of year, folks:  
Time for finishing canning, and, end of season, it's time to heat up the pans again and make friiiied green tomatoes
Often I leave out the breading... the key here is good grease. And I'm one of those people who hoard good grease off of tasty meat dishes. I keep it in a pot, and use it with everything. With a tad of tangy good grease and simmering, you can turn plain ole greens into POT LIKKER.

And It's Time For Tomato Wine. 
I've mentioned how our Pamplin friends would really like our Deltaville friends...
One more example? Henry L. stopped by and dropped off some CRAB APPLE WINE, knowing soon we return to the land. I walked over the next day and wheedled his TOMATO WINE recipe out of him.

Henry L.'s Famous Tomato Wine Recipe
[A 5 gallon container will yield 2 1/2-3 gallons of wine]
Overview: In a 5 gallon container (plastic is fine) with a lid that air locks (see picture), you ferment it about a week / ten days before moving it to a 3 gallon jar.
  • Tomatoes: Use tomatoes that are really ripe. Chop them up (about 6 quarts for 5 gallons) and toss 'em in the bucket.
  • Sugar: About 14 pounds of sugar. Like jam making, the ratio about 1/2 fruit to 1/2 sugar.
  • 4 Oranges, chopped, rinds and all.
  • 2 cups of golden (yellow) raisins
- Add above. Fill the rest of the bucket up with boiled water (leaving a little space at the top). Stir it all up.
- The next day (after it has cooled) add 2 packets of yeast (not rapid rise). Put the top on the bucket.
[The top: Make sure the lid air locks.  Add a hole to the top, insert a tube, seal the hole area with wax.  Insert the other end of the tube into a glass of water, so that you can see the bubbles.]
- Leave the bucket alone until the bubbles slow (about 1 week/ten days).
- Once the bubbles have slowed, strain (with a wire mesh, you can use a flour sieve, it doesn't have to be fine) into a 3 gallon glass jar (you can get them at bee supply stores)... *fill to the neck* of the glass jar... and have that top have a tube that is also inserted into a glass of water.
- After that stops bubbling, let it sit about a month. No wine before its time, honeychiles.
You'll get some sediment at the bottom, that's normal, and the rest will clear up more...
Then get the plastic tube and siphon it (about 2" off the bottom to avoid sediment) into jars!
Voila! Wine!

Back yard corn.

Reading Club
  • Our friends Steve & Chris Ault of Ault's Family Farm went to visit Spikenard Farm And Bee Sanctuary last week.
    "Situated in Floyd, VA in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Sanctuary aims to restore the health and vitality of the honeybee worldwide. Since founding Spikenard Farm in 2006, Gunther Hauk and his wife Vivian have been actively spreading their vision of sustainable biodynamic beekeeping. The Spikenard Honeybee Sanctuary provides on-site workshops, lectures, consulting and publications. This work is possible through the support of many foundations and individuals around the country."
    Your assignment is to read about them and think about why bees are important. Sorry, no article, I just want you to think about this! 
  • Washington Post: Mexico: The Great Egg Crisis Biodiversity and backyard hens could have helped prevent this...
Homeschool 
Back yard chickens.

3rd Grade
  • She is LOVING the online math. But I also thought I'd break it up with a lil' Schoolhouse Rock.
4th Grade
P.s. Want to see a good movie with your children about how love can overcome discrimination? Where you can make your little girl happy with Another Horse Movie yet your son glued to the plot about The Little Indian Boy? Watch Red Fury. In fact, I'm going to watch it again. It was also a gentle way to bring up some difficult topics on prejudice, and how, when they're overcome, it makes a community even more wonderful. And then you can talk about how it's based on a true story and study history during that time!

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