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Modern Prefab House Gets Amish Critique And Welcomes Autumn

At the off grid prefab house, mostly, we tend to stay close. But once a week we run about doing errands- we first work the horses, then continue down 47 to Mrs. E's Amish Store, and make a few more stops on the way home- sometimes at the Corner Grocery, the farm store for feed, or to the Amish Produce Auction, known as CPA.

Often, all of the aforementioned.

This week, we spent time chasing okra and cantaloupe at The CPA- Central Virginia Produce Auction, run by the Amish.  With Mr. B, our dear friend and now-retired contractor, I was finally introduced to Mrs. E's son, Daniel!  Daniel and other Amish friends had been the crew with Mr. B as our prefab house was trucked in and built.

Having an Amish crew building your house meant you never got any photo action shots, lol.
[Here's Daniel and all the rest of the guys, in fast action, building the prefab!
You can see 'em, no? No?
Oh. That's because the Amish don't want to be in photographs, up close.
So yeah. Here's a picture of the crew!]
The Amish crew assembled in front of the half-assembled SIP house.

I had always wondered what Daniel thought about our modern prefab house, so I was really happy to finally meet him. We talked and talked and talked, and here are some excerpts of what he said:

"That house really works! It was interesting to see how it all came together and how, even in the beginning, it worked. One day we arrived on the job site, and it was cold back then, 20 or 25 degrees when we were working on it! The windows weren't even closed, and yet inside the house a cup of water wasn't even frozen that morning!"

Yep. So the Amish did notice how insulated and warm and energy efficient the prefab was, even when it was just a shell!

He asked if the house was finished.
"Welllllllllllll, we've been finishing it, it's 90% there, because after y'all finished making it weather tight in a week, we were not living here yet so would just save up some money, then say, 'Oh, now we can have the electrician in next week!', then, a few months later: 'Ok now let's save up for some plumbing!' Which is how a fast prefab became so slow- we were responsibly frugal, saving up and paying as you go.  But now we're here so yes, it's time to finish all those last details!"

I told him how we've been working on putting the plywood up, and why not drywall (he was surprised, then thoughtful, and agreed that yes if you do the labor yourself the plywood does come out competitive to drywall in the end). "If I had known that I would have cut you some NICE pine panels, that would have looked GREAT..." "You know, I was just telling your mom that soon I can have her over once this house is finally done, why don't I come get you as well? Your sister wants to see it too...! Especially as you worked on it!"

We laughed about modern design. You know, the Amish and most people in the country aren't really used to, or like, modern.  [And that's ok!]

I told Daniel: "Oh, great, you're making fun of mah modern. Heck, you're not the only one: Mr. B. called me one day and said, 'YOUR PLANS ARE WRONG.'"


"Yeah, this plan has windows in the corner, windows are supposed to be CENTERED!"
"MISTER B. THAT IS MODERN DESIGN. You will appreciate those corner windows when you sit down at my dinner table and look at the sweeping view."

Daniel laughed.
"Well. Mr. B. was not the only one confused by modern design. Did you know that for years I carried, in my wallet, a picture of your house?"
I glowed, and I admit, my pride rose mightily.
"Yeah! I'd show it around to people and say, 'THIS IS THE UGLIEST HOUSE I EVER BUILT.' "
We both burst out loud with laughter, and I am still giggling as I type.
Ugh. Non modern people... ; ) Grumble grumble... : )

Corner windows!!!! Modern!!!
We went over every feature of the prefab house. I was really happy he was so interested in it, as I had always wondered what he and his friends thought, working on that prefab modern house...

So in the end?
FINALLY, the Amish officially weigh in on the prefab house: Modern design, meh. Prefab passive solar function? YEAH!

HERE'S THE DEAL: *YOU* can clad yer prefab house kit in *anything* you like! Reused cedar, Hardyplank, even Amish cross stitch...! 
Ok. I take that back.

This might be a good time to go over the modern coolio galvalume cladding, if you choose to do so, for this prefab house kit:
Framing, Trim and Metal Cladding Pointers For Casa Ti
Filing this under, "Things your contractor needs to know":
Obviously, make sure your contractor carefully READS THE SIP MANUFACTURER'S MANUAL... Because there is a *lot* of useful, critical information in there that is imperative to the success of your project.

Even if they follow successfully the SIP instructions perfectly, even if they're the *best* contractor, ever, don't forget they might have aesthetic differences than your love of modern design, so here are just some easy things you can point out/gently remind them...
  1. Modern Design vs. Traditional Trim: The trim around the windows should be narrow- It should be “receiver trim” that catches the end of the cut siding.

    It's a very minimalist / modern look, not a traditional way of trim- not 3” wide but more ½ inch, flat, for corners and openings- see this as an example:
  2. MAKE SURE before you order cladding that everything is measured out on site, despite what the plans say. Why? Because there are materials and decisions your engineer /contractor will make on site that might slightly change the dimensions- like adjusting the pitch of the roof or framing an overhang out more to accommodate the sun in your area.
  3. Make sure you understand the parapet and scupper concept, and with rubber membrane if you choose to do so. There's lots of good information on the internet.

Back at the produce auction, chasing vegetables, Daniel and I talked about the rainwater collection filter for the prefab. He liked my explanation on how it works- how, when the rain first starts, the rain swooshes down then out the overflow, thus first washing the roof without going into the cistern- with no momentum, it goes straight out the overflow. Slowly it builds momentum, and then starts spinning. At that point any leaves are filtered out via the filter, and the now-circulating water goes into the cistern.

He: "You know, we always said 'Don't eat the first snow' because that is the sky's filter, that makes sense!"
"And it's all done by gravity, not using any electricity!" 

I am going to visit Daniel next week because he has a cool idea for powering the off grid well. I appreciate all of our Amish community's friendship and interest in this project. Even if they think my daggoned modern house is ugly. : )

In the meantime, at Higher Ground and the prefab home, we welcomed fall.
I really did not think I was going to miss, want, and desire the start to the "hard season."
Until, after getting summer out of my system, and more properly set up, I know now "the hard season" is not that hard. You just, like everything in life, should be prepared.

"A *what?* Energy diet?
Won't that ruin our figure?"
As if to remind me, we had a spate o' overcast days, and so, went on an Energy Diet. Homeschool went from the internet curricula and YouTube, to texts, workbooks, and writing in cursive. I briefly checked and responded to emails, but otherwise stayed offline.

When we have one of those Energy Diet weeks, it is frustrating, then refreshing- cozy, actually good to not be so tied to the ether... although I do dislike turning off the solar hot water!
It is not quite cook stove season yet, so when the solar hot water goes off... it is off. *Sob*
[Good news: We do have a solar hot water booster. That is not turned on yet. I aim to hound the electrician before it gets cloudy & cold. Again.]

Saturday it rained so hard the Pipsqueaks ran outside and bathed in the rain. May everyone have that pleasure at least once in their life.
I was ready, with comfort food.
Welcome Fall Soup, To Warm Us Up!
I got a bunch of crookneck squash at the Amish auction. I love winter squash, as you can store them without refrigeration for quite awhile, thus always having fresh vegetables on hand. Here is one way to use them:
-Solar cook equal measurements of potatoes, and squash. I solar cook the potatoes whole, THEN dice/mince them. I slice the squash, then dice once done.
-Sautee minced onion in olive oil, as much as you like, and I like it to be 1/3 potatoes 1/3 squash 1/3ish or a little less onion.
(If not solar cooking, boil potatoes and bake the squash until almost done.)
-Add minced potatoes, because they're usually still firm-ish
-Add in ground lamb to be another equivalent fraction and let cook awhile, stirring
-When things start sticking add in enough water to simmer it all.
-Add in diced solar squash
-Add minced fresh sage & rosemary but *do not overwhelm* it- just a teaspoon or two! You don't really want to taste and go, "Oh, sage!" No, taste the soup, not the herb.
Stir, keep stirring... then once it's all nice and done add in *more* salt and fresh pepper than you expect (keep tasting throughout!). Turn off the heat, so it is no longer simmering...
-Finally, sadly, add in a can of coconut milk, and with that coconut tropical shores dream fading, sigh heavily that summer is really, truly gone. Taste for salt and pepper adjustments, as you re-adjust yer depressed, summer-is-gone attitude.
-BUT! Recharged for fall, stir it all up, ladle into bowls halfway, sprinkle liberally with good Parmesan, then top off with more soup, stir and get excited: LET FALL BEGIN!

Reading Club:
His stick.

  •  Is global warming on a hiatus? Note Jurgen's question.
  • 'I Don't Want My Children to Go to College'
    "The president of Buzzfeed recently questioned the value of a traditional college education when so much information is available online. But for students from disadvantaged backgrounds, learning in person, alongside peers, remains essential. "

    >>I agree but also disagree. I strongly believe in the value of apprenticeships / trade. I believe homeschooling / teaching children to use internet education / self-discipline teaches employability. Our 10yr old has found peers online via MIT's scratch programming. Programming = By the age of 10, he is already not limited to fast food jobs as a career!

    That's not to say I don't want my children to go to college. I think it's valuable. But regardless, you need to learn how to be employable, and if you want to learn a trade, you should do so and not just throw away money in college because people expect you to go.

    I'm a big believer in bring back apprenticeships, regardless.
  • If you ARE in college, though, or self-studying, here's a tip on how to get cheap textbooks!
  • The case against high school sports: I love sports. But she brings up great points.
  • How the NFL fleeces taxpayers: A must read for RVA... 

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