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Modern Off Grid Prefab House In Rifle Season And Heartbreak.

As we now confidently know, even with the temperatures this week vacillating from a crazy 70 degree day to night lows in the teens, the off grid prefab house is cozy, solid, and easy, of course.  I'm quietly typing in the comfortable stillness within the modern prefab. It says indoors it's around 70 degrees, yet outside there is high wind and temperatures in the teens!

I just throw on one log, one at a time in the cook stove, and at night, let the cook stove burn out, because we don't  need to keep it going- we are still comfy each morning thanks to the super energy efficient SIP (structural insulated panels).
The prefab is so energy efficient, so extremely tight, that when Pipsqueak 2 starts lighting candle decorations she created from recycled old Halloween pumpkins I had near the front door last month, the match smoke just hangs in the air.

Even though we have an ERV for fresh air exchange, critical in such tight, energy efficient homes, I still open up all the windows and let the icy air blast through at least once a day. I think, like many mothers before me, that it is healthy to let in outdoor cold air, sweeping out germs, before the cook stove turns that icy air cozy, again.

In fact, many Scandinavian parents still put their babies outdoors to nap in sub-zero weather!
Speaking of wood heat, the Wood Stove Decathalon was held  this week in D.C. Wood is not the greenest heat, but they are actively improving the product. Take a look:

It was on that crazy 70 degree day I earlier mentioned when I returned home to the prefab house from the barn, heart breaking, in shock.
I was trying to pull myself together for what to say when I entered the house... but instead, the children skipped out to meet me.

"What a *BEAUTIFUL* day!!!!!! Let's ride!!!!!!"
I had to tell them that their beloved leopard appaloosa, Riata, was terminally ill.
Riata, literally, last week.
I. am. floored.

Eye to eye,
cheek to cheek.

Cancer in horses is rare. But with lymphoma, it travels via the bloodstream, feeding off nutrients... it is aggressive, and fast, starving the horse quickly. Three weeks ago I noticed her hips were a tad bony. "I'll just up her feed- it's probably because the pasture grass is waning so she needs more feed and hay, maybe I need to add more..." A week ago, I saw two vertebrae between her shoulders. The vet was already coming out to check out two lumps, so I thought I'd ask him then about what to do.

Appaloosas often get fatty lumps, it's no big deal. But just in case, we sent the lump off.
When the vet called this week, I thought it would be to tell me, "Congratulations, you have a lumpy horse, ha ha..."
He didn't.
He was blunt, but compassionate.

Just days later, I can see Riata's entire backbone.
This is not Riata as she should be.
I don't want you to think of her like this.
I will not post any more current pictures of her.
I might even take this picture down.
I can't stand this.

The terminal diagnosis was shocking enough, but I thought we'd have at least a few months.
It was clear quickly that we need to cherish every day.
Riata this summer... Silly and patient.

Nephew 3 was hoping to head out for a visit.
Sister wondered if that was a good idea.
"No, no, please do send him, he will keep the children busy and normal."
His visit this weekend, and thanks to all of our dear friends, he and all of our friends have, in our grief, made these days bearable.

Nephew 3 not only kept us normal, but laughing.  I really didn't think it would be possible to even smile, much less laugh. Thank you, Nephew 3.
Saturday we started out hunting... a blind that was WAY too small for the two of us, hence even more giggles...
"This blind is TOO SMALL FOR MY, uh, curvaceousness and this kid!"

...and finished the day helping our good friends & neighbor retrieve his deer. This young man is helping to pass on his knowledge to another generation: Pipsqueaks and Nephew.

The kids were fascinated as S. gutted it- it really was a great lesson in biology and how things work.  Most kids their age are maybe dissecting worms, so it is always a great opportunity for children to see chickens and deer up close as they're butchered respectfully, to learn where and what each part is, how it works, how it is all connected.
M. and Pipsqueak 2, keeping warm.
Nephew 3 lying on the deer hide for warmth.
S. doing it all in freezing temperatures, his cold hands working hard.

Despite being numb with the shock of Riata's news, we had a...a weekend filled with love, and the chaos that erupts with three children, a passel o' cousins, together.

When things are still, grief seeps back. Riata is going really, really quickly, faster than I ever imagined. It's deeply shocking. I try not to fuss over her too much, to make things her "usual routine."

Every day, I enter the pasture and she nickers... then: her eye is looking deep into mine, eye to eye, cheek to cheek, as always.
Eye to eye,
cheek to cheek,
this summer.

Every day, I ask her how she is.
And one day, much too soon,  she will let me know it's time.
Until then, we are eye to eye, cheek to cheek, as always.

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Modern Prefab Home Weighs In On Water

Living off grid in the modern prefab home, I think about water, a lot. It's seems like it's been weeks since it's last rained, so I was grateful this weekend brought intermittent showers. I was starting to wonder about what our cistern level might be like...!

I am now happily listening to the pitter patter on the south galvalume roof of our modern prefab home- pitter patter/ pitter patter- OH JOY the sweet song of rain sings to me!  It might be messy outside, but I'm inside, cozy in my energy efficient prefab home.
Our rainwater cistern holds 1,700 gallons. That sounds like a lot, and our family is extremely water conscious; but the average family 'round here uses a lot of water:

Pie chart showing indoor water usage. Shower: 16.8% Toilet: 26.7% Faucet: 15.7% Clothes washer: 21.7% Leaks: 13.7% Other: 5.3%
Pie chart showing indoor water usage.
Shower: 16.8% Toilet: 26.7

"Americans use large quantities of water inside their homes. The average family of four can use 400 gallons of water every day, and, on average, approximately 70 percent of that water is used indoors.

The bathroom is the largest consumer of indoor water. The toilet alone can use 27 percent of household water. Almost every activity or daily routine that happens in the home bathroom uses a large quantity of water."

So the average family would run through our cistern within the week!

Growing up a sailor, we had mandatory 5 minute showers when we showered at the sailing club.  You learned to turn the shower on... and promptly off. On, then off to soap up, then on for a quick but thorough wash.

Looking back, I think that my childhood sailing on the Chesapeake Bay prepared me well for living off grid...
Free range chickens photobombing the prefab...

But most people were not raised wild, pirating the bay, unattended.
Here's a neat gadget I saw this week that might prove useful for those not so aware of  their water:

With our composting toilet, we also eliminated a large portion of average water waste, 26.7%. But the composting toilet is not an *ideal* solution- it's so fickle in its functionality... and not ideal for tight envelope homes.  But it works, and we've learned tons of tricks to make it as invisible as possible.

As... possible.

Diiiiiiinner tiiiiiime!
Interior shot of the off grid prefab home.

Focusing on the bathroom, Handsome Husband got busy and installed an on-demand heater to boost the solar hot water temperatures in winter this weekend. Yessssssssssssss.

This might not seem a big deal to you. But when you live off grid, on minimal systems, and your solar hot water in a cold, overcast week falls to about 70 degrees, that boost in temperature is critical, while being energy efficient!

November continues, interestingly.
The weather was cold, then warm. I appreciated the wood cook stove when it was cold and in the 20s- the energy efficient SIP of the prefab kept us warm, warm, warm.

Some of our family do not live indoors, however, and blankets were donned:

And then, warm again suddenly, blankets undonned. : )
L.C. giving a "thumbs up" on a great lesson.

Preparing dinner with local food.
Scaffolding mess in the background. Ignore it.

And at the off grid modern prefab house, rifle season began.

This is good, and bad. Bad because there are reckless hunters here who give hunters a bad name, and good because the deer population is carefully thinned by those who are responsible, know their particular deer herd, and, while benefiting the ecosystem, also thus help fill their family's freezer.

In this case, M. had studied the herd, noted that a young buck had genetic issues, and with one careful shot, as it should always be, took him out.  
She said she was grateful to, as a teen, start helping fill her family's freezer while culling the herd responsibly.
Pipsqueak 2, practicing her archery...
It's their thing, along with play acting,
drawing, chicken hugging,
dog "training," and bb guns.
I just let them outside and they do... whatever.
Speaking of activities, Pipsqueak 2 has begun a comic and named it Bad Pony.
It's all about an ill-behaved cartoon pony who is always fighting with its author and creator, the illustrator, who then foils the bad pony's demeanor.
I present: Baaaaaaad pony.
In this episode, a demanding pony gets, er, hitched by the author.

Pop whole apples into that cookstove oven. Let 'em rest, slow cooked, until they're baked, then you can easily now peel off the skin (tough and unflavorful, yet the skin held the moistness within as it baked), sprinkle lightly with cinnamon, and serve hot and comforting to the childrenz. Mmmmm that's some comforting goodness.

Reading Club:
    • Science for kids, by kids! (Thanks to my friend Bonnie for sending this in!)

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Off Grid Passive Solar Prefab House Loses The Unicorn.

It's seasonal November weather.
Which means the prefab off grid house, because of its energy efficient SIP and passive solar design, only needs the intermittent heat boost of the wood cook stove. As long as the temperature climbs to the mid 50s-60s, and drops to the upper 20s-mid 30s at night, I really just fire up the stove for dinner, because it's not worth starting a fire when you wake up to the interior in the upper 60s- "It will climb to 70 soon enough and I don't want to overheat the prefab house!"

So there is a constant switchout of the camping portable stove for breakfast coffee, to delicious slow-cooked dinners cooked on the cookstove.

As always in The Quiet Country, the weekend burst with activity.We headed to Farmville where the children, with their friends, packed over 1,000 shoe boxes of donated gifts for Operation Christmas...
A room of volunteers ready to pack shoe boxes for children.

...then they stopped at an Art Opening in Pamplin-City-Population-199 (which, for a cit-tay the population o' 199, has a lot o' great artists!), then continued a great afternoon with a play date where they shot bb guns, played We Are Wolves, built forts, spun each other dizzy on the tire swing...finally ending with a soup potluck and movie slumber party with friends.

And that was just Saturday.
Sunday was similarly full, ending with the Pipsqueaks' shooting club.

In Serious News, An Intervention Was Held.
On... Me. 

Good friends bundled me into a car and led me firmly to C.'s farm, where a Come To Horse-eus intervention was held in her living room.
"It's time to talk about your horse."
If you know horses, Jax is summed up as:
A stud-y, arrogant Percheron-Arabian green gelding who even the happy-horse-following barn cats and goats run from when he enters the pasture.

My beloved unicorn in the mist is... a pushy handsome bad boy. Not totally his fault, but also I have to say, it is also a lot: his personality. We're not the right fit. I know a lot of it is me, but it's also our personalities, together.

Like the groupie and the Rock Star, we're a match that's bad, bad, bad, and the longer we're together the worse the spiral becomes.  Even if I worked and rode him every day, he will never be my partner.

It's time for Jax and I to break up.
Jax departs for greener pastures in two weeks.
The good news is C. is about as bad ass o' a Rock Star as a horseperson can get. No groupie, she collects Bad Ass Rock Star Horses firmly in her back pocket, and under her thumb.

She will grow Jax to the awesome horse he deserves to be.  I am heartbroken, but grateful he's not getting dumped or passed around.  My biggest fear was that I'd give / sell him to someone else that couldn't handle him, therefore growing a dangerous, confused, lonely horse. Boy were we all lucky, Jax especially, that gorgeous Jax found placement with C. 

That doesn't make the hurt less, but I know it's the right thing... before someone gets hurt.

That doesn't mean I'm happy.
Jax and I have had our differences. That's my shin.
I'm... I'm very DOWN. I've never given up an animal in my life.  I... I'm about to let the unicorn leave. I feel like it's all my fault, yet not my fault.

No horse looks right to me after knowing Jax, no horse except sweet, sweet Riata, our leopard Appaloosa. Only Riata makes it ok.  She's waiting by the gate, nickering for me to come into the field. I hate being without a partner horse- I always pictured me riding Jax, while a child went on a fun ride on Riata, all of us, together.
But I can't safely ride Jax.

The longer I hold on to Jax, just because he's a beautiful unicorn, the less opportunity he has. He needed to find his awesome strong rider while he is young, so that he can have a lifetime of good work and camaraderie instead of being passed on... and passed on... and passed on to the wrong rider.

Looking at other horses just makes me ill. This is going to hurt for a long time.
Golden Girl Riata
Sweet Jax.
Jaxie Boo, my rock star, bad-for-me boyfriend.
Love you, Jax, which is why I'm doing this for you.
It's not just about building general reading vocabulary- don't forget math, history and science. Here's some good links for 4th grade:
Anyhoo. : /
With the intermittent warm weather we've had, next week's temperatures officially kicks off The Real Cold Season.
In the meantime?
A Recipe.
Mmmmmmm I've got homemade palak paneer simmering on the cook stove. 'Cause yer not country until yer cookin' indian food on the antique cookstove, honeychile. ; ) (The prefab house smells delicious!)
Home made paneer.
A note on home made paneer: I am so lazy
I don't even strain it
much less cut it into blocks.
Lift out with a slotted spoon,
then stir into spinach mix,

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