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2/25/13

Prefab Home Considers Green With Off Grid Energy Efficiency

At the passive solar prefab home, the snow melted, and turned to muck.
We saw bits of sun, and rain.
I considered the winter so far, and thought it fair to discuss some off grid systems, namely wood heat and the composting toilet.

Wood Stoves In A SIP House
Off Grid Vs. / *and* Embracing Green
I have detailed why only the most efficient, sealed, modernized wood stoves are safe for any energy efficient home (and hence why fireplaces are absolutely *not* safe or efficient) before. If you can overlook my rants (at the time) over having just had our urban hens ripped away from us in our old city (which, incidentally is now about to legalize them and embrace families like us and sustainable practices over bitter weed-whacking neighbors!), you can find a lot of information on tight envelope homes and wood stoves, there.

But it's not just initial safety, it's how much even modern wood stoves pollute.

So while I do adore my cook stove for its timeless durability, all along it was intended as an OFF GRID safety measure, a surefire booster in emergencies for heat, IF the solar hot water -> radiant heat in the slab were not efficient during rainy gray weeks... like today.  I intended it for giving heat a "boost" while cooking, not relying on it.

It is not the most green option, unlike my beloved solar cooker I use otherwise during the year.As our radiant heat is not yet turned on, this winter relied on wood.
I am really looking forward to testing off grid GREENER conditions in the passive solar home next winter, with radiant heat, much less reliant on our farm's felled wood.
Often during overcast weeks I show how the prefab home is filled with interior daylighting.
But I am also always amazed how often I look over at the meter and see... that, daaaang: We are, overcast, still CHARGING!



Composting Toilet
Like wood heat, I have discussed it at length. I think we may have found a fair balance for winter: more sawdust, more emptying, more efficient ways to do so. We *will* replace this, soon. But for now, it works, and like the wood heat, it might not be the [good better] *best* style / modern living solution [vs. best green, which it is], but it conserves water drastically and works for us, for now.

I didn't add a picture of Handsome Husband emptying it...
'Cause I'm certain you can do without another picture of that, this weekend, no?
"Where do ya think you live, IN A BARN?!?"


Notes On The Weekend From The Passive Solar Prefab House
It was time for the Annual Farm Auction.
Each year, the community gathers up farm equipment, odds and ends, family oddities, and converges on the farm down the road to sell at auction while tents spring up to feed the visitors with BBQ and Amish soup and sandwiches.
Last year there was even a GHOST CATCHER.
Fer real.

I am not in a purchasing mood. I have an off grid modern prefab house to finish!
But I always have a list. Just to be prepared.



Unfortunately for the auction, it was rainy.
But rain is good for work on the inside of the modern prefab home!
To Pipsqueak 2's delight, Handsome Husband, with rolls of vintage wallpaper in his arms, began work in her room. She kept skipping about and hopping from bunk bed to bunk bed as he worked...
...planning horse stickers, everywhere...


She's running off with scraps to
make something outta nuthin' with them...
#ChipOffTheOldBlock

Here's also some more pictures of Pipsqueak 1's "Woods Wall" from last weekend:




Recipes
We were all tired this week... It was cold.
This called for comfort food!
So I made Elderberry Lamb With Lentils.

In a cast iron pan, cook lamb chops in a balsamic glaze (drizzle on some balsamic, sparingly, as you turn the lamb, y'all) topped with elderberry jam + pan gravy (make sure you add the elderberry last so it doesn't get into your gravy- flour/salt/pepper/water stirred into the pan after you remove the lamb with a touch o' balsamic), served with carmelized onions over lentils (stir in cumin and some lemon juice into the lentils), drizzled to taste with sriracha.

I made LambWiches.
In a bowl, mix milk, cubed bread, egg, ground lamb, tomato ,minced onions & garlic, ground raisins, dashies of tahini, molasses, salt & pepper, sugar if necessary. Mix and mash it all up until the bread is no longer diced but part of the consistency.

Butter up a casserole dish, add the mixture, bake until done, serve over Amish rolls and a big fresh balsamic vinegar, oil & cheese salad.  It should be tomato-y sweet and onion-y savory yet not overtake the lamb. I of course add more heat on my own serving and would encourage you to do so, it's just that I have young childrenz who still shy from sriracha. They can't be perfect, sadly...

Workin' hard...


And Spinach, Bean, and Potato Soup
Rinse & soak lima beans for hours.
Mince and sautee up a mess o' onion, some garlic. Add some really good broth. Add lots of spinach, make sure it's cut into small bits. Add potatoes, diced small. Add beans, and let it all simmer an afternoon. Add salt, pepper, and some Parmesan at the very end.

Perfect comfort foods to end the day.
Can't. Move.
Must.
Muck lots of stalls and work it off...
Tomorrow.

Funny Moments Of The Week
  • Got chided by an Amish friend as I hemmed and hawed about possible chores to run in the next day's rain... Buggy behind her, she laughingly scoffed, "But Copeland. YOU can DRIVE *FINE* in the RAIN." Ok fine I guess I will be about, THEN. : )
  • Caught ShopDawg *passed out* in ShopPuppy's crate, head wearing a metal dog bowl. You know those tough motorcycle guys in leathers wearing old school German tiny helmuts as they roar past? I think that's what he imagines he looks like...?
















Reading Club:
  • 'The Longest Daycare,' Oscar-Nominated 'Simpsons' Short, Takes Swipes At Education System
  • In Norway, TV Program on Firewood Elicits Passions - nyti.ms/XMA06J
  • No, really, to move cities forward you *really* need to consider a bike tax. bit.ly/VPn4mk #FacePalm
  • Putting Public Space in its Place bit.ly/15vHuSQ
  • My old roommate (and 1st Gwar girl) Colette on California's public radio for wings she painted into art! bit.ly/11Wbqso
 Extra pics from the week:












Lunchtime frittatta





Homeschool art class
Discussing: shadows.



The new girl at the barn...
#SpanishMustang

Braids, with braids.

It's all love until, as she shares her bowl,
he takes off with it, running...


Cook stove log thief.

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2/18/13

Off Grid Passive Solar Prefab Home - Surfs Sun To Snow Effortlessly

Friday, at the off grid prefab home...
And Saturday at the passive solar off grid prefab house!

With bemusement, I read that according to a U.S. news source, solar power only works in Germany because Germany is a tropical paradise.

Reflecting on our minimal solar system in the passive solar prefab, in central Virginia, not the most sunny area of the country, just "kinda average" regarding sun and seasons... I have to say...

Even on a *minimal* solar system with it's special accommodations one must occasionally make, even with inconveniences (yes, we're on an *undersized* system, folks, how many times can I say that...), I think living off grid in my passive solar prefab home....
...
...
ROCKS.

We love living off grid in our modern prefab home!

Look closely, to the right of the door, and,
in winter, you *might* see a
portable generator at the ready,
just in case.

A keen friend noted, "HEY! I see a GENERATOR near yer prefab!"

Yes.
SO, remember when we were talking about major upgrades to off grid systems in our panic that ONE week where there was cloud cover for SEVEN DAYS IN A ROW this winter? We were all fired up and panicked to get an automatic generator

Then a neighbor said, "Heck, if you feel like you 'might' need a generator about 10 days a year, you're LUCKY! You *do* realize that all we 'on grid' folk 'round here use portable generators OVER ten days a year, the power goes out so much!"

It occurred to me... "Heeeeey. We've got that generator in the shed..."
So we dragged it down...
I've only used it once, but it's nice to know it's there!
...In case I ever need it.
Just having it there sitting next to the house made off grid living during that cloudy time much less stressful. 

And, as things in life always seem to be: Just having it there meant I haven't needed it, lol!
Sunny days / sweepin' tha...clouds away...
On my way / to where the air... is... sweet...

Aside from one panic week where I used it one day... 
I haven't had any need, since.
NOT BAD.

The sun came out. I sensed spring. So did one of our Americaunas: 
I present: The first blue egg of spring. Discovered after barn chores as the sun set...

Of note: The children were packed off to their Grandparents for the weekend!

I ran to the W's pasture, coatless.
My handsome boy...

Me and mah girl...
I soaked up the sun with my good friend S.W., mucking stalls, brushing out stiff, mud-caked coats of happily rolling horses...  We lay back and idly watched her son walk out to practice shooting.

"You know, he can't even get bullets for that gun anymore..."
"Wha....?" I looked away from the crack of his shot.
"The government is buying them all up."
"Wha...?"
He began to shoot again, and we paused, thinking...
[And, not a freak, not a consipiracy theorist, curious, when I got back to the modern prefab I researched the subject and found this.  So if her son can't get ammunition now, already, and this will go on "for the next four or five years"... Do I read that as: indefinitely?]

She paused... "I think people are so disconnected now... parents don't raise their children, people don't know food... Everyone is trying to fix the disconnect without really addressing the actual problems and they don't think about places like here, where the average emergency response time is over 30 minutes... If something happens... everyone here has to be able to hold and protect their own..."
It's not just about protection- this is how it has been in my family, forever. In hundreds of years here we have not committed a crime, much less a gun crime. Why is our track record not considered in gun control?

She continued, "...In Switzerland they issue guns to every citizen. You don't see crazy people committing mass murder with guns there..."

Where is the difference, is it in OUR culture? Is the United States, as a society, just disconnected now? I'm just throwing that out there, to discuss and wonder...

Related: We went to the pharmacy today and found these "jams" aimed towards obese diabetics, I guess-
Ingredients? Nothing natural, much less fruit...
THIS certainly t'ain't no farm, honeychiles...

It's a similar argument- remove the sugar and calories but not the issue of how they became obese and diabetic? Look at the artificial I-can't-even-call-that-food-ingredients; look at the other choices they offer:
Marshmallow fluff?
Really?
No sugar no calorie MARSHMALLOW FLUFF aimed towards obese diabetics?!?
Maybe they should rethink what they're eating?
Marshmallow fluff and chocolate dip, really?!?

Maybe we're not addressing properly as a nation guns, mental health, real food, our responsibilities in anything including being well, mentally and physically... Yes I understand all too well mental illness. I know it intimately. Can we separate out the physical inherent illnesses from the acquired excuses, and mete out a fair freedom for Responsible Normal Rest Of Us?

From Wikipedia:
"Gun violence and Crime in Switzerland Government statistics for the year 2010[15] records 40 homicides involving firearms, out of the 53 cases of homicide in 2010."

I'm looking forward to discussing this with a Very Liberal friend (I consider myself middle-of-the-road) and her brother who Leans Hard Right...
Homeschool recess this week:
Dangerous pointy deathly
items enjoyed by responsible
YOUNG children
unattended by an adult.
Because they were taught
and understand
the consequences
if they are irresponsible.
 

The day ended.
And then next, just like that: It snowed!

What do suddenly fancy-free childless people do with a beautiful winter wonderland swirling around them in the modern off grid prefab?

They hang wall paper.
Well... ok... first we googled it.

We got really intimidated with the list of tools, as we had none of them...
So... uh, we put on music and danced and tried to hang wallpaper at the same time.

Somehow, it kinda worked.

With the winter wonderland swirling around the toasty off grid prefab, it seemed apropos to make Glühwein on the antique cook stove.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhh.
Cheers!

Night fell.
It was still snowing.
We awoke, and if yesterday was a winter wonderland...
Today was pure Narnia.








WE WENT SLEDDING!!!!
 
Then tired, cold, in ice embedded wet clothes, we trudged into the toasty off grid prefab home to collapse into tea, a hot bath, to cozy up with great books indoors in the sun.
Looks like even more weather might approach at the end o' next week.
In the passive solar off grid prefab home, we've weeks o' provisions, a cook stove humming with delicious pots of beans and all kinds of healthy slow cooked goodness just waiting to eat.

Reading Club:
  • I LOOOOOVE THIS:
    "Adoptive mom's 'newborn' photo shoot with 13-year-old son goes viral"
    Quoting Anne S.: "What started as a family joke at dinner turned into a viral sensation and opened up a nationwide conversation about the need for adoptive homes for older children in the system. Every kid deserves loving parents (and cute baby pictures)."
  • Picturing ten urban qualities we deserve to see more
    "In recent months, architect friends have explained how several post-Recesssion projects focus sustainability goals on the end-user experience, rather than simply pursue flagship “green” designations. It seems there is a commendable and renewed emphasis on the particular needs of building use, and, significantly, the specifics of a building user’s relationship to the surrounding urban area.

    I see this as a tilt to the qualitative aspects of the urban experience—an approach I believe should stay as a lynchpin of evolving urbanism." 
  • Think organic / anti-GMO is a trend and no big deal? My dad, a doctor, isn't interested in the issue. Here's a lil over-simplistic cartoon that breaks down why we avoid GMO.
  • Psssst! Watching Killing Lincoln tonight at 8? My #RVA nephew is in it! Look for a cute sailor, and Sister did crafty! bit.ly/YrbSbx

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