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3/26/13

Spring Sprung At The Passive Solar Prefab Home!

Celebrate spring at the off grid prefab modern home!
 Spring has sprung at the off grid passive solar prefab home, finally.

Tuesday night's moon was beautiful, full, and clear.
"Good morning, Australia! Good morning, China!" whispered the 8 year old as she heavily fell into bed with a book, eyelids already slipping...
I stayed up, just enjoying the quiet moonlight after last week's tumultuous weather...

Suddenly phlox, quince, pear, daffodils, forsythia have *burst* into bloom, and just driving to the country store watching a blue sky highly filled with happy clouds... brings SO much appreciation for where we are: Oh it is beautiful here!
Mrs. E's farm

Our weekly trip to Mrs. E's Amish Store made the children happily reflect, as they swung their legs, nibbling on her homemade whoopie pies, that  "...actually, Mrs. E is kinda our Amish grandma..."
I thought about it, and all the years we've known her, and smiled. Agreed.

We are always so grateful to be here.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, spring. Spring means we soon look for morels.
It needs to be juuuuust a liiiiiiitle warmer.

Also: Here's how to look for elms. And poplars, ashes, maples. I love their brilliant leaves in fall; but in spring, they often signal morels!

This week, there was no electric work on the off grid prefab home, but we were still busy- we ordered more gravel for the winding drive...
And we built a hoop house for meat birds / a small greenhouse!

I am listing our next projects, but they do not just pertain to the modern prefab home. Excited for sunny, warmer days, my thoughts also turn to the InTown Ramshackle repairs I'd like to make this summer.  
Y'all remember the INtown Ramshackle, don't you? The drafty ole 150 year old Virginia farmhouse we bought? First on my list, now that the leaks are fixed, are shutters. But you don't just slap some vinyl on a 150 year old house, much less historically inaccurate and non-functioning!  Shutters at the InTown Ramshackle are still useful, today: They help control light, hence thermal heating a room receives; they protect against high wind, they provide privacy when desired.

Deltaville grapes from an old, old vine.
Here is a great overview on shutters, and historical accuracy: http://www.oldhouseguy.com/shutters.php

Also, as we eat our way through the freezer in time for summer, I found a container of perfect, red grapes from our old, old concord vine in Deltaville. Now I know what to do with them, on the cookstove, aside as a jam glazing meat, thanks to Lisa. Except, lazy, I'll just toss massage the bunch in melted butter and stick 'em on the sheet. Perfect for a slow cooking cookstove oven.

For the weekend, we blew through Richmond to see friends for Easter.
The Ladies.
 
The Menfolk. With some TomBoyz.

We continue the end of The Very Interesting Year: Finishing The Final Off Grid Passive Solar Prefab Home Construction while blowing through DC / RVA / Deltaville Lifetyle.

Speaking of DC, I've been Asked To Speak. In DC.
So I will.
The topic is entrepreneurship, and building a sustainable career.
Here are the bullet points that immediately run through my mind: (And no I haven't written anything for it, these are just my initial thoughts.)
Well, they asked my opinion, HERE IT IS.

  • Multiple sources of income. My first business was founded in 1999. I entered the green building realm with our sisterhood of passive solar prefab homes: Modern prefab homes from Green Modern Kits, our traditional cottage prefabs Green Cottage Kits, and modern cabin prefab homes Green Cabin Kits. I am passionate (I hate that word, but yes, find something you couldn't live without doing every day) about every business. Every business brings in X income, a project at a time, to create a busy, full, lovely career I am thankful every day I can run, and run intellectually with. 
  • With multiple sources of income, I believe in homesteading, whether in the city or country. Eliminating debts. Being as self sufficient as possible so that a career brings extra icing on the cake for your family, not just turning you into a workhorse solely for the work.
  • I keep reading articles in intellectual journals (and tabloid too) assuring parents you can't handle everything but I disagree: You can. Make careful choices. Throughout history, many people raised children within their business, and their own family. If you want to try to "have it all," you can. You *can* telecommute professionally with children. Raise them in your business, so they *understand* your business, and work with your business. Historically children were everywhere in a family business, and not only were they not neglected but they could speak with clients, and as they grew, pitch in, together as a family, working to better themselves as a whole.  When my children were toddlers, sure I learned to not answer phone calls when a tantrum was being thrown. (Call them back, fifteen minutes later, when that exhausted toddler is now napping. No one knows YOU weren't on a busy conference call / in an important meeting...

    And now, now that they're older? I had one client ask, "HOW are they so quiet during our call?!?" when she learned I also now homeschool and that they were inside during our conversation. I shrugged. "Because they know I am on the telephone." My children are beloved. But they have their work: their school every day, and I have my work, and we are not to distract each other.  Sure, you can't take your children to the sawmill or to your military job; but most professions can balance flexibility more than most people think.
  • I believe for families that psychologically, for their own relationship, and for financial security one spouse (and they can take turns, over the years) should "have a day job" and one can fly with a start up. (Before you start making assumptions of me, please see "American Role-Reversal: Women The New Bread Winner.") My Handsome Husband and I have alternated start ups, secure-with-benefits-jobs, whose-income-is-higher-one-year-whose-income-is-higher-the-next-year-zig-zags. Rethink your roles, sit down as a family and decide what works for everyone's schedule and benefit. 
  • Family meetings are very important in our family for life decisions which, of course, then integrates work / professional decisions.  We sat down and talked about moving to the farm while Handsome Husband worked in DC, how it would affect us, goals for years 1, 2, and 5. WITH our children. They are secure and understand what is going on and what we're doing next is not a surprise but a continuation of a comfortable journey.
  • Employees: Take an honest look at yourself. Many people work- "jobs," without putting in extra time on their end off the clock to learn and expand, and don't realize "jobs" in their field can pave the way for a broader future.
  • And to take that further, I would say: Embrace apprenticeships. Many of my farming friends learn trades from people seasoned in a profession that can work, rurally. These are not sweatshops. Overwhelmingly I see successful-on-the-cusp-of-retiring people wanting to turn over their reputation and craft in smaller rural areas to just... "Someone who can learn it right and then serve the community in my absence."
    This isn't just for those starting out: A really well known, successful, admired client exclaimed about the new project she had started, that will take her at least a year to work on for an amazing cause, all because she had donated time over the last year, as a volunteer. A perfect volunteer fit became a professional, mutual gain between that person and the organization.
Reading Club:
  • Environmental coalition sues the EPA for failing to control systemic pesticides
    via B.C: "They deserve to be sued over this! It is a crime that will effect us all if bees continue to die at the rate they currently are becuase of systemic pesticide use. France has the proof that after eliminating systemic pesticides the bee population recovered after just one year."
    (SO glad to be rid of our old pesticide laden next door neighbors... who thought WE were weird for not using pesticides, and yelled at us for "having clover and violets!" in our grass... Do you know how hard I work to establish clover, here in my fields?!? ; ) )

    "
    A year ago, a coalition of environmental groups and beekeepers petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to protect bees from harmful pesticides. Today four beekeepers and five environmental and consumer groups filed a lawsuit against the EPA in Federal District Court. The lawsuit charges the agency with failing to protect pollinators from dangerous pesticides. According to a March 21 press release (PDF) from the Center for Food Safety, the center's attorneys will represent the coalition.

    The suit asks that some pesticides have their registrations suspended. Those pesticides are known to cause three problems: They are highly toxic to honeybees, are clear causes of major bee kills and/or contribute to mass mortality cases known as colony collapse disorder. The lawsuit also cited an EPA policy of allowing "conditional registrations" and ignoring labeling deficiencies."  Read it all, here.
Homeschool:
  • Researching the Italian Renaissance, I ran across this neat site: WebExhibits.com.
    But of course I went on to explore their other great exhibits, starting with the History Of Butter
    (or Buttah if yer from Brooklyn.).
  • Continuing the country list of children we played against in World Science and World Math Days, we studied Ireland.  I also appreciate how National Geographic has the countries divided by continent, which makes is easy to learn regions...
  • Which then led to the question, "What is a constitutional democracy?" which then led it back to the United States: "A constitutional democracy, then, is government by majority rule with protection of minority rights. It is democratic because of its foundations of popular consent and majority rule. It is constitutional because the power of the majority to rule is limited by a supreme law.

    In the constitutional democracy of the United States, the Supreme Court uses its power of judicial review to make decisions about issues in specific cases concerning limits on majority rule or on minority rights. In many landmark decisions, such as West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette (1943), the Court has limited the power of majority rule in order to protect the rights to liberty of individuals in the minority. Writing for the Court in the Barnette case, Justice Robert Jackson argued that a person's rights to liberty, such as the right to free exercise of religion, “are beyond the reach of majorities.” They may not, he wrote, “be submitted to vote,” and “they depend on the outcome of no elections.”
    Read more: http://www.answers.com/topic/constitutional-democracy#ixzz2OaoHqdhA
  • Which then led the discussion even more local, to Farmville, 20 minutes away:
    http://www.nps.gov/brvb/historyculture/farmville.htm
  • Latin: We study sentence structure. Yet only now we begin to count. Here's a good video I found...

    In fact, this nice London gent has quite a few nice language videos... over 1,000.
    Nice! Combined with Visual Latin, this adds a nice learning element to our curriculum.

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3/25/13

Passive Off Grid Prefab Home : Spring, Sun, Sowing, Soupe, Smokehouses, Snow.

Latest 24 hrs at the off grid prefab modern home:
Sunny Easter Egg Hunt and sowing,
then sleet and snow.

Grading and more grading.
Finally planting grass after septic
(installed too late for seeding) and grading.
At the passive solar prefab, Old Man Weather is clearly off his meds.
It was gray and wet. Then sunny. It snowed. Then sunny. It rained buckets. Then gloriously sunny. With rain. Sleet. Snow.


Ah, spring

A rainy, muddy, sunny, dry, snowy week at the off grid modern prefab home commenced.
Dreaming of a more gentle spring...
at least all the hens are laying!

I love living in a modern passive solar prefab home this time of year, because when the temperatures are still cold, rising into the upper 50s-mid/lower-60s, then fall to freezing 20s-30s at night, you can really feel the effects of the passive solar design.

Let's just stay cozy in the prefab, 'K?

Even with the cook stove out I awake to 68ish degrees. It is just so easy to heat, when you have the sun on your side, working to keep the prefab home warm...

Often, it's so warm inside, we're surprised when we walk outdoors and note the icy air!

Our electrician Pat Root sent word to not expect him until the mud subsided.
Last time we had weather like this, his huge, solid, manly, bomb-proof truck almost succumbed to my field.

Honeychiles, I don't blame him

The sun came out, but the land was still too saturated to ride, to plant, to do anything...
I have spring fever! C'mon mud, dry up! Slowly, it did.

The sun came out! The sun came out! The sun came out!!!!!

Here's how M. embraces her Spring Fever: Bareback, cantering and playing airplane, without a bridle. 
M. is *always*... ALWAYS pure joy to watch ride.

Regardless of sun or snow, we're planting...and continue to plant... Here's a neat sowing chart that explains by temperature, which makes so much sense vs. month:

We are terracing our plantings.
And constantly amending the Virginia clay soil.
It is actually more challenging to grow here
than our prior urban gardens!

And here is local Goochland with a GREAT idea:
"A couple of weeks ago, a Seed Lending Library was born at J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College's Goochland Campus. It is a community seed bank where people can come and check out ("borrow") seeds then return them at the end of the season (by saving the seeds). The seed library is free, but all users must attend an hour long seed saving tutorial/orientation to the library. The seed library (which is located in the campus library) will then be open until 7:30pm for those wanting to check out seeds that night. Hooray for seeds, seed saving knowledge, and community! Come and be a part!"

SOW, BABY SOW.

via Mark: 11 Horrifying Facts About Your Groceries(And people think our composting toilet is disgusting:  ; )  )
"1. The U.S. imports 86% of its seafood. Only 0.1% is inspected for drug contamination.
2. Shrimp and tilapia are often fed untreated animal feces in China, Thailand, and Vietnam.
3. A quarter of U.S. raw meats test positive for flesh-eating MRSA bacteria.
So grateful so much of our pantry is not from the store...

4. Seventy percent of market ground beef contains ammonia-doused pink slime.
5. Apples, celery, and bell peppers are the most pesticide-contaminated produce.
6. Farmed salmon is prone to parasites and contains eight times the level of cancer-causing PCB.
7. Chickens are fed arsenic to make their flesh pink.
8. Most of the honey you buy isn't real.
9. Tuna mercury poisoning is real.
10. Many U.S. farms use reclaimed human waste and sewage sludge as fertilizer.
11. You basically can't avoid eating phthalates.
Bon appetit! " 
Inside the off grid prefab I awoke Thursday, warm and cozy, even with the cookstove out...I went to let the cat out: The door opened with an icy blast and...SNOW?!? It is. And it was sticking. Ergh!

The sun came out, and we were knee deep in mud, again.
Good thing the off grid prefab home is always stocked, with a good pantry!
I made Soupe de Boeuf Bourguignon, kale chips, savory crepes, with the help of a Little Cook.
RECIPES:
Soupe de Boeuf Bourguignon
I don't know how to make Boeuf Bourguignon. I just had a nice meaty beef stewing bone and was feeling French and like pouring wine in something aside from my mouth on a cold snowy day.

In pot sautee a meaty beef or lamb soup bone & onions (and any other root veggies, if I had had carrots on hand I would have added them, and a parsnip or two) until brown, then add thinly cut up potatoes and water. I call this burgundy because I then added some nice red wine to it, ha! Also add dashes of lemon, salt, cracked pepper, lots of parsley (fresh would be great!)... When it has simmered and everything is yummy & soft, mash the potatoes into everything roughly, serve.

Savory Crepes
Make crepes, with savory + creamy stuff. Today? Liverwurst & provolone cheese. Tomorrow? Another something else savory.

Kale Chips
I know y'all know this but: Tear up kale, massage in olive oil/lemon splash/s&p, bake.

Churched Up To-mah-to Soup
Heat a liberal amount o' butter in a huge pot, add minced garlic, chopped onions, lots of whole skinned tomatoes in juice, salt, rosemary. Simmer simmer simmer simmer. I did, overnight. Cool. Puree. Re-heat. At the last minute add whole milk or cream, making sure not to boil or even simmer, so it doesn't curdle.

Later, sowing seed, my Bad Puppy ShopDawg went wayward, and I, to retrieve him, apologetically, from a neighbor. In doing so, I was given a tour of The S's SMOKEHOUSE!
[While we were touring, the BAD wayward pup, hearing my voice, ran quickly home and did his best to look innocent, readying for my arrival. That dawg knew he was in trouble, with a "T"...]
The smokehouse.

"And now the tour begins! Whoo-hoo!"
At the bottom, wood ready to fire;
the metal sheet covers the fire,
when in use, to smolder it,
with slits in the sheet, hence allowing
up the smoke.  He does this when it rains.
Metal sheet with slits, wood.

Here Mr. S explains how, after the meat is salted and smoked and cured, he then soaks and readies it for (delicious) eatin':

Mr. S and I discussed how although so many things have been forgotten; his family still lives it, knowledgeably, without a break in knowledge.  The S's have been good to us. And like all of our friends here, we appreciate the opportunity to learn from them, and each other.

[Billy Joel and student reinforce each other:]

Here's a great quote. I don't care if you lean left or right. I lean both, in different subjects. Put aside the political references and consider:
Free market, recycling,
environmentalist prefab home.
Yeah.

"You show me a polluter and I'll show you a subsidy. I'll show you a fat cat using political clout to escape the discipline of the market and load his production costs onto the backs of the public. Tax-payers give away $65 billion every year in subsidies to big oil, and more than $35 billion a year in subsidies to western welfare cowboys. Those subsidies helped create the billionaires who financed the right-wing revolution on Capitol Hill and put Bush in the White House. While communism is the control of business by government, fascism is the control of government by business. True free-markets, in which businesses pay all the costs of bringing their products to market, is the most efficient and democratic way of distributing the goods of the land – and the surest way to eliminate pollution. Free markets, when allowed to function, value raw materials and encourage producers to eliminate waste by reduc-ing, reusing, and recycling. I don't think of myself as an environmentalist anymore; I consider myself a free-marketeer."
--RFK Jr.
The weekend began with an egg hunt and riding.

At the passive solar prefab home, in 24 hours we went from sun and sowing to sleet and snow! Ergh!

Chickens hanging out around the prefab home's overhang.
Chickens hate snow...

 
 
Outside? Frigid.
Inside the prefab house? So cozy Miz Fairy
is wearing a leotard with leggings, and barefoot.


Old Man Weather, you need to go see someone.
At the off grid prefab home, we're lazily hunkered down, with lots of books, a pot o' beans on the cookstove, waiting out the snow and mud.

Reading Club:  This week it's quite extensive; there was a lot to read, from architecture's Pritzker Prize to Monsanto's protectionism in Congress: GMO, the environment, and architecture, oh my.
  • Are you an architecture fan? Feast your eyes on some of Toyo Ito's best works http://t.co/YUKx1TGa0u #Pritzker 
  • Surreal historic photos of D.C. landmarks under development, including the Lincoln Memorial statue sans head. http://t.co/lIxVOdDuBu
  • I LOVE THIS CAR!!!!! #GMO
    https://plus.google.com/109793269189756041444/posts/VLRfykfjjHS
  • Monsanto succeeds in passing Section 735, aka the Monsanto Protection Act. For now. http://bit.ly/YbFTRS SO disappointed in Congress. #GMO 
  • The honeybee collapse could set off a global food crisis -- and the US gov't isn't doing anything to stop it http://t.co/veqtJ4m29S
  • 10 Most Overlooked Women in Architecture History: huff.to/Zx6OBI
  • Thoughtful interview with Whole Foods’s Walter Robb on the company's big move on GMO labeling wapo.st/WC6wML
  • Don't we know it. RT @grist: Farmers markets are growing, farmers' incomes are not bit.ly/YESkyY Happy National Agriculture Day! 
  • GREAT article on why diamonds are b*llsh*t. bit.ly/15okd2v And they don't even go into the deplorable labor part...! 
  • Virginia featured as one of 8 Up-and-Coming Wine Regions in the U.S. by @thedailymeal: http://t.co/sXqNsCIt77
  • And finally, thanks to the childrenz:
    "What does Heavens To Betsy mean?!?"  
Homeschool:
 
 ...sounds like homeschool. Except we get more recess.

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