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4/29/13

Passive Solar Modern Prefab Home Featured In Off Grid Group, And We Continue To Sow

Thanks to our dear friends and neighbors The Aults, of The Ault's Family Farm who notified us, we discovered our passive solar modern prefab home blog was on A Gathering Of Kindred Souls Looking To Live Off Grid!

I like the author's take on Off Grid:
"I guess my definition’s to living off the grid after much research is at this point a bit different than when I first started seeking about off grid topics, to “live off the grid” simply meant to have a home that was not connected to the electricity grid. In other words, to have a battery backed-up solar, hydro or wind power system. Then I learned about people who were getting electricity by charging batteries using a generator once a week. I thought that was hardcore, but then I heard from folks who didn’t even have a generator, and were cooking with wood, lighting with oil and doing, literally, everything by hand. And I heard others definition to living off the grid: Being a ghost to the government. Living under the radar. Staying on the move. Being as free as free can get in today’s society. Dropping out of society. No taxes. No Job. Minding your own business and expecting the rest of the world to do the same. I came to the conclusion that for each off us it could and it will be different , here is a site to share your dreams, ideas, a place to Dream of such a life someday . I hope this page will help others looking for intentional communities, living off the grid communities to meet others, share ideas and hopefully hook up with kindred spirits who they can start such communities, or discuss ideas, learn from those fortunate to be off the grid, I hope this site is endless in what could come of it ."

OUR off grid life is filled with love and laughter. It is friendly, hard working, inclusive, knowlege-sharing, as are our friends, and community.


It always surprises me that people actually read this rambling, always off topic, off grid prefab home blog vs. our much more logical (and more well known) sites of Green Modern Kits, Green Cabin Kits, and Green Cottage Kits, so if you are here, *thank you,* I am grateful you are interested in my own, private, not exactly representative of the line of prefab homes but of my own family's off grid prefab modern home while we're working and homeschooling and appreciating life's journey.

Ours is ONE family's off grid journey, in our own way:
Longtime readers: Check it out! We're getting grass
after excavating in winter! So thrilled & relieved!

To catch new people up, it's very hard to quickly describe our years journey from saving up for land, buying land, then, about a year ago, we suddenly decided that our "5 to 10 Year Fiscally Frugal Pay As You Go Plan" to move to our Still Under Construction off grid super insulated
modern prefab house kit made of structural insulated panels (SIP) from Green Modern Kits was, very suddenly, with a change of jobs for Handsome Husband, happily The Now Plan.

It's still not The Perfect Plan. 

Handsome Husband took a dream job in DC, and I, with the childrenz and dogs and chickens and eventually, horses, worked and schooled and awaited his return, weekly, to the farm. 


This is The Reality Post
In rural communities across the United States, jobs are mostly gone. You have to sacrifice much to be there. Many rural families are separated a few days or commute hours daily to earn a living. We are fortunate we both love our work, that I can work anywhere and Handsome Husband has flexibility with telecommuting often, while loving his dream job.  

Here's the thing: He is not just schlepping through a "job." He *loves* his profession, colleagues, and clients. So, Handsome Husband, go for it, because yes, your career and colleagues rock. And we all, as a family, work together, loving life together, in our own way. Together, we make family decisions.

We are very busy, all of us, during the workweek. I run businesses, I school children, chores are every day, all day, and Handsome Husband works hard in DC until night. We put our heads down and learn and work and school and laugh, and suddenly, it is near the end of the week, and we are together, again.

Also with technology, days are not so distant. We skype via video several times, and then suddenly, it is the end of the week and we are talking in the same room, as if Monday - Thursday hadn't passed.

This week at the modern prefab, we continued to plant. We knew rain was coming. After planting? Great! But while planting? Not great. So, we worked hard, quickly, while we could, to continue to plant before the rain.


This is Berry Hill- blackberries and blueberries...
and fruit trees here as well!

After starting with no-till on clay last year,
we realized to initially till with amendments will allow
us to eventually go no till successfully.
You *have* to start with good soil.

Gas powered tools are not so great. But it's what works, in compacted clay soil, when your grass is suddenly so high, so much, so little time to get the real planting done before days of rain arrive. All hands on deck! It is the season of sowing.

And rain.
Now our off grid life is going to be interesting this week, as it's supposed to rain and be partly cloudy the next TEN days.  But I have learned that partly cloudy *also* means partly sunny, and am confident the solar battery bank will recover daily enough to not over deplete by the end of the week.  We. Shall. See...

We are nearing the end of The Very Interesting Year of the DC / Higher Ground Farm. Last week I went into detail about our decision to buy a house in Richmond so Handsome Husband could be closer to his dream job *and* our farm, paying a mortgage instead of DC rent, as he loves his job, hence this situation may last years..

Just because we are making a good financial investment, buying a Richmond house instead of paying 30k+ in DC rent a year during the workweek so Handsome Husband can have his DC Dream Job, my Pamplin-City-Population-199 Friends think we're moving back to Richmond.

Oh, friends. How could we ever go back to living in (much less on) a grid, where dogs & childrenz don't run free, where chickens are suspect, where horses... [well, actually, horses ARE allowed in Richmond (isn't zoning interesting?)] but I just can't see putting two horses, 32 chickens, a feral cat, two dogs, and two childrenz in this back yard no matter how nice the neighbors:
Yeeeeah, the dogs and children and chickens
all might get on each other's nerves in this space...

How could we ever go back to that, when THIS is our life?
Ah, so that's where my borage blooms went...
School, barefoot, with flower garlands.
I can think of nowhere else I'd rather be than at the modern prefab home, watching the pink moon, while whipporwills call in the woods, the fields awash in silver moonlight...

I might have even roused the children from bed, to see that moon, to listen to the night sounds...


(By the way that great vid was courtesy of *RVA* friend Amy R.)

City People: It's too late: Like pigs turned loose, we're now permanently feral.

So. If you're looking for me... I'll be at the off grid modern prefab home, brewin' up some sweet tea. Stop by, for a visit.


But this Richmond thing?
It's Richmond on our own terms: It's Richmond as in, "It's not DC Rent, and plus we have tons o' friends here, so it's convenient, plus we can randomly come in and see Handsome Husband 24 hours during the work week." Love, laugh, leave. 

If we were going to leave Pamplin it would have been during the week of icy sleet and snow when I was all by myself with no generator, with the flu and flu-ridden children, with no cell service (thanks old cell phone plan...) over this winter!!!  REMEMBER THAT WEEK?
[And yes, I can look back at that week now and laugh...]

The Richmond house is in Northside, where, if we are somewhere in a city, is perfect for us to be: The homes are diverse, ramshackle, colorful, and everyone there is a gardener. Rainbarrels abound. There are yards with vegetables in the front, and peonys in the back.


Northsiders sit on their front porches, with neighbors, and drink wine. With lots of quick platters of hors d'oevres at the ready to throw out for guests, always. People, walking by, stop. Talk. Laugh. Northsiders are great people. Northsiders cook well, and laugh long.  And that's why we chose to invest in Northside, versus any other Richmond environ.
 
Could this be Handsome Husband's DC train?

PLUS, if Handsome Husband is really, really lucky, THIS might happen to him, en transit!

Quiet Car on stalled Amtrak train transforms into rowdy impromptu wine tasting:
As Grist says, "Score one for mass transit."
Myself, I just picture Handsome Husband going, "Yessssss, that's my DC train!!!!"


"Score one for mass transit: When your car breaks down, you’re stuck on the side of the road, all by your lonesome. When your train breaks down, if you’re lucky, you’re stuck in a train car with a French winemaker who happens to have all the makings of a wine tasting at hand."

Northside is a good place to be. So, when there, I'll be sitting on the front porch offering wine and homemade cheese to passerby- but inside? Will be just three beds, a table, chairs... i.e. the DC apartment, in a happily empty, easy house while manure and chicken shit pile up at Higher Ground, and we, while enjoying it thoroughly for 24 hours, need to get back home to our horses and chickens and happily feral now-country cat and friends.

I guess what I am trying to tell you is that: We are all trying to get to there, to everyone's own Higher Ground, in our own way. Our native rural friends travel for hours daily between ferrying family members to jobs 20 minutes-1 1/2 hours away, every day. My Handsome Husband currently commutes, with lots of flexibility, once a week, and soon I'll come in with the children to see him before Fridays. We all do what we do because, for us, it's worth it.

Thank you for listening on our journey.

Reading Club:
  • How the decline of the traditional workplace is changing our cities
    This reflects OUR lifestyle: Think about it: If access to internet via living rurally in the prefab home AND hurtling comfortably on a train to DC *WHILE* working was not possible, neither would be our lifestyle.
    "People who once drove to work may now find that they want more productive commutes; now it makes more sense to ride a commuter rail car that enables the work day to start an hour earlier. Whole private networks of transportation have arisen around this idea in San Francisco. Coach buses there now collect workers to take them to Silicon Valley offices, but they're outfitted like mobile offices in the expectation that employees will start working en route.
    Some cities like New York have even begun to change how they think about intersections and roadways in a world where pedestrians are more likely to be looking down at smartphones than up at the environment around them."
  • Campaigners call on UK government expand minimum housing standards for space and natural light: http://bit.ly/12bQQ3Z 
  • In A Blow to Freedom, Virginia Supreme Court Declines to Hear Case of Homeowner Barred from Keeping Chickens bit.ly/13zRPel >What I consider a Basic Food Right
Homeschool: Some things the children loved this week:
"Momma? What does ratified mean?"
"Um, to sign or give consent."
"What does consent mean?"
"To give permission- as in, 'I give consent for my child to attend boarding school far, far away..."
"MOM-MA!"

A lot of times when I talk about my children you might think I'm trying to show you how cute and smart they are. No, I am trying to show you how exhausting they are, although I love them so much. But... each time you think I'm showing the 10 year old's "smarts," picture how worn out you would be.
"Momma? I was just thinking..." Nooooooooo!

My 10 yr old thinks Victor Carranza is "...cool but crazy. I like how he defended what he came across by luck. I think he needed a few tweaks, but helloooooo he has a nice ranch with horses and... he ran into good fortune and was determined to defend it. Well, he did have an illegal private army, but other than that? Is that bad? You're not about to let your new-found riches go, are you?"

I'm like, WHO is Victor Carranza and why are you always reading my Economist.

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4/22/13

This Week At The Off Grid Prefab House: Soil, Street Design, Clear Cutting To Urban Sprawl, And A Very Big Update.

Sweet tea and solar panels brewin' at the passive solar prefab home.

At the off grid prefab home, the annual lowering of the solar panel to best catch passive solar rays, utilizing the angle of the panel to embrace the higher spring / summer sun, commenced.


Along with the annual climbing onto the roof of the children. I couldn't bear to watch. With one hand over my eyes and cringing, I somehow snapped a few pictures.
"Look, Momma! We're on the roof! AWESOME!!!!"
#whimper
 
 

This week at the passive solar prefab home, one thing I want to talk about is soil.

If you read this blog, you know that the area around the off grid passive solar prefab home's home site had been excavated (initial leveling), graded, excavated again (septic, in November when I could not then grow grass), and graded at whim, repeatedly.

It is my cross.

I would like to note how DIFFICULT it is to grow grass, at all, which I have been diligently attempting to do at every opportunity. I see up close the poor soil around the home site, the garden struggling... the clay. And value so much, topsoil. And amendments.

So when a neighbor (no one we socialize with) clear cuts 500 *acres*?
On the top of a ridge?
I just shake my head at the ecosystems lost, how they don't realize they just lost their families'... everything. The soil gets more and more poor, as do they, as the act is repeated in generations. The cycle of destruction might produce a bit of initial flush money, but nothing - or at least, less and less, to pass on. They literally just pissed washed it all away.
Now 500 acres of... nothing. And just you wait until the rain.


I think about the prefab, with bare earth excavated around the house site, doused with seed, doin' nothing...

Then:
Driving by hundreds of acres of clear cut devastation, Pipsqueak 2 exclaimed:
"LOOK! In the middle of all the clear cut! A RED BUD BLOOMS. Y'know what I call that?"
"What, Pipsqueak 2?"
"HOPE."

I have hope.
And look!
Could that be... grass?!?
It is.

With spring in the air, I thought it might be a good time to get the 25 chicks out of the prefab house's living room. This is what herding 25 chickens from the prefab's living room to the hoop house looks like. Use brooms to herd. And get them out fast. And really, people? Don't try this at home.


(Thanks G. for the video...)
No! Don't go that way,
the hoop house is the other way!
"Let's play 'We Are Sheep Dogs!' "
"Ok!"
Someone asked me what a hoop house was, so I thought I'd share:
Here's a similar hoop house you can make for about $50- we use ours for baby chicks when it is warm enough to put them out (like today and hopefully they can STAY OUT in a day or two!) and it also is used as a green house.

Doing errands, I was invited in to an Amish home this week.

This is the prettiest comforter-
pictures do not do it justice- all tints of pinks and reds..
traditional yet SO MODERN...


The ice was quickly broken. 
"You have a Baker's Choice! Oh that is what *I* wanted until we found our Mealmaster!"
"It's not a Bakers Choice, close, but here's how it works..."
Hers has *dials*. And is so shiny.

I appreciate so much all the different people in my life, here, all over the world. Old traditions and cutting-edge new somehow make complete sense to us... and those beloved by us.

The Very Interesting Update:
Country kid contemplating.
"I think my horse could climb it..."

Now This Next Part Is Going To Be Confusing For New People, So Just Stay With Me:  Synopsis: Last Year we sold our Richmond house to 1. move to the land, here at the off grid prefab home 2. while Handsome Husband took a Dream Job in DC.

We are now nearing the end of a year in this arrangement.
Handsome Husband drives 4 1/2 hours to the off grid prefab home at the end of each week, and back on Monday morning, dodging semis and irate Interstate 95 drivers... while here we happily live, and have only come to visit, rarely.

When in DC, as much as we appreciate it and love all the museums and restaurants, regarding *living there* we just keep saying, "Wow, DC is like a big Richmond!"
[i.e. It's *Very Nice,* but it t'ain't no NY or Paris! It really is just like a big Richmond. Except walkable.]
 
The DC apartment.

SO...If we keep saying it's Just A Big RVA, then why not RVA. It's convenient. Telecommuting via train while hurtling home, sleeping on the ride up to DC...? Is not difficult. RVA is right between Pamplin & Deltaville, exactly an easy, 1 1/2 hours drive, vs. 4 1/2 hours on 95 ...

Why not pay a RVA mortgage, instead of DC rent, so that we don't throw away that money, annually? If the (dream) job changes, we could sell the house and all be on the land in a week!

One thing we *do* know, is: 
We will never own an urban place (to lay our heads during the work week) in an area that is NOT walkable, bikable, livable again.  

Planting and investing in the future at
the off grid prefab home.

And the off grid prefab home? While we flit with urban, our off grid prefab home is truly, exuberantly, securely, passionately our family HOME.

But let's get all urban fer a second:

Reading Club: 
Shoot. I'm all doom and gloom this week.
  • This is disgusting and wrong on so many levels. bit.ly/YPxmDg #EminentDomain for VACATION HOMES?
    #PropertyRights #Sustainable #Farm
  • Small scale farmers fight back for food & community self-governance. bit.ly/YFOVFW
    "Blue Hill is one of a handful of small Maine towns that have been taking bold steps to protect their local food system. In 2011, they passed an ordinance exempting their local farmers and food producers from federal and state licensure requirements when these farmers sell directly to customers."
  • Study reveals GMO corn to be highly toxic
    A leaked study examining genetically-modified corn reveals that the lab-made alternative to organic crops contains a startling level of toxic chemicals.

    And then we will all have to pay for People Who Don't Question GMO's decisions as GMO children hit the educational system, work force, etc. That is why one major health insurance company is asking its members to eat organic (and when will they refuse to insure GMO families I wonder?) http://www.willamettelive.com/2012/news/corporate-giant-comes-out-against-gmos/

    In the end, the government and people won't do the right thing, but businesses will, because GMO / GMO health effects will effect their bottom line. Not compassion, not education, but business will make the fastest backlash. (Related: as consumers educate themselves, their purchasing decisions affect companies offering non-GMO products than their just "doing the right thing"... vs. businesses who are emphatically natural / organic to begin with.)

    P.s. Don't you recall that just a few years ago BPA baby bottles were totally ok? And then the data started coming out and the lawsuits against the businesses? While only now it's starting to get prohibited by the government? Yeah. Like that.
  • Is organic better? Ask a fruit fly! http://nyti.ms/Z0ih1R
  • 15 Mid-Century Modern Dream Homes That Will Kill Your Children
    'Nuff said. Love the deadly architecture pics...
  • Nestlé CEO Says Water Is Food That Should Be Privatized – Not A Human Right
    It already kills me states that tax or ban rainwater collection on your own property...!
Oh wait, this is interesting and cool and happy!
A coolio chicken reproductive poster, i.e. how to explain how hens don't need roosters for eggs:

If you are a teacher you might want to order it

And this? Is brilliant:

Bugs Bunny Mid Century Modern Cartoons

And this! THIS makes me excited!
Why your 8 & 10 year olds should code.
"At the high school level, Carson and Treehouse are trying to fix the engineering shortage of the here-and-now, starting with 16- or 17-year-old at-risk young people.
"A lot of these children don’t know these jobs exist. Their parents and their schools don’t know about them, either,” said Carson in a recent interview with VentureBeat.
“So when we tell them, ‘You could get a job at a company like Facebook, you could be earning $100,000 plus, they pay for your insurance, they feed you, and you can work from home and wear casual clothes.’ They’re like, ‘What are you talking about?’ "

And then there's this.
Why buying local is worth every cent.

I end with this:
KEEP ON RUNNING.


Homeschool
From Truth Theory.


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