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7/29/13

Off Grid Prefab House And Air Conditioning, And Bay Breezes Call.

At our off grid prefab house (AND while visiting The In-Town Ramshackle on the Chesapeake Bay), it has been UNSEASONABLY pleasant... cool even, at night...


As I mentioned, in the off grid modern prefab home, I open windows at night, and close up the house in the morning. It works. But once the weather is hot, hot, hot...
One friend asked, "Couldn't you get ANY air conditioning at the modern prefab home?"

It got me thinking. Yes there are all different approaches man has used to cool a house. Evaporative air conditioning / swamp coolers are not efficient when your water use is limited, as we are, with only an 1,800 gallon cistern.

From TreeHugger:
"One of the downsides of using an evaporative cooling system is that it uses water. About 4 gallons per hour for the 6 tons system, or 96 gallons a day."

And in Virginia, unlike dry areas where evaporative air conditioning is popular, we have enough humidity already, honeychiles.

From Enviromental Health Perspectives, on Cooling Concepts: Alternatives to Air Conditioning for a Warm World:
At least this old 150 year old farm house has passive
solar window placement... but no insulation to,
once cool, keep it so!
Embrace the bay breeze. Bring it.

"In addition to placing strains on nations’ power grids, air conditioners pose threats to the environment and environmental health, primarily as contributors to global warming. 'The amount of electricity that’s used for air conditioning is a huge part of an energy load for most countries, and it’s going up,' says Durwood Zaelke, president of the nonprofit Institute for Governance and Sustainable Development. 'You’re putting out more climate pollutants as you’re burning more coal or gas to run the air conditioners, and you’re also putting out the greenhouse gases that serve as the refrigerants in the equipment.'

According to Cox, approximately 80% of the impact of air conditioning on climate results from the draw on fossil fuel–fired power plants. The remaining 20% comes from the units’ refrigerants, the liquid agents within the coils that are used to cool and dehumidify the air."

BUT. For quick, affordable, and temporary conditioning in a small footprint home, used only during heat waves, or when you have visiting guests that just can't adjust to summer's heat, a window unit might be best. An affordable DC air conditioner, even better, but I haven't found one comparable in price, yet.

What if you opened up the windows at night as usual, then used an energy efficient small window unit to *boost* the coolness to a level the SIP house could carry on, throughout the day, before opening the windows late afternoon to embrace the now-cooling breeze?

Here's five energy efficient air conditioners recommended by Tree Hugger.

This article could have been written by my Handsome Husband, whose North German self complains about not being able to sleep on hot southern nights...

Regardless, it is summer.
Grape vine, crepe myrtle, entwined.

We travel back and forth from the off grid modern prefab home to the In-Town Ramshackle at will, eating whatever ripens in our path.

Last year, there were distinct berry, fig, tomato, corn seasons...
This year, with all the rain, everything is confused. Blackberries in late July?!? Yes. Grapes in July and not the end of August? Yes. First crop of figs not ripe yet? Yep. What the heck. makes canning and freezing this year interesting, that's all I can say. 

Here's recipes I made this week to freshen and cool the menu:
Number 25 Chicken Salad
We ate the 25th of our 25 butchered birds. 24 more to go. This I made on Day 2, with the leftovers.
  • Shred the rest of the meat off, with fingers, from a cooked chicken.
  • Yes cut the skin up fine and add that, as well as whatever gelled juice is in the pan. 
  • Mince *very fine* fresh rosemary, enough to be present but not overwhelm the amount of chicken you have.
  • Spritz all over with lemon juice, begin to stir so the lemon does not saturate just one area.
  • Add enough homemade or *DUKE's* mayo, just enough to bind it all, but not be mayonnaise-y
  • Sprinkle with good sea salt, ground pepper, stir up more, then put into the fridge.
  • Serve the next day
Melodrama Melon Salad (Served when relatives or dramatic friends visit)
  • Cube really ripe delicious and dripping cantelope
  • Add in cubes (small, all, you don't want to choke any kids, yo!) of ripe fresh pineapple
  • And bananas, sliced and halved
  • And sliced grapes / kiwi / starfruit / berries whatever looks good! The key is RIPE and FRESH.
  • Over it all pour one can of coconut milk, not the thin or sugary kind. 
  • Stir, serve, watch them eat it up. 
In Deltaville, where the "city house," the 150 year old farm house sitting fifty feet from Main Street rests, we had family visit.




And a stray pig...
I always keep leashes in the car for stray dogs...
Didn't expect to corral a stray pig!
Love the city life of DVL...!

Reading Club:
  • Scientists discover what's killing the bees and it surprises me not
  • What if Google bought Detroit?
    This actually got quite a backlash from a friend, who commented (and had a point):
    "In summation, a for profit corporation should PURCHASE a city, replace its democratically elected goverment ( no matter how inept it may be), then use their ownership as a bully pulpit to test out their new gear and theories on the population and anyone that would do business in Google-troit?

    Congratulations Brandon, you've come up with the dumbest idea since those Jackass guys tried to poop while they ran.
    ...
    Paraphrasing, but Churchill said something to the effect of 'democracy is the worst form of government there is, aside from all the other forms that have been tried from time to time' "
  • More Secret Brooklyn Rooftop Camping Planned For August:   Were you intrigued when you saw the photographs of... dlvr.it/3jmnvH
  • Find out how much your region is investing in green energy: wef.ch/c2aMn 
  • "My name is America, and I'm a dataholic." goo.gl/BkWWoD @evgenymorozov on the "information apocalypse"
  • Even the best laws will not lead to a safer internet. We need a sharper picture of the information apocalypse that awaits us... 
  • How effectively are corporations protecting themselves against hackers? wef.ch/j2dFS
 


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7/22/13

Modern Prefab Home Off Grid Summer Season Continues

Stop the presses! Summer is blowing by too quickly at the off grid prefab house.

In the summer, the off grid SIP house's energy efficiency helps hold IN cool air.  But first you have to get cool air. At night I open the windows, and in morning, close up the modern prefab house. The clerestory windows and fans help let hot air out, move the air, make it cooler.  We haven't had the crazy 100+ degree days of last summer. Without air conditioning in the modern prefab, it has been comfortable.

BUT. There was one day this week, mid-afternoon when the sun is hottest, where I reached under the sink, nonchalantly brought out the spray bottle full of water (which I use to mist the air when the kiddos sweep so I don't have furious dust clouds dumping grit on mid-century furniture), and sprayed the kids, unsuspecting.

THEY LOVED IT. "You like that? Just wait until you get misted once this sits in the fridge awhile!"
"Wow. Grandma and Granddad would never let us do this in their house...!"
What? No spraying water inside this 1801 house?!?

"And that's why we have concrete floors, honeychiles, that's why we have concrete floors. This house is made for chillunz and dogs and fun." And then I sprayed them again.

One thing I believe I have mentioned is that every member of our family, without prodding or even someone asking the question, keeps saying, randomly, whether when tousled, newly awake, or, after a hard day's work in the field, looking satisfactory about them, 
"I love our life..."
 
 
 

So, it's chaotic. It's without air conditioning. It's more... difficult to do things, yes, like run out for bread if you use the last slice. There is no pizza delivery service.  

But then again, we never ordered pizza, in the city, and make our own bread...

Life these days, living off grid in the modern prefab, as confusing as it can be, it is rewarding.

Coyote Attack!
We always have a rule: You may not play outside, alone.  I have explained that living rurally prepares you for New York, Paris, any big city: Listen to your instinct. Travel with packs, preferably growling and snapping... Always, be prepared.

I have mentioned the electric fence that keeps predators out and dogs and children in, encircling our prefab house.  However it does not keep the chickens in - their feathers act as insulators, and they weave in and out of the circle o' voltage at will.

It was such a situation when, not five feet on the outside of the fence, not thirty feet away from the prefab, a bold and hungry coyote grabbed and made off with a laying hen.  

Pipsqueak 1 saw it all, and, despite the rules and how he was raised, brandished a stick, and made chase through the woods.  "You're lucky he didn't turn and rip your throat out..." I glowered, grateful he was ok.


Our dogs have been great deterrents- but in the heat they have been indoors; I will keep the chickens in their run the next few days, and from now on when they are out the dogs are out, too!
Sleeping on the job.
How does he fit all 100lbs
into that delicate, mid-century modern chair?

We also extended the electric fence about 50" into the woods, so that the area where the chickens like to scratch and roost is now enclosed by fencing.
And then there's this,
now, ready by the back door of the prefab...

Attacked By A... RAT SNAKE!
NO, I'm being dramatic- rat snakes are totally nonpoisonous and no he did not attack us, nor we, him. But: Who needs toys, when you can play with snakes?!? This poor rat snake, enjoying the day and coming over for a nice, social visit to the hen house, ("Might you dear ladies have any eggs? Oh thank you!") was waylaid by Pipsqueak 1 who, with Pipsqueak 2, made sure his day was full of entertainment.
 
After the visit, we parted cordially, gently placing him into a cattle field down the road where there should be plenty of field mice to keep him occupied from returning to the coop.

We put up hay at The B's...
When hay calls, hay calls. And with approaching rain, our weekend haymaking became Friday workweek hay and office hour juggling. Frantic it was, but fun, albeit hard work.

 

A day later, I am carefully checking over my flesh to see which are just scratches, and which are embedded objects that need to be expelled. But the horses will be happy, and well fed this winter!
 
Oh, summer's garden is in! Despite the poor soil here that needs amending, I have tomatoes, all kinds of peppers, corn, and (still, surprisingly) blackberries!
The Junebugs & I are dukin' it out over blackberries but I'm holding my own...

We eat well, here.
When I wanted to throw together something last minute, I made this, with what I had on hand. It did not taste or look thrown together. 
Fiesta Summer Salad
Equal amounts of cooked organic black beans and corn. Minced onion, peppers (according to your heat tastes, I used green bell pepper-ish peppers, ones that were mild but had a little bit of a bite vs. true bell peppers), tomatoes.
Salt/ pepper. Sparingly: balsamic / olive oil / coriander or even fresh cilantro and a bit of lime juice. *Make sure you taste the beans and corn* in this, do not overwhelm it with balsamic or herbs. The kids ATE IT UP and then asked for more.

Summer at the prefab = solar cooking, and sandwiches.
[And this, folks, IS a sandwich.
Look closely, there's bread. And mayo...]

The week ended with another downpour. 
The prefab's off grid cistern is full, full, full.
I love lightning storms and deluges by day- I love to see the chickens racing about as the sun shatters the straight lines of the rain, then, once the dark storm overpowers the light, to watch chickens gathering under the modern prefab's overhang, sheltered, preening and ruffling their feathers until it all passes... 

I love how, as the thunder booms more distant, we then fling open the windows under the southern overhang to catch that cool, such cooler, air. It billows through the prefab, as we, now soothed, listen to the pattering, steady rain.
 
 
 
 

Reading Club:

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7/15/13

Modern Prefab Home : Off Grid Cistern Is FULL!

The off grid prefab home's cistern is full!!!!!
This week it rained cats and dogs and even a rooster and cow or two.
The lightning & deluge were insane... true gully-washers.

I like how the tree frogs were all excited & singing, their crescendo rising as the lightning clashed and flashed and hurled down each strike... !

Each time a big rain came, it was at night, and embroiled with lightning. So no, I did *not* walk outside to take video. But it appears that washing the WISY filter and shoring up the gutter did the trick in getting rainwater into the cistern at our off grid home, because after the rains our cistern was FULL. 

Pipsqueak 1 checked... and people: OUR CISTERN IS FULL. Halleluiah, honeychiles.


[Did I mention OUR CISTERN IS FULL
at the off grid prefab?]

Unexpected Acquisitions For The Off Grid Prefab Homestead
It seemed each errand I ran, I ended up with something completely different.
For example, I headed to the Amish store for bread and vegetables...
Oh look! Bread and vegetables!

...and left with a new rooster and hen.
Wait. How'd that happen. I came here for bread & vegetables.

These chickens are completely free range and roost in trees at night. I'm hoping they'll propagate. They are already merging with our existing standard hens during the day while foraging; then roost in trees nearby.

I headed out to quickly feed the horses...
"Hey there! Whatchoo doin'?"

...and bought a bunch of fence posts from a friend, for fencing in the horses at Higher Ground.

Photo credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/e_phots/2344212454/
We helped clear a friend's fence line- I enjoyed the work, camaraderie, and taking some pictures!
There was lots of cool moss, and fungi.






We spent the week busy. We all worked hard, but had plenty of fun.
I had a canning incident- my beloved canner won't seal correctly.  We can not afford to give up room in the freezer for many vegetables- and I rely on canned pasta sauce and salsa and pickles and jam... So we are working on the kinks of the coolio vintage canner... I had replaced the seal, handle, and weight. Everything looks good. Looks like I need to take her to an extension agent.

Here's something I do a little different when I make pasta sauce from fresh tomatoes for canning:
Unlike many recipes with fresh tomatoes, I go ahead and dice them with the skins, and cook up a big ole pot of sauce. Yes it is too watery. So then skim off the delicious tomato-y onion-y garlic-y broth, and freeze it (or can it) for a great base for soups and anything in which you want a flavorful rough stock!


Here is some broth, ladled out, into a coffee pot, because, where I was canning, was not the most stocked of kitchen accoutrements...

P.s. I know I've mentioned this but I really do love the Tattler non-BPA reusable lids...

Handsome Husband cleaned up his tools from around the modern prefab and even washed the north side of the prefab house down a bit and boy is there a difference! It's all shiny and pretty again!
No dirt! Or tools! Or buckets strewn about!

Finally the prefab house turns from a family home with assorted junk strewn about, back into a modern prefab home with a family!
We just have to install that one last window...

We have a black tie wedding to attend in  Charlottesville soon...
I am thinking of making it a camping weekend...! Wouldn't that be fun? Spend the weekend doing camping / fishing / hiking stuff then disappear into our vintage Scotty camper, to re-emerge all fancy and bejeweled?

Regardless if we camp or hotel it, I am really looking forward to spending a few days in Charlottesville, exploring with the children! 

Family events always fill me with trepidation... There are those in our family who do not act lovingly or kindly.  We are always careful with whom we surround ourselves... and are so fortunate to have so many great loving and kind people in our lives.

Reading Club:

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