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10/28/13

Off Grid Modern Prefab Home Has The Season's First Frost As Fall Continues With Net Zero Comfort.

Frost Arrived At The Off Grid Prefab Modern Home. Finally, with night, we found temperatures descending into the low 30's! I was excited, because otherwise it's too cozy in the prefab to start the cook stove.  As long as the weather is in the 40s and up, the off grid prefab house is comfortable with just passive solar / thermal gain. 

Thanks to the energy efficiency of the SIP, when the temperatures drop at night, our prefab house interior comfort doesn't plummet with it.  We rise with mornings in the upper 60s, then, thanks to the passive solar design of the prefab, it quickly warms to the low 70s, so it's not even worth my starting heat in the morning.

Friday brought the first cook stove fire! Outside were high winds, with a low of 27.  Inside the prefab, I threw a last log onto the cook stove before snuggling into bed... and awoke to 68 degrees, even with the wood stove out.  As usual, the interior of the prefab only fell about 3 degrees overnight.

 


And... Off Grid Housekeeping: Composting Toilet Notes: 
In winter, it seems you need to empty more often, aerate more (Handsome Husband and I have an agreement that ANY time we use it we pull the aerator bar 15 times!), add more sawdust.  But if you aerate, the soil removed is not bad at all. Heck, less than mucking stalls, people! So we have gotten over it. Now we know.
"COMPOSTING TOILET? BLEEECH!"

Fall Means We're Lookin' For Socks, Always.
Handsome Husband, appalled, regarding me: "Gracious. Get new socks!"
I, looking down at toes and skin poking through my WERE-perfect socks, perfectly-not-too-thick for riding boots:
"Those WERE new socks."
#100lbPuppy 
Sock thief.
Sock thief trying to look stoically innocent.
Sock thief cozying up with Grumpy to see if we might focus instead on he.
Sorry, kid, Grumpy is always well behaved.
YOU are the sock thief.
[Interior of the prefab is still a jumble.]
Ugh!

But this isn't just about the off grid modern prefab house... 
Honeychiles, it's fall in the country, and that means with harvest over, the country is BUSTLING.
We went to a spaghetti dinner at the fire station.
We knew about the spaghetti fundraiser...

But we didn't know that they were also doing Trunk Or TreatOops. I looked at the Pipsqueaks. "Ok, uh, you with the leopard-print coat? Yer a leopard.  You, in flannel, jeans, and riding boots? Uh, yer a cowboy. Done."
Look! It's Flo from that insurance commercial!


City folks will scratch their heads: "Did she type that wrong? Didn't she mean TRICK or treat?" No. Here, in farming country, fire stations, community groups, and churches have Trunk Or Treat.

Think about it: City kids run door to door, covering thirty stops per block, no? 
WHAT DO FARM KIDS DO? Really? You're going to run up to a dark farm unannounced after dark? Heck no.  Instead, volunteers decorate the trunks of their cars and trucks, collect at a meeting place, and let the kids...
TRUNK OR TREAT. : )
 Nice!
 
A real fire man with family as:
a witch, pink poodle, cowboy,
and I think grandma is cuddling their baby calf.
: )


On Sunday we headed over with friends to Auburnlea Farms, a family owned, non-GMO, pasture-raised farm who, this time of year, opens its farm for hay rides, a corn maze, a gigantic slide... it was FUN. A *beautiful* fall afternoon with friends.
 
 
 
Handsome Husband slides The Super Slide.
...as does Pipsqueak 1. And everyone else.

 
 
 
 
Hanging back from the hay ride, (I had already helped The B's bale hay this spring and had no need to climb back on a hay wagon, thank you...) I asked Mrs. T what she was knitting, as she relaxed and enjoyed the view...
"Whatcha makin'?"
"Oh, a sweater for Knit for Kids..."
"Oh, wow, it's beautiful. How many sweaters have you knitted?!?"
"This is my 805th..."

Never heard of Knit For Kids? Here's what you need to know:
"Uniting Knitters Across America
Knit for Kids is a nationwide program that unites thousands of volunteer knitters to fight poverty with their knitting needles. With every stitch, together we give hope and warmth to vulnerable children living in poverty or other difficult situations around the globe.

For millions of children, a hand-made item isn’t just a sweater, cap or blanket. It’s a chance at better health. It’s protection and warmth from freezing temperatures. And it’s a symbol of support for a better future.
...
Why we do what we do
According to UNICEF, nearly 19,000 children under age 5 die every day mainly due to unmet basic survival needs.* For any child to achieve his or her full potential, the foundation of good health and hygiene must be established. Yet, millions of children live in tattered clothes because they can’t afford decent clothing to protect them from the elements.
*Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed, Progress Report 2012

The weekend closed with no cook stove fired, as the bright day (albeit brisk), turned milder with the afternoon, allowing the off grid prefab home's passive solar design to heat up to the 70s by the time we arrived back home after a breezy day in the 50s/low 60s... 

It was just a gorgeous peaceful day... the autumn light glowing and highlighting profiles of children running amok, laughter, camaraderie... We're so glad to be here.

Reading Club:
  • GREAT EDUCATION ARTICLE: Emphasis on social/teamwork + allowing them to run willy nilly through educational topics in front of them... + online educators in subjects they're interested in at higher levels, not just everything by grade...  
  • RT @fairsnape: Cant see trees for the #timber? RT @davidcoethica Great infographic > What is natural capital? http://t.co/nN8VFKKmMk #sustainability


Homeschool: We are in a "review" period of what we have studied since August. Going over dry text isn't fun or helpful for review, so I'm always looking for good videos to reinforce the learning we did, in a more colorful way.

I was dejectedly going through the pacing guides and trying to find good content. Even what the teachers link to within the guides isn't really that cool or fun. I use SOLpass.org for review, but lately they seem to be more about putting up quizzes than really good review guides (which were also great for teaching, last year) and examples.

But then I found some things I LOVE- the kids could enjoy it, I could ask, "Is this subject familiar to you? Can you tell me more about it?" and gague how well they had internalized what they studied, earlier.
*Whew.*
[L.C. also trained 'em this week...]
Recipes:
Lamb Stew
Soak pinto / red beans overnight. Mince a BUNCH o' garlic, dice onion. Start sauteeing in fat/grease. Add lamb stew meat, sauteeing around until sealed but not seared. Add in tomatoes, crushing by hand, soaked beans, diced collards. Simmer simmer simmer, adding water if necessary. Add in glugs of apple cider vinegar- enough to turn the soup savory but not over-sour it, then s&p, serve.

And p.s.: Lou Reed. Sweet Jane. In Paris. RIP

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10/21/13

Off Grid Prefab House Under Cloud Cover, Continued. With Horses, Hunting And A Pow Wow!

It was not a fun week at the off grid modern prefab home
Welllllllllll, actually, thanks to our dear friends and good neighbors, it was. 

It could have been difficult,  as we continued our Energy Diet through another week of cloud cover... 

But good friends came forward. 
"Hey, why don't you help me work the horses while your kids do homeschool over here on their laptops?" "SURE!" So we were able to do our online curriculum much more, thanks to the B's.

Three weeks of cloud cover.
A broken off grid freezer.
BUT THE GLASS IS HALF FULL,
the glass is half full, the glass is half full.
*THANK YOU,* friends.


And then the freezer compressor broke. (YES, our off grid freezer broke.)

Our good friend, neighbor, and electrician came over to look at it and pronounced it fried. [Oh. Nooooo. I have a winter's worth of meat stored, there!!!!!]

If you haven't noticed, off grid freezers are not exactly cheap. To replace our Sundanzer 5.8cu ft. freezer will be about $1,500, when we're trying to finally finish the interior of the prefab house.  

It will take weeks to either fix OR to purchase and have a replacement off grid freezer delivered. 

It's not like you can just run into town and grab an off grid freezer, you know...

The W's called: "S. says, 'Run to the store, buy a cheap normal freezer, and plug it up on over at our house until you get it fixed.'" 
And then? Our friends the A's: "Yeah, we have a freezer you can use until that thang is fixed..."   

OHHH I AM GRATEFUL FOR GOOD FRIENDS.
(Note: None of them want money but seriously if they are doing us a favor that I would receive an invoice from, from anyone else, then I want to make sure they are not just good neighbors and good friends but *compensated.* Because I'd have to give that money to a stranger providing the same service, so why not pay those I love, locally, keeping my dollars in the community? Whether it be an electrician friend coming over or friends offering power for weeks for the meat, they are saving us!)


Thinking about the broken freezer made me also think about our chest-freezer-converted-into-an-off-grid-fridge. It has worked really well, but there are two drawbacks:
  1. The top works great as a fridge, turned on by a timer every X hours for a half hour. But the bottom drawer is always lukewarm. Too warm for beer, vegetables...
  2. Yet when I store the vegetables in the TOP drawer, it gets too cold when the timer sets it to run a half hour, often freezing the edges of the lettuce or whatnot if it is touching the edge of the freezer walls or just making everything limp with the blasts of cold.
My cousin sent me an article where a Nigerian teacher came up with an idea for people without electricity by storing wet sand in a larger, outer clay pot, and in a smaller pot in the center, keep vegetables.

"You take two earthen pots, both being the same shape but different sizes, and put one within the other. Then, fill the space between the two pots with sand before pouring water into the same cavity to make the sand wet. Then, place food items into the inner pot, and cover with a lid or damp cloth. You only need to ensure the pot-in-pot refrigerator is kept in a dry, well-ventilated space; the laws of thermodynamics does the rest. As the moisture in the sand evaporates, it draws heat away from the inner pot, cooling its contents. The only maintenance required is the addition of more water, around twice a day."

This might be something I want to make... We do want a root cellar, but that will certainly be on hold until we can replace the off grid freezer, much less finish the house!
On Friday, the blue skies finally broke through the cloud cover!
The solar battery bank went from 70% to 80% in a day.
During the bright cloud cover earlier this week we would lose 3% of the solar battery bank at night, then charge, despite the cloud cover, 3% during the day. So we surfed, evenly, on an Energy Diet, through almost three weeks of heavy clouds.  

This is where connecting the solar hot water booster, a Powerstar AE 3.4, comes in.
Because, solar hot water off, when you then turn it on... it takes awhile to warm up the tepid holding tank. In fact, it takes days. Having that booster is going to make the difference between a cold shower at 70degrees to a nice HOT shower at 110degrees!

Saturday, gray skies and drizzles returned. That didn't stop us from having fun: 
At the off grid prefab house, it was Just Another Quiet Weekend In The Country...!

With dawn, it was Youth Turkey Day.
[If only they had slept close to dawn... ]
By 4 a.m. I heard Nephew 3 and Pipsqueak 2's voices, chattering, laughing, singing.
"CAN Y'ALL NOT AT LEAST SLEEP UNTIL 5 LIKE NORMAL HUNTER PEOPLEZZZZ?!?" I bellowed. All I heard back were giggles. Dag.

By 5, there was coffee, breakfast, giggling, talking, and big dogs wanting to accompany and, when refused, dramatic whining as if they were struck through the heart with abandonment by those they love.
Oh. The whining.
But now,  they were joined by the normal roosters' (yes, multiple roosters) crowing at Normal Dawn.

There was no going back to bed.

By 9 a.m., there was The Blessing Of The Hounds, an annual family tradition also known as, "Kim gets peed on, again!" She got peed on, again. It's all ok.
Here they come...

Bingo.

No foxes are killed (in the USA foxes are not overpopulated like in the U.K.), horses and hounds just run... usually they might chase a coyote or bear before breaking for lunch.

The Fabulous Mrs. B.

Now THAT'S a hay castle.
At lunch, we headed over to Autumnfest, where the Monacan Indian Nation and others kindly shared traditional dances, stories, falconry and food with their community. Many DEEP thanks to the Monacan Indian Nation for sharing their culture, stories, and dances (MonacanNation.comwith their community, and *all* those that contributed to Autumnfest- the Appomattox volunteers (the food was *delicious* and your many-jobs-volunteering seamless), the wonderful falconer from Wings Over America (http://wingsoveramericadc.org/).
Here's some pics from today.


 
 
 
 
 
 


Telling you about the stories, the meaningful dances, and culture shared by the Monacan Indians doesn't do them justice. You just had to be there, so please do come visit.  Here's a video, so you can have a taste:

Now the falconer, Rodney Stotts, also has a story.
"Rodney Stotts is a falconer and trained raptor specialist. Mr. Stotts, a former staff of the Earth Conservation Corps, is a mentor and youth community leader.  Mr. Stotts creates transformative opportunities that connect youth to the environment and community. Raptors are birds of prey that include eagles, hawks, owls, osprey and falcons. Injuries are routinely caused by cars, electrical wires, habitat loss and myriad stresses of living among humans.

Through this connection is an inspiring reconnection to self and youth rehabilitation.  The Rapture Program introduces youth to new learning experiences and social engagement with peers. The organization integrates environmental education and promotes the social and emotional competence of children through structured recreational activities, positive social engagement, and learning opportunities outside of the classroom. "

Things I picked up that might not be quite accurate because I was listening and not writing down facts and then researched this later on the internetz:
(So basically I'm going to get this all wrong and someone will have to correct me. Many reporters whom have interviewed me, on writing an article a few days later, botch facts and write them as true. SO. Mr. Stotts: CORRECT ME, I'm looking forward to getting more accurate information than my memory serves!)

Mr. Stotts sharing his love/culture
with a Monacan Indian
who had shared his love/culture,
both, with all the community.

  • As a youth, Mr. Stotts saw Beaverdam being cleaned of environmental toxins (I'm thinking DDT, clearly?) and he noticed the return of wildlife, specifically eagles and birds of prey, which then led to an interest in, then career as, an educator. It started as a little kid watching birds, shunted to the side in society. He was taken on, by environmental scientists.
  • He was from a disadvantaged background. To say the least, reading up on him. 
  • His career as a falconer and educator brought him into jails and juvenile detention centers. But he had to turn down requests to see birds by those just "disadvantaged" vs. already incarcerated.  He recognized it is important to reach all children, to get to them before they're in court - mentoring, encouraging an interest in biology, environmental science... He was... AMAZING.
  • The birds they "captured" and showed are yearlings- pullets, as we say in chicken-speak, juveniles that are not fully grown or developed. In the wild. The odds are REALLY AGAINST THEM that first year. These birds... they train to hunt, survive, allow them to grow into a larger more durable bird... before releasing them in spring, back into the wild, stronger. Increasing their odds, along with the children they touched.

    From the website:
    "'There is no 'youth problem.' There is a village problem of adults who have forgone their responsibility and capacity to join their neighbors in raising the young."
    -  Opening remarks at the “From Clients to Citizens Forum,”
    Coady International Institute, St. Francis Xavier University, Antigonish, Nova Scotia,
    July 8, 2009'"

Rejuvenated from the weekend, I'm back to focusing on off grid winter preparation at the modern prefab house. I'm still wrapping my brain around the three weeks of cloud cover and that now our off grid freezer is fried. An unexpected start to final winter readiness.
But thinking over the weekend...
Ahhhhh, The quiet life in the country. 



[If we had the energy, we coulda taken them into Appomattox for bluegrass and a play on Anne Frank!
I need to head into New Yawk Cit-tay just for some sleep!]

In the meantime, Pisqueak 2 is busy grinding her own cornmeal and has made a Monacan Indian Stone to cook on. AND a wig wam.
 
STILL grinding corn...
  

P.s. In case you wonder why there's no interior shots of the off grid modern prefab house this week, here's a sneak peak WHY I am only shooting exteriors:

Scaffolding moved to the middle of the room...
Projects, everywhere...
WHAT. A mess.
Weekends = Projects, projects, projects.
Ergh!

Yes, it's a mess inside... Handsome Husband is busy with scaffolding, replacing a window pane, and working on multiple projects. The off grid modern prefab's interior is a mess.

In the meantime, bocce calls.

Reading Club:
Homeschool:
You don't want to know. Python continues. I don't know for how long, and I'm encouraging it but not pushing it. It's a new *way* of learning: videos, with stopping in parts, texts to read, examples to configure, BEFORE taking a quiz vs. the easy learning he's been doing (read text, stop often, do examples, finally take the quiz.).

The fact we are off grid during 3 weeks of cloud cover didn't help, but I explain, "Deadlines don't care about your internet access." As Mrs. B says, "Too bad, so sad." So yeah, he might not do well. He wants to continue. Right now I'm letting him.

[It's not your normal 5th grade stuff. PLUS the quizzes take programming things he understood but throw in Pi or Interest Rates. The math and programming he gets. But interest rates in a word problem? You lose the 11 year old, lol. The important thing is the programming is still winning. In my opinion, he's doing ok for a college class.]

Regardless of what happens, I suspect higher math is going to be SUPER EASY for him for the next few years after this. Ironically? What the Pipsqueaks had learned in math in 4th and 5th grade through Adapted Minds/ Khan Academy had prepared them for the math concepts (exponents, multiplication, division, polygons, parameters...) to translate into Python. They were comfortable, known concepts before being brought into programming language. So he's having fun.

The new week brings forecasts of sun.
Let's charge, 'chiles.

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