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1/13/14

The Modern Off Grid Prefab House Survives The Polar Vortex And A Hunting Dog!

The modern prefab house, like everyone else in the United States, endured the polar vortex.

Note that at 8 a.m. it had risen to a
"feels like" NEGATIVE EIGHT.


I called David Day, architect of the off grid prefab, to congratulate him on the prefab's performance.

"You were comfortable? On *just* that antique cook stove heating the house?!?"
"Yep, we didn't even have the radiant heat in the floor turned on! I *love* this SIP house!!!"
You could hear the smile in his voice.

Now that's not to say, like every other system in every other house in the subzero temps, that we didn't have to work to keep ourselves toasty- I had to keep the stove going at night, which I never ever do, because I never ever need to. But Virginia only experiences -10 (I believe the true temperature was 1ish but windchill was -10)... every few decades.
 

I would have been lazily happy in my pajamas, all warm and cozy, in the energy efficient SIP house through all this polar commotion, but I was also was taking care of a friend's farm and their beloved (and to us, as well) horses, goats, and cats, while they visited their grandchildren in Florida. Being outdoors and in the barn was when I truly appreciated the energy efficiency of our prefab, and respected what farms and barns went through, in the elements!

There I would be shivering in her barn, lugging buckets (not true, get out the violins, but I was cold, lol!), my hands would be numb, stuck to the metal handles (not true again but doesn't it add to the story?); it was sleeting sideways (sadly true, at moments)...

I couldn't feel my toes. I became delusional. I thought I had a question, then forgot it, but dialed J. anyhoo.

Nothing.
Then, a few minutes later, she'd breezily, cheerfully call back-
"Sorry I didn't answer- What's up? I would have answered sooner but I was in the pool!"

Next year *I'M* going to Florida to visit their grandchildren for winter vacation.
; )

"Who, you? Naa-aaa-aah."

Passive solar SIP house
working through the freezing temps.

You know I love my science experiments with the off grid prefab in extreme conditions, and this was an opportunity to go through, well, A POLAR VORTEX, with the standard SIP package vs. our thicker SIP prefab packages we recommend for colder climates in Canada / northern USA!

It was pretty ok during the day- I mean, aside from it sleeting sideways and my taking care of the B's farm while they are in Florida and all. But that's just usual Bad Turrible Winter Weather. It's gross, it's muddy, it's miserable. This was ARTIC.

Right as the polar vortex settled down over the modern prefab house at dusk, as I quietly, contentedly worked, tap tap tapping on the laptop...
something white flashed by the lower windows.

It was kind of like when our chickens crazily propel themselves, lofting into the air from one part of the yard to the next, to chase a special treat, and you catch a quick sight of them.

Except this wasn't a chicken.
It was a beagle.
He was within our electric fence (he must have crashed through, not seeing it), and this beagle was being flipped,
into the air,
over and over,
by The 100lb Puppy.
"But it was fun!"

Bagel The Beagle

He had no collar, of course.
A stray abandoned (by horrible people who are not Real Hunters) hunting dog was at the prefab, with the polar vortex settled upon us.

If I turned him away, he would die.
I firmly believe in the timeless ethics of Safekeeping Travelers.

Well THIS put a twist on the whole "We're all snug as a bug in a rug in the prefab despite the world turning into Antarctica" situation... It's not like we can turn this hunting dog, no collar, loose on an Arctic night...

It was a long night.

But not for the children or the beagle.
They named him "Bagel The Beagle."
They de-tick-ified him. 


They taught him jazz.
He is quite the crooner.
Watching him, you KNOW he had never been indoors... and now he was in my pristine prefab.
"I'll be good! PLEASE DON'T LET ME DIE!"

I thought, "He is going to tag everything, what a mess! Right when I thought this whole polar vortex thing was going to be pleasant! We will all die, I say, DIIIIIIIE!"
Dig us out in 48 hours... the survivors, that is! 


At least most modern furniture is metal or wood and easily wipe-able. I never went for the felt / ropy wool trends FOR LIFESTYLE REASONS LIKE THIS.

Ahem.
There is not a DAY that DOES NOT GO BY that I am extremely grateful I did not do bamboo flooring in the prefab and instead chose CONCRETE for our lifestyle. 

[Especially noted the next morning as I cleaned up the beagle's mess, which was full of fur, indicating he had been subsisting on rabbits and other game, poor thing, for a long while.] 

The next day we brought that cuddly, wiggly beagle to the shelter, and put ourselves as his contact in case his time ran out. We'll keep you posted on his adoption. He is charming and snuggly, and great with kids, so I know he will find a great home.

The easy thing would have been to keep Bagel The Beagle.
The better thing is to recognize he 1. subsisted on game hence is a danger to our chickens, 2. is too small to live safely here in Coyotes-The-Size-Of-Shepherds Territory, and 3. I learned as a foster family for the SPCA that if you over-adopt you do not have room to foster, help strays. So we always leave room for helping strays. 

But don't worry, we are watching out for him. 
That's what you do.

With Bagel The Beagle and the Polar Vortex having moved on, in the modern prefab house, I reflected.  

I did make notes of any energy efficient improvements I noticed during these Arctic temperatures, after the prefab has undergone a few years under its belt:
1. Door weatherstripping. Picture our chaotic family of dogs, and kids, and cat, and numerous chickens, and guests, and... And everything. Doors open. And close. And open. And close. In. And out. Busy, busy family- in and out and in and out and... you get the drift.

If I lived in Arctic climes I would replace the weatherstripping around the doors annually. With this crazy family, it is easy to wear out! For someone who lives in a normal summer-fall-winter-spring climate it's not a big deal. But it is a great reminder that even in a moderate climate if you keep those seals fresh and springy, thus sealing any leak in those doors, it helps energy efficiency.


This time, during these extreme icy temperatures, I just hung a coat over each door's doorknob, from the interior of the prefab. It stopped the (tiny tiny tiny but I was sniffing around like a mouse for any energy leaks!) draft. IF I lived in a cold climate I would add door weatherstripping to the list of Summer Maintenance Jobs - like washing windows, painting furniture outdoors, etc. that you want to do each year.


2. Windows. THIS is where you see your payoff after purchasing those thousands-of-dollar-windows you didn't believe you really needed. Energy efficient windows, as expensive as they sound, pay for themselves QUICKLY in monthly energy costs. Two years down the road they are still just as efficient, and I am keenly aware of how integral they were in making this tight envelope, and our comfort in the off grid prefab, so easy.

The week ended with a monsoon.
It rained, and rained, and rained, with even thunder and lightning... I had never seen the ground so saturated. The pond overflowed. The field was an inch under water.
Even though it was mid-day, outside it was *dark!* The clouds, and rain, kept rolling in all over again, pelting the windows, the roof... Yet look at all the natural day lighting in the passive solar house! 
 

We relaxed...
Thelonius Mastiff (thanks, L!) kept us entertained by tickling the ivories.
Jazz fans: His next gig is at NYC's famed Ear Inn...

and made pizza...
 
 
 

It was a deluge, yes. Yet the modern prefab house and around its footprint, thanks to Handsome Husband's careful grading, stayed dry.  A good end to the week.


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