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2/24/14

Passive Prefab Eases Towards Spring With Unexpected Encounters

With mild weather this week, at our off grid passive solar prefab house...well, I didn't even bother lighting a fire except for dinner a few times.  Outdoors, overall it was in the 50s, to the mid 20s at night, with a weekend of especially beautiful days in the upper 60s/low 70s!

We would awake to the indoor temperature 67/69ish, and by mid-afternoon, thanks to the low winter sun and passive solar design, the prefab house climbed to the 70s, hence giving us a boost to keep the indoors cozy all through a winter evening.

I always say that in really cold (below the mid 20s) or hot (mid 90s), this prefab, unheated (or uncooled), loses/gains one degree per hour. But when the temperatures are mild, in the mid-30s to the mid-80s-ish, the fluctuation is even less, if at all!

The entire week wasn't uneventful, weather wise...
There was a day of  high, gusting winds, heavy rain that rained sideways, and tornado watches.
I was glad I was in a SIP house! And that the cistern was filling.
This week, in speaking with potential clients, we discussed...
Wood Stoves Banned
The EPA is banning most wood stoves. That is a good thing, and it led to a great conversation with our children, who couldn't understand why.
Here,
you know that cook stove is GOING,
but as you can see there is no smoke
emitting from the prefab house.

"Well, we might have an antique cookstove, but it was retrofitted to be energy efficient!  See how, when we drive to town, all these homes have smoke billowing out their chimney? That's energy INefficient, their stoves (and by the looks of the homes, their building envelopes : (  ) don't work well, so they are not only polluting the air but not heating their house well!

OUR cook stove was modified- to have fresh air intake in a separate hose that leads from the outdoors, through a pipe in the slab, into the cookstove, so that the stove does not draw from our INDOOR air quality.
We also modified the damper, so that we can adjust it more sensitively, ensuring we don't have smoke-- When you look at OUR chimney, the only thing you see is hot air wavering in the cold, no smoke, vs. the smoke you see POURING out of inefficient stoves!"  
What I found shocking is that still, today, 12% of the USA uses wood heat!!!!
This I do know: the people who use wood the most are usually poor and rural. 
I support the protection of all our air quality, I just hope there are energy-efficient replacements offered to those poor families who rely on their wood stove.
From Forbes:
INefficient wood heat...
Where there's smoke, there's sickness.

"According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2011 survey statistics, 2.4 million American housing units (12 percent of all homes) burned wood as their primary heating fuel, compared with 7 percent that depended upon fuel oil.

Local LOCM -1.37% governments in some states have gone even further than EPA, not only banning the sale of noncompliant stoves, but even their use as fireplaces. As a result, owners face fines for infractions. Puget Sound, Washington is one such location. Montréal, Canada proposes to eliminate all fireplaces within its city limits."
My takeaway on energy efficient insulated homes like our own SIP modern prefab house is that with the increased efficiency, there is much less heating or cooling that needs to be done, benefiting the home owner economically and the universe by contributing less to ANY energy method's emissions!

Possible Prefab Modern Home Alerts
Not one, but two Dogtrot Mods are in the pipeline! As / if they come to fruition, I will make official announcements but I am excited by the locations- one in beautiful rural Utah, for a cancer survivor, and one as an urban infill project in a returning neighborhood in Houston, for an African-American disabled vet!

I'm excited about both their stories, and what their experiences might share.
Dogtrot Mod from Green Cabin Kits

As Always, In The Country, Our Weekend Was BUSY!
First thing Saturday the Pipsqueaks had 4-H Science Camp at Longwood University.
They were VERY excited to get into a real college lab.  I told Pipsqueak 2, who is greatly interested in Longwood, that "...In a few years you could say, 'I've been going to Longwood since I was NINE!'"

The Science Center is beautiful.
Imagine my delight when I saw that their art exhibit, a collection of beautiful botany paintings, is SOLAR POWERED!
 
 
 
 
We had a lovely lunch at Charlie's to celebrate their SOL scores (more on that in the homeschool section at the end), then...
Went to meet a horse.

This might be the beginning of a love story.
Losing Riata... was... To even start looking for another horse is... painful.
But the horse community here is great...
We went to meet Zena, a Clydesdale Appaloosa cross.  Before I could get on her, Pipsqueak 1 stepped forward, he who says he will never love another horse, and asked,
"May *I* get on?"
And then... Just did not. stop. grinning.  
Go on, you cowboy.
 
 

We will get to know one another over the weeks to see if it is a good fit, but: For an introduction, it could have not gone better.  She was not mareish at all, and sought out the children, even hugging Pipsqueak 1 back, which he... needed.
 

Reading Club:
  • If this is the future of medicine, how much computer science should doctors learn? ow.ly/3hoSdy Hmmm  
  • via Metropolis Magazine: "It's about time we talk about #BigData -- Who controls it and for what purpose? Is it good for our cities? bit.ly/1cVpW3C"
  • via Tree Hugger: Google moves one step closer to being 100% powered by clean energy (currently 34%) bit.ly/1jCO67D 
  • Toxic coal ash is coating the bottom of Dan River as far as 70 miles from spill, over state line into Va.: apne.ws/N74eU6 
  • Is it gluten intolerance or... Glyphosate? ow.ly/3hr1mr

Homeschool:
Please bear with me on what might be taken as a brag, but is instead a celebration- If only you knew how FREAKED OUT I AM about homeschooling and whether I am giving my children a good education.
SO:
PIPSQUEAK 1 TOOK THE 5th GRADE SCIENCE SOL (by mistake, but that's another story, lol!) WITH NO STUDYING (remember I said by mistake?) AND SCORED 99%!!!!!

I sat there, smiling, then figured I might as well go ahead and report it, and call it a day.
I just think it's hilarious that it was by mistake. Every few weeks we do a "review" of where they should be in curriculum and go on the Virginia SOL / lots of schools' review links to be more creative with games, videos, etc.

I had mistakenly clicked on an actual SOL test and well, he took it! I admit I am delighted, as, really, truly, very seriously, there is not a week that goes by where I don't flip out and question my children's quality of education.

I think what is important is teaching a love of learning. Pipsqueak 2 was inspired by the praise and giggles we had over his SOL to take her own Science SOL! FOR FUN. I told her we don't have to submit it if she doesn't want to, as we aren't planning on testing until April.

HERE'S THE CATCH: I couldn't find a 4th grade science SOL so... I gave her the 5th grade one, too. There are some terms like refractive light, earth's layers, etc. she doesn't know, because she's not in 5th grade yet. **Critical thinking** has enabled her to still do well- she just scored NINETY FOUR PERCENT!!!!!

It was henceforth proclaimed that the rest of the day for the Pipsqueaks was a WEAR YER PAJAMAS EAT POPCORN AND WATCH A MOVIE DAY. : ) They happily scampered off to don PJs, and I got busy on the popcorn. : ) 
 
 
A salamander, caught for a moment before returned to the pond...
Starting seed trays, for indoors...

In the meantime we start seeds, joyfully listen to the peep peep peep of peepers, admire salamanders. A taste of spring before the final days of winter, returned.

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