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3/24/14

Prefab House Roots For Spring Through Sleet Heat And Rain

THE WEEK BEGAN WITH SLIPPERY SLEET covering the ground at the off grid prefab house.

It seems every other week it's snow...
then hot... then snow... then hot...

Seriously?!?
Have we not seen enough of these "Oh it snowed then went into the 70s" blog posts lately?!?

But that didn't stop the Pipsqueaks.
"Can we have a field trip today?"
"Ugh, in this snow & sleet?
Only if you count walking out...
to the field.
THERE'S YER FIELD TRIP...!

We're not going ANYWHERE in this!"
I'm staying cozy in the prefab, cookin' up a storm, until this all dries up!

...then shorts...
...then snow...
...then shorts...

In the prefab industry world, I believe I (again) might have lost a client to a local contractor talking them out of  SIP because they assert, "I can do it cheaper by stick built and batt insulation!"

In my experience, this is the #1 reason people decide not to go with prefab. Their contractors argue stick built / traditional insulation is just as good, and cheaper.

The energy efficiency and strength of the SIP are well documented, vs. traditional stick built / batt insulation, so it always perplexes me that contractors still make this argument (I suspect because they fear the unknown of not having worked with SIP).

That day, Tree Hugger / Lloyd Alter came out with this:
Study of batt insulation installations finds 100% fail:
"A few years back the Green Curmudgeon at Green Building Advisor, Carl Seville, suggested that batt insulation should be banned because the installations were consistently awful. He noted 'We get what we pay for, and when we only pay bottom dollar for fiberglass batts, we get the performance we deserve.'"

This weekend, after the icky sleet, temperatures rose into the 70s at the modern prefab SIP house!
We got busy in the garden, expanding beds...

 
EVERYONE "helps" in the garden...
...and I mean EVERYONE.
 

We picked up some unexpected baby chicks... (more due on Monday...!)
Here's how you do baby chicks off grid, without a tiny little heat lamp taking down 10% of our battery bank a day! (As we learned, the hard way! Think about it- they are 250 watts! That's twice what we use for the entire house at maximum running!!!!!)
We turned a portable dog crate into a brooder by positioning it against the cook stove, covered with blankets to keep the chicks warm. There is a small box inside, open, facing the side of the cook stove, that traps even more heat, where they can huddle together in case they get cold.
 

 But so far they find the cook stove sufficient-
no huddles, running about comfortably with no chill.

Outdoors, here's a pile of soil we decided to level to be our new potato beds!

HERE is our off grid tiller, hard at work!
I'm liking this new tiller, it is very energetic and effective.

We also meandered through Farmville while the kiddos were at Science Camp.
Oh it was nice to be out...
[WITHOUT CHILDREN...!]

We meandered Main Street and checked in on pottery classes at Mainly Clay, old antiques at Prince Edward Art & Antiques...

 
 
 
...the great art and cool pottery found at J. Fergeson Gallery.
 
 
 
 

Farmville really is a cute, walkable college town, its history made more vibrant by resident faculty who embrace the arts and international culture.  Longwood Center for the Visual Arts has an annual Youth Art Exhibition, there is a summer garden opera each June, and at Longwood, a Global Village Camp for grades 2-6.


As we ready for spring, I ponder what I want to achieve in year 2014 / next project plans at and around the prefab house:
- Purchasing a few more solar panels for when we have (rarely, only about 1-2x a year) 2 weeks of solid cloud cover
- Getting the off grid well working... now that it's drilled and the pump installed
- Fencing and a run in would be nice...
- Much less beginning to implement our (modified) landscape plan

I have been collecting all kinds of links to off grid air storage well pumps:
In the end, for the next years, and in conferring with an Amish friend, here's what we will do, not ideal as it is a tad cumbersome, but this is the easiest, least expensive way to get our off grid livestock well active for years 1-5:
  • The well is already drilled, the air pump installed, as mentioned in previous posts.
  • The pump is powered by an air compressor we already own.
  • The compressed air is stored in a reused propane tank, to be purchased.
  • When it is sunny, we plug in the air compressor to the battery bank OR  hook up the portable generator to refill the propane-turned-air tank.
  • For OUR needs, a 300-500lb storage tank should be able to pump water for chickens and horses about a week!
This is similar to my philosophy regarding the off grid refrigerator we created from a chest freezer: "We could spend thousands of dollars, or we could spend hundreds of dollars. I'd rather spend my money right now on building a run-in and fencing for horses AND the off grid well, albeit a little more awkward in the first year(s), than  JUST a perfect off grid well I can't even bring my horses to because they're still being boarded as we couldn't afford to do the fencing!"

This morning, we awoke to the happy peep peep peeping of baby chicks nestled against the cook stove, hot coffee ready, pancakes with last summer's berries... Love this cook stove, our heat source that does *multiple* things at once!

Pipsqueak 1 notes, "The chicks are making frequent bids for freedom." I muse, "Again, I'm glad we went with concrete instead of bamboo flooring in the prefab..."
With the beautiful warm days... came rain, and plummeting temperatures... 
Once again, they predict snow this week.

Let's hope the other baby chicks we're expecting arrive before the storm!
In the meantime, I've got the cook stove going, keeping the little chicks already in the dog-crate-turned-off-grid-brooder cozy against the stove, happy and warm.

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