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10/20/14

Off Grid Prefab House Reflects On Frugal Good Design And Not.

At the off grid prefab house the fall foliage is revealing glorious colors!

Frost approaches soon, so we worked on more Fall Readiness, including cleaning the stove pipe / chimney. It was a mess. And good to know all that creosote gunk is now removed and we have a clean safe stove pipe for the winter.
Because we no longer use a composting toilet, we also sealed up the pipe penetration that used to vent air for the composting toilet. Any penetration you can remove from your insulated tight envelope of a home feels good!
Up on the roof...

Today I am going to talk about what I *don't* like about living off grid. (Now don't forget we are on *minimal* systems, listed at the bottom of that link.)

I believe that being off grid should be *affordable* and I have actually loved tempering our lifestyle to meet the minimal off grid system challenges.
BUT.
My biggest quibble is our solar hot water.
In winter, we take warm showers.
Warm doesn't cut it in February.
To be fair, it's my fault- because I am such a water-wise miser I don't allow the water to really heat up, because that just...wastes water. And yes I collect all graywater, to reuse in the new flushing toilet. BUT I still don't like the idea of just opening the spigot to let the water run JUST so it gets hot.

I wish there were a better way... (And yes we also have a tankless water heater...)

I am also looking forward to when our radiant heat is connected so we rely less on fire wood. 
As much as I love my cook stove, as much as it efficiently wonderfully heats our house, I want a better way of maintaining a comfortable temperature in the off grid modern prefab house.

To have a "base" of minimum radiant heat means we will use fire wood only to "boost" the temperatures at mealtime. And as the modern prefab is so energy efficient, we retain heat (or in the summer, coolness) well so that we don't have to constantly tend the indoor temperatures.

Having said that, IF YOU ARE GOING OFF GRID, NOW, be happy because you will be getting so much more bang for your buck in solar systems / solar hot water technology than what we paid, years ago. I looked around on what we spent on our solar hot water system years ago and people going off grid now are getting such better technology for the dollar.

As always, I approach design with functionality and frugality for our own off grid prefab lifestyle.
So here are some things I noted this week that I thought out of step in the design / shelter world:

Lights that aren't efficient. I thought it odd that in two consecutive issues of a certain shelter mag that the same Tom Dixon jumbled mismatched not harmonious nor ethereal lights nor a proper grouping in not one but two consecutive issues of this 'zine.

Is clunky ineffective lighting a thing, or is it product placement? (I count this as my one allowed snark of the year. but it's because I'm trying to point out that good design = efficient.  Even grouped as is that lighting for a dining table would be unflattering, much less just one.) Yes I understand these shapes have been around, inspired by Morocco; I'm just saying in this configuration in my mind it doesn't work.

Friends chimed in:
Wolfscream Song:
"I think your choice of the word 'ineffective' is spot on. I used to do a lecture on landscape lighting and compare airplane runway lights (in your face) to proper walkway lighting. The way I learned it, quality lighting is when you see what is illuminated, but not the light. Seeing the bulb makes us bugs drawn to bug lights. Personally, I prefer a sleeker aesthetic, as well."

Christopher Maxwell:
"Energy wasted on badly designed light fixtures will DEFINITELY crank up your electric bill! I do think we need to address the types of shades and methods of directionalizing light as part of working toward net zero."
EXCELLENT point, Sir M.

Then I ran across this- a modern house project on a faraway Canadian lake for two DC urbanites (so yes, consider the preposterous travel just to get there from DC...):
"'We wanted to do modern, but we also wanted to do cheap.'
That meant a firm budget of $500,000...'"
Not including land... for a smallish footprint home...

To lighten my now positively scowling mood, I tossed the Design Mag into the corner and instead pulled out the local paper.
Which is always full of gems. Today, it brought me this:
Preppers. The new buzzword for rural certain people trying to take advantage of fearful ignorant urbanites. NOW I AM GETTING IT FROM ALL SIDES- HIGH *and* LO, 'chiles! 

I am positively fuming!
I considered my own take on the scenario... and started laughing.
Preppers, meet serial killer.
Except that they are charging you an exorbitant amount (for this area) per acre with no water or sewer or road. Handsome Husband and I theorized that FIRST they'd gyp the poor Preppers then they'd eat 'em. (Do some fancy clunky inefficient unflattering to yer visage lights come with that land?)

Humor restored, it could not have been a more pretty weekend...
There was The Blessing Of The Hounds (otherwise known as, "Oops, Kim got peed on, again...")
My beloved Barn Buddy Missuz B!!!!!!
Miz D gave Pip 2 her vest so she
was very excited to show Miz D
how much she loves it...


Another year, another robe...
Kim adores the hounds and says
she'd be disappointed if they didn't say hello.

When we returned we had a great afternoon with our own pretty girl, Zena.
Smart, strong, pretty girls.
(Pretty means on the *inside* then out, demeanor reflected.)
My cowboy, and his girl.

And then... a few months ago, a writer interviewed me on chicken keeping, and asked if I had any photos as well... I sent in some family snapshots from the week (because we always have chickens in our photos anyway) and forgot about it.

She emailed me yesterday with this:
Check out the Pips in Virginia Gardener! How cute!!!

Years into this, reflecting on our family's experience of building the modern prefab and living off grid, I want you to know: 
WE LOVE, LOVE, *LOVE* LIVING OFF GRID. 
He's a very cultured dog.
She's clearly neglected...

Reading Club:
  • Japan’s farmers face an existential crisis: Reform or die out
    “If the people who come into this area are really serious about farming, then that’s fine,” he said, leaning on a hoe on the edge of his field. “But if farming companies are coming here just to make a profit, they won’t be interested in trying to make our area better.”

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