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5/26/14

From The Prefab To The Shore.


At the off grid prefab house we packed up 15 chickens, two mastiff-mixes, an angry feral cat, luggage and childrenz, and teetered off to the Chesapeake Bay.

We head from Virginia's foothills, the land of Venison And Brunswick Stew, to, with summer's heat, Crab Country.


Jax and I
We are so happy to be here, but I do have a lot on my mind. This week the horse I couldn't ride, gorgeous Jax, found his home.

I am so thrilled for him, but it is also a loss. Jax was my Rockstar Boyfriend of a horse, to whom I played Smitten Groupie instead of confident rider. Jax finally found a good match with a seasoned rider who specializes in Arabians.

I'd like to thank New Horizons Equine Services for training Jax to be the horse he deserves to be, and placing him with a match where their riding styles and personalities ensure enjoyment for both over their lifetime.  His new mom told the trainer she was looking for a horse with "controlled chaos." Well that is Jax's middle name...!

So Jax has found his match, and after the death of our beautiful beloved Riata, a chapter closes...
And a new one begins.

I use this season to think about what I want to improve upon, living off grid
We installed minimal solar systems because we thought we wouldn't move here until much later; yet, entering my third year living off grid on extremely simple and minimal systems, there are some simple adjustments that will make living off grid even easier:
  1. Connect the livestock well we dug for the horses to the 1,700 gallon rainwater cistern so that if, in summer, rain does not arrive, we can fill the cistern with well water which then runs through the rainwater treatment system.
  2. We had installed a tankless water system to boost the solar hot water in winter, and it worked well. Now we need to run a switch pipe so that when hot water is plentiful in summer it does not have to go through the tankless, which consumes much power when run.
  3. Radiant heat in the slab still needs to be working. We need to add to our evacuated tube collectors in order to heat up the 120 gallon storage tank and then finish the pump wiring. 
The radiant heat, once working, will greatly impact our off grid living, even if, on minimal solar systems and heat tubes, it never gets "hot." I'm never concerned about the foundation under the modern prefab home UNLESS it gets down to below zero, which it did twice this year with the historic polar vortices.  Radiant heat will ensure the cook stove will not have to work so hard during those moments, and we will not need to rely on so much wood.

I know it's spring. But I obsess on these off grid improvements at the modern prefab house because before you know it, fall will arrive and I will be wishing they were done.

Homeschool:
We continue review, and testing. It's painful. This time of year is frustrating because we all just want it DONE... As I tell Pip 1 to get a life, I admit I was impressed with his programming on this drawing game he made for his sister:


In the meantime, we enjoy spring.
We celebrate Barefoot Season, because who are we kidding? WE HAVE NO SOCKS.
"I've never seen that sock before in my LIFE!"

On the bay, we enjoyed the first annual Deltaville Seafood Festival!
Middlesex's own Deborah Pratt and Clementine Macon were out, helping the community, shucking away... These sister oyster shuckers are amazing. I've met them several times and not only do they do what they do so well (they are champions), but they always take time to teach and share their knowledge...
Here's a great article on them in Southern Foodways Alliance.
"Anybody can go wherever they want to go. But I found oysters took me where I needed to be."
~Deborah Pratt
At the seafood festival they also had antique cars...
 And plenty o' food.

We yard-saled... and I came upon possibly the most crazy cool Yard Sale EVER:
First, for the ladies... check out not one, not two, but a room full of antique crocks:
And for the boyz? Not one, not two, but three DeLoreans. For sale, if you have $25,000 in yer pocket...
I liked this antique typewriter.
Yard sales are such a great way to recycle... even DeLoreans.

Oh. Because SO many people are asking for my Deeeeelish Pimento Cheese recipe (they're not), I thought I'd provide it here.
Copeland's Hideous Pimento Cheese
It's hideous for a reason. Bear with me.
Shredded sharp cheddar + Duke's mayo + 1/2 minced onion + drained pimentos + garlic + cayenne + sriracha + lots, and LOTS of worcestershire. That's what makes it brown and ugly. WHO CARES this pimento cheese has a delicious BITE!

We are enjoying friends and family on the bay.

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5/19/14

Off Grid Modern Prefab House In Testing (The #SendWine Edition)

What an odd three spring weeks it has been at the off grid prefab house... 
Consistently sunny
cloudy
sunny
cloudy
a massive downpour, repeat


The solar battery bank continued to waver in the 80s, never quite gaining back to 100 when it was sunny, because when it was sunny, it also was cloudy.  Yet the solar also never plummeted, because when it was cloudy, it was sunny.

Temperatures ranged from the 90s to the 40s. Are you schizo, Mister Weather?
When it rained... boy did it rain. J. says her rain gauge gained 7 inches in this latest storm!


And here is a full sized tree frog, sticking to my glass door of the prefab house, outside-looking-in!
With the rain, all the creatures started singing. I know it's dark in this video; there's no light pollution! Turn up the volume as loud as you can to hear what I hear at night, and at the volume I hear it.  Have a lissen... Enjoy.
Yet there were still times it was sunny enough to solar cook, and this week I made Pasta Carbonara.
What you have to remember about solar cooking something like this is: In one pot have water, heating.  In the other have sliced bacon and onions cooking. Once they're cooked, remove the lid so that the bacon and onions are able to get the closest you can get to making meat in a solar cooker look "done" and not just flaccid. THAT is the key when solar cooking meat: remove the lid at the end, to brown. Add the pasta to the hot water, and cook, using your intuition. I usually guesstimate 20 minutes to a half hour, depending on the sun. Fortune smiled and the pasta came out sharply al dente.  

I mixed it all in a bowl, tossing with eggs, salt, pepper, parmesan, and peas, then poured it into a baking pan and back into the solar cooker to bake, and crisp.
Outside, the garden, and baby chicks, are growing...
And this week at the prefab house, PIPSQUEAK 2 TURNED 10!!!!!!!!!!!!
Birthday breakfast of heart-shaped pancakes...
Sweeping and cleaning the house on her birthday
because THAT's how this child is. #MyOrderlyChild

She, and Pip 1, are suddenly so grown up...
Pipsqueak 1 doesn't want to age.
"When I turned six or seven my world started CRASHING around my ears - when I turned seven+ it was all 'GO DO YER HOMEWORK!' and stuff like that. However, at the same time, I remember how *excited* I was to have *my own homework*... Of course, that was when I was doing 'one plus one' and 'what is a big blue hippo' and not 'subtracting mixed numbers with unlike denominators in simplest form.'"
[Ummmm... ok kid...] #SendWine

What a celebration she had. We had a *wonderful* dinner at The B's... and my parents came in for lunch. We took them down to see Charlotte Court House, as they had never been.
Charlotte County Court House, designed by Thomas Jefferson
And on CCH's steps,
Patrick Henry & John Randolph had quite a debate...
The CCH museum... in the old jail.
Not just a statesman, John Randolph also
developed the quarter horse!

At the off grid prefab house, we are enjoying spring walks...
We love the fleeting beauty of poplar blossoms that fall into our path...
We are also busy in school with end of year review and testing. These testing weeks can be trying. For all of us. Sometimes, we need unexpected laughter.
Here's what this week's review / practice testing looked like in our household:
We are doing 4th grade math review. I was looking intently at the computer screen. SHE was holding the markers. "Round off each number to the hundreds, then give me the sum..."
And I turned...
And this is what I found:
This series is entitled, "Not Doing Math."
"I am Senator Amidala!"
"A vampire!"

"A sith!"
"A... I don't know, but it sure
did drive the dog crazy!"

OK BACK TO MATH, KID.
"What's 4/4 of 5?" "ZENA!"

She now wants to take her math SOL today.
A good morning for testing!

"I'm so confident I could burst!!! OR it might be the lemonade I just drank..."
They begin to test.

I: "Wilma drinks 1.09 liters of juice. Richard drinks 0.987 liters of juice. How much more juice does Wilma drink than Richard?"
Pip 2: "OH MY *GOSH* THEY MUST NEED TO GO TO THE BATHROOM!!!!"
#SendWine

Pip 1 raises his hand.
"May I go to the bathroom? ...NEVER MIND, I hear a full bladder makes you think more."
#SendWine

Meanwhile Pipsqueak 2 is taking her SOL, prettily singing to herself, "The sugar's kicking IN, theeeeee suuuuuugar's kicking IN...!" (Note to self: That's the last time *I'll* hand out lemonade on a test day...)
#SendWine

When it wasn't a monsoon, I was able to help my friend C. with her horses while she recovers from surgery.  She trains horses and, being out for six-ish weeks, can not afford to let her horses' training stop, so needs someone to work them.
Here, I am telling Pale Face to lie down.
Kerplunk! "Gooooooood BOY!"
Hey! I said "Lie down" not stop drop and rollllllllllll...!
"But I am teaching the children FIRE SAFETY!"
#SendWine

The weekend was cool, breezy, refreshing!
I made Honeychile Banh Mih.
Instead of a baguette, I used Handsome Husband's moist, yeasty bread.
Toast the slices in bacon fat, in the skillet. Mmmmmmm, MMMMM, honeychile.
Still heating, spread mayo, add cheddar, ham (oh imagine this with thin slices of veddy, veddy salty Virginia ham!), lots of cracked pepper. Once melted, generously sprinkle with fresh parsley and Momo Fuku simple cucumbers (think: Toss cuke slices with sugar and salt. Drain.), sliced! Add top, flip and toast just a tad more. OH. MAH. GAWSH. Fresh, yet so filling! I would also drizzle Amish pepper relish on this! Oh, heaven!

To combat the heaviness, I made Jerusalem's Root Vegetable Slaw in Labneh. There was no kohlrabi or celeriac but jicama was a great fresh light substitution! Instead of julienning the root veggies (beets, carrots, jicama), I shredded them with my fave off grid, non-electric tool, The Saladmaster.
I also solar cooked the beets about an hour so they were not so raw. It makes a difference. Add plenty of fresh parsley, a little mint (not too much! It will overwhelm!)

When you toss in the mix (lemon, olive oil, sherry vinegar, sugar, salt) make sure to let it sit because at first it tastes like nothing, only later it is flavorful! Add fresh minced garlic (just one bulb), salt and pepper and it tastes even better.  Mix in labneh. Or just freakin' yogurt. Or, in my case, raw milk left out that I turned into sour cream was *perfect* - that great fresh creamy hint of sourness.

I also made Lamb Meatballs- minced onion & garlic with liberal amounts of allspice, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and fresh parsley. Next to it add a yogurt/lime/coriander sauce.

With roasted brussels sprouts sprinkled with fish sauce/lime/sugar/rice vinegar.
It smells deliciously, fragrantly spicy in the off grid prefab house...
Huh. WHY AM I GETTING SO FAT?!?
 #SendWine

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