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12/28/15

Monsoon vs The Off Grid Prefab House! Stay dry, y'all!

Last week I mentioned a list of upcoming projects for the off grid prefab house / homestead.
Now that we have entered our fourth winter at the off grid prefab house, we know better how the landscape around the modern prefab is being used / how we would like to use it.  I mentioned we would like to regrade around the modern house, and that is an opportunity to think further about that space.

This deluge of a monsoon-y week underscored it:
Keeping water away from the foundation is key, of course, and this monsoon gave fresh opportunity to see how the existing grading is doing so. Adequately, but it could be improved.

Also foot traffic to the chicken coop and battery bank are on an area with little topsoil, so mud is also something else to address. If you look at our original landscape plan, you can see big changes on how we actually use the space, now:
Love the front entrance "as is!"

We LOVE what they designed. But each individual family has their own individual uses and needs on each individual home site.

You can already see items that don't fit with our real life as we use the site- no front entrance baffle with root cellar, tree, OR cistern:
  • we buried the cistern, heck it's 1700 gallons so no I didn't want a huge tank next to our house
  • I didn't want a baffle / pergola there in the end- I love how my bedroom just embraces the filtered sun, but it is never hot or too sunny there, so why have further shade?
The root cellar / storm shelter will be built instead in the embankment to the east- the way storms hit here, the bad ones come from the north so I'm hoping a shelter there will have safety added, in that the higher northern field will cause a tornado to "skip" at it hit the lower level of the home site, thus skipping over the buried shelter.

Because the area immediately around the prefab house is high traffic, pavers really make sense, and pavers sitting in a gravel bed right about the prefab perimeter would not only reduce mud but provide excellent drainage.

The area to the southwest has the most grass; so no pavers there. But to the southeast is red clay, so instead focus on that area!

Ah,  But It Was Christmas at the Off Grid Prefab House...
Nothing like putting on your bathing suit to run outside in a warm monsoon, right?
Wait. WHERE ARE WE.
Monsoons and summer thunderstorms in DECEMBER in VIRGINIA?!?
THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN SNOW.

Instead of a cozy cook stove Christmas, with roasts and endless batches of cookies and breads, it is 70+ degrees, I have pulled the camping cook stove back out for light stir fries and sandwiches.
Really?

Welcome to The Christmas Monsoon Of 2015.
Always optimistic, Pip 2 suggested we could start growing rice...
Pip 2 has been ill, but is recovering.
To our heartbreak she was diagnosed with lyme disease AND cat scratch fever.
It will be a long road.

So I was really grateful to see her knee deep in a nice dress in the roiling creek- she's up to her usual muddy mischief again! She could be wearing a ball gown in that creek for all I care!
This monsoon is a prime example of why I want to further grade away from the off grid prefab house.
Thankfully, water did not come *close* to the SIP, but it came close enough to confirm my desire to grade.
When I discovered her thus, I laughed, took pictures, then promptly put her in the bath.
I will go into this in more detail, later.
In the meantime, the outdoors presented us with all sorts of gifts!
"We couldn't find you anything good for Christmas BUT I JUST FOUND THIS!!!"
Awwwww. Thanks guys!
Merry Christmas, y'all.

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12/21/15

At The Off Grid Modern Prefab House The Holiday Break Begins... On Our Own Terms.

At the off grid prefab house, this is the time of year we review our list (our never ending list...) of projects underway, projects we would like to begin in the next months, and on our "wish list."

Four years later, our "Must Do ASAP List" is starting to be manageable!
In the past year, we brought our horses home, built them fencing and shelter, and for ourselves, hay storage and a wood shed. All while doing "annual" chores like cutting and stacking wood (often, multiple times), weeding, mowing, growing and processing meat birds, and more.

Here's what's on our "next steps" list for our homestead / off grid prefab house:

  • Fence in the adjoining pasture so we can rotate the equines, thus allowing grass to grow up as the pasture not in use rests
  • Build a lean-to on the existing shed in that adjoining pasture, providing shelter
  • Finish up the details on the run-in and wood shed: trimming, some bracing, and, of course, paint
  • Continue working on a garden, amending the Virginia clay soil with now ample manure and other organic matter
  • Continue working on the interior of the off grid prefab house:
    • finishing covering the SIP (structural insulated panels) in the bathroom and some areas in the living room we never finished. We were waiting for the nice weather to leave to do these projects but sheesh this fall and beginning of winter have been so mild and beautiful... we shall see when this is done!
    • start replacing the curtains that hang over closets with proper modern built ins
    • the battery bank & generator need to be contained within a safe, ventilated but secure container
My least favorite and shameful part is the list where we have to *replace* or *fix* things that we, as a rambunctious family, have broken. Or not attended to properly. 
Which is the worst. 
A waste of money. 
Maddening.
With shame, I admit we...
  • Have decided to regrade around the off grid prefab house. It will better protect the SIP / prefab house, add cleaner, modern lines without fighting weeds and overgrowth around the prefab house, and hopefully help keep mud from being tracked in. 
  • Will need to replace a window we cracked. Yep. And yes, it was on our end, not the window manufacturer. And that's all I'm going to say about that...
  • The middle bedroom's wallpaper... well, the vintage wall paper itself is fantastic; our application of it, was not.
But I'm thrilled with how this fall's projects turned out: equines safe, pasture water run, solar fencing, and I'm very happy with the wood shed / chicken run project we're working on...

The boards protect wood from weather but the slat spacing allows air circulation & moisture to dry quickly. And it holds so much!



Speaking of projects, if you are renovating our working on installing a shower door, here's a PSA that happened to a real friend of mine today, so I am going to pass this on: Her glass shower door SHATTERED.

We will not be installing glass shower doors anywhere, anytime soon.

In the meantime, there were friends, family and fun, simply. 

I read somewhere that holiday breaks are supposed to be about restoring, relaxing and rejuvenating, and have taken it on as our creed.

No more obligations, frantic errands, or burning money on random gifts. Each day, on OUR holiday break, we are doing what WE feel like doing as a family, not what we "must," and making sure to allow much time for rest.

It has been awesome. We're never going to those exhausting frenetic ways...



The only time and energy we can spare for people is those with love.
Thankfully... it was a week of love and laughter, and actually... relaxing!

We were so relaxed we invented an exciting new sport called Barrel Yawning.

Zena: "Yawn..."

We went trail riding on the back roads!

And, looking on the bright side, if you're gonna have to be called for jury duty, you might as well do it in a Thomas Jefferson-designed court house in historic Charlotte Court House, VA! Beautiful!


We finished the week ice-skating with friends...




Experiencing art... (Rodin! At VMFA!)


















 And family.
Over the river and through the woods
to Grandma's house we go...






Smart alek... : )

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