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9/19/16

Passive Solar Net Zero Prefab House Prepares For Another Off Grid Winter


"Plenty o' water in the cistern! What could go wrong?"

When we arrived at the off grid prefab modern house, the FIRST thing we did was check our water, because this area has been in a terrible drought all summer. It was full, thanks to the spring rains.

From the EPA:
"Indoor Water Use in the United States. The average American family of four uses 400 gallons of water per day. On average, approximately 70 percent of that water is used indoors, with the bathroom being the largest consumer (a toilet alone can use 27 percent!)."
With a 1,700 gallon cistern chock full of water, well, we confidently settled in. It'll rain, soon! With guests visiting, I flushed potable water down our toilets often, instead of my usual strict reuse of dishwater. The Pips gave their horses baths, and I didn't say a word.

AND THEN ONE DAY... I was showering and the pressure didn't seem 100% on...
AND THEN ONE DAY... I noticed our battery bank usage was pulling loads when the pump was on which I (again, usually) keep off but had kept on because why not?
AND THEN ONE DAY... I lifted the cover to the cistern and guess what. WE WERE EMPTY.
Here are water conservation tips, here. Did you know a running toilet can waste over TWO HUNDRED GALLONS OF WATER A DAY?

Here's what we do ourselves at the off grid prefab house to conserve water:
  • We reuse dish water to flush the toilet. I don't care that it's unsightly and that the toilet bowl doesn't look pretty. Are you really choosing a pretty toilet bowl over WASTING POTABLE WATER?!? Yeah I didn't think so.
  • Our shower head is extremely water efficient. So no, we don't stand under a waterfall and get a languid, spa experience when we bathe, why in the world would we waste water?!?
  • When we wash clothes here, we use a Lehman's pressure handwasher which uses very little water.  BONUS- you can use that pressure washer to make butter, I just learned in the comments section, hahahaha! 
The whippoorwill's song will soon cease, until spring... so I cherish each night it sings.
IT'S TIME TO GET READY FOR ANOTHER OFF GRID WINTER!
In winter & early spring we cut,
in late spring - fall we stack.
As you can see, Handsome Husband
is happy we are finally done stacking for the day!

Whether it is hay or wood, we finally have things where if we do a little throughout the year we are AHEAD of the game and not panicking with winter's approach. Throughout the year, Handsome Husband fells undesirable trees- either for crop tree release or because they are weed trees, like the obnoxious Chinese tree of heaven (aka tree of hell):
"Due to the tree of heaven's weedy habit, landowners and other organisations often resort to various methods of control in order to keep its populations in check. For example, the city of Basel in Switzerland has an eradication program for the tree.[21] ...
It is also considered a good source of firewood across much of its range as it moderately hard and heavy, yet readily available.[45]"
A lot of people don't like tree of heaven for firewood, but we feel differently. It's invasive, so a great tree to eliminate from your property, and you might as well put it to use:
From Ehow: How To Use The Tree Of Heaven As Firewood:
"The tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) is a species that was introduced to the United States in 1784 when it was brought from China to be used as an ornamental tree. Although many people find it attractive, this fast-growing tree is generally considered as more of a weed. The roots are poisonous and believed to inhibit the growth of native plants.
...
The wood from the tree of Heaven is comparable to that of other hardwoods when used for firewood, producing about 8,300 British thermal units per pound, according to the Virginia Department of Forestry."
However: we try to minimize our wood burning- by starting with a prefab house that needs much less heating than traditional homes thanks to its passive solar design + energy efficient SIP.
With everyone reunited for the rest of the year at the net zero prefab house, Pip 1 up and left the country.

Well, ok, he had been planning this trip with his grandparents for over a year, but still. I'm so happy for him to immerse himself in another culture and to practice his foreign language skills. But I will be even happier once he's home.

Just because you live off grid and aim to be as self-reliant as possible doesn't mean you don't embrace other cultures, communities, and appreciate the wonderfully vividness and vibrancy of different world views. The Amish are the same way- when my Old Order friends heard about Pip 1's trip, they smiled and said how happy they were he could have this experience. Sometimes you can be very comfortable in your own skin while appreciating others'!

We have heard regularly from Pip 1 as he is on his journey.
He is so impressed with Berlin- "Momma. They have ALL KINDS of transportation and NO CARS- there's train, the bus, trams, ferries, cool metal bikes... NO ONE NEEDS A CAR HERE!"
He loved Hamburg...
And as he traveled south, he took pictures of the wind turbines.
Back at the modern prefab, with cooler weather our rural walks resumed.
There is so much to notice- wild asparagus, sumac (used in middle eastern dishes), grapes, hickory, walnuts, quince... and of course, in June, berries.

In one spot, I found wild persimmon... can't wait to do something with the fruit!
The harvest moon came, and went.




We headed into Farmville to reward Pip 2 for making As on THREE tests this week (100%, 100%, and 97%!) with an evening of art and fun. Even though we live in a rural, rural area, we carefully chose our land to be close enough to interesting towns. Here, we have Appomattox, Charlotte Court House, and Farmville near.

Farmville is a charming college town fortunate to have Longwood Center For The Visual Arts as a cultural anchor. The current exhibitions are "Chasing Shadows: The Magical Realities Of Elly Mackay" and "Citizens & Leaders: A Century of Iconic Presidential Campaign Photography By The Associated Press."

 
 


Friends in the city started sending us links to this FABULOUS mid-century modern home for sale:
From Zillow:







We dreamily lingered on the images... oh the built-ins! The furniture! It really should be some kind of mid-century modern museum! Then we both went,
"We are so glad we don't live in a large house anymore!"
This house is almost 4,000sf.
Our last house, a mid-century modern, was 3,000ish sf. We remember those days- even with a housekeeper, cleaning, picking up, tidying, putting things away, filling empty spaces up with... STUFF...
Not for a moment now do we ever go, 
"We miss living in a larger house..."
Our weekends are sooooo much more free.  And fun.
Years later, we still love our small footprint off grid life.





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