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9/27/16

Net Zero Passive Solar Prefab House Starts More Holz Hausens And Gets Out And About

FINALLY Rain Came To The Off Grid Passive Solar Prefab!
Net zero prefab house with a rainbow!

When your area has been hit with drought, there is nothing more beautiful than the sound of sweet, sweet blessed RAIN.

Have you not noticed how brown and dry the pasture and grass around the off grid prefab house is? Ohhhhh we have, the horses have...

Oh to awake to a steady downpour! As you gain consciousness, all you can think is, "MAY IT RAIN LIKE THIS ALL DAY!"

It rained like that all day! The cistern was full! It overflowed into the pond! The pastures got soaked! The horses cavorted! The chickens... chickened!

I sat down with Pip 2 at dusk. "Imagine if this were December. You would have awakened to a snow storm! It would have tapered off and you would have played, and then right when you came inside, it would have snowed fiercely again!"

See, with a passive solar prefab house built with structural insulated panels, and with piles and piles of wood in the woodshed, and with a freezer and pantry full of deliciousness, snow is fun!
But right now it's rain, and for that our dry fields and family are deeply grateful.
Even with the gray days, the modern prefab house due to its passive solar design, had plenty of daylight:
Outside, it was gray. But inside...

With the rain, arrived fall weather!


Pip 1 arrived home safely from his travels.


I say safely, because he arrived home in one piece despite this...
"Here I am holding on to just a rope 2,600m
above Austria and Germany!"

 Seriously don't look at this part unless you want to have a heart attack:


I know everyone is giggling. But he had a stern talking to- because the #1 cause of death of young men is stupidity. It is perfectly ok to ask yourself, "Am I adding or removing risk to my lifespan?" when encountering a decision making moment... I'm glad I got these pictures once he was down and off the mountain, safe!


Pip 2 was so glad he was back, despite all her animal playmates...



There was lots work on a beautiful fall weekend! We filled the woodshed and are starting 2016 holzhaufens (or holz hausen), but Handsome Husband took time to pause with his favorite rooster.





This is kind of stage 1 of 3ish.

Am I Introverted Or Just Rude?
One morning, I read a great article that illustrates why, even though we're so happy on our own, I always get us out and into neighboring communities to do something. Each time we go out and about, we come away with so much more than the simple experience we expected.

Yesterday we went to cheer on the riders at Fine Line Fun Day- a horseback obstacle course and scavenger hunt. Pip 2 has been wanting and wanting "to do a show" but we have no trailer (and frankly, I'm no show mom, ha, but I really do want to let her do it because it's her dream).
So there we were, enjoying the show. As C.R. completed the course, she looked down at Pip 2 and said, "Want to enter?" "Oh, I don't have my horse..." "TAKE MINE."

THANK YOU to the deep kindness of a horsewoman, to the next generation. Pip 2 said later, "I now know miracles CAN happen!"
**Because of others' kindness, Pip 2 touched a dream she did not expect was within her reach.**

Here she is navigating the course on a horse she just met, in shorts (thank goodness she wore her paddock boots), in English tack (which she has just started trying again as of last week!) and a borrowed helmet.
(Photos by Ellen Oakley Withers!)






It's so easy to sit back at the homestead,
but you gotta get out!

From "Am I Introverted Or Just Rude?":
"Society has a rich history of people seizing on social evolution as an excuse for bad manners. From the Romantic poets to the transcendentalists to the Summer of Love hippies, many have rejected a supposed facade of good behavior in favor of being true to their inner nature. Good manners are mere mannerisms, the argument goes, which serve only to put barriers in the way of deeper connections."
...
BUT:
"...When I skip big gatherings of strangers, I’m not just being a little rude to the individual people around me, I’m being uncivil in a larger sense. The more we isolate ourselves from new people, the more isolated and segregated our society is likely to become. Those casual interactions in dog runs and at kids’ hockey games are the ones that are most likely to cross social and economic barriers. They expand my little world as well as the overlapping bubbles that create a society."

...We went to a benefit for Virginia Donkey Rescue to support friends... and made MORE friends.
My friend S. leading the way!


So, in summary... We went to cheer on people in a horseshow, and Pip 1 ended up WINNING the danged thing, in shorts and on someone else's horse... a lifelong UNEXPECTED blessing of kindness from people doing more for others (who lends out their horse to a kid?!? who lends out their horse at a horse show?!?).

By the way- it was such a beautiful day at Farm Girls Vintage Faire benefitting Virginia Donkey Rescue! Evergreen is such a cool town... a train rumbled by on the trellis above as a bluegrass song sang about trains, ha! It is definitely something to put on your "to do" list!

We returned to the passive solar prefab house to continue seasonal preparations for winter- like the raising of the solar panels to best embrace the lower angle of the sun.

With a little fun and a little work, another great week was done.


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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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