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11/28/16

At The Net Zero Prefab House: Home After Skedaddling Away

Back at the off grid prefab house after a long (but fun!) week.

There is no place like home.
It will be a gray, rainy week at the off grid net zero prefab house. We can relax, get school done, and take it easy after the crazy holiday week!
Nothing to do after all that ruckus but
cook, school, and enjoy the rainy week!

It was so wonderful to see so many family and friends in the city and at the bay!
There were parties...
Party dogs.

A party guest made some favors...
Gatherings at Grandma's...

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

Lots of cooking... (what does one eat on the bay? LOTS of seafood.)
Sugar toads!

Beautiful sunrise and sunset walks with friends...
New York Cit-taaaay cousins visitin'...
There's at least one tennis ball in his mouth there...
Now, we're back at the off grid prefab house and homestead.
We have fantastic house and farm sitters while we're gone. But having the pasture cameras around also gives us peace of mind- they send us alerts when triggered, stream directly to our phones / the cloud, thus documenting anyone that's not supposed to be there via video -and- photos, night -and- day. Pretty cool.

If you have problems with hunters poaching think about how useful these are- you install them in several key places, they set them off, all evidence is sent to you (and the game warden!) remotely so you don't even have to confront them. If they destroy the camera, even better- they just continued to pile on the charges against them and you have all the evidence without any stress! Easy!

But our FAVORITE purpose of using the cams is we can zoom in, live, and talk to our equines and see what they're doing! THE BEST for peace of mind when you are missing your luvies...
Tiny demonstrates how unstressed he is now
that he can talk to his pasture friends remotely.

So, it's supposed to be gross and rainy all week, which means we can just cozy up in the off grid prefab house, read, and recover from the party week. Sounds good.
I spy someone napping on the bench there... good idea!

Reading Club:
Have a great week.

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11/21/16

Net Zero Passive Solar Prefab Turns On The Heat

We finally broke down and turned on the heat in the off grid prefab house- cook stove season has begun, with chili for dinner! Night temperatures fell into the 20s- we are cozy and toasty to our bones, now.

Each year we wait until the temperatures fall into at *least* the mid-30s and when the days stay below 50/60 to even think of firing up the wood stove at night, it just gets too hot.
Why yes that child IS in shorts in her north bedroom.
The interior thermostat read 75, Pip 2 changed into shorts.

I walked around the net zero prefab house with the temperature reader and took notes- for a heat source that only has a firebox less than 1' x 1.5' in length heating the entire prefab, the back bedrooms and entire space were consistently heated. Imagine doing that in a traditional house much less a leaky farmhouse...

Of course, the prefab having passive solar design and built with energy efficient SIP helps, too...


The first day of rifle season came, and went.
NOT DEER.

Here's the difference between still hunters vs. so many here with jacked up starved-dog-running fleets of trucks hauling up and down the road and on other people's land: still hunters are done, with one shot, before those guys get out of bed, waddle to their microwave to nuke a frozen breakfast, gather their arsenal of wires and boxes and buddies to shoot 50 rounds at the same deer...

HERE'S TO THE REAL HUNTERS, like my friend, here. (Congrats, C.!)
She knows her herd and chooses who to cull the keep the population healthy.

As environmentally friendly as I try to be, sometimes other family members aren't so... well... they like horrid dirt bikes and building things like potato cannons... seriously kid go ride yer horse if you need a thrill (and he does). But at least when he fires the cannon he can incorporate it into school.

Yep, here's Pip 1 explaining to me how he used algebra and wrote a Java program to create this oh-so-special cannon:
Some of my guy friends are complaining that although you get the java and algebra in the above video, there wasn't enough "BOOM." So, here you go. 
Boom. 
*ROLLS EYES*

We are enjoying some beautiful school mornings, it's really fun to homeschool from the prefab in winter: here's Pip 2 enjoying tea, toast, Algebra 1, and Tiny by her side.

Reading Club:
  • Trump says he will bring back coal. Here's why he can't.
    "Coal also struggles to compete with renewable energy sources like wind and solar in locations where those resources are abundant. The cost of solar panels in particular has declined precipitously thanks to technology advances in recent years. Even conservative states like Texas and Oklahoma have become fast adopters of widely available wind energy."
  • The Energy Revolution Can't Be Stopped
    "Even without tax breaks, renewables will probably win out on cost grounds ultimately. Equipment costs are falling and, once installed, producers don't have to pay to harness the wind or the sun.Onshore wind is already cost-competitive with natural gas in the U.S. and solar costs are falling rapidly."
  • Solar power gaining ground in Fort Collins
    "Lines of newly erected solar panels march across the spacious high plains north of Fort Collins, sandwiched by a coal plant and natural gas units in a trifecta symbolizing the changing times of energy production."


We do love living off grid at the passive solar prefab... When you think of all the land right fights and pipelines and coal pollution, it's amazing how accessible and gentle solar living is, and why more people don't embrace it...

Have a good week.

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11/14/16

Off Grid Passive Solar Modern Prefab Finally Gets Hot Water Successfully For All Seasons

Whether your candidate won, lost, or wasn't even nominated, I think we can all agree that in the United States, we are emotionally drained.
It was Handsome Husband's first election as a new citizen.

Tiny, the day after.
On the prefab house project front, sadly, the passive house development possibility in the northeast is NOT going to work out. It would have been a great project, with a great team, but when we sat down to explore the lot considerations it was clear we would need to go custom vs. prefab and they already had a great, local architecture firm involved so thus it was not the right fit for our passive solar prefab homes on urban infill lots.

Just remember: with disappointment, there can be rainbows. You just might have to get outside yourself (and the prefab house) and look at things another way. But if you look, they are there.



Frost outside, but inside the prefab house it's still comfy.
It's November, and Pip 2 is doing flips and headstands and all sorts o' gymnastics in the modern prefab's great room... It's in the 70s in this passive solar prefab house at night, so Pip 2 wants to open windows. Outside it's in the 30s. We will awake to frost. Tonight, it's in the 20s. So no, Pip 2, we will not open windows and instead embrace the energy efficiency of the SIP that keeps us warm and cozy at night.

It's always a shock to go from the warmth of the prefab house to the outdoor temperatures! Each time, we run back and grab coats...

We have still no heat on in the off-grid passive solar prefab house.

BUT WE HAVE HOT WATER!!!
For the first time ever our bathroom had steam once the teen was done! Here's what finally worked for piping hot water on a *eensy* solar set up without resorting to propane, thanks to Handsome Husband:


Flippin' for steamy hot water during *all* seasons
off grid, not just summer or via the cook stove!

"We basically went from the assumption that our 30 tube solar hot water collector will remain unchanged and that we will downsize the tank to the point where the solar hot water collector will be sufficient to heat the water during the lower insolation in winter. When researching small tanks with heat exchangers we ran across marine units that seem perfect as they use hot engine coolant to heat water.

We always think of our house as a boat on the dry - space efficient and independent so it only makes sense that our problem was solved for the water.

We now have an 11 gallon tank with a heat exchanger plumbed in place of the 80 gallon solar tank. The tank comes with a 1500 Watt heating element that we power from a dedicated breaker, allowing us to have the option of turning the electric heater on should we ever need it.

The solar collector is now way oversized in the summer, at which point we will use the 120 gallon radiant floor tank as a heat sink."

Also: when we are not in a hurry for a shower (in the morning, running out the door) during frigid temperatures, we can certainly heat the water on the cook stove if we want and use the Kahuna Portable Shower setup like we did last winter which worked perfectly fine *if* you had time to do so.

We now have piping hot off grid showers WITHOUT RESORTING TO PROPANE like everyone else off grid does for ALL seasons. Taaaaaaaa DA.

We had visitors this week, new farm hands, check them out!
Doin' some science with the farm hands.

"I water horsies!"

New cowgirl.

Farm hand feather-gatherer.
The second family visited on a day where the evening was cold and the daytime, brisk.
As we sat down to lunch, I mentioned that we had not yet turned on heat. She was impressed. Inside the prefab house it was toasty, comfortable, and when we all came indoors we quickly shed our coats.
Lunch for the visiting farm hands!

Those farm hands wore him out!
Soon it will be cook stove season, and with it soups, stews, roasts and toasty gatherings in the off grid prefab house. Have a good week.







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