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Modern Prefab Passive Solar Off Grid House And Tiny Heat Source Is Hit With Snowstorm and Dire Temperatures

(Note the solar panels are covered with snow at the off grid modern prefab house...)
We were so excited to have our first snow of the year at the passive solar off grid prefab house!!!

At our off grid modern prefab house the temperatures dipped to 8. 

Then, last night, IT WENT DOWN TO ONE. **1!!!** 

Who knows what it was with the wind chill factor- I have NO idea, I certainly wasn't going out!
For Virginia, that really is a big deal.
But in the passive solar prefab house, I just kept the cook stove going, not even fired up, just the usual "one log at a time no need to overheat the prefab house" and we were more than comfortable, even too hot at times.
Oops it's too hot in here!
But with it going down to nothing tonight,
I'd rather not open windows, thank you.

We're having a movie marathon
"you can do anything you want" night
which is very unusual but you'll see why
in a minute what we're going through.

It is kind of amazing when you realize the entire off grid prefab house is heated via a firebox this size-
See those two squares under my arm? Just on the left side? That's the area of the firebox. So, yeah, something the length and breadth of my hand-to-elbow and the breadth of my hand is our only source of heat for the ENTIRE HOUSE here, off grid, and it works great.
We have over 8" of snow. Thousands and thousands are without power... and without heat.
Our solar panels are covered in snow, but we equalized the battery bank before the snowstorm hit, so we are fine in the off grid modern prefab house even with the solar panels covered, kicking back enjoying the passive solar daylighting, happily cooking on the cookstove, warming up in the prefab after hours tromping around in the frigid temperatures and snow.
Look how bright it is even in early morning and still snowing!
Once the sun came out the prefab was so bright
but I'm not showing you that because by then we
had wrecked the inside with wet snowsuits,
melted snow clumps, and mud.

Each winter when there's severe weather, my mom thinks we are all going to die since we live off grid. Dear Mom: we're fine.
Yep, he's still firing that dreaded potato cannon...

It has been a life-altering week.
photo from ChiknEGG

Wednesday afternoon a good friend's teen posted that he hadn't seen his mom since 10 a.m., and that's when we all sprung into action, because it was clear something was terribly wrong. Her catering business orders, missed, showed that there was no good reason she suddenly was gone. She had just been a contestant on Food Network's Chopped, so we worried about crazy people as well as medical situations. Search parties combed rural back roads, ditches, and river banks. The police were able to overstep the missing person wait because she is a caregiver with minors in the house. Exhausted, near midnight, we got the text: she had been found alive, in her car, in freezing temperatures.

I was too hyper-ly drained to sleep.

First thing in the morning, I was able to reschedule our daughter's first allergist appointment (since we were already in the city) to start figuring out why these weird things are happening to her... We arrived at 11, but by the time the appointment and lab work were done we were starving and stopped in to a restaurant where she ordered a chicken filet and french fries... and that's when she went into anaphylactic shock.

Rushed to the ER, she stabilized, they released us hours later, but here's what we now know:
It's not just being allergic to X, Y, or Z. And we are undergoing testing to figure out exactly what she IS allergic to, and will have more answers in coming weeks.

Last week everything seemed to be
coming up rainbows for Pip 2...
look closely and you can find rainbows.

Her body is seeing not just X, Y and Z as something to react to, but ANYTHING new (A, B, C, D, E, F) even if technically not allergic is something seen to be attacked.

We wearily left the hospital and returned to the off grid prefab house, trying to beat the approaching snowstorm, trying to be upbeat in the face of so much overwhelming and scary stuff.

I planned to spend the next six weeks hunkered down and eating only what I have always made her. Which, if you ever read my "recipes," is a huge, wide-variety of food- everything from Korean to molded aspics, ha. But even my wildest food creations (and I have a lot!) always just start with basic, simple ingredients- broth. Vegetables. Meat.

Why the sudden change? Is it all the Aldi food my European Handsome Husband suddenly started bringing the Pips as "treats" since Aldi opened?

Is this related to tick bites / her lyme disease with which she was diagnosed awhile back?

Let's just cook, enjoy the snow,
keep her calm and comfortable...

It's when you suddenly start adding in the A, B, Cs (artificial colorings, preservatives, anything different) that right now, things turn dangerous. I have said for years that because we don't eat processed food, we can always really taste it when we do... maybe now, we not just taste, but react.
(Another reason to never eat processed food.)

It's very scary. An analogy is finding out you're allergic to shrimp and then reacting to bread. And not being allergic to bread but your body believes it is and reacts. So we are going to be calm, quiet, and protective for awhile. My child is trying to convince her body that ANY food is ok.

Coming home, she was terrified because she was not in the ER. I assured her that due to our careful planning in choosing a home site for the off grid prefab house, even though we're in the "middle of nowhere," a hospital is always close, accessible, ready, just a 20 minute drive down the highway away.

We've got this. We're JUST going to eat our regular, simple, homemade food.

It began to snow.

It snowed through the night, it snowed through morning, it snowed through lunch...
At first, we were elated, and everyone ran out to play.

Finally, hunger brought us back inside.
Our daughter was served rice (RICE) for breakfast, and reacted.
She reacted to homemade plain white bread.
She reacted to a carrot. Potato. Cucumber. Ham. Pinto beans. Butter. Sweet potato.
By the end of the day after trying all of this her allergist was more than concerned, she was terrified, and her body was reacting.

Back to the ER we went, in the dark, through snow.

Finally it seems that her body is okay with oatmeal. So oatmeal she will have.
There will be more doctor visits, and research on as to why her body is reacting. Is it tick related? Chemicals in food? We hope to know much more in coming weeks but in the meantime: oatmeal.

Today I am grateful for friends coming together to help friends in need, that my friend Shelle was found alive, for oatmeal (which seems to be the one thing my child can eat), a beautiful sunrise, horse blankets and run ins, ugly huge chunky sweaters, a hot cook stove, structural insulated panels, and snow pictures.
Lots (and lots!) of snow pictures.
Sometimes other families off grid reach out to me and I always enjoy hearing their stories. This week I spoke with a gentleman in the Pacific Northwest-
"We have 50 plus days in a row with no appreciable sun in December and January. I run the diesel generator 2 hours a day during those months. We do not let our battery bank go below 88 percent full (88 SOC). Last year we burned 27 gallons in the genny. The rest of the year we are fine with just solar power. Off Grid in the Pacific North West, winters are a challenge. I have brushed 4 feet of snow off the panels in the last 5 days. I love your place. Thanks for sharing."
Now if I were in those conditions I would DEFINITELY get thicker panels for the passive solar house kit- the structural insulated panels come in varying thicknesses aside from the standard package.

Here is a reminder of what I know, after these years, living off grid, of what to expect when heating with a small firebox in a "standard thickness panel package" in our prefab house kit made with SIP:
  • 35 degrees and above at night: Don't even bother with the wood stove, maybe just use the cook stove for dinner if you want
  • 35-25 degrees: Keep the wood stove going one small log at a time but even then be careful you don't overheat the house and certainly don't worry about keeping it going at night.
  • 25-15 degrees: Keep the wood stove on one log at a time, don't worry about overnight, you will awake to 66ish and by the time breakfast is going you'll be toasty
  • 15-5 degrees: Wood stove is on, but not overworking, and yes when I get up at night I throw logs on and awake to high 60s, and even if you don't throw on logs overnight you're still not bad when you awake- remember a few weeks ago I was just tired and slept? It was 15 that night, no logs on the cook stove until after I went to bed, and when we woke up it was 66 or 65. (I can't remember but my point is we were fine.)
  • 5 and below: Wood stove on, overnight logs- in Virginia these conditions are rare but if I lived in Alaska or wherever I would definitely get thicker panels so my wood stove wouldn't have to work hard (or ANY heating system).
Trying to stay upbeat, I was all excited about finally with this frigid weather having an opportunity to wear this fabulous thick, huge ski sweater and do you know what Pip 1 had the GALL to honestly ask me?!?! 
"Did you get that from" Dang!
I love my huge chunky sweater! Sheesh!

It's the afternoon, it has now risen to 20 degrees (but feels like 8) and I am already overheated in a chunky sweater in the prefab house, burning just one slow log at a time in the cook stove... Ugh I can't take it! My sweater is now off, my long sleeves are pushed up to my elbows.. so even with "just" the standard package SIP, in these conditions, it is not bad, AT ALL. In fact, inside the prefab house on such a cold day, even one log at a time, it is too hot.
Stay safe out there... with a high of 27, it's going down to NEGATIVE TWO tonight.
We're quietly snug in the modern prefab house.

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At 1/9/17, 4:51 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

So sorry to hear about Pip2. The food available to us nowadays is just pure poison. My fiance and I are wanting to build our own off-grid house in Colorado. We are also going to build a greenhouse and aquaponics system to raise our own fish and vegetables. Still trying to decide about the house. I do love your design and would like to know how to go about purchasing a kit or plans for a kit. I need all the information I can get. Love reading your blog. Thanks, Lee

At 1/9/17, 5:53 PM , Blogger Passive Solar Prefab Homes said...

Hi Lee! My records show I sent you a "welcome email" in March- I will resend it now to the address I have and check your spam folder if it doesn't end up in your inbox. We might have to go back to the ER tonight / tomorrow and the rest of the week will be touch and go as to whether I am in the office (as you can see, it's a little crazy here at the moment), when you receive my email we can better communicate there. Thank you for understanding!

At 1/6/18, 8:33 AM , Blogger Thomas Venney said...



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