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Off Grid Air Conditioning A Modern Prefab House On Minimal Solar

Passive solar design of the off grid modern prefab house helps keep things cool.

It was another scorching week at the modern off grid prefab house, and while, off grid on a *minimal* solar system with fans and energy efficient SIP holding in the summer evening's cooler temperatures works for MOST of the summer, during 100+ weeks it is just plain HOT without air conditioning.

Our Amish friends just don't do air conditioning at all. But just because you're off grid on a eensy solar system like we are doesn't mean you need to sit out those 100+ temperatures and suffer just to be off grid. Other off gridders load up on bigger systems, but we are happy with our affordable, minimal solution EXCEPT in times like this where an air conditioner would be... nice.

At least with the energy efficient SIP (structural insulated panels) once an air conditioner cooled the prefab house it would keep that cool air in. But currently we still have no air conditioning.

It currently doesn't matter much for our family, as, sailors, we go back and forth to the bay all summer where THAT ole 150 year old Ramshackle has air conditioning, ha.
And the Ramshackle is eeven passive solar, which is not surprising
in homes built before air conditioning!

But since we always have guests at the prefab house when we're gone, it is something to address for those 2-3 weeks each summer when it's HOT.

I think I finally found our family's off grid air conditioner solution and like Lloyd Alter says, it's totally boring:
Solar powered air conditioning is finally here, and it's totally boring
"...It simply uses a dedicated 1kW solar PV array to drive the air conditioner, greatly reducing the energy required from the grid. In full sun, the unit can draw as little as 30 watts from the grid while producing its rated 3.5 kW cooling/ 3.8 kW heating capacity."

I am looking forward to cobbling together our own solution with parts from the USA (they are in Australia). It would not be a *pretty,* modern solution- but during those extreme days, it would get it done, then I could store it away the rest of the year.
Back at the bay, rain came in and we welcomed it as an opportunity to work on interior projects in The Ramshackle while... the beasts watched us, hard at work, while they napped.

The weather moved out to reveal a perfect sailing weekend with mild temperatures we will enjoy all week, especially when we returned to the off grid modern prefab house!
"Oh hey there! Let me in!"

On the bay, a large solar farm progresses nearby!

In the meantime, back and forth from the prefab to the bay, we're having fun.

Spicy chicken BBQ and slaw
Broccoli Slaw: Shred broccoli, mince onion & garlic, toss in lemongrass puree, lemon juice, pureed cilantro, just a tad of (DUKES) mayo to bind, sea salt, pepper.

Crock Pot Spicy Alpha-gal BBQ: Two packs of chicken thighs, fleshy part down. Over it pour a whole lotta sauce made from: minced garlic, onion, ginger, soy sauce, fish sauce, sugar or jam, sesame oil, vinegar, sriracha. Cook on high until done, serve on sweet buns and top with a layer of broccoli slaw.

Summer Love
Ahhhhh summer. The bay is hopping with romance.
Now that we have teens, there has been a lot of discussion with our friends about rules once your child starts dating.

"Oh we're easy- we don't care who they're with / where they are / how late they stay out...!
We just have one little, simple rule:
You must take a mastiff with you.
Ta ta, kids! Have fun!"
Mastiff in the back seat:  "Grrrrrrrrrrrrr... don't touch my child... Grrrrrrrrr..."
"Why do they want to leave our herd?"
But I think we still have awhile before we have to think about that stuff.
In the meantime, I'll be there, and here.

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An Off Grid Modern Prefab House Thinks On Solar Farms

In local happenings, at the modern off grid prefab house we are watching with interest an application for a solar farm nearby wend its way through bureaucratic proceedings! 

Have you considered how solar farms are controversial in rural areas? I read with interest the pros and cons, even though I am clearly a supporter of solar. All viewpoints are good to consider. 

I think that with sheep and goat management for mowing between solar panels (vs. RoundUp or rocks), pastures can remain not only viable but fertile. Fair taxation is something to consider as well... if you are getting financial breaks for farming, why not solar? 
  • Solar Farms And Land Use Concerns
    "...Communities have expressed skepticism about these larger solar farms for many reasons. Like many Virginia communities, Accomack County is a heavily agricultural. Agriculture is the primary land in Accomack County and a critical source of county income. To remove agriculturally-zoned lands from production for purposes of solar farm development worries some county officials. Furthermore, Virginia’s tax policy exempts solar projects from personal property taxes. For many local government officials, the prospect of “losing farmland” to utility-scale solar projects, and the accompanying loss of personal property tax revenue, is too much to bear."

    I am curious if county officials have numbers on taxes paid by farms, as we are talking FARMland... how many tax breaks are farmers getting vs. solar?
  • Solar Farming Not A Good Use Of Agricultural Land
    (Written by an extension agent)
    "...Fact 1. Solar farming will change the future productivity of the land.
    Because solar panels only capture 20% of the light for only about 5 hours of the day the rest of that solar energy will pass through to the ground. As a result grasses, broadleaf weeds, and eventually woody shrubs will grow. There are only three ways that solar farms can deal with this unwanted vegetation: herbicides, mowing, or ground cover or a combination of all three. All of us who have farmed this land understand how hard it is to control weeds in crops that intercept over 80% of the solar radiation. You can only imagine how hard it will be to control this vegetation in a solar farm. High rates of herbicides, frequent mowing, and the use of mulches, rock, or plastic will all have negative impacts on the land from herbicide residues, soil compaction and erosion, and particles of damaged panels left in the soil resulting in contamination from heavy metals and rare earth elements used in solar panels. Remember, you still own this land and you will be held responsible for water runoff, cleanup, and off site effects not to mention the accumulation of weeds like Palmer Amaranth over time and the eventual need to replace fertility lost. Make sure your contract with the solar farm has a clearly stated plan for dealing with unwanted vegetation. Plans that just state the use of herbicides, mowing or even the use of goats or sheep should be specific about types of herbicides, timing, rates, etc. Make sure these specific plans make sense for your land! Don’t accept anything that will harm the soil or its future productivity.
    Good soil is everything.

    Fact 2. Because of this lost productivity and the resulting changes in the farming communities caused by the loss of land, it is highly unlikely this land will ever be farmed again.
    Fact 3. You could be stuck with the cost of decommissioning these solar farms...The fact is that these panels are considered toxic waste due to the use of metals like cadmium and rare earth elements. These panels only have an expected life span of 20 years. Since they cannot be placed in landfills and are not accepted for recycling by any plant in the United States, it is highly likely that they will be either abandoned at the site or you (as the land owner) will be forced to pay for them to be shipped to third world countries for recycling.
    Make sure that the solar company has a viable decommissioning plan that spells out the terms of disposal, land grading, and restoration of the site to its original condition. Require them to post a bond to make sure they are still around at decommissioning time.
    Fact 4: Solar farming is not a good use of our landSolar farms are highly inefficient at producing energy. It is only through generous tax credits, the waving of property taxes, zero interest start-up loans, federal and state mandates that require utility companies to pay for the power at generous rates, etc. that these solar farms even have a chance of operating. Right now, it is costing North Carolina taxpayers $124 million dollars in lost tax revenues. This loss is expected to grow to $2 billion by 2020 to enable these farms to remain viable. In other words, you and the schools in your community are paying the bill."
The extension agent brings up great points. 
Poison on land (even in residential areas) should be banned as it affects not just the property but everyone. So yes, no more herbicides! Goats for everyone! Then the pastures will remain fertile and viable for future generations.

ANY company should clean up after itself on leased land. 
The removal / recycling / cleaning up of solar panels needs to be addressed now just like any corporate cleanup. ALL companies should be responsible for leaving no trace.

I do disagree with his tax assertions, and technology is certainly improving solar's efficiency. Farmers and farmland get significant tax breaks; solar farms are not built on suburban neighborhoods so to hypothetically treat them as such isn't fair. The article on the SunTec farm addressed many of the above concerns.

I'd take corporate responsibility a step further and agree with Lloyd Alter: it is time for deposits on everything, whether it be batteries, solar panels, bottles, and food containers.
via Twitter/ Shawn Micallef in Grange Park

From "It is Time for Deposits on Everything":"Look closely at Shawn Micallef’s photo at the top and you see that the mess is almost entirely disposable food and drink containers, primarily plastic bottles. In the name of customer convenience, the vendors of all this stuff have outsourced the responsibility of dealing with waste to the taxpayer who now has to pick it all up. Shawn tweets that 'We often design for some idealized Toronto, not the one Toronto wants to vote for or pay for.' But we shouldn't be paying for this; we are just being hosed and bamboozled by the people who sold the stuff."

Thrift Shoppin'

Meanwhile, On The Bay...
Behold the craziest thing I might have ever found antiquing. #OutsiderArt #PrisonArt 

Made entirely of used cigarette filters, this compound's roof lifts off to reveal a creepy shrine to some woman. I had to get it, even if to give away. 

The second it was in our hands we felt bad juju. The first thrift store we passed, we could not get it out of our car fast enough and donated it. Maybe I'll return with a priest, it needs it.

It goes back to my philosophy of putting smiles in the world. Some things emanate light, some dark. It is your responsibility that if you take a smile, you fix it, make it better, and put more smiles back in to the world than what you took. 

This old Ramshackle is FILLED with love. It emanates year after year of loving history, happy memories made, light, generations of nurturing. A timeless lesson, re-enforced: Don't ever bring in dark. Like light, darkness spreads. So kids, stick to the light. 
Speaking of love and light, the 150 Year Old Ramshackle is also filled with contented, snoring beasts. Imagine briskly opening the door, filled with productivity and a list of many things to accomplish, and stepping into THIS:

"I was feeling very productive. (What was I doing?)"

The soft sound of snoring slumber on a hot idle summer's day tosses ambition out the window. The soft carpets beg you to sink down and rest... rest... rest. 

Until, with dusk, energy starts up again.
I love watching two mastiffs and a (not so) little boy chase, jump, and tumble over each other at breakneck speed in the pasture as the sun sets, and fire flies fly.
Have a good week.

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Extreme Heat Takes Environmental Prisoners

All is quiet at the modern off grid prefab house, where friends-of-friends are staying for a long wedding week.
During weeks when the heat index brings up our temperatures to 105+, I think about climate change a lot, especially when I'm on the bay.
No energy efficient passive solar modern prefab house can save us in extreme heat...

I obsessively nose around the NOAA's sea level rise viewer (regard how the map changes at one foot! Two feet! Seven!), look at those areas, and wonder how people on the water's edge with historically bad water (which is why the locals never built there) push their counties to spend millions in infrastructure on properties less than 10' above sea level.

Like elsewhere in the world affected by climate change, it will be the poor who bear the brunt, in health and financial burden: those water-front out-of-town owners be long gone, leaving the $35,000-average-household-income locals holding the financial bag for such a loan.

No one suffers like the poor.
From The Economist:
"...The rich are disproportionate contributors to the carbon emissions that power climate change. It is cruel and perverse, therefore, that the costs of warming should be disproportionately borne by the poor. And it is both insult and injury that the wealthy are more mobile in the face of climate-induced hardship, and more effective at limiting the mobility of others. The strains this injustice places on the social fabric might well lead to woes more damaging than rising temperatures themselves."

It is imperative to each day personally attempt to do more with less and conserve resources. (But I know I'm preaching to the choir, here.)
On the bay, in the In-Town Ramshackle, when extreme heat hits, our alpha-gal high histamine child becomes an environmental prisoner. High histamine is not just in the foods you eat, but your emotions also release histamine, and your body also reacts to extreme environmental temperatures.
So until the heat wave broke, for our child, it was really, really hard.
Sometimes, when your old dog has awakened you at 4 AM
to insist on going outside to be "one with the pasture,"
nosing around and wandering endlessly underneath the moon…
and *sometimes* when your alpha gal high histamine child is reacting to the heat, gets cloudy,
and breaks your favorite mid-century modern dish AND later that day, a bowl…
and *sometimes* when you're being eaten by mosquitoes
chasing chickens in trees, shaking limbs
 and making the sky rain chickens at dusk
because no one is here to help you...
you could either lose it,
or appreciate a frosty, perfectly made margarita.

Thankfully there was early hour pasture time, evening swims, and in the middle hours, we rest.

We did have fun, even indoors.
I pored through vintage cookbooks, inspired by gelatin.
Why gelatin? Because, in the off grid prefab house, when I am cooking on the cookstove in winter, I love to make roasts. The blend of the meat, vegetables, slow cooked and savory, is delicious the next day.  The leftovers are held firm in delicious consomme solidified with the natural result of all those bones and meat, forming a savory jelly.
In days past, our southern great grandmothers worked with that and created aspic.

Mid-century, hostesses took it a step further.
Why yes that IS a towering salmon olive salad, thank you for asking.
From Southern Living's 1976 The Salad Cookbook, I made Autumn's Gold Salad.
But, as usual, I changed it. I added a bunch of diced chicken to the apple / cheese mix.
HERE'S WHAT I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY for today's palate: embrace the salad as a chicken salad that is pretty with some cheese and apples in it. Cheese and fruit goes great! Cheese and meat goes great! It all goes great! What does NOT work is all the sugar. You do not need LEMON JELLO or WHIPPED CREAM, that is something from the 1970s I do not want back, thank yew...

If I had saved some of winter's roast gelatin, all savory from roasted meat and vegetables, reheated it and used that instead of lemon jello... now THAT would be delicious.
So any future congealed salads I attempt I will ignore sweet ingredients and instead embrace the savory.
New reality series coming up! THE HOUSEWIVES OF DELTAVILLE.
Ok maybe not.
Have a great week.

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