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11/27/17

Modern Prefab House Gives Tips On Off Grid, Alpha Gal Travel, And Being A Tourist When Yer Not.

In Winter, The Off Grid Modern Prefab Is Filled With Light Thanks To Its Passive Solar Design.
You awake easy, happy and grateful as each day arrives!
Here, the beasts are smiling at me by the front door saying, "GOOD MORNIN'!"
(Or maybe: "Where's breakfast???")
Check out all that passive solar daylighting!
So. It's frosty, thus cook stove season at the off grid prefab. You always forget how cold it is, outside- it's always shocking when you go to let the chickens out and your feet crunch on frozen grass, your breath sucks in from the surprising icy air.

Friends have had interesting conversations on what an "ideal indoor temperature" should be.
"'We suggest to set the heating thermostat as low as comfort permits,' Mark Durbin with FirstEnergy said. 'For instance, each degree above 68 degrees can add 3 percent to the amount of energy needed.'

'By setting the thermostat at 68 degrees during the day and to 58 degrees at night, homeowners can save from 10 to 15 percent on their annual heating costs,' Neil Durbin said who is the spokesman for Dominion. "

Hmmmmmmm so at our own off grid modern prefab house, we wake after a night with no heat to the "high" temperatures the energy companies already recommend to save money! Usually, after an evening without heat and it's in the 20s/30s, we wake with the indoor temperatures in the upper 60s.

It is easy to overheat the prefab if I'm not careful when a fire is going throughout the day.
"What?" you say... but yes: overheating IS something we deal with when temperatures are "normal cold!" Despite the fact that our firebox is the length of my elbow and width of a palm. I just measured it: 8"x 19"! That is not much to heat a 1,200 square foot prefab house, eh? But it does.

So when the weather is in the 40s/50s but you have the stove on because it's going down into the 20s and who wants to start three fires in a day for meals, I have methods to keep the embers slowly going but not full on heating up the house so that we don't have to open the windows.

But first, let's start with the wood:
Living Off Grid All These Years, I Am An Excellent Wood Appraiser.
Note how I also stack all
sizes together so that you can
easily get what you need throughout
the day- a few small pieces to
start the fire, medium to burn one
at a time, large to toss in before bed...

I can look at any stick or log and note it's purpose, readiness, reliability. I can stack wood just so in a firebox so it can radiate quick heat or simmer slowly overnight, circle upon circle, to slowly cinder, with hopes of embers remaining at dawn.

Here's how I ensure I can keep an easy low fire going throughout the frosty day without overheating the prefab house:
First, let's talk about the wood. 
These days we are burning invasive Ailanthus altissima, aka Tree of Heaven or, for city folk, Ghetto Palm, y'all. You'll find a bunch of firewood forums pooh-poohing it over their traditional favorites, but I will tell you that seasoned, it burns steady and great. I had read that it can smell and not burn well- I wonder if it's *when* the tree was cut (we always fell trees / do crop tree release in winter) and whether it was seasoned. For my purposes, I would even say I prefer it- it is hard to get oak etc. to catch, yet with smaller branches and kindling I rarely have trouble getting a ghetto palm to start. Plus you are removing invasive plants from your property!

Here Is Why Harvesting Ghetto Palm Fits Into My "I Am 80 And Living Easily Off Grid" Plan. 
Once felled, the round logs vary from 1" to 6" without being split.
('Cause who wants to do this all day?)

Seasoned, they are easy to start even without splitting and the larger logs are perfect for keeping a slow even burn overnight or throughout the day. This is great!

Unlike traditional hardwood, I don't have to drag out the log splitter and only occasionally split something with the axe vs. having to split everything! If you focus on ghetto palms, you don't need to purchase an expensive log splitter while also helping native plants!

Lugging wood to the off grid prefab house is easy. Seasoned, ghetto palm is light and easy to transport. I just make a habit of each time I head up to the chicken run to let everyone out, I bring back a load. I can easily carry a load of this weight when 80, and I'll be letting chickens out then, too.
When I close up the coop, I bring back a load. Dumping compost? Bring back some logs and kindling. Checking for eggs? More logs. So it's always easy to keep plenty of wood ready, without making it a difficult chore.

Cookstove with wood
and plenty o' passive solar.

I always keep 24 hours (at least) of wood by the cookstove. Therefore if you get the surprise rain (or snow!) or wake up with the flu or just plain don't feel like "having" to go outside for any reason you have what you need to be cozy.

Once the fire is going and breakfast is over, I stack two logs one on top of each other so they just slowly radiate warmth without high heat, and as one burns down the other sinks into its place.
If I need heat again (to percolate coffee or rustle up lunch) I just toss in medium or small logs so they land next to the existing log. They quickly catch on the embers and the temperature rises to have two burning vs. one, and soon lunch is sizzling away!

Alpha Gal Travel Tips:
At The Off Grid House, We Rarely Travel During Rifle Season.
However for those of you who WILL be traveling over holidays and have alpha gal / struggle with high histamine intolerance / autoimmune issues:
Last year I took our daughter to NYC. Staying at an AirBnB with organic grocery stores nearby and bringing our own pan/utensils allowed her to confidently eat safely. I carried a list of "safe" (not filtered through bone char) water bottle companies, so that she would not need to lug her own thermos of water everywhere and we could just go get water in a deli.

Eating out was not so easy. We'd go to vegan restaurants but as she is also high histamine she often couldn't eat anything as they had fermented / aged ingredients in everything. Often I'd feed her first at the AirBnB and then take her to a vegan restaurant to meet friends for dinner (so she wouldn't have to worry about fumes).

HOWEVER it occurred to me as we travel as a family through cities is that a great place to grab a bite where everybody can get something they like is at big organic grocery stores like Whole Foods! They always have cafe areas now, the boys can grab something they like from the hot bar, I can grab sushi, and our alpha gal / high histamine child can at the least get some safe interesting snacks + fruit / veggies + a safe vegan smoothie. Maybe not so much ambiance, ha, but when you're on the go, it's a safe, accessible place to grab food vs. playing restaurant roulette.

Also: Travel Tip: Her travel bag, which she tosses into the car whenever we travel (or are just out and about on the weekend visiting friends) contains:
- utensils: fork, knife, spoon, spatula just for her
- non-breakable plate (You know those speckled camping enamel plates / cups / bowls? They are great! Beware plastic / disposable as they often contain mammal!)
- non-breakable bowl
- vegan dish soap
- Dr. Bronners travel size hand soap
- sponge just for her stuff
- sea salt grinder
- nutritional yeast
- safe vegan rice
- safe oats / oatmeal
- daily things like vitamins, probiotic, antihistimine
- small snacks for the actual travel time, replenished in city for trip home
- vegan shampoo, her razor
- thermos of fresh water

When we get to wherever we are, any grocery store these days has frozen organic corn / peas / blueberries / mangos + fresh fruit, veggies, safe poultry and suddenly voila you are set up for basic meals in your AirBnB without having to lug a week's worth of food onto the plane or train. The rice and oatmeal are just my insurance policy- for example, last year we didn't get to our AirBnb until after the grocery stores were closed, but any 24hr deli has some veggies/fruit and often even a safe meat to then add to the rice to make a late meal/breakfast before schlepping to the grocery store which is often blocks away.

Notes on water: fyi: non bone-car: Distilled water is safe, which you can always find a gallon of in any grocery store. Also reverse osmosis or ceramic filtered waters are safe. Polar Springs, Poland Springs, Propel Flavored, Fiji, Smart Water, Dasani, Crystal Geyser (sold on Amtrak trains, which we will be taking) is safe. Crystal Geyser is also sold at Dollar Tree stores.

When out and about BEWARE red solo cups / disposible cups! Often contain mammal! Red solo cups definitely do.

We Headed To The City For Thanksgiving.
C'mon: Y'all know the song: ♫Over the river and through the woods ♫♫ to grandma's house we go...♫♫
While there, I enjoyed seeing more homes with installed solar while out and about.
How To Be A Tourist When Yer Not
Now that we have covered traveling with alpha gal, here's how to be a tourist when you're not! One of our favorite things to do is head into the city, my hometown, and park near a fun hotel around 2 p.m.

Walk through that hotel (often, Quirk) as if you've just checked in. Stroll through the gallery / gift store. Maybe stop and have something off the bar menu at Maple and Pine, or tea at the Jefferson, then head out to walk Broad Street / downtown art galleries and shops! LOOK! YER A TOURIST ON HOLIDAY AND YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO SCHLEPP LUGGAGE!

This time we stopped in for apps at Perly's.
"Oh my, we're gonna have to bring
at least half of this home!"
I love the great design of their small booths so thought you might enjoy seeing them, too:
They seat two. Note the areas to store condiments and menus, etc., allowing valuable table space to not be taken up:
Oh my. We ate it all. Did we really do that???
(Don't look at the mess,
look at the booth!)
So small footprint, so smart, stylishly maximizing use of space.
As lovers of small footprint prefab homes, that's something we appreciate!
Have a great week.


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11/20/17

Off Grid Prefab House Looks In To Cook Stoves, Hot Water, And Horse Yoga. With Alpha Gal Recipes.

Off grid in the passive solar modern prefab house with the cook stove going, you just FORGET how cold it is, outside. 
When you wake and it's almost 70 inside because of the energy efficient SIP of the prefab house kit exterior, it's not hard to get super toasty once you start breakfast...
Breakfast is barely over and he's already taking a nap.

I remember when we got our cook stove.

A city friend was visiting from Germany to vacation with us and instead I put him to WORK! "Fetch me mah cook stove, honeychile! Shouldn't be much trouble..." A long country drive, a dusty old barn extraction, and two straining, red-faced big guys lugging in this hundreds o' pounds hunk o' metal later... I had my cook stove! Fun!
Did I mention I *LOVE*
my cookstove?



So imagine my surprise when Handsome Husband suggested we look to replace my beloved cook stove. What in the world. I am VERY attached to my reclaimed, reused, antique cook stove! We got it for a few hundred dollars ($300?) vs. the thousands one would pay for new.
But I admit taking a peek at all of the glorious sleek cook stove eye candy. Gorgeous! If I didn't already have a perfectly fine cook stove, I might be tempted- these would look GREAT in another off grid modern prefab house!

From DiscountStoves.net, this is the North Hydro Wood Cook Stove With Boiler.
It is very similar to what my Amish friends have, yet would be appropriate for a sleek modern home!
I really love the MBS Royal 900 Wood Cookstove...


By the way, if you are curious about wood stoves and chimneys in a tight envelope zero energy / passive solar house, this post has a lot of information.

Heating water for a shower.
No big deal if you're not in a hurry.
Then we heat via electric.

See, what Handsome Husband wants to do is have our cook stove pipe in heat for our radiant heat and shower. To see our other solutions for off grid hot water in frigid temperatures, click here. We have several, from on demand to heating water on the stove that then goes into an insulated cube that is then piped into the shower, to heating with electric which I don't use often at all because why run down the solar system? Hence leading to a squabble this weekend when Handsome Husband decided to heat the shower via electric vs. the usual "I don't have to be anywhere at a certain time so let's just use the roasting-pan-on-the-cook-stove then pour into the cube method" I expect when we're not jumping into the shower first thing to then rush off to a social event in the morning.

No, I am not going to toss out my perfectly fine, beloved, reused, recycled, reclaimed coolio cookstove just because you want hot water piped over to the shower! Honeychiles, there is a way to jury-rig this. I'll post a solution later.

Here too is a cautionary tale, tho': 
A dear friend and neighbor was at our prefab house as we entertained a few weeks ago, and reminisced about her OWN cook stove she used to have in their historic farm house. Her son was just a few months old and napping on her chest in a rocking chair by the first cook stove fire of the season when... they had forgotten to drain the boiler / pipes, water pressure built up, and
KA BOOM
blew that cook stove apart and sky high.
Miraculously no one was hurt nor killed.

BUT. Being married to a (brilliant but) absent-minded professor type, do you think I'm gonna give that guy a new way to explode himself? Naw.
Anyhoo.

*I* did not wake up this weekend on a freezing frigid day with 30 knot gusts and the wind just howling through the trees and go, "Y'know? This is a GREAT day to ride!"
But the Pips did.

Pip 1 was very nice and "let" his little sister give him a "lesson" even though most of the time she was doing yoga in the round pen instead... 😂💛😂💛
Then this is what I found when I walked up to the shed late afternoon:
He might drive ME crazy, but in HER eyes he does no wrong.

Here he is, later, using her as a couch.
She's all, "Imma gonna just lay still right here while my human-foal needs a place to sit and think. You go sit and think, my little human-foal!"

With all that blustery frigid outdoors, it is always so nice to come back in to the off grid prefab house- so toasty, and I always try to have something hearty and hot cooking on the stove to warm us up!
Back indoors, to the cozy, bright and sunny, passive solar prefab!

Here are a few recipes from this week, which are also safe for our alpha gal / high histamine / mast cell child:
Alpha Gal Recipes:
If you haven't read our Pip's own alpha gal / high histamine / mast cell issues, go here for tons of links and information to help you.

FYI low histamine herbs that fight inflammation while also giving great new/ different taste vs. "Ugh I'm eating the same thing again" include sage, mint, ginger, tumeric and more. Also read more here, and low oxalate foods and herbs here. NOTE that herbs are fresh, not dried.)

Copeland's Alpha Gal PUMPKIN SOUP: Roast a pumpkin. (Salt and bake the seeds until toasty!) Take the flesh, add that and the other to lots of sauteed garlic, onions, and add really good stock (for our high histamine child, I made her own pot without premade stock, it was still delicious as it made its own vegetable stock while simmering just by adding water). BLEND IT ALL, add salt, pepper, a little coconut milk. You want to soup to not be too runny but on the thick side. Pour into a bowl and drizzle coconut milk on top to make cool patterns, then also add your fave safe sausage (sliced and sauteed and always ask about casings as they are often mammal) and minced fresh sage. We have not tried poultry sausages on our high histamine Pip, fyi, as it just seems the more complicated food is, the more she reacts, even if alpha gal safe, due to histamine. So we just gave her some poultry to eat on the side.

Black Bean Soup For Alpha Gal High Histamine Pips
Simmer onions, black beans, shredded into bite-sized collards, and sea salt for hours until soft. (If your high histamine child can tolerate garlic, add that too. I tried a little and it seemed to do okay.) Add in poultry of your choice.  Remove poultry and shred with a fork. Ladle soup into bowls and top with shredded poultry. For non-alpha gal guests I stirred in chili powder into their bowls and topped with a dollop of chili / lime / sour cream I mixed together.

Alpha Gal Chili
Our high histamine Pip has added red peppers to her "I can eat" list! Green peppers and chili powder are high histamine so you can always add that in to other bowls for other people.
Simmer kidney beans, onions, sea salt until soft, add in diced red pepper and top with a turkey or chicken breast, continue to simmer, flip meat, then at the end when ready to serve take two forks and shred the chicken or turkey, and stir in. Non alpha gal people can also top with shredded cheese, stir in cooked tomatoes and hot sauce if they like.

With Pip 2 we have started yoga which is good for her mentally and physically as she struggles with her medical issues of inflammation and autoimmune issues.

She is REALLY into yoga and stretching these days, WHEREVER she happens to be...

I can't thank the equines enough for all the horse therapy they have provided Pip 2 as she struggles.

And actually, Pip 1 as well.
Well done, equines.
We are grateful.

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