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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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