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2/20/17

Passive Solar Prefab House Gets A Jump On Spring Projects

At the passive solar off grid prefab house, it's just February but the weather doesn't know that... 
With the historic warm weather, it appears people have spring fever as well, we have a bunch of new prefab house quotes in the works. Whether they come to fruition, we shall see. But it's nice to have so much interest.
 In the meantime, I'm answering emails and enjoying the weather.
Passive solar prefab house kit, with ongoing projects...

From Day 3 of the prefab house kit
I Am Planning Next Steps For Our Own Prefab House.
If you remember, we erected the shell of the prefab house in 2008, so it's almost been ten years since we started this project! THIS HAS BEEN THE LONGEST PREFAB PROJECT EVAH, ha. The shell of the prefab house was erected in days. But we were weekenders, and finishing the interior ourselves. Or so we thought: years passed and who, after working a work week, wants to keep killing themselves on the weekends???

It's time to finish the random small projects we still have yet to finish on this prefab house. We found a great local contractor who will take these projects on instead of we. I can't wait.
Week 1, we have a prefab house!
...and now, it's almost ten years later. TIME FLIES!
Time flies...  the Pips grew, too.
Here are a few items on my list:

  • Check cladding to make sure it's still weathertight everywhere
  • Grade and install gravel around the prefab house 
  • Get rid of those ugly ill-fitting curtains that hide closet areas and erect proper modern built-ins
  • Consider a storm shelter since every room in the prefab has windows- although SIP are strong and meet code for strong wind, since we have had two tornados in three years I think it's something we should consider.

Chickens are laying again...
At The Off Grid Passive Solar Prefab House, It Was Quiet
Oh I'm just sitting here reading The Economist
and answering work emails...

Well, right when you think the country is quiet, here come the coywolves...

Here's an overview on the coywolves- whereas coyotes are about 30lbs, the coywolves here are 80.
"...With larger jaws, more muscle and faster legs, individual coywolves can take down small deer.
...
Coyotes dislike hunting in forests. Wolves prefer it. Interbreeding has produced an animal skilled at catching prey in both open terrain and densely wooded areas, says Dr Kays. And even their cries blend those of their ancestors. The first part of a howl resembles a wolf’s (with a deep pitch), but this then turns into a higher-pitched, coyote-like yipping."

Yeah... let's face it, it's never quiet here!

The nice weather makes everyone want to play outdoors.
After a fall spent obsessing on dirt bikes and potato cannons, it's nice to see Pip 1 getting back on a horse again.
In honesty, he is *really* good with equines. I was thrilled to see him riding The Greenie. They are both so much alike it's kind of hilarious to see them ride together. I'm looking forward to see what they look like in a few weeks as their partnership builds and The Green Horse relaxes more when ridden.
Zena wasn't happy about it, though. She was actually quite jealous...
"CORNBREAD. WHAT are you doing with MY little boy..."
But Pip 2 is keeping her company. I just can't believe with all that expensive tack we have, the Pips just want to ride with baling twine... if even that.

We Began To Plant The Spring Garden
Cabbage collards peas and salad are all in.
It's going to be another beautiful week at the off grid prefab house.
It is unnerving, as it is just not normal to be in the 70s in February.
But watchfully, we'll enjoy it.

Here's some pictures from February of last year.

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2/13/17

Modern Off Grid Prefab House And Homestead Hits High Temps With DIY Pasture Projects

At the off grid modern prefab house, it was 83 degrees... in February. 
I admit we enjoyed it. Yet with dismay. It set a record high in winter that we don't desire.
It was very odd to have it be so warm that instead of the cook stove, we were solar cooking.
IN FEBRUARY.
So with this fake spring in the air, let's talk homesteading.
Because of our back-and-forth, our homesteading currently consists of farming briars, kindling, and eggs.

Ok fine I can, in fact I put up quite a lot, and we do have a garden, but it's not on the scale that we would be if we stayed in one place all the time.

We used this warm weather for outdoor projects you would normally never do this time of year!
First, we relocated a bunch of apple trees from the sapling nursery into their permanent places.
Then, we built a DIY manure spreader mostly made from recycled repurposed stuff we already had!
The frame came off the back of a trailer we no longer needed (as that trailer will eventually be a green house). We put some chain link fencing over the frame in the middle, so that when you drive over the manure it drags the pile through the chain link, thus really breaking it up. The weights were from I believe the battery bank delivery, but you can use anything. It is so light, you can not only pull it via a tractor, but by donkey or horse!
Our pastures are in dire need of help. The land was in poor condition to begin with. We created two pastures, put our home site in the middle, then connected the two at the top and bottom, creating a third "middle pasture" that is our back yard but where we can also safely let the horses graze.
But being not great soil to begin with, it was quickly overgrazed.

Thankfully, just at the right time, we discovered Simple Soil Solutions! Here are two of Simple Soil Solutions's videos you might find helpful this time of year, I know we did! The below video does a great job incorporating permaculture / mob grazing (read this article, it is great!) and explaining it simply so that everyone can understand and see the difference it made!

"Watch a 2 year transformation from mud hole and weeds to healthy diverse pasture – without ANY seed, herbicide or fertilizer – just using our wastes differently!
...
Not only did grass and plants flourish, but weeds were wiped out, using just the power of our horses.
No chemicals or machines. Our soil and land didn’t just start to look better, it rebounded to super healthy levels much quicker than we ever thought possible."

WELL OKAY THEN! Let's have a look!

Also: How to know when your pasture is ready for grazing:
Did you not read that mob grazing article like I told you to?
Ok fine here are some points:
Spreading out the hay in packed soil areas.

"Mob grazing fits into Totemeier’s belief in a holistic approach where chemicals such as herbicides and insecticides are unnecessary if the grazing system is designed the right way with the right animals.
...
During the 2012 drought and this year’s extended dry summer, Totemeier was thankful for his mob grazing system. 'Mob grazing is almost like drought insurance because a long resting period means a deeper root in the plant,' he said. 'Cattle only graze paddocks a few days or less and then I give the grass a 60 to 90 day rest period to allow plants to thrive, and everything goes to seed.'”

Small rotational paddocks are not appropriate for horses, clearly. But we are taking some of the philosophy of what works well with livestock in mob grazing, field rotation, strewing the hay in bad areas, etc. and hoping to at least improve our land vs. deplete it.

For some (VERY GOOD) counter points and a skeptical look at mob grazing (ON PRAIRIE, though), read here.
Lawn mower.

Reading Club:


  • Californians are paying billions for power they don't need

  • We're using less electricity. Some power plants have even shut down. So why do state officials keep approving new ones?
    Thinking on power, on and off grid.
    Net zero, we produce our own power
    off grid, and have solar systems for
    only what we need.

    Living With An Alpha Gal High Histamine Kid
    Discussions this week involved spending the night out and reassurances that I will send her to her friends' homes protected. She really wants to consider staying over, but is terrified to leave me, and rightfully so.

    Now, I'm not ready for her to be away from my food allergy supervision, either.
    BUT.
    I told her that one day when she is up to it again, she could go spend the night at a friend's. But from now on, she brings not just pjs and a change of clothes, but a box. And in that box is her own pot, her own fork, spoon, bowl and plate so that she can rest assured it is not cross-contaminated.

    In that box are not one, but six packets of instant organic oatmeal so she can have oatmeal with applesauce or mango as much as she likes as a snack or breakfast. And yes, in that box is plenty of safe brands of applesauce, and plenty of mangos. In that box are cloth napkins from home. In that box is a bag of dried, safe beans of her choice so that she can have that for dinner, and as much as she likes, along with vegetables of her choice that are safe, to put in that soup. All the host has to do is put water in the pot, and set it on the stove, and VOILA hosting a kid with such freaky things going on is now easy.

    However. Let's face it: this kid is going nowhere anytime soon.

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    2/6/17

    Off Grid Prefab House Lies Low At The Modern Homestead With An Alpha Gal Kid.

    We have been limping along day by day back at the net zero passive solar modern prefab house with Pip 2, who is still reacting to high histamine foods / any random food, although we have not thankfully triggered her alpha gal or had any ER visits this week.

    I spent time writing down some key points and information and delivering it to friends in our Amish community so that *everyone* here has this information. None of the Amish (nor most of the English) here know what alpha gal is, much less the ties to high histamine intolerance, so I continue to try to document as our child stabilizes (and often, reacts). Every day is different.

    On to off grid living.
    As I often note, our solar system for the off grid prefab house is *minimal*- what they refer to as "The Weekend Cabin Package." But it has served us really well, for years now, as long as we are willing to conserve energy, and isn't that what this lifestyle is all about?

    If only more of us could embrace living with less energy consumption.

    Starting with energy efficient everything changes the game, from the energy efficiency of the modern prefab SIP house to the lightbulbs.

    By looking at energy consumption of everything we bring into the net zero prefab house, we are already ahead- laptops, light bulbs, systems decisions, appliances... the first thing we look at is its energy consumption. Outfitting the modern prefab with energy efficiency considered in everything means you can come over for a visit and not even notice we're off grid on *minimal* systems. If you stopped in unexpectedly, you'd find us telecommuting, and the Pips busy on their laptops with algebra and history... and in the evening, I hate to admit: often, three different movies being watched on three different screens.

    These days the Pips are in the city as often as the country. They are teens. They want to be with their herd. We work it out, flexibly, and it makes them appreciate both the country -and- city. Here's something I noticed: when Pip 1 is away, the battery bank, on an average winter sunny day, recharges itself by lunch. When he's here, it never recharges completely.
    A MYSTERY.

    I will be looking at his laptop upon his return. We are all, except he, on Chromebooks - and only plug in the computers to recharge, vs. just having them plugged in all the time.

    It's amazing how little things can have such a huge impact on your off grid solar system, no? And by taking the time to investigate it, and run your household as energy-efficiently as possible, how large and amazing your life can be on so. little. power consumption.
    In the meantime, it is so heartening to see the off grid house recharged by lunchtime, daily, even in winter!
    Temperatures went back down into the teens, but the cook stove didn't stay lit when we went to bed. We still awoke to our usual 66 degrees inside the prefab house...
    We even had a light brushing of snow!
    A Brag! Modern design with folk!
    I love to brag on my friends, because I love them. And boy does my dear friend and amazing surface and textile pattern designer Katja Ollendorff earn the kudos that are coming from San Francisco! Awhile back she won the Minted design challenge to create a mural- their first outside art challenge!
    Her submission.
    And this week, the mural was realized. If you are in San Francisco, go see it!!!
    Just amazing!!!
    Reading Club:
    Every Week We Struggle To Stabilize Pip 2 Is Another I'm Grateful For Homeschool.
    That smile is because she's 95% done with 7th grade math, 24% done with Algebra I (which she's not supposed to start until the summer), two weeks ahead on social studies and history (due to finish the year 3/31), 65% done with her HTML class... Kudos, Pip 2, to staying ahead of school despite alpha gal and high histamine reactions... she is SUCH a brave kid.
    Each day you have to look for the good moments.
    Sometimes it might just be ten seconds of
    energy, but that was TEN SECONDS.
    TAKE IT.

    Since our daughter started having issues weeks ago, I have eaten what doesn't work for her so that there is no food waste. In the past weeks I have eaten a lot of sweet potatoes, white beans, overly boiled skinless chicken, and overcooked rice. THANK YOU this weekend for something I have never appreciated: THE SUPER BOWL (I don't even watch football): because it is a day filled with savory, cheesy, bad for you tasty food. HALLELUJAH.

    BRING ON THE JALAPENO CHILLI CHEDDAR BEEF NACHOS PLEASE... I want a bloomin' onion. Gimme some Velveeta cheese dip... Ok nevermind I haven't sunk that low! Fake foods, yuck, but yes please pass the spicy chicken wings... I am *craving* taste, fat, cheese, crafted larder foods... BBQ with homemade cole slaw.

    I'm also craving really *fresh* food- salads and herbs and raw food, as she seems to need everything overcooked. I want Vietnamese food. Thai. KOREAN. Spicy, savory, seared, tangy freshness.

    In the meantime I am feeding my kid oatmeal, quinoa, cabbage... and I eat the leftovers. 
    I'm trying to get back into working out, especially with all this eating of bland starchy food.
    However, this new gym partner isn't working out so well...
    "Why are you on the floor?
    Are you taking a nap?
    Great idea!"

    We might be in a town o' population 40, but as you can see, it is always bustling, and full of helpers.
    Handsome Husband and his helpers changing the oil.

    Hope you have a great week. And always, lots of helpers.

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