I'd like to believe I'm a good writer, but there some ecovillage images that even the most eloquent prose cannot adequately describe. I thought I'd devote this entry to some of the more intriguing structures in the community- with more to follow.
This is the most "fully equipped" home at Dancing Rabbit. It currently serves a family of five (three boys) that moved to the village from New York State several years ago. In this picture alone you can view many of its most important features. The photovoltaic panels on the roof supply energy to a full kitchen that most American families would regard as perfectly normal. It's one of the only 'single-family' dwelling with its own kitchen. You can also see a small portion of the home's garden on the left. The north side of the house (opposite this face) is bermed (bascially, built into an earth mound) from which the family extracts much of their produce for the year. On the right, that rolling cart looking aparatus is a solar dehydrator used for drying foods.
The pipe protruding from the roof is the exhaust system for the wood burning stove. Heat from the stove circulates throughout the floors and walls to heat the surfaces that people use instead of the air with which we never come in contact. It's also much more energy efficient. This concetp is called "radiant" heating. According to the owner, heating the building through the winter requires "about $20 in firewood per year." Between winters and summers, the house doesn't fluctuate much beyond 68 and 75 degrees with the exception of a few extreme days during the year. This is all accomplished through VERY tight insulation and thermal mass systems.
2. The Gnome Dome, or "Gnome Castle"
Your eyes are not fooling you. Enter that small brown door, and you'll immediately descend four feet into a circular room, about 12 feet in diameter, with cob walls and gravel floor. I regret not getting a photo of the inside. I'll get one soon for all my loyal readers, but suffice it to say that space is tight in Gnome Castle. A wood stove takes up most of the center of the room and there's maybe enough room to lay down and store some stuff. Currently, devoid of any personal belongings, it makes a great hangout spot. The builder of the dome has set up a small loft for storage and my friend Aaron, who plans to inhabit the dome in the long run, has mentioned that the loft will work well as a desk at which he cand stand. The dome light at the top lets in light all day and, on a clear night, you can star gaze from inside. Since it's embedded in the ground, it remains a pretty constant temperate with minimal regulation during the summer. It's a great escape from the heat. It probably does a decent job in the winter, but I'm not positive. I do know there are some mold problems that will need to be fixed pretty quickly. But this problem may have something to do with the places unfinished state. Nevertheless, it's a GNOME DOME, and who can't get behind that?!
3. The Pooper
I've mentioned the pooper in previous blogs and I believe a picture is due. This is where the magic happens. This little enclosure is attached to the northwest side of Ironweed Kitchen (see entry from a few weeks ago). As described in prior entries, the process isn't desperately different from operating a flush toilet. Hiding inside that wood barrel, below a very normal toilet seat, is a five gallon bucket. You drop your contribution (liquid and solid) into the bucket, whipe, and then cover it all with a scoop of sawdust which you can find in the bucket on the left. The poop bucket is switched with an empty bucket once it's they're nearly full, and full buckets are delievered to a compost pile on-site during each week.
You might be surprised to find that the most pungent smell this very small room (which serves as the chicken coop when there are chickens) is sawdust. With the lid closed and the poop covered, the stench is really no worse than a flush toilet.
Interestingly, during the summer the pooper is the coolest room in the entire building. It has super thick strawbale walls (which you can see on the left edge of the photo) and no windows. As long as the door stays shut during the day, there's really no way for heat to get in. During the night, we open the door (place the bucket over the toilet seat) and allow the cool air to infiltrate. Therefore, bathroom breaks have become a sort of a literal "cool down."