Online Sustainability Tour
Is Lost Valley a Model Ecovillage? Figuring out how to “green” a previously developed site offers a real-world design challenge that can be just as educational as touring a model ecovillage. In 1989, Lost Valley inherited a site that was already developed by previous owners who used few ecological design or permaculture techniques. With limited resources for new building projects, much of the site unfortunately still reﬂects these non-ecological design decisions made by the previous owners. However, the community has been actively “greening” the site in a number of ways, some visible and some “behind the scenes.” These improvements have included energy and water efficiency measures planting gardens and trees, composting, and land restoration. The Ecovillage and Permaculture Certiﬁcate Programs offer participants the opportunity to learn about the real challenges as well as inspirations that are part of the ecovillage vision. Please visit the programs of Camassia Institute for Sustainable Communities to learn more about our innovative courses.
Please enjoy our Sustainability Tour of Lost Valley, marked by engraved signs placed at various locations around the property. And let us know what you think!
Download a copy of this tour here
The Ecological Beneﬁts of Cooperative Living
At Lost Valley Educational Center the sharing of resources, facilities, and daily activities produces many beneﬁts: Buying large quantities of food, cleaning supplies, and other common resources reduces the amount of waste in packaging and transport. Many amenities (such as laundry facilities, kitchen, electronics, etc.) are shared and often used cooperatively, saving on both embodied energy from manufacturing individual items and total energy consumed in the ongoing use of them. Our community is designed to encourage biking/ walking whenever possible. We conserve land though shared parking areas and decrease the amount of driving through carpooling. Because various employment opportunities, recreational opportunities, and housing are all available on site, most residents do not need to drive on a typical day.
Our cob kiosk, designed and built during a workshop in the mid-1990s, serves as a place for visitors
to gather before tours and to obtain information. It is an organic, welcoming presence to all who drive, bike, or walk in. The positioning of this structure leaves it open to prevailing storms, but also most suitable for welcoming guests. Cob is a mixture of high-clay-content soil, sand, straw, and sometimes other additives like manure. It is a nontoxic, reusable and recyclable building material that can be easily sculpted. Instead of being formed in blocks like adobe bricks, cob is formed by hand and applied while wet in “cobs” which then adhere together to form a one-piece structure. The kiosk roof and supporting posts come from trees selectively thinned from our land. The earthen plaster ﬁnish is coated with linseed oil.
This room contains a reference library of books about ecology, ecologically-conscious living, self-reliance skills, Permaculture, gardening, and related subjects. It is also used for showing videos pertaining to these topics, and as a breakout room and design space, during our Ecovillage and Permaculture Design courses. Here students gather to brainstorm ideas and come up with working designs for various projects within the community, as well as to use the computers to do coursework, check email, and do internet research. This room is also used by community members and interns for similar purposes, as well as for games and other social interactions. Note also the three-dimensional map of our property in the walkway across from the Eco-Resource Room entrance.
We plan to furnish both this ﬂoor and the one in the conference room directly across the walkway with wood that has been selectively thinned from our forest. (As of May 2008, the date of this engraving, the wood has been harvested, dried, and is being prepared to be used as ﬂooring.)
Ofﬁce and Classroom Energy Use
The classrooms, Eco-Resource Room, and ofﬁces are heated with electric heaters. Heating and refrigeration generally consume more energy than most other electrical uses. Electrical generating plants, whether powered by dams, coal, natural gas, nuclear, or some other fuel, have numerous environmental impacts, as do other elements of the electrical grid. Buildings designed to be heated by wood, passive solar, or geothermal sources generally have much smaller ecological footprints. Lost Valley’s major buildings were built without planning for energy sources such as these.
We conserve electricity by regulating the heaters using timed thermostats, heating only during typical hours of use, and using radiant heaters which warm the occupants directly rather than the air. The clerestory windows have had clear plastic “storm windows” added so that warm air does not all rise up to that unoccupied space. Wherever possible, we replace incandescent bulbs with compact ﬂuorescent lights.
Computer Energy Savings
We also aim to conserve energy through our choice of our computer equipment. Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) computer monitors consume much more energy (at least 80% more) than laptop or stand-alone Liquid Crystal Diode (LCD) monitors. While we use some LCD monitors, most of our computers are used machines from NextStep Recycling in Eugene and Free Geek in Portland. This saves on the embodied energy within manufacture. Additional ways to save energy Turn computers off when they are not in use. Switching computers off and on does not harm them, or shorten their expected life. The same is true with printers, scanners, and other computer equipment. Use ink jet printers as opposed to laser printers and set the print default mode to double sided, or single sided using recycled paper.
The classroom ﬂoor is made from local, sustainably harvested Douglas ﬁ r from Cascadia Forest Goods. It is protected by a natural ﬁnish of linseed oil and beeswax. Certiﬁcation for sustainably grown and harvested wood products is one outgrowth of the eco-forestry movement whose ﬁrst major conference was held at Lost Valley in 1989. We manage our own woods using eco-forestry techniques that involve careful selection of trees to be cut, thinning rather than clear-cutting, and assuring that total wood volume in each stand continues to increase every year (removing less annually than the total volume of wood put on in a year).
In this respect the integrity of the forest remains intact and the harvesting of wood is viewed as “sustainable,” but it still requires energy to obtain, prepare, and transport. We further minimize environmental impacts by emphasizing human- and horse-power in managing our woods, and by utilizing forest products and by-products on site.
A Bike/Pedestrian-Friendly Community
In daily life at Lost Valley, walking and bicycling are the easiest forms of transportation. Members who live and work on site have no need to commute to work by anything other than human-powered means. Roads and driveways take up very little of our 87 acres and cars are conﬁ ned mostly to a few shared parking lots. Instead of roads and pavement (with their associated hydrological, biological, and other environmental impacts), our land is crisscrossed by foot trails that have signiﬁcantly fewer negative effects on wildlife, vegetation, soil stability, water absorption, etc. In the U.S. the human activity with the single greatest direct environmental impact is driving. Most vehicle miles are generated within a few miles of people’s homes for regular daily and weekly tasks. Designing communities so that people are encouraged to walk or bike for their daily needs is one of the greatest ways to reduce environmental impacts, address global warming, and lower the consumption of fossil fuels.
Solar Hot Water
These solar hot water panels pre-heat the water used in the lodge, as well as the nearby bath and laundry facilities. Black surfaces (in this case black painted copper tubing) convert light into heat, which is transferred to the water inside them. The clear glazing (glass, ﬁ berglass, or plastic) allows the passage of the sun’s rays, but traps most of the infrared radiation (heat) created when those rays hit the dark surfaces. The hot water then thermosyphons (rises in pipes through processes of convection) into an insulated holding tank where it is ready for use in our main water system. This solar hot water system is a form of passive solar technology which bypasses the use of electricity altogether. Other examples of passive solar energy use are the day lighting and natural solar heating of buildings.
The cabins were built by Shiloh Youth Revival Center, the community which preceded us on this land.
We have since been retroﬁtting them with additional insulation in the ﬂoors, walls, and ceilings (much of it ﬁberglass insulation recycled from previous endeavors). Additional energy saving techniques include extra glazing on the windows during cold seasons, caulking of gaps around doors and windows, timers on relatively efﬁcient models of oil-ﬁlled electric heaters, and compact ﬂuorescent bulbs. The modest size of these cabins allows them to heat faster and encourages a less-consumptive lifestyle due to space limitations. In some cabins we have replaced carpet (petroleum-based, difficult to recycle, and associated with poor indoor air quality) with more economical and environmentally friendly materials such as Oriented Strand Board. We also use low-volatile-organic-compounds paint whenever possible.
Our bike shed was constructed in 2005 using poles from our Douglas ﬁ r woods, where trees were growing more densely than would be natural in a mixed-age forest. Our woods on either side of the driveway and in the cabin/dormitory areas are for the most part evenaged, the result of cutting in the 1930s and 1940s. Through our forestry practices, we are attempting to speed their return to the mixed-species, mixed-age forest that existed here naturally before clear cutting and other highly extractive forestry techniques became widespread. Bicycles are the preferred mode of transportation for many of our residents and the location of this shed allows easy access from main areas within the community. Many residents own bikes, but Lost Valley also provides bicycles that are intended for community use. If you see one with black stripes, you can hop on for a ride. We also have a bike shop within our main shop building where residents can go to repair/replace parts.
Cob Phone Booth
Our cob phone booth employs the same building style as our cob entrance kiosk. This structure combines several functions under one roof, including a resting place, shelter, phone booth, oven, and (in back) a storage area. Compared with adobe, it uses the same basic proportion of clay to sand, but usually has a higher percentage of long straw ﬁ bers mixed in. Because of all the straw, cob can be slightly more insulating than adobe, but it still has relatively low insulation value and high thermal mass. It is an excellent storage medium for thermal energy (perfect for inside properly-designed, passively-heated buildings), while also possessing signiﬁ cant storage capacity for moisture. Due to the fact that it is not uniform in substance, cob is an unlikely candidate for structural support in residential buildings.
Reusing and Recycling
Permaculture encourages us to turn waste into resources. Whenever possible, we reuse items rather than sending them to the dump. Our free box room serves as a no-cost, second-hand exchange center where residents leave clothing or other goods to be taken by others who want or need them. What is not taken from the free box room after a few weeks is donated to a local agency which helps the needy. We avoid purchasing newly manufactured products whenever an alternative will serve just as well. We acquire many items, including clothing, kitchen items, and building materials, at second-hand stores and at BRING Recycling (541-746-3023, email@example.com). We minimize the amount of trash we generate by buying in bulk and in reusable containers, and by consuming only as much as we need. Our food choices (unprocessed whole foods purchased in quantity, and produce grown on site or locally whenever possible) also help minimize the amount of waste we generate. All recyclable material is collected in our designated recycling bins.
While front-loaders are more expensive to purchase than top-loaders, they typically have lower life-cycle costs due to savings in energy, water, and detergent. The machines here paid themselves back in energy savings within two years of purchase. Our horizontal- spin, frontloading clothes washer requires roughly 40 % less energy, water, and detergent than conventional top-loading machines. The energy savings are mostly due to the reduced heating of water, less energy required to agitate the load, and reduced strain on the pumps in LVEC’s water system. Horizontal-spin machines are not only inherently more efﬁcient, they also treat the laundry much more gently, slowing the wear and tear noticeably.
Washing Machine Sustainability tips:
Run full loads only.
Set on “fast spin” (getting rid of moisture though spinning takes a fraction of the energy used to generate hot air in a dryer).
Wash on “cold/cold” if clothing is not too dirty.
As long as the sun is shining (even when cold), we ask that you use clothing lines or drying racks to dry clothes.
If you do have to use the dryer, choose one of the two moisture-sensor modes (“IntelliDry”).
Lodge Energy Savings
a) Skylights reduce the need for artiﬁcial lighting, although they slightly increase heat loss.
b) Light-colored walls reﬂect light and further reduce the need for artiﬁcial lighting.
c) Compact ﬂuorescent bulbs in all ﬁxtures greatly reduce electricity use per lumen.
d) The ceiling fan directs hot air from the woodstove back down into the living space.
e) The woodstove fan circulates hot air from the woodstove throughout the room. This fan runs on an
electrical current generated by the heat of the woodstove itself.
f) A whole-house fan is used to draw in cooler out- side air when inside temperatures are uncomfortably high.
g) Curtains on the windows hold in heat during cold periods.
h) Double-glazed windows also hold in heat during cold periods. An extra layer of plastic on the
windows allows light to pass through but creates an insulating layer of air between the glass and the plastic. This then slows the passage of heat out of the building.
i) The insulated hot water dispenser saves on energy otherwise used to boil multiple kettles of tea.
The lodge ﬂooring is made from certiﬁed sustainably harvested Oregon oak (Quercus garryana), from southern Oregon, obtained through Mike Barnes of Cascadia Forest Goods (541-485-4477, firstname.lastname@example.org). It is protected by a natural ﬁnish of linseed oil and beeswax and was installed by residents at Lost Valley with the guidance of an experienced ﬂoorer. As mentioned with the classroom ﬂoor, using wood from a “sustainably managed forest” assures that the lumber doesn’t come from a clear-cut, but from a forest managed to standards which “ensure long-term health and productivity, protection of wildlife habitat and water quality, while also providing social beneﬁts such as employment.” (See www.certiﬁedwood.org.)
Our lodge is heated with wood, a renewable local resource. Firewood comes from downed trees, from Douglas ﬁ rs that are encroaching on the oak savanna we are trying to preserve, from thinning of overcrowded even-aged stands, and from salvaging/gleaning downed trees and on-the-ground ﬁrewood material from other sites. Obtaining it often involves the use of fossil fuels, which we try to minimize by using a wheelbarrow for transportation and splitting the wood by hand. This ensures that each piece of ﬁrewood has warmed us multiple times by the time we actually burn it. Although a good alternative source of heat, wood burning does have environmental costs. It causes pollution through the release of particulate matter into the atmosphere and contributes to global warming through the release of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. The woodstove here is certiﬁed to be low in emissions. Once the ﬁre is established, the catalytic converter above becomes engaged, causing gases to burn up more efﬁciently. Proper use of the woodstove further reduces the environmental impact of operating it.
Kitchen and Haybox Cooking
Our community kitchen is vegetarian and feeds roughly 10-150 people every day. Cooking meat is an option at Lost Valley, but it is restricted to our guesthouse kitchen across the way. In addition to sunlight entering through two tubular skylights, we use compact ﬂorescent bulbs for lighting. Cooking is done mostly with propane, although there is a solar cooker on site near the meadow. All food waste at Lost Valley is fed to our chickens, or collected for one of our compost piles located in the gardens. Large energy savings (up to 80%) are achieved through the use of hayboxes, also known as retained heat cookers. Food retains more ﬂavor and nutrition because it doesn’t spend as long at maximum temperature, and because more of the juices are kept in the pot. Unlike stovetops, hayboxes do not burn food, and will generally remain hot until serving without overcooking. Haybox cooking is as fast, or almost as fast, as on a stovetop: 1 to 1.5 the normal stovetop cooking time.
Haybox Use and Design
Grains, beans, soups, and other items are brought to a boil on the stove, simmered for 5 to 15 minutes, then placed in the haybox to complete their cooking. Because less water is lost as vapor during the cook- ing process, we reduce the amount of water added to grains by one-quarter. (For example, rice takes 1 and ½ cups instead of 2 cups of water per cup of grain.)
Because the haybox is using the thermal mass of the food for heat storage during the cooking process, it is important to cook an adequate amount of food in relation to haybox size for satisfactory results. (For hay- boxes the size of ours, a minimum of 7 cups of grain needs to be cooked.) In conventional cooking, any heat applied to the pot after the food reaches boiling
temperatures is merely replacing heat lost to the air by the pot. The haybox works on the principle that if the heat applied to food in the cooking process can be retained rather than lost, no replacement heat is needed to keep the food cooking. Haybox cooking works best with large quantities,and with a good match between pot size and haybox size. Most hayboxes are variations on a simple design: a plywood shell (reused) and styrofoam (reused) or other insulating materials (e.g., hay (!), well-encapsulated ﬁ berglass, feathers, wool, cellulose, etc.) glued to the inside. The inside face is covered with a highly-reﬂ ective Mylar (or the less durable aluminum foil used here).
Local and Organic Food
We obtain our food locally whenever possible, and take advantage of free resources that would otherwise be thrown away. Because Lost Valley is a conference center, our food purchases vary signiﬁcantly depending on the people we are serving. For example we obtain raw goat milk from nearby Fern Ridge Dairy for our own personal consumption, and purchase organic cow milk for visitors. Some of our produce comes from our gardens, but amounts ﬂ uctuate from month to month. Certain crops, such as garlic, greens, and squash, are abundant most of the year, while others, such as cucumbers and fresh tomatoes, are seasonal. Additional produce comes from nearby farms and other organic sources. Sometimes local producers are too small to afford certiﬁcation, but embody even higher levels of sustainability in their practices. We grow a variety of berries and other fruits, many of which are used for food preservation in the summer and fall. The majority of our bread is homemade, or is obtained for free from a local bakery that would otherwise have thrown it away. We supplement the eggs from our chickens with those from surrounding farms and/or other organic sources. Other locally sourced foods arise seasonally and include things like seaweed, wild mushrooms, and nettles.
Water and Waste System
Our water comes from wells across the creek, and is triple-treated (with low-level chlorination, ultraviolet ﬁltering, and often tap ﬁlters as well) to remove possible contaminants. None of Lost Valley’s wastewater or sewage is being treated in a central Waste Water Treatment Plant (WWTP). Similar in its function to small residential graywater systems, the wastewater is instead pumped into a system of subterranean pipes in our new forest, where it seeps into the ground.
There, microbes and other organisms take advantage of the nutrients in the “waste,” while the puriﬁed water recharges our local ground water. While efﬁcient in their operation, conventional WWTPs still use large amounts of chemicals and energy to treat waste water, while also generating large amounts of sewage sludge, which typically gets incinerated or applied as fertilizer on farms (still causing some chemical pollution there).
Waste Water Sustainability tips:
Only use 100% biodegradable soaps, shampoos, detergents, etc.
Keep rain water out of sewage system; instead, let it inﬁltrate right on site.
Passive Solar Wood Shed
This is used as a dry shelter for storing green ﬁrewood while it becomes seasoned, as well as wood
that is ready to burn but is not yet needed. It is also equipped with hooks that are used for bicycle storage. The structure is made from recycled wood and ﬁtted with a glass window that faces southwest. The orientation of the window works well for capturing afternoon sunlight, as well as protecting wood from incoming rain. Wood is an amazingly dense source of BTUs (British Thermal Units), but as the moisture content goes up, heating value decreases. Sixty percent of the fuel value of ﬁrewood can be used in driving the moisture off. For this reason, ﬁrewood must be seasoned 6-9 months before being used. Various species of wood differ in their heating value based on their relative density. Those that are higher in density (weight per unit of volume) contain higher BTUs and therefore have greater burning value. Oak is an example of wood that is high in density and BTUs, meaning it burns well. Low-heat ﬁrewoods include willows, basswood, cottonwood, and yellow (tulip) poplar.
Shop, Wood Processing and Storage
This building serves as an area for processing and storing wood, as well as for ongoing maintenance/ repair projects within the community. Large logs are processed using an electric wood cutter, while pieces small enough to be split by hand are cut to size by community members. Although we do harvest wood from Lost Valley forests, we often need to supplement this with additional sources. We obtain wood from nearby sites that have downed trees or salvageable scrap wood. The other component of this facility is our shop, where a variety of gadgets, tools, and appliances are ﬁxed, re-used, re-shaped, and re-designed. Maintenance is performed by community members and it is our habitual policy to ﬁ x or salvage before buying new. If an immediate purpose for something is not realized, it moves to our resource yard, which contains an abundance of used parts and materials. Things recognized as completely unusable or unsafe go to the local dump. We follow the principle of “best use” for wood. We use the highest grade for structural and/or visible building materials, burn lower-grade wood, and bury unusable and unburnable rotten wood to create landscaping forms that improve the soil for plants.
Cordwood construction utilizes short, round pieces of wood, similar to what would normally be considered ﬁrewood. As a result, this method of alternative building can be very resource efﬁcient,making use of wood that would otherwise be considered less valuable and burnt. Cordwood construction combines properties of both insulation and thermal mass. The mass comes from the masonry mortar that is used to cement the logs together, and the insulation from the wood itself and from the wood-shaving inﬁ ll between the inner and outer layers of mortar. We collected wood for our sauna on site; other possible sources of useful scrapwood include local saw mills, furniture/log home building companies, and neighbors. This sauna provides a warm social setting for community members/guests, who might otherwise drive to area hot springs. Because of this building’s relatively high thermal mass, it takes a long time to heat and then radiates heat for a long time. In retrospect, because most people spend comparatively brief periods in a sauna, a “light and tight” building method, with low thermal mass and high insulation, would probably be a better match for a sauna. We are continually learning from our experiments.
Solar Shower by Hot Tub
Our solar shower uses only solar energy to heat the water inside the black panels. The black surfaces convert short-wave solar energy (light) into long-wave energy (heat), which is then trapped by the greenhouse effect provided by the glass panes. The hot water tank is well insulated, keeping the water hot overnight, and can hold enough hot water for up to 20 showers. With direct sun exposure, the water heats up to about 140 degrees F, while on slightly overcast days it can reach 90-100 degrees F. This design also returns waste water directly into the ground, helping to recharge the ground water and keep the living shower stall walls (willow) in good health. When using this system, it is important to use only 100% biodegradable soaps and shampoos. Solar hot water systems are cost-effective for most households (for sinks, showers, laundry, and dishwashers), especially when replacing electricity for hot water generation.
Redwood Hot Tub
Our redwood hot tub was a donation to Lost Valley and is equipped with a wood-ﬁ red submersible stove, eliminating the need for electricity or propane entirely. It takes roughly 4-5 hours to heat the tub from 45 F to 103 F, and on sunny days, we can ﬁ ll the hot tub partially with hot water from the solar shower storage tank. Since the tub is cleaned and re-ﬁlled before each extended use, no chemicals or ﬁltration are required. The hot tub is used roughly twice per month, warming people up on cold nights and providing an intimate social setting where members/guests are able to relax and have fun. Use of the hot tub often allows us to avoid the burning of fossil fuels via trips to area hot springs.
Hot Tub Dressing Area/Wood Storage
This multi-purpose ﬁrewood shed was built in 2006 by our summer/fall Ecovillage and Permaculture Certiﬁcate Program participants, aided by community members. The shed’s location allows wood to be easily accessed for use in our hot tub stove and also makes it a convenient space for hot-tub users to change and hang clothes. The passive solar design helps to dry the wood. To avoid using concrete, we employed a Japanese-style stone foundation, joined with rebar posts that were individually carved to ﬁt the stone structure. The frame was constructed using selectively thinned Douglas ﬁ r from on site, supported with salvaged metal poles for the interior. This was followed by a clay/straw inﬁ ll and adobe exterior ﬁnish. Cattail ﬁbers were mixed into the adobe to improve its binding properties.
Papercrete is a form of natural building that incorporates re-pulped paper ﬁber with cement, clay, and/or other soil. When cement is added, this material is not as ecologically friendly, but it is perhaps a reasonable tradeoff for what papercrete can offer. The paper can be sourced in a variety of ways, many of which are free. Materials such as newspaper, junk mail, magazines, and books are all viable sources for papercrete construction. Papercrete is a stable material that can withstand taking in moisture, followed by drying out in variable temperatures. Papercrete is also resistant to insect and pest infestations and is highly insulative. Although it does not encourage ﬂ ames, it will smolder for days if it does catch ﬁ re. The more cement and mineral material that is added to the mix, the more ﬁre-proof it becomes. However, it does have a tendency to wick moisture upwards from the ground, especially if it is buried in dirt, so it should be build on a foundation. If it remains wet for too long, it will support mold and can become soft, leading to deterioration. This papercrete building encloses the pumps that send Lost Valley’s wastewater into a system of subterranean pipes in our new forest, where it seeps into the ground.
There are two dormitory facilities, a smaller and a larger one, which can accommodate up to 44 and 70 people respectively if all available bunk beds are ﬁlled. These buildings were inherited from Shiloh Youth Revival Center, and although structurally they remain the same, we have retroﬁtted them to meet our needs and increase energy efﬁciency. Selective thinning of the surrounding forest let in more light, thereby reducing problems associated with cold, dampness, mold, and danger from falling limbs and trees. Rooms have been ﬁtted with individual space heaters; any additional heating is set on timers to reduce electricity consumption. Water heaters are heavily insulated, allowing a reliable source of hot water, and are turned off when not in use. The dormitories have ample space in the hallways, which allows for line-drying of clothes when- ever possible.
Photovoltaics (PV) convert sunlight into electricity which can be used immediately, stored in batteries, or fed back into the power grid. Such a system re- quires no moving parts and can operate (albeit with reduced efﬁciency) even on overcast days. These two panels can produce up to 84 Watts during full sun- shine. A charge controller and batteries buffer during times of high generation/low demand and vice-versa, enabling this small system to provide enough power for one person’s basic electrical needs all year-round. Before equipping households with PV systems, it is more cost effective to install highly energy efﬁcient appliances (especially fridges, washers, dryers, stoves, lights, hot water heaters).
Photovoltaics: Pluses and Minuses
After initial setup, solar power is pollution-free. Photovoltaics are cost-effective where grid connection or fuel transport is difﬁcult, costly, or impossible (for example, in island communities, remote locations, and ocean vessels). Operating costs are relatively low compared to existing power technologies (studies have shown that it takes only 5 years in this cloudy climate to save the same amount of energy required to produce them). Photovoltaics facilitate a shift of power from centralized companies back to citizens, as well as an improved resiliency of the power grid.
Photovoltaics can be more expensive than other energy sources. Panels generate less than maximum power during cloudy conditions, and none at night. A storage or complimentary power system may be required. Production of panels leads to some pollution. Placement of photovoltaics can affect the environment. If located where photosynthesizing plants would normally grow, they substitute one potentially renewable resource (biomass) with another. To counteract this effect, PV cells can be placed on the sides of buildings or fences, rooftops, etc.
The basic design of this solar cooker consists of the solar collector/reﬂector (upper part), and a well-insulated cooking box under glass. Sun rays are collected and re-directed from the reﬂector into the heat-absorbing cooking box, taking advantage of the greenhouse effect (visible short-wave radiation from the sun being converted into long-wave thermal radiation: heat). There the food is cooked at a safe temperature, preferably within dark-colored pots. While slower than stoves with burners, this simple technology doesn’t cause any of the environmental impacts produced by
concentrated forms of energy (e.g., fossil fuels, photovoltaic, or wind power). Solar cookers work whenever there is sun (even on cold days), as long as the food is given sufﬁcient time to cook. This method is great for preparing small or large quantities of a great variety of foods, including grains, beans, vegetables, soups, meats, baked goods, and even canned goods. Solar cookers can also be used to pasteurize drinking water and sanitize dishes. As with haybox cooking, water added to grains or beans can be reduced by up to one-quarter, because not as much water vapor is lost through vigorous boiling. Re-focusing the cooker periodically throughout the day will improve cooking conditions by gathering the maximum amount of sunlight. There are many different designs for solar cookers, all of which work given the right conditions.
Graywater System by Outdoor Kitchen
The red barn operates as living and storage space, as well as an outdoor kitchen and classroom in the spring/summer months. Wastewater from the sink drains into a salvaged bathtub, which is ﬁlled with perennial grasses that absorb and ﬁlter the water. As water seeps through the bathtub, it then moves through a constructed swale containing additional water-loving species. The solar shower opposite the red barn is an additional source of graywater. It is surrounded by willows, iris, and other water loving species that in addition to ﬁltering graywater, act as a living privacy screen around the shower. Graywater is water that ﬂows down sink, shower, and washing machine drains–but not the toilet. If released untreated, graywater containing nitrates and phosphates (from household cleaning products) can pollute rivers and ground water, but to garden plants, they are valuable nutrients. Aside from the obvious beneﬁts of saving water (and money on your water bill), reusing your graywater keeps it from polluting local bodies of water and reconnects you and your garden to the natural water cycle.
This duck hide (similar to a duck blind, but used for observation rather than hunting) allows residents/ guests of LV to relax and enjoy waterfowl that visit our pond, without being noticed by the birds themselves. It also serves as a place for residents to sleep during the warmer months of the year. The structure was constructed in a style called “pajareque” from long bundles of straw covered in clay, which have been woven among numerous thin Cascara poles. Cascara is an abundant species within our forest, and most of the poles used in our fences and other building projects such as this come from downed or selectively thinned trees on site. Establishment of the main structure was followed by two consecutive layers of cob (sand, clay and straw). A clay slip coat was then applied to the outside of the material. The pond across from the duck hide serves as an excavation site for much of the clay used in building projects at Lost Valley. We increase our pond size while harvesting local building materials.
Forest gardening can be an extremely productive form of land use. Designed to imitate the workings of a natural forest, a forest garden is arranged in storeys, with large fruit trees occupying the “canopy” and other variable sized plants throughout the lower tiers. For example:
1) Canopy: standard or half-standard fruit trees
2) Low tree layer: fruit and nut trees on dwarﬁng rootstocks
3) Shrub layer: bushes and shrubs
4) Herbaceous layer: herbs and perennial vegetables
5) Ground cover layer
6) Rhizosphere: shade-tolerant and winter root plants
7) Vertical layer: climbers, vines
The most crucial element of any forest garden is diversity. Signiﬁcant diversity prevents pest invasions from spreading rapidly, and allows symbiotic relationships to ﬂourish. The majority of plants are either perennials or actively self-seeding annuals/biennials, and once established require little or no watering or fertilizing. Their deep roots draw up water and minerals from the subsoil, beneﬁting both themselves and surrounding plants. Planting edible legumes will ﬁ x nitrogen into the soil, and other mineral-accumulating species can enrich the soil further. Perennial herbs quickly spread as ground cover, suppressing other weeds while serving as a source of mulch for neighboring plants. The diversity of a well-planned and developed forest garden creates a stable, healthy system that supplies an abundance of food/materials while requiring minimal energy input and maintenance.
This tour was created with help from Aimee Carson, Marc Tobin, Chris Roth, Rick Valley, and Peter Reppe, 2007-2008.