It's a pretty amazing story, how a man, and his family were able to transform a barren sandy dustbowl farm into a low land prairie. They planted among other things, thirty thousand pine trees in the course of 10 years.
Central to his philosophy is the idea that community extends not just to man and his creations, but also to the soil, to trees, to wildlife, what he broadly referred to as "the land."
While his story is fascinating, what I found particularly interesting was the efforts to make the center as green as possible. They succeeded and they were awarded a Platinum Leed energy certification. I think sustainable gardening has a natural association with sustainable living in general. This building was built using the timber planted years ago by the Leopolds.
This is the main exhibit space. The timbers are all property grown.
Here is some beam detail from near the reception area.
In addition to using site grown lumber, they make extensive use of photovoltaic systems. There are 198 panels on the roof producing 50 thousand kilowatt hours of energy a year. Enough to power about 5 average homes in the area!
While looking at the roof I also spied a passive solar water heating system.
From the sun to the earth, the center makes use of available resources, resources that are older than humankind. For heating and cooling the Center makes extensive use of passive geothermal technologies with both earth tubes for fresh air as well as running glycol through the concrete floors after circulating it in pipes in the ground. Using the constant temperature of the earth means there is a much smaller heating or cooling delta. For example, the the compared to the outside air with ranges from -20F to 95F, air that has traveled through the 600 linear foot and 5000 square foot system has a minimum temperature of 17F and a maximum of 74F. That's a reduction of about 50 degrees of heating.The air tubes are very subtle. Inside the building, air grates blend in with the decor.
Outside and air intake blends with the prairie plants.
The center takes aesthetic advantage of the prairie, and the prairie style buildings fit right in.
As I walked around the grounds, the natural beauty was everywhere.
This little frog was taking refuge in the shade. At first I was not sure it was real, but it blinked, and on closer inspection I could see it breathing.
We wrapped up the visit, and I left impressed with Aldo Leopold's vision and desire to create a legacy that would not come to fruition in his lifetime. The thought of land stewardship is an old one that is becoming more important as populations grow and green spaces become more rare.
Being green may involve recycling that plastic bottle, but it can be so much more than that. Aldo Leopold set an example that not many of us could possibly replicate, but his passion and impact are inspiration to do what we can.
Until next time, Keep Digging & Eat Well!
The Gastronomic Gardener
My garden blog http://amidwestgarden.blogspot.com/
My cooking blog http://ihopeyouarehungry.blogspot.com/
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