Sunday, August 29, 2010

A trip to the Aldo Leopold Foundation Center in Baraboo Wi

Up in Baraboo Wisconsin you can find the Aldo Leopold Center.  We managed a brief visit to this new facility that celebrates the legacy of Aldo Leopold, "...conservationist, forester, philosopher, educator, writer, and outdoor enthusiast."

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
My cooking blog
Twitter -


  1. beautiful pictures. My Mother has a wonderful picture of 20+ little green frogs on her mailbox. (not sure why they gather there).

  2. Thanks Sophie! What he did was amazing and the Center is a wonderful tribute.

  3. Thanks for sharing this! I enjoyed reading some of his writing years ago, but had forgotten about him- this has reminded me! I would never a have known about this lovely centre without your post.I may never get to WI, but if I do, I know where I'll go.

  4. Not only green but saving green. Think of the money they are saving by not shelling it out to the local power company. I like your blog I am an avid gardener myself and can appreciate the hard work that goes into a successful plot.
    Keep up the good work. I have pics of my garden on my blog if your interested and I would like to include you on my list if that's OK ?? Thanks

  5. Bytheriverbarrow - You are welcome, were you reading A Sand County Almanac?

  6. Bushman, Thanks for the kind words! You are right, I think I read they actually produce more energy than they require.

    Of course you can add my blog on your list. I'll be sure to check out yours. Thanks Bushman!

  7. Great post and great pictures. I like the heating / cooling system - thanks for detailing it

  8. What a wonderful place to visit! I visit my mom and her husband in SW WI several times a year. This would be a great place to visit on my way there.

  9. Thanks Garden Girl! It was interesting and there are several tour options though we eschewed them this time for lack of time. We'll be going back.

  10. Fantastic write-up, David! Thanks so much for visiting us. If it's OK with you, we'd love to include a link to this blog post on our TripAdvisor review page. Let us know! :-)
    -Aldo Leopold Foundation Education Coordinator Jen Kobylecky, jennifer (at)

  11. Jennifer, My wife and I really enjoyed our visit. Sadly we did not have time for a tour but that can happen at another time as we are in the Baraboo area a few times a year.

    I am very pleased you are satisfied with my little blog covering our visit. You certainly may include a link to the post to use as you see fit.

    Kind regards and thanks for writing!

  12. Thanks for the entertaining and detailed post. I particularly appreciated the photography. The interior design of the Center, as well as its dependency on solar & geothermal are in line with what I have in mind for "the cabin in WY." Keep up the good work, and thanks for writing.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...