Green Building Extreme: Meet Charlottesville’s Recycled House

Recycled House ExteriorDebra began with an old outbuilding she was curious about renovating and renting out.  When that plan fell through she decided to recycle the beautiful, aged materials into a new structure.  Before long she was collecting scrap and second had materials from all over town: beams from demolished buildings, scrap materials from countertop builders, knick-knacks and furniture from eBay and auctions. All these materials, along with a bit of creativity, make a stunningly beautiful and unique addition to the city of Charlottesville.

The Recycled House teaches us an important lesson: that reducing, reusing, and recycling does not mean living with less.  Its construction certainly took time, effort, creativity, and patience, but the result is a beautiful house and home that will be treasured by all those living in and around it.  When modern architecture provides so many examples of ugly, utilitarian department stores, cookie-cutter homes, and other throw-away structures, the Recycled House stands out as a real gem.  Imagine if our whole city was built with this love, care, and attention.  And it all started with one ordinary home-owner with a dream.

See the full tour at the Recycled House Website.

Recycled House StoveRecycled House KitchenRecycled House Patio

Pop-up Clothesline Party for “Fire Your Dryer” Initiative

Lorrie with her clotheslineLet it all hang out at Transition C’ville’s Pop-up Clothesline Party!  Firing our dryer is about more than reducing our carbon footprint.  Using a clothesline cuts our energy bill, gives us time to spend outside and socialize with out neighbors, and gives us wonderful sun-kissed sheets.  Join us this Friday on the downtown mall to celebrate and promote the simple joy of line-drying our clothes.  We’ll have a juggling unicyclists, the wonderful Green Granny choir, Better World Betty, clothespin games for kids, laundry soap making, and an umbrella clothesline raffle.  The event will take place 5-7pm near the downtown fountain (near Zocalo and the future Landmark Hotel).  Drop by and discover how easy it is to harness free, renewable energy!

Special thanks to Charlottesville Earth Week for co-sponsoring this event.


Tom Tom Founders Festival Energy Talks

Great experience sitting in on the “Flipping the Switch” and “The New Energy Ethic” talks at City Space today.  The first panel had well over 30 people in attendance, and then the second, with Sandy Reisky and Cynthia Adams, was standing room only, probably 60+ people.  I know it’s ubiquitous now, but I still love to see all the interest that renewables generate!   Still a long way to go to get us to a sustainable future, but on a day like today I feel quite hopeful.  I particularly liked that while Sandy championed all the great technologies that will help us, Cynthia balanced the discussion with some common sense approaches that included conservation:  “be your own power plant” by not placing as high a demand on the system.  Good stuff.


Kudzu Foraging Adventure

For our secondKudzu tea foraging adventure, four intrepid Transitioners headed out to the jungle behind the Meadow Creek Community Gardens.  Turns out that most of that mass of green you see swallowing hapless trees is actually ivy or Oregon grape.  So, our band of seekers took a while to find some actual kudzu.  Once we located a limited number of vines, we harvested the younger, more tender leaves, along with some roots, which meant our harvest was somewhat wee.  Not to worry!  We happily headed back to S.’s apartment (with a pit stop for some ripe wine berries on a public street nearby) for our kudzu feast . . .

Turns out kudzu is pretty tough, and even after steaming it for quite some time, it didn’t really break down to the “spinach-like” consistency we’d been led to expect.  Luckily the kudzu tea was tasty (and the root tea has potential), so it was worth finding out more about this nutritious vine.


Fruit Grafting and Propagation Class

You have to love a class where one of the first questions the instructor poses is:  “Does anyone here faint at the sight of their own blood?”  Good stuff.

About a dozen current and wanna-be orchardists met for a one day workshop led by Alexis Zeigler of Living Energy Farm.  Alexis has hundreds of fruit trees at various properties, and this self-taught expert provided a wealth of information as well as hands-on experience.  He pointed out that we’ve all been duped by a culture of deception when it comes to fruit, thinking that the shiny apples and plump peaches of the grocery store are desirable.  In reality, those fruits have been sprayed with fungicides and pesticides up to 14 times during their growth.  Meanwhile, because industrial farming only serves up a relatively small number of fruit varieties, we don’t realize that fruits like the paw paw, persimmon, and muscadine are much better suited for the mid-Atlantic and are incredibly disease and insect resistance.  In some cases, these and other little-known fruits also offer more vitamins and even protein than we get from the ubiquitous red delicious apple.  I was definitely inspired to think about my fruit tree choices in a completely different way.

After learning the characteristics and hardiness of some of the main fruit and nut tree families, we moved on to propagation.  We covered seed and root cuttings, and then spent the rest of our time learning to graft.  Turns out, once you know which parts to line up, it wasn’t that hard, but it was invaluable to have Alexis there — definitely  not the kind of thing you can learn from a book.

Along with knowledge, we all left with some actual grafts that we should be able to plant in 4-8 weeks.  What did I end up with?  Pretty excited about some blight resistant pears, hardy almonds, and some paw paw seeds that I’ve already put into pots.  Planning to add kiwi and persimmon to my yard as soon as I can figure out a good location.  Great class!

You can take this class too! Alexis will hold another session on April 13.

Alexis shows how to wrap a new graft.

Alexis shows how to wrap a new graft.

Edible Yards Group Success Story

Back in early February some of the intrepid members of Tranisition’s Edible Yards Group came over to help transform part of my wasted lawn into garden space.  They turned over the turf and provided some good ideas on soil preparation, and that was enough to launch the project.  My husband and I made raised beds and this weekend finally finished the deer fence.  Thanks to the Scavenging Skill Share, I was able to score 3 crib bed-spring bottoms at the dump that my husband turned into a gate.  Unfortunately, it took way more hardware and time to make it functional, so I’m not sure that was the best approach.  But, we’re happy that everything is ready in time for spring planting.  So far I have strawberry plants, potatoes, lentils, and lettuce in the ground, and of course lots of seedlings just waiting for that last frost to pass.

Thanks again to the Edible Yard Group for pitching in to help get me started!


Tree Vouchers

Charlottesville Area Tree Stewards are offering $25 tree vouchers to encourage homeowners to plant more trees in our area.  For Edible Yard fans, the offer includes fruit trees, so let’s get planting!  Deadline is May 30.  Contact info and full article in the Daily Progress:

Book Review: “Making Home” by Sharon Astyk

I just finished reading Sharon Astyk’s latest book, “Making Home:  Adapting our homes and our lives to settle in place“.  I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants some guidance or wonders what Transition might look like for their particular situation.  She talks about how climate change and fuel shortages will specifically impact our daily lives, and then covers a huge range of adapting techniques and tips:  from heating and cooling yourself to starting a garden to biking to the importance of tribalism.  She provides helpful case studies of real people, and weaves the themes of generosity and compassion throughout her suggestions.  I particularly enjoyed her discussion of house pets, and her “25 things you might want to consider growing” list.  If you’re not up for another entry on your reading list, she also has two great blogs:

Book Review: “Depletion and Abundance” by Sharon Astyk

Transitioners will identify quickly with this insightful book by Sharon Astyk.  Astyk starts with a review of the forces of Peak Oil and Climate Change, and clearly explains why we are heading for a drastically different low-energy lifestyle. She delves into many associated topics, like over-population, water shortages, food insecurity, unemployment, etc. But, this is NOT a Doom And Gloom book; far from it.

She asks three fundamental questions:

  • What is your fair share of the world’s resources?
  • What can you do now to help postpone the “long emergency”?
  • What can you do now to plan for your family’s success during the “long emergency”?

From there she paints a colorful picture of what low-energy lives can look like, why we need to go back to the concept of Victory Gardens, and why we need to go forward towards a more considered and fair use of resources.

It’s hard to do justice to all the eye-opening ideas she introduces over a huge range of topics, so I will just close and urge you to go read it. Now. Seriously, nothing you have planned for today is as important as getting a copy of this book.  : )