MOTHER EARTH NEWS' Passive Solar Eco-Village
In the 1980s, MOTHER EARTH NEWS built a passive solar house on a budget.
The diagram lays out plans for the location of everything from a nursery to beehives.
PHOTO: MOTHER EARTH NEWS STAFF
How would you react to discovering a neatly integrated project that includes a 1,000-square-foot, passive solar, earth-sheltered, two-bedroom home (with attached greenhouse) . . . a garden and livestock area capable of producing an abundance of food with minimal effort . . . and a micro-hydropower system that provides electricity? Not bad, huh? OK, now what if the price tag for the whole thing was less than $10,000?!
A bit hard to believe? Well, we've developed all of that in MOTHER's exciting new effort: the Homestead on a Shoestring. Staff members at our Eco-Village have combined low-cost housing, energy-efficient design, and permaculture techniques to build a showcase mini-farmstead that should be capable of providing most of a small family's basic food, shelter, and energy needs.
From the start, the project was planned to  do more with less in land and building materials . . .  be as self-supporting as possible . . . and  work within the environment at the site. To accomplish these goals, each part of the homestead — including house, gardens, fishponds, livestock, and more — interacts with the others to create a diverse, interrelated (and practically self-sustaining) landscape. For example, chickens routed through cleverly designed garden runs help to control insect pests and provide fertilizer (of course, the biddies contribute eggs and meat, as well). Honeybees not only create natural sweets, but also pollinate the plant life and — since the hives are conveniently located over the ponds — feed the fish with dead apian workers. An the attached greenhouse (shown in the photographs) furnishes food, flowers, and garden starts . . . while it helps to heat the home.
Our Homestead on a Shoestring will be developed and finely tuned in the seasons ahead to discover the maximum efficiency and productivity possible from a small (less than three acres) farm . . . and we'll share that experience with you.