Alternative Energy House Experiment

MOTHER EARTH NEWS bought land to experiment building a house using only alternative energy resources.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
January/February 1977

MOTHER EARTH NEWS plans to experiment with wind, water, methane, solar, and other "alternative" sources of energy on their newly purchased land.
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/ALEXEY STIOP


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Well folks, it's only taken seven years...but MOTHER finally has an experimental farm (of sorts) on which to conduct windplant, solar energy, methane, low-cost construction, sprouting, and other self sufficiency, low-environmental-impact experiments.

Now granted it isn't really much of a "farm" (it's just a 25-acre mountain patch, more than half of which is too steep to be usable). And granted that MOTHER still doesn't have the excess bucks to buy even this small a chunk of land on her own (John and Jane Shuttleworth mortgaged the next ten years of their lives to purchase the place). But it is large enough and far enough beyond all city limits to allow us the privacy and elbow room we need for most of our experiments. And it is made freely available to MOTHER'S staff experimenters at all times so that our work with alternative energy sources, wholistic gardening concepts, etc., can now proceed as fast as time, talent, and embarrassingly small budgets will allow.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Yes, this is the very ,same little mountain farm that was recently — and erroneously — called a horse "ranch" by another magazine. (And please, real farm people, don't laugh. That piece — obviously a hatchet job — was just as obviously written by a city dweller who even mare obviously doesn't know the difference between a "shirttail patch," a "farm." a "ranch" and a "spread" the way we country folks do.)  

Actually, the Shuttleworths were originally offered this particular mountain patch almost three years ago. But they turned it down because they didn't like the modern all-electric house that had been built on it. (Jane still dreams of restoring a run-down 150-year-old farmhouse and John wants to build his own from the natural stone and timber right on the piece of land that he finally settles on.)

But then they got to thinking about what an impact it could have on Joe Suburb if they were to take that all-electric house (Joe suburb's ideal of the ultimate in blissful living)...and convert it...entirely to the so-called "alternate" sources of energy!

And that's exactly what they're doing right now. MOTHER's methane maker and some big tanks of methane brewed up from cow manure have already been moved down from Dick Shuttleworth's farm in Indiana. And a 2-kilowatt Dunlite windplant (which is temporary until we can get around to rebuilding a really nifty, but ancient, 5-kilowatt Jacobs that we have on hand) is already wired up to 95 percent of the lights and 60 percent of the outlets in the main building. (The 2-kilowatt plant isn't ready big enough to run everything on the place, but it'll do until the bigger windplant is ready to go.)

And, over the next couple of years, the Shuttleworths hope to add solar heat (they're consulting right now with Bob Sheppard of Asheville, North Carolina...who's currently testing a very interesting solar heating system that uses, of all things, aswimming pool for Btu storage) and other MOTHER-type goodies to that formerly all-electric house.

Geraldo Rivera recently brought an ABC film crew down to see the conversion that's taking place and we expect the word to spread even further as we make this little demonstration farm more and more food and energy self-sufficient.

So wish us luck. Joe Suburb may not be too impressed when he hears about ecology freaks who run off to the woods and build rather strange looking houses out of recycled materials. But he should really prick up his ears when he's told about an ordinary looking "modern" house that would fit right into any zoned neighborhood in the country...but which runs entirely on wind, water, methane, solar, and other "alternative" sources of energy.

We don't have it completed yet. But we've made a start...and we're working on it!


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