Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Friends & Neighbors: Marie Stella of Beaver Lodge

You've passed it on Barnes Road leading up to our retreat land in Buckland called Khandroling. It's that building at the cusp of a well established beaver wetlands. Beaver Lodge as it's aptly called, is the creation of landscape design historian, Marie Stella, who initiated the project to illustrate the integration of Art, Technology, and Environment as a dynamic educational laboratory for people interested in sustainable design.

A couple of years ago, Marie appeared at one of our practice sessions on upper Khandroling. She's been our neighbor and friend ever since taking an interest in our community and sharing her knowledge with those of us interested in sustainable practices. She also hosted eleven international community members last summer at her home during Chögyal Namkhai Norbu's retreat last summer.

[visit Tsegyalgar East Accommodation page if you would like to stay at Beaver Lodge during this year's retreat].

Beaver Lodge is certified by The Center for Ecological Technology, a leading non-profit organization offering green building services across Western Massachusetts, with the highest rating possible from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED® for Homes rating system. The home becomes the sixth home in Massachusetts that has earned the difficult LEED Platinum rating.

Recently, I stopped by to visit Marie
this Spring.  Her home is a treasure trove of unique artistry and pragmatic utilitarianism that makes creative use of recycled building materials which celebrate the natural materials of stone and wood but also pioneers new building technologies being developed.  She calls her house and landscape a builder's "petting zoo" where students visit to experience  first hand  such materials as closed cell insulation, shredded newspaper, and other non-toxic building materials along with intricate water catchment systems. Underneath her raised garden beds is a watering system.

Among the features I personally love are her kitchen "worm farm" and the children's outdoor spirit house with a green roof.  

The picture above does not convey the elegance of her composting system located in a rectangular box next to her beautiful stone kitchen sink. Odorless, the clusters of worms are happily producing a darkly rich humus that Marie uses to nourish her plants. To learn more about worm composting visit Cornell University's site. You can also visit the page at Backyard Boss to learn how composters work at:

Everywhere Marie has artifacts from her family. Here is her grandmother's locust arbor over a hundred years old.

These three doors come from her previous house.

Although not much to show in the garden yet, I liked "The Straw Man," one of a number of installations or sculptural pieces. This one a version of the proverbial scare crow.

Beaver lodge is evocative of Marie's inquisitive appreciation for other cultures and eras as well as a proficient hands on approach. I'm always impressed that she knows how to use tools to make things. If she doesn't know how to do something, she educates herself. Once she purchased the property in late 2006, she spent a year self-educating herself by attending seminars and conferences.

 When I asked Marie what her vision for the future was, she said that she wanted to share her mission of sustainability so that people could actually experience the results of hands on teaching. As a professor of landscape design, she provides her students and interested individuals a living laboratory to explore how to be entirely self-sufficient in the coming changes ahead and take what knowledge is compatible with their individual interests and needs.

If you would like to know more about Marie Stella's projects or visit her, please visit her website at Beaver Lodge.

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