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Sustainable Living in the Hills

Haynes and Nancy Turkle

Nancy and Haynes Turkle have been concerned about the environment and the ways we affect it for a long time. Nancy’s graphic design company even worked for the Department of Environmental Protection for 15 years creating educational recycling materials.

During their 20 years living in Groton they were involved in many community activities including helping to found a community garden. As the garden thrived so did  cooperation between the members of the garden and the wider community.

They left that garden, and their Groton community with a pang, but have now become members of a new community, Katywil, an eco-village in Colrain, founded by Bill Cole. The Turkles have only been in their passive solar, super-insulated, energy efficient house for two months but as they look down the snow covered hill, between two other houses in  a planned eight house cluster, they can just about see the tops of old Brussels sprout plants in the beginnings of what will be a community garden. They are looking forward to the spring and the excitement of new projects. “We hope to replicate the success of the Groton garden here,” Nancy said.

Katywil is a co-housing development, and can be understood as similar to a condominium project. Each owner has a deed to a house and lot, but the rest of the 112 acre parcel, mostly woodland is shared space. “We have privacy, but we also share resources,” Haynes said.

In addition to sharing the beautiful land, there is a sharing of major tools, a tractor, and wood cutting equipment. All this, as well as the usual garden equipment, will be housed in a proposed garden shed. An arbor and a place to rest in the shade between planting, weeding and harvesting chores will be provided as well.. The planned shed will be of substantial size and will be built to accommodate solar panels that will provide some power for the residents. There is also talk of a micro-hydro power supply.

The governing principles of Katywil  guide decisions so that the community can live as lightly on the land as possible while living a rich and creative life. Growing some of their own food, sharing tools, and working together are some of the ways they will do this. In addition, “We are trying to do things as locally as possible, not only local in terms of Katywil, but the wider local community of Colrain and the surrounding towns,” Haynes said.

Since the Turkles knew that Bill Cole had used students at the Conway School of Landscape Design to help with a master  plan for the property, they turned to the School for a sustainable plan for their own three quarters of an acre. Fortunately the Conway School accepts requests for residential as well as organizational projects for their students to work on. The Turkles had an interesting requirement to accommodate.

The Turkles want to make cheese and have already located a Colrain farm that will sell them raw milk. First, Haynes found he would need training and a permit to move the milk from the farm to his house only a short distance away. I am surprised at the legal requirements that exist in this world – even out here in the country.

Then, once the cheese is made, the whey, amazingly classified as toxic waste, must be disposed of according to regulations. It cannot go into a septic system.  A grass buffer strip could handle some whey, but the Turkles plan to build a drywell to handle the problem.

Of  course, livestock could also handle the whey problem. Pigs and chickens could make good use of whey. I was not surprised that livestock is on the list of future projects.

“We have a lot of projects, because Katywil is just beginning,” Haynes said. Nancy is looking forward to the garden. “I’m not an expert or very experienced gardener”, she said, “but I love being in the garden, and the social aspect.”

Katywil has a homeowners association, as do regular condominium projects, but as an intentional community their decisions are always made with an eye towards sustainability.  Haynes explained that they follow a decision making process called sociocracy at their meetings to come to a consensus. As he talked about future plans it seemed that there will be many projects with the social aspects that Nancy treasures.

Later this spring they plan to build an earthen community oven with the help of trainers from Yestermorrow, a design and build school in Vermont.

As I prepared to leave, I took a final look down the snowy hill with the Turkles. They pointed out the old apple trees that they hoped to renovate, and said more fruit trees will be planted.

As we all deal with rising prices of heating fuels, and gas for our cars – and the fear that these fuels will not be available forever – we are all trying to find ways to conserve energy. The residents of Katywil find that there is an infrastructure for sustainable living, but the creation of this community will be an ongoing commitment by each family for the benefit for all.

The view from the Turkle's south windows

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