Aprevecho. First Look.

Mini vacation! I signed up for a weekend Permaculture workshop at Aprovecho, which is outside of Cottage Grove, Oregon. Aprovecho, which has come up more than once in my permaculture research, is a non-profit research and education center.

I drove up with Jason Miller, who runs Peaceful Media (a “lovely lil‘ web, video and graphic design firm” as his web site tells us.) In our conversation on the way up, it turned out that he and co-authored a book, Project Everlasting: Two Bachelors Discover the Secrets of America’s Greatest Marriages. It turned out that I had heard of this book because it was featured in the local paper. We had a nice chat on the way up. He also enjoyed the biscuits I made.
When we arrived, we settled in and enjoyed a delicious lunch. Here is a short tour.
The Straw Bale Dorm. This is where people stay when they come for workshops. I stayed upstairs in a lovely, cozy warm room. Downstairs is the kitchen/dining/common room and also two self-contained composting toilets and a shower.
This is the meeting house. It was recently built and was not quite finished when I visited. All the buildings at Aprovecho are built from lumber milled on site and the wood is dried in a solar dried kiln. You’ll see inside of it later.
The self-contained composting systems are a bit stinky, as they are designed to process more solid waste than liquid waste. The liquid waste converts quickly into an ammonia smell, which is not very fun. So we were encouraged to use the outdoor toilets. These are different than outhouses, in that they are modeled on humanure principles. Instead of a toilet seat over a deep pit, there is a five gallon bucket. Nearby there is sawdust to sprinkle on your waste. When the bucket gets full, it is dumped in one of the two compost piles, the gates of which are on the right of the structure below. After compost pile is full, another one begins and the full pile is left alone for a year to compost. After a year of hot composting, it ceases to be waste and is full of nutrients. They compost it again to remove all pathogens and then use it to fertilize their bamboo and other items that are not eaten. This is a great system because 1)It doesn’t smell, not at all and 2)It takes all the water out of the waste management process. Want to learn more about humanure? You can download the e-book for free. Go to here: (http://humanurehandbook.com/store/THE-HUMANURE-HANDBOOK.html)
There are three couples who live at Aprovecho full time. They each have their own house,which can be seen in this picture. There are two small children who live on site and they were fun to chat with during mealtimes.
In the front of this picture, you can see the human powered blender, which was used to make the salsa for our lunch. Behind the blender is the water for the aquaculture project. It is being inoculated in preparation for the arrival of the tilipa. You will see more of that project later too.
A look at the yard on the side of the straw bale house. There is a cherry tree in bloom.
Our delicious lunch: a salad of green fresh from the garden and a burrito.
Generally, Aprovecho logs enough wood from their property for all their heating needs. However, this year they ran short and bought some wood which arrived just after we did. The people in our group formed a “log brigade” line and the wood was unloaded and stacked in a jiffy.
More log brigade.
Inside their kitchen, is this door. I knew what it was before I opened it, due to all my permaculture reading.
Here is a natural way to keep things cool without a refrigerator. The door opens to a screened in area that lets the outside air keep the items cool, but keeps the flies off. The shaded porch keeps the area cool, even during relatively hot weather. They also had a refrigerator outside on the porch.
This is a “truth window” on the way up the stairs to the rooms. It shows the straw bale construction.
The mail and other things area in the main room. Note that I have almost that exact same orange chair in my house.
The wood stove used for both cooking and warmth. We did a lot of sitting around it.
In the kitchen they have an island and under that island is a hay box cooker. The idea is that you heat up what you want to cook (in this case beans and rice) to boiling, then place it in an insulated box. The insulation cooks the food slowly, much like a crockpot, over a period of time. Much less fuel is used this way.
The five gallon buckets scattered around the main space were storage for beans and grains. They also made great stools for sitting on while eating.

3 thoughts on “Aprevecho. First Look.”

  1. Wow! I am very impressed with this adventure. I had been wondering about your peremaculture studies. This gives me a bit more information. I am also impressed with the amazing eco-goodness of this post! Can't wait for the next installment!!!

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