Last year rolled on by and we are currently in the middle of decent 2016 winter with good snow levels. We wonder if it is going to be another hot, crisp summer. The weather is always on our mind. Below is an update of the progress we’ve made so far, as well as the activities already set in motion. And enjoy our new 2016 website!
Our autumn food production garden/onsite nursery saw our most abundant harvest yet with a bumper crop of elderberries, apples, and tomatoes yet. We started experimenting with a forest orchard and forest garden utilizing the protection of the native Doug fir trees and the slope of the land for water capture. Whatever rain we get we are hoping to see quicker fruit tree growth with the drainage designs.
North of the garden we built a new off-grid cabin called the Tea House. It contains a water harvesting design as well as other features to encourage plant growth around the structure. Currently, we draw from our winter food storage of kale, chard, turnips, green onions, beets, zucchini, carrots, potatoes, dry onions, soups, and more. It’s already March of 2016 and the spring greens already growing in the greenhouse are chives, lettuce, bok choy, spinach, and parsley. The apricot tree, potted blueberries, and fig trees are already budding.
Sage Mountain Center is now listed on Airbnb.com. (Pronounced “Air B and B”) We have joined a global community of folks opening their homes to travelers. We’ve had guests from all over the US, Europe, China, and Japan – 22 countries in all! So far we’ve earned the highest rating of five stars. Check our new Airbnb profile and consider visiting for an off-grid experience at Sage Mountain Center. 2016 reservations begin in April, 2016.
For those of you who haven’t followed the developments on our demonstration Sepp Holzer-style Krater Garden, we have an on-going one acre project, an experiment to understand what is agriculturally possible, and not possible, at a 6,300 elevation with 12” of annual precipitation.
Last year saw an unrelenting assault from the inhabitants of our upland forest. The upper, middle, and lower levels of the Krater Garden created perfect opportunities for them all. The ground squirrels developed intricate housing complexes and neighborhoods on the drier sides of the garden, the rabbits would huddle in the shade eating the vegetation as the chipmunks would scurry up the branches of the bushes to eat any berries available. Along with the mice, the chipmunks collected the seeds as the year went on. The mule deer and elk effortlessly pranced over or through the 6’ electric fence to feast on the fruit trees and berry bushes. We even tried the Holzer Bone Sauce to discourage the deer but they treated it like a salad dressing. And grasshoppers had their share of food during the heat of the summer. At times we considered renaming this our “Critter Garden.” The goal, however, is to create some food for humans. So, now it’s time to get serious…
This year’s projects will include a permanent deer fence (we have great success with this at our organic food garden/nursery) and a rabbit proof fence. We can’t easily manage to keep out the littlest animals since we refuse to poison them, and setting traps is like catching minnows in an ocean. We’ve had slight success with solar powered ultra-sonic repellers, so we’ll try that and keep you posted!
Raymond Walker, the raven with a broken shoulder that adopted us last year, has moved on to other pastures. Many of you have asked where he went and frankly, we just don’t know. As the weather got nicer in spring of 2015, he would leave our garden sanctuary and walk into the forest and climb trees. He would be gone for a week at a time and then come back. At some point, he didn’t return. So Raymond leaves us with a question and a deep sense of appreciation for the time that he chose to stay at Sage Mountain Center. In some ways he is missed, but in other ways he never left. We trust that he will continue to be what he was…..one with all that surrounds us.
Labyrinth is Finished (almost)
We have always been fascinated with the sacred patterns of the labyrinth. As stated in Helen Curry’s book The Way of the Labyrinth: Labyrinth walking “draws on a spiritual practice that is thousands of years old and spans the world’s religions, cultures, and historical epochs: walking intentionally along a path that cuts back and forth through a series of curves until it arrives at the center. Labyrinths have been found in ancient cultures from Greece and Crete to Egypt, China, Peru, Ireland, and Scandinavia.” For years we tried to incorporate a labyrinth into our center. Well that time has come.
The initial stages of the Sage Mountain Center Labyrinth are complete and what remains unfinished are some signs and benches around the perimeter. The momentum of walking labyrinths is growing around the world and we are thrilled to offer this unique mountain feature for visitors. This is one of the larger labyrinths out there at a diameter of 90’ and a ¼ mile long. Most labyrinths are about 30’ diameter. We chose to use local materials of beetle-killed Lodge pole pine, dirt, and sand. The long term idea is that vegetation will grow around the logs as they decompose forming a living, evolving design. Before we finished laying the logs the ants began making their homes underneath them. For a video photo montage of this exciting project and the history of this labyrinth please visit our Labyrinth page.
Sage Mountain Center Composting Toilets in Guatemala
Over the years we have worked with a number of people from around the world exploring composting toilet designs and systems. We recently received the below image from David Alvarez of Guatemala. He is a pastor whose mission is to feed needy children and upgrade the standard of living to those without medical and health services through the non-profit Centro Cristriano Cultural de Guatamala. He visited Sage Mountain Center a few years ago to study our composting toilet system so that he might modify the design for their climate…..and what great modifications! They have already installed 400 of these customized units. We love the thatched roof variation. You can read more about this project on our Composting Toilets page.
As you can see below, we had another busy year giving tours, yoga classes, field trips, presentations around the state, and a growing interest in our gardens and Airbnb. We look forward to seeing old friends this year as well as meeting many of you who have been thinking about visiting. Come experience Sage Mountain Center first hand!
In addition to our site assessments and tour offerings, here are the highlights from 2015.
1/5 Eight week winter Hatha Yoga course (64 students)
1/30 SMC hosted yoga retreat
4/17 Christopher Borton wins US Sectionals and Nationals Adult Figure Skating Championship.
3/25 AirBnB season begins
4/30 Solar seminars for Lewis and Clark Co. business development, Helena
5/1 Solar seminars for Lewis and Clark Co. business development, Great Falls
5/4 Renewable Energy Seminars for Department of Environmental Quality: Broadus, Baker, and Wibaux, MT
6/1 Eight week yoga course for National Center of Appropriate Technology
7/7 Anaconda Job Corps education day at SMC
7/8 Hosted quarterly meeting for Montana Renewable Energy Assoc.
7/18 Community garden and greenhouse tour at SMC
7/19 Labyrinth construction begins at SMC
9/12 Energy Corps Ed/Tour through National Center for Appropriate Technology
9/19 Coordinated Montana Clean Energy Fair in Missoula
10/2 Renewable Energy presentation at the Harvesting Clean Energy Conference
10/4 SMC hosts Permaculture tour with Kareen Erbe of Broken Ground, Bozeman
10/7 Eight-week Hatha yoga course begins in Whitehall, MT
10/27 Linda Welsh solo treks 560 miles of Te Araroa in New Zealand
12/8 Christopher Borton re-elected to the board of directors of Montana Renewable Energy