Driving down the Oregon and California coasts over the last couple of days has felt like an elegy for the stunning part of the world where we have lived for the last three years. With every turn of the road that opens to yet another breath-taking view of the near-turquoise ocean, raw craggy rocks and tall silent cedars and redwood trees, I find myself sighing, “There’s no other place like this.”
But the scenic views are not the only thing that this region has going for it. On Monday, Dan and I visited the R-Evolution Gardens in Nehalem and got a full tour from Ginger, who started the farm with her friend Brian five years ago. I’d read Ginger’s essay in The Greenhorns book and wanted to see her permaculture-inspired off-grid homestead/organic farm in action.
Seeing the farm now, it’s hard to believe that, in Ginger’s words, five years ago it was “mostly stumps and blackberries.” In this time, the R-Evolutionaries have cleared the land, built a farmhouse and several smaller buildings, established extensive vegetable gardens and orchards on their five acres — enough to run a 60-family organic CSA — raise chickens, ducks, and bees, offer classes in sustainable living and host a few apprentices and WWOOFers every season. Whew, these folks have been busy!
They also have the most adorable Japanese guest house built with reclaimed wood (including a giant cedar tree that fell near the property) and with clay-plaster walls out of clay from their own land. The guest house can be booked for a farm stay, and comes with access to the equally adorable Japanese bath house — with creek-fed, wood-stove heated water, of course. It’s totally dreamy.
In fact, what’s so impressive about R-Evolution Gardens is that it is entirely powered by renewable energy from their own land. They made the decision from the start to use no propane. Instead, cooking and heating is done by wood-fire stoves, and hot water comes from either solar water heaters or a copper coil around the stove pipe in the winter. Electricity is generated by a few solar panels plus a small hydroelectric turbine in the creek. The buildings are designed using passive heating and cooling strategies, including an old-fashioned “cool cupboard” on the north wall and the very energy-efficient use of chest freezers as refrigerators.
This farm is truly an example of how serendipity and tenacity together make wonders like these happen.