On Saturday, Laura and I took all four little kids out to Eagle River to experience the Alaskan EcoEscape Bioshelter in the mountain above the Eagle River Nature Center. Cindee and Curt Karns gave us an amazing tour of their home and taught our kids about the importance of permaculture.
On our way out there in Laura’s van I told Cormac where we were going and he told me houses aren’t important. When we left, after 2.5 hours of total engagement in the house, insects, water, wood, soil, plants, nematodes, etc. he said,
“First I said a house isn’t important, but I guess that one is!”
I think Earthships and the Bioshelter reawaken in me the love I’ve had for ecology since I was little and in a gifted science program. I am fascinated by the way the world just WORKS when we let it. The Bioshelter is very similar to the Earthships and I’ll write another post that compares and contrasts them.
We started with observation. Cindee brought the kids into the solarium and asked them what they saw. Cormac noted that it was unusual to have a garden and a pond inside the house. And fish outside of a fish bowl! (Oh, how he would love his own tilapia pond in an Earthship!) They walked around, tasting edible plants like mint and nasturtium.
Cindee noticed aphids in the garden, so she got out the lady bugs – the children all squealed with delight! The kids collected the lady bugs and brought them around to the plants with water on the leaves. Cormac became very attached to one particular lady bug later in the visit and he brought it home to keep as a temporary pet.
From there, we checked out the composting toilet and Tahlia and Cormac got to dump food scraps down the toilet before adding a scoop of moss over it, to encourage decomposition. The toilets empty into large barrels beneath the house where worms work to break down the organic matter. The barrels are rotated every six months or so.
Also beneath the house with the systems is a root cellar. The kids dug carrots out of bins of sand, where the carrots (they store apples and other root vegetables this way) had been covered in sand for the last 9 months. There was no difference in taste between these and grocery store carrots. Delicious!
While Curt explained the systems of the home to the grown-ups, Cindee brought the kids outside to learn about worms and decomposition. She showed them what the worms eat, what their castings can be used for, and then they put together their own little worm containers. The worms were a huge hit and Finley oohs and ahhs over them at home too. Cindee pointed out worm reproduction and showed us the little white eggs among the castings and decomposition.
Curt pulled out his backpacking guitar while we had a snack of carrots and apples. He played us a song about how the planet works as a complete system, illustrating to the kids how we need to work to keep the earth healthy so it can also take care of itself.
The bioshelter has a secret little cubby hole, just for kids, and the four we brought were delighted by it. We completed our trip then with an exploration of the outdoors, checking out the gardens, Cindee’s living fences and chairs, and the way the roof slants to collect rain water.
It was amazing to watch the kids show their absolute and total delight with everything. They were completely enchanted with Cindee, Curt, worms, lady bugs, koi, and every other feature and creature of the EcoEscape Bioshelter.