Also located in Conway, Mass., is Wildside Cottage and Gardens, an evolving demonstration of how future generations can live comfortably without depending on increasingly scarce and costly fossil fuels.
The gardens surrounding Sue Bridge’s home create a diverse and beautiful edible landscape carefully planned to offer abundant year-round foods to humans, beneficial insects and wildlife.
The cottage has functioned smoothly off-grid since June 2008, and was described as ”the greenest home in the Pioneer Valley” (Dave Hopkins, EcoRealty). Standard solar panels supply electricity for a full array of demanding kitchen, laundry and office equipment and the well pump. A newer technology, solar vacuum tubes, provides domestic hot water and radiant heat. The whimsically-planted sod roof cools the cottage interior in the summer, and, in colder seasons, keeps heat in. The cottage is sited for maximum passive solar gain in winter
The seven gardens of Wildside
Seven distinct garden areas take advantage of the diverse micro-climates and soil types that occur naturally on Wildside’s hilly eight acres. These will become an abundant local source of food for residents, guests and the surrounding community. In general no gas or oil-driven equipment is needed for food production or maintenance. Terrace gardens just below the cottage provide permaculture plantings which sprout again each year with little or no tending. Closer to the cottage are an herb garden and an eat-in-season terrace.
A substantial annual garden at the bottom of the south-facing hill provides winter storage crops. A wide variety of nut trees have been planted along the north and south perimeters, and a wet meadow to the east may eventually be planted with rice. Wildside’s most distinctive garden is the extensive east-facing “forest garden” slope, promising to produce a generous variety of fruits and berries for decades into the future.
The visionary of Wildside
Sue Bridge is a rural New Englander educated in a public high school and at Wellesley and Yale. She has worked at the United Nations, taught college, and worked, lived and traveled in France, Eastern Europe and the Middle East. She was co-founder of a regional cable television network. She worked for several years on the business side of The Christian Science Monitor’s attempt to diversify into radio and TV, and subsequently wrote a book on the experience. She has consulted to non-profits including television start-ups, elder care organizations and a three-year health care reform campaign.
She was a Founding Member of the Board and a business consultant to Beacon Hill Village, a successful effort to allow older people including those of modest means to age securely in their own homes for as long as they wish.
In 2007, Sue bought the eight acres of fallow pasture and overgrown tree farm in Conway on which she has built Wildside Cottage and Gardens – a semi-experimental project to demonstrate what the good life might be like after the end of cheap and abundant fossil fuels.