Sunday, June 27, 2010

Where the Lawnmower Has Four Legs

The Trent-Severn Waterway wanders through a number of long, narrow lakes. Last week we cruised the length of Rice Lake, named for the wild rice that used to grow there.

We’ve been looking for businesses that make creative use of sustainable technologies, and we happened to pick up a local magazine that mentioned an “eco-destination” on Grasshopper Island, in the middle of Rice Lake.  We were intrigued.  So, as we cruised by, we shouted, “Ahoy the Island.”

The proprietor, Trudy Jo Chernuck, invited us ashore.  She's a tall, vivacious woman who literally bounds across the landscape, she's so excited about her new project. Formerly the co-owner and manager of one of Canada’s largest (conventional) lakeside resorts, she's pursuing a new business niche.  Her retreat, “Island Spirit” is completely off the grid.

Trudy Jo walked us all around the small, mostly tree-covered island. Guests can stay in a rustic wooden cabin with old-fashioned furnishings and modern LED lights that consume little energy.  A system of rain barrels collects fresh water.  There’s a solar-heated shower tucked in a cypress grove; an organic garden; a chicken coop where kids can gather eggs each morning; and an old-fashioned brick oven for bread baking.   A flock of friendly sheep serve as lawn-mowers.

Bill used to live in upstate New York, near the Adirondack Park, so we know a bit about the early days of tourist development there.  With rapid industrialization in the mid-19th century, the nation's population shifted from farms to gritty, crowded cities. In the 1870s and 80s, city people who were tired of the crowds and the noise and the dirt started to take their families to the Adirondacks in the summer.  In colonial times nature was something to be conquered; now it had a friendlier face, as a source of spiritual renewal.  Resorts of the time offered woodsy accommodations, yet with all the comforts.   Island Spirit seemed to me like a modern-day interpretation of that time.

We’re seeking out other examples of how people are using sustainable technologies in creative ways. If you know of a community, business, or individual along our route that we ought to check out, please let us know.

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