SOLAR GREENHOUSE, HEIRLOOM PLANTS, HUGELKULTUR AND COMPOST
Our uniquely constructed passive solar greenhouse is designed to absorb solar heat during the day and slowly release the heat at the night. The day’s heat is collected by a “heat sink” made of river rock, which was added below the concrete floor during construction of the greenhouse. Temperatures (in Fahrenheit) in the greenhouse range from the mid 40s at night to the 90s in the day, even on the coldest days. Excess heat is nearly always created on sunny days and whatever is not channeled to the heat sink is vented into the garage bay and upstairs living quarters to supplement heating there. An additional venting system is designed to expel excess heat directly outside if the greenhouse should become too hot.
Most of our greenhouse plants are organic, heirloom varieties. Heirloom plants are often handed down for generations through families or ethnic groups. They are propagated through open or natural pollination, as opposed to hybridization and genetic modification. Many heirloom varieties have been selected for taste and tenderness through several generations and so are often tastier than cultivars that have been selected for ease of shipping, uniform appearance, or ability to grow well throughout the country. Many varieties, which had been prized and maintained for generations, have been lost in recent decades as fewer people save seed year to year. Seed from heirloom varieties can be saved and replanted the following years, while hybrid seeds will not produce similar plants when saved from year to year.
Another vital reason to maintain heirlooms is to preserve their genetic traits for future use. When old varieties of food crops are not protected, the gene pool grows smaller and smaller. This may lead to increased disease and pest problems.
Our heirloom varieties are grown in soil supplemented by compost made on site. Currently, we are growing leafy greens, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, and some healing plants such as calendula.
Hugelkultur (written by our Colorado Mountain College Intern, Teddy Goggin)
A quick Google search of the word “hugeklultur” yields oodles of data for a gardener’s noodle. Hugelkultur is a German word meaning ‘mound culture’ garden. These gardens make use of waste and refuse. Rocky mountain soil is ROCKY and drains water quickly. The traditional digging and amending is a cumbersome task. Our soil and gardeners need help. Using the German method of stacking materials, we created a raised bed capable of weathering a rocky mountain lifestyle.
The base of our garden bed was harvested by helpful beavers. We used old hay, leaves and green waste to create a middle layer. The next portion of our mound is aged manure from the alpaca and goats. Lastly we used recycled greenhouse dirt and area dirt combined with fully composted manure as topsoil. Local dirt includes local fungus also called “mycorrhizae.” This beneficial fungi helps roots metabolize food, like a probiotic.
As the logs decompose they help grow plants in three ways. Decomposing logs release nitrogen, a crucial plant food for vegetative growth. Logs release heat as they break down, warming the garden’s roots. Logs also act like a sponge. Water soaks into the old logs. Roots systems drink from waterlogged aspens.
The end result is a five-foot garden mound built to last. The built structure of the garden heats, feeds, and waters plants for years. These inputs allow crops more time to establish and yield fruit, flowers, and vegetable crops.
Our high-mountain location is extreme for horticulture. Local plants must adapt to conquer the short, harsh growing season. The hugel method allows gardens a few extra degrees of warmth in the spring and fall, lengthening and strengthening the growing season. Come on by and check out what we got growing!
Beaver Ponds uses three basic composting methods. Manure from the barns and corrals is piled in a mound and turned occasionally. A barrel, which can be turned, is also used to process compost. Alpaca “beans” make wonderful compost and, unlike other types of manure which need to be seasoned before use, alpace manure can be placed directly into the plant soil. We also use worms (vermiculture) to break down kitchen waste into compost.
Events & Programs
There's always something fun to do at Beaver Ponds.
Here are some upcoming programs and events.
Nature Immersion Forest Camp - November 19 & 20 9am-1pm
Ages 4-7 $75 per child
A place for unstructured, safe exploration in nature with a small group of friends.
Nature Immersion Programming Series
Engagement in the natural world and social interaction between peers and skilled mentors of nature and ancestral skills for youth. Schedule in development. Please contact Lori Whipple, YGC for more information at email@example.com or (719) 838-0143.
Snowschool Winter Program
winter-based curriculum to introduce kids to the joy of exploring winter wildlands. Schedule in development. Please contact Kristin Barrett, PC for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org or (719) 838-0143.
#GivingTuesday pledge day for #ColoradoGivesDay on December 4th. How can you get involved in the fun of ‘fun’draising? Contact Amity Vargas, ED for more information at email@example.com or (719) 838-0143.
The foundation for learning about our world begins with observation of nature. From NASA to local citizen science, people are working for the common scientific principle of the best understanding of what we can observe. Building on this foundation of understanding...read more
With the addition of our new Youth Groups Coordinator, Lori Whipple, Beaver Ponds has launched a unique, vanguard programming series called Nature Immersion at Beaver Ponds. This programming allows Beaver Ponds to truly take advantage of our experiential, outdoor...read more
This short little flower has some vibrant blue and purple hues. It does well at a high elevation (i.e. 10,500 feet) and is a well-known gastrointestinal tonic. When I think of an old school tonic for the gut I think of gentian (GI tonic) and scutellaria (a...read more
At 10,500 feet we are grateful for any harvest we may produce. This year we had the largest harvest in our history and expanded the raised beds while continuing soil development. As a non-profit organization we are sincerely thankful for the help we receive from the...read more
- PO Box 995
2234 Busch Run Road
Fairplay, CO 80440
Beaver Ponds Environmental Education Center (BPEEC) helps people of all ages experientially learn about domestic livestock, horticulture, green energy generation and environmental conservation in a high-alpine, natural setting at Sacramento Creek Ranch near Fairplay, Colorado.
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