Real Fun

Bob had a race this weekend at Cow Mountain OHV. After delivering him to the staging area, the kids and I had about 5 hours to kill. On our way to the hotel the night before, we'd passed Gaiam Real Goods and the Solar Living Institute in Hopland. Feeling a little guilty about my husband's gas-powered hobby on Earth Day weekend (a day becomes a weekend..) , I suggested to the kids that we make the trek back to Hopland for a tour and some eco-friendly consumerism.

We arrived just after they opened, managed to take an informative tour with a resident hemp-clad intern, power some lightbulbs with pedal-power, and purchase enough eco-friendly product to sustain the econmy for another month or more.

What an amazing place. They've taken a former CalTrans wasteland and formed an oasis of sustainable commerce and living. What was once a flatland with a single tree is now a shangri-la of ponds, hills, wildlife and gardens. A biodiesel fueling station flanks the parking lot. The bathrooms are tiled in recycled porcelain toilet tank lids. Design elements mimic patterns in nature, like my favorite, the Fibonacci series. The site's solar power plant generates $50,000 year in income from the power sold back to the utility company. Smaller solar panels are used to power the onsite operations.

When our docent discussed the work being done to convert methane into a usable energy source, Bug felt compelled to share a little-known fact about cattle. "Cow burps produce more methane than cow farts" he proudly interjected. I'm not sure the other tour particpants heard him, but the docent cracked up. At the end of the tour, a gentleman in our group who was wearing an oxygen tank, walked up to the docent, held out his purple hand, and slipped the guy a wad of cash. You see, this is a non-profit gig, funded by donations and the like. Moments later, Bug followed suit and slipped the guy a buck. God, I love this kid.

Peanut was a little bummed the solar-powered merry-go-round wasn't up and running yet (opens in the summer months). She's insisting we plan a return trip with a full weekend dedicated to visiting the Institute. I'm thinking we'll sign up for one of the 300+ (yes, 300) workshops they offer.