After over 40 years of focused effort, with nature as our partner, we have evolved a sustainable and productive home site. It not only provides a richness of experience, not attainable through conventional design strategies, but also conserves limited fossil fuels and water, produces an abundance of food and increases biodiversity so essential for a healthy larger community that gives life to us all.

We weren’t caught up in appearances or styles.  We simply wanted to design something based on principles that were modeled after the natural world and how it worked.  Interestingly, we found ourselves borrowing from history to design an energy-efficient, passive solar home.  We used a modified New England Salt Box design as a model of efficiency. We included an ice house roof for summer cooling, a central masonry fireplace, a wood stove fed by wood gathered primarily from assorted landscape jobs, a huge rain barrel and of course a root cellar for moist cold storage to accommodate a good portion of our summer crops.

With respect to the landscape, we used evergreen windbreaks to conserve energy in the winter and deciduous shade trees to cool the house in the summer.  Instead of mown lawn, we filled our landscape with native plants, perennial food plants and a expansive vegetable and herb garden.  When we began to plant flowers to attract beneficial insects, birds and bats, we dubbed our entire site a gardenfarm.  Who knew that 30 years later we would be described as the quintessential “poster children” for suburban permaculturists? Circle GardenFarm is now able to supply an almost year-round bounty of hyper-local, organic food.

Research on building our sustainable lifestyle for our home and office began with a senior project in landscape architecture at the University of Illinois in 1972. The project involved a sustainable community design that reduced the use of fossil fuels, conserved and harvested water resources, preserved/restored biodiversity and produced much of its own food.

After preliminary drawings were  made

We constructed a scale model to:

1. visualize the structure

  1. 2.test the concepts on a small scale

  2. the ideas in a very favorable political climate

The criteria for our site search were:

  1. 1.south facing slope to accommodate the passive solar design

  2. 2.a large lot for growing food

  3. 3.good school district

  4. 4.reasonable price

  5. 5.access to convenient rail transportation

This is what we were lucky enough to find in our village...

Then we built it!

In early 1981 the political climate reversed to become hostile to energy conservation and to our very life support systems, reflecting a profound ignorance of the real cost of our addiction to oil.  Today, over 30 years later, there is growing awareness of the need to fundamentally change the way we live, the way we see the world and our place in it. We utilized those 30+ years to discover and implement a lifestyle that provides a drastic reduction in our use of ancient sunlight, and abundance of easily grown organic food, and a richness of experience that surprised us in its depth and intensity.

We chose an exit from a culture of garbage and death and stepped into a life affirming culture of peace, abundance, beauty and prosperity. It was a simple choice and one that is unchangeable for us. As the following photographs show, the benefits are just too numerous and enriching.

Anyone can make this choice that is essential for a sustainable future. After viewing the images of our circle garden farm project, sign up for one of the three hour introduction tours, or attend one or all of the seasonal workshops that we offer. Go to for descriptions and registration information.

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