Wildside Cottage and Gardens, Conway MA
Wildside Cottage and Gardens is a private, 8-acre homestead envisioned as a demonstration site for the integration of house, land, habitat, and agriculture. Since 2008, Regenerative Design Group has been working with the visionary steward of this site to design and build innovative connections between home, garden, and wildlands. In 2015, RDG designed and built an earth-sheltered greenhouse for the owner.
Through creative and thrifty planning, nutrients, materials, and energy are cycled and conserved on site. Rather than being discarded as waste, nutrient-rich greywater and humanure feed the forest garden which in turn feeds people and helps heat the cottage. These low-input, life-supporting systems demonstrate regionally appropriate and proactive responses to our changing climate, economy, and energy systems. The forest garden – a productive, diverse, abundant human-created ecosystem that mimics the forest in structure and function – extends down the formerly forested east slope below the house. Three long swales, on contour, capture surface water and allow infiltration along the slope. Plants above and below the swales benefit from the available water and reduce irrigation needs. Mulch, woody debris, brush, and ground covers further reduce evaporation and required irrigation while feeding the soil food web.
In the fall of 2010, Wildside began to fulfill another one of its goals, to become an active learning and teaching site. Using the ecological design features of the site, principals Jono Neiger and Keith Zaltzberg began teaching hands-on design-build sessions to Masters students from the Conway School of Landscape Design, along with community members interested in permaculture and regenerative design. Jono also serves on the board of the Wildside Cottage and Gardens non-profit organization.