by Sarah Lanfear

View of the vegetable garden from the 2nd floor window.

Diane Clark and Bill Moran run Greystone Nature Preserve, an experiential environmental education center located at their home on the Portage escarpment of Lake Erie.  The original reason for my visit was to see the green roof that covers a portion of their house, but I quickly found that that was only a small part of the picture.  In fact the entire property is managed in a way that takes into consideration all the living things with which they share the land.

Really, you cannot tell the story of their house without first talking about the land on which it sits.  Diane and Bill fell in love with the place and bought the property together in 1998.  After visiting the property it is easy to see why.  Standing behind the house looking across the yard you can see the outline of Lake Erie beyond the trees to the right and in front of you a sprawling field bordered by trees, lush and teeming with life.  Directly behind the house is their organic vegetable garden which provides homegrown food throughout the year.  Chickens roam the yard and wild birds nest in the half a dozen bird houses standing above the wildflowers surrounding the garden.  They even have a small fish pond next to the house which is filled with water collected from their roof during rainstorms.   Because of their love for this land they chose not to place their house in the most beautiful spot on the property or to keep a large manicured lawn glorifying what they built, instead they left the land unspoiled and the opportunity to explore it a personal choice.

The main section of the house.

The house itself is built along the front of the property, separated from the road by a patch of trees and backed up against a steep hill.  The back walls are actually built into the hillside, separated from the earth by a thick concrete wall.  A portion of the land seems to extend over the middle of the house making a living roof, a remnant of the couple’s original plan to build an underground home.  Long being a proponent of nuclear disarmament, one reason Diane chose to install a green roof is for protection in the case of a nuclear disaster, although up to this point its main benefits have been in filtering rain water, reducing runoff and controling the climate of the rooms underneath.  The area of the house beneath the living roof contains a pantry, where they store food preserved from the garden, and a mudroom which functions as a greenhouse in the winter.

Front view of the living roof.

Their house is a beautiful post and beam design with high ceilings and an ample number of windows, opening up the space with plenty of natural sunlight.  The walls are made of foam core OSB board bringing the insulation up to R38.  Between the walls and the radiant floor heating the house is kept comfortable all year round, with the concrete floor also helping to keep the place cool in the summertime.  The outside of the home features a metal roof (except for the vegetated portion) which was chosen because of the issue of snow load as well as to facilitate their water collection system, which I will explain in more detail later. Diane also mentioned that she didn’t like the idea of finding little bits of asphalt around the yard as the roof began to age.

The one thing that ties together all aspects of the property is the importance of water, and you can find tributes to this most essential of resources around every corner.  The most obvious example is in the intricate water collection system which seems to be in a state of perpetual improvement.  A series of drains and tubing work together to collect rain water that runs off the roof of the house and is collected in a 500 gallon below ground storage tank.  This water is pumped into the fish pond, which is also an integral part of their education programs, and also used to water their organic garden.  Nutrient filled water from the pond is further used to water any plants located downhill from the site.  The interconnectedness and intentionality of this water collection and distribution system serves as a wonderful example of the couple’s attitude towards life and the environment in which they live, that is their place within the greater scheme of life on earth.

Diane K. Clark
Greystone Nature Preserve
8531 Bear Lake Road Fredonia, NY
(716) 792-7899
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