How We’re Just Like Juno!

Nancy McJennett, vice president, and Ken Lizotte , president, Thoreau Farm Board of Trustees celebrate the Thoreau Farm's first day of going solar!

Nancy McJennett, vice president, and Ken Lizotte, president, Thoreau Farm Board of Trustees, celebrate Thoreau Farm’s first day of going solar!

Roost editor Sandy Stott is on vacation. This post was written by Ken Lizotte, president of the Board of Trustees, Thoreau Farm Trust. 

How is Thoreau Farm like the Juno spacecraft now circling our largest planet? Hey, that’s an easy one. Both are powered by the sun!

For Juno, this was the only way our space engineers could keep Juno on course and, now, keep it circling our largest planet. For Thoreau Farm, solar power was the last ingredient in the environmental recipe set in motion by Henry himself when he insisted that our natural surroundings were sacred and something to observe and persevere, not destroy.

It’s been a long haul for us to reach this pinnacle of self-sustaining reality. This journey began 20 years or so ago when the early saviors of Thoreau Farm wisely decided fulfilling Henry’s ecological legacy was worth building into The House’s very foundation. Since then, a long proud list of respect-for-the-earth practices has been building to a crescendo. As proof, skim down this sample from our “How We’re Green” webpage:

  • Siting – The House faces south for passive solar heat and light
  • Shade tree on the south lawn cools house in the summer
  • Daylighting – use of windows and skylights for light
  • Low or no VOC paints, sealants, adhesives, carpets and composite woods
  • Locally grown and milled clapboards
  • Soy and cellulose-based insulation
  • Roofing made from 95% post consumer recycled material but looking like traditional cedar shingles
  • Clivus Multrum composting toilet system – waste is broken down on site!
  • Night sky friendly outdoor lighting
  • Rain water collected in barrels for watering our gardens
  • Local materials utilized whenever possible

Now one last ingredient has been added, a cozy solar array at the far end of our gravel parking lot, the culmination of literally years of determination on the part of our trusty Board of Trustees and our former executive director Nancy Grohol. As a result, solar energy promises to power most, if not all, of The House’s energy needs. So would Henry be proud of us? Yes, I bet he would.

But wait, a few more thank-you’s: To all of you Thoreauvians who contributed personal donations over the years designated to ensure that this would happen. And thanks too to Solect (Hopkinton) and to Solectria (Lawrence), two Massachusetts solar energy firms who also donated a combination of their own time, equipment, know-how and resources to get this system installed and up and running for a minimum of the next 20 years! That means the sun supplies us with heat, lighting and cooling (yes, AC too!) exactly as it powers the Juno spacecraft. To these solar wizards’ dedication, willingness and expertise, we can only humbly bow and tip our Henry-like straw hats in heartfelt gratitude.

Want to learn more about how we’re green? Just click here for a full list of how we’re achieving that:

Or come by The House sometime and take a good look at the solar array for yourself. Oh, and don’t forget to come inside and visit Henry’s birth room while you’re here. Without that blessed event, none of the rest of this would be happening!










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Furnishing Walden – a poem for Henry’s birthday

Furnishing Walden 

a chair
                  a bed
a desk

The desk came first in 1838 as
it became apparent that the hours
afoot would be brought here

where they could be inked into lines
that would circumscribe worlds -
local paths, thickets, swamps,

birds, insects, plants, the odd
groundhog - all these ligaments
and lineaments, a sort of puritan

golem who would stir drafts later
and one by one readers
would walk out and be saved

for a day and the next day
each would saunter out
again along those lines

and every so often one
would not return. He saw
so far forward, you wonder

if he lived in his world,
but then you see him sprawled
on the young ice inching out,

reading the worm-trail of
history in the mud the whole
lens of coming winter flexing

beneath him and you know
from the seep of cold
that he was there, and you know

now know how you should live.
You push back the chair and
rock for a moment on the rockers

he attached to allow for just
this and you turn like a leaf
in fall contemplative;

it is, this walking motion,
the birth of thought
its pod opening like last year’s

milkweed, its heart-shaped seeds
suspended beneath the wisp
of white sail as they float

forth. All night long
on the modified Chinese sedan
that is your bed, its

rattan hand holding you up,
you dream and the small
night animals in this patch

of borrowed woodland
say that you sleep
and awaken everywhere

at home.

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Afloat at the Theater

…even as the eagle drives her young at last from the neighborhood of her eyrie, — for their own good, since there is not food enough there for all…Thoreau, Journal, 3/22/61

As we draw near these duck-broods, a conversational cluck-talk suddenly morphs into squawking concern – every duck’s talking at once, and they have begun to hurry this way and that. Are we cause? In our three small boats do we appear to be duck-doom? Ah, no…something else is near.

Also amply fed in this season of plenty, an eagle wheels above the now-panicked covey of ducks, who – it must be said – have had a prolific breeding season. There may be 10 adult ducks in this flotilla 50 or so, and seconds ago one of them has set up the alarm, but now much of the cacophony rises from fuzzy brown ducklings, who seem suddenly to have adopted the random movements of a moth when a bat flies near. The orderly little files of ducks that had been paddling serenely out of our boats’ path have become a hurried scatter of flurried (flightless) wings and webbed feet scratching for water-traction.

The eagle, some twenty feet off the deck, nears, and wherever it veers, 20 ducks dive. Little explosions of spray show where they’ve gone under; their disappearances are audible, like so many small stones raining down. Now, the eagle flares wings, then drops, talons extended, splashing down like an off-kilter parachute, perhaps right atop one of the swimming brown streaks. But it is a mostly graceless attempt, followed by a labored rowing of wings on the water to get – finally, with empty claws – airborne again. All this work, the eagle’s affect seems to say. But once soaring again, the bird’s menace returns, eliciting more squawked protest and more darting in all directions.


After a minute of circling, the eagle appears to tire and wings off to perch in a white pine hundreds of yards away; once there, he vanishes from our sight, and we look back to the ducks, who have begun to gather again into their usual softly chuckling conversations. Then – ALARUM! a gabble of cluck-squawks! Who spotted the eagle is unclear, but well before he arrives to search again in circles for a slow duck, fowl consternation rises and the webbed feet flurry. There must be a lookout duck in the group; does every covey have its lookout? More little geysers of spray as they dive – it is as if they have all drilled for this moment, though they also pop back up quickly enough to suggest that a forward-looking eagle should be able to nab one as he or she emerges. But no, there’s no more awkward eagle-diving, only circling, which goes on for another long minute before its time for another pine rest.

And then, a minute or so later, the eagle leaves, flying upcoast for, who knows? – dumber ducks, slow fish, perhaps an attempt to shakedown a more efficient osprey, who, unlike our eagle, dives often and comes up with food sometimes.

But for three minutes we have been admitted to an avian theater with three, floating front-row seats.

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