Musings on this last day of February …

Eric Collins from Quantum Renewable Energy

Yes. It’s been a long and cold—some would even say brutal—winter. But here, on this last day of February, the light of the morning sun is already almost unbearably bright. Beautiful. Promising. And February has been an amazing month at Wintergreen.

We have enjoyed a number of first-time events at Wintergreen this February, despite the record cold temperatures. There is a saying something to the effect that there is no bad weather, merely bad gear. And do we have great gear and facilities for our winter visitors!

Several visitors, including the staff from Quantum Renewable Energy and a group of graduate Aboriginal students from Queen’s, Trent, and the University of Victoria, spent time at Wintergreen this month. And while much of that time was spent in our cozy lodge, almost everyone also ventured out to the trails—and enjoyed the deep snow, thanks to our amazing snowshoes from Trailhead Kingston. For those of you who have been following our winter programming developments, you will be aware that we received support from a number of organizations to expand Wintergreen’s offerings into the winter months. We are extremely grateful to the Frontenac CFDC (under the Eastern Ontario Development Program) for leading the charge, and also, for the matching funds from the County of Frontenac. We also received contributions from Trailhead Kingston, Quantum Renewable Energy, Sustainable Eastern Ontario, and Friendly Fires.  Thank you, one and all.Screen Shot 2015-02-28 at 9.29.38 AM

Now that winter is nearly over (only 20 sleeps until SPRING!), we will continue to reap the benefits of our winter funding and programming, as our trails and buildings are in fine shape for spring visitors. Our next public event—a weekend featuring the Camino—will take place April 11 and 12, and given the theme of the weekend, we expect that many will venture out on the land as the weekend progresses. Hopefully, though, without snowshoes!


Wintergreen Renewable Energy Co-op AGM

wintergreen renewableThis past Friday night, I attended the Annual General Meeting of the Wintergreen Renewable Energy Co-op. What an inspiration! It’s hard to believe that an initiative that started at Wintergreen Studios with a retreat in 2011 has blossomed into a separate organization with impressive accomplishments.

The mission of the Wintergreen Co-op is to develop renewable energy projects in Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox, and Addington and surrounding regions that bring benefits to the members and to our community. The co-op promotes the widespread understanding of the social, environmental, and economic benefits of community participation in regional renewable energy initiatives. The co-op also actively pursues partnership and cooperation with other community sector organizations as well as public bodies and the private sector. Indeed, were it not for the support of some of our long-term partners, such as Sustainable Eastern Ontario, the Co-op would not be enjoying the success and stability it has achieved.

Another important partnership for the Co-op is with SolarShare. Late in December, the Wintergreen Co-op SolarShare collaboration was offered a contract to sell electricity from a 500kW ground mount photovoltaic project on Unity Road in Kingston. This was the second Wintergreen Co-op project to be offered a contract by the Ontario Power Authority in 2014.

We learned at the AGM that Wintergreen Co-op members have invested over half a million dollars in SolarShare bonds. The money that is raised from these bond sales will finance these and other co-op owned projects all over Ontario. The investment campaign will continue through 2015. SolarShare bonds are for a five-year term and pay 5% interest on a semi-annual basis.

Screen Shot 2015-02-03 at 7.52.29 AMYet another highlight of the AGM was the presentation by Daniel Bida, Executive Director of ZooShare. ZooShare is a sister co-op, engaged in building a very exciting biogas project at the Toronto Zoo using “Zoo Poo” to generate clean energy for Ontario. Zoo poo… who knew?

Winter Wonderland

winterIn a world where people seem more attached to their iPhones and Android devices than to their families and neighbors, how can we slow down for a while and take a few deep breaths? By spending some time at Wintergreen Studios, where a suite of winter opportunities promises to bring balance back to your life. Come spend a night in the woods, communicating with nature and leaving your cell phone at home.

Wintergreen is inviting you to experience the stillness of the winter months by enjoying a night of solitude in one of our wilderness cabins, or by renting the entire lodge for a weekend family reunion, or by coming to one of our winter events. While at Wintergreen, you will have access to the network of hiking trails that criss-cross the 204-acre property. Wandering down the trails, you will walk through mixed forests and meadows, pass tall granite outcroppings, and gaze across frozen ponds and marshes and a glacier carved lake.

Last year, Wintergreen experimented with some winter events, and we realized that there was great potential for more winter activity. Molly Russell, a Grade 4 teacher who is now working at the Canadian International School of Cairo, spent the month of March 2014 living in the Wintergreen lodge. She says, “In March of this year—near the end of one of the coldest and most brutal winters we have experienced in a long time—I had the pleasure of living at Wintergreen. One wouldn’t think that living in the wilderness in the freezing cold would be described as “pleasure,” but the time I spent at Wintergreen was amazing. I hiked, every day, along the many trails that led to the lake. I enjoyed the heat of the woodstove in the lodge, and the warmth of the cabins. I loved the sky, the snow, the ice, and the sun. I learned so much about renewable energy, about sustainable building, about what impact we humans have on the planet. These are lasting gifts.”

winter The expansion of Wintergreen’s programming into the winter months was made possible by the support of the Frontenac CFDC, the County of Frontenac, and Sustainable Eastern Ontario. Grants from these organizations were enhanced by donations from Quantum Renewable Energy, Friendly Fires, and Trailhead Kingston. Wintergreen is now winter ready: all of the buildings have been upgraded and winterized (all with renewable energy) to bring warm comfort to those visiting during the coldest—and some say, most beautiful—months of the year. Come and join us.

Leaving tweeting to the birds…

Before you ask yourself if you can do something faster or more efficiently, ask yourself if you have to do it at all.

tweetingThat thought has given me much pause. Consequently, during the few months that have passed since I read that statement, I’ve been asking myself what things I do (very quickly, sometimes!) that I don’t need to do at all. I’ve identified several. And removing those tasks from my life has given me more time to walk outdoors. To play the piano.

What about Wintergreen? Well, it seems to me that there is something that Wintergreen has been doing that we don’t need to do at all – and that is Twitter. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it’s true. Wintergreen can survive without Twitter! And so, while we will continue to provide blog posts on our website – such as the one you’re reading now, and we will continue to post ideas and news on our Facebook page, we are signing off from Twitter. One less thing to do, to give us more time to be with one another. And leave the birds to tweet. They’re better at it, anyway.

In praise of slow

praise of slowAs the winter weather and the holiday season nudges us into a more mellow state, I am reminded of a fabulous book that came out a few years ago, by Carl Honoré, called In praise of slowness: Challenging the cult of speed. The idea of “slow” is related to the Slow Food Movement that began in the late 1980s when Carlo Petrini campaigned against the opening of a McDonald’s restaurant near the Spanish Steps in Rome.

praise of slow
Hobbit House

We have the perfect winter arrangement for slow at Wintergreen. Come stay in one of our magical woodland cabins for restorative retreat. Explore trail upon trail on hundreds of acres of land, all part of the Frontenac Arch Biosphere Reserve. Be nourished by quiet hikes in the stillness of the forest.

By January, our Beach House – the biggest off-grid cabin at Wintergreen – will be outfitted with a dry kitchen and a new airtight stove, thanks to the funding we received from the Frontenac CFDC under the Eastern Ontario Development Program. The lodge is also available for longer stays.

You can learn more about all of our winter retreat facilities by clicking here or by contacting our Operations Manager, Karen Smereka, directly at

And to wrap things up, instead of a 2-minute facebook not-so-slow video, here’s a full TED talk about the book and the slow movement as a whole. Curl up somewhere, with a steaming hot cup of tea, and savour these ideas…

Gail Sidonie Sobat’s Poetry Prize

Sobat-Cover_small-678x1024Gail Sidonie Sobat’s poetry book, How the Light is Spent, published in 2013 by Wintergreen Studios Press, is being honored as a Shelf Unbound Notable Book in the poetry category as part of the The Third Annual Shelf Unbound Writing Competition for Best Independently Published Book, sponsored by Bowker. Gail’s book will be featured in the December/January 2015 issue of Shelf Unbound. It is available at Wintergreen or online.

And in other good news … Gail has just been selected as one of two Metro Edmonton Federation of Libraries Writers in Residence for 2015.  For any Wintergreen friends living in the Edmonton area, there is a reception on December 11, 2014 at the Stanley Milner Library at 7:00 pm to kick off the 2015 Writers in Residence program. I’m sure Gail would be happy to see a friend of Wintergreen in attendance!

Inspired by Amsterdam

Just back from Europe. I’m always humbled to see how some European countries are so far ahead of us on the environmental front. Yes, there are wind turbines and solar panels everywhere. But there is more.

AmsterdamAmsterdam is an airport hub, and I’ve landed there many times, but never had the opportunity to walk the streets or take a boat along the canals. This time I did. I was amazed. These two photos are indicative of a lifestyle that is growing greener all the time. One photo shows the bicycles — in a city with about 850,000 people, there are over a million bikes. It doesn’t take a math wizard to recognize that there are a lot of people riding bikes in Amsterdam! And with good reason — there are over 400 kilometers of bike paths, some of which take just as much space as the road for cars.

IMG_6305Then there was the airport hotel, which was a run-of-the-mill Radisson. This photo shows part of the sign next to the elevator — note the bottom entry — there were multiple car charging spots in the parking lot on the lower level. Enjoy your breakfast and charge your car… what a concept.

Humbling, yes, this bike-friendly-Venice-of-the-North . But also inspiring. We have such capacity to live in ways that are healthier for the planet, and for us, too.

Biodiversity plot update …

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 4.01.58 PMLast weekend Dr. Graham Whitelaw, from the School of Environmental Studies at Queen’s University, along with Dr. James Hamilton from Wilfrid Laurier University, travelled to Wintergreen to continue work on our biodiversity plot.

The biodiversity plot – measuring 20 m. x 20 m. – is not far from the Main Trail and can be easily accessed from the Cliff Trail. We will be able to monitor the health of the trees, the rate of regeneration, as well as shrub and plant life, as part of a pan-Canadian database on our precious trees and their habitats.

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 4.01.07 PMThose of you who might have seen earlier posts on this project will know that our focus is primarily on the Butternut trees, an endangered species in our part of the world. Wintergreen has many, many butternuts, and while some are healthy, others have succumbed to the canker disease that is killing so many. Learning more about their habitat will give us an opportunity to contribute to the growing knowledge about these valuable and special trees.

Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 4.03.25 PMbiodiversity plotScreen Shot 2014-11-15 at 4.01.28 PMOur work on Sunday involved honing in on the four corners of the site (with the help of a GPS, yes, but also that reliable and old-fashioned technology known as a paper and pencil, and a giant (I mean giant!) ruler. The corners are marked with posts and a bright orange cap. We’ve left the tape on the site as well, to ensure that future visitors to the site are mindful to walk the perimeter rather than disturbing the growth within.

In addition to marking the four corners, we also mapped out all of the trees with at least a 10 cm. diameter. As we marked the trees, we measured their circumferences, plotted them on a graph, and made notes about the trees themselves. These trees have small shiny markers; the photo is of the first tree: WG – 1 – 01:  Wintergreen – Screen Shot 2014-11-15 at 4.01.45 PMPlot 1 – Tree 1.

biodiversity plotIt’s very exciting to see this project develop, and we look forward to welcoming visitors to our plot in the very near future.

Poetry Retreat with Lorna Crozier – May 2015

Calling all poets …

LornaGreat news – Lorna Crozier is returning to Wintergreen in the spring of 2015. A full week workshop begins on May 17; click here for all of the details.

For those of you who have enjoyed time with Lorna at Wintergreen in the past, this is a wonderful opportunity to interact with Lorna once again, but in a different format than most of the past weekend-long workshops. This time, Lorna will be with us for a week, and in addition to her marvelous instructional seminars, there will be time for participants to really enjoy all that spring at Wintergreen has to offer, and to carve out time to actually write!

If you have any interest, plan now to attend; this workshop is already filling up with both past and new participants.

Camino at Wintergreen

CaminoLast weekend we were treated to an amazing event at Wintergreen, celebrating the sights, sounds, smells, and stories of the Camino. If it wasn’t on my bucket list already…

CaminoAnd we were treated to the tastes of the Camino too, with a Spanish inspired meal, created by our Chef, Louise Cooper, with the help of many volunteers, including Chris Hudson, who created our Tarta de Santiago for dessert.

Peter Coffman, from Carleton University, gave a splendid talk about his experiences on the Camino. Called “Musical Landscapes,” the Caminopresentation included Peter’s stunning photographs of the Camino, as well as extraordinary samples of Oliver Schroer’s violin offerings, created on the Camino journey that they trod together, along with their life companions.

This event was such fun that we’re thinking of offering something Camino related again this spring.