A quiet cabin and outdoor adventures in Montana’s Seeley-Swan Valley

September 14, 2020 by  
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As Andy Aldeen strides across his Montana land, a can of bear spray stuffed in his back shorts pocket, you’d never guess the Midwestern-born hay farmer had spent 25 years working in finance in Hong Kong and Tokyo. Now, his three-generation family is rooted here in the Swan Valley, haying and running three VRBO units for visitors craving clean mountain air far from cities. A homesteader cabin That’s what brings my husband, dog and me here. With COVID-19 numbers rising, we hesitated to plan ahead. Then, we got lucky and snagged a last-minute reservation for a socially distant getaway at what was described as a pioneer homesteader cabin . So here we were, briskly touring Aldeen’s land with his black lab, Sis, acting as hostess and leading our dog Rudy through bushes and brambles. Related: 5 cozy getaway cabins that are perfect for fall The cabin has been thoroughly redone since a Norwegian fur trapper built it in the early 1900s. He surely didn’t have a hot water shower, a full kitchen and such a comfortable bed. Aldeen decorates in what he calls “Victorian explorer” style, which means a fun mix of cheery and unpredictable items, including a red-and-white-checked table cloth on the kitchen table downstairs, a cow-spotted plant stand and a sequined rainbow pillow on a daybed in the cabin’s attic library. Aldeen has scoured used bookstores all through the valley, furnishing his VRBO units with thousands of books of all genres. Best of all was the big front porch strung with Christmas lights. You can sit on an easy chair with a view of hay bales sitting in front of the Mission Mountains. In the morning, you may hear migrating sandhill cranes purring as they hunt for critters or see deer bounding by. Down the road, the ranch’s horses congregate under their favorite shade tree. With two bedrooms and a small, cozy living room, the homesteader cabin is the mid-range option among Aldeen’s VRBO units. The Lazy Bean is a 2,000-square-foot cabin that sleeps up to eight and has the most extensive library . Then, there’s a more primitive, 300-square-foot cabin with twin bunk beds. The Seeley-Swan Valley The cabins sit in the Seeley-Swan Valley in northwestern Montana, on the edge of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex and just off of Highway 83. This is known as one of Montana’s most scenic roads and is a popular route to Glacier National Park . But it’s also a destination in itself for people seeking outdoor adventures. Seeley and Swan are actually two back-to-back valleys. We were in Swan, the northern of the two, near the tiny town of Condon. The Mission Range of the Rocky Mountains towers to the west, the Swan Range to the east. This is an unusually wet part of Montana, with significantly higher rainfall than most of the state, which accounts for the greenness and abundance of water. Rivers, lakes, ponds and bogs left by long-ago receding glaciers cover about 16% of the Swan Basin — compare that to only 1% wetland habitat for the rest of the state. This is the part of the state to visit if you want to get in the water or if you like scenic hikes with dazzling lake views. With average July and August highs in the mid-80s, the lakes and rivers get lots of summertime use. “Be Bear Aware” One of the things I hadn’t realized until I got to Montana was how many bears call it home. “Greatest concentration in the Lower 48,” Aldeen told me proudly while I shook in my hiking boots. As we set out one morning for the Glacier Lake Trailhead , our route took us on a long stretch of gravel road. When we finally arrived at the parking lot, I was relieved to see other cars. Wilderness is great, but sometimes I gravitate toward safety in numbers. Still, there’s no guarantee that the presence of humans equals the absence of bears. Bears are big, and they go where they want. Signs at just about every trailhead exhort visitors to “ Be Bear Aware .” As we followed the Glacier Lake Trail, I took the information to heart. Bear spray on front backpack strap, check. Talking or singing before turning blind corners, yep. The mountains were gorgeous, and the trail was lined with huckleberries ripe for the picking. I relaxed and enjoyed it, as long as I didn’t think too much about who else loves huckleberries. Paddler’s paradise Bears swim, too. But at least it’s easier to see them coming over open water. This part of Montana is an absolute dream if you like to kayak , paddleboard or swim. Highway 83 has signs for lakes every couple of miles. If you favor motors on your watercraft, a big lake like Seeley will give you lots of space to explore. But if you prefer human-powered vessels, you can also find a quiet lake without motor traffic. The most touristy lake we visited was Holland Lake. This 400-acre glacial lake is popular for good reason, with its well-used campground, Swan Mountain views and easy access to the Holland Falls trailhead . You can rent a canoe, kayak or SUP from the Holland Lake Lodge . My favorite thing about Holland Lake was the cordoned off swimming area. Some of the lakes we visited were nice for paddling but mucky for swimming. Not Holland. You don’t have to worry about putting your feet on the bottom and having them disappear under questionable slime. Van Lake is too small to be of much interest for those with fast boats. A leisurely paddle around the perimeter took less than hour, including stops for wildlife viewing. From my SUP, I saw a bald eagle dive down and nab a fish off the line of somebody fishing from a rowboat. Watching bald eagles swoop, fish and fly above your SUP, and loons swimming alongside you, is a dream come true for any wildlife-enthusiast. The most remote lake we visited was Clearwater. It’s about a 0.7 mile walk from the road. The trail is mostly flat and would be easy an easy trip, if not for dragging an inflatable SUP. But it was worth it, as it was the only time I’ve ever been the only watercraft on a lake, accompanied only by electric blue damselflies. September average high temperatures for Seeley-Swan are in the 70s. There’s still time to get your Montana lake fix before the temperatures dip down and the snow begins falling, although that is another trip full of nature’s beauty. So if you get the chance to escape to a remote Montana cabin, grab your bear spray and go. Images via Teresa Bergen / Inhabitat Editor’s Note: We recommend taking the utmost care to keep those around you safe if you choose to travel. You can find more advice on travel precautions from the CDC and WHO .

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A quiet cabin and outdoor adventures in Montana’s Seeley-Swan Valley

Vermont Food Scrap Ban requires residents, businesses to compost

July 10, 2020 by  
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Too lazy to carry your banana peel or avocado pit to your compost bin? You’re breaking the law, at least in Vermont . The Green Mountain State is the first state to pass a law requiring businesses and residents to compost. Anything that was once alive — including orange rinds, bones, egg shells, coffee grounds, grass and leaves — are banned from Vermont landfills as of July 1. In the past, yard debris and food scraps have made up nearly a quarter of the waste from a typical Vermont residence. At cafeterias and restaurants, more than half the waste was food scraps. When all of this old food hits the landfill, it decomposes slowly and produces the powerful greenhouse gas methane. Related: 12 things you should never compost Instead, when food scraps are composted, their valuable nutrients can boost soil health. Unlike smelly food scraps, finished compost is a highly sought-after commodity for use in landscaping, gardens and farms. “Vermont is ahead of the curve because we have such a strong agricultural base, it makes it a no-brainer for us,” Cat Buxton, a Vermont-based compost consultant, told the Valley News . “We have a lot of people who know how to manage organic waste of all kinds and they’ve been doing it for a long time.” The new law, called the Food Scrap Ban, could create more jobs for food scrap haulers and others in the waste industry. However, the state won’t be hiring enforcers to troll people’s bins for peach pits. It is counting on voluntary compliance. Before the law came into effect, 72% of Vermont residents composted at home or saved leftovers for livestock, according to a University of Vermont study. To help people get started, the official Vermont state website offers tips on choosing composting receptacles, containing odors, composting in the yard, cutting down on food waste and keeping your food scraps safe from bears . “From a climate change and greenhouse gas perspective, this is huge,” Josh Kelly of the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources said of the state’s efforts to boost composting. “In addition, it puts our waste to work. It puts it into a job-creating system where you are creating a product that is being processed and made into something and it’s not disposed of.” + Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation Via Huffington Post Image via Ben Kerckx

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Vermont Food Scrap Ban requires residents, businesses to compost

Green-roofed brick home ‘disappears’ into the landscape

February 18, 2020 by  
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Antwerp-based studio Studio Okami Architects has unveiled a design that masterfully blends a home into its surrounding landscape. Built into a sloped hill, the brick-clad and aptly named Sloped Villa uses an expansive green roof to help the house “disappear” into its serene natural setting. Located in an idyllic area of Mont-de-l’Enclus in Belgium , the Sloped Villa came to be after the homeowners, who purchased an expansive, sloping plot of land, met with the architects and explained their vision of building an “invisible house” into the rolling terrain. “We love the view too much to be constricted by predefined window sizes,” the clients said. “We love the way nature shifts through the seasons on this plot. We love the tranquility … It would be mostly for the two of us enjoying the sunrise over the valley, but make sure our four adult kids can stay over anytime.” Related: Stunning green-roofed home in Poland is embedded into the idyllic landscape To bring the clients’ dream to fruition, the architects came up with the idea to partially embed a simple, one-story volume into the sloped landscape so that it would slightly jut out on one side. With a rooftop covered in greenery , the home “vanishes” from sight from one angle while providing unobstructed views over the valley from the other. The resulting 3,000-square-foot house features a wrap-around porch made out of locally sourced bricks . The walls boast floor-to-ceiling glass panels that create a seamless connection with the outdoors and let in plenty of natural light and the landscape vistas that the clients adore so much. Inside, an open-floor plan makes the most of the main living space, which features a minimalist design . Throughout the home, neutral tones and sparse furnishings keep the focus on the views. The bedrooms are “cave-like” yet still benefit from views and light, and a soaking tub next to a glass wall offers an additional space to relax and unwind. + Studio Okami Architects Via ArchDaily Photography by Filip Dujardin via Studio Okami Architects

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Green-roofed brick home ‘disappears’ into the landscape

Don’t ban new technologies — experiment with them carefully

September 3, 2019 by  
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Silicon Valley’s many disruptive effects on society and business are no reason to ban some of its more promising products, such as shared city scooters.

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Don’t ban new technologies — experiment with them carefully

Intel, Adobe, IBM and others on the lifecycle of corporate sustainability goal-setting

September 3, 2019 by  
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Citi, Keurig Dr Pepper and Micron set speedy targets, while Ingersoll Rand plays the long game.

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Intel, Adobe, IBM and others on the lifecycle of corporate sustainability goal-setting

The evolution of big auto and Silicon Valley

February 4, 2019 by  
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With legacy automakers expanding their R&D programs, Tesla isn’t the only car startup in the Valley.

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The evolution of big auto and Silicon Valley

The next-gen cleantech entrepreneurs

February 4, 2019 by  
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And six innovative startups to watch from LACI’s CTO Global Forum.

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The next-gen cleantech entrepreneurs

The growing wine industry is threatening California’s Napa Valley

May 28, 2018 by  
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Napa Valley , a world-famous symbol of American excellence in wine, is threatened by too much of a good thing. Ever-increasing wine production has inflicted damage on the region’s economy and ecology.  The industrialization of Napa has resulted in the loss of 95 percent of the oak trees that once covered the valley, and now locals are organizing to protect the area. “With great success came great money and outsiders,” Napa expert and journalist James Conaway told the Guardian . Only a few decades ago, the region was home to fruit orchards and livestock farms as well as vineyards. “Now it’s monoculture with a vengeance,” said Conaway. “Hundreds of miles of steel trellising holding up the vines from one end of the valley to the next. It has an industrial sheen.” Napa County contains California ‘s densest concentration of oak forests, a source of pride for residents that provides invaluable ecological services to the living things that call Napa home. The oak trees sequester carbon, capture rainwater and prevent erosion through their thick roots. The majority of Napa’s oak trees are found in the surrounding hills. However, one-third of the remaining oaks are standing on what is considered to be potential agricultural land. Related: 100% solar-powered winery keeps naturally cool with cork-insulated roofs  In response to the rapid expansion of the area’s  wine industry, local residents have organized around Measure C, an upcoming ballot initiative that would guarantee protection to much of the remaining oak woodland. While the measure would limit the potential growth of the wine industry, those in favor of it say that they are motivated not by opposition to the wineries, but by an understanding that the valley needs sustainable growth . “Something’s very wrong with the way we are thinking about our resources,” said Warren Winiarski, whose Napa cabernet sauvignon won an upset 1976 taste test victory in Paris and put Napa on the map. “They are finite. And yet we go on with development as though we could do that indefinitely.” Via The Guardian Images via Stan Shebs on Wikimedia Commons (1, 2)

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The growing wine industry is threatening California’s Napa Valley

Charred timber home perched above Silicon Valley takes cues from nature

January 15, 2018 by  
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High above Silicon Valley sits a striking home with a two-story volume clad in blackened cedar. Schwartz and Architecture designed the residence, named Shou Sugi Ban House after the traditional Japanese method used to burn the wood to wrap it in a layer of carbon highly resistant to water, fire, and mold. The charred timber volume is an extension to an existing one-story home, the interior of which was also substantially remodeled by the architects. Located on the crest of a hill in Los Gatos, California, Shou Sugi Ban House is a 4,350-square-foot renovation and expansion project that takes inspiration from the surrounding landscape, including the texture and look of boulders, bark, and leaves. “Enlarging an existing home that has an already strong and complete architectural character can be challenging,” wrote the architects. “Here, we anchor the existing one-story home with a new two-story independent volume, using it both as punctuation mark and counterpoint to the existing composition. We clad the addition in traditional Japanese Shou Sugi Ban burnt cedar siding both to anchor home with site and to create the visual weight necessary to anchor the existing exuberantly-roofed horizontal building.” Related: Stunning Lake Michigan home is built from dying ash reclaimed onsite In contrast to the extension’s dark facade, the airy interior features whitewashed walls with natural textures applied throughout. A family room occupies the lower level while a bedroom is placed upstairs. Views of the outdoors are framed through large full-height glazing making it feel as if the interior is open to the outdoors. A particularly beautiful feature of the new extension is the minimalist floating staircase made of painted-steel and cantilevered walnut treads that the architects liken to leaves growing on a branch. + Schwartz and Architecture Images via Matthew Millman

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Charred timber home perched above Silicon Valley takes cues from nature

Spectacular mountain-like Valley breaks ground in Amsterdam

September 6, 2017 by  
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A jagged mountain-like mass is turning up on Amsterdam’s pancake-flat landscape. MVRDV recently broke ground on Valley, a 75,000-square-meter mixed-use development that looks like a cluster of mountain peaks covered in greenery. Located in Amsterdam’s Central Business District Zuidas, the competition-winning design for OVG Real Estate will aim for BREEAM-NL Excellent rating and comprise apartments, offices, underground parking, a sky bar, and various retail and cultural facilities. Selected as the competition winner by the Municipality of Amsterdam in 2015, the stunning Valley project seeks to transform the quickly developing Zuidas area into a more livable and complete urban quarter. The green-terraced towers are designed as three mountain-like peaks of varied heights that soar to a maximum of 100 meters. The Valley will include 196 apartments, seven stories of office space, a three-story underground parking garage with 375 parking spots, and a variety of retail and cultural options on the lower floors. The publicly accessible Sky bar, which spans two stories, will offer panoramic views across the city. “Valley combines residential apartments with a green environment that offers panoramic views of Amsterdam”, says Winy Maas, MVRDV co-founder. “A lively plinth offering a range of commercial activities has some offices above and is topped finally with residences. The carving out of the resulting block ensures that it becomes less introverted than existing buildings in the Zuidas. There will be many terraces, both private and public, filled with people, flowers, plants and outdoor seating.” Related: BIG unveils lush mountain-like terraced building infused with nature The jagged building will be clad in natural stone and the layout informed by digital tools to optimize access to natural daylight and views, while preserving privacy. Due to the unique layout, no two apartments will be alike. MVRDV collaborated with award-winning garden designer Piet Oudolf and Deltavormgroep on the landscape design, which features an abundance of outdoor space and landscaped terraces. The publicly accessible central valley-area—from which the project derives its name—spreads across the fourth and fifth floor between the towers’ residential and commercial areas and will have an attractive year-round green appearance. + MVRDV Images via MVRDV

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Spectacular mountain-like Valley breaks ground in Amsterdam

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