Virtual Tour of Long BranchVisit the photo gallery for more pictures.
Community CenterThe Long Branch Community Center, a direct gain passive solar structure, was built in 1974 with all volunteer labor from the wider community. Many native materials and salvaged building materials were used in the construction process, including a foundation of on-site Black Locust, Red Oak flooring from the old Swannanoa Hospital, and windows from the old Haw Creek School in Asheville.
Clerestory windows help to provide daylighting to the north areas of the building, and south facing windows help to provide direct gain in its passive solar design.
The building was featured in Eugene Eccli's book, Low Cost Energy Efficient Shelter, published by Rodale Press in 1976. When the attached Passive Solar Greenhouse was designed and built onto the structure in 1980, it was featured in Darryl Strickler's 1983 book, Solarspaces: How (and Why) to Add a Greenhouse, Sunspace, or Solarium to Your Home.
In addition to passive solar heating, the Community Center features a Finnish Contra-Flow Masonry Heater, built with site-built Cinva-ram earth bricks, salvaged fire bricks, and local field stone.
The Center's Demonstration Trout Aquaculture pond is typically home to about 1,000 Trout who make for a great edible resource! With several springs feeding into the fully forested and shaded stream that feeds the pond, the dissolved oxygen and year-round coolness of the fresh spring water provide an ideal aquatic habitat for the Trout.
The 3.5 Kilowatt micro-hydropower installation is a high-head system that features a Pelton Wheel for its turbine. The hydraulic head of the system is 600 feet, and the penstock runs over 1700 feet. It produces 120 volt alternating current, and surplus electricity is used to heat water for a radiant floor heating system.
Solar Hot Water Heater
The Solar Hot Water Heater is a batch-type system utilizing 3 40 gallon water tanks painted black installed in a superinsulated enclosure that uses 2 46"x76" tempered insulated glass sliding glass door replacement units for its glazing. The use of 3 tanks is important as the greater water storage capacity and the more surface area of solar collection increase the volume and temperature of the hot water. On any given sunny day, water temperatures can reach 185 degrees F. This low-cost ground-mounted installation can be built by anyone with basic carpentry and plumbing skills, and particularly lends itself to large volume hot water usage, in places such as summer camps, hospitals, and health clinics in developing countries.
The Pond Cabin is a basic direct gain passive solar structure, with thermal mass in the concrete floor and insulated north wall. Its dimensions are 24'x12' with a sleeping loft for additional living space. Situated above the Trout Pond, it receives abundant sunshine during the winter months, and is fully shaded by deciduous trees in the summer.
The Orchard House is nearing completion, and features a passive solar direct gain system with heat storage in its fully insulated slab-on-grade floor system. The dimensions are 24'x24' with a 14'x24' loft area.
The Organic gardens are home to a wide array of vegetables, including corn, squash, beans, peas, Swiss Chard, Broccoli, cabbage, turnips, lettuces, beets, celery, several different types of greens, onions, tomatoes, okra, and many others, including many heirloom varieties.
The double-dug garden beds are prepared using French Bio-intensive methods, and copious amounts of site-generated compost. You can taste the difference!
We demonstrate several different kinds of compost bins at the Center, everything from commercial units made from recycled plastic to steel-wire units and those made from salvaged shipping pallets, or skids.
Long Branch staff build compost bins at various local schools to help children see that the essential message of Nature is that "There is no such thing as waste." Compost generated at schools comes from the collection of leftover food scraps from the cafeteria and paper towels from the rest rooms. The compost can then be used on campus for flower gardens, organic vegetable gardens, and tree planting ceremonies, all as a way to help students see how they can actively participate in and contribute to the nutrient cycle.
Composting ToiletsSeveral types of composting toilets are in use at the Center, including a Passive Solar Compost Toilet for which blueprints are available.
The solar composting toilet is located in one of the Center's attached passive solar greenhouses which maintains ideal thermal conditions for thermophilic bacteria year-round for aerobically decomposing the human manure. The end-products of the composting toilets are pathogen-free nutrient rich soil amendments that are used throughout the Center's landscaping.
Apple OrchardThe Center's Orchards and Edible Landscape include a wide array of fruit and nut tree species and varieties, including several dozen old-time apple varieties, nectarine, peach, pear, plum, cherries, Hall's Hardy Almond, and other tree crops including nitrogen-fixing species and some blight-resistant American Chestnuts. We also have nurseries of both Heirlom Variety antique apples and blight-resistant American Chestnuts.
The design of the Center's main orchard tries to mimic the diverse nature of the Southern Appalachian mixed hardwood forest, with an emphasis on food producing species.
The main orchard area is comprised of seven terraces, specifically designed for soil and water conservation on the east-facing slope of the Long Branch cove. The tree crops are planted between the terraces, which allows for a 2-story agriculture, or alley cropping in between the rows of trees. Vegetables and small grains can be grown at the understory level, and fruits and nuts are produced at the canopy level.
TrailsA diverse network of trails criss-cross the Center's 1635-acre land holding in the Newfound Mountains, ranging from 3200 feet in elevation to 5152 feet at Big Sandy Mush Bald, the highest peak in the Newfounds.
Some of the panoramic views are breathtaking, and the presence of Neo-Tropical migratory songbirds reminds us why the protection of high elevation mountain habitat as an ecological sanctuary and wildlife habitat preserve is absolutely critical.
The Center's two attached solar greenhouses function as walk-in solar hot air collectors and as bright and expansive growing spaces for a number of winter vegetables, including several varieties of greens, Chards, and Brassicas. In addition to the vegetables, a number of ornamental and flowing plants bring texture and radiant color to the greenhouses during the winter months. In the late winter and early spring, vegetable seeds germinate in seedling flats and are then transplanted out into the gardens.
One greenhouse is actually a two-story solarium that features a balcony with growing areas, and planting beds on the lower level, and a Passive Solar Composting Toilet.
Natural deciduous tree shade helps to keep the greenhouses cool in the summer months, and operable windows and doors on the east and west sides allow cooling breezes to move through both day and night.
If you're looking for a low-cost subtropical vacation in the middle of winter, please come out for a visit and bask in the warmth, comfort, and beauty of the greenhouse on any sunny winter's day -- even a subfreezing day! You'll be warmed to your bones!
Blueberries & RaspberriesWe are growing over 600 Blueberries (several different varieties) in the Center's Edible Landscape using a wood chip mulch to suppress weed growth and to help retain moisture in the soil. Blue-X Shelters provide protection and a growth-enhancing spectrum of light for the young plants.
Over 1400 Blueberry cuttings have been taken from our own plants and are in the process of rooting.
The Heritage Variety of Red Raspberry produces two bountiful crops per growing season, one starting in mid-June and going through July, and another crop starting in August and producing heavy crops of berries until killing freezes hit. Come on out and taste some for yourself!
The Creek House was designed as a model Southern Appalachian Bioshelter that generates heat and light, grows food, recycles wastes, and utilizes deciduous shading and natural cooling during the warm summer months.
The current incarnation of this suite of offices and staff residence is built on the site of an earlier post and beam structure.
A fire in 1995 damaged many of the Tulip Poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) trees growing around the building, which were subsequently taken down and processed into board lumber on a small portable bandsaw mill.
The lumber from these Poplar trees yielded over 80% of the framing and Board and Batten siding of this super-insulated building -- a phenomenal on-site natural resource.
In the same way that the Plains Indians honored every part of the bison that was taken, the Long Branch staff honored the Poplars by using every piece of slab wood, every piece of cutoff lumber for kindling, and even gathered up the sawdust for use in the Center's composting toilets.
In the winter months, the attached 16'x36' two-story solar greenhouse provides exquisite warmth for comfort, and Mustard, Kale, Chard, and Brassicas in growing beds for good nutrition.
In the late winter and early spring, growing areas are occupied by seedling flats that yield vegetable starts for the organic gardens. Blueberry cuttings are also rooted on the shaded balcony areas of the greenhouse.
The Passive Solar Composting Toilet is also housed in the greenhouse, which is an ideal year-round environment for the thermophilic bacteria that convert humanure into pathogen-free, nutrient-rich soil amendments.
Operable windows and doors on the east and west sides of the greenhouse provide excellent crossflow ventilation, deciduous trees provide summer shade, and the thermal mass of the gravel floor, insulated concrete foundation walls, and the barrels of water storage ensure that overheating is never a problem.
Electricity is provided by the 3.5 Kilowatt high-head Micro-Hydropower system, and surplus electricity is diverted into a fully insulated slab-on-grade, tile-covered, radiant floor heating system.
Gravity spring water straight from the heart of the mountain feeds a 500 gallon reservoir, and provides cool, refreshing, pure water for all domestic needs, including greenhouse and garden watering.
Hot water comes from the ground-mounted batch or integrated solar water heating system that utilizes 3 40-gallon water tanks painted black installed in a superinsulated enclosure that uses 2 46"x76" tempered insulated glass sliding glass door replacement units for its glazing. The use of 3 tanks is important as the greater water storage capacity and the more surface area of solar collection increase the volume and temperature of the hot water. On any given sunny day, water temperatures can reach 185 degrees F. This low-cost ground-mounted installation can be built by anyone with basic carpentry and plumbing skills, and particularly lends itself to large volume hot water usage, in places such as summer camps, hospitals, and health clinics in developing countries.
American Chestnut Nursery
American Chestnut Barn
This old barn was built around 1920 with locally sawn roughcut American Chestnut lumber. Originally designed and used as a Tobacco Barn, it now serves as building material storage, a home for the 4WD tractor, cement mixer, and other tools and agricultural resources.
Many of these old barns are being dismantled for their lumber, which is used as decorative wainscoting and paneling in expensive building projects.
We are glad to be able to keep this Old Chestnut Barn as a part of the old-time cultural legacy and the rich mountain landscape from which these American Chestnuts thrived, and will once again.
For more information on American Chestnuts, read our paper on chestnut restoration.
Contact us if you have questions or comments about this site.
© 2005 Long Branch Environmental Education Center. All rights reserved.