The river now is unlike any summer flow I remember—it’s running high and fast, crystalline splash, unusually refreshing. It’s a foot or better above normal level for this time of the year, a testament to the immense snowfall of the past winter that is still being melted above us at higher elevations. We didn’t even have to go to diesel switchover from hydroelectric power generation during the Summer Solstice Healing Retreat, our largest event of the year in terms of sheer numbers of humans on property, with accompanying energy needs.
Though the river carries vestiges of winter’s extremes, we’ve moved on, into this summer’s building season. The projects seem endless, but we’re plowing through them anyway. Many of these projects seem over-sized and under-capitalized, but . . . that never stopped us before, so here we go again.
Big on the projects list is the Lodge foundation. After 80 years, the posts & beams holding up this immense building have rotted out, aided by the busywork of a bazillion carpenter ants. Currently, we’ve got the building perched on I-beams & cribbing, and we’re excavating a daylight basement under the library (much of it by hand, thanks to the master shovel-work of Robert!). When we’re done, we’ll have some much needed offices and storage rooms down there, not to mention a solid foundation that will hold the building for the duration of its years on earth, may they be long and many!
A project that has my complete attention this year is the Deer Meadow Well. It was drilled over 25 years ago on what we call the New Land (a portion of the original Breitenbush homestead that was split off and owned by someone else between the late ‘60s and the late 90’s, until we bought it back/brought it back, into the fold). This well has been closed up for a quarter century and we didn’t know what we’d find when we re-opened the well bore. And so, it was with a lot of hope and not a little suspense that I observed our crew use cutting torch, then backhoe bucket to persuade the top of the old corroded wellhead to open up and let go its secret. What happened next exceeded expectations and put me into a kind of visually induced altered state. The top of the old steel wellhead lifted off like a slow rocket propelled by a seemingly sculpted flow of translucent water pushing up and out of the 6” diameter well bore. This water, which hasn’t seen the light of day for probably millions of years, was absolutely beautiful to behold. I wanted to touch it, to taste it, though I knew it was far too hot and dangerous to approach open-handedly. Turns out, the Deer Meadow Well is artesian, with a constant flow & temp of 320 gallons per minute at 182°F. That is a lot of hot water! We weren’t able to pump-test the well because every pump we put on it was overwhelmed by the capacity. We have sent the Deer Meadow Well data to a geothermal engineer and will soon find out what the potentials are for developing it. I am dreaming of geothermal electricity production and space heating, enough to power our little sustainable-energy community village far into the future, and including the development of food production through geothermally-heated/powered greenhouses. However, for this year our plans for Deer Meadow Well are more modest—we want to install a down-hole heat exchanger similar to the ones that we’ve already placed in the bores of Wells 1 and 4 (for more info re: geothermal and hydroelectric power production at Breitenbush, ask to take a Systems Tour next time you visit the hot springs). Using the heat from this new heat exchanger, we hope to space-heat our entire community village on the north side of the river, thus freeing up a significant chunk of the geothermal heat we’re generating out of Well 4. These BTU’s (British Thermal Units) in turn can be redirected to other structures on the south side of the river that need space heating.
There are other projects under way, many that will never be seen by guests (or community members, for that matter), but all of which support service to people in the ways of heat, light, water and structural integrity. Breitenbush is a profoundly physical place, no doubt about it, as measured by the projects we’ve undertaken this year. Personally, I love it. For me, this work on the physical plant expresses our commitment to future generations of the community and its guests. At the same time, it provides a balance for what I can only describe as the interface, quite noticeable at Breitenbush, between human consciousness and a direct perception of nature and the infinite. I put all that together and call it a life well-lived.
It’s a good thing that happens here. Thanks to all for your parts in it.
– Peter Moore
Peter Moore has been involved with Breitenbush Community since 1978, and is currently Business Director of Breitenbush Hot Springs Retreat & Conference Center.