When we purchased the High Ridge Haven home along with 10.5 acres we knew we had a special property. Wandering the property grounds we identified an endangered plant species in bloom, Pink Lady Slippers, a type of orchid. These grow in a narrow range of soil and climate conditions, making them very vulnerable to habitat destruction, climate change, and over-picking.
Because the home itself has been fully renovated, it allows us to focus most of our attention to the property itself. We feel a responsibility to preserve it as well as to create new wildlife habitats, focus on using native plants, increase biodiversity, all while connecting guests to nature.
To accomplish these lofty goals, it takes people with experience and determination. Luckily for us this expertise is cultivated directly within the family. My brother, Ted Spaid, is known around the country for his tacit knowledge of park planning, landscape architecture, horticulture, environmental planning, and landscape maintenance best practices. His contributions have been awarded at the national level, and he is recognized as a Fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architecture.
We have called on Ted's talents before in planning and designing a unique vacation destination on the Santa Rosa Sound in Navarre, FL. He helped us to transform a property ravaged by hurricane Ivan into a vacation compound with common amenities, including an infinity edge pool and and in-ground jacuzzi (see Our Property Story: The Seahorse Retreat & Palm Breeze Beach House).
Ted's landscape practice, SWT Design, has a tenet - "living design," the essence of which, means planning and design with a purpose to connect people together in the outdoor environment. While mostly applied to the planning and design of park spaces, this same approach is a complement to what we do as vacation homeowners striving to provide places to connect families and make memorable vacation experiences.
To keep accountable, we signed onto Homegrown National Park, which is a grassroots call-to-action to regenerate biodiversity and ecosystem function by planting native plants and creating new ecological networks. It is a collective effort of individual homeowners, property owners, land managers, farmers, and anyone with some soil to plant in…to start a new habitat by planting native plants and removing invasive plants. It is the largest cooperative conservation project ever conceived or attempted.
As part of this collective effort, we have created a personal planting goal that includes the number of acres being planted and a description of the native plants used.
How are we designing for beauty and biodiversity at High Ridge Haven?
Game Lawn: We have resisted the temptation to surround our home with an extensive lawn. If you think about it, turf grass takes up space from native plants, lawns require pesticides and fertilizers. It also uses a precious resource, water. As a result, we have minimized the amount of lawn while providing ample room for guests to play a game of cornhole, badminton, bocci, etc.
Wildflower Meadow: Next spring we will be sowing five pounds of native wildflowers seed mix purchased from Eden Brothers, a local North Carolina company.
This partial shade wildflower mix includes 50% annual and 50% perennial seeds with 27 different varieties of local flowers.
We are looking forward to this wildflower meadow to not only create a burst of blooms from spring through fall for all to enjoy, but to ignite a habitat for wildlife which should bring beneficial pollinators like bees, butterflies, hummingbirds and more, while being deer resistant.
Mushroom Nursery: What do you do with an enormous fallen tree that is so large it can't be woodchipped or even hauled out by truck? You cut the trunk into sections, stack them, and let weather and time break them down.
Mushrooms are beneficial not just in providing a healthy food source, but they also help speed the process of breaking down and making compost of the logs which in return improves soil conditions.
This spring we will be hammering in wooden dolls inoculated with Shiitake mushroom spores. It may take some time to see them, but if you do, you're welcome to pick them for your own meal.
Foraging Natural Materials: We are purposefully being selective in the use of landscape materials to those natural materials readily found on the property.
Leftover firewood that is rotting and no longer good as firewood is serving a secondary purpose as edging.
Trees that have fallen are also finding life as a border to identify hiking paths on the property.
Other trees that have been taken out to either enhance views and / or disease are being used as a retaining wall. Woodchip piles are being used to level and soften the hiking trails.
What is the living design connection at High Ridge Haven?
There are a number of different ways in which the projects being undertaken at High Ridge Haven serve a primary goal to connect guests with nature. Following are some of the projects and design aspects meant to create this important connective tissue between you and nature.
Accessibility: It may seem counterintuitive that paving a gravel drive is in any way environmentally friendly. Visitors are going to come to the property, first and foremost, because the views of Whiteside Mountain are extraordinary. It is important to us to make it safer and more accessible to get to the property on the ridge. The new drive is serving as a secondary hiking path. The drive, plus hiking paths, provide guests with room to roam, walk the dog in what would otherwise be dense forest and steep terrain.
Turkey Den: If you take the hiking trail not far off from the home you'll see an outbuilding. We think it was used as a blind for hunting wild turkey. The Turkey Den name stays, but we are repurposing it as a children's retreat and nature education center. Whether it is used as a simple escape from parents, or to learn about the local flora and fauna, we hope kids will enjoy their own time sitting on bean bag chairs, reading, or taking a pair of binoculars and going out onto the 140-foot observation deck wrapped around an existing pine tree.
Deck Binoculars: Some of the wonders of nature can be too far to see, which is why we installed a pair of commercial binoculars on the deck - the same kind you might find in a national park. Coins are not required. You can see hikers at the top of Whiteside Mountain, or see if you can view soaring hawks or even an occasional rock climber. Again, it is another way to connect you with your surroundings.
Property Amenities: Ted's design has incorporated site lines that encourages interaction no matter where they are around the home. For example, from the patio with jacuzzi, guests can interact with others at the firepit, playing corn hole on the game lawn or while lounging or sipping a drink on the deck and vice versa.
Throughout the rest of this winter and through spring we will continue working on the many projects mentioned and even those that have not been discussed. We hope they make your family vacation and outdoor experience one you'll remember for years to come.
Click here to learn more about renting High Ridge Haven.