I think Kenneth Johnson was listening in kindergarten. When he and his wife, Jean, built a gorgeous solar- and hydro-powered cabin right outside Pisgah National Forest, they decided not to keep it to themselves. Nope. Says Kenneth, “It's really our own vacation home, our little bit of heaven in the mountains, [but] we decided to share with others when we're not using it.”
Be thankful the Johnsons are generous. This home has three bedrooms, three and a half baths, and can sleep ten. Twenty-five minutes from Asheville and 3,800 feet up Ivy Knob, the cabin has a wrap-around deck (made from un-treated locust lumber) and plenty of windows – all the better to look out over the 41 acres of pristine North Carolina wilderness it sits on.
Kenneth loves spending his Ivy Knob time walking in the woods and playing in the creek with his grandchildren. He suggests you check out the local attractions, enjoy the wildflowers (unless you visit in the winter), hike up Ivy Knob or to the neighboring Walker and Douglas waterfalls, or get lost on the area’s winding backroads. “The folks who live around there have always been very nice about directing us back to the main road when we've had enough,” says Kenneth.
The house is powered by two 1,200-watt solar power systems, which provide about 85 percent of the home’s juice. Another 10 percent comes from a miniature hydro system installed at the Johnsons’ daughter’s house, just down the mountain from the cabin. The rest of the house’s electricity comes from a clean-burning propane generator. They keep their energy needs low with CFLs and an Energy Star refrigerator. Tankless, on-demand heaters warm your shower and the in-floor radiant heat. Their water comes from a mountain spring, so feel free to drink from the tap.
The Johnsons are members of the grassroots environmental organization the Western North Carolina Alliance. Kenneth says they “[keep] an environmental eye on state, county, and local governmental agencies and join in the general hue and cry when it seems that they are up to no good.” Some of their eco-efforts have extremely practical implications as well. They keep their land free of chemicals because run-off could affect their daughter’s down-mountain organic vegetable garden. Their commitment to being chemical-free sometimes means extra labor. Japanese Knotweed is an exotic, invasive plant that is taking over the native vegetation of the area. Kenneth lists its demise as one of his environmental goals. “It is a hard fight, like hand-to-hand combat, when you don’t want to poison the environment with herbicides,” Kenneth says. The Johnsons want to continue landscaping with native plants like the Turks Cap lily and hope you enjoy the results.
Come back tomorrow for rates and some reading suggestions from Kenneth.---