Notes from the Field: A Month of Extremes

By Teague Walsh-Felz, Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center Intern

Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center
Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center

October was a month of extremes. The Sacred Earth Lodge got propane, electricity, water, and it’s finishing touches. The whole compound was mowed, the garden was closed up, it froze and it melted. I woke up one morning to a record breaking blizzard. It hit the Black Hills in early October and did plenty of damage to the area around the Red Cloud Renewable Energy Center (RCREC). The CruiseMaster that I have been sleeping in for the past four months was covered with broken tree limbs and heavy snow. As I opened the door and stepped outside I was confronted by the reality of over two feet of heavy snow.

As soon as the storm cleared out we went right to work. We had a backhoe that had been left at Henry’s in order to finish putting in the septic system but it handily doubled as an effective snow plow. The main road was plowed and so was the front of Sacred Earth Lodge. The weight of the snow had crippled one of the greenhouse and it had collapsed on top of the compressed earth block machine. Henry and I spent the next week frantically moving downed trees and snow in order to get the RCREC ready for the grand opening of the Sacred Earth Lodge. We had the help of a volunteer group sent up from Colorado and a man from Iowa who had visited before. The weather stayed surprisingly nice after the storm and so work was actually pretty comfortable.

Wind turbineThe Grand Opening on October 11 went off amazingly, and I got the treat of seeing my two sisters who took off work to come see what I had been up to. I was able to let out a loud sigh of relief after the grand opening- the project that we had all worked so hard on to get finished by October 11th was wonderful. All the leaks were fixed, all the showers ran, the last of the toilets was installed just 2 days before the grand opening, but it was all wonderful.

One week after the Grand Opening, Henry rented out the Lodge for the first time to a group of college students from Michigan. They loved it. They helped us move the earth compressor and all the bricks it has made into the standing greenhouse for the winter. They also went and helped clean up brush from a community elders home.

I left Pine Ridge the same day that group left. My departure was simple. I know I will be back soon and so I left with high spirits,looking forward to hearing about Henry’s next endeavor and his continued work with Trees, Water & People.

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Trees, Water & People is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to developing sustainable community-based conservation solutions.

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