I particularly like the Shakers. They were a utopian religious group in the 1700s and 1800s with some beliefs that we find unusual today. I like them because they were innovative gardeners.
The Shakers were the Steve Jobs of their time, known for exquisite simplicity of design in their furniture, buildings and tools, and for doing things in new ways. They created essential everyday products the early settlers didn't even know they needed.
They were the first to collect seeds, put them in little envelopes and sell them. Think about the innovation of that simple process as you sow your garden next spring, and thank the Shakers.
Last month we took a day to visit the Hancock Shaker Village in western Massachusetts. The village was built in the 1780s for the community of Believers that eventually grew to 300 people in the 1800s, but by 1959 there were no more Shakers at Hancock. You can now wander through 20 carefully restored buildings and tour the gardens and fields they farmed.
It is famous for its iconic round barn, a stunner of an innovation when it was built in the early 1800s. Feeding the animals arranged around a central silo inside was an efficiency improvement, and it was simply a beautiful building as well.
This is the entrance to the village. Do you see something odd behind the white fence?
It is a large ground mount installation of solar panels, and a roof array that spans the entire antique barn roof. This is what greets visitors as they head into the village and step back two centuries.
And it is completely appropriate.
A small sign tells us that if the Shakers were still an active producing community here, they would have been the first to embrace solar technology. The panels provide a third of the energy for the whole complex, which includes a visitor center, museum, offices and a cafe.
Simple, elegant looking, efficient and useful.
Now, when I see solar panels on buildings and homes around the city, I think of them as Shaker Panels.
|Shaker seed packets|