I am a big fan of NPR (National Public Radio for those of who live outside of the US), and I recently listened to a broadcast in which the commentators explained the virtues of this great invention called "Green Roofs"! A green roof (also known as a living roof) would be great for the environment because the vegetation and the soil used as a "roofing material" would absorb the excess rain, provide insulation, and prevent the Heat Island effect. This made me chuckle because, while I think green roofs are a great idea, they are hardly a novel one. Our current and certainly necessary desire to save the planet has led us into such acrobatics...or as a dear friend of mine would say "techno green". Installing a green roof is expensive, and depending on the type it could also be expensive to maintain, not to mention the structural complexity necessary to support the different plant species, the soil, and the irrigation and drainage systems.
All of this got me thinking of other living roofs, the ones that are part of a culture's vernacular and because of their antiquity don't catch the attention of the more "techno green" oriented folks; the Original Green, if you will: Take for example the Viking houses in Newfoundland, which are covered in moss; or the Sod Roofs in Norway in which the roof is made of birch bark and the sod holds the bark in place. Another type of living roof is one that I grew up seeing in school excursions and family vacations in the foggy mountains of Matagalpa, Nicaragua:
|Chapel. Selva Negra Mountain Lodge. Matagalpa, Nicaragua.|
|Chapel, side view. Selva Negra Ecolodge. Matagalpa, Nicaragua|
Don Eddy, as he is affectionately known, holds degrees in Architecture and Civil Engineering; Doña Mausi studied Architecture as well, and in the early years of their marriage they established a building enterprise together, that is until they heard the call of the Land. Don Eddy and Doña Mausi have created in Selva Negra a true oasis of sustainability, where the Ecolodge is just a small perk in their greater commitment to preserving the cloud rainforest, working the land with as little impact as possible, promoting social welfare, and (in my own very biased opinion) producing the best organic coffee there is!
|The Shade Grown Bourbon and Caturra (Arabica) coffee varieties produced at Selva Negra.|
|Vegetable patch. La Hammonia Farm. Selva Negra. Matagalpa, Nicaragua|
Energy is produced with hydroelectric turbines in the lake. The methane used for cooking, which burns cleanly, is produced from coffee waste. The soil is nurtured with compost created with manure from the farm, waste from the hotel, algae collected from the lake, and coffee pulp, which is fed to worms and the refuse is gathered and mixed in the soil. Trash and water are recycled, nothing is ever wasted, especially the coffee by-products:
|Worm Compost. La Hammonia Farm, Selva Negra. Matagalpa, Nicaragua.|
|Mill. La Hammonia Farm. Selva Negra. Matagalpa, Nicaragua.|
The coffee is then placed in basins to be fermented. After fermentation is over the beans are washed and they are sorted for quality. The heaviest and highest quality beans sink to the bottom, the "floaters", which are of lesser quality, are removed. We were told by our guide that those are purchased by companies that make instant coffee, but none of them make it into the Selva Negra cut:
|The Fermentation Process. La Hammonia Farm. Selva Negra. Matagalpa, Nicaragua.|
|An old tank marks the turn on the country road towards the Ecolodge. Matagalpa, Nicaragua.|
|Workers Village. La Hammonia Farm. Matagalpa, Nicaragua.|
|Nursery. La Hammonia Farm. Selva Negra. Matagalpa, Nicaragua.|
|Entrance to the Mountain trails. Selva Negra cloud rainforest. Matagalpa, Nicaragua.|
|Guardatinaja. Selva Negra Ecolodge. Matagalpa, Nicaragua.|
|The Lodge. Selva Negra Ecolodge. Matagalpa, Nicaragua.|
|The lake, with the children's playground on the right. Selva Negra Ecolodge. Matagalpa, Nicaragua.|
|A creek along the mountain trail. Selva Negra cloud rainforest. Matagalpa, Nicaragua.|
|Glorieta. Selva Negra Ecolodge. Matagalpa, Nicaragua.|
|The Path to the Cabins. Selva Negra Ecolodge. Matagalpa, Nicaragua|
Selva Negra is a Green place; I am fortunate to have enjoyed its riches, its beauty, its peace, its people. I hope one day you will too.
Guest Cabin. Selva Negra Ecolodge. Matagalpa, Nicaragua.
All images by NPL
- Selva Negra Coffee can be purchased in the United States, exclusively at Whole Foods where it is called "Allegro Origins Nicaraguan Organic Selva Negra".
- Selva Negra Coffee can also be purchased directly from the Kuhls' youngest daughter at Java Vino Coffee & Wine House in Atlanta, Georgia.
- Visit Selva Negra to learn more.