How to Grow $500,000 on One Acre,
and Peace on Earth

Learning the Art of Living, with Solar-Dynamic Bio-Benign Design

Revealing the Truth
about How We Can Provide Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Transportation, Food, Solid Waste and Wastewater Management
in Ways that Reduce Pollution and Depletion by 80% or more,
and also Reduce Cost of Living and Improve Quality of Life.

by Anna Edey

Trailblazer Press 1998, ISBN 0-9662349-0-1.  224 pages, 155 color photographs + other illustrations.
Price:$35. See below for quantity discounts.
RFD 1 Box 582, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568   Tel: (508) 693-3341, Fax: (508) 693-2228,


Solviva Home Page  |  Solviva Book  |  Reviews & Comments
Important Quotes  | 
Designs & Consulting
  Wastewater  | Greyburg or Greendale, and other Proposals
Book 2 - Choosing for Our Lives  |  Yarn & Sweaters
  Recommended Reading & Documentaries



Table of Contents  ||  Introduction  ||  Some current realities   ||  A visit to Solviva
How I got on the path of seeking better ways to live... ||  Wastewater Management
Greyburg or Greendale: where would you rather live?



In the midst of the record-cold and dark winter of 1984, the temperature is well below zero degrees F, and the howling wind creates a fierce windchill factor. The landscape is deep in snow, and my car barely makes it up the driveway past the Solviva Winter Garden greenhouse. This greenhouse has never needed any supplementary heat since its completion in 1984. It has indeed stayed warm enough to continuously produce bumper crops with only stored solar heat and the little resident heaters, the 100 chickens and 30 angora rabbits. Today, however, is the coldest it has ever been since the greenhouse was built, and I am worried. I am tempted to stop and check in, but I know how it is just to "check in": once inside, it is impossible to leave because of the pure wonder of this garden in winter, and also because there is always some task that begs to be done. But today is my day off and I have other plans, so I continue up the driveway, slipping and sliding up the hill to my garage.

My home in deep winter

Bundled up in full winter gear, with an armload of groceries, I struggle against the arctic blast, down the path toward my home. Before going inside I pull out a bag of birdseed and trudge around the corner through waist-high snowdrifts to fill up the bird feeders. Biting wind snarls in under my muffler, and my fingertips ache from the intense cold as I fumble with the mechanics of the feeders. A little chickadee hops right up, looks me straight in the eye and says "many-thanks-to-you ... many-thanks-to-you". As our souls meet, a profound joy courses through me. With squinting eyes I inhale the glistening white landscape etched with naked trees and bushes and their blue shadows, the deep blue sky, the brilliant sun. However, this is not the time or place to linger, for the tips of my fingers and nose are screaming for me to seek shelter. So I retrace my deep footprints around the corner, open the front door, and quickly step inside. In the entry hall I peel off my outer layers and then open the inner door to the living room.

Welcome in from the cold

With relief I deeply breathe in the fragrant warmth of my home and the beauty of the sun pouring in through climbing and cascading green leaves and red, orange and yellow flowers. Even after several years of living in this house, I still find it hard to believe that this is possible, that the solar energy radiating in through the south glazing is enough to keep my home cozy even on such a cold day.

Enchanting scents waft from jasmine and honeysuckle, sweet peas, pineapple sage and peppermint geranium, orange and lemon blossoms, and compost-rich living earth. Some of the branches and vines reach into the living room and kitchen, the weaving studio, and even upstairs. This garden room has no walls or doors separating it from the living areas but is instead fully integrated with the whole house.

The weaving studio in the garden

Ruthie at the loom


I reach up to pick one of the many juicy tomatoes hanging from numerous 30-foot vines suspended under the skylight that runs the full length of the lower 30 inches of the main roof. These tomatoes are even sweeter than the finest summer tomato, perhaps because they develop more sugar as they ripen more slowly in winter. These same six tomato plants have been producing continuously for four years.

I take two steps down into the garden, then across the warm concrete floor and along the steppingstones set among the carpeting of baby-tears, to the old clawfoot bathtub in the west corner. It is surrounded by a bird-of-paradise plant with five flower clusters in full plumage, an enormous Monstera deliciosa with seven ripening fruits, a large hibiscus bush with a dozen red blossoms, and an arbor of heavenly scented flowering ginger. Next to the tub is the salad garden, pouring forth a continuous cornucopia of succulent greens and herbs.

Heaven on Earth

Food for body and soul

I turn on the hot water, sprinkle in my favorite bath salts and oils, and pick a handful of peppermint geranium, rosemary and sage, tossing them in too. Then I turn on the hose to self-water the southeast quadrant of the garden. I peel off most of my clothes in response to the solar warmth and putter around a bit, snipping a withered flower here, twisting up a vine there, picking a bouquet of flowers and ferns for the kitchen table.

Next I harvest some 10 different varieties of red and green lettuces, plus arugula, mustards, kale, lemony French sorrel, red-veined chard, radicchio, mizuna, tah tsai, watercress, parsley, dill, fennel, and crunchy radishes. I give them a quick rinse and shake and seal them into a plastic bag and put them in the refrigerator. And I take one perfect brown egg laid by the greenhouse hens and set it to hard-boil. As I stand in the kitchen, close to one of the warm-air ducts, I can just faintly hear the hum of one of the fans that move warm air from the solar roof into storage in the insulated foundation.

Before the tub is full, I have time for one more task: pollinating the tomato flowers. For a few minutes every two days I become a fairy godmother, touching each fully open tomato flower with my magic wand (a watercolor brush taped to an extension stick), ping... ping... ping...

Sweet and juicy tomatoes, even in mid-winter...

A day or two later the flowers wither, but instead of falling off, the way they would if not pollinated, the base of each flower will fatten into a tiny green tomato, grow larger and larger, turn yellow, then orange, then red, shiny, sweet and juicy.

When the tub is full and I have gathered my phone, tape recorder and a cup of peppermint tea to be within easy reach, I get in and slowly sink into bliss. Mozart's C-major piano concerto joins with the birds singing and lunching at the feeder right outside the window.

Happy memories

My body is afloat, slowly rising and falling as I inhale and exhale deeply. My mind is free as I release tensions from toes and fingers to neck and brow. I enter a state of peace and fulfillment.
(...One of my golden memories is being in this tub one blizzardy Christmas with my two little grandchildren, blowing bubbles and splashing water all around....)

I finish off with a shower, rainbows arching through the mist, diamond water droplets refreshing the surrounding plants. I leave the hot water in the tub to slowly give off its warmth during the upcoming cold night and then dry off with a sun-warmed towel. I step up to the kitchen and take the bag of salad out of the refrigerator, put a handful of crisp greens on a plate, top it off with my favorite dressing and a few tasty nasturtium, borage and fennel flowers, and then step back into the garden and sink into the lounge chair. Here I bask in comfort, just a couple of feet away from the cold raging on the other side of the window panes - and the only furnace that is on is the big old nuclear power plant up there some 95 million miles away.

So delicious, so nutritious

What a blessing it is to be munching on these greens that grew from tiny seeds right in my home, in a harmonious blend of water, soil, compost and sunlight, without any toxic substances whatsoever. They now release a symphony of exquisite flavors and health-enhancing vitamins, minerals, enzymes and active vibrant life force. The egg is far higher in vitamins and 30 percent lower in calories and cholesterol than factory eggs, because the lucky hens live in freedom in a clean environment and receive fresh greens every day.

People tend to think I must spend half my time just caring for this indoor home garden. The fact is that it takes less than an hour a week, and considerably less than that when I grow just ornamentals. Two or three times a year I spend a few hours pruning back and repotting some of the
plants and enriching the soil with compost and rock powders.

People ask, Don't insects fly and crawl all over the house? No, insects are smart, they much prefer the garden area. However, a few shy, slender daddy-longlegs-type spiders roam discreetly around the house and do me a great favor by controlling the wool moths which would otherwise devastate the wool yarn and weavings in my studio. These spiders do nothing worse than leave webs in the ceiling and a few shriveled husks of insects that they have captured and eaten. I doubt the living quarters of my home have many more insects than any other country house with wood beams and paneling.

And people ask, Doesn't mildew form everywhere because of the humidity from the indoor garden? No, because the air circulation in the whole house is excellent due to the solar-heating system and the strategic placement of ducts and vents that move warm air down and around. Also, when the woodstove is lighted, it acts as both an air circulator and dehumidifier. The extra humidity in the house in winter is actually a great benefit. In normal buildings the air is too dry during the heating season, which can lead to respiratory problems and illness, dry skin and cracked lips, static electricity, cracks in furniture and floors. People with asthma and allergies comment with relief that they can breathe more freely in my house. People's eyeglasses do fog up for a minute when they come in from the cold, but that is not much of a problem.

Just before sunset I insert the movable insulation panels that fit snugly into the window frames to keep the solar warmth in the house. These panels spend the day in a long built-in pocket below the greenhouse windows. It takes less than a minute to put them up, and the same to take them down in the morning. On the coldest, darkest days I leave most of them up in order to keep in the warmth.
Because of the brutal conditions outside I make a fire in the evening. I keep a stack of old newspaper by the Franklin stove and first make a bed of thin twists of paper for kindling, followed by increasingly thick logs of rolled paper, without any roller or ties, to fill the whole stove. I wedge them in crosswise to keep them from unfurling and to let air through, and then close the stove doors and leave the flue damper open for about half a minute, until the draft creates a good fire. This whole process takes less than two minutes. Then I close down the draft, and the fire continues burning hot for a couple of hours.

The woodstove heats water as well as air and the masonry mass.

The stove sits in an alcove of brick and concrete, which picks up so much heat that it is still warm the following morning. A 100-foot coil of copper pipe, connected to the water preheating tank, lies on top of the stove. This can heat the 80 gallons of water to 130 degrees F in just a few hours, which is then complemented by the standard water-heating tank as needed. Thus my space heating bill is zero, while the water-heating bill is reduced by some 80 percent.

I know that a little tree frog, only about an inch long, is spending the winter in my home, because now and then it peeps a few times loud and clear. Many times I have tried to sneak up ever so carefully to see it, but I swear it can hear my heartbeat, for it stops peeping as I approach, and when it is quiet it is impossible to find it in among the leaves. This evening, as I sit reading under the lamp next to the garden, I have the distinct feeling that someone is watching me from behind. I slowly turn my head, and there on a branch with a bright red hibiscus flower, about 12 inches from my face, sits my little housemate, looking me straight in the eye.


That night is the coldest it has been in decades, and extremely windy. I sleep fitfully, concerned about the greenhouse: Can it possibly survive this night without backup heat?

Outside: 4 degrees below zero Fahrenheit

At 4 a.m. I wake with a start as ice and snow come crashing off the roof and the gale rattles my windows. Now I am wide awake and really worried. Rather than lie there fretting, I get up and pull layers and layers over my pajamas, push through a 5-foot snowdrift right outside the door, and set out across the fields. It is an 800-foot passage. The surface of the snow sometimes supports my weight; other times I crash down above my knees. One false move and I could break my leg and be trapped in the snow with no one to hear my cries for help except the brilliant moon and the silver-edged clouds chasing matching black shadows across the landscape.

Twenty minutes later I approach the greenhouse, nestled in a snowdrift at the far end of the pasture. Whirlwinds of white wisps whip around in the moonlight. My breath has turned to ice on the muffler pulled over my face. I hastily shovel away several feet of snow blocking the west entrance door, wrench the door open and quickly close it behind me.

To my utter surprise, in here it is like a balmy night in June. The thermometer reads 55 degrees F. The 30 angora rabbits that help warm the greenhouse with their body heat are quietly muffling about in their communal dens. I step into the greenhouse, through the jungle of tomato vines, and here the thermometer reads 45 degrees F.

I proceed toward the east end, inhaling the humid, mild air, fragrant with tomatoes and nasturtium, thyme and sage, and living earth. At the far end I step in among the 100 roosting chickens who acknowledge me with sleepy murmurs, cozy in their warm, spacious quarters. The thermometer reads 70 degrees F and this warmth is generated by the body heat of the chickens.

Inside the rabbit room: 55 degrees F.

72 degrees Fahrenheit
in the chicken room

The sheep help keep
the north wall warm

Outside: zero degrees Fahrenheit

The sheep, enclosed in the barn along the back of the greenhouse, their bales of hay stacked up against the wall, further help protect the greenhouse on this blizzard night.

Thus, while the outside temperature is 5 degrees below zero F - though actually much colder because of the windchill factor - inside the Solviva Winter Garden greenhouse it is warm enough to maintain a thriving garden, abundant with vegetables and flowers, without any heating fuel. I can go back to bed without worrying about the greenhouse freezing. So I tromp back across the fields, a bit more easily now as I retrace the deep footprints I left on the way down, feeling entirely at peace and as one with Earth, Universe and self. This is true plenty, freedom and security.

The next day it is still extremely cold and windy, with brilliant sunshine. The min/max thermometer shows that during the night the greenhouse never dipped below 43 degrees F. By 9 a.m. it is 75 degrees inside, and I turn on the hose and with quick quivering motions provide everything with a light refreshing shower. Two fans, powered by the sun shining on the photovoltaic panels, hum as they force hot air from the top of the greenhouse down through ducts and into heat-absorbing water-mass storage. Some of the heat-activated vents are slowly opening, increasing air circulation and preventing overheating. The massive waterwalls are passively absorbing the solar heat.

Inside: 80 degrees Fahrenheit

Nine levels for growing

Twenty-five varieties of lush greens and herbs fill the raised beds, with names like hon tsai tai, arugula, tah tsai, Osaka mustard, mache, radicchio Treviso, mizuna, and the divine lemon-flavored sorrel de Belleville. Above them rise 150 growtubes hanging in seven tiers to the top of the greenhouse. They are overflowing with 25 varieties of lettuces with names as lush as their appearance and flavor: Lollo Rossa, Rouge Grenobloise, Rosalita, Merveille de Quatre Saison.

Three of the seven tiers of growtubes are set upstairs along the catwalk, and here are also a steady succession of dozens of seedling flats ranging from just seeded to 3 inches tall and ready to be planted into the raised beds and growtubes. Here they sprout and grow strong without anyextra light or warmth, even through prolonged cloudycold spells.

Seedling thrive upstairs

Wall of Nasturtiums

Three of the seven tiers of growtubes are set upstairs along the catwalk, and here are also a steady succession of dozens of seedling flats ranging from just seeded to 3 inches tall and ready to be planted into the raised beds and growtubes. Here they sprout and grow strong without any extra light or warmth, even through prolonged cloudy cold spells.

Hundreds of tomatoes are ripening on 15-foot climbing and cascading vines. Along the north wall, where the light is too dim for greens to thrive, there is a tall wall of nasturtiums with thousands of blossoms in infinite varieties of pastel and deep velvety colors.

Fennel reaches 8 feet, tipped with 6-inch umbrels of tiny yellow flowers, exquisitely anise-flavored. The delicate red trumpet flowers of the 6-foot pineapple sage bush yield little drops of nectar that actually taste like pineapple. Another variety of scented sage reaches 16 feet tall, covered with sweet pink flowers. A lime geranium yields exquisite fragrance, as do carpets of honey-flavored sweet alyssum.

35 fully productive productive plants on one 4-year-old Swiss chard root system.

Gigantic 2-year-old collard plant. One leaf can feed a family.

Giant 3-year-old kale and pepper plants

Donna with eggs

A few square feet of bed was planted with radish seeds three weeks ago and now yields 1-inch red and white globes, mild and succulent. Another patch contains hundreds of the sweetest carrots. I pull up one daikon and find to my amazement that it has a three-pronged root, each prong pure white, thick as my wrist and 16 inches long. Many branches of one pumpkin plant (a volunteer from the compost) cavort 15 feet in all directions, with pumpkins up to 12 inches supported and hung on various improvised shelves and slings.

The breath from the chickens and rabbits and their bedding enriches the air with several times the normal level of invisible molecules of carbon dioxide. The plants breathe in the co2 through the stomata on the surface of their leaves, and the co2 enrichment causes them to grow much faster and healthier because it provides them with many more carbon building blocks to create plant tissue.

Five dozen eggs per day and the angora wool more than pay for the animals' feed, while their body heat, co2, compost fertilizer and good company are free fringe benefits.

"Biological islands": various nectar-producing flowering plants provide habitat
for beneficial insects.

Good soil is full of endless varieties and numbers of lifeforms, billions of microscopic ones in just one teaspoon. Here an earwig cares for her nest of eggs. Earthworms are essential.

Syrphid fly, Brown Lacewing, Green Lacewing and aphids in various stages of develpment.

Nasturtium is favorite for harmful insects, which then attract the beneficial insects.

Ladybugs eat aphids, miniscule Encarsia formosa wasps lay eggs in the pupae of whiteflies, while green lacewings flit about like little fairies in search of any vegetarian insect. Syrphid flies seek nectar from fennel flowers, hovering like hummingbirds, and a dignified praying mantis is surveying the scene and, blessing me with her eye contact, pronounces it Good.

Praying Mantis Heaven

That day, in spite of the cloudy, cold, short days of mid-winter, we harvest, picking leaf by gorgeous leaf, wash and bag 80 pounds of Solviva Salad, enough for 1,280 servings. Some go off by UPS truck to the finest restaurants in the Boston area, and the rest is delivered to customers in local Vineyard restaurants and stores.

Above: Brian harvesting from hanging growtubes.

Left: Annika harvesting.

Marianne harvesting upstairs

Tara washing Solviva Salad


Seven months later we are in the middle of a sweltering record-hot summer. There has been hardly a drop of rain for three months. This day in August is more of the same. By now, the lettuces in most other gardens have bolted. But because of the Solviva growing techniques, the outside garden is a continuously productive patchwork quilt of lettuces and other salad greens in brilliant rosy reds, deep wine reds, lime greens and sun greens, dark greens and blue greens.

Continuous salad production even through hottest summer conditions

The sweetest cantalopes
on 30-foot vines

Inside the greenhouse it is surprisingly cool, and yet there are none of the expensive, roaring, energy-consuming exhaust fans that standard greenhouses run continuously. The hot air is rushing out through the top vents, and cooler replacement air comes in through bottom vents, and east, west and north doors. Surprisingly, the greenhouse is as stunningly productive in summer as it is in winter. It is hard to stay away from superlative adjectives when describing this scene.

At the west end 10 varieties of peppers grow up to 6 feet tall, yielding hundreds of fruits from sweetest to hottest.

The center of the greenhouse is filled primarily with 10 different varieties of melons and cantaloupes, with vines over 30 feet long loaded with ripening fruit suspended in net bags and slings. Their flavor surpasses anything grown in an outside garden.

A tall bower of European cucumbers fills the east end, with 30-foot vines and 16-inch leaves, and foot-long tendrils seeking the next handhold. Drooping from this bower are 18-inch delicacies, almost 2 pounds, with tender thin skin and no seeds.

Tomato plants with 30-foot vines form other bowers, heavily laden with thousands of ripening fruit. The wall of nasturtiums continues to flourish along the north wall, now cool and shaded from the high summer sun.

In front of all the climbing vines is a long bank of five different kinds of basil, more tender, productive and flavorful than any grown outdoors. In here are also many different greens of the Crucifera family. When planted in the outside garden, these greens are devastated by flea beetles, but for some reason these pests are not in the greenhouse.

Bees, hover flies and lacewings flit around sipping nectar and at the same time performing the important task of pollinating the flowers. Without this service there would be no fruit, unless we take the time to touch each of the hundreds of flowers every two days, which we need to do in the winter.

A quick shower for the whole greenhouse a couple of times daily provides highly effective evaporative cooling. As in winter, there are no mildew problems. Most plants are more productive, tender and flavorful in the greenhouse in summer than they are outside. In here they are sheltered from the harsher conditions that prevail in the outdoor gardens, such as whipping winds and occasional pelting rain, and the full blast of the sun's ultraviolet radiation.

The sheep mow and fertilize the pasture and keep it free of poison ivy and brambles, and provide wool, fleeces and delicious clean meat.

Everybody adores Jenny,
and vice versa.

The chickens roam free,
no mess or odor

I walk across the fields toward my home, passing the grazing sheep and Jenny the burro. They are followed by the chickens who happily clean up any parasite eggs or larvae, thereby gaining good protein while keeping the sheep and burro healthier. Grazing, they provide ongoing mowing without which the fields would become an impenetrable tangle of poison ivy and brambles. In the process all parts of the entire ecosystem, from plants to insects to animals to humans function harmoniously and effectively together.


The solar-dynamic roof keeps my home
warm in the winter and cool in the
summer, and then flowers and shrubs
purify the wastewater.

The indoor garden is a joy
both winter and summer.

A jungle of 30-foot tomato vines,
4 years old and still producing the best tomatoes year-round.

Even on this very hot day my home is delightfully cool, without any exhaust fans. The hotter the sun shines on the solar roof, the faster the hot air escapes through the top vents, pulling house air out with it. The water pipes incorporated in the solar roof provide for most of the hot water needs. Refreshing breezes enter through doors and windows, strategically placed to scoop in the prevailing winds.

The plants in the greenroom are thriving in full sun, even cool-loving plants such as broccoli. The relative coolness of my home on a hot sunny day is a great surprise to people who think of solar houses as uncomfortably hot in the summertime.

I take a shower outside and the water runs down a lined trench to irrigate a Viburnum odorata, Japanese maple and other moisture-loving plants that grow around the deck. I happily recall taking hot showers here in mid-winter. Standing in the snow under a hot shower is like drinking hot chocolate with cold whipped cream.


I have found many advantages of living the Solviva way. First of all, there is the matter of money. My living expenses are several thousand dollars less per year than the average home. For one, my solargreen home saves me about $1,200 a year in heating oil costs. A friend in southern New Hampshire could save most of the $5,400 a year she spends heating her home with electricity. Furthermore, I save a couple of hundred dollars on water heating because the water is heated mainly by the sun and free wastepaper fuel, and I save another $75 because by burning the fires very hot the chimney never needs cleaning.

I also save significant amounts on my electric bill because my refrigerator is a whisper-quiet Danish Vestfrost, which uses about 75 percent less electricity than a standard refrigerator, and my light bulbs are compact fluorescents which also use 75 percent less electricity while providing the same amount of light as normal incandescent bulbs.

In addition, I have a Solviva waterless compostoilet, and a regular water toilet that flushes into a Biocarbon composting sewage purification septic system, as well as a Biocarbon graywater purification filter, and these save on wastewater management because I need no periodic septic tank pump-outs ($480 per pump-out in some communities), nor do I have the enormous expense ($8,000-$30,000) of upgrading a substandard septic system or replacing a failed one. The average life span of a standard septic systems is only 10 to 20 years. By contrast, I estimate the life span of a good Solviva Biocarbon septic system to be "forever".

I also save about $100 a year on solid waste management because I compost all food wastes, burn all low-grade wastepaper, and recycle all glass, cans, magazines, corrugated and plastic. Only about 10 percent of my solid waste is trash. The recycling takes no extra time whatsoever. In fact, I save time as I need take only a few trips a year to the dump, because there is nothing in my wastes that causes odors or attracts flies, rats or dogs.

Furthermore, I can save hundreds of dollars on food because of what I can produce right in my home, and because of the superior quality of this food as well as the excellent air quality produced by all the indoor plants, I hardly ever get sick. This saves the cost of over-the-counter and prescription drugs and saves time that would be lost during sickness.

Thus my home clearly reduces my cost of living substantially. It also, even in its state of incomplete conversion to a fully solargreen home (my home is still electrified with oil and nuclear power, instead of solar photovoltaic panels), it causes some 80 percent less pollution than a standard home. For instance, it causes some 30,000 pounds less co2 pollution because the heating, cooling and electrical systems require some 1,500 gallons less oil than the average home, and it causes some 90 to 100 percent less groundwater pollution because of the various Solviva wastewater purification filters.

The Solviva Winter Garden greenhouse on the farm saves me the $6,000 or more that a conventional greenhouse of equivalent production capacity would cost to heat and cool, preventing the depletion of roughly 6,000 gallons of oil and emission of 120,000 pounds of co2.

The various Solviva greenhouse and farm designs and management systems prevent the bad odors and flies, as well as the pollution of water, soil and air normally caused by conventional farms.

Thus, not only do the various Solviva designs greatly reduce the cost of living and harm to our resources, environment and other species, but they also promote good health and good feelings.

Based on my accumulated experience, I believe that these various Solviva systems can be adapted to work sustainably in any urban or rural location in any climate on Earth, for countless generations to come.


How to contact Anna Edey, Solviva, Trailblazer Press:
18 Solviva Road, Vineyard Haven, MA 02568
Tel: (508) 693-3341- - Cell phone: (774) 563-0898 - - Fax: (508) 693-2228
e-mail:, website:

AND, as of January 2014, at Blog/Website: