All Things Sustainable

Dr. Deb Tolman expands Sustainable Information & Learning Opportunities project to 13-acre multi-purpose Highway 6 property

Boundless ideas, boundless energy, boundless help from her friends. This pretty much sums up the newest, multi-facetted project Dr. Deb Tolman’s embarked on with her SILO project. SILO Project actually stands for Sustainable Information and Learning Opportunities, which encompasses everything Tolman does.

With her new project, something remarkable is coming to town; it’s called the Community Recreation District, which will include all things sustainable. Community Recreation District sounds a bit dry, but visionary, charismatic, creative Tolman plans on giving the community a Bosque Garden of Eden.

During an informal, information afternoon Dec. 27, Tolman invited friends and interested parties to the 13-acre lot off Highway 6, just south of Clifton, to see the location of the future grounds and to hear the scope of ideas for the area.

It’s going to be a garden center, a gathering place, a variety of gardens, a park with a circumventing boardwalk, an educational facility, recycling areas, underground greenhouse, and even a pet cemetery and so much more.

As it develops it will be provide a unique outdoor wedding and events venue. Tolman hopes to relocate the Clifton Farmers’ Market to the location which would offer higher visibility on the Highway 6 location.

With this area, Tolman is extending her SILO project living sustainability laboratory at Star Haven Ranch and brings community engagement to a whole new level. She has already started several grant processes and collaborative partnerships.

“There will always be something to do here,” Tolman said. “And I’m hoping to increase community involvement and interest with the different things we’ll be offering.”

She already sourced turkey manure and coffee grounds from her network, which she needs for her key-hole gardens. McLennan Community College has already committed to providing classes in starting a garden center as a business. Tolman has already designated a building she calls the “incubator” for classes.

Cherie Rogers can’t wait to give educational cooking classes on how to eat organically, with less salt, less sugar and less fats. Tolman is hoping to entice the Bosque Animal Rescue Kennels to have a year round rummage sale and merchandise sales in a special dedicated building at the Silo Project. She already has a name for it – “Too Good To Toss.”

And for people looking for lodging for their kitty cats while out of town, Tolman hopes to create a cat stay vacay facility.

She is also looking into extending recycling possibilities by adding a recycle facility for #3-6 plastics other than the county’s accepted #1 and #2 plastics. Preferably in a fun building, or even an old school bus. Or how about an underground storage area for harvested fruits and legumes?

The bee hives are already in place, with the bees waiting for the spring blooms to start their 2021 honey production. That honey will be sold or used in the cafe. There will be cob ovens for pizza.

Even the dog waste along the dog walk will be reused, finding its way to the compost heap.

“It takes a village,” Tolman said, who is immensely pleased with the amount of positive feedback, support and assistance she has already received from the community. “And it will evolve organically as time passes.”

Claiming she thrives on chaos, Tolman’s busy mind is happiest when she has several different projects to work on. Besides the Community Recreation District, together with sustainable living architect Gayle Borst, she is working on a 400 square foot, south-facing, cob-wall cliff house on the original SILO site.

As she treads the pedals to pump water from her personal rainwater collection system, or is sanding down recycled wooden columns for the house, she comes up with solutions for some challenging problems in the development of the new site.

For example, to accommodate 18-wheelers with supplies for the garden center, she needs a ling, wide ingress and exit driveway along Highway 6. Combined with the massive metal gate on the property, that would not be the most welcoming entrance. So, tackling several different issues at once, Tolman figures she will cover the driveway and parking spaces, offering shade to the parked cars, but also giving her ample area for the solar panels and rainwater collection system she needs.

Following a friend’s advice of “the face sells the ass,” the utilitarian chain link fence by the gate will serve as a vertical composting wall, covered with vegetation and plants - a much more fitting entrance to the Garden Eden the future park is intended to be. Furthermore, the seven-foot living fence will act as a sound barrier.

Tolman holds Ph.D.s in Environmental Sciences/Resources and Geography, and with over thirty years experience in academic research and landscape design, she also has extensive training in plant nutrition, economics, and environmental education.

Environmental Science studies the quality of not being harmful to the environment or depleting natural resources, and thereby supporting long-term ecological balance. This ecological balance translates into sustainability – the potential ability to maintain itself.

Tolman balances her time between research, building projects, education, writing, and community outreach on sustainable living.

With this project, Tolman extends the traditional Environmental Protection Agency slogan of Reuse, Reduce, Recycle, with repurpose, refurbish, repair, refuse, and rethink. With those core values in mind, Tolman envisions a beautiful, natural but accessible paradise in the heart of Bosque County, for all to use and enjoy. It might take years, but step by step the now bare lot will transform and evolve.

When the lime green banner is waving, mascot Ranger/ rescue mutt Nick and Tolman will be on location collecting flattened cardboard, leaves, tree clippings, weeds, rotted wood, hay, to start composting on a very large scale. They are also looking for old silos to add to the project.

Tolman invites anyone interested in the project to drop by to see her artistic rendering and talk about the endless possibilities to be involved in.

“We're looking at the big picture and I need your suggestions, help, and input now!” Tolman said. For all notifications, workshops, and requests, contact her at deb@debtolman.com.

Photos by SIMONE WICHERS-VOSS

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