Tour gives glimpse of permaculture-oriented intentional community

Bob Thompson's model shows his intent for the dual housing units being constructed at Pleasant Glade, just west of downtown Tonasket. Photo by Brent Baker

Bob Thompson’s model shows his intent for the dual housing units being constructed at Pleasant Glade, just west of downtown Tonasket. Photo by Brent Baker

TONASKET – As part of its weekend-long Earth Day celebration, the Community Cultural Center of Tonasket arranged a tour of Bob and Jane Thompson’s home.

Of course, this isn’t your grandfather’s log cabin we’re talking about.

The Thompsons built Okanogan County’s first underground home from 1980-84 while simultaneously working their wood stove business, Wizard Works. Their home, located on what could best be described as an oasis in the hills above Ellisforde, is a thriving example of a permaculture homestead, an ecological design that blends human ingenuity with natural ecosystems into sustainable, low-impact settlements.

The tour, which attracted about 20 people from in and around Tonasket, not only showed off the Thompsons’ almost magical artistry, but served as an introduction to the Pleasant Glade intentional community. That’s a group of three dual housing units Thompson’s contracting company is building off Havillah Road about a quarter mile west of Tonasket.

Ground has already been broken, with a community building and the first paired unit slated for completion sometime this summer.

“The idea of the community is for six families — not necessarily retired folks, but all age levels — six families who are like-minded in their desire for a small community oriented toward permaculture and a low-impact lifestyle,” Thompson said. “People will own their lot and home, but the rest of the property (about three acres) is common ground for gardens or whatever they agree upon.

“The community building will have a community kitchen, a greenhouse, common woodshop, a meeting place, an extra bedroom for guests, and additional storage space.”

He said each unit will include a master suite and an additional bedroom/office with two baths, one of them handicap-accessible with a walk-in shower. They’ll be heated by a ductless heat pump.

“They’re small units, so that should heat them efficiently,” Thompson said. “They’ll also have on-demand water heaters.”

While the units themselves will be minimally visible, built partially underground with a low profile and “green” roofs, they will have front-side windows and garage access.

Thompson said that none of the lots or units have been sold yet — “probably because we haven’t been advertising yet,” he said. “There’s been a lot of interest, though.”

A price point has yet to be set, but he expected it would be in the $250-300,000 range, plus association fees.

“It’s been a long, protracted process,” Thompson said. “Not a difficult battle, just a lot of steps that take a lot of time. We’ve had a lot of cooperation from the city and community even though it’s the first intentional community they’ve been exposed to.”

Thompson said that a web site will be launched with more details on the project, but in the meantime he can be contacted by phone at (509) 486-2654.

About Brent Baker

Brent is a reporter for the Gazette-Tribune. Prior to working at the G-T, he was the sports editor for Sunrise Publishing from 2000-2005 in Michigan. He subsequently owned and operated Buckland Media, a high school sports website, in Michigan until 2010. He and his wife Kim, who have an adult son, moved to Tonasket in 2010. Brent started work at the G-T in 2011.

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