Awardee Profiles

The Wessel Home

Peace is kept in the barnyard at Wildwood Farms by 5 white nanny goats supervising the dozens of ducks, chickens, guinea hens, and cats rescued by farmer Mary Wessel. After living in Norway for most of her adult life, Mary returned to the States to rejoin her family in upstate NY. She purchased a 6-acre homestead on the ridge above Queen Catherine marsh in Schuyler County and began the hard work of creating a sustainable refuge for humans and animals alike.

Like many rural dwellings, the farmhouse consisted of a series of additions tacked onto the original cabin with its massive stone hearth – none of them insulated or tightly constructed. When Mary’s elderly mother needed to move in with her, the utility bills skyrocketed as Mary tried to keep her mother warm with electric space heaters and DIY attempts to reduce the drafts. Finally she turned to Snug Planet for help. Watch Mary Wessel talk about her farm.

The workscope from the energy assessment was huge. Over $20,000 in insulation and air sealing for the multiple attics and crawlspaces of the patchwork house was necessary, plus installation by Halco of two air source heat pumps in the kitchen and the mother’s bedroom. Due to their extremely limited income, almost half was covered by NYSERDA with the Climate Fund contributing another $2,226 for the 111 tons of carbon being offset just by tightening up the house.

Someday Mary hopes to add solar to meet the farm’s electric needs. She’s working to make Wildwood a pleasant retreat for those needing sanctuary and wanting to reconnect with the rhythms of a simpler life, in balance with what our landscape can sustain.

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