Opening doors and hearts to nature

The house at 21 Garnsey Road in Clifton Park belongs to Nancy and Don White but it's a neighborhood housean informal community center of sortssince they open their doors to whomever chooses to walk through them. The couple takes pride in their natural and sustainable life and want to teach others how they do it, so they offer free classes in gardening, canning, medicinal herbs, green construction and how to live an environmentally friendly lifestyle.

"This house was needed, not just for us to live in, but as a place where people could come to learn how to produce their own food and medicine and a place where people could come for any help they needed," said White.

The house sits on 10 acres of land and is the site of a former wasteland and swampy pond that the Whites transformed. It's designed with big open spaces, a small meeting area, a lending library and gardens galore. There are outdoor sun and shade gardens and a 60-foot long, 3-foot deep indoor garden that resembles a solarium or greenhouse. White grows tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, onions, corn, artichokes, dwarf fruit-bearing trees, cherries, blueberries, raspberries, gooseberries and currents; basically, said White, whatever they want to eat they grow.

This connection to the earth and desire to be as natural as possible stems from their childhood, said White.

"We grew up in a much simpler time. Everyone had a garden because that's how you got food. I grew up in wartime and [my husband] grew up during the Depression, so there was a need to develop a self-sufficiency," said White. "My father loved nature and there was never a time we were together when he wasn't teaching me how to identify different trees, plants, insects; I was always attentive to nature and since I moved here in 1973, I've watched Clifton Park grow from all farmland to a very busy town. I feel tied to the Earth and want to preserve it."

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