It’s hard not to notice Dustin Doerntlein’s house as you drive past it in Whitehorse’s Porter Creek neighbourhood.
Most of the front lawn has been converted into vegetable beds, a small orchard and berry bushes. Tomatoes and peppers are spilling out of the greenhouse in the corner.
A moose antler peeks through a compost pile, in the midst of getting a thorough cleaning from worms. A gentle hum pulses the air as the solar panels that line the house gobble up the sun’s rays and supply them into the Whitehorse grid.
“We’re kinda looking at it as an urban homestead,” said Doerntlein, between mouthfuls of raspberries.
Doerntlein is trying to lower his carbon footprint by turning his lawn into an “edible landscape” and producing electricity.
He estimates that by season’s end, the garden will have produced 700 pounds worth of food.
His solar panels are modeled to produce 17,000 kwh/year, which is roughly the average annual usage of two Yukon homes.
Doerntlein got a grant through the Yukon Government to pay for part of the installation. There are roughly 50 residential solar systems in Yukon.
Although he started gardening in 2010, it was this spring that the vegetable beds “crossed his driveway” and started to take over the rest of his property.
“My wife thinks I’m crazy,” said Doerntlein with a laugh. Although he works in real estate, the garden has become an obsession. Doerntlein says he spends over 50 hours a week in it.
He doesn’t sell the produce, so Doerntlein says he’s been freezing, drying, canning, pickling, and giving away it away.
The kitchen cupboards are overflowing with goodies and he has three freezers filled with pestos and sauces. An above-ground root cellar is planned for more storage space.
One of the more unusual plants in the garden is hops.
“I don’t know anyone else in the city who is trying to grow it.”
The hops should be ready for harvesting next year….