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213 of 236 people found the following review helpful
on December 8, 1999
Solviva-How to Grow $500,000 on One Acre & Peace On Earth. This
is a strange book! A How-To book it is not. It is a hodge podge of
thoughts, green speak, observations, the authors past 20 years of
life, some interesting applications of solar structures, much green
speak, her experience with a greenhouse and the business it generated,
more green speak, ...full-color pictures of plants, animals, insects,
artwork, green speak, and lastly green speak. Whether written this way
on purpose or not it is confusing. It is a very disjointed book; more
about a persons philosophy of life than about a greenhouse that was
heated and cooled by strictly solar methods. The books layout and
progression is far from logical and it is quite a chore wadding
through all of the philosophizing to arrive at some meat. Does this
book have value? Some. But cut out all of the psycho babble, green
speak and moralizing, rearrange the contents, do some more homework on
solar and other peoples projects and failures, get a few scientific
facts verified, more data and details on what Mss Edey did and did not
do, then perhaps it might be a worthwhile book. One glaring lack, at
least as far as I am concerned; it is not a How To book. Maybe that
is not a big issue when one is writing in a diary, but when the books
title page uses those words and the book does not deliver, then it is a
major issue. The income generating potential of a solar heated
greenhouse that uses strict organic methods has a lot of merit and
expanded outdoors during the summer months one could expect that the
income would increase. She makes a claim that $500,000 is possible
with the 10,000 sq. ft. greenhouse and about an acre of land. She
never made that much on her operation and extrapolates from her own
experiences that it is possible. I would take that with a cup of
salt. She very well may be right but she has no proof. She didn't do
it and did not mention anyone else that had. So again the title of
the book is misleading. Some interesting things gleaned from the book:
1. It is possible to heat a greenhouse completely with solar
means. 2. It is possible to cool a greenhouse completely with solar
means. 3. A living could be made from the above greenhouse. 4.
Animals incorporated into the greenhouse environment can enhance the
quality of the plants by emitting co2 and they can provide another
source of income.

There may be some other things but as I said you
will have to dig for them....
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
on December 30, 2007
I am a gardener with a few years of experience and a lot of book learning on the subject. This is my opinion, after reading the book, and coming to it from that point of view.

If you aren't very well read on gardening or mini-farming, I'd recommend skipping this book until you've read a few others, such as Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening, Jeavons books on biointensive gardening, and a few others. Otherwise you'll buy too deeply into what Edey is trying to sell.

If you are pretty well read on the topic and have gardening/mini-farming experience, then the book is a reasonable weekend read.

Either way, unless you're extremely flush with cash, I wouldn't buy the book, I'd only spend time on it if it's available from the library.

The title is misleading, the "How To Grow $500,000 On One Acre" is catchy, but not realistic. The author says that her "gross income was up to $50,000 a year," (pg 158). "up to" ought to raise an eyebrow. I'm supposing that the reader is supposed to assume that the author grossed $50K, but that's not what it says. It also wasn't indicated how many years this was achieved, though there was an earlier reference to the author working at it for 8 years. There wasn't also a hard indicator regarding how long it took to build up to this, the term "soon" was used, but could mean just about anything.

The author then made some seriously goofball (in my opinion) extrapolations: that if the set up had been run more professionally, the author would have been earning well over $100k; that if a full acre was used, then that would obviously mean earnings would be over $500k. There's nothing to support such claims. In fact, at one point she indicated that "gross income never did reach much beyond the $50,000." Throw in the fact that this is gross income, and suddenly the whole agribusiness angle of "Solviva" doesn't look so great, despite what the author "believes."

There are a lot of other places in the book that don't read that well. For example, many other books address composting more thoroughly and clearly. At one point the author discussing composting toilets, incorrectly refers to humanure and nightsoil as being the same thing, and discusses what she "believes" to be the best way for handling it. Want to read about the best ways of handling human waste, that are based on actual research and experimentation? Read the Humanure Handbook, it explains the whys and wherefores much better and more clearly than Solviva.

There were a lot of things like that, such as her assumption that because she was having an insect pest explosion and suddenly the problem decreased that it must be beneficial predator insects catching up. This was just some assumption that she decided was true, based on her deciding it was so, when in fact there could have been many different reasons.

I will say this about the book: there was a lot of stuff about the authors opinions about the state of the world. If you're interested in Edey's world view, then certainly this is the book for you. If you're looking for a guide for small farming or gardening, I'd say pass. If you're interested in reading about the topic, there are way better books to put your money and time into. But if you've already read all those, and Solviva is available in the local library, maybe it's worth some time.
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53 of 58 people found the following review helpful
on January 15, 2005
Anna Edey's book is about one thing: Money for her. Selling her book and selling her plans. It is visionary, and what she achieved is truely inspirational and remarkable.

The problem is A) the title which is poor description of the book. And B) she's inconsistant in her goals. The book would have been rather amazing if she would have ditched the whole confused notion of trying to make it a business. She has a vision of making the world a better place, but this takes a back seat to her business plan.

And if you believe in the scientific method, you will realize that Anna Edey is actually a failure. Nothing she does is repeatable. The two people who took over "Solviva" crashed it. They couldn't make it work.

Once you realize that only a crazed work-aholic could ever make that plan work, and take just the good parts, the book would be just over 100 pages of pure gold. The data and scientific trial and error behind Anna Edey is valuable. It is very concise and practical in the places it wants to be. Its the first 'solar shelter' book I've seen that has that data. The other books try to be holistic and provide an overall understanding of the world. But the bottom line is, to make a change in the world, you need data, and proof. AND you can't be the only one that can make it work!
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69 of 77 people found the following review helpful
on December 25, 2004
Solviva is Anna Edey's philosophy on life and what she would do if she was president. When she actually talks about her solar greenhouse design she is very vague and leaves the reader with many questions. After making contact with Anna it seems that she was vague so that she could sell blueprints to her solar greenshouse fore 200 bucks a set. Gee, I wonder what she cares about?
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64 of 73 people found the following review helpful
on November 15, 1999
"Solviva: How to grow $500,000 on one acre and peace on earth... Learning the art of living, with solar-dynamic, bio-benign design." Ok, the title sounds like something a hippy would come up with. But get past the title... because the book is REALLY GREAT for the self-reliant who want to create their own independent house.
This book is for the person who wants to build an independent house in the boonies at low cost, and wants practical low cost solutions.
It explains how to hook on a solar garden to the house (or separately). How to use animals to provide heat... and CO2 to grow your plants to new heights.
She's from Massachusetts, so her winter solar home works through the cold winters. She's tested this system over more than 10 years.
She explains how to grow salad materials for profit. She shows you the numbers. But I'm not sure how applicable this is to all markets. She's in the upscale area of Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.
She explains how to create grey water and black water waste systems that exceed common septic systems. An explanation on one of the many color pictures says: "The Solviva graywater garden: this area, with its thriving roses, dogwood, pines, spruce and grasses has recevied all graywater since my home was COMPLETED IN 1981. OVER THE PAST 17 YEARS these plants have successfully processed over 500 pounds of regular detergents, shampoos and cleaners, and 45 gallons of chlorine bleach."
On the toilets, she has invented a system that uses standard flush toilets that feed a composting system. It's all low tech and easy to build.
She uses grow tubes and growing beds in her greenhouses (attached or separate).
She keeps chickens, rabbits, sheep, and one donkey. All the systems feed each other. It's amazing how she relates the various things on her property.
The amount of goodies she gets out of her small farm(ette) are remarkable.
John D.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2008
I brought this book with high hopes. After doing some initial research I was drawn to the Solviva greenhouse design. I read this book thinking that I might gain some understanding in how the Solviva greenhouse was put together. I was sorely mistaken. This book is more a philosophy of living according to the author than a "how to" book in designing a functioning solar greenhouse. I found myself wading through the opinions stated as facts in search of any real meaning. The last few pages of the book summed it up for me when it the author offers to sell the various design strategies of the greenhouse for some more money (upwards of $1,000's depending on what information you want to learn). I thought that by purchasing the book I might glean some of this designs and again I was sorely mistaken. Even though the Solviva design sounds great (when hyped up by the author) I cannot recommend this book to anyone interested in repeating or improving upon the design since none of that information is included in the book. However, if you are interested in one persons take on global environmental problems then read on.
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36 of 42 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2005
This book doesn't tell you anything about making money from growing food. The author's only statement about the $500,000 amount is found on page 219 in the "Addendum for 2nd Printing" which states "Based on my experience, I still believe that it is possible to generate a gross income of $500,000 on one acre, IF it is done with great efficiency, steadily rollling full production, consistently hightest quality and totally reliable delivery."
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2010
Like many other posters point out, there is some very interesting and intriguing information in this book. But after all is sifted out, there's precious little in the way of fact and process in which to duplicate her ideas.

Take, for instance, her solar heater idea, (which, as she rightly points out, is not her idea at all, but an almost 100 year old idea that has never seen much if any commercial acceptance.) I checked it out. It seems plausible. She checked it out and tested it, and verified it works.

The idea is simple: put a piece of plexiglass over an existing dark colored vertical wall. When sunlight strikes the surface, a tremendous amount of heat is generated, which can be captured by channeling it somewhere at the top of the wall. This creates two powerful benefits - you can have a large amount of heated air at your disposal, as well as using the vacuum of the rising air to pull air INTO the bottom of the wall chamber -- thereby creating a powerful thermal pump.

She tested it and it works. She incorporated it into her house and got impressive mileage from it. Suitably intrigued, I contacted her by phone a few years ago, asking a number of questions, but most importantly, who, if anyone, had built a house using her technology.

Answer: (staggering) No one. To her knowledge, no one had ever built a house using the technology she pioneered.

Her bio-toilets have been tried by some, but the solar thermal pump concept was not being used by anyone.

Not being any kind of engineer or even practical technician, I was really thrown by that. (Still am.) It seems like an exceedingly plausible idea. Why hasn't anyone even tried it, other than her?

This book is accurately described by many others. The book is disjointed, filled with neo-pagan sympathies, obtuse, and ultimately unrewarding. She spends a lot of ink documenting her battles with the Massachusetts Dept of Sanitation to have her bio-toilets approved, (which were not because they were not sufficiently tested AND approved by existing agencies.) She fights tooth and nail, but has to have her prized installation removed from a successful location behind an existing tavern.

You're left ready to take up the fight, but she doesn't move past the point of describing her experiences. You are left very leery at trying to incorporate anything she has done because of this. (Perhaps that explains her ultra-low adoption rate.)

Perhaps someone has taken the plunge and built a house based on her projects. I've scouted the internet repeatedly and have yet to find much. She'll sell you her plans, but won't do anything much past that. She wants some cash as a payoff for her efforts, but doesn't want to go much past that.

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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on May 18, 2006
This book reads much like a diary, rather than a how-to book. However, if you are mechanically inclined (or have access to someone who is), you can fairly easily glean the instructions for building most of her projects from her book. The sections on her wastewater disposal system are great. The author's website is also very informative, detailing her experience with a Solviva biocarbon wastewater system installed at the Black Dog Tavern in Vinyard Haven, MA.

Reason for only 4 stars: I feel she overestimates how much you can make from her operation. You might be able to do it if you have a family partnership going, as opposed to hiring employees. The right crops are also important (when she started, there were no bagged gourmet lettuce salads in the stores as there are now), as is your location--she's in Massachusetts, where there are plenty of people wealthy enough and willing enough to pay for chi-chi food. California is another place where this kind of niche farming works.

Bottom line: She definitely makes a case that a family could easily supplement their food supply and reduce their energy consumption, as well as creatively recycling waste products. The book is worth buying for that alone.
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17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
I am unable to figure out why Anna Edey came up with the title that she did for this book, but it certainly is a "hook". She may even be a bit eccentric or even quirky, with a second subtitle of "Revealing the Truth About How We Can Provide Electricity, Heating, Cooling, Transportation, Food, Solid Waste and Wastewater Management in Ways that Reduce Pollution and Depletion of Resources by 80 percent or more, and that At The Same Time Reduce Cost of Living and Improve Quality of Life". Whew!

The fact is that this individual has successfully developed her farm at Martha's Vineyard since 1977 into a working solar dynamic, bio-benign environmental system as a result of her experiments and research with greener cultural practices. Her book relates her success story. It begins with an ample section of color illustrations of her farm, outbuildings, and waste management system. She provides details of constructing them and their maintenance. She shares the secrets of her year-round kitchen garden that supplies salad greens and tomatoes. And she shares her experiences with greenhouse gardening where she harvested 1600 servings a day of her organic salad mix without an artificial heat source (did she sell this at $30 a bag?).

In addition to sharing her farming and gardening experiences, she wants to save our planet and bring peace on earth. In Edey's "Call to Action", she envision her solar dynamic, bio-benign environmental system as being transferable to schools, businesses, and even the White House. Her robust optimism gives the reader a good feeling knowing that there are people voicing environmental convictions that actually practice what they preach! I am glad I had the opportunity to acquaint myself with this author's visions for peace on this planet.
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