At Home… With Nature 5

The pristine wooded environs of Long Grove first beckoned to the young Joe Barry in 1985, when he found a 3-acre site including an oak and hickory woodland, part of the original “long grove” of woods from which Long Grove derived its name. He knew he’d found the right place to build his “one with nature” home.

Barry has a remarkable tale of commitment over decades to the cause of ecologically sound development. As an undergraduate, he took ecology-related courses that later informed his choices in building this first home.

In 1986, Barry became involved with the Long Grove Ecology Committee under the leadership of Dr. I. James Young. Barry spearheaded the prairie rescue project at Route 22 and Old McHenry Road. He and other volunteers rescued hundreds of native plants before development of the property and relocated them to prairie restoration projects around the Village, and gathered seeds to ensure their preservation. Barry volunteered at the Long Grove Park District and Reed Turner Woodland, where Barbara Turner became a mentor.

Inspired by such activities in his chosen community, Barry restored his own piece of woodland and prairie through the years, joined by Georgia and their daughters. Just about ¾ of an acre is lawn, which they keep chemical-free… safe for the dog and now, grandkids. The rest of the natural landscape manicures itself, with native plants sown from locally collected seeds key to this landscaping. Tom Vanderpoel, noted former director of land restoration at Citizens for Conservation in Barrington, helped with the original landscaping and with the house’s passive solar brick paving and sidewalk.

When European Buckthorn invaded the natural woodlands on their property, Barry literally “dug in” to remove it.  Each year, when the weather cooperates, Barry and his family do controlled burns with a Fire Department permit. This helps the land restore nutrients to the soil and encourages new native plant growth. As a result, those woodlands now sport a carpet of native wildflowers, which enthusiastically grows back each year.

When evaluated by Conserve Lake County for their “Conservation @Home” designation, their score quickly grew into an out-of-the-box benchmark. They needed 100 points to be designated as a “Lake County Conservation home”. Barry fondly recalls how, after documenting 400+ points, they watched a red-tailed hawk come swooping down through the open woodland from its breeding nest. With a smile, the evaluator “stopped counting and called it a day”.

Continuing their commitment to renewable energy and environmental stewardship, they installed a five thousand watt grid solar array in May of 2014, ground-mounted at the edge of the prairie (near a fenced-in organic garden area) and hooked to a ten 100-pound-battery storage system in a basement battery box. It provides a significant cost savings and emergency backup power contingency. Their home has been featured in the Illinois Solar Tour ( for the last 3 years.

Additional solar features include their passive solar storage floor in their spacious, multi-window sun room that warms up during sunny days to help radiate heat in cooler months, and a front sidewalk and driveway of recycled Chicago street pavers that warm up with any kind of sun in the winter, helping to melt the snow on the drive and walk way.

Whether it’s powering the electrical grid, warming the floor and nurturing the plants in the sunroom, melting sidewalk snow, or protecting the home from blackout danger… well: Here comes the sun. And I say, it’s all right.

For more information on this special home contact Renee Clark at 847.612.0027 or For over 15 years Renee, a Realtor Broker with @Properties, has distinguished herself as a consistent top producer in the north and northwest suburbs of Chicago.