Friday, June 12, 2009

Southwest Texas Alternative Energy And Sustainable Living Field Laboratory

All photos courtesy of John Wells.

Haven’t we all, at one time or another, wanted to leave everything and everyone behind, find a small place where we can live a sustainable lifestyle and totally change our way of living.

John Wells (who also took the photos) did just that. John had been living in upstate New York for years; but, he had a dream. One day, he dropped everything, bought his 40-acre desert homestead and set about making his dream of a sustainable lifestyle and a sustainable homestead a reality.

The Field Lab, also known as the Southwest Texas Alternative Energy and Sustainable Living Field Laboratory, is the result. After purchasing his land in October 2007, he built this little house in 8 days for $1,600. It was habitable; but, needed some detail work and a few other changes. He completed this work in about 5 months for $800.

John has created what many of us imagine; although, most of us don’t picture such a dry and remote area as our little piece of paradise. Since his energy needs are so low, he draws all his electricity from a small photovoltaic solar array. (No shortage of sunlight to recharge the batteries here!) He satisfies his water needs from collecting the rain that hits his roof (when it rains) and stores it in a water tank for later use. The desert can become very hot; and, as John points out in his blog “it can be very hard sleeping at night when the temperature is still 90° F.” So, John designed a small swamp cooler that keeps his home at 80° F no matter what the temperature outside.

John’s rainwater collection system (above) can collect 140 gallons of water for every inch of rainfall. In an effort to add to his water-capturing efforts, he is currently working on a way to tap a nearby arroyo for additional water when it rains. It should be noted that when the Anasazi lived in this region over a millennia ago, they tapped the arroyos for additional water for their needs. His final contribution to his water-collecting efforts will come when he has completed his project of making a 1,600 sq ft greenhouse out of shipping containers. He will store the rainwater that falls on that roof also.

His homemade swamp (evaporative) cooler (above) draws very little electricity; but, keeps his home cool all summer long.

Above is John's toilet. As you can see, it’s simply a bucket and lid with sawdust layered between the contributions. When the bucket gets full you wait a little and then compost it.

At first most people are a bit surprised at the idea of recycling human waste; but it begins to make more sense when you consider it uses no water and the resulting compost can be used like any other fertilizer. Below is his compost pile.

To visit John, learn about his simple way of life and/or contact him: The Field Lab's Home Page

Follow his daily blog:

To learn more about tiny house design and receive a free tiny house plan, go to: Tiny House Design


John Wells said...

thanks for posting the links to my website and blog...cheers

Taong Bundok said...

Would it be possible to get the plans for his homemade swamp (evaporative) cooler?

Pippa said...

John's email address is:

If you email him, I'm sure he will be happy to share.