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Living off the Grid in Terlingua

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Offline RikD

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Re: Living off the Grid in Terlingua
« Reply #15 on: June 21, 2009, 01:29:46 PM »
I actually just reached out to John.  I may plan to visit him on my next Big Bend trip.

Interesting to note, that when I went to Big Bend last January, I was scouting around getting prices of land south of Alpine, and north of Terlingua on Route 118.  However, as I checked these places out I was trying to imagine how one could carve out a life there.  Certainly you have the sun and wind for alternative energy, but water is definitely a challenge.  So John's story is quite interesting for me.  I am very impressed with what he has accomplished!

I've done quite a bit of research on solar and wind powered systems.  I would like to trade notes and share some thoughts on the energy storage - namely the battery technologies.  There are some pretty nice AGM (absorption glass mat) batteries that are being produced these days.  With so much sun and wind out there, he could really entertain the possibility of an electric vehicle, but the cost might be prohibitive at this time.  However, if you really want to live off the grid...

The other more delicate topic is that of waste - namely human waste.  He has a link to someone who specializes in "humanure". This is the process to convert toilet waste and other kitchen waste into compost based fertilizer for growing plants and veggies.  There is a link from John's site to someone who has specialized in this area of expertise.  The guy claims that he been using human toilet waste compost material to fertilize his vegetable garden for 27 years.  It is quite interesting, but to make it successful, you need to have lots of sawdust - preferably cedar to kill the smell.

In any case, my hat's off to John for an amazing story.

-Rik

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Offline Fred

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Re: Living off the Grid in Terlingua
« Reply #16 on: June 21, 2009, 03:35:42 PM »
I was always told that the thick walls of massive structures, like the missions in San Antonio, kept them cool in the day time.  The URL below takes you to a little report on one University's architectural school's attempt to create these thick walls.  Note the name of the ancient Indian structure at the bottom of the report.

http://ddbc.arizona.edu/research/appropriatetech.pdf

This seems expensive and labor intensive.  All you are attempting to do is build up a large mass.  There must be an easier way to get the mass of a thick wall without all this effort.  I don't know what I am talking about (just thinking out loud), but I just think you could have an inner and outer retention wall of some inexpensive material like corrugated steel.  Put up the walls and then fill with dirt and presto, a thick wall with mass to moderate the day/night temperature swings.

Three foot thick earth walls PLUS his swamp cooler should make it very liveable, and it would be more comfortable on cold nights as well.
« Last Edit: June 21, 2009, 04:19:26 PM by Fred »
Follow the writings of the old men, for they knew more than you or I.

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Offline Ay Chihuahua!

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Re: Living off the Grid in Terlingua
« Reply #17 on: June 21, 2009, 03:50:49 PM »
The other more delicate topic is that of waste - namely human waste.  He has a link to someone who specializes in "humanure". This is the process to convert toilet waste and other kitchen waste into compost based fertilizer for growing plants and veggies.  There is a link from John's site to someone who has specialized in this area of expertise.  The guy claims that he been using human toilet waste compost material to fertilize his vegetable garden for 27 years.  It is quite interesting, but to make it successful, you need to have lots of sawdust - preferably cedar to kill the smell.

This would explain the salad bar at Golden Coral.  :vomit:

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Offline dkerr24

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Re: Living off the Grid in Terlingua
« Reply #18 on: June 21, 2009, 05:29:08 PM »
The next progression in building in the desert is to skip the thick walls altogether and just build the home into a bluff underground.  You get 6 feet or more under the desert and the temps won't vary much at all.

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Offline Doc Savage

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Re: Living off the Grid in Terlingua
« Reply #19 on: June 26, 2009, 03:55:25 PM »
The next progression in building in the desert is to skip the thick walls altogether and just build the home into a bluff underground.  You get 6 feet or more under the desert and the temps won't vary much at all.

That's part of my idea for our property at Terlingua Ranch. We've got a good sized hill I'm planning to dig into and build the house into the hill. Considering earth tubes as well as wind/solar also. Plan on being off grid, but wife wants grid tie in just in case. We do have powerlines within 300 feet or so of the property so we could do that. I'm leaning to start without it and add it if desired later.

Robert
Enjoying the Texas life!

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Offline Fred

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Re: Living off the Grid in Terlingua
« Reply #20 on: June 26, 2009, 09:13:38 PM »
Good idea.  I remember seeing this idea in the Western movie "The Unforgiven".  It sticks in my mind cause that is how the Indians got the cattle on top of their roof.  I guess?? it would be ideal if the hill were on your south facing wall.  But even if not the south wall it should still help some.
Follow the writings of the old men, for they knew more than you or I.

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Offline Undertaker

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Re: Living off the Grid in Terlingua
« Reply #21 on: June 27, 2009, 03:12:24 PM »
When I lived in Arizona, all I had was a swamp cooler, works fine as long as the humidity stays low, besides it a DRY HEAT. :rolling:
Visiting BB since 1966, nothing like being lost and finding heaven.

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Offline Doc Savage

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Re: Living off the Grid in Terlingua
« Reply #22 on: June 30, 2009, 03:17:37 PM »
Good idea.  I remember seeing this idea in the Western movie "The Unforgiven".  It sticks in my mind cause that is how the Indians got the cattle on top of their roof.  I guess?? it would be ideal if the hill were on your south facing wall.  But even if not the south wall it should still help some.

Seem to remember that scene.

Yep got a wonderful North facing view of nine point mesa so the south will be dug in. Should be able to get the east side underground also. Might have a partial exposure on the West side. Might have to go with a "scenic" wall to block the house wall there.

Not sure how to handle the roof right now. Kinda thinking the roof will be above grade to keep construction simple and costs down, but having some earth on top of it is pretty attractive from a heat/cooling perspective.

Robert
Enjoying the Texas life!

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Offline desertflwr

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Re: Living off the Grid in Terlingua
« Reply #23 on: July 14, 2009, 10:45:14 PM »
...It gets bloody damn hot out there as most can testify and even with insulation, fans, etc. - it's still damn hot...I for one appreciate the modern conveniences of the 21st century - especially chilled air...

It can be hot and humid.  When we have the summer rains the swamp cooler does not work very well because of the humidity.  :icon_eek: The best thing is to have a window unit or central A/C for the humid times.  I've spent 9 summers here with a swamp cooler only, central A/C is on my horizon I am looking forward to it! :icon_biggrin:   


   
...in the wild places man is an unwelcome guest but its here that I'm found and here I feel blessed...

 


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