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Lots of Questions About Study Butte/Terlingua

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Offline Mama Crow

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Lots of Questions About Study Butte/Terlingua
« on: January 16, 2010, 02:51:35 AM »
I already have a personal contact in your area, and some of you may know her.  I have been invited to stay with her when I come down to look at land.  She has a super neato dome guest house.

 :icon_wink:

Anyway, here are some questions I have asked her in a recent exchange ... and I'd like for those of you who live in the area to share with me your knowledge/opinions, too.

Like I've said in another post, in order to make a good decision you must be aware of your alternatives and circumstances.

So here is what I sent her:


I cannot get Study Butte/Terlingua off my mind ... I keep going back to it as if it is calling me.

I'm so ready to come out there for a visit and maybe even look at some land.

My dream is to build a small home out of strawbale, and use earthen plaster ... I am wondering how you acquired your bales and if you have to haul in special clay dirt for your cob.

I am also wondering if the area is friendly towards those who would prefer to compost their waste ... a composting toilet (sawdust toilet) ... are state-approved septic systems mandatory when one is way, way off the beaten path?

My goals are to live completely off-grid ... I mean completely, completely.  No solar or wind energy ... no big 'ol generator ... no nothing like that.

If I do anything at all it will be an alternator (or a battery pack) to charge cell phone and laptop ... I'd use dutch ovens and rocket stoves for cooking and heat ... cob ovens and grills outside ... rain catchment, gravity plumbing for indoors and greywater system to water small garden ... is this feasible? Insane?

I'd also like to ask about the Terlingua Ranch ... I see a lot of good deals on land out there ... but it seems there are some problems going on with the ranch itself ... which I understand happens.  Still, I am wondering how the problems will affect potential new owners.  I see they are shut down ... does this mean the laundry and shower facility is shut down as well?  And the pool?  I didn't know if they were shut down for guests, but open for owners, or not?

So many questions ... I hope you'll have time to fill me in on the goings on.



Thank you, Terlinguians, in advance for your friendly and helpful responses!

 :icon_smile:
"The world breaks everyone and, afterward, some are strong at the broken places." - Ernest Hemingway

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Offline danpatch

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Re: Howdy 'All
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2010, 09:57:04 AM »
Welcome.  I have found that this part of this forum is a good resource for information about the Terlingua/Study Butte area, including, but not limited to information about the parks. 

A couple other forums about the Terlingua area that you might want to check are the Terlinguaislands (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/TerlinguaIslands/) and Vivaterlingua (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/vivaterlingua/) Groups at Yahoo Groups.

Kathleen, a member of this board, used to run a very helpful Yahoo Group called Texas Outback (I think), but sadly that is no longer active.

Personally, I find the Terlingua Group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/terlingua/) at Yahoo Groups very informative and helpful, but it also delves quite deeply (and heatedly) into the politics at Terlingua Ranch and is not for everyone.

There are also a couple of Facebook groups related to the Terlingua area, although I don't think they are very active.

There are also some blogs run by folks who are living (or wanting to live) off-grid in the area:

http://thefieldlab.blogspot.com/
http://offgridterlingua.blogspot.com/
http://terlinguabound.blogspot.com/
http://earthlanguage.blogspot.com/
http://idratherbe-ginger.blogspot.com/

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Offline danpatch

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Re: Lots of Questions About Study Butte/Terlingua
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2010, 10:12:22 AM »
Responses below in red:

I already have a personal contact in your area, and some of you may know her.  I have been invited to stay with her when I come down to look at land.  She has a super neato dome guest house.

 :icon_wink:

Anyway, here are some questions I have asked her in a recent exchange ... and I'd like for those of you who live in the area to share with me your knowledge/opinions, too.

Like I've said in another post, in order to make a good decision you must be aware of your alternatives and circumstances.

So here is what I sent her:


I cannot get Study Butte/Terlingua off my mind ... I keep going back to it as if it is calling me.

I'm so ready to come out there for a visit and maybe even look at some land.

My dream is to build a small home out of strawbale, and use earthen plaster ... I am wondering how you acquired your bales and if you have to haul in special clay dirt for your cob.

I am also wondering if the area is friendly towards those who would prefer to compost their waste ... a composting toilet (sawdust toilet) ... are state-approved septic systems mandatory when one is way, way off the beaten path?

Although I suspect that there are some who use sawdust toilets, my understanding is that licensed, inspected septic systems are mandatory on tracts less than 10 acres

My goals are to live completely off-grid ... I mean completely, completely.  No solar or wind energy ... no big 'ol generator ... no nothing like that.

If I do anything at all it will be an alternator (or a battery pack) to charge cell phone and laptop ... I'd use dutch ovens and rocket stoves for cooking and heat ... cob ovens and grills outside ... rain catchment, gravity plumbing for indoors and greywater system to water small garden ... is this feasible? Insane?

There are some living off-grid in the area, although solar/wind generator are common.  Rain catchment is common.  Greywater irrigation might implicate some septic regulations (which I don't think are actively enforced), but my understanding is that greywater irrigation is not recommended for food crops.  Is that mistaken?

I'd also like to ask about the Terlingua Ranch ... I see a lot of good deals on land out there ... but it seems there are some problems going on with the ranch itself ... which I understand happens.  Still, I am wondering how the problems will affect potential new owners.  I see they are shut down ... does this mean the laundry and shower facility is shut down as well?  And the pool?  I didn't know if they were shut down for guests, but open for owners, or not?

The facilities you are asking about are currently closed to owners, as well as visitors.  The board of directors at Terlingua Ranch has asked the owners for permission to sell or lease the lodge facilities (motel, pool, laundry, campground, etc.).  The vote is scheduled for the end this month.  Technically, the covenants governing the property require that the property be operated for the nonexclusive benefit of the owners, so perhaps access for owners will eventually be restored, but at this point, nobody really knows what is going to happen. That said, there are good deals on land there - you just shouldn't depend on access to the lodge facilities.


So many questions ... I hope you'll have time to fill me in on the goings on.



Thank you, Terlinguians, in advance for your friendly and helpful responses!

 :icon_smile:

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Offline East Texan

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Re: Lots of Questions About Study Butte/Terlingua
« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2010, 10:46:26 AM »
You sound like a brave soul.  I am just an occasional visitor to the area ( I camp at Big Bend and wander in the desert) but I follow the blog of a local out there, John Wells, who is doing a lot of what you describe.  He has been there two years and posts a daily blog of his progress.  It is fascinating reading and he is really a nice guy.  When you get out there, go by and visit him at "The Field Lab."  He can clue you in to to things like solar energy, composting toilets, water collection, etc.

Follow his blog at: http://thefieldlab.blogspot.com/

Good luck.



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Offline Cookie

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Re: Lots of Questions About Study Butte/Terlingua
« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2010, 10:53:51 AM »




If I do anything at all it will be an alternator (or a battery pack) to charge cell phone and laptop ... I'd use dutch ovens and rocket stoves for cooking and heat ... cob ovens and grills outside ... rain catchment, gravity plumbing for indoors and greywater system to water small garden ... is this feasible? Insane?



Welcome to the board! I can't address a lot of your questions, but I do know a little about one---rain catchment.

We are on rain water only here in the Hill Country. The main problem you will have out there is the annual rainfall is about 9.8". We have a 5400 sq. ft. roof to catch the water and 30,000 gallon storage. Where we are the average rainfall is about 27". we can go about 10 months with ZERO rain and be OK. The lowest we have been is about 55% full, last April during the drought. We get ~3000 gallons/1" rain. So you can see the problem with trying to catch enough water for your whole family to drink, shower, laundry, dishes etc. You are gonna need a HUGE roof. I would recommend you check out www.rainwatercollection.com They have a great book we used which is basically "Rain catchment for Dummies" kinda thing (not the real title :icon_smile:_)
The one question we get is "what if you run out?" then we buy some and have a truck bring it in. Kinda defeats the purpose but it is a backup. In five years we have been great, and with the rain yesterday, Praise God, we are overflowing once again :eusa_clap:

Hope this helps & good luck on your quest!!
~Cookie

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Offline Mama Crow

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Re: Lots of Questions About Study Butte/Terlingua
« Reply #5 on: January 18, 2010, 08:56:35 PM »
Thank you for all the replies!

 :icon_biggrin:

Cookie:

Where in the Texas Hill Country are you located?  I love that part of Texas, and used to live in Austin before we moved to Wimberley in 1995.  My sister followed me to Wimberley, and I left in 1997 but she is still there and I visit often.

I know what you mean by rain catchment.  I figured I'd be trying to catch rain from every possible (and seemingly, impossible) location ... the two cabins, the outbuilding, the chicken coop, the carport, you name it ... shoot, even sections of a fence rigged to dump into a trough.  I'm sure I'll have to be creative in my endeavors there.


East Texan:

Thank you so much for pointing me in The Field Lab's direction ... I love it! And Look forward to meeting him!





"The world breaks everyone and, afterward, some are strong at the broken places." - Ernest Hemingway

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Offline Mama Crow

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Re: Lots of Questions About Study Butte/Terlingua
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2010, 08:58:26 PM »
 :eusa_angel:

danpatch ... all I can say is ... you are a godsend ... and thank you for the wealth of information you've shared with me.

 :eusa_angel:
"The world breaks everyone and, afterward, some are strong at the broken places." - Ernest Hemingway

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Offline danpatch

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Re: Lots of Questions About Study Butte/Terlingua
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2010, 09:24:08 PM »
De nada.  But the real treasures are the people who live there. Mostly friendly, helpful and full of grit.  It's a winderful place, and you sound like you may find a niche there, although IMO you might be a bit ambitous about wanting to go so totally off-grid with a family. 

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Offline Mama Crow

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Re: Lots of Questions About Study Butte/Terlingua
« Reply #8 on: January 19, 2010, 01:34:25 AM »
You are right.  About everything.  The people; the place.  Even my ambitions.

I cannot, will not, argue or deny that.

There is not another place on this earth I'd rather go to pursue my "homesteading" and self-sufficient dreams ... and I have access to 80 acres to fulfill those dreams in western Oklahoma.  But this place is calling me.  Ever since I was a little girl I have been drawn to this place.  It is like none other.  As a child, with limited awareness and experience and knowledge, I felt something different about this place. I cannot describe it, only to say, it is something spiritual ... if that makes sense?   

If you are a praying man ... ask for me to have clear vision in what is best for us, and that His will be done.  Because if I rely upon myself (only) then I'll be charging full steam ahead, not noticing the doors slamming in my face, and busting through them without thought there may be a reason they've closed.

 :eusa_doh:

     
"The world breaks everyone and, afterward, some are strong at the broken places." - Ernest Hemingway

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Offline Doc Savage

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Re: Lots of Questions About Study Butte/Terlingua
« Reply #9 on: January 20, 2010, 12:21:32 AM »
Mamma Crow,

We have property on Terlingua Ranch but haven't moved that way yet. I had been considering a straw bale construction on top of a hill on our property. I had the chance to discuss it once with someone there who does have a strawbale addition to his house. One thing I hadn't considered is the wind. He said that you really need to reinforce the walls with steel for the strawbale to handle the wind there. They will flex and crack otherwise. After much consideration, we are now planning an Underground house dug into the north face of the hill rather than on top.

Robert
Enjoying the Texas life!

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Offline desertflwr

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Re: Lots of Questions About Study Butte/Terlingua
« Reply #10 on: January 22, 2010, 03:43:34 AM »
I can offer some advice.  From reading thru the answers to your questions one of the things I did not see addressed is the cost of getting from point A to B.  One thing to consider is when you are out of something be it food, hardware store items, or whatever you are going to have to drive quite a ways to get it.  Our biggest expense is gasoline.  Since you plan to garden, make sure you find a plot of land with at least some dirt.  There are areas out here that are very rocky.  I got lucky when we bought our acres.  The soil on my plot is great for growing vegies - I added nitrogen and compost and the garden has produced!  You will have to fence it though, the critters will get into it otherwise.  Rain catchment works very well, if you have enough storage tanks.  They are expensive.  Living way out in the outback could have its problems during rainy times.  Some of the roads become very slick and even a 4WD won't help.  If its during the rainy season (generally in the summer) the roads can stay unpassable for days, especially if the Ranch isn't able to get out to your area (i.e. washed out roads) with the grader.  Then there is the heat in the summer.  Like someone mentioned, you might want to try the summer out before you make a permanent move. 

We aren't off the grid.  We have all the conveniences of living in the big city.  We love living here with the peace and quiet and wish we could have gotten out here much sooner.  I don't think its that hard to find a job out here, but the wage scale is something you would need to check into.  Good luck with your plans.

I already have a personal contact in your area, and some of you may know her.  I have been invited to stay with her when I come down to look at land.  She has a super neato dome guest house.

 :icon_wink:

Anyway, here are some questions I have asked her in a recent exchange ... and I'd like for those of you who live in the area to share with me your knowledge/opinions, too.

Like I've said in another post, in order to make a good decision you must be aware of your alternatives and circumstances.

So here is what I sent her:


I cannot get Study Butte/Terlingua off my mind ... I keep going back to it as if it is calling me.

I'm so ready to come out there for a visit and maybe even look at some land.

My dream is to build a small home out of strawbale, and use earthen plaster ... I am wondering how you acquired your bales and if you have to haul in special clay dirt for your cob.

I am also wondering if the area is friendly towards those who would prefer to compost their waste ... a composting toilet (sawdust toilet) ... are state-approved septic systems mandatory when one is way, way off the beaten path?

My goals are to live completely off-grid ... I mean completely, completely.  No solar or wind energy ... no big 'ol generator ... no nothing like that.

If I do anything at all it will be an alternator (or a battery pack) to charge cell phone and laptop ... I'd use dutch ovens and rocket stoves for cooking and heat ... cob ovens and grills outside ... rain catchment, gravity plumbing for indoors and greywater system to water small garden ... is this feasible? Insane?

I'd also like to ask about the Terlingua Ranch ... I see a lot of good deals on land out there ... but it seems there are some problems going on with the ranch itself ... which I understand happens.  Still, I am wondering how the problems will affect potential new owners.  I see they are shut down ... does this mean the laundry and shower facility is shut down as well?  And the pool?  I didn't know if they were shut down for guests, but open for owners, or not?

So many questions ... I hope you'll have time to fill me in on the goings on.



Thank you, Terlinguians, in advance for your friendly and helpful responses!

 :icon_smile:
...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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Offline Mama Crow

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Re: Lots of Questions About Study Butte/Terlingua
« Reply #11 on: February 06, 2010, 01:09:45 AM »
Mamma Crow,

We have property on Terlingua Ranch but haven't moved that way yet. I had been considering a straw bale construction on top of a hill on our property. I had the chance to discuss it once with someone there who does have a strawbale addition to his house. One thing I hadn't considered is the wind. He said that you really need to reinforce the walls with steel for the strawbale to handle the wind there. They will flex and crack otherwise. After much consideration, we are now planning an Underground house dug into the north face of the hill rather than on top.

Robert

Thank you, Robert, for your interest enough to reply.  I apologize for my delay and disappearance.

I have thought about the climate and wind issues concerning strawbale and earthen plaster, and am still optimistic it's a good choice for me.  It's relatively simple, and can be done alone (if need be) ... and it's breathable, and durable, and fire-proof, and so on.

As long as it serves its sheltering purpose for the next 25 years or so, I'll be a happy camper ... literally.

:) 

I am thinking one would expect cracking and settling in any environment, and so I would prepare for that.  A lot of settling occurs during the compression stage, and so therefore the final coats of plaster could be postponed. 

Also, seeing how I'll probably go with load-bearing, I had already planned on using rebar for reinforcement, and also thought we'd want add extra weight by placing strawbales above the ceiling ... to hasten compression, and to add extra insulative properties above-head as well. 

(Anything extra to "insulate the inside against the harsh extremes out there" I'll be ALL for ... especially since I'll be off-off-grid.)

And, then, there is the issue of getting the earthen plaster mixture exactly right for a particular location's soil ... so I'll be patient in trying to figure that out, too ... too much or too little of "this or that" will also promote excess cracking.

Do these ideas/plans sound reasonable?
"The world breaks everyone and, afterward, some are strong at the broken places." - Ernest Hemingway

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Offline Mama Crow

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Re: Lots of Questions About Study Butte/Terlingua
« Reply #12 on: February 06, 2010, 01:14:05 AM »
Oh!  And I'm assuming there will be a lot of wild dung patties to collect in my wheelbarrow ... I've heard animal doo-doo (especially cow/horse) is an excellent binder, and natural sealer, for earthen plaster!

 :eusa_dance:
"The world breaks everyone and, afterward, some are strong at the broken places." - Ernest Hemingway

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Offline Mama Crow

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Re: Lots of Questions About Study Butte/Terlingua
« Reply #13 on: February 06, 2010, 01:27:17 AM »

I can offer some advice.  From reading thru the answers to your questions one of the things I did not see addressed is the cost of getting from point A to B.  One thing to consider is when you are out of something be it food, hardware store items, or whatever you are going to have to drive quite a ways to get it.  Our biggest expense is gasoline.  Since you plan to garden, make sure you find a plot of land with at least some dirt.  There are areas out here that are very rocky.  I got lucky when we bought our acres.  The soil on my plot is great for growing vegies - I added nitrogen and compost and the garden has produced!  You will have to fence it though, the critters will get into it otherwise.  Rain catchment works very well, if you have enough storage tanks.  They are expensive.  Living way out in the outback could have its problems during rainy times.  Some of the roads become very slick and even a 4WD won't help.  If its during the rainy season (generally in the summer) the roads can stay unpassable for days, especially if the Ranch isn't able to get out to your area (i.e. washed out roads) with the grader.  Then there is the heat in the summer.  Like someone mentioned, you might want to try the summer out before you make a permanent move. 

We aren't off the grid.  We have all the conveniences of living in the big city.  We love living here with the peace and quiet and wish we could have gotten out here much sooner.  I don't think its that hard to find a job out here, but the wage scale is something you would need to check into.  Good luck with your plans.



Hello Desert Flower!  I love it!  These are the kinds of thought-provoking responses I had hoped for.  Thank you.

 :icon_biggrin:

I already have the prepper/homesteader mentality, and so I'd need to tweak my endeavors/knowledge/skills around a desert environment. 

I'm sure a lot will be trial-and-error once I get out there, and I'm sure a lot will fall naturally in place.

My biggest concern so far, and the one that gives me most pause ... and I've read a lot of concerns and negativity from others on these boards ... is going to be the problematic roads. 

I suppose I'll need to be very discerning when picking out my spot, and also utilize my preps at full advantage when the roads are impassable, and I am unable to leave for a few days.

"The world breaks everyone and, afterward, some are strong at the broken places." - Ernest Hemingway

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Offline jeffblaylock

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Re: Lots of Questions About Study Butte/Terlingua
« Reply #14 on: February 06, 2010, 02:32:48 AM »
I'm sure a lot will be trial-and-error once I get out there, and I'm sure a lot will fall naturally in place.

Only if you're adaptable, quick on your feet, intuitive, patient, and crafty. Trial and error. The trick is to minimize the latter while the former piles up. The desert is unforgiving and unflinching.

Per the roads, to me the problem isn't the impassibility of local roads. It's the distance to "civilization" -- to the comforts and devices that ease things into "fall[ing] naturally in place." It's a day trip to Midland to get X to fix your water system, or whatever else is in need of attention that doesn't naturally fall into place.

I'm not trying to be negative. Far from it -- if this is what you want, go for it. Just go with open eyes. The Big Bend wasn't called the desplobado for nothing. I've known folks with every (available) amenity leave because it was too harsh, too isolated, too difficult to solve problems that are simple for us city folk.

There's a very Romantic (in the literary sense) vision of living in a place like Big Bend, and then there's the very real reality of the place. Just make sure you're tuned to the reality of it. When you are, and when you decide it's right, then go for it with every gram of gusto you can muster. You'll need all of it.
Jeff Blaylock
Austin, Texas

"We'll be back, someday soon. We will return, someday, and when we do the gritty
splendor and the complicated grandeur of Big Bend will still be here. Waiting for us."--Ed Abbey

 


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