Penelope Green is proud of the house in Tringa, Tex, March 9, 2011.
On MapQuest, you can't find the direction to the field lab, a home two and a half miles from Highway 118, deep in the West Texas desert, about 30 miles from the Mexican border.
But John Wells, who built the place himself, lived there, would greet you under his white Toyota pickup's highway billboard and take you in, along with a tenacious hissing dust. (
He might even offer you dinner: a plate of red beans, rice and broccoli, and a small piece of homemade cheese, olives and beer bread that was cooked in his solar oven for the afternoon. )
Known locally as the moon landscape, this is the desolate and lovely landscape of mesas and buttes, mesquite and desert juniper, rough and cheap, making it an inviting off-sitethe-
Like Mr. Wells.
There are no paved roads, no electricity, no water, but you are here to see the Milky way more easily than at the Hayden Planetarium. (
Last Thursday night, Meteor and ho-hum regularity. )
Your annual property tax may be less than a month worth of cable and Internet services. Last year, Mr.
Sir, his ZZ has a beard, a shabby cowboy hat and worn-out boots.
Wells, 51, looks like a native.
But like many of his neighbors, he was recently transplanted as a former fashion and catalogue photographer in Manhattan and Columbia County.
Despite these coordinates, this may indicate a blood relationship with art.
World pilgrims more than 100 miles away
In the case of Texas, this distance is equivalent to "nearby "--Mr.
Although the photos of Wells's new home are exquisite, he is not here to create art.
Nor did he reach a book deal or an end date.
Advertising follows the tradition of lonelinessto-the-landers, Mr.
Wells came here to live according to his own conditions.
His focus is to tame this harsh environment according to his frugal needs and be pleased with the mental and physical confusion it brings.
Wind or solar?
What is the feeling of hand-mix cement?
How much water can you grab in half an hour? hour of rain?
Can you build a dam?
How do you make a swamp cooler or refrigerator?
How long does it take to cook chicken chops in a solar oven?
What is the best Spam flavor? (Hickory-
It happened to smoke. )
He said the ad "anyway, if it doesn't work and the investment is too cheap, I can go away.
In October 2007, he
Wells bought the land. a 40-acre parcel —
$8,000 in cash, up 20-
A year and a half later, acre tract was sold for $5,000.
It took nine days for $1,600 to build one of his shells.
The chamber House, the first structure in the compound, now consists of four containers, placed under a towering arched roof, planted on the lace frame of the metal truss, all made by himself
He gave it all a fancy name, the alternative energy and sustainable life live lab in southwest Texas, but you can call it the live lab for short.
In the summer of the following year, he began writing a blog detailing his daily struggles and small victories, planting wires for wind turbines, or extracting scorpions from compost toilets.
In a quiet way, the diary is as notable as some of the great notebooks of the 19 th century.
Joshua slokham, for example, is more likely than Barbara King.
He shared a solar recipe.
Toast in the oven and notice the fun of a long hot shower with sun heated water.
"No one smells me now?
He also released winsome minutes-
Long video, one of the shell Lang rolling cattle soup, another muddy mountain flood filled in the gully and rock cliffs are rare (and brief)rainstorm.
Sometimes, he wrote earlier, "It's hard to say if I'm walking on a distant planet or getting lost in the desert.
Other people in the blog world noticed, especially like-minded frugal-living, off-the-
Trade Tips for cheering each other on grid types and sustainable systems and practices.
In 2009, treehuger, a popular environmental site, said Mr. Wells a modern-day Thoreau.
On his second anniversary here, he has recorded 200,000 blog visitors (
This year, he has more than half a million meter notes on his site)
Attracted the heart of about 800 regular readers, many of whom visited the live lab in person.
Last week's ad, sir.
Wells is an amiable master.
Smoking on his still rock land
On the occasion of the rainy season in April, he was growing in the compound, pointing out the beauty of a canyon and the destruction of the pushed part of a temporary lake that he hoped would become a temporary lake.
4 containers (
Buy at $1,000 per piece)
Grow white primer around the inner courtyard.
A crane hangs them on a cement block.
The well went in, but Sir.
There was only wells alone, and he was holding a car jack and a plumb line, each flashing.
This year, he will lay paving stones in the covered yard and build elevated beds for growing vegetables.
The roof above is corrugated galvanized metal with a small part of transparent polycarbonate. (
The sunshine in the desert must be filtered out.
Otherwise, it will blow up your crops. )
A container was prepared for the guest, with a bead curtain as a partition for the room-
Behind is a white four.
Poster in striped beddingbut Mr.
Wells plans to move in soon to build a separate hotel when he is 20acre plot.
The shed he now lives in is no bigger than a cabin on a sailing boat;
Its interior is painted bright orange and yellow and has a table, storage room, a bunk bed and a kitchen counter;
It's a chandelier made of tomatoes. juice can.
You must be patient when you work alone.
Progress is measured by completing small tasks, and construction takes years rather than weeks.
Security is a huge problem.
"When the container was delivered for the first time, I remember thinking, what if the door slammed and I was stuck inside? ’” Mr. Wells said.
The reporter took a look at the span of the truss and was worried that it would fall.
"I realized," he said, "the webcam "--
Daily training in the field lab
"It's a secure backup.
There's always someone watching me.
"Like a hint, a opportunistic burro called Mr.
The floppy disk mounted it on a tripod and then scratched his eyebrows with one of its legs, which is obviously a very-Practice a trickLater, Mr.
The floppy disk approached the visiting photographer like an old dog.
A line between the shed and the yard, magnified by tomatoesjuice can —
Like a Martian opera.
Meanwhile, Benita, a Longhorn from a nearby ranch, visited Mr.
Most of the time, Wells will pose for snacks, scratches and company like supermodel. Mr.
Wells said it took her a year to warm up to him;
Now he's bothered by the weeks she's been around.
As early as 2001, Sir.
Wells bought a Greek Revival farmhouse in Spencer Town, N province. Y.
Moved out of the city in a small village in Columbia County.
He spent $255,000, and six or seven years later, his property tax doubled to $6,000 from $12,000.
He was a contractor at the time but was carrying $67,000 in debt.
Single, no kids, "I can't even enjoy this big house," he said . ". Mr. advertising
Wells has begun to use alternative energy sources, mainly solar energy, for water and electricity.
He read an article in Make about a couple who are using wind turbines deep in the West Texas desert to power their little adobe houses, and visited his father in Arizona. he made a detour to Terlingua.
"I remember driving off the mountain," he said . " He refers to the nearest town, more than 60 miles north, which the locals call residential ".
"I was thinking, who can live here?
"He spent an evening with the couple at Terlingua, who later moved to Mexico to appreciate their hand-made houses and frugal lifestyles.
A few days later, on his last stop back in New York, he suffered a snowstorm in Philadelphia and remembered "white-
I spent nine hours on my way home.
It was in February.
, He sold his house to a family of five for $600,000 and they always appreciated the place and paid off all the debts.
He recalled calling American Express to cancel his card.
"I don't want to," he said, noting the tempting arrival of his card --
About "members since 1985 "-
The woman who answered his call asked him why.
"Well, I owe you.
He told her.
"Well," she replied, "I wish I could say that!
"After packing his property into 24 hours
Among them was a straight piano, his mother's Limoges, and his grandmother's silver suit for 12 years --he headed west.
He toured the land with another homeowner and a landowner, choosing a plot where he could not see other homes. Since then, Mr.
Wells spent about $35,000: about $1,000 per tank (he has nine);
The price of solar panels and batteries is about $2,500 (
About a year and a half ago, he turned to solar energy because it was less fidgety and more prone to disaster than wind turbines);
The cost of the container compound is approximately $20,000.
His continued cost is the lowest: the sweet little tax bill;
DSL Internet and telephone services are only $80 per month (
It takes $10 to bury the cable and transport it to his property); and a $500-a-
He said that in the months leading up to his internet access, he donated a year's donation to Marfa Public Radio, his lifeline. (
When his first phone bill arrived, he personally drove to alpai to pay for it and gave a bottle of champagne to the women in the phone Bureau. )
Health insurance of $280 per month;
Truck Insurance, $750 a year.
He pays $50 a year for medical helicopter services. (
This is a tip for all desert residents;
Otherwise, he says, if you have to fly to the hospital by air, "you may get a bill of $40,000 ".
"I can go," he added . ".
"I can shoot my feet. ”)
He bought the first gun.
357 Magnan, his fourth month here.
One night, he recalled, a sheriff's deputy drove over to find an armed criminal.
"People say, 'You have to have a gun. '"Wells said.
"Of course I have to buy a Western set.
Does he know how to shoot this thing?
He said: "After watching the Western film for a lifetime, you will understand . "
In addition, he noted that he was a photographer and trained to point and shoot. Mr.
Wells is a sociable and cheerful host, and living alone is more than just satisfaction.
"I have been single for so long," he said . "
"I can't imagine not being single.
The idea of compromising my day is not attractive to me;
I don't care what's good.
"However, he is pleased to be appointed as Minister online.
He married two friends here two years ago. Mr.
Wells wore a new cowboy hat, and Margarita was a polite waiter.
Early in his blog, Mr.
Wells tells about the slow showing of the cow and the screaming he cooks the steak in front of her.
One night, he wrote in a typical post: "Margarita came back for dinner and strolled to eat something.
There is no doubt that she will be seen in the morning. Life is good. ”On Mr.
Wells's birthday is last April, and the ranch owner with the margarita and many other Longhorn cattle grazing the Bush came by bike and sent him a birthday card.
It was a deed of ownership, and a 22-year-old spotted roan was given to Mr. Wells.
Last Thursday, the picture description in an article about John Wells West Texas desert House misstated the amount of water captured in the shed ditch.
Rainfall is 140 gallons per inch, not 1,500 gallons.
A version of this article was printed on page D1 of The New York edition on March 10, 2011 with the title: Light in the desert.
Order reprint | today's newspaper | subscribe we are interested in your feedback on this page.
Tell us what you think.