Back around February of this year, 2009, a friend told me about an episode of "Texas Country Reporter" that he'd seen, about a fellow living out in the desert near Terlingua. This fellow had built himself a little house out there, and was attempting to live an "Off The Grid", self sustaining lifestyle. He runs a website that tells the basic outline of what he's doing, but the real action is on his blog, which he is very good about updating every day. I've been checking in with him just about every day since I first heard of him.
John Wells if the man's name, and what a resourceful fellow he is. He comes from a professional photography background, and so the daily posts on his blog usually include some great photos. He also seems to know, or quickly learn, how to do or build almost anything. He's built a miniature evaporative cooler for his little home, four wind turbines, and two solar collector arrays to generate what electricity he uses, and is in the process of building a greenhouse for growing his own food. He has set up rainwater catchment systems for collecting, and storing the water he uses. He has built a solar oven, which he uses to cook most of his meals, and to bake bread which he gives away to friends, and visitors. He has built a solar hot water heater to supply his hot water. Now, he's setting up web-cams so that his many followers can check in on him for a live view of what's going on at The Field Lab. I can hardly wait for the next interesting thing he puts together!
A visit to The Field Lab was high up on my list of priorities for our trip to Terlingua this year. After an all night drive from our home in Dallas, we arrived at The Grub Shack on highway 118 at around ten o'clock Tuesday morning, November 3. We met three motorcyclists there, and they mentioned going out to visit John. I inquired if it was the famous John Wells, and they said yes. They agreed to lead the way, and so we followed them the last few miles out to John's place.
John was waiting for us, and greeted us warmly. It was a busy visiting day there at The Field Lab. In addition to myself and my wife, there were the three motorcyclists who were local friends of his, and, then, pretty soon three photojournalists from Fort Worth arrived. John spent some quality time with all of us, and showed us around the place. He even introduced us to his pet longhorn cow, Benita. We got to see the greenhouse, still under construction, the famous solar hot water heater and shower, and the solar oven with a loaf of bread baking inside. John presented Ok Hwa and me with a loaf of beer-bacon-cheese bread that he'd baked earlier. Next we all got a turn posing on his front porch for the famous visitor photo. He even honored me by naming the blog post for that day "The Allen Hare Show", and featuring us on the live web cam. What a great guy!
We all got a chance to wander about the place, taking pictures to our heart's content. I had a special request in mind, and had prepared for it in advance. In many of the daily photos on his blog, John is seen wearing a grey t-shirt with "The Field Lab" stenciled onto the front in red. I had brought two new grey t-shirts, and asked him if he'd do the red stencil job on them for me. He kindly agreed, and said that they'd be ready in a couple days. Great! That meant we'd get to come back for another visit later in the week.
We came back for our follow up visit two days later, on Thursday, November 5. He had the first shirt done, and waited 'till we got there to peel the stencil off the second one. They both looked great. We had brought some sandwiches to share with him, and we ate them on his front porch. That gave us a chance to talk with him some more, and get to know one another.
So, Mr. John Wells, what an intelligent, and friendly guy. I really enjoyed spending some time with you. My wife was so impressed with your whole operation, that she's still talking about it. We look forward very much to the next visit.