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From Gotham to isolated, code & debt-free West Texas estate

Seven years ago John Wells sold his heavily-mortgaged home in upstate New York and bought 40 acres in West Texas for $8000. The area (Brewster County) is so isolated there are no codes or zoning restrictions so Wells built his own tiny home (in 9 days with $1600) relying on his set-building experience.

Not wanting to rely on outside labor, Wells has continued to build his own services: a solar shower, a basic composting toilet, a bike-powered washing machine, an Airstream guest house, and a huge greenhouse which also houses 4 shipping containers he hopes to convert to housing/office space.

Wells named his homestead (now 40 acres, he bought a second 20 acres for $500) the Field Lab (short for “Southwest Texas Alternative Energy and Sustainable Living Field Laboratory”) and he likes to experiment with off-grid solutions: one of his latest is a more-powerful solar oven.

  • Edward Mulhauser aka ‘Green’

    Love you John! What an exemplary demonstration of life well-lived. Great job sharing your story. Kudos also to Kirsten for a stellar job documenting your scene. Beautiful! Really inspirational. Bless you. Thanks for sharing.

    Edward Mulhauser
    also known as ‘Green’
    PO Box 1574
    Clint, TX
    earthworm.1@hotmail.com
    915 201 9741
    text me

  • Energy plus brain power shows man’s adaptability to use what nature offers. The chickens appear to be happy.

  • Willnot Censor

    Hi John, hope you are doing well. My wife and myself are ready to go off grid and don’t have much money. Can we speak with you? Is there still inexpensive property there? Randy & Cindy 541944Five477 I hate facebook and use an alias. email is preferred, glassblower at ccountry dot net. Thanks, Randy