Homes for $1,600: Urban Cowboy Goes Off the Grid

From on November 09, 2009 in Green Remodeling

urban cowboy sustainable home

Not the glamorous living you’d expect to see in Vogue or Elle Magazine, right? Nor would you guess this house belonged to John Wells, a New York photographer that shot wildly popular ad campaigns for Calvin Klein, Abercrombie & Fitch, Ralph Lauren, Honda and a long list of others. After stints with the big players, Wells freelanced around New York City before trading in his professional lens for 40 acres of land and the privilege of calling himself a Texan on a mission.

urban cowboy closeupurban cowboy bedroom

The death of his father was the life-altering event that sent him packing to a hot climate. After his dad died, Wells asked himself, “How would I do it if I had to do it all over again?” The answer included living debt-free and off-the-grid. His vision was to survive as a 21st century pioneer. But he had seen many failed attempts. Small empty buildings around the Texas desert proved that sustainable living in that environment was work-intensive and not everyone could make a go of it.

urban cowboy lights“Lights powered by the same west Texas wind that blows through my beard each day!”

Wells built his home, also known as the Southwest Texas Alternative Energy and Sustainable Living Field Laboratory (The Field Lab), in eight days for $1,600. He spent another $800 for the finishing touches over the next five months. So how is he making it? Wells harvests rainwater from his roof, uses a sawdust toilet, lights up the indoors with solar garden lights and cools down with a homemade swamp cooler. His meals are prepared on a propane burner and he stocks his pantry with all five flavors of Spam. The next project in sight is planned with a more appetizing diet in mind - it’s a greenhouse made from shipping containers. All very pioneer-like!

urban cowboy landscape

But 21st century? If you don’t believe it, you can visit him on his live webcam and check him out on his website, blog, flickr and YouTube. And he’s rigged up his top energy user, his laptop, to run off a home solar-charged golf cart battery. Going strong since December 2007, Wells is Texas’s state-of-the-art Daniel Boone.

urban cowboy solar powerPhoto Credits: uncommon vantage point, lifeoffthegrid, The Field Lab & Tiny House Design