Wednesday, April 11, 2012


Our next place, as I mentioned in the preceeding posting, will be in the country on a small amount of land. Big enough to fish on and big enough to shoot on. There are things I've learned through home ownership and through watching others do certain things in the building of their homes that I think are worth considering for your own home.

1. A water well. If your property doesn't have a spring of reasonably pure quality, which is not uncommon in some parts of Texas, then a water well is a nice addition.  You can keep your garden or yard and trees alive if severe drought and rationing conditions occur.

If you live in a windy area, it's not impossible to build a few of your own windmills to run the pumps to bring up water from a water well. Many small tanks for watering livestock have windmills that do all or part of the water pumping to keep water in the tank.

2. A cover over the home. A steel cover, anchored with real girders for a secure almost pavilion like metal cover over the house. I'll put a link to Rimrock Ranch out in California here later, but it's common in some parts of Texas to build a covering over your home  to shield it from the sun. The theory being, and apparently it's true, that having the cover over your home and a three or four foot airspace between them not only pretty much extends the life of your budget roof to "forever" and keeps the home at decent temperatures without the extremes.

For example, the Rimrock Ranch, in or near Death Valley, California, mostly stays a nice 70 degrees year round. I see it as a way to keep AC costs down and heating costs down. Plus, having lived through the drought/heat wave that Texas experienced for over 100 days last summer, I value the value of the concept of shade.

The use of an overhang roof, if you will, extends beyond shading the home and keeping it near a constant temperature. I would want to extend it in at least one direction to create an outdoor shaded pavilion. Some place where you could BBQ during a rainstorm or heatwave without being beaten over the head with the elements of the weather.

3. Solar power and rain catchment system(s). By the positioning of the exterior metal roof that covers the home, the high impact and low cost solar panels on the market now would be a perfect way to make some electricity. Likewise, the metal outer roof serves as the perfect rain catchment center.

I like the idea of my cistern being some feet off of the ground. The urban farmers that live across the street that have a rain catchment system on their home for their gardening needs have an after the fact setup. Their water tanks are on the ground. I like the idea and looks of a metal or at least metal covered plastic tank being a few feet in the air on a platform. It gives great gravity feed to the water.

4. If a creek runs through the property, some sort of water wheel would be cool to experiment with. I'm pretty sure there are different laws about messing with creeks and messing with rivers. It'd be interesting to see what kind of juice a water wheel would generate.

As mentioned above, if the property has a lot of wind coming through it, some windmills might be nice power generators. It would be nice to be able to have some low cost power generation methods to either substitute or mitigate the high cost of electrical power these days. I've seen articles for more-or-less do it yourself windmill construction, but would probably hire my handyman friend to do it for me as he'd do a better job.  In the olden days of my youth, lots of folks in all parts of Texas had small windmills pumping water from a line or a well for a cattle tank located far from electricity and even from the wells next to their homes.

Likewise with water. A water catchment system could be purified for drinking purposes if necessary, but the preferred use for me would be for watering a garden. I'd like a greenhouse for growing edible vegetables and having a greenhouse means critters can't eat your produce because it's locked away.  Having a water catchment system would provide a nice traditional or hydroponic garden environment with fresh rainwater. 

Several of my friends have properties with live springs that produce a fair amount of fresh water. The key is devising a catchment system that doesn't harm or impede the flow of the spring but that allows you to pump water to a purification station and ultimately into the home.

5. I don't rule out the idea of a solar water heating setup. We had that for nearly 10 years in our last home, and when it worked it worked well. I think the equipment and technology has advanced greatly but like with many things of this nature, proper design is the key. Ours was an after the fact install, and the piping and such could have been done better. Another good idea and a lot less trouble and maintenance would be an on demand hot water heater.

6. Other ideas I'd like to explore are having wood burning stoves to heat the large rooms of the house during really cold weather and I'd like to check are in-the-floor heating systems.

7. Not knowing what the future may be, and I'll stress I'm not a "prepper", all kinds of terrible things could happen in this nation that could impede the delivery of food, power, water, etc and cause any level of social breakdown from minimal to horrible. It'd be nice to have a generator system and wood heating abilities and alternate sources of water and electricity at your home, in addition to the storage of a supply of food, in case any of the above are ever affected.

8. A greenhouse is a certainty at our country abode. Maybe more than one, or at least one large one. There are many foods we have grown in the garden only to have them stolen by critters before harvest time because we can only limit access  so much at our current house. I suppose we could fence the garden off with mesh fencing but raccoons and possums and squirrels are quite industrious at getting past certain things like fencing. I would like to grow a wide variety of tomatoes and other types of veggies, and would like to have a greenhouse to help me do so asorganically as possible and in such a way I could harvest them before the critters do.

I've worked and fed various animals over the years for friends and family who had them. Cattle, horses, pigs and hogs, goats, chickens and the odd mule or donkey or pony. I don't know if I care to have any animals other than dogs and cats on our place. Depending on what part of the state of Texas we end up finding a place to buy, and how big that place is, will be a big factor.

If we get a large enough place, it'd be nice to be able to run a few Longhorns on the place, maybe a few beef cattle. Maybe some buffalo. Whatever it is, if I'm still working a real job instead of being retired, I don't want to have to spend hours a day tending a herd. You have to spend some time daily on animals, but I don't want a permanent part-time job caring for animals in addition to the regular job.

If I were a lotto winner, I'd have a place with a game fence and herds of zebras and giraffes running everywhere.  One never knows what the future holds, and though I'm no farming or ranching genius, I'm glad I was exposed to it a lot in my youth at various family farms and ranches.

The wife has many ideas for our home as well, and I'm all for them. A Benihana style grille on one end of the kitchen island, and an indoor grill at the other end. Two dishwashers. I'm all for anything she wants in the kitchen because she's a master cook and can make magical foods.

I'd like to have two large dryers and one large washer, so that the washing could be done in big loads. The less mowing and yard maintenance I can do, the better. I'm all for doing natural, ecologically sound yards like using buffalo grass instead of san augustine. In theory, I like the idea of having a garden all around your house as my urban gardner neighbors do, but they lose a lot of their produce and veggies to the same critters I do, fencing be damned. Not only are yards like I have now with san augustine grass bad for the environment in numerous ways, at this stage of my life I've wearied of mowing yards. A little tending is not bad but for someone who has been doing yardwork near constantly for 40 years, I've wearied of it.

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