Sustainable Living Texas-Style
The second contribution in our new Resilience Spotlight series, featuring stories from Peak Prosperity readers, comes from Oliveoilguy.
About 10 years ago an older man took me and my wife aside and said that "Gold is Money", "the markets are rigged", and that we are living on borrowed money and borrowed time.
Fast forward 10 years. We have our own rain water system with 45,000 gallons of storage, dual filtration and UV sterilization. We still have a well that we use for livestock, and a manifold that allows either system to flow to any part of the ranch.
We also installed 2 solar systems. One has battery backup and powers some essential items like pumps, and 1 fridge and freezer and some lighting. It is grid tied using Outback GS load center technology and has been trouble free for 7 years. I did the installation myself with 18 panels maxing out one charge controller. The other system is an Enphase micro-inverter setup with 27 panels roof mounted on our house.
We put in 2 gardens, and are adding a 3rd growing area. The big garden is 125' x 125' and high fenced (8') to keep deer out. We also ran 2' of 1" chicken wire buried in the ground around the perimeter and 2 years ago we couldn't figure out what was eating the broccoli till we caught a porcupine and a raccoon together on a night vision camera. We had to add a hot wire on standoffs to keep those critters from climbing the fence. The small garden is 60'x 40' and close to the house for greens, cold crops and onions. Our best crops are asparagus, onions, Irish potatoes, butternut, and sweet potatoes.
Some of these go to the root cellar for storage and often last 6 months. We put a small minisplit in the root cellar to take the temperature down a notch.
I am just completing a passive solar greenhouse which is similar to the "chinese" greenhouse with solid north wall, full southern glazing, and tons of thermal mass. The solid walls are 8"cmu with 3" of outsulation on the exterior and a synthetic stucco covering. There are (20) 55 gallon barrels holding up the growing tables, and a heat exchange system buried under the floor. The irony is that this greenhouse design originated in Texas in 1980. I was part of a consultant team building the first iterations of this design on a project named "Texas Solar 80". Since then I have refined the design and feel like it performs very well. I have (propane) backup heat which is hardly used and some thermostatically controlled vents in the peak which is about 18' high. The glazing is double poly with air blown in to create a pillow, and the 40' x 24' sloped glazing area is all welded metal in a 4' grid pattern which could someday accommodate lexan, but at this point I'm very happy with the inexpensive roof system. There are also 2 large garage doors on the structure which stay open during the summer. 60% shade cloth goes over during the summer months.
We have horses and therefore horse manure which we use to make compost, and two ponds which are called "tanks" in Texas and are basically good for deer and turkey to water in.
At this point we feel like our basic infrastructure is complete. Of course we would like to add more solar and go from being 1/2 off the grid to being fully self sufficient. I still work full time as a general contractor doing mostly custom homes in this area, but my goal is to someday switch gears and have this ranch become a center for teaching the infrastructure of sustainable living.
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