Glimpses into The Field Lab


About a year ago, John Wells left New York and moved out to Terlingua, Texas, to take a stab at living off the grid. My brother’s experience was part of what influenced John to move to the desert. A letter to the editor John wrote to MAKE tipped me off to his story, and I've been following along ever since.

Most days, John blogs a little something about his day, everything from welding wind turbines, driving to town to visit with friends, watching spiders and other wildlife, or getting up at 3 a.m. to take photos of the space station as it passes overhead. For me, it’s always an enjoyable, quick read that offers an interesting insight into, what for most of us, is a completely different lifestyle.


The Field Lab Daily Journal

(Shawn Connally and Bruce Stewart are guest bloggers)


  1. I’ve read quite a bit about living off the grid. If I weren’t tied to a job that I can’t retire from for at least another 8 years and still have to put my sons through college, I’d like to try it. After reading many, many issues of Mother Earth News and another, Backwoods Home (I think they changed names a few years ago), I think the best option I’ve found is to move to an arid area, and construct a yurt and use a wind turbine to charge deep cycle batteries for light and to charge laptop batteries and cell phones. A composting toilet would be a must also. For water supply, I’m not sure if having a well drilled is feasible in a desert-type environment, but I have to assume that’s the way to go. I guess before you buy land, you have to make sure there is water to drill to on the property. I’ve read a few articles about people getting off the grid this way and other than storms blowing their yurt down, they seemed to love this way of life.

  2. I enjoyed reading this guys blog posts…for the most part. I ended up skipping the hating-on-Obama posts. I hope he can keep that stuff to a minimum as I love the practical zen of his blog. I can’t wait to hear more about Benita, and how things develop between the shy burro and the new burro.
    He makes mornings sound great!

  3. Have been reading Boing Boing for the last year,
    just registered. I came across a reference to “Living off the Grid” in Zeitgeist addendum, i find
    the concept interesting but, don’t really know what it means,i would love to know more if fellow readers
    could enlighten me.

  4. His posts about living off the grid are fascinating. The borderline racist Obama stuff is unfortunate.

  5. I did it a few times over the years. Vancouver Island, Oregon, Trinity county, California. Cabins, stationary trailer, even a tepee at one point. The closest thing to on-grid was kerosene for reading lamps, and batteries for a long-range radio.

    It’s a good way to get quiet and know where you really are.

  6. Tom,

    Out in Arizona I met folks who were living off the grid in what was called checkerboard land in the volcano field near Roden Crater outside of Flagstaff. It is beautiful country and there are all sorts of interesting homes there. But wells? Not a chance. Not if they drilled to the center of the Earth. Folks are set up to catch rooftop water, when and if it rains…

    Mostly they truck in their water.

    I’ve often wondered what it would be like to live in a place so desolate and so hauntingly beautiful. But the idea of having to haul in water just doesn’t seem workable to me.

    And you can’t grow food out there.

  7. The tipi is nice, but I think most people off the grid are building small homes – hopefully thick walled packed earth walls, or thy’re building cabins. The last several years I’ve seen more and more articles where people used yurts. They’re easily built and stand up to the elements well. I think most people that use yurts do so in hot, arid environments. Though I believe the yurt originated in a land that frequently had very cold temperatures. There are many sites that give instructions on building different homes suitable to living off the grid.

  8. I found this blog really interesting and kind of poetic in a… minimalist “off-the-grid-crazy-guy” kind of way, but the racist, anti-Obama, redneck, gun-toting rhetoric comes on a little strong as you dig back into last November and previous posts.

    I’ll probably check in on his blog from time to time, but it’s a shame that his quasi-bucolic life, and our view into it are tainted in this way and that I’m left thinking more about the intrisic nature of an eco-friendly Republican than I am the beauty of his lifestyle.

  9. @#3,

    Welcome aboard. There’s always room for one more in this stateroom.

    When a lot of us started living off the grid (although the term didn’t yet exist) back in the late 60s, we communicated a lot through Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalogue. All the old issues were recently posted online, so you can access them for much usable information.

    O Brave Old World!

  10. Went to school with Mr. Wells. I can tell you, he is a very bright, creative, curious guy. His grandpa was in business with Ray Kroc. He made machines, loved the ladies, and tried to figure out his place in this wierd world. I hope he’s found it.

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