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Terlingua - Laying the Groundwork

When I first started this blog,  it was all about the Old Girl.  Since those days, the blog has grown to encompass more of the total picture of what is going on in my life.

Every time we move, we set up a new basecamp for the Old Girl and whoever else wants to be included.  Sometimes, I just push out a raw hole in the woods for the Old Girl and sometimes it is a bit more elaborate.   I have lost count of all the different places we have fixed up for RV parking.   Many readers have voiced interest in the different processes that go in to setting up a usable basecamp.  The big difference between myself and the average reader is I usually have carte blanche  from the owner when it comes to septic and electrical installation  and I have access to really big equipment to do whatever work I need done.

The Terlingua deal is on a much different scale.

View from the Terlingua Property

It is too far removed to use our equipment down there.  Transportation costs there and back would be astronomical since most of our equipment has to be transported as specially permitted loads…. they are either too heavy or too wide to be moved normally.   I can’t afford to pay that kind of freight.  Secondly, we have tools and supplies on the job site that I will not have available in Terlingua.  We have a dedicated service truck that is nothing but one big toolbox, welders, torches and multiple job boxes full of stuff that is required during the course of a normal job.  All of that stuff will be staying in Central Texas as well.

All of which levels the playing field to the ‘everyman’ status which is going to prove very interesting in the long run.  When we go back out to the piece of raw land in Terlingua sometime this winter, the only thing I will have is what I can carry in the Old Girl and the Suburban.  Well, just because I don’t have all my resources available doesn’t mean I am a novice at doing the deal.  Not my first rodeo to be sure!

So here is where we are at with the Terlingua project:

Electricity: Rio Grande Electric Cooperative is the provider and they are dealing with a huge, remote area and I can appreciate that.  We have electricity on the property– three poles actually and yet RGEC will not even give you a ballpark estimate on what the cost will be to connect the electricity.  They charge a $250 fee for an engineer’s assessment of the property and that is ALL they will say.  I can tell you right now I am not going to spend any hot summer days there without air conditioning.  110 degrees in the desert is just too damned hot to be roughing it.  Fully 90% of Terlingua Ranch has no electricity available within feasibly economical distances and that is why so many of the ranchos out there are off grid.  We bought this property specifically because it does have electricity available.  I am just hoping it is not $10k to connect it.   Good thing the Old Girl has a robust generator.  We can go for awhile with no electricity if necessary.

Septic: I don’t know how many septic systems I have installed over the years but it is a shitload (literally).  When I found out the equipment rental place wanted almost $1200 to rent  a small backhoe for a week, I thought it might be cheaper to hire a local contractor to do the job.  Fred Porter is the name that comes up most often for the area and Miss Kathy called him this week.  I bet they talked for 30 minutes!   Fred was very open about sharing information and Miss Kathy feels like he deserves the fine reputation he has in the area.  He has a backhoe and charges $80/hour for rental and $110/hour for the backhoe and an operator.  He estimates 12 hours to install a septic system.   I did the math folks.  For that kinda money, I can rent one out of Alpine for a week and get ALOT more work done.  I am figuring the components of a marginal septic system  —  a 500 gallon tank and 200′ of field line is going to cost between $600 and $800.  Add in some sand or washed gravel for the base and that price will double.  Looks like a septic system is going to be $3k regardless.

Phone/Internet: Big Bend Telephone offers very reasonable phone and DSL internet packages.  The only negative is they require a site survey to determine if you have the electrical capacity to support their equipment  — that off grid thing again.  Once the site survey is done, it takes about 90 days to get the equipment installed.  This one is up in the air  — I don’t know what I am going to do.  I do know there is no cell signal available — period.

Water: Water is the big limiting factor for this area.  It is the desert.  Annual rainfall is around 10″.   To put it in perspective, the Dallas area gets more than 40″ per year.  Drilling a well out there is risky business.  Some people get good water at 200′ and some go 2000′.  Well drillers charge upwards of $40 per foot with no guarantees. I do not think a well is in our immediate future.  Most folks out there do water

65 gallon portable water tank

catchment off their roofs.  We don’t have any roofs (yet) so an alternative plan has to be put into action.  Enter Craigslist.  Miss Kathy found a 65 gallon water tank for $80.   It fits nicely in the back of the Suburban and 65 gallons will last us 10 days easy.   Looks like when we go to town for groceries, water will be on that list as well.  It is doable.

Adequate financing is a key factor and I am thankful we have a late season job to work.  Normally by this time of year, we are winding down until next spring.   I would like to do the septic system plus some sort of small storage shed this winter.  Finances (or lack of) may preclude one or the other.  It is what it is.

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9 comments to Terlingua – Laying the Groundwork

  • You could always try a simple septic system like this:
    http://www.wikihow.com/Construct-a-Small-Septic-System

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    • admin

      Thanks Danny!

      Great link that has got me thinking out of the box

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  • Sailbad

    I’m working on a similar but much smaller project in New Mexico. No power ($36K to bring it in). Neighbor has a well and will charge $20 a month for all you can haul. I have solar and generator. Nearest groceries/fuel 50 miles round trip.
    I’m not there year around yet. Security is an issue. Thinking of bringing in a 40′ container to hold 500 gal water tank, propane gen, and a little washer and propane drier. 125 gal Propane tank rents for less than $100 per year and they will service weekly or as needed.
    The container opens up all kinds of possibilities from storage to a “real” shower ect.
    Just some thoughts…..

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    • admin

      Containers are great for waterproof secure storage. The owner at the just completed project had 3 twenty footers.

      I thought about it at Terlingua. Problem is the Big Bend Valley is so flat a container would stick out like a sore thumb. They sure are ugly. I thought about burying one but that is not as easy as it sounds.

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  • Earthship a consideration? Takes time, but might be worth it.

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  • Monolithic domes? I’m sure you’ve seen those cats on I35, near…Waxahachie? Italy?

    I sent you an email about the networking, using solar + 12v systems. Might save you some dough on the networking infrastructure.

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  • Here’s another option I looked at back in flush times for El Rancho Boracho guest houses: compressed straw bale houses.

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  • Miss K

    We need to get er done!!!!

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