Animal Farm History
Animal Farm was born to satisfy our desire to get out of the city, and be close to nature. In the summer of 1991, we started our quest for a piece of land no more than 1 hour driving from our primary residence in Downtown Houston, where our 3 Children went to school. Several months later, we purchased 70 beautiful wooded acres in Cat Spring, 60 miles from Houston. The property is located just 5 miles south of Bellville, where the scenery begins to roll, in anticipation of the Texas Hill Country. At the end of a 3.5 mile winding dirt road, bordered by absentee owners and a spring fed creek we started to build our new paradise in the summer of 1992!
The house was designed by a friend, who, apart from being an architect, was able to identify with our wishes to build a house which blends in with the environment, uses (mostly) natural materials, and would be self sustained. The hot and humid Texas climate was the largest obstacle in designing a comfortable homestead without forced air movement, and artificial heating and cooling. Renewable energy as the sole electric power source ruled out the use of conventional energy hungry equipment, such as electric heat and air-conditioning compressors. A cooling tower design would not work either in such a humid climate. The result was a house specifically designed to overcome these obstacles.
Main Design Parameters
The main living area is raised 8 feet from grade level to maximize the beneficial effect of the prevailing southern breeze. The “core” is the living room with open kitchen, that measures 20’ x 30’. A total of 8 sliding glass doors covering all four walls, with double pane glass form the basis of a prime living space, which fulfills our demands in all seasons:
- Lots of light. The eight sliding doors, including the fixed panels leave only 25% of exterior wall space without light penetration.
- Lots of air flow. During the summer, all sliding doors are open, allowing maximum airflow through the house.
- No direct sun (in summer). The “core” is surrounded by a deck, which measures 50” x 60” shaded by an impressive roof structure, with dual slopes to obtain an optimum mounting surface for the 20 photo voltaic panels.
- Quick and abundant heat in the winter. By using double pane glass, and super insulated walls and ceiling, a wood burning fireplace is doing the job in all butthe coldest days.
Other facilities at Animal Farm
- Horse stables for our Arabs and a quarter horse
- Goat pens with nubians and pigmies
- Chicken runs for fresh eggs
- A pond with ducks and geese
- An extensive organic garden which supplies farmers markets in addition to the finest restaurants in Houston and Austin
- A perimeter fence, so our animals can roam free.
- More green houses to extend the growing season
- Extend the straw bale house we build for our farm workers
- Build a kitchen to complete our retreat center
The result of all this needs to be seen, and felt, to believe that living in Texas without air conditioning is not only possible, but provides a quality of comfort, which cannot be equaled by mechanical means. The closeness to nature, the serenity of the surrounding, and peace it brings to our heart, have all contributed to an enriched and happier life for our children and ourselves.