Missy HodginAgriLife Extension Agent
Recently 50 residents and history buffs of Clay County toured Precinct 1 for the annual Hello Neighbor Tour hosted by Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service of Clay County and the Clay County Leadership Advisory Board.
On the first stop of the tour, held April 3, partakers enjoyed touring the beautiful home of Adam and Ashley Gonzenbach and seeing their panoramic views. One goal of the Hello Neighbor tour is to promote the history and heritage of Clay County. Ashley Gonzenbach did a wonderful job of really telling the story of their home. Though it is new construction, all of the rock (besides the window sills) was reclaimed. The greatest amount came from the Johnson House which was built in the late 1800s. The beams in the living room came from dismantled barns in Missouri and Ontario, Canada. Both Adam and Ashely are very interested in the history of their home and would be interested to hear from anyone that may have pictures or stories that relate to it.
The next stop was at Zach Parker’s River Bluff Lodge, which has a beautiful view of the Red River. The lodge is an old family home and is now used as a hunting lodge.
The third stop was to visit the green house of Mr. and Mrs. Andy Harding. The green house was built in 1973 from reclaimed glass windows from a church in San Antonio. Participants admired the many orchids growing and the artwork of Mrs. Harding. Harding discussed the difficulty and time commitment that growing orchids requires. Harding also serves as the President of the Wichita Falls Orchid Society.
Water is a critical issue and was on everyone’s mind when the Clay County Leadership Advisory Board met to plan and identify points of interest for the annual tour. So the water harvesting and horse training facilities of Chris and Dee Ann Littlefield made a logical stop on the tour. Chris Littlefield, Henrietta-based rancher and horse trainer, installed a rain-water harvesting system at his barn last summer when his existing water well could not keep up with livestock demands.
Littlefield considered drilling another well but decided against it because it was going to be expensive and would not likely yield much better results than his existing well. Instead, someone suggested putting gutters on the roof of his barn to catch the rainwater and take advantage of the 30 inches of rainfall that typically fall here in Clay County.
Barns and covered sheds make an excellent choice for a water catchment system because of their large roof size. For every inch of rain that falls, a rainwater harvesting system can collect approximately 0.62 gallons of water per square foot of roof area. However, there is always some loss due to first flush, evaporation, splash-out, overshoot from gutters and possible leaks.
The greatest cost associated with a rainwater harvesting system is typically the storage tanks. On a per gallon basis, this cost can range from about $0.75 for a fiberglass tank to more than $4 for a welded steel tank. Other components such as gutters, downspouts, pumps, filter systems and pressure tanks will add to the cost of the system.
One advantage of this type of system over a well is that it can be installed or expanded on a ‘pay as you build’ basis. When Littlefield first had his system installed, he only had four 3,000 gallon tanks. He has since added additional tanks and now has the capability of storing 33,000 gallons of water. The rainwater system is tied into existing lines at his barn and is used both in the barn and for livestock water in the pasture.
“The security and flexibility this system provides have been the biggest advantages I’ve seen,” Littlefield said. “It has also helped me expand my operation, which was limited using only well water.”
The Byers Improvement Group hosted the tour-goers at the First Baptist Church of Dean and provided quite a feast. The group enjoyed looking at pictures and displays of the history of Byers and the surrounding area.
Thank you to everyone that helped put the annual tour together and especially to Adam and Ashley Gonzenbach, Zach Parker, Andy Harding, Chris and Dee Ann Littlefield and the Byers Improvement Group. Also thanks to Lindy Choate for his help in organizing and coordinating the tour and Jerry Payne and Johnny Reynolds for serving as tour guides.
The annual tour always receives positive feedback but participants said this year was the best one yet.