In New Mexico: A Family Lives in Its Own World

"Chicken power," says Ron Oest, exulting in his chicken house in northern New Mexico. "That's what keeps our winter water supply from freezing. See, they roost right under the tank." Up on the roost, two dozen hens ride out the winter, unwittingly warming a thousand gallons of mountain stream water stored in the black tank that bellies down from the ceiling. It is an efficient use of passive poultry energy, harnessed by a resourceful man who supports his family handsomely on $5,000 a year.

"We don't have any money in the bank," explains his wife Nora, who is part Spanish, part...

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