What to do?

mynwhseI’ve been mulling the idea of buying the aforementioned house in the woods.  I’ve been both ways and back and fourth on the issue many times.  It’s still early and I plan to think on it more but here’s the brain-facts so far.

The price is good and I think I can get it even better.  They list it for 99K but mention “Bring all offers.”  I might try offering $75 due to it’s poor condition.  I shouldn’t wait too long though because special things tend to disappear if you don’t act quickly.  This seems special to me though not for everyone.

Assuming I sell my investment portfolio and buy it what would be the plan?

I wouldn’t move right away because that would mean quitting my well-paying job and losing my healthcare which I currently need.  I’m hoping to see what becomes of TrumpCare before I know for sure.  I would probably just hold on to it for 1-3 years before moving.  That would give me time to fix it up a bit and make it habitable.  Property taxes would cost me $2500 a year.  I would have a place to visit and enjoy away from the city that is MINE!  Once it is habitable, I could start looking for a new job in the area.  Something always comes up eventually if you wait.  There’s always something available for a special person like me.

Money spent on buying land or a house is never “lost”.  Just transformed.  If my retirement plan doesn’t go as expected, I can always sell it and get the money back plus more because it will be in better shape than when I bought it and property always goes up.  Even during the recent depression you did not find any property cheap as you would have expected.

I don’t really see how I could lose on this deal.  My investment portfolio wasn’t doing anything anyway.  Even in an up economy over the last few years I ended up down at least 10K.  That won’t happen with property.  I still have plenty left in my retirement portfolio and other investments that are doing rather well.  Even after all expenses, my net worth was up $36k last year.

I think I’ll think for a few more days and get more serious next week. I didn’t hear back from the realtor so I think I’ll find a different one who is more local to the area and see if I can meet him/her there for another look-see and get their impression on the deal.

Once the deal is done, There’s no rush to move or do anything. (After a new roof is installed to protect the remaining salvageable interior.)  I can take my time and have a feeling that my dream is actually within reach.  That would be a wonderful feeling indeed.  Certainly worth the price.  What do you think?




My Future House In The Woods?

Actual picture of the house.

This weekend I hit the road to look at some houses and land in a small town.  Something my broken heart yearns for. I had a number of potential candidates printed out so I spent the day on the road.

The first house I looked at was the best match with what I am looking for.  It is a partially dilapidated, home-built, country house located on 6.8 wooded acres of land about 15 miles away from my small town of choice.  I usually do my house shopping on my own first before contacting a realtor because I don’t want to waste his/her time with my window shopping.

Looking into an open window showed that the house was empty and surprisingly did not smell exceptionally horrible as I expected.  A little pet urine but nothing really nasty.  The front door was locked and had a sticker on it with words about tress-passers being shot.  A little scary but there was nobody there.  I walked around the outside to the back where I found a large step past a missing deck to the back screened patio door which was not so much a door as a piece of highly worn plywood.  The screened porch area contained a nasty washer and dryer.  I was surprised to find the back door not locked and hanging open.  “Come on in.”  it said.

The house is only 1000 square feet consisting of a large living room, good sized kitchen, big enough bathroom and a good sized bedroom with a strange office/2nd bedroom just of the first bedroom.  I would use it as an office.

The metal roof has been leaking in a few places and the ceiling had collapsed.  Not too bad though.  The structure looks good and a new roof and drywall work will fix it right up.  The floor is a mess.  A hodgepodge of mixed media from nasty carpet to bare sub-floor.  Not a big deal.  I can do flooring.  The hot water heater seems to have sprung a major leak at one time.  It was located in a small box in the bedroom closet.  Due to the leak, there is mold on the closet walls.  I can fix that.  The leak must have been large or went on for a while because some of the dirt under the house in that area had been eroded by the flow to about 6 inches deep.  It doesn’t seem to have compromised the pier foundations.  That’s good.

The bathroom was pretty messed up.  A large but fancy tub was rigged with an electric on-demand water heater sitting on the sink plumbed through a gaping hole in the drywall.  I guess the water heater was gone for a while, while people still lived there.  They tried to make do but were obviously not plumbers.  It looked bad but nothing I couldn’t fix.  I would replace the tub with a walk in shower and replace the sink and toilet and put down new tile.

The kitchen was also a mess.  The old cabinets would have to go.  I would get rid of the bar and move the sink from the wall to look out the window.   After a remodel it would make a nice sized kitchen that would suit me well.  There was the 4 foot square hole in the ceiling where the leak was.  Parts of the drywall was falling where the seams were.  I would replace it all anyway.

The living room is not in bad shape.  Replace the old carpet, remodel the fireplace wall a bit to remove some built in bookcases and paint would be sufficient.  A large sliding glass door leading out to the missing deck would be replaced with a nice french door and a new deck and stairs.

I was a little surprised to see that there was no air conditioning or heating system in the house.  I don’t know how anyone can live like that.  I would put in two high efficiency Mitsubishi split heat pump systems.  One in the living room and one in the bedroom.

The exterior is not high quality but in decent shape.  I would probably replace it with cement board siding anyway.

The house is set back maybe around 100 feet from the road and completely not visible from the outside except to passers by the driveway entrance.  The driveway leads through the brush offering nice privacy so I can run around naked at all times.  The tall pine trees are alien to me and were scary.  I like them though.  It’s one of the things I like about the area.

I braved a walk through the brush and fallen trees toward the back of the property which is the largest area.  About halfway I found a seasonal stream that would run when it rains.  On the other side, more forest.  I didn’t go any further.  Satellite images show that it is rather thick.  If I cleared out the underbrush in the middle it would be pretty cool.  I would build a bridge over the stream.

Back at the house I found a outdoor shower and a decent sided shed that would make a good workshop and tool storage building.  I might put in a larger one.  An old MG convertible car sat low on the ground.  I wonder if that is included.  It is probably not easily revive-able but I might give it a shot.

The place needs a LOT of work but it is actually around 80% what I am looking for.   The other land and houses I’ve looked at over the last few years have been in the 5% or less range so 80% might be a keeper.  I like the fact that it needs remodeling because that will give me something fun to do.

Now I have to decide whether I am man enough change my life like I want to.  I could easily move and take a year or two off to remodel then look for a job in the town.  Maybe I could get into something completely different than computers like house inspecting or real estate.  I wonder what is involved in getting started in that?  It would be nice to work on my own schedule for my remaining years.

I would only be 1.5 hours away from my mom so I would not feel so bad about leaving her like I would if I moved to Colorado.  Technically, this plan is a go.  Mentally…not sure yet.  I’m sleeping on the idea for a while before I do anything rash.

The asking price is $99,000.  More than I think it is worth in that condition but I might try to see if they will accept $75,000.  If they sell for 75-80 I would feel OK with the deal.  I have 89K in my extra money investment portfolio so I could pay cash for the house and skip the mortgage.

I could sell my current house for $140K or rent it out for a few years and make $1100 a month off of it.  Sell later.  Maybe.  It would be nice to have the income if I wasn’t working.  It would at least pay my Obamacare bill plus more.

I wrote to the realtor on the sign but he hasn’t responded.  If I don’t hear from him in a few days, I’ll try a different realtor.  He isn’t even local to the town for some reason. I would rather deal with a local anyway.

I’m taking it slowly.  In the shape that it is in, I don’t think there will be too many buyers right away.  It has been on the market for around 160 days as is.  Maybe that will help me get a good price.

The more I think about it, the more I like the whole idea.  We’ll see.


Off-Grid RV Camping

cmpngsptNow that the weather has (relatively) cooled off in Texas, I decided it was finally time to get away from work and take a little vacation.  I scheduled some time off and booked a spot.  The location wasn’t exactly what I had in mind because the whole world is currently booked up but I was lucky enough to find a place at Canyon Lake.

It worked out because I had just installed 200Watts of solar panels on my roof and needed a sunny place to try them out.  This place had water and power but I decided to pretend to be dry-camping so I filled the water tank at home and planned to not use any shore power.  There are really no legal places to boondock in Texas because all the land is owned by some bastard or another even though they probably never even visit it.

Two 100W solar panels

I arrived and set up camp.  There were no clouds to be seen the whole time so I had full sun on the panels.  I designed the mounting system myself using aluminum angle iron.  These L shaped pieces are full of holes making mounting a snap.  I bolted the rails to the roof and then using a tap-and-die set made holes in the corners of each panel so that I could use thumbscrews to hold them either flat or with the addition of a brace (unfortunately on the other side of the panels) keep them at an angle.  The angle is best for winter camping.  The cables run along a flexible conduit down the refrigerator vent.


Seen from the ground, they look damn cool.

I kind of expected them to be a conversation starter at the campground but the other camping zombies weren’t conscious enough to realize a good thing when they see it.  Nobody cared but I had a great time being off the grid.

It’s really just as much fun as you think it is.

CntrollrI used a MPPT charge controller I bought on eBay for around $80.00.  Be careful.  Not all charge controllers on ebay are actually MPPT.  False advertising is rampant in this category.  Make sure before you buy. This model is verified to be MPPT so I got maximum power out of it.

Shown here, I have it mounted next to the power converter conveniently located under the sink next to the refrigerator so only a short run of wire was needed.   It was a quick job to connect right to the battery cables on the power converter.  Don’t yell at me about the wires.  I’ll tidy it up eventually.

WTTSHere you can see the readout on the charge controller.  It indicates a battery charge level of 12.9V.  11.7Amps or 150 Watts are being supplied by the solar panels in full sun.  Pretty good to get 150W out of two 100W panels.  There’s always some loss.

Even in the shade in my driveway I got at least a few watts.

I was easily able to run the ventilation fans, lights and the inverter to power my entertainment system.  It’s really quite fun to be watching TV and using power that is coming directly from the sun.  Why isn’t this stuff everywhere?

So now I’m ready for real boondocking.  In the winter of course.  I would need to cover the roof and tow a trailer full of solar panels to run the air conditioner for summer camping.  They really need to come up with a more efficient way of keeping cool.

1982 Holiday Rambler – New grille and onboard inverter

grilleI found a great deal on a new front grille for my 1982 Holiday Rambler Imperial Class C RV.  It was actually on Amazon.com for $48.00.  I had considered just removing the old one, painting it and reinstalling it but a new one for $48 beats a repainted old one.

The old one came off fairly easily and the new one was a perfect match.  After moving some mounting hardware from the old grille to the new one I easily installed it.  The new one has a place for a oval Ford emblem which the old one didn’t have.  I ordered a used but good condition emblem off of ebay for around $4.00 plus a little shipping.  Awesome!

The inserts around the headlights were not included with the new grille so I cleaned them up and painted them an antique blue that matches some other highlights on the RV.

inverterI don’t really need it but I figured, what the heck.  Why not have an inverter.  I ordered a Xantrex 1500W inverter off of eBay for $155 and free shipping.  God, I love free shipping!

Mounting spots are limited on this RV but I found a nice spot in the generator compartment which is right next to the battery compartment.  I only needed a short run of gauge wire.  I bought a couple of 40 inch starter cables from Advance Auto parts and they bolted right in.

The inverter is uncomfortably close to the generator but 1)  I don’t use the generator much and 2) the generator has a good blower fan which keeps it relatively cool.  I don’t think heat will be a major issue here.  I’m good with that.

inverterremoteThe inverter came with a remote on/off switch on a long wire so I ran the cable through an existing hole underneath the dinette set bench, drilled a 1″ hole in the back and mounted the switch.

It’s not right in immediate traffic so it is unlikely to accidentally be turned on yet it is still handy right next to the couch where it will be used mostly to power the LCD TV and WDTV Live and/or a DirecTV DVR.

Well that was a fun set of projects and not too labor intensive.  Since that worked out well I think I’ll order a solar panel and charge controller next month.  Stay tuned.

Small solar for my RV

My 1982 Holiday Rambler Class C RV is ready to hit the parks this fall after all the great stuff I’ve done to fix it up.  I’m looking forward to it.

I think I enjoy working on it more than using it though.  If I had bought a brand new RV with no problems then I would have been bored.  I’ve kind of run out of projects on it and am thinking of doing an upgrade that I don’t really need.  Solar Power.

I do most of my camping in places where you just plug in your cord.  There really aren’t a whole lot of places in Texas where you can camp other than designated RV parks.  For the most part, Texas is bought and paid for.  No public lands.  It’s hard to imagine that all the land in such a huge state is owned by someone.  Bastards!

Whether I plan to use it or not, I think I’ll add a small solar power system just in case.  It won’t cost a lot and it will be there if I need it.  Besides, by the look of the world right now, the apocalypse isn’t far off.  Might as well be prepared.

xantrexI’m starting with a Xantrex 1500 Watt inverter that I just now ordered on eBay for $155 and free shipping.  Gotta love eBay.  I plan on using the existing 100 Amp Hour deep cycle battery.  The RV has been converted to mostly LED lighting and the only thing I’ll need AC power for is the entertainment system and the microwave for short warmings.

I’ll mount the inverter in the generator compartment right next to the battery.  Plenty of room there.  If all is awesome then I’ll move on to the solar panels.

I was happy to find a quality brand inverter at a good price.  I trust Xantrex.  After the last cheap inverter I had stopped working and smoked, I feel that it is worth getting a good inverter for a few extra bucks.

panelI plan on using a flexible 120W 24V panel from Unisolar for around $175.

It will be easy to lay out on the roof of the RV and be removable if necessary.  The first thing I need to do is measure the amount of space to see if it will physically fit.  I think it will not be a problem.

If there is room I can add another one later.

No problemo.

controllerTo connect the panel(s) to the battery I’ll use a chinese made MPPT charge controller that is on eBay for $85.00.

You have to be careful if you are going to use chinese charge controllers because they are not all MPPT even though they may be labeled as such.  I found a video review on Youtube proving that this particular model really is MPPT.

Basically that means that you get more efficient charging.

I’m going a bit cheap here because this is a very small system.  I could spend much more on a better brand but I really think this one will do nicely.

in the interest of simplicity, I plan on just plugging the RV’s long power cord right into the inverter to avoid running extra wiring.  Since it will only be needed occasionally or in the event of the apocalypse, I think it will be just fine.  I’ll put a little warning sticker next to the inverter to remind me to unplug the power converter when using the inverter.  That would create an unnecessary power loop draining the battery faster.

The whole system should cost around $415 plus odds and ends.  Not a bad deal.

Being Black is a choice

blkmn1Stories about white police viciously beating black men are all over the news these days.  It may appear that these cops are deliberately targeting black men but the simple statistics show that there are more white cops than black.  There are more bad black men than there are white.  Simple logic dictates that there will be white cops busting black men.

There is no doubt that cops should not use unnecessary force on any man white or black.  There is definitely a problem here but this is not the root cause of this problem.  We are overlooking the fact that these bad black men should not be acting in such a manner that puts them in the position to be arrested in the first place.

There are two basic categories we can observe:
1. Men who are black
2. Black Men

There are Men who are Black:  Those men who are classy, educated, trustworthy, contributors to society.  These men are regular people who just happen to have black skin.

Then there are Black Men.  Men who not only have black skin but insist on ACTING black.  These are the ones who are out on the street wearing hoodies in the summer, tattooed and carrying weapons.   Here is where your choice comes in.  You don’t have to do that.  Acting this way will get you in trouble in one way or another.  If you want to be treated like you deserve then act accordingly.   If you insist on acting black then don’t complain when the consequences occur.

There is no racial discrimination due to the color of your skin.  We got over that decades ago.  The racial discrimination we are currently experiencing is the result of the way you are acting.  Normal people don’t like that and therefore have a bad opinion of you.

So stop it.  Be nice.  Be good.  Life is too short to be angry.

DIY – Prius Transmission Fluid Change

trnsfldI tend to keep a car forever and forever.  Usually until I crash it.  My last car, a 1993  BMW 325is lasted me 16 years until I bent it.   I could have repaired it but after 16 years I was in the mood for a new car anyway.  Had I not had the accident I would probably still have it now.  A BMW will last you forever.  I should have kept it AND bought a new car.

I bought my 2008 Prius in 2009.  I really wanted a hybrid and no car gets better gas mileage than a Prius.  I get 52-53 MPG average.  Sweeeeeet!

Perhaps not as manly as my BMW or my old Porsche 911 but I like it.  I smile every time I fill the tank for $15.00.

Anyway….  After racking up 86,000 miles I decided it was time for a transmission fluid change.  Something as complex as the hybrid transmission deserves quality treatment.  It is suggested that you change it every 30K but Toyota says you can go to somewhere around 120K.  86K is a good midpoint so I did it.

You can see in the picture how dirty it was compared to fresh.  It still wasn’t too bad.  I bet it could have made it to 120K.

I’m not going to cover the procedure because it is really simple and there are instructions all over the internet.  I suggest these two links:

Video:  http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=037cAvY5y3Q

Instructions:  http://priusdiy.com/tutorials/transmission/transchange.html

It’s not hard.  Don’t pay anybody to do it for you.  Get your hands a little dirty and you’ll feel better.