Country Living Series

Monday, January 11, 2021

First project for the new house

 We're settling into our new home.

It's a standard three-bedroom, two-bath manufactured home, and it has a 20x20 foot addition tacked onto the living room, which makes for a very large living room indeed.

One feature of this addition is a long wall, unbroken by doorways or windows.

From the moment I saw this wall, I coveted it for bookshelves. We have thousands of books currently boxed up and still in storage, and once we move them here, we'll need a place to put them. This wall otherwise represented a lot of unused space. Can't you just see yards of bookshelves here?

But we also have another problem: canning jars.

Some of you may remember the spot in our old home I called the Canning Closet, a made-over bathroom we used for storing home-canned goods.

One of the problems with our new home is it doesn't -- yet -- have a similarly dedicated spot. With hundreds of jars of canned food currently stacked willy-nilly in two bedrooms, finding a space to store them is essential.

 We thought about building a lean-to addition outside the kitchen window:

But this was a fairly costly and complicated endeavor. We would have to cut a doorway, build a foundation, insulate, heat, etc.

Then Don had a brainstorm: Why not combine the need to store canning jars with a space to display books?

So he looked anew at this vast expanse of wall, and embarked on his first project: building an inside pantry/canning closet.

Building a dedicated storage space indoors has a number of advantages. It's cheaper, for one. For another, we can forego insulation or the need to build a roof capable of shedding snow.

After careful measurements, he decided on a space with inside dimensions of 14 feet long and 5 feet wide. The outside wall of the pantry could then (woot!) be home to 14 feet of bookshelves along one dimension, and an additional 5 feet along the other dimension. Talk about killing two birds with one stone!

So he purchased some of the lumber he needed to begin the project: a stack of 2x4s:

...and some 1x12s for shelving.

He started by removing the sheet rock along the stretch of wall. This way he could access the studs behind and beef them up for strength.

Then he framed up the short wall.

Next he framed up the long wall. He built this one the floor...

...then we lifted it into place.

One thing he plans to do is beef up the floor; or, more specifically, the supports under the floor. It's no light matter (no pun intended) to put this much weight on a floor -- books and jars -- without making sure it won't put stress on the house. Don has ordered eight leveling jacks which he'll put under the house (four along each wall) to increase the load-bearing capacity along each 14-foot length of wall.

That's as far as he's gotten so far. I'll keep you posted on the progress. It's exciting to watch this take shape!

Besides, it will be nice to have the bedrooms available for visiting family and friends. No one can sleep among so many canning jars stacked willy-nilly.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Technical difficulties, please stand by

Thanks to a series of unfortunate events (this is the last time I ever try to alter a security feature!) on my email account, I am locked out of my email for an entire month.

No, this isn't a result of Big Tech's massive bloodbath purge on half of America. It's simply (cough cough) user error.

To those readers who communicate with me by email, please forgive the silence since I cannot see your emails. I had to hastily set up a temporary email for urgent communications, but hopefully it's just that -- temporary.

It's also awkward because all email addresses of people I normally communicate with (including family members) are all on my email account. That means I'll have to get some roundabout means of getting important email addresses.

Ah, the joys of being a technological idiot...

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Blackberries: Love 'em or hate 'em

When we lived in Oregon way back when, we had four acres of property. However one entire acre of it was unusable. Why? In a word, blackberries. They had literally covered a quarter of our property with a dense jungle of impenetrable thorns. With no tractor, we had little recourse to control them (except with pesticides, which I'm not keen on).

Don't get me wrong, I love fresh blackberries as much as the next person. But yowza, they spread. And spread. And spread.

In our last home, the only blackberries in sight were those cultivated (and controlled!) in neighboring gardens. However I stubbornly refused to allow a blackberry plant anywhere near our property boundaries. No way, no how.

Here in our new home, I was dismayed to see wild blackberries everywhere. On hillsides. In pastures. Along the road.

The sellers told me they'd bulldozed this patch in one of the pastures a couple of times already. And hey presto, look! It's baaaaack.

I'm not unduly alarmed at this point -- so far we only have that one patch on our property -- but I can assure you we plan to keep this patch contained (probably with the aid of the tractor).

That way perhaps we can enjoy the best of both worlds: fresh fruit, and no tangled jungles.

Friday, January 8, 2021

Ug. 2021

The events of the past week have been nutty and disturbing. Methinks this is just a foretaste of what 2021 will be like.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

The importance of tangible assets

Here's news for you: Bitcoin has soared to new highs, trading at $35,000.

Hard on the heels of this article was another that caught my eye: "The Case for Digital Assets."

Call me a Luddite -- call me an old fuddy duddy -- but why would anyone put their faith in digital anything, especially when it comes to digital assets? It can disappear in the blink of an eye.

I find it unnerving enough to use fiat currency. I realize fiat currency is just as imaginary as Bitcoin, but at least it's tangible. It's one of the reasons we adopted an all-cash lifestyle several years ago.

Fiat currency may be little more than an agreed-upon fantasy of "worth," but at least it's something you can hold in your hands. It's not digital, it's tangible, insofar as that fantasy supports it.

Consider a few headlines I've collected over the past couple months:

The Circle Is Complete: BOJ Joins Fed And ECB In Preparing Rollout Of Digital Currency

Robinhood Users' Accounts Mysteriously Looted And There's No One To Call

The Astonishing Lack Of Value In Value

When Money Dies, 100 Years Later

The last link starts with: "Almost a century after the stark lessons of 1923 Germany [hyperinflation in Weimar-era Germany], the West is convinced it can't happen here. In our overwhelming material abundance, aided by the natural deflationary pressures of markets, we simply have lost our ability to imagine a hyperinflationary scenario."

At some level, I think investors understand this, hence yet another financial link: "An Epic Commodities Boom Is Coming," which starts: "Demand for commodities, tangible assets and the companies that mine, manufacture and transport them is about to blow sky-high."

Ah, tangible assets. I'm all in favor of them. These are my preferred investments:


Sure, these tangible assets also come with risks, but since there is no risk-free investment, these are my preferences

Right now there's a tremendous amount of uncertainty in the world, and somehow the thought of tangible assets is immensely comforting.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Tiny homes: Are they worth it?

A few days ago, an article appeared on ZeroHedge entitled "56% Of Americans Say They Would Live In A Tiny Home."

The popularity of tiny homes (defined as a living space under 400 square feet, and often as little as 60 square feet) is surging:

56% of Americans say they would live in a tiny home. 86% of first-time home buyers would consider a tiny home for their first home.

72% of home buyers would consider buying a tiny home as an investment property.

Most appealing factors of tiny home living: 1. Affordability 2. Efficiency 3. Eco-friendliness 4. Minimalist lifestyle 5. The ability to downsize.

Most desired tiny home amenities: 1. Heating/AC 2. Kitchen space 3. Designated bedroom 4. Laundry 5. Outdoor space.

53% of Americans can afford the median price for a starter home ($233,400) vs. 79% of Americans can afford the median price of a tiny home ($30,000-$60,000).

Of this list, I would put "cost" as an enormous priority. It's a lot easier to afford a $30,000 tiny home than a $300,000 suburban home. The potential for mobility also seems to be an attraction.

Tiny homes also have a lower carbon footprint, and utilities are correspondingly low -- all benefits for cost-conscious people. For folks who are "handy," a tiny home can be built DIY and customized to specific needs. Tiny home "kits" are also popular. Necessities such as heat, water, septic, and other factors must be legal, of course.

Tiny homes are being touted as a solution to climate change, as well as lower living standards promoted by social engineers.

And there's no question tiny homes can be darling.

But are they worth it?

Putting aside the very real consideration of space (or lack thereof), tiny homes have a number of strikes against them.

For their size, they are immensely heavy. If mobility is an attraction, a better investment might be a travel trailer, which are miracles of efficiency.

And speaking of investment, I've heard tiny homes do not hold their value. Unlike a stick-built home, they seldom accrue in value.

From a personal standpoint, my biggest concern is a tiny home makes it impossible to be self-sufficient, since there is no room for food storage or tool storage. This, to me, is not "simple" living.

Am I wrong? Am I being unnecessarily harsh? Please, change my mind. Tiny houses are darling and I really would like to like them.