Monthly Archives: August 2011

Is It September Yet?

Can’t go another day without posting something.  Let me try and catch y’all up…

Spent the last two days bush-hogging the back pastures, this dry weather has killed much of the grass and in it’s place were weeds.   Big honkin weeds of every variety.  Tall sprouts with clusters of pollen on top.  Thick, stubby stuff with wicked looking leaves and thorns.  Some of these weeds were over 10 ft tall, so of course, I had to climb down from my rig every so often, clean out the front grill so that the engine can breathe, and clear out the yellow dust that accumulates around the block and the radiator.  The Primary Wife refers to this as “farm fun.”

I’ve gotten quite a few emails asking for more info on the geothermal system.  We are scheduled for installation later this month, but I can share a bit more with you:

 This is the exact model we will be using, except that instead of going vertical, ours will be mounted horizontally.  It will be installed in our crawlspace, raised slightly to prevent possible damage from water, should we ever have a plumbing issue.

The Company that manufactures this unit is Water Furnace, located in Florida.  They have been on the leading edge of the geothermal movement for decades.

I plan to post pictures of the installation later this month, including the excavation.

 

So we drafted in our fantasy football league last Sunday night.  Weird drafting with 10 teams.  By the third round, you are looking at guys ranked in the 70′s and 80′s.  I got Tony Romo as QB.  I don’t know how I feel about that.  I really wanted Phillip Rivers, Aaron Rodgers, (who I had no chance of getting) or even Josh Freeman.  Maybe without the distractions of a certain hot blonde Romo will focus more on, you know, completing passes.  Just for fun I picked up Cam Newton.  Yup, he’s a rookie, but I watched him dominate the SEC last year, and the guy was a man among boys.  We’ll see if he can read NFL defenses…

I have visitors coming this month, including an old friend whom I’ve known for 33 years.  That kinda rocks.  My niece, (an economics professor at Penn State) is coming to give a presentation at Vandy so she will stay with us for a couple of days.  September promises to be a busy month.

Oh, I’m selling my truck.  Cheap.  Anybody you know looking? Also, I’m not quite ready for a new dog, but I’m looking at certain breeds.  All of my animals in the past have been rescues, I’m just considering getting one from a breeder this time.  I like the Belgian Malinois:

 

That’s all I got today.

 

 

 

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Where Credit Is Due

Anybody who has ever experienced the mortgage process will tell you….it’s complicated, it’s confusing, and it’s more than a little invasive.  I can’t count how many times we received a letter in the mail from some company we never heard of telling us more about our mortgage than we knew about it.  I always found that a bit creepy.

Nonetheless, due to some unforeseen expenses, I found myself on the internet and the telephone, checking rates and terms and trying to decide if this was a good time to refinance.  The first thing I did is throw away any promotional letter I received that was in any way deceptive, (for instance, those that looked like a check) because I won’t do business with a company that is hoping I am stupid.  I’d really rather they condescend on the assumption that I am financially illiterate.  I really hated the ones I got that promised me savings of $800.00 dollars a month on my mortgage payment!  Okay, so, after eliminating those, my pile was down to……nuthin.  On to the inner-tubes!

In years past, I had a handful of websites I liked, they usually offered current rates from various banks and I could simply ring them up if something appealed to me.  Not any more.  Now they almost all had various tactics they used to get me to fill out personal info so that a banker could “get back to me”, or, just to see today’s rates.  After wading around in that cesspool for a bit, I finally narrowed my choices to three companies:  One of them rhymed with “chicken.”  I called them first, after reading more than a few testimonials regarding their professionalism.  The best way for me to describe the experience is imagine standing on a used car lot, and being assaulted by a 20 yr old kid on his first day on the job.  He just left a sales meeting, where he was promised riches beyond measure, women, rainbows and unicorns if he simply sticks to ‘The Plan.”  Armed with a fool-proof script, and whipped into a frenzied state by his managers, he breathlessly explains why his product is perfect for you, without once ever hearing a word you said.  Been there?  That’s pretty much those guys.  NEVER EVER, EVER give these guys your cell phone number.  For that matter, NEVER EVER give them your land-line number either.  Even cancer and herpes go into remission once in awhile.  These guys are constant.  Needless to say, I was more than anxious to move on.

I am happy to report that on my second and third calls, I hit pay-dirt.  I was so pleased working with these two people I feel compelled to mention them by name:  The first is a local person:

Suzanne Casey, Reliance First Capital (Nashville) (615) 224-6512 or (888) 751-0230 x6512 (scasey@reliancefirstcapital.com)

Suzanne was courteous, knowledgeable, and diligent.  She listened long enough to determine what my needs were, and never once tried to sell me a product that didn’t meet the criteria.  When you deal with her, and you want to think about it, she will ask permission to set a time and day to get back to you.  Some people might find that a tad aggressive, I do not.  It is a good idea for a couple of reasons, one of which is that it will prompt you to actually consider what she offers.  Another reason is that, if you are like me, you may forget.  lastly, if she calls you, you know she has set aside the time to answer any further questions.  She is easygoing and quick to laugh, and I enjoyed dealing with her.

The last person is based in Kansas, of all places:

Maggie Conigliaro, CapWest Mortgage (A division of Farmers Bank and Trust)  866.280.9378 X 3141,   mconigliaro@capwestmortgage.com

Everything I wrote about Suzanne Casey applies to Maggie as well.  She had one other quirk that appealed to me; I never once felt like she was trying to sell me something.  Clearly, she was trying to sell me something, but her manner is relaxed and within minutes of first speaking with her, I felt like I was talking to a best friend.  That might sound a little corny, but I promise it is true.  She is a very good salesperson to be sure, but she does it honestly and in a manner that makes you feel like you have her complete attention.  She did a great job of responding to emails and calls in a timely fashion.  I cannot recommend her enough.

I’m no economist, even though I played one on TV. (Some you might remember the short lived series, “The Accountant”, about an accountant.  Hard to believe it fared so poorly during Sweeps)  Rates, points, closing costs, buy-downs and such can be a tad intimidating, but each of these people patiently explained my options and in a way that didn’t make me feel stupid.

If you are considering a new home loan or a refinance, I say do yourself a favor and get in touch with one of these people ASAP.  The process itself is a bit safer, it seems, there are many disclaimers now required by the Feds that should prevent many of the abuses so prevalent in the mortgage business in years past.  Even so, from the time I first picked up the phone until I closed was 14 days.   Not bad.

Good luck!

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Canines, We Haz Them.

 

Been trying to get back to my keyboard, but I’ve been taking a crash course in alternative heating/cooling options that scale to residential use, and, well, I’m not an engineer or scientist so it takes me longer….

In the mean time, I thought I’d share what is going on in our back pasture.  Yesterday, i was having a conversation with The Missus out on the deck.  I gazed out to the pasture and saw a HUGE coyote standing right in the middle.  I alerted The Missus to his presence, and just as she turned to look, another 8 or so came over the rise and gathered together where we could clearly see them.  Coyote sightings aren’t unusual, but seeing an entire pack is almost unheard of!

This morning, while having coffee with The Primary Wife, a mother coyote was hopping in the grass trying to catch a small rodent.  Suddenly, we spotted to pups playing what appeared to be a game of tag.  Fun stuff.

Looks like the cooler mornings are seeing more activity from our wildlife.  Come on Fall!

I’ll be chronicling the process of installing our geothermal system next month.  I may take some video and post it to YT.

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An Awesome Alternative

Alright, last week we discussed the problem:  High propane gas prices.  Ridiculously high, so high in fact, it kept me awake at night more than determining my fantasy football draft order.  Really.

What were my choices, you ask?  The house is roughly 2300 sq ft, and my ductwork begins in the crawlspace and goes up to the attic, so there are no vents in the floor.  We have vaulted ceilings in most of the house.  The house is pretty well insulated, including the block that forms the foundation.  A few years ago I covered the large deck that faces West and that reduced the amount of cooling necessary as the sun no longer beats against the windows on that side of the house.  We currently have a 5 ton unit that cools with electricity and heats by burning gas.  It works pretty well, I set the thermostat at 78 in the summer, and 72 in the winter, and the variable speed fan motor doesn’t use as much juice to push air through the ducts.  Come to think of it, growing up in SoCal, my constant temperature outside ranged between 72 and 78 every single day.  (If only they had an NFL franchise)

Okay, so, my options were to leave the unit, and heat with an alternative source, such as a large wood burning stove situated outside that tied into our ducts.  That requires a great deal of cutting down trees, cutting and seasoning wood each year,  loading it at least once a day and probably more.  Cost:  8ooo-10,000 dollars, American.   Nah.

Another option was to replace the unit with an all electricity air source heat pump.  They work really well until you get beyond average temps.  In the winter, the outside air is so cold that the unit works harder to warm it, and there is precious little cool air in our summer months for it to draw.  Also, I expect electricity costs to rise every year and a spike isn’t out of the question.  Cost:  A 16 seer unit with a variable speed motor, around 10,000 bucks.  I passed.

The third option, and the best, in my opinion, (as well as the collective opinions of the United States Government, The Tennessee Valley Authority, and, well, virtually anyone who is a scientist, engineer, or environmental advocate) is to switch to “geothermal”.  Think of a heat pump, except that instead of removing the hot and cold air and dispelling back outside, it uses the ground’s relatively stable (56-58 degrees) temperature to dispel heat or draw it back into the house.  The unit is variable speed, and actually fits into the crawlspace, so there is no ugly unit sitting adjacent to the home.  It is very quiet, and very efficient with respect to using electricity.  In the summer, the warm air removed from the house is diverted to the water heater, thereby eliminating water heating bills in the warmer months.  You burn no fuel whatsoever.  Plus, by not burning fuel, the air going through the ducts is so much cleaner and not so drying…Cost:  around 20,000 dollars all in.  BUT!  Until 2016, there is a 30% tax credit available.  It is a credit, and can be spread out over two or more years.  That brings the cost down to around 12,500.  Then factor in the savings in both electricity and buy not buying propane!

I then set about finding a qualified HVAC company that knew something about installing these systems….more later.

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Sitting By The Phone

Every year, in the early part of summer, my phone would ring and the caller was the company from which I buy propane.  If I committed to a certain amount of gallons for the year, say 1000, I could “pre-buy” them at a reduced rate.  The winters can get pretty cold, and the last year we have gone through roughly two tanks worth, or 1000 gallons.  So I usually agreed to buy 1000 gallons at the reduced price.  Every year, that price has increased.  When I built this house nine years ago, a gallon of propane cost a buck.

I didn’t get “the call” this year.  Finally, I called them:

“Good Morning, this Mack Farmer, customer #9426543, and I think I missed your call about “pre-buying” propane this year.”

“No Sir, you didn’t, we haven’t called our customers this year”

“Oh, okay, well can I still reserve my 1000 gallons?”

“Oh, yes Sir.”

“And what is my rate?”

“It’s $3.25 a gallon, Mr. Farmer.”

“Is there someone else I can speak with?”

$3.25 A GALLON.  That’s what milk costs.  If I use 1000 gallons this year, let’s see…..why that’s nearly a goddam fortune!

Three thousand plus dollars to heat this home for around 5 months.  That, my loyal readers, is a losing strategy.

I decided to begin researching alternative means of heating/cooling this home.  More later….

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Don’t Pet The Sweaty Stuff

You ever had one those little episodes in your life that isn’t quite an epiphany, but just a moment of clarity that offers some much needed perspective, and therefor relief?  Yea, me neither.

So I tried my best to watch the results come in from Wisconsin, but of course by the time they began to trickle in, I was getting pretty sleepy.  Unfortunately, I didn’t sleep well, what with not knowing how it went.  I tossed and turned, and even dreamed that I knew the results.  So at 4:00 a.m. I’m up, sitting with my lap-top and pouring over the results, precinct by precinct.  We “lost.”  By that I mean we didn’t pick up enough seats to regain control of the State Senate.  Also, we “won”.  By that I mean the process inspired Dems in other States to organize and perhaps even provided a model for 2012.  We’ll see.  But I did realize that in the grand scheme of things, nothing that happened last night in Wisconsin means very much.  My view of politics has changed dramatically, (shaped in part, I’m sure by the fact that I am pretty jaded) and I will not allow myself to wallow in misery when things don’t go as I’d like, or to celebrate too much when they do.  There is other work to do.

Yes, I’ve been away from this blog for awhile.  It isn’t that I didn’t have time or desire, it’s just that every time I sat down and started to bang something out…it all seemed so ………petty.  I can’t fully explain that.

This week I hope to write about some recent experiences with banks and General Contractors.  I’ve met some true professionals and I’ve endured some real hucksters, but by and large the experience has been more than positive.

I watched “Empire Falls” this morning, and I really loved it.  Ed Harris was great, (as was Helen Hunt) but it was the story that had me tearing up just a bit.  Ha, I’m a softy.

More later, I believe I’ve gotten past my aversion to writing inane stream of consciousness posts.

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