Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Early warning?

Upscale real estate has taken a tumble in major markets. A number of world banks are in a shaky situation. This time around it looks like the big money players are in trouble. The financial picture looks dicey. In the US there's a tendency to try and put off any big financial pull backs until after elections. They might not be able to pull of that trick this time. Of course, in the past I've underestimated the powers that be's ability to paper over financial trouble.

Militarily there are some interesting things going down. It's almost impossible to find out what Turkey is doing in Syria. Last I heard they had moved in some tanks. Supposedly it's to fight ISIS, but their main concern is to keep the Kurds from gaining any more territory. There's trouble in the South China Sea. North Korea rattles its sabers so often they are like the boy who cried wolf. What one has to remember is that sometimes there really is a wolf.

Russia's Putin is in a tight situation. His main legitimacy is as a war president tough guy. He's had some easy gains like in Ukraine's Crimea. Support for Syria has been more troublesome for him. Russian strengths have been showcased, but his forces are dangerously close to clashing with Western forces. Do we really want to see Russian and American planes dogfighting?

Putin has only been able to hold onto power by giving the Russian people reasons to feel strong again. He has disabled any effective political opposition. However, the Oligarchs are lurking in the background, waiting for their chance. Low oil prices and Western sanctions have make life more difficult. If Putin falls there's no one with clear legitimacy to take his place, nor is there a democratic path to find a replacement.

In the US we have the two most unpopular candidates ever running for the highest office in the land. Americans are more polarized than ever.

The regular flash points could get out of hand. Iran has been threatening US ships. US involvement in Africa's conflicts has quietly been growing. India, China, and Pakistan have issues -and they all have nukes. A world war could even start in someplace completely under the radar like in the Stans, where some low grade conflicts are ongoing.

Natural disasters are a wild card. I see the hurricane season is actually producing conditions that threaten the US. It's been ten years since Florida has been hit by a major storm. Since then there's been something like 1.5 billion dollars spent in vulnerable areas. That's insane. We've seen in Louisiana that it doesn't even take a major storm to cause massive damage.

Imagine if major volcanoes or earthquakes happen in any of the world's populous and wealthy areas? How would that affect world stability?

I'm not saying we are doomed. Good leadership and some lucky breaks could get us past the worse of the dangers. Sometimes it's not the crisis that matters so much as the response to it. WWI was not so much caused by the assignation of an Archduke, but by people who wanted a war and used it as an excuse.

All us little guys can do is to keep our eyes open and our heads down.


Monday, August 29, 2016

Another Boaty Day

Sunday I woke up and checked my e-mail on my phone. Ed Robinson just released another Trawler Trash novel. His books are set in quite a few places where I've taken my boats. It's great to read a story about places I've been and things I've seen. Thanks to the miracle of modern technology I was reading the new book before even getting out of bed.

In the afternoon my lovely wife and I took my twin aunts and my uncle for a sail. Winds were light, but there was enough to move us around the lake. Actually, light winds made for a relaxed sail and we had a chance to catch up. That's one of the things I really enjoy about sailing, the lack of engine noise drowning out all conversation and thought.

By the time evening came around my lovely wife and I were watching the Sail Channel. There's a big difference between our little Oday 19 and foiling racing catamarans. It's like comparing thoroughbred racehorses and a donkey. I happen to like my little donkey as it's a lot less finicky about absolutely everything. Just keeps plodding along.

Some years we've had barely an interruption from sailing on freshwater lakes to sailing off the coast of Florida. This year we have the opportunity to spend Christmas in New Hampshire with my daughter who moved to California and her two kids. Sailing is going to have to wait. While I'm usually not a big fan of Christmas, I am a big fan of family.

Our plans for the rest of the winter are wide open. I'm making sure the house is ready for us to spend the whole winter if necessary. Believe it or not, I actually miss snow. Last year they tell me it wasn't much of a winter. The local ski club barely had enough snow for their yearly competition then it all melted. That's not much fun at all. If I do stay around for most of the winter I'd actually like a good deep snow pack. I miss snowshoeing.

It might be one of those years when it would be good to head south late winter/early spring. Spring in the North Country can break your heart. There will often be a string of nice sunny warm days, then another foot of snow falls on the ground. The lake could be just about to thaw then refreeze all over again.

Our plans are flexible, but this might be one of those years when it makes sense to stick close to home, even if the sailing has to wait.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Why we can't have nice things

A good friend of mine lives a bit over 100 miles away. He happens to be a firearms engineer so he has the best toys to take to the shooting range. I've got a few plinkers myself and enjoy punching holes in paper at distance. Add in a few kinetic targets and you've got a few hours of quality entertainment.

About half way between us was a nice little shooting range open to the public. It had covered shooting benches, and was well laid out for safe shooting. The range was free. We'd meet, do some shooting, then head to a nearby restaurant for some dinner and relaxation.

There were a couple problems with the range. Occasionally there would be some guy, usually an old duffer, who refused to exercise proper range safety. When that would happen we'd pack up and hit the restaurant early. Once we didn't even retrieve our targets until after the idiot left the range.

Another big drawback to the range was that some people would leave it a mess. Our crew always left it in better condition than how we found it. Sometimes the mess was truly staggering. Then someone thought it'd be a good idea to shoot the roof over the benches full or holes.

Surprise, surprise, the range is now closed. The vast majority of the people who used it treated it properly. Sadly, it only takes a few bad characters to ruin it for everyone else. That's why we can't have nice things.

Now my buddy joined a local club range near his house. I've got a couple sandpits near me where shooting is still allowed. That's fine, but I sure do miss getting together. The extra driving distance is just enough to make the trip a lot less likely.

My friend now has to pay to use a range. My sandpits are free, but there's nothing there. To sight in a firearm I've got to set up my own shooting bench and measure out target placement. While that's doable, it's a lot less convenient that going to a range that's already set up.

I also really miss talking over our shooting while having a sandwich and a coffee.


Friday, August 26, 2016

Well done

With rain threatening I hustled to get my dug well cover replaced. Since it was framed up with cedar poles there was a lot more cutting and fitting than one would have with dimensional lumber. However, cedar is long lasting and was free. About half my land is cedar swamp.

At one time I owned a big Ford F-250 pickup truck. Rather than buy a bed cover I used exterior plywood to construct a two piece bed covers. The truck is long gone but one of the big plywood panels remained. It was large enough to cover the cedar pole framework over the well. Everything was sealed up and cracks filled with high expansion foam.

It's good enough for now. Later I'm going to build an access hatch to the well from wood salvaged from the sides of a utility trailer. There's some metal roofing salvaged from a previous project that's going to go over the wood to protect everything. All I had to buy was some decking screws and expansion foam.

One nice surprise was to see how well the old cement work on the top of the well held out. The dug well is loose laid stone on the lower part. The top part is cemented stone. The idea is let the water flow in through the bottom stones. The cemented part is to keep surface water, that hasn't been naturally filtered, from contaminating the well. Good to see that after all these years everything is right where it's supposed to be.

A lot of people are wondering how I'm able to have all the water I need from a well that's only 5.5 feet deep. Most of the people on my side of the lake have deep drilled wells. The big exception is the guy right to the south of me who put his well as close to mine as his property boundary would allow. No dummy him.

I'm a pretty skilled dowser so when I have to hand dig a well I make sure to get the most water from the least amount of digging.


Thursday, August 25, 2016

Throwing money at problems

There are times when I wish I was in a position to just throw money at problems. The big drawback with that idea is my lack of money.

Oh well.

Speaking of well, that's what got me thinking in that direction. Today I pulled the old cover off my hand dug well. It only lasted 45 years. If the next one lasts as long I'll probably be off the hook for the one after that.

The job just got bigger and bigger. Rotten wood from the cover fell into the well. The water logged wood was so heavy it sunk to the bottom. At that point I decided to siphon off most of the water so I could fish out all the junk. Once it was cleaned out I shocked the well with bleach.

When the destruction part was over I started framing it up with cedar poles. Then it was time for a trip to the hardware store in town. The rest of the cover construction will have to wait until tomorrow. One more good day should do it.

After working on the well I really needed a shower. Just barely had enough water flow to rinse the soap off me. Silt got all stirred up from my efforts and plugged the water filter so it was back down to the basement to change that.

The water filter still had a lot of pressure in it because it was too plugged up to completely drain down the pressure tank. While water was spraying all over me I got to thinking that some folks just hire people to do the dirty jobs.

A day of hauling heavy things up and down the hill took its toll on me. That probably an indication I needed the exercise. I sure better get a good feeling of satisfaction when this job is over. At least that's something money doesn't buy.


Monday, August 22, 2016

The long slow bug out to the woods

Do any of you harbor expectations of bugging out into the woods if things get bad? This is what it's starting to look like right now. In this NY Times article the homeless are invading the forests. Locals aren't very happy about it. There's been problems with trash, forest fires, and generally bad conduct.

This is what conditions are like when most people are still getting by. Imagine how messed up things would get in the forest if the situation went seriously south.

Imagine how things could be in the National Forests in the heavily populated Northeast? From Boston to the White Mountains is just an afternoon's drive. People living illegally in National Forests is nothing new to me. For years I've been running into long term campers in ramshackle trailers and RVs while gathering firewood with a dead and down permit. Sometimes they'd just move deeper into the woods once discovered. They pretty much all disappear when the snow comes. Winter here is brutal.

There is a lot of private forest land in my area. The locals would not take too kindly to squatters suddenly appearing on their property, cutting trees and piling up trash. Before long they would be moved out at gunpoint.

It is possible to live out in the woods. I've known a few over the years. One guy was a Vietnam Vet who never readjusted to life in civilization. His camps had low footprints, were deeper in the woods, and very hard to find. There was one young man who lived in primitive shelters who made a small income from trapping. Sadly, he died a few years after I met him from cancer.

Living as an individual or a small group can be done. Care must be taken to get far off the beaten path and to keep a low profile. Larger groups would most likely be discovered and considered a problem. Forget about being able to drive somewhere towing your 5th wheel and setting up house down a logging road. You might get away with it for a couple weeks, but after that authorities will take notice.

If you do plan on life in the woods, better have the woodcraft and knowledge to make it work. Be aware that it's a harsh existence.


Saturday, August 20, 2016

Basic Life Skills

There are basic skills everyone should teach their children so they can take care of themselves. By the time someone is a teenager they should be able to pretty much take care of day to day necessities. That includes minor things that go wrong around the house or being able to change a flat tire.

I'm of the opinion that kid should have some other skills: how to start a campfire, handle small boats, pitch a tent, first aid, gun safety -you know, the basics.

Today I was amazed at someone at the local amusement park. We were having a fun day with the kids and grandkids. My daughter informed the rest room attendant, who appeared to be about 17, that one of the toilets was plugged. The attendant had to call her supervisor. She had no idea where to even begin. The supervisor was less than impressed.

The boss said, “I'll show you one time, but I expect you to deal with this from now on.”

It's not a pleasant job, but it's a necessary one. Sooner or later it will happen to you. Protecting your children from unpleasant jobs does them no favors. Life has a way of throwing challenges in our path. Better to have some experience fixing the small things before you have to deal with big things.

On an even more serious note is how Americans tend to protect their children from the reality of death. When I went back to college I had to take a variety of courses to graduate. So I was about 40 when I took a class on death and dying. As a former firefighter I'd seen more than my fair share.

One does not expect the average American kid to deal with that sort of thing. I hope to heck they don't anyway. However, college aged young adults should have at least been to a few open casket funerals. Most of them had not had to deal directly with anything more troubling than the death of a pet.

Guess I'm getting old and cranky. My daughter told me many of her classmates couldn't even boil water. Wonder how their kids are going to turn out? Heck, my 9 year old grandkids can cook meals and bake cookies.


Friday, August 19, 2016

Gonna get bit

Now it looks like Zika mosquitoes are biting people in Miami Beach. The cat is out of the bag. Another nasty little bit of news is that one quarter of Puerto Rico's population will have the virus by the end of the year.

Does any of this jibe with the idea that the mosquito that transmits Zika has a very limited range during its lifetime? While I really am no expert in the spread of infectious diseases, I'm suspicious. The spread of the disease seems pretty fast if it's only being spread by a species that sticks close to home. Does that make sense?

From past experience I know that when I travel I will get bit by mosquitoes. It's just gonna happen. Long sleeve shirts and long pants? Nope, not when it's over 80 degrees out. Besides, I need the vitamin D.

Bug sprays are another problem. Thanks to lung damage when I was a firefighter I'm extremely sensitive to certain chemicals. A lot of those chemicals are used in bug sprays. It's a royal pain. My daughter and my grandkids were walking around the lake. They applied a pretty mild big spray, one that would not be harsh on the kids. I could not get within 20 feet of them and had to walk back to the house alone. When they got home their clothes went into the washer and they all took baths. Only once all trace of the bug spray was gone could I join them.

One bug spray chemical that I can actually tolerate is deet. It's a nasty chemical that can strip varnish and dissolve plastics, but for some reason it's not one of my trigger substances. While it works, it's so nasty that I tend to limit its use to when I really really need it.

I spend a lot of time outside. When my lovely wife and I travel we camp and/or sail in wild places. Even if you are careful, eventually you will get bit. Odds are we've already been exposed to other infectious diseases. Our immue systems are in pretty good shape, so that's what probably has kept us from getting sick. It's pretty early to tell, but we'd probably shake off Zika too.

If we were still of an age to have more children, it would be a much more serious concern. Young people have some serious decisions to make.


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Disposable Electronics

My lovely wife and I watch very little TV. We don't have cable but we do watch the occasional movie. We were in no hurry to replace our old 19 inch tube TV. Nothing lasts forever and the old TV was on its last gasp. At the same time Walmart was running a sale on 32 inch flat screen TVs. For less than $150 how could we go wrong?

Fairly easily as it turns out. I was really careful to find one in an undamaged box. Physically, the TV looked fine. Only once it was all connected and powered up did I discover it was broken. Instead of a nice display we had what looked like a lightning storm -not good.

The next day it was back to the store for another one. The clerk at the service desk said that sort of thing happens all the time. Pretty disturbing to see that TV failure rates are high and it's considered normal. I wondered if maybe the whole pallet of TVs had been dropped and all of them were broken. The new TV worked fine, which is good as if it happened again I'd just take my money and run.

Modern electronics are a wonder, but they are rarely worth repairing and technology soon becomes obsolete. Some people are quick to replace their old stuff. We still have a functioning VHS player. I keep cell phones until they change the towers and everything goes to a new standard.

My lovely wife convinced me to get rid of my old computers recently. You know what happened next. There was a file I needed and it had been saved on a 3.5 inch floppy disk. Fortunately I'd also made a copy of the file on a CD -another technology that's being phased out. Good thing I have an old laptop that can still read those.

My local transfer station collects electronics for recycling. That's better than just going in the landfill, but what ever happened to being able to repair something?


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Playing Dead

I just finished reading Playing Dead by Elizabeth Greenwood. It's about death fraud. That's when someone fakes their death.

For some reason I've always been interested in people who totally give up their old lives and move onto something new. There is nothing that cuts ties to one's past like faking one's death. That is, of course, with the exception of actually dying.

It's not a how to book but an examination of those who tried it. Of course, Elizabeth was only able to interview those who failed. Perhaps there are those out there who've succeeded so well that they are still getting away with it.

There is no crime called “faking one's death.” The big crime that people run afoul of is insurance fraud. That's not an easy crime to get away with as insurance companies will put a lot of effort and employ skilled people to avoid a claim that seems sketchy.

Some people fake their death in an attempt to avoid prison time. Law enforcement goes the extra mile when someone facing prison time disappears.

Many people think drowning is a good way to fake one's death. You probably thought it was a good plan too. (like I did!) Unfortunately for the guy playing dead, bodies eventually show up in the vast majority of cases. When one does not it's suspicious.

What did surprise me is how often people completely disappear while hiking. Bodies go missing all the time in the woods. Kinda spooky really. It's not a great plan for someone looking to commit insurance fraud. Without a body it takes years before someone is declared legally dead.

My lovely wife is a bit disturbed with my fascination with the subject. She actually came out and asked me if I wanted to fake my death and disappear. No worries. If I want to disappear for a while I'll just disappear -while letting my lovely wife know about it. No need to get my loved ones upset thinking I died. The ones left behind are the ones who really suffer. Either they have to deal with the death of someone close or they are in on the scam and have a terrible burden to bear. Those who assist often end up doing jail time themselves.

I am one one of those people who dread and fear routine. Because I know that I don't let myself get trapped in a hum drum life. That's what it would take for me to fake my death.


Monday, August 15, 2016

Russian threat?

There seems to be some pressure to put Russia back in the role of threatening adversary. The powers that be want us to fear somebody. Perhaps ISIS hasn't been getting us worked up enough lately? After all, how many nuclear bombs do they possess? At least Russia is a nuclear power.

We are in a couple of proxy wars with them right now. They took back the Crimea and are heavily supporting pro Russian areas in revolt against the Ukrainian government. It's a pretty low cost operation for them. There are a lot of ethnic Russians in the area, the Crimea was part of Greater Russia, and they have short supply lines. If they had to pick a fight, that's the one to pick.

While the Western Powers are supporting Ukraine, we don't appear to be going all out. Western Europe is quite aware that it needs Russian fuel supplies to get though their winters.

Syria is more complicated. Russia scored some diplomatic points by getting their Syrian allies to renounce the use of chemical weapons. They found they could support their ally by claiming to attack Islamic extremists -just like the West. Never mind that Russia and the West don't have exactly the same definition for who the bad guys are.

There is also a lot of talk about new Russian weapons. They are retrofitting another battleship or two, a couple high tech submarines are coming into service, they have new fighter air craft. There is even talk about a supersonic space plane bomber.

On the surface, it looks pretty threatening. Looks can be deceiving. The battleships are hold overs from the Soviet days. They had four of them and only one is currently in service. Another will probably get fitted out. They are pretty good at projecting Russian power, allowing them to claim to have a blue water navy. The ships have been upgraded, and are threatening, but there are no more of them in the pipeline. Their special submarines are basically hand made and only a tiny number will ever see service. Russia lacks the industrial might to mass produce them. Their new jet isn't as stealthy or as powerful as they hoped it would be. The space plane will most likely never get built. It's easy to announce wonder weapon designs. It's a lot harder to actually build and field them.

That's not to say that Russia lacks punch. After all, they still have nuclear weapons. However, it's important to keep the threat in perspective.

I'm more concerned about the reasons behind our leaders wanting us to live in fear.


Friday, August 12, 2016


My lovely wife and I spent the evening on the sailboat watching the Perseid meteor shower. We saw some good ones. Our house is surrounded by trees so the view from the sailboat cockpit is much better. With rain in the forecast it was out last chance to get a really good view of the night sky.

There was the normal amount of light air traffic for this area, along with some low level satellites. Then there were the occasional UFOs. They were flying and I couldn't identify them so that's a UFO. Out of nowhere there would be a sudden bright light in the sky and it would quickly fade out. Often it could be seen maneuvering around before it completely blanked out.

No idea what that was. I'm familiar with the big flash from Iridium satellites and it wasn't that.

Eventually clouds moved in and we got a short rain shower. Rather than crawl into the little cabin we decided to tie up the boat and head back to the house.

The Leonids are also pretty good but that's not until November. It's pretty cool that time of year here in NH. The best place to view them is from my daughter's outside hot tub.

I'm lucky to live in a part of the country where we can see the night sky.


Thursday, August 11, 2016

Tribal Lessons

More of us are living in extended households. Multiple generations are living under one roof again. People have taken to having roommates and not just college age people. Older people are sharing housing to help stretch paychecks or diminishing pensions.

A common question these days is: have you found your tribe? Do you have a group of people you socialize with and share skills and resources. If you do, great. There are a lot of advantages.

One big disadvantage is that sooner or later at least some of those folks are going to get on your nerves. That's normal. Let's face it, even Trappist Monks have conflicts.

What did our tribal ancestors do to smooth over conflict? It was important that disputes did not grow so large as to affect the survival of the group. The most common strategy was to get out of each other's hair for a period of time.

In some tribes the men would go off hunting for a few days. While the possibility of meat was reason enough, an added benefit was that they'd get out of everyone else's space for a time. Polynesians would have part of the tribe sail off to some other island for a while. Sending groups out on trading missions worked pretty well.

The San people would often spit off significant portions of the tribe for a few months. The smaller groups could go off in different directions to exploit different food sources. By the time they reunited the tribe, they were happy to see each other again.

That's the key, being away long enough to be missed. The bad things fade from memory and we remember the good about people. They also have different experiences to talk about, no small thing in the days before electronic entertainment.

So if you do find yourself in a modern tribal situation take a lesson from our tribal ancestors. Get the heck away from each other once in a while.


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Lazarus Lettuce

We need Lazarus lettuce seeds next year. My lovely wife and I went away for a couple of days. Without us there to water the garden, the lettuce fell over. Watering them only brought a few back to life. If these hot drought conditions become regular we are going to need plants that can come back from the dead.

Our garden is pretty tiny but the fresh veggies usually add some nice variety to our meals. It's been a tough year. The southern part of the state has it worse than we do. In my friend's town in southern NH they have water restrictions in effect.

Of course, there are thunderstorms predicted for the weekend -the weekend we were going to go sailing and tent camping. That's not going to happen. Thunderstorms are better than nothing, but what we really need are several days of soaking rain.

The local farmers are not set up to deal with drought conditions. A local dairy farmer was complaining on the radio that his hay crop is way down. Nobody irrigates hay as it's too low a value crop. The cost of diesel to run the pump is prohibitive.

At least our county hasn't had any major forest fires. A friend of mine works for the Forest Service. He's had to travel to the southern part of the state for fires, but it's been pretty good up north. No idea how long that condition will hold.

My shallow dug well is producing enough to overflow. Not too shabby for a 5.5 foot deep hand dug well. For that I'm thankful.


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Money and Experience

There are some things I don't have the money to experience. For example, I really can't buy an airplane and get a pilot's license. The few times I've been up in small private planes I've really enjoyed myself.

There are some things that I probably could stretch the budget for but it's not worth it. ATVs are fun to drive, but for me, not high enough up on the fun/cost ratio. I'd rather spend the money on a sailboat because that's a lot more enjoyable for me.

Limited funds dictate what a person can experience.

Ever wonder if you missed out in life because you lacked the funds to discover and develop a native talent? It reminds me of the story about the General who dies and goes to heaven. He asks St. Peter to meet the best military mind that ever lived. St. Peter shows him a meek looking guy. The General recognizes the man as a cobbler he knew. That can't be the best military mind, said the General. Yes he was said St. Peter, but he never was in a position to command armies.

A nice high paying job has handcuffs of its own. Getting enough free time to so something really interesting with that money is the problem. Then there's the status thing. What someone does with their “free” time is judged by their peers. A quick trip to Hawaii to a high end resort has more status than a week of gigging frogs in the bayou. Heaven help the executive who might actually enjoy the bayou trip more.

Of course, the sort of person who does well in a high power job probably doesn't know how to kick back and relax. They know more is better so there would be no joy in a small boat. Besides, the trophy wife wouldn't set foot on a boat too small. She did marry an image that has to be maintained.

Then there are those who were born into privilege and leisure. The world is their playground. Even so, I do not regret the struggles that developed my character. It takes a lot of grinding to make a sharp knife.

While my means may be somewhat limited, my situation is better than most in human History. It would be a shame to miss out on the things I can do.


Monday, August 8, 2016

Long haul weekend

My lovely wife and I did a road trip over the weekend. I had a meeting with some guys about some stuff. (real specific, I know, but they don't need or want me writing about them in my blog.)

We took the van camping last month, but never really pushed it. Very little of the road trip was highway and steep hills. This time we drove through the White Mountains so we had plenty of both. The veggie and diesel fuel systems worked well. I think I can trust the veggie van on long trips again. That's a big relief.

The only downside is that the AC isn't working. The high pressure hose blew over a year ago and fixing it was low priority. It was a hot weekend and it would have been nice, but it's not necessary. We drank a lot of water to stay hydrated and it was all good.

We dry camped Saturday night. A fan was sufficient to keep us comfortable enough for sleeping. We got to connect with some good people and things went well.

One of the neat things about living in a vacation destination is the traffic flow. When we headed south on Saturday most of the traffic was heading north -sometimes the heavy traffic was crawling. The same situation took place in reverse Sunday night.

There was a huge ATV festival in the North Country so the traffic was extra heavy. It was pretty nice to get away from the craziness of the festival too. Maybe I'd feel differently if I had an ATV, but it's not in my budget. Folks spend a lot of money on the hobby. There's the cost of the ATV, trailer, heavy duty tow vehicle, room and meals, registrations, insurances -it all adds up.

Can't be everywhere doing all the things all the time.


Friday, August 5, 2016

Something the dog found

Ever since we've been visited by a bear, I've make sure to let the dog out as soon as she gets excited. That seems to have worked pretty well as I haven't seen a bear in a while. Lately it's been things like the squirrels invading the dog's space. Other times it's been the UPS man. (who's come to kill us all, apparently)

The other day it was something different. The surveyors were back. These were the same guys my neighbor hired to double check the boundary lines. That survey cost him another 3 feet of driveway. They lost enough of it that it's not used any more. This time the neighbor is looking to subdivide a 6 acre lot so his son can build. The property in question is quite some distance from my land. However, my land is the last lot with a really good reliable survey. All the original pins are still in place. Apparently that's a rarity with these old lots. Mine had been done by professionals who worked for the old paper company.

It's a small town and I actually know the surveyors. Once I introduced them to the dog everything was cool.

We've been in a moderate drought. I'm not sure what the bears have been eating. The strawberries early in the summer were sparse. Raspberries were none existent. Wild blueberries are having an off year. My nut trees are barely producing. The wild pin cherry tree at the top of my driveway produced nothing. Last year I was eating those little cherries by the handful every time I walked past the tree. The only thing that looks like it might produce are the black berries. Bears have been tearing up whole lawns to get at bugs and grubs. One place looked like the whole acre yard had been rototilled. Even raccoons are turning lawns over to get something to eat.

The farmers at the local market have produce to sell, but a lot of them make extensive use of greenhouses and hoops. Old fashioned open field farming has been hit or miss. However, there's fresh corn at the market so that's a good sign. That's one of the things that doesn't make sense for most home gardeners to grow. It takes an awful lot of space. I leave that to the big farms.

Our little gardens have been hit or miss. We have greens, beans, a few tomatoes and stuff. My lovely wife has managed to keep it all watered. Something got into my hops this year. The leaves are heavily chewed. In spite of that I'm hoping they produce enough flowers to make some decent beer.

The sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes) are doing well. No wonder as they pretty much are weeds that can't be eliminated even if you wanted to. A lot of people look down on sunchokes, but I slice most of them up and dehydrate them. That way they keep for a long time. It's a pretty reliable survival food since the plants seem to thrive on poor soil and neglect -two things I have in abundance.

All in all it's been a pretty good summer so far. As far as the dog is concerned it's been the best one ever. Lots of interesting things to bark at, good boat rides, and plenty of sunny sleeping spots. Maybe the dog has the right idea about life.


Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The old homestead

Back in the late 80's I sold my little house in town. Over the years I did a lot of work to the place: wiring, insulation, turned an attached garage into a bedroom and a bathroom. It was in pretty good shape when I finally let it go.

The local housing market had collapsed, but nobody realized it yet. That's the sort of thing that gets noticed about six months after it happens. The house had already been on the market for a while. I reduced my price a bit to make the sale. I may have been the last person to make money on the place.

Recently I discovered the house had been sold at auction. People from out of state bought it to use as a vacation get away. That's something that's happening around here more often. Regular houses in normal neighborhoods are being purchased by people from away. They store their ATVs and snowmobiles here so they don't have to haul them around, plus they have a place to stay. The houses are in town, but you can drive your ATV on the streets so it doesn't matter.

After the local mill closed the economy took a steep downturn. In town property, while not at Detroit levels, is going for fairly low prices. Rural property with acreage or water frontage is still commanding higher prices, but even that isn't at the levels it once was.

People with normal middle class jobs can pick up second fixer up houses within their budget. My cousin bought the place next door because he didn't want bums to move in. He was going to tear it down, but decided to fix it up so he could install a 9 foot pool table. His “man cave” is a complete second house.

At least the houses aren't abandoned. That's when the druggies move in and places burn down. Not good at all. The town been pretty good about tearing down the worse places, so that's helped stabilize the local market.

I must admit that it was tempting to put a bid on the old homestead when it came up for auction. It was a good neighborhood to raise kids. My lovely wife and I have a lot of good memories. In the end, it was better to keep the memories and let the house go. At least someone is taking care of it now so it's not going to be torn down.


Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Bad Sign?

Is is a bad sign that I've been reading a lot of novels set in places I've sailed/want to sail? Is is a bad sign that I'm watching a lot of sailing Youtubes? How about my reading a lot of sailing blogs? I guess I've got sailing on my mind.

Fortunately, my lovely wife and I have a sailing trip planned. In less than two weeks we'll are going to launch our sailboat on a remote Maine lake. There are only a few camps on this good sized lake, plus some primitive campsites.

We have a long weekend trip scheduled for the middle of the month. My cousin has already booked a large wilderness campsite next to a huge secluded beach. His crew plans on paddling in on sea kayaks. My lovely wife and I join them in our sailboat with most of their gear. Kayak camping is fun, but pretty spartan due to space and weight limts. We'll bring in a lot of extra items. Even simple things like folding chairs make a big difference in comfort level.

My lovely wife and I have never launched on this particular lake. Since it's in Maine we needed to get a milfoil sticker for the boat. They have a program to prevent the spread of invasive water plants. Monday we took a little trip to purchase our $20 sticker.

After picking up our sticker we decided to scout out our launch site. It's one thing to get lost while driving the van around. It's something else to get lost while towing a good sized boat. Imagine taking a wrong turn down some twisty dirt road and having to back up a mile or two. As it turned out we did find the right dirt road. It's in pretty good shape, but there's not a lot of room to meet another vehicle.

It was a relief to find the boat ramp is adequate for our needs and after walking the area I know how best to approach it. There's also a good sized parking area nearby so we have room to leave the van and trailer.

Really going to enjoy this trip. Just take a look at this body of fresh water. This is only one small section of the lake. There's a lot more of it around the point.