Friday, December 28, 2012

I just received this from a reader:
Hi Jeff, just stumbled upon your blog and am pleased to find out that I'm not the only person on the planet who dreams of building a castle. We've already taken a few steps in the right direction my moving to Normandy in France where we have bought a stone house built in 1667. Although we have the land here to build the dream, unfortunately we don't have the funds so it will remain a dream. We have however built a pizza oven in a castle style that I thought you might appreciate. Merry Christmas, Andy.

I don't know which is more cool, the 1600s house in France or the fanciful pizza oven?  You decide. What a neat video displaying the building process and the imagination that went into the design and construction of the oven. Thanks for sharing Andy, I hope your pizzas turn out ace nice as the oven did! Merry Christmas to you too.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Keene Castle

Here's a gentleman building his own castle-house, Keene Castle. He's doing it the old-fashioned way, and by that I mean with stone and by hand. Have a look at his site, several construction photos and you'll be able to see the laborious process he's going through to achieve his dream.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

View over the Hudson Valley area

The build site isn't too far from here. It would be great if we had this view!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Upcoming move

With the long-ago mentioned displacement from the place where I worked and lived the option arose to move closer to where I work. We took the opportunity. The good part is that the new location is also only 15 minutes from the future site. We've got to hurry up and get our stuff together and all the projects around our current 100+ year old house done and ensure the place is up to code before we can put it on the market. Especially so we don't bleed our finances dry keeping two houses. Always, there are projects that need doing that my limited time off isn't adequate to get involved in myself, which means hiring someone else to do it at great expense. Either you have time, or money. Never both. Hopefully within the next six months or so there will be some news about progress on the property, even if it's just the beginning of clearing the site a little. Something else we've been discussing that will be a long-term benefit is planting trees on the property for eventual harvest. Black Walnut may be our choice if we can get a suitable variety to mix in with many of the current trees over a few acres. A couple hundred of them harvested in 20-25 years could net a six figure windfall that would be a nice boost to a retirement income or pay off our little one's college with room to spare. Wouldn't that be nice! Also on the table is a cut-your-own Christmas tree farm. A bit more labor intensive on our part, but in many drives around the area we have yet to see one. Maybe we'll be the first to put one up in the area. More research is needed on the Christmas tree idea, though. There may be a reason why there isn't one, it's a wooded area so maybe cutting one from state forests is a popular past time rather than buying a tree. We'll see.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Earthbag castles

Found someone who enjoys designing castle-like structures with earthbags. This is definitely a DIY process that could be done on one's own time or with a bunch of helpers. Very labor intensive but also very efficient. Have a look here: Earthbag Castle Plans

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A little lesson learned

Not all things are created equal, and I learned that this applies to the fuel in your gas tank as well.

We have a wide variety of gas stations to choose from, many of them have fuel blends that are specific to the chain selling the fuel. Some stations are cheaper than others, sometimes by a significant amount. We're all on a budget these days, so we go for the cheapest station that we can reasonably get to, right?

That may not make the best financial sense, believe it or not.

We discovered this the hard way when driving out to our future build site. There is a Hess station near to our house that has the cheapest gas in the area. It's quite conveniently located so that we can stop there and get right on the main road leading to the highway which takes us in the direction we need to go. It also just so happened that we'd acquired a little app for our mobile devices to keep track of mileage and expenses on our CR-V a few months back. Lucky for us it's saved us more than the app itself cost.

After fueling up at the Hess, we started our journey. The CR-V will make it to the destination with about 1/3 tank remaining, necessitating a fill-up before heading back home. Upon entering the data in the app (current odometer, gallons, price), much to our surprise it showed 14 MPG! Immediately I got worried that something was wrong with the vehicle; an oxygen sensor failing, a mass airflow sensor failing - something that was going to be expensive to replace. This is our only car, we couldn't afford to have it die on us, especially hours from home. The thing is, there were no unusual issues with the car; no vibrations, sounds, smells or gauge readings. We got home OK.

Next fill up, CostCo. MPG? 24. Huh. The problem "fixed" itself. We kept a good eye on the car, still unsure whether something was going to break or not.

Back out to the property a couple of weeks later, filled up again at the Hess. Upon gassing up for the return: 15 MPG! Again, the worry that something might be wrong with the car, possibly related to highway travel.

Back home, CostCo fill-up. 24 MPG.

The third trip out to the property with Hess gas again a few weeks later and another fill-up gives 17 MPG. The pattern is now obvious to us, especially with the normal combined city/highway mileage average of 24-25 MPG on gas from CostCo.

Hess is ripping us off. Leading us in with a cheap price, but taking more back in reduced efficiency!

"But the gas is still cheaper!" You say. The Hess gas was the same or a few cents cheaper than CostCo. But - the app revealed that the Hess gas costs $0.25 cents per mile, while the CostCo gas costs $0.15 cents per mile. We were losing 7-10 MPG while driving with Hess fuel!

Ten cents per every mile driven, out of your pocket.

Now, I realize that this seem a bit of a rant, but that is not the intent. This is just another factor to consider when you are looking at that out-of-the-way plot of Earth to plunk your dream house on. That extra expense that could add up to a lot of money over years of driving, and that money that can be spent on building materials, food, family, retirement, you name it. Take the time someday to see how your car does over a few different fill-ups, try a different gas station. See what happens and save yourself some money.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Shire No More

I posted briefly about this way back in the early days of the blog. It was a housing development that was fantasy based, and had a few elements of Tolkien's Hobbit's homes about it. It appears that The Shire has fallen on hard times. The WSJ article:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Taxes, Survey, Forward...

Something to think about if you plan to buy and hold land for future building - no matter what you plan to put on it - is the cost of owning the land after you've paid it off. Make sure you check the rates and expected taxes on the property and consider what that does to the long-term affordability of the land. If there's already a house on it, you'll have a good idea of what the taxes are going to be, but consider that taxes almost always go up. If there isn't a building on it, consider that the taxes may make a significant jump once there is a structure there. Double or more. Our taxes aren't that high in the area where the land is, total sales tax (local and state) is around 8% (clothing items less than $110 are not taxed) and the food tax is low. Not that high I say, compared to other urbanized states. New York also divides property taxes up into two separate bills, the actual property tax and a "school tax". They hit at opposite ends of the year, which is nice that you aren't getting hit with a big bill once a year, and at this point it isn't very expensive because the land is unimproved. We'd expect a 50-100% increase in the total tax once there is a structure. Keep these things in your plan. It's better to know about them rather than have your plans dashed because of the unexpected or long term expenses. The survey is finalized and we have a rough idea for building areas. ...and lastly I've deleted the SOPA/PIPA post. Due to internet-wide backlash and motivated individuals communicating with their representatives the legislation has been shelved. Not dropped, just shelved. It will return, possibly under a different name, again. If you'd like a good explanation of why SOPA/PIPA is a bad idea, I recommend viewing this TED talk by Clay Shirky.