Thursday, November 17, 2016

Get Ready for the Let Down

It's not your government's responsibility to motivate you.

Big promises were made during the presidential campaign. The person promising to put people back to work, making the kind of middle class income that defined the Rust Belt many years ago, may find that promise hard to fulfill. It's a different world, and the skills and knowledge we filled our heads with 25 years ago, may not be so relevant today.

Nobody told me that two degrees in English would land me a job making one dollar more than minimum wage while dragging around a cardboard tube housing a master's degree. My first "real" job required math and physics knowledge overlaid with "people skills." I learned very fast to master the subject matter I spent the first 25 years of my life avoiding. I became a professional manager during the Clinton years. Gas was 92 cents a gallon, by the way. A person doesn't forget a number like that. I bought a house. I wasn't using one bit of my degreed education. Math and people skills.

One could argue that a good liberal arts degree hones people skills. It can, but my sister kind of does the same kind of work that I do (just in a different industry), and she doesn't have a liberal arts degree. And she makes pretty good money. Her education is in fashion merchandising.

Don't blame "them" if you can't find a good job

We live in an age of technology. It came on us really fast. That geek that couldn't throw a football is the workplace hero these days. In fact, he's quite fashionable.

If a person feels left out or left behind, that person has to take the personal initiative to learn marketable skills. That person has to do the research on his/her community and figure out which jobs are needed. It could be construction. It could be plumbing. It could be software development. It could be automated factories. Healthcare's a good one. So is education; especially math and science.

No matter what swill we drank in 2016, the outcome is not going to be what was promised. Accept that. Get off the whine wagon. Transform. Go to work.

Re-education can be very cost effective


I love this website. It's full of thousands of educational videos. Most cost less than $20. I've taken a free course on SEO because I work in the online marketing world. I'm currently taking a course on Excel 2016 from beginner to advanced. It cost me $19, and I log on and learn at my convenience. I cannot tell you of any online marketing management job that excludes skills in Excel. Tammy is taking a Reiki course. It may be more about enrichment, but I mention this because I want you to understand the breadth of Udemy's library.

Community Colleges

Whether it's a full on semester of coursework or community education, community colleges are the cornerstone of reinvention for the workplace. Find yours, and explore. I've often thought about taking some electrician training courses. Just in case. Because that's an eternally marketable skill. Welding is another good one. It's not only marketable, it can be fun.

Online Schools

Some of these may be sketchy, but I think there are plenty that are legitimate, and they offer students the opportunity to get degrees on their time. They are very expensive, so I caution you to weigh the cost with benefit. i.e. will your new skills land you a job relative to the cost of your degree. In many cases, the answer is "no." However, it could be that your passion requires an accredited degree, and online universities may be the best option.

My political bottom line

Hate speech, inciting bad behavior and rioting is not o.k. I don't want to live in a banana republic. I'm concerned that 50% of my country is going to be very let down by the disappointment that's going to follow the promise to make America great again by putting people back to work in outdated jobs. We need energy and building materials and cars, but please understand that those things are produced with technology that has replaced much of the human workforce. Learn new skills. Be agile in a changing world. Once upon a time, the blacksmith was busy dude. No matter what anyone said to him, it didn't stop the proliferation of the automobile.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Building Fences and Fires

It's been a hectic week, so I'm behind in reporting weekend activities in Carmine. First of all, our gate was completed last week. One of our country neighbors sent me this picture, and what a relief. Dragging cattle panels across the gap every time we drove through the gap was getting tiresome.

Now, I've got to track down the fence builder to pay him. These guys are so laid back. As I've written in earlier posts, don't get in a big hurry in the country.

Now that one fence is built, Tammy and I spent the weekend starting another fence. We need to keep cows away from the cabin, and dogs away from the cows, so I started digging post holes for the corners.  We're using cedar logs from the property for the corner posts.

This is ridiculously hard work, and if I did this for a living, I'd have the traps of an Olympic swimmer.

We're fencing about 8100 square feet so that the dogs have plenty of running room. Once again, I'm digging deep into my memory to pull out high school geometry to get this fence line straight. By the end of the weekend, We had the back line plummed, and t-post driven.

You can see the bright pink string that stretches from corner post to corner post.  It gives us an easy visual for driving the metal t-posts.  It also gives me a solid reference for squaring the corner to start running the next line of fence. Again the 3,4,5 method of squaring got me a nice square corner.


I was actually surprised that Tammy eyeballed the turn almost perfectly before I ever started digging holes.  She helped me dig that corner post, too. Because I was so tired, I just didn't have much left. Each post is 6 feet long, and it has to be set 2 feet into the ground. That's a long way when you're digging through clay.


Besides working on the new fence, Tammy and Elizabeth started building a big barbecue pit out of cinder blocks.  We still need to locate the right gauge metal for the grates, but once it's done, it will be a nice solid fire pit/smoker/barbecue pit.

It doesn't seem like a lot of work, but it was because it was heavy, back breaking labor. 22 cinder blocks get very heavy at about number 10 when you've moved them for the third time. Once that pit is done, it better never have to be moved.

If it stops raining, we'll try to get back out to the cabin this weekend and finish the pit, and run another line of fence.

It's getting there, y'all.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Get to Work

The day after the cabin delivery, Tammy and I gathered up the tools and headed for the country to work on it. It was our first full weekend on the land. Although it wasn't leisurely, it was relaxing because we weren't in the city working our butts off. We were in the country working our butts off. It was rugged and hot, but it was awesome.

The big job was to build steps into the cabin. It sits two fee off the ground. This gives me some wiggle room when I need to get underneath it for future plumbing. Tammy's the carpenter, so I let her take on the step project while I did what I call "prison farm work."

We needed an outhouse, a way to shower, a washing station, a campfire builder and cook. Those were my jobs. Before leaving Austin, I built a box frame out of 2x4s and attached a toilet seat to it. I inserted a Home Depot bucket under the seat and called it "the bathroom." Even though it was really a joke on Tammy (who has been very adamant that she is not squatting in the woods), it is actually kind of the perfect portable composting toilet. My aunt gave us a little pop-up outhouse about a year ago. It's really a deer blind tent, but it easily camouflages in the woods while housing my rural potty.

As I looked around the property for some kind of compost that might have a "nice smell." I saw a pile of debris from some brush and cedar clearing.  I scooped it up into the original Lugable Loo, and used that as my poo coverage. It actually smells like cedar, and thus, a smell free, composting toilet.

The key to smell-free is to only do the dirty work in your toilet. Urine needs go elsewhere to keep the pot from getting wet and stinky. Dirty work covered in composting dirt and cedar chips is less offensive. This is intimate and scatological talk, but it's serious and real business. Folks. I have created a crude, stink-free potty.

Eventually, I took down the deer blind because Tammy felt cramped and to my surprised, preferred to have her pot in the natural surroundings of the woods, tucked out of sight behind the cabin.

Let's move on to showers.

Earlier in the week, I naively bought a two and a half gallon sprayer at Carmine Farm and Ranch, and  I filled it with water. It was my makeshift fire extinguisher. It was a dumb idea for fires, but a great idea for a rural shower, hand washing and dish washing station. Two and a half gallons showered us 4 times, plus hands and dishes for 2 days. We even washed our hair.

Besides a shower and a toilet for refined comfort, we only needed a pot for water, coffee and a french press. We effectively moved all we ever needed from civilization to the country. We heated water and cooked in our outdoor kitchen. We could actually relax while we worked.

Tammy worked on her stairs.

I made sure I looked thoroughly embarrassing taking care of pots, showers and fires.

Although we've moved in a futon bed and my old kitchen table and a chair, the interior of the cabin still needs walls. However, for now, it's our country home, and we love it.
Hopefully, it won't be long before I can write about interior work, but first, we need to build a fence around the building so that our dogs have more than an 8x8 pen.  I'll fill you in on that progress after the weekend.


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

The Cabin Arrives!

Thursday was the big day!  The cabin was scheduled to arrive around 12:30 p.m. It's 24 feet long and 14 feet wide, so I started to worry that the truck wouldn't be able to maneuver around a brush pile, cedar logs and the pond to get the cabin onto the pad. I spent the first few hours of the morning chopping away a wide enough path for it's arrival.

I have to say, it's pretty amazing to watch a big truck move with such ease, and deposit a building in a grove of trees.

This driver was a pro. The delivery is figured into the cost of the building, so it was really an economical way to get a structure onto our land. In fact, it was about $3,000 less than building a similar structure and only drying it in.

"Drying it in" means that the exterior walls and roof are on the structure, but the inside has not been finished, so no rooms, kitchen, floors, or even real walls. Just a building shell. Our little red cabin included insulation, so that made the portable cabin an even better buy. Plus, it only took an hour to set it up and level it on the pad. It would have taken us months to build it.

I was completely fascinated with the leveling process. The trailer moved at every angle possible. The driver had a little remote control that he used to work the trailer and level the building onto 16 inches of concrete blocks. Totally fun to watch, and so fast and efficient. 

I paid an extra $75 for the driver to set the blocks and level the building. I told him I was totally fascinated with his cool remote control, and he laughed and said he wouldn't do his job without it. Technology in the country! Even the good ol' boys embrace it.

It is amazing how quickly I felt myself completely relax and settle down once that little building was in place and I was alone with it. The country is so quiet and peaceful, and knowing that we have a little house to come to really felt like a spiritual shift. I felt like myself for the first time in 5 years.

Tammy was able to join me on Friday, and she quickly got to work making steps into our new little retreat. By Saturday, our property finally felt like the country get-a-way we intended it to be when we bought a heavily wooded, rough, swampy raw piece of land two and a half years ago.