Wednesday, February 29, 2012

# 215 - RV Auctions & Update on Selling the House

First, I wanted to let everyone know that the sign has been in our yard for several days, but the house went official in the market on the night of the 26th for our area. In less than 24 hours, we have agents calling to schedule appointments, which we had requested be made 24-hours in advance. Yesterday, we had two "big-wig" agents show the house to buyer clients. My friend and agent was amazed that we had potential buyers show up so quickly because the market is still depressed. However, I think we're off to a good start. I guess we'll see how the weekend goes.

* *  * * * * * * * * * * * *

Okay --- onto the main topic for today's writing adventure...RV Auctions.

Deputy Dave and I have owned several RV's through the 25-plus years we've been married. The latest RV has a great adventure and story behind it because I discovered that I LOVE auctions!

We had sold the RV that housed us on our acreage and that we used to live in during the reconstruction of our home after Hurricane Ike. We lived in the RV for about seven months as it remained parked in our driveway so that we could be close by during all the work being done at our house. It was tight.

But, we had loved this Springdale RV during our years it was parked on our land. For about three years it sat out there for our visits. During summers, we'd stay on our land for a couple of weeks at a time. My girls would have their friends come out on weekends with us and they would have the added fun of getting to pop up a tent relatively close to our RV, but not too close, and they would tell spooky stories, play flashlight tag and enjoy roughing it with more independence. However, the tent would always be popped within view of the bedroom in our RV, so all I had to do was lift up and look out the window to make sure they were okay. That RV that we used on our land and in our driveway had two bunkbeds, a sofa bed, a drop-table bed and a RV-queen bed "room." It had one slide-out in the living room area that made for a nice spacious RV zone.

However, after the hurricane, I could no longer stomach the RV and was glad when it left our lives. Good riddance!

Soon after, Deputy Dave and I decided to buy another RV, but not for retail price...we decided to go to an auction in the Houston area. It was an excellent decision.

Besides getting the RV for a GREAT price, we had a ball at the auction. We didn't just show up at the auction without knowing what to do, we researched it with great enthusiasm. Also, since we'd been the owners of several RV's, we also knew what to look for...warning signs.

One thing about a scheduled auction, it takes place no matter the weather condition. The area around the RV's can get quite mucky and it was a little funny to see a few women showing up in their cute little sandals that were quickly destroyed with one misstep.

The RV's are lined up in rows and rows.

During the auction a truck drives around and has a tall cab on the back with a window set up in the rear for the auctioneer and his assistant to sit (in air-conditioning) and they simultaneously take live bids in front of them and by phone and on-line.

There are auctioneering ground assistants are mingled in the crowd; their job is to be on the look-out for those of us who are bidding and they shout it out to the guy in the cab of the truck. They start at the front of the parked RV's and make their way to the back.

At the auction we attended, there were hundreds of RV's and this prompted us to make a decision to not get too hung up on the bidding process early in the day. This auction allows you to preview the RV's in the 24-48 hours prior to the auction. On the day of the auction, you go to the little "office" that is set up on the property and you register, get your auction tag to affix to your clothing and a list that displays the basics of the RV...year and model.

An auction means that you get exactly what you pay for, "as is." You have a very limited time-frame to haul it off the property. GET YOUR SELECTION OFF THE LOT AS FAST AS YOU CAN BECAUSE OTHERS WILL STEAL ACCESSORIES OFF YOUR RV IF IT IS LEFT BEHIND FOR TOO LONG. I cannot stress this enough.

I recommend that you remove the RV immediately. It might be very wise to pack a lunch with several snacks, drinks and bring as many lawn-chairs as needed to allow for decent comfort. You might have to sit back for a while to let the lot clear out somewhat, you don't want to fight the congestion.  Granted, the lot will be packed after the auction as dozens or hundreds of truck drivers are navigating  aisles and backing up to hook up their RV to haul. Another tip: don't count on these guys to be on the look-out for people around their vehicle, it's every man-woman for themselves.

For us, we had purchased a Kodiak trailer.

However, we soon discovered, as we readied to haul it off that the hitch was a tad unusual. No one knew anything about it because it was the only Kodiak on the lot. This is when it might be GREAT to have an IPhone or some kind of contraption to do some fast wireless research on the spot. Regardless, we were a nervous wreck when it came time to briefly leave the lot to find an RV store to purchase the proper hitch. I had earnestly wanted to remain at the RV to "guard" it while Deputy Dave ran to the local RV supply store, but you can imagine how that suggestion was received by the Deputy. I think he simply gave me one of those "ARE YOU CRAZY?" kind of expressions.


That said, these things cannot always be pre-planned because you will never be certain, beforehand, of which trailer you will bid upon and win, unless you are a run-away bidder. Don't be a run-away bidder or there will be no sense in attending an auction! The photo below is not the RV we purchased, it was bid upon by several run-away bidders.

Our system involved taking the inventory sheet and determining during our walk-about, prior to the auction, approximate max bids that we'd allow ourselves to make for each RV. In this situation, it's a good thing to have a couple of working PENS or a MECHANICAL PENCIL and an overall working knowledge of the various RV models, so you will know which ones are ordinarily pricey, which ones are a mess to maintain, which ones are in demand, etc., or you might get jilted by ignorance. Take notes, use the star system to mark which RV's should get your attention during auctioning and if you need ahead of the auctioneering truck to the RV's coming up for auction and take a closer look.

We think THIS THE ONE!
As for the hitch problem, upon our return from the RV supply store, we found that the couple next to our RV had been forced to leave as well to get hitch equipment. But, sad for them, they came back to find that their full-sized, double propane tanks had been stolen, along with the cover. That's some expensive equipment. Again, be prepared to protect yourselves at these auctions. Lock your vehicles. The scene at the lot reminded me of a old western movie...everyone is suspiciously eyeing each other and the friendly Southern nature is temporarily missing. The only thing missing was the sound of spurs clinking with each step. It's a mad-house.

During our preview of the RV, we realized that a tire was missing and the entire RV was leaning into the dirt in a lame-manner. For me, as a real estate broker at that time, I got a thrill because such a problem will instantaneously turn away others from the RV.

However, once inside the RV, we discovered that it appeared to have never been used. The stove/oven was still wrapped in the original plastic wrap. I found the brand new owner's manuals in a cupboard, shoved to the back, also still wrapped in their protective covering. The RV's bathroom had the blue protective marketing liners covering the fiberglass...this thing was BRAND NEW. The RV had four bunks in the rear room and a nice RV-Queen sleeping room. Of course, the sofa and table rolled out to accommodate more sleeper. This RV could sleep 11 people, easy.

We made token bids on other RV's beforehand, RV's that we knew we would not win the bid on. This would ensure that eagle-eye fellow bidders would not think that we were suddenly jumping in the game and bidding on an RV that must be "special." During the bidding of this RV, we appeared lack-luster. Do not show any excitement or that will be like throwing a bone to junk-yard dogs. You can actually be bidding while pointing to other potential RV's down the aisle that you haven't reached yet.

And we WON THE BID. We got this 30-foot wide-body, brand-spanking new RV for $4,200. Payment must be given in cashier's check upon purchase. I forget the details in this area, but I'm sure Deputy Dave will remember.

The BEST part of this RV purchase was that we used the RV for months, enjoyed a great camping trip to Livingston State Park, THEN we sold the RV at a consignment lot in Houston (PPL) ready for this?

We sold it for $10,000!

Can you say "HAPPY DANCE?"

So, I think that the Deputy and I pretty much love RV auctions. We're practically pros at this thing. Ha ha.

Auction Tips:

1. Wear galoshes, rubber boots, work gloves or have them in your truck ready to pull out for mucky ground. Also have knee-pads and/or a work mat to work on, just in case.

2. Pack plenty of food, drinks, snacks and lawn-chairs. We could tell that the "lawn-chair people" were true pros at this stuff.

3. Wear comfortable clothes, in layers, if needed.

4. Wear a hat and sunglasses to shield you from the sun.

5. Bring a wide umbrella to sit under for shade during the wait, especially if you are in a Southern state.

6. Don't carry a purse or anything that will cause agony after the first two hours of hauling it around. Like Hulk Hogan, I wear an awesome Fanny Pack!

7. Bring towels and cheap throw-away Ponchos - just in case the weather turns nasty. If you are prepared, you can stand and continue bidding while the others flee for cover. Remember, the auction continues, no matter the weather condition.

8. Tools galore and hitches, whatever you have on hand. You'll be on your own, so be prepared.

9. In your truck bed, bring along a few old boards and maybe a cement block or two to keep the RV stable for any work that you need to do before hauling it off. Of course, bring duct-tape too, just in case there is something flapping on the RV that needs tightening on the of the window frames came loose in our travels to our house, it began to separate and Deputy Dave just taped it down until he could properly reset it later and re-caulk it.

10. Always conduct a thorough check of everything before leaving.

I can tell you that the first few RV's up for auction will prove that there are fools in this world. Usually, the big-name, frilly RV's are put upfront. The badly damaged stinkeroos are more toward the center and back of the auction...sold mostly for spare parts. As for the high-rollers, let those bidders spend their money and time on the pretty, shiny RV's while you search for something that has a definite, obvious problem to fix, but not something that would have lasting damage or be too expensive to repair. For us, we needed a new tire and a proper hitch.

Check the RV for:

1. Damage - make a list, if it's a contender - have a good idea of what you're getting into.

2. Mold and Water Damage, if it is too noxious, forget it. If there is a little damage that is caused by a minor leak and is superficial, then don't be afraid.

3. Realize that other bidders will set-up "problems" that are fake to sway other bidders from being aware and careful to note actual problems and set-up problems.

4. Foam bedding being absent is no big deal. You can buy those from a fabric shop or another source for a good price. If multiple foam beds are missing, then buy the larger size and cut it down for your needs and cover them with cheap twin sheets for a presentable, consistent appearance.

5. Dirt can be cleaned, don't be turned away by simple dirt. People will be going in and out of these RV's and dirt is a given, especially in bad weather.

6. Keys might be found in the RV, but are usually taken or hidden by other bidders. Some people take duct tape and hide the keys at the underside of the drawer.

7. If you walk into an RV that you are considering, don't be intimidated by the five people looking inside of it as well...and don't listen to their grumblings about what a "horrible" RV this is because fellow bidders fight dirty and will do anything they can to make you disinterested in the RV you find interesting.

8. Check for existence of air-conditioning units, furnace, piping for plumbing and wiring check. You won't be able to conduct a detailed inspection, but know your basic stuff. Deputy Dave always climbs to the roof to do an inspection, but he's a monkey.

Okay, that's it for today's little lesson that has helped us tremendously with our acreage and with our own need for an RV. It appears that we will be going through this process again very soon so that we can find an RV to house us during the construction of our cabin. I do hope we find an RV that is a steal again. That would be nice.

Regardless, auctions can be a night-mare experience. It's a risk. You never know what you might find and what hidden faults might be lurking. Okay...okay...just don't show up at my next auction with my own tips to use as a competitor!

It's getting dark, gotta get outta here!
Deputy Dave and I will be the ones with the lawnchairs, the ice-chest, cold beer, Dr. Pepper and a couple of good books. And yes, you should have a buddy similar to Smith & Wesson close by in this kind of environment.

But, I'm from Texas and we always think a six-shooter is a good buddy to snuggle up next to or a semi-automatic. Just saying...

Spurs might be a nice touch as well.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

# 214 - To Flee or Not to Flee...Prepper Topic

Living in coastal area all of my life has given me ample experience toward "prepping" for the worse. Part of prepping is also a huge part of being a city gal who has lived in areas that have required diligent attention to our environment and to our industrial surroundings. Today's writing adventure has found me compelled to discuss the intricacies involved with deciding whether or not to flee your home.

This is a lengthy blog topic, so I warn you. If you need a good "potty-letter" to read, then, by all means, print and enjoy at your leisure. I'm sure my fellow blog buddies understand the need to purge these thoughts from my mental recesses and to get the awesome feedback that usually has me doing the head-nod in appreciation of the additional information and interesting commentary.

As for my topic, it should be noted that I've NOT been taught to prep for the end of the world because we already spend valuable time, energy and resources prepping for tornadoes and hurricanes, which can devastate a large area with minimal warning. If only we had the LUXURY to prepare for the end of the world...HA. We just want to survive this season's hurricane season!

First of all...for those of you who haven't endured widespread devastation...DON'T expect your government resources to come to your rescue because, FRANKLY, that is a lazy attitude and it is one that isn't practical. The local government cannot help you during an emergency when it can't even help itself. I cannot stress this enough to people who don't understand the value of being prepared for an emergency, especially for a natural disaster.

I speak of this with first-hand experience. Along with other people in our area, we're accustomed to being prepped for a disaster. Like I said, we prep mostly for a natural disaster or a chemical release. We've not really thought too much about end-of-the-world-doomsday plans because our area has definite concerns with day-by-day potential coastal disasters and industrialized dangers that require constant, heightened attention. Heck, we've even got alarms in place through our city to warn us about chemical releases so we can "Shelter in Place."

More of that on a later blog.

As for landscape-changing weather, the first hurricane I actually lived through was Hurricane Alicia. I was about 14 years old and my family did not want to flee. Even though our house was within a short distance from the Houston Ship Channel and a tidal surge was a danger, my dad decided that our family of five would ride out the hurricane at home.

We made it through multiple small tornadoes hitting our area and these tornadoes twisted the trees along our frontyard to look as if a giant hand took hold of huge branches and twirled them until they appeared other-worldly. Huge oak trees were uprooted and flung great distances; one landed on a neighbor's car, the whole tree, roots and all. Some massive branches were broken and settled in the road. In general, it looked as if the area suffered some sort of botanical-bomb blast.

This is when a good chain-saw is great to have on hand.

During the storm, especially during tornadoes, the doors and windows would literally start to buckle, as if a huge monster were trying to alternate between giving huge burst of blowing and then huge suction power action to reverse the terror. It is indescribable. With a hurricane, these kinds of things go on for hours and hours. A hurricane is not a blip on the radar screen, it is intensely scary for hours.

We stayed in an interior room, away from windows and doors. But, during that moment I had peeked at the front door and saw it bulging inward with beams of light suddenly showing through the creases surrounding the door; at that moment, I found myself truly scared. I don't know how that solid wood door held its ground, but it did. Dead-bolts locks don't really help all that much in that kind of situation.

So, when it comes to all of this excitement over "prepping," I believe the first area of concern should be with developing personal criteria that will be applied to whether or not the family decides to flee, if the option is available.

To flee or not to flee? THAT is the question.

Every other part of being prepared depends on whether or not you will need to flee. You can prep, prep, prep all day long, but if your basement is full of 20 years worth of food that floods or is blown away, then you aren't really prepared much at all.

In natural disaster, such as a hurricane, you really do NOT have much time to decide upon whether or not to flee the storm approaches, there is such a wide zone for the storm to hit land that you can't have the entire coastal area fleeing for their life.

Premature fleeing can be a recipe for additional troubles, especially for a hurricane.

Prepping can mean that you must take steps to secure your home before fleeing. This means you must be ready beforehand. Prepping is all about being prepared BEFORE the emergency arises.

For this particular topic with my illustration of hurricanes, I can say wholeheartedly, as a resident in a coastal area, you must get to that hardware store on a relaxing day when the weather reports are delightful. Go get rolls of heavy-duty plastic sheeting, plywood, a staple gun with boxes of staples is always very handy to have for QUICK preparations, buckets, solar lights, tarps, and duct tape. My list is longer, but this is a good start.

In our area, we have many neighbors, such as ourselves, who take the time to pre-cut plywood to perfectly fit each window. Marking each board clearly so they can be put up quickly on the proper windows and/or doors is key. Pre-drilled screw holes are necessary and help you get the job done nicely. You can also write things in spray-paint on the plywood, as do our neighbors, such as, "BEWARE: This house is protected by armed residents."

Sadly, in coastal areas, this is necessary because there are opportunistic vultures out there who are ready to cash in on your disaster. Their burglaries aren't for self-preservation. The plywood covering all access points to a house greatly reduces the chance that it will be intruded upon during a short time of fleeing the residence, especially if everyone around you is fleeing in great numbers. You can bet that the criminals who pounce on foul-weather disasters will choose the temporarily vacated house next door with the windows not protected than they will your house that is boarded up tight. The thing about criminals is...they are usually lazy...or they wouldn't be criminals. They want an easy, fast buck without having to "work" for it like the rest of us. They don't want to work too hard to gain access into your house, so board it up.

If you must flee, then clear the yard and the house of any loose items. I can tell you that a street full of neighbors will not be happy with the fellow down the block who was so stupid as to leave their aluminum chairs on the back patio, unsecured and free to fly through your living room window along with the toys in their backyard that had transformed into flying bullets in the middle of the hurricane. In a coastal area, you EXPECT your neighbors to be prepared for the hurricane and to not let their belongings become hurtling damage to your property. Those are what we refer to as, "Stupid Mistakes."

To think that you could head for the hills at the first sign of every hurricane is simply impractical and not the way of people who live on or near the coast. People who live on coastlines have jobs and a life, just like everyone else. I once heard someone say, "People shouldn't live near the ocean." Well, someone has to run that snorkeling gear shop on the beach for the tourists and someone has to cook that delicious seafood in a place with a great ocean view. The harsh truth is...disasters can happen anywhere, they will simply have a different title behind the devastation.

One of the evacuation-zone maps. During Hurricane Ike, we
were located in a mandatory evacuation zones. We hunkered down and stayed. 
We Southerners understand that people who live in zones prone to snow can't simply flee at every prediction of a blizzard. Those potentially snow-bound people must prep their homes and their lives for this event. There are always dilemmas in any area you consider, even a place prone to earthquakes can have a house that is made to withstand the brutality of their worst nightmare, and the residents can at least be ready with their own emergency supplies that are similar to those needed for any kind of catastrophe.

As for fleeing a coastal region, most of us must wait to flee until it is fairly certain that the storm is approaching YOUR part of the coast. Until that point, yes, you can get ready. And yes, there are a few people who get the heck out of dodge the moment they see a blip on the radar; their jobs may not depend on their attendance, but not everyone has such freedom. Employers in coastal areas usually do NOT let you have "time-off" for a hurricane, unless it is down to the wire and it is mandated to evacuate. Otherwise, every Tom, Dick and Harry would be using a potential hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico as an excuse to "flee." You get the picture.

As the storm approaches and weather reporters are figuring out that it's POSSIBLE that the storm will hit our area...You begin to get the family packed for a trip that will last a few days. Depending on the strength of the storm, you watch the weather reports near constantly and try to figure out if this will be a Category ??? when it hits land. If you live in an area prone to easy flooding and have found your house to be a swamp a few times previously, it's probably safe to wager that fleeing is best. But, you'll still need to prep the house for your decision to flee. Board it up.

With the little warning available after a hurricane's "accurate" land-fall prediction, you become physically exhausted during last minute prepping. Some things MUST be last can't live life with your house boarded up as if you are living in a perpetual state of hurricane weather. Let's not be radical, please. Once you get back home, promptly remove the boards...don't leave them up to pay homage to graffiti inspired parts of town...take them down and try to live normal while in between hurricanes. Try.

Most people turn off the main water supply to the house and at each inside line to prevent a tidal surge or incidental flood waters from backing up into the pipes to spill over into your house. Some also cut off the gas lines.

We don't usually flee a hurricane, but for any black-out possibility that you have a bit of fair-warning about can give you time to put sealed bags of ice in the freezer to prolong internal cold temperatures during an outage and put ice in large leak-proof ziplock bags throughout the refrigerator. If the power is only off for a short-time, especially in warmer weather, you'll be better prepared to protect your food. If we know a booger of a storm is coming, we usually get to the store PRONTO and load up some ice-chests with ice so we can start bagging and and prepare to insert them into the freezer and fridge for the outage that is likely. Another tip is to empty the automatice ice bin, putting the ice into the ziplocks or bowls for the freezer to hold and turn off the auto-ice-maker --- this way the dropping temperature won't cause leaking and it will prevent the ice bin from turning into one huge block of ice once the outage is over.

Another area of concern is personal items. You won't have time for much, but preppers in coastal areas or other places prone to flooding, often find that keeping pictures and important documents are best stored OFF the ground and in a hardy plastic container that are easy to grab and remove. The containers will provide additional protection from water and moisture.

Another item besides having stocked up food and water is to have gasoline stored. We have plenty of gasoline during emergencies, especially to run the generator. And don't forget medications. I recommend that everyone do their best to stock up on life-giving medications and to keep a good supply of any other meds needed. Keeping these in containers that are water-proof might be necessary as well. Good old zip-lock bags handled with great care to prevent punctures can indeed be a precious commodity.

As for water, we coastal people are taught to fill every container in the house with water...all pots and pans, the bathtubs, buckets, etc., everything. If you have little children, be careful, they can fall head-first into a bucket or toilet and drown, so don't forget safety during your storm prepping. As for storing water, if there's an approaching hurricane, we even use "dirty" containers not suitable for holding drinking water; we still fill them with water and put them near the toilet to enable us to flush the toilets after water services are cut or made unavailable because of the storm. Pouring water into a soiled toilet bowl sure is a luxury when everyone around you doesn't have enough water to make toilet flushing a possibility. Having drinking water in commercialized jugs is nice, but you can never play it too safe with having an abundance of water during a disaster.

If you decide to stay hunkered down during Mother Nature's random decision to show off her powers, you better be ready to defend yourself because there is a time-frame, especially during the eye of the storm when the weather suddenly gets crazy, then calm and then crazy again. During this time, NO police or emergency call-outs will be available. Who wants to be on patrol as power lines are falling all over the place and winds are so strong as to pick up the patrol car and re-direct it elsewhere.

I'll tell you what's truly brilliant about city living...the reporters on television who constantly make it known to all in earshot, "Be warned, those of you who do not evacuate, there will be no city services --- that includes no police services --- during the height of the storm."

We shake our head in disbelief while knowing disclosure is important, you also know the criminals are rubbing their hands together in delight at their free-for-all announced time-frame that they mistakenly believe will enable them to more easily accomplish dirty deeds. In these situations, you are truly on your own for an extended period of time. Unfortunately, this is when the scum of the earth decides the risk is worth it for burglaries. If you are like our family and are prone to "hunker down," then be prepared to EFFECTIVELY battle with an intruder. Not only will you not be able to get an emergency response during this window of time, it is most likely that all phones will be down and that includes cell phone usage. In my family, all of us are assigned weapons and we know how to use them.

Not only can a country boy survive, us city people know how to do a thing or two as well. I don't frown upon my city smarts. I understand the workings of the criminal element that is alive and well down the street, much more than someone who doesn't have to worry about such things. City living can truly make you an individual who lives with a different level of awareness that's not necessarily required in the country, at least not as much. Live in a metropolitan area long enough and you will see just about everything. And that's not necessarily a good thing. There's plenty I could have lived without seeing, but being a city girl has taught me a lot about humanity, the good and the bad. Let's just a disaster of any kind, I would NOT want to be anywhere near city limits. The city is too full of "Survivor" type of personalities who play WAY too many video games. Not a good combination.

I guess the bottom line is that I learned at a young age that fleeing is not always the best option. For some people, it is the only option. The ugly part about fleeing is that it can also put you in life-threatening situations. I've been in one of these situations after a hurricane had been predicted to hit the Houston area with ferocity. This was Hurricane Rita. Everyone panicked because Hurricane Katrina had just hit Louisiana only about three months prior. The terrifying destruction was fresh on everyone's mind. So, my daughters and I loaded up the truck and the RV, then we drove out of town on our own because Deputy Dave is a First-Responder and leaving town means end of job. So, us girls got on the road the day before the storm was to hit. And...we were on the road in dead stand-still traffic for thirteen hours.

Houston during hurricane evacuation and the "brilliant:
plan of putting "CONTRALANES" into effect...making each side
of the freeway go in one direction...OUT of town. Disasterous.
People...this is not good. I will never do it again. However, I was prepared. Unlike thousands of people, I didn't run out of gas while on the road. We never turned on the engine, unless we were moving. Other people foolishly ran their engines while being SO CONFIDENT that the traffic would somehow magically start moving again. Wrong! We had plenty of gas, even while towing a 30-foot RV because we sacrificed comfort to prepare for the worse. The worse happened to untold people who were stranded on the side of the road, with no shelter other than their car during the hurricane.

There is no doubt that residents of an area suspected to be possibly hit by Mother Nature will begin to nervously flee the area of danger, but the traffic in a greater metropolitan area quickly becomes overwhelming, congested, and full of mechanical difficulties that will impede the rest of the fleeing population

If you think a traffic jam due to a broken-down car is horrendous on a REGULAR working day; just imagine a traffic jam as nearly the entire population of the area is trying to escape Mother Nature. Then, you still have ridiculous traffic accidents that somehow occur at 10 miles per hour on the bumper to bumper freeway and these are even more disastrous because it's nearly impossible for emergency vehicles to get through to assist. Additionally, there are people who are not well and become very ill while trying to flee, some have heart-attacks...there is no way to get to a hospital or to get EMS help as you are jam-packed together like sardines on the road.

Don't let anyone lie to you. We have lived to see this up-close and are taking a huge personal risk if you decide to flee with the rest of the population. Our motto is: Get out early or stay behind ready to face the music.

Prepping for fleeing requires that you be prepared for problems on the road with plenty of water, food, and don't forget about "personal accommodations" since you won't be able to pull off the road or stop at the fast food restaurant for the potty break, and you'll need to be able to defend yourself appropriately from an approaching angry driver who has vacated his vehicle in a delirious mental state --- this means defending yourself without killing the innocent occupants of the vehicle next to you by accident. Understand bullet trajectory.

In our current neighborhood, a few blocks over, during Hurricane Ike, my husband's friend decided to "hunker down" and ride out the storm as well. After the storm, we were all left with devastation. We had no running water and no electricity. My husband's friend set up an area for him to sit in his driveway. Our houses were soaked, we had temperatures in the 90's and it was miserable. Who wants to sit in a stinking sauna? One late night, as he sat in his driveway, with his shotgun across his lap, he saw something across the street in the corner of his eye. He took his high-powered flashlight and shone it to reveal two men using their foot to bash in a window in an attempt to break into the house. He quickly propped the light to shine on the area of the intruders, then he stepped away from the light source, just in case THEY had weapons and he pumped his shotgun while yelling in his Southern deep voice, "YOU READY TO DIE!"

No, that wasn't really a question, but a statement.

Now, this fellow and buddy of my husband is from backwoods Arkansas. There is no doubt that he was ready to follow up with some action behind his "statement." The guys fled, but Deputy Dave's friend would have preferred to drop the intruding rats on the spot. But, as they ran away and out of the light source into the pitch blackness of night, they escaped. Without ANY electricity anywhere to aid his search, our friend stood his ground to protect his own house AND his neighbor's homes. That's Southern Hospitality at its finest folks.

At least he scared away the intruders before they were able to get inside the house and create more damage than what the storm had already inflicted upon the residents.

And since the "prepper" mindset and way of living is not really anything new, yet it is finally being openly discussed, I am enjoying all the sudden main-stream interest in preparing for emergencies. It's weird to watch the people on television display their stock of food that will last twenty years. Some of these people have never been in a real-live situation that has required them to consider leaving their home or to actually be in the midst of a disaster of huge proportions. But, I'm learning more by watching. However, I think I'll stick with my life-long preparations that don't go too far into the "I'll survive the death of the world" kind of thinking, after all, do you really want to live in such a world? Hmmmmm.

Deputy Dave "prepping" for hurricane winds.
I have so many lessons learned from childhood and adulthood about preparing for emergencies. Since this is a topic that is apparently fascinating to more people than most of us realized...rather than just us chemical-industrial area residents with the bay close by...then I will be putting our hard learned lessons out there to share.

There are definitely more areas of prepping that we've been taught in our household for various reasons; I'll go into those on my next "prepper" blog entry. For now, there's too much information to cover in one sitting, even though I do type well over 90 words per minute, it's still tedious to share everything in this area.

And just so you know, if the end of the world comes tomorrow, I'd prefer to have a straight ticket to Heaven instead of having to spend the rest of my life in a bunker as Billy Bob hogs the off-tasting canned pork-n-beans.

Monday, February 27, 2012

# 213 - Four Chickens & a Little Niece

Having our niece, Shaye, visiting for an overnight stay brought us such excitement. She's 5 years old and a source of never-ending energy that I wish I could plug into.

She is so happy about getting to see the chickens. Of course, she has been sad about Miss Speckles being gone, but she seems to be resilient and moving forward with having a great time with the four chickens we have left in the backyard.

In fact, one of the chickens begins to squawk loudly inside the coop and Shaye runs in the house to yell with excitement, "She's laying an egg! She's laying an egg!"

I am thrilled that Shaye has enough chicken-savvy to know when a hen is in the middle of laying an egg. Shaye also knows the hen needs privacy to do her job, so Shaye goes into the backyard and swings until the chicken emerges from the coop. Then, Shaye runs over to the coop, gets the warm, fresh egg and runs inside, "I have a new egg!"

Will this ever get old? No, I think not. I still feel the same thrill every time I search for eggs and find one.

Shaye knows the drill...a fresh egg gets a quick rinsing before it's laid out to dry. Then, it goes into the carton in the fridge.

To her, an egg is a symbol of fun and food with hope for more of the same to continue.

Then, Shaye becomes my Photography Buddy for the day. I hand her the camera and she goes back outside to see what her 5-year old perspective can capture on digital.

Shaye loves the chickens. They've met their match with inquisitive energy in this little girl.

Shaye loves to sit on the bench in the backyard and to swing while sweetly singing songs from the movie "Annie." Of course, Howdy sticks by her side like glue. He's very protective of Shaye. So, she snapped this picture of her guard-dog buddy.

Shaye also took a pretty good picture of the chicken coop that we moved to this location for marketing the house. The coop remains mostly on the patio stones so the grass won't be destroyed. I sure hope that potential buyers will not be scared by chickens. During our showings, the chickens will be kept inside the chicken tractor so the buyers can walk around the backyard freely.

Then, I was amazed to see our niece turn the camera back to herself so that she could take a few self-portraits. These pictures have to be the sweetest ever because she smiled for the camera exactly in the manner she wished because she was also the photographer.

Back inside the house, we were trying to thaw out because the temperature outside had been dropping and the winds had been biting our skin, Shaye decided that she wanted scrambled eggs as a snack. She did everything...she picked out the two eggs she wanted to eat, she cracked them PERFECTLY into the bowl, added salt and pepper, then scrambled the eggs with a fork.

I helped her put the eggs into a skillet; she stirred, then ate an entire bowl of eggs. However, as she was stirring her eggs, I noticed the booty-zone had gotten pretty scruffy from being outside for so long. I told her that this was the true-mark of a kid having a great time!

Uh, I hope your mom doesn't kill me for letting you get this dirty. Then again, I think my Sissy knows that our house is a place where the outdoors is a big part of our lives. Maybe that's why she sends the already-stained clothes for Shaye to wear for play-time. She's a smart mommy.

I think we all live in our "play clothes" around here.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

# 212 - Staging the House for some Real Fun!

Australian Shepherds can damage your pretty front door. If they are like my Howdy, they will actually POUNCE on the glass in a manner that causes the glass to completely break as the person standing on the porch is mortified that a dog is apparently trying to "get" them. We've been to the stained glass store a few times with this door. Not all doors are compatible with a growing Aussie.

These days, he stays doesn't jump on the door.

Deputy Dave refinished the door and I think it's a true beauty.

The gameroom and extended living room upstairs are FINISHED. We even flipped the table to show the poker side so that buyers can walk through this room and think, "Wow...this house is made for good times!"

Yep, that's the feeling you want buyers to have as they consider your house for a purchase.

Deputy Dave and I put three coats of high-gloss MinWax polyurethane on the floors and they are stunning. We put these same wood floors in our Master Bedroom and Master Closet.

Heather's room is all dolled up. I love this bedding set, so luxurious. I've promised to give it all to Heather as soon as we sell the house. Even though the bedding is gorgeous, I sure don't like having to worry about every little spot on cream perfection. Not in this house.

Over here, we have LOTS of "Howdy Hair."

I tried to capture how beautiful the foyer is with the curved stairway. I love the custom mosaic entry tile-rug. I wanted one of these so bad and had been pricing for the work to be done, it wasn't under $2,600, so Deputy Dave decided to tackle it himself. He did a beautiful job.

The mosaic tile rug makes the odd foyer area have a distinct delineation from the other rooms that it flows into.

He laid all the tile in the house, and he laid all the wood flooring. We would not have been able to put these beautiful floors in the house if he'd not been able to do the labor himself. The installation costs were unaffordable for us.

My kitchen is enjoyable. It's not fantastic, but it is functional and a reflection of our lives. We've had a lot of fun times serving great food to family and friends from this kitchen.

One thing that we WON'T have in our cabin in the woods is a floorplan with funky angles. But, this house displays the long-haired cowhide rug that I love so much in the living room downstairs. I had mistakenly thought it was from Brazil. Wrong. It's actually from Kenya, but tanned in Brazil.

When you go to the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, these kinds of things are what you will find to buy. They have every Western and Southern piece of furnishing and accent that you could imagine.

Below is a shot of our living room that shows the weird angles. One thing that I will DEFINITELY AVOID in the construction of our cabin is the position of the seating and television...I'll avoid creating a "hallway" effect through the room. Sitting to watch television can be frustrating because everyone must pass in front of the screen. Bad hallway, bad.

Interesting note, the cedar chest that the television is placed above is one that my mother gave to me. This was her very first piece of furniture that she won from a shop in town when she lived in Austin. She had only been sixteen at the time. I have loved this piece of furniture as much as she did. It is solid cedar.

Actually, I didn't get to take this cedar chest from my mom's house until after I'd returned from living in Germany. But, I'd grown up with it in my room. Upon our return to America, I discovered that my brother had moved into my old room that held the cedar chest. I was in agony after seeing that he'd marked offensive symbols all over the front of the chest with black magic marker and the top of the chest had numerous burns from lit cigarettes being set on it along with a few carvings that had been made with a knife. It was "guyed-up" in a bad way.

No, my brother hadn't given any respect to this treasured piece of furniture, but he was a teenager a bit out of control, to put it nicely. I would have throttled my kids if they would have vandalized any of our furniture. These days, he has teenagers and he'd wring his kids' necks if they did some of the stuff he did, especially if they tore up the furniture in the house.

Since it was solid cedar, Deputy Dave took his time refinishing the chest until the knife carvings could no longer be seen and all the marker penmanship evidence had been sanded away and the burns were taken care of too. The legs had broken as well, as if the chest had been slid around so much that the weakened legs snapped off. He repaired those too.

Since my mother passed away a few years ago from breast cancer, I'm so unbelievably happy over this cedar chest...that she'd seen it refinished and brought back to its full glory.

So, we had spent Saturday nearly putting ourselves in traction because we were trying to get the house ready for my best-friend, a real estate agent, to come and do her "official" walk-through with her buyer's eyes in place. She'd be giving constructive criticism and I was a mess trying to get everything ready. But, we did get things relatively prepared for my friend, Kelly.

Later in the evening, we got to have a special visitor...our niece Shaye came over to spend the night. I had called my sister and said, "I miss Shaye, she's welcome to come spend the night, if you guys want to go out for date night or something."

Within a short time, Deputy Dave and I were cracking up because they were at our front door and Shaye had her overnight bags in hand. I love my Sissy!

So, I decided that the room upstairs that is staged to look like fun needed to be used for some REAL fun. So, I thought it might be a great time to teach the niece a few games. And since the table is a poker table, we started out learning a bit of poker. We threw dice and she learned how to give the dice a lucky "blow" and she now knows how to recognize "Snake Eyes." Then, we decided to play Dominoes. I think my sister will be delighted that I'm teaching her daughter how to play poker.

And here we are, shuffling. I get ready to take my turn.

It's so nice to not have such a quiet house because a child is making delightful noises. Even if it is while learning to play poker with her Aunt.

That's how we roll around here.

Friday, February 24, 2012

# 211 - "Turtleneck"

I guess the Reality show that my family will be seen on this summer is beginning to run promo. It appears that we are in these clips.

Heather saw the clip (included at the end of this post) as Randy was in Louisiana on television as a guest on a local morning talk show. Yes, he is as handsome and adorable in person as he is on television.

Heather and Henry standing outside the area we were to be
filming for "Randy to the Rescue" in Dallas, Texas.
If you'd like to see the clip with a very small portion of us in it, then check it out. But, don't blink!

You may have to pause it to catch us for more than half a second. We're about mid-way through the overall segment. Heather, when you first see her, has on a wedding dress...a dress she loved. Shortly after she is shown in a wedding dress, then Deputy Dave and I are sitting next to each other as he explains that he'd like her wedding dress to have a "Turtleneck."

In fact, the promo has the word "Turtleneck" in front of the screen as we are sitting there.

Heather begins to hang her head in frustration.

Heather and Stefie --- Sissy and Sissy helping each other out.
This clip shows us so quickly that we're almost a blur. Stefie isn't on this particular clip, but I'm sure more is to come.

I guess more will be coming since this show, "Randy to the Rescue" won't be airing until this summer sometime. I can only guess what else will show up on the promos, but the "Turtleneck" is a great portion of our challenges as a family to come to a cohesive agreement on a wedding dress.

Yes, we are a Southern family and opinions run high. In our culture, the wedding dress is mainly the Bride's decision, but it also is a definite consideration of the IMMEDIATE family as well. Fortunately, Randy helped our family get past our pre-conceived notions about wedding dresses and helped Heather to melt with delight over THE dress he had brought on his truck.

He did come to our rescue. I guess you all will see how bad it really had been, once it airs.

The cameras only caught us, as we are...we aren't the kind of people to be concerned about cameras too much, but we were concerned that Randy really do his job of helping the Bride so a dress could be found that makes everyone smile. It was a tall order, but he did it.

I am still in awe.

# 210 - Brave as a Chicken

I learned a new Farm Life Lesson about chickens yesterday.

For lunch, I had left-over pizza and I'm not one to eat the crust, so I decided to give the broken two pieces of crust (making four pieces) to hand-out to the critters in our household, accordingly:

1. One large piece thrown to chickens to share
2. One piece to Howdy
3. One piece to Liyla
4. One little piece to Belle

I had previously put the dogs outside so I could eat and mop the floors, so I took a plate with me to the backyard and decided to hand out the crust and take a few pictures while outside. First, I threw the chickens their piece. Then, I handed each dog their own crust.

Little did I know that handing out the crust to the dogs would cause a problems among the chickens.

As I snapped a few pictures and Howdy lay in the grass to my right over his crust, I had no idea a large problem was looming. Since Howdy is not a fast eater, he likes to savor his food, he wanted to lay on the grass with his crust for a bit, before consuming it slowly.

I'm still taking pictures of the chickens, not realizing they
are going straight for Howdy's crust.
However, I didn't really pay attention to the chickens finishing off their piece of pizza crust and their mad dash toward Howdy's own crust. I never imagined a chicken would try to fight a dog over food.

Howdy is smacking his lips. The chicken is about to make her move,
but I had no idea. I was about to jump in the air and be shocked.
Boy, was I wrong.

We all know which chicken is the culprit here...Big Mama. She is one bad-mamma-jamma. She ran straight for Howdy's crust and HOUSTON, we've got a problem. Howdy decided to defend his crust and began to be highly aggitated; he demonstrated his guard dog nature over the crust. He bared his teeth, took a wide-legged stance and lunged at Big Mama a couple of times in fierce bravado.

Howdy's lips are curled back, his front teeth are fully
showing, he has a leg raised and is about to lunge at Big Mama.
Big Mama was not impressed. She'd flap her wings and fly out of his reach, then she'd run for the crust again. Howdy was becoming more irritated.

Howdy looked up at me, as if to say, "Help?"

I had to get a freakin bamboo stick and shoo Big Mama away so that Howdy could take his beloved piece of pizza crust into the house to eat at his leisure.

And I've learned a valuable lesson...don't feed the dogs any food in front of the chickens because the birds are willing to go toe to toe with the Aussie who could rip them apart in five seconds.

Of course, Belle had to go check Howdy's old position in the yard to see if he left any crumbs behind. She gulped her crust down fast.

Smart girl.

If only we could all be as brave as a chicken.