Friday’s Weekend Column
About a Minnesota Man Exploring Life in the South

Things Are About The Same
by James Glaser
February 18, 2011
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I moved down to North Florida when things were still booming all over. I was lucky enough to have sold my house back in Northern Minnesota before things went bust. Also, I was fortunate to have a banker who told me he would be happy to make me a loan, but any house I bought would go down in value.

I don't know how he knew that, but he sure was right. Some of the homes I looked at back in 2008 are still on the market at less than half of what they were asking back then. Just south of Tallahassee were eight-acre lots that were going for $149,000, and I could have gotten financing from some company they had set up. Today those same lots are advertised for $59,000. Man, am I glad I held off buying.

Really I have to confess that it wasn't brilliance that stopped me from buying. It was that banker, and the fact I couldn't find the right place at the right price.

I have read about all the shyster bankers across the country who would make loans for just about anything to anyone, just to make a buck. I was fortunate that I had a wonderful bank and banker in Minnesota. She wanted to make money, but she also wanted to have me as a customer for years to come. So, she helped me in so many was over the years, that even though I moved down here, I still bank up there.

There are great bankers down here, too. The Madison Community Bank seems to do everything they can to support the local economy, and that banker who gave me the good advice soon after I moved down here changed banks, but when I did decide to buy, I found him and got my loan with his help. His good advice made him some money in the long run.

Florida is still in trouble. Unemployment is at 12%, the foreclosure rate is very high, and the State is running a several billion dollar deficit that it has to make up with cuts.

But for us things are staying about the same. We moved into our house, and that is where we spend almost all of our time. We are making it and the grounds just they way we want them. Maybe not as fast as we would like, but we are making steady progress and having fun doing it.

Wanda and I had a nice carport installed. The roof is held up with six 6x6s, and this week we had a brick layer put bricks around those posts about 40 inches high. It looks great, and I think it looks stronger. The bricks were extras from our addition, and when you order the bricks they are yours. There is no such thing as returning the extra bricks. Now our carport relates visually with the house

Well, I got talking to that brick layer, and he was telling me when the economy was booming down here he had several crews, and a customer would have to wait as long as a year before he could get to them as he was that booked up with work. He is down to a two man crew, and he is half of the crew, and last month they had eight days of work.

It is the same for carpenters, plumbers, and electricians. Yes, there are a lot of people working for cash, but not that many people have cash, and those that do are thinking maybe they had better hold on to it. I think a lot of people are trying to do their own work, too.

I'll tell you who is working though, and that would be the Handyman. You know, the guy who can do a bit of everything. They might not make as much per hour as other tradesmen, but they sure have a lot more hours in every week.

I have had several offers from people who want me to hire them to work on my tree house. I wish I could, but I don't really know what it is going to look like. I have a few of the rail posts up, and tonight I measured out where the rest of them will go. I have all the posts done, and now it is a matter of installing them. Then I have to put on the top and bottom rail and then decide what kind of balusters I want to use. I could go rustic and start cutting about the same diameter little trees and either using them with the bark on or peeling it off, or I could use treated 2x2s. One would dictate a more formal little house, and the other would open it up to be maybe Hobbit looking.

Either way, I won't decide on what the little house structure is going to look like until I walk around up there and spend some time thinking about it. It sure is fun though, and that is another reason to not hire it out.

I think Florida's economy is going to be hurting for many years to come. I don't see another boom cycle in the near future, so we are going to keep everything about the same as it has been. Wanda and I will continue to stick close to home and see what we can create with our property. We have more than enough room to work on and that is great.

I can see the garden getting bigger, more fruit trees and adding more blueberry bushes, too. I don't know about a grape arbor, but I would like to plant some thornless blackberry bushes. The longer we are here, the more we will know about what will and what won't grow here. I would like another well on the land we bought next door. I want it to have a hand pump up hill from the garden.

There are just so many things we want to do, and if we do them ourselves, every one of them will keep us healthier. Yep, I think keeping everything going the same way for while will be just fine with me.

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