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“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.”  –  Ralph Waldo Emerson

I guess I’m not as young as I used to be.  I thought I would finish my post about those damn Yankees yesterday evening, but I fell asleep at the computer.  I guess I’ll wrap it up this morning before I start my day.

Before I wrap this story up, there is a very funny incident I will try to describe.  As a city slicker, I never thought any animal had a personality except cats and dogs.  Living on a farm has taught me otherwise.  Most of the goats were real sweet.  Some liked to get attention, and a few were skittish. The young goats were very animated and the males were, well, they mostly thought of just one thing – mating!  But I found out that these goats did have individual little personalities different from one another.  I found it thoroughly amazing.

Back to the funny incident.  When goats freshen, unlike humans who are flat on their back in a hospital seeking assistance from a doctor, they usually don’t have any problem.  This one goat was especially nimble.  She had given birth to one kid and after checking out that kid and verifying that all was well, she went about her business of walking around and eating.  Well she wasn’t quite done and as she was walking around, another goat started coming out, but not all the way.  This little one was partly out – the head was out and the sack was broke.  Mama was grazing when she suddenly heard a baby call out to her. She turned around, called back but didn’t see any baby.  Once again the baby call out – baa, baaaa, and mama turned around again and called back but didn’t see a baby.  Now mama was getting panicky and started looking around for this baby that was calling her more and more.  She ran back to the pen to check on the baby she gave birth to, and it was sleeping soundly.  Suddenly she hear the cry again, baa, baaaa, turning around and calling back she still didn’t see a baby.  By this time Rob and I were on the ground in tears laughing so hard.  She was quite a sight – a normal goat head on the one end and a little tiny head sticking out of her rear on the opposite end.  Each one calling the other and not seeing the other.  Luckily with each baaaa, baaaa, the little goat came out a little more and finally finished his journey in the pen next to his sibling.  Mama looked at us when this second goat appeared as if to say, where did he come from?  I wish I had my camera with me at that time, it would have been a great shot.  But of course this happened over the course of a few minutes and I would have missed the whole thing had I gone for my camera.

Eventually our daughter grew up, got married, had a baby and moved away.  Farming and taking care of animals became harder and harder. The chickens were the first to go, not that we ate them or got rid of them, – the coyotes took care of that for us.  One by one we would find a dead hen in the pasture with its stomach ripped wide open and the entrails scattered around.  Not a  pretty site.

The  goats all had names – females had individual names and wethers all had the same name – bar-b-que!  We had regular customers who came to purchase the wethers and eventually all we had left were females.  One day, after an unusually long period of rain, we sold off the remaining herd.  Why did I mention rain you ask?  Well, when it rains a lot, the goats need to be wormed more frequently, and that was a very tedious task that required at minimum two people, and at best three people. With our daughter married and gone, it became a task neither my husband or myself wanted to do.  I usually had to do it alone because he was at work and if I waited for him to have a day off, it felt to him as if he didn’t have a day off.  So we decided to sell the remaining herd to a farmer about 30 miles north of us.  It was a relief to not have the daily task of feeding and corralling the goats, but soon the rear pasture became overgrown again.  We opened the goat pasture back up to Max, our stallion, and during the winter months the rear pasture looked good.  But each summer would bring more and more weeds until even during the winter there were lots of weeds left.  Now with Max gone, it will become a jungle again.

Today a friend will be bringing one of his friends by to check out our rear pasture.  He needs another pasture for his cows.  I guess he has more cows than his land can handle.  I’ve never had cows nor been up close to a cow before.  Cows don’t seem to be very intelligent, but I’ve been told they too have personalities.  I guess I’ll find out if he decides to rent our pasture.  If he ends up not renting out pasture, in the spring we will plant pines. At least the smell will be good and the future sale of the wood in 15-20 years will be something to look forward to.

So, I guess having been down here for 21 years and not planning on leaving or returning to the north makes me a damn Yankee!



“Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.” –  Oscar Wilde

Last night I got so tired I decided to finish my post today, but I forgot to change the publish date.  I woke up this morning to find a half published post, so, here is “the rest of the story”.

Where was I, oh yes, goat milk.  I learned that you don’t milk a goat in anything but stainless and store the milk in glass only.  For some reason, plastic imparts an unpleasant taste to the milk.  Once I got this technique down, and of course, keeping the rear hooves from either stepping in the bucket or knocking it over, fresh goat milk became a staple in our home.  I even began drinking milk again, like I did as a child. As I got older I stopped drinking milk because I became lactose intolerant.  Goat milk on the other hand, has smaller fat molecules, and therefore is more easily digested. And if you think what is sold in the stores as goat milk tastes good, you’re in for a real treat when you taste fresh goat milk.  It’s really really good! So, now I didn’t have to worry about running out of milk either.

I did draw the line at making butter and cheese. After all, butter will freeze well and cheese lasts a good long time.  So here we had a little farm going, why not grow vegetables too.  My husband roto-tilled up about a quarter of an acre and we planted Roma tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers of all kinds, eggplant squash and various herbs. I also had fruit trees – peach, pear, grapefruit, orange and lemon.  This was starting to be fun.  I even had a section of beautiful antique roses growing and boy, were they beautiful and odoriferous.

Little by little we added more goats, meat goats – two milk goats was all I wanted to milk .  We purchased a few Spanish meat goats along with some Boar goats and of course a buck to keep all the nannies happy.  Then I found out that when the nannies freshened – gave birth, – I would have to eventually wether – neuter – the bucks or they may mate with their mother. Neutering was not a pleasant thought to this city girl, and even more unpleasant to my husband.   This process of banding the testes of a male goat or sheep is called wethering.  I guess it’s called that because when the process is all said and done, at first glance one doesn’t know whether they are looking at a male or female goat.  All kidding aside, or should I say joking aside, this was not my favorite task although not a difficult one.  Soon ten goats became twenty, which became forty and so on untill we were up to seventy-five goats. At this point the rear pasture was pretty much cleaned up.  When we started with goats the rear pasture was so overgrown, there were weeds taller than me.  By the time our goat numbers reached 75 the rear pasture looked like a golf course.  It is at this point that I found out a full-grown goat can squeeze through a hole in the fence the size of  a quarter.

At first it was just two or three goats getting out and getting them back in was fairly easy.  I shook a bucket with feed in it and led the goats back into their pen.  But the more goats that got out, the harder it was to get them back in. What would happen was they would all rush me and my little bucket of feed before I could get them back in their pen. Fifteen goats to one 5′-2″ woman with a bucket of feed – guess who wins – the goats. This was becoming frustrating because there were no visible holes in the fence, how were they getting out?

One day my husband came home from work and the goats were out again.  My husband quickly got them back in and when I came home he told me how he found the goats lounging around the front porch chewing their cud quite contentedly. He also told me how he managed to get them back in. I wondered what those darn goats got into while they were in the front yard, so I went to check things out for myself.  Well they not only got into the front yard, but also the side where our garden was. Luckily, the growing season was over and there were no tomato or pepper plants left.  But as I turned to survey the rest of the garden, I couldn’t believe my eyes, they ate the lower branches off the fruit trees – even the citrus with the thorns. Then I quickly turned to see my rose garden and all I saw were 2 inches of stubby shoots coming from the ground. –  THEY ATE MY ROSES! THORNS AND ALL!! Those *#@#*#*@*#* goats! Then I looked at my husband and told him he’d better find and fix whatever hole they were getting out of.  Later, when I calmed down, we both walked the fence line and found no holes whatsoever.  How were these goats getting out?   I had a plan – tomorrow I would watch from in the house and catch them in the act.

I think those darn goats bugged our house because they didn’t get out the next day, or the day after, or the day after that.  It was actually four days before they finally did the Houdini trick again and this time I caught them.  There was one section of the fence where erosion had left a small space between the bottom of the fence and the ground.  These goats would stick their head under the fence and wiggle their way to the other side. The fence was beginning to curl at that spot, making it even easier for them to escape. Now, how do we fix this?  We could add dirt, but the next rain would just wash it away.  We could block it with objects, but the goats will just find another spot. What to do? My husband decided to put a hot wire near the lower part of the fence, so they couldn’t rub along the fence anymore.  That worked, but we had to be careful when we went in the pen not to let the wire touch us as we opened the gate. Then of course there was the problem of walking too close to the fence when it was sprinkling rain – occasionally an electrical pulse would connect with our skin and send us shaking our head, rubbing our zapped spot and mumbling some incoherent words about goats. Such was life on the farm.

One Saturday, when my in-laws were visiting, we came home from the store to find the back field empty once again.  Together we went looking for the goats and found them two miles down the road happily eating the bushes in a neighbor’s front yard. Rob went back home to get a bucket of feed and the pickup.  The plan was my mother-in-law would sit on the back of the pick up shaking the bucket of feed  so the goats would follow and our daughter and I would try to keep the goats in line following the truck.  If you’ve ever lived in the country, you’ve probably had occasion to wait while a farmer crossed his cows  to another pasture across the road.  When farmers do this they are organized.  Usually there are a few hands on horseback guiding the herd, while there is a truck at both end of a section of road stopping traffic, and a few more men making sure no calves  stray.   Here we were, a couple of city slickers trying to get forty goats down two miles of road.  We might as well have been trying to herd cats. Eventually we did make it back, and all the goats were safe and sound.  But what a fiasco! We did make a few people laugh along the way as they slowly crept by in their cars. I’m sure we were quite a sight!

Oh, I forgot to mention the part about Max, our horse.  We had to fence off a section of the pasture for him when the young goats were old enough to venture out on their own.  Max got along real good with grown goats.  They would graze side by side without a problem. But the young goats of two or so months he thought were his very own play toys. He would pick them up by the back of their neck and toss them a few feet.  That didn’t go over very good with the mommy goats and they would run towards Max  screaming and trying to get their babies to safety. Luckily, there was another section of pasture we could fence off for Max before any of the babies were hurt by his playfulness.

Farming was soon becoming a drudge – no longer fun.



“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” – Albert Einstein

How many years does it take for a Yankee to become a Damn Yankee? Five years, ten years, fifteen years? Maybe it just takes putting up with the strange-looking and gigantic bugs that call north Florida their home.

Just a few weeks ago I was joking around with a friend who was moving north.  She was born and raised in the south and now she was moving to the mountains of North Carolina. True, it’s not the same as moving to New Jersey, New York or Massachusetts, but still in all, North Carolina is up there.   I told her she was going to become Northernized (my own word) and after living there, she probable won’t want to come back to sunny Florida. She turned and looked at me and said, “and you’re a damn Yankee”.  Then she asked me if I knew what a damn Yankee was. I just laughed and said yes,  “I moved here and stayed!”

But I began thinking, I’ve been here 21 years and this is the first time someone actually said that to me.  I wonder if 20 years is the benchmark for becoming a damn Yankee?

I really don’t mind living here – but it took many years to get to that point.  It definitely was a culture shock – moving from New York to Alachua. I’m not talking upstate New York, but the city.  I was born in Manhattan, raised in the Bronx and moved to Long Island 13 years before moving to Florida.  I used to commute from the Bronx to Manhattan to go to work. I worked in the garment district, for a company that imported woman’s knit clothes.  When the buyers came into town, I modeled the clothes and got to keep everything I modeled.  When buyers were not in town, I was a one girl office.  Even when I moved to Long Island, although I no longer worked in Manhattan, I would go there quite often to catch a play or just study the architecture.  When I went to study the architecture, I would go to Queens first and pick up my childhood friend. Then we would go into Manhattan and make a day of it with the kids.  Walking from one end to the other. The summer before I left for Florida we did this three times a week.  So being used to walking everywhere I thought nothing of sending my daughter next door or to the 7-11 to pick up an ingredient I was missing for dinner or a cake I had started.  Here, it is a 10 mile trip – one way – to the grocery store.  I quickly learned to either abandon the thought of whipping up something at the spur of the moment, or making sure I was stocked up on staples, for those last-minute deserts.

My wonderful husband took this dilemma of mine one step further.  He thought it would be a good idea to raise chickens, so I would never be out of eggs. He fixed the little play house in the back specifically for the barred rock chickens he bought.  He put some 5 gallon buckets on their sides and stuffed them with hay.  Now the chickens had a comfy place to lay their eggs.  Only thing was, no one told the chickens they were supposed to us the buckets to lay their eggs in. Eventually they figured it out and collecting the eggs became easy.

Next, to prevent us from running out of milk, he got a couple of Nubian goats for me to milk.  I thought my idea of powdered milk was a much better idea. Anyway, I learned how to milk goats, and how to process and store the milk.  As a matter of fact, I actually began to like goat milk – you know – the fresh kind – not the pasteurized, cardboard boxed kind.  That tastes nothing like the real thing.



“This I do know beyond any reasonable doubt. Regardless of what you are doing, if you pump long enough, hard enough and enthusiastically enough, sooner or later the effort will bring forth the reward.”  –   Zig Ziglar

Okay, so you’ve finally decided to put your home on the market – after the holidays – and start looking for that new home. There are dozens of new model homes to tour, and several areas you are considering. Once you start marketing your home, what can you do to protect yourself against that “domino” effect if you go on contract for a new home, while considering offers on your existing one? How can you minimize your risk, the way a builder does in a new home purchase?

It’s actually a great idea to “mirror” the builder’s program for purchasing a new home by conducting the sale of your new home along the same lines. Find out how much earnest money is required by the builder, and ask the same (or more) from a potential buyer. If further deposits are required by the builder along the way, ask for similar deposits from your buyer to feel confident that they are as committed as you are to the purchase. This may give you the feeling of lessened exposure in your transaction.

Your real estate agent can guide you through this process; ask him or her to “structure” counter-offers to buyers so as to minimize your risk. If you look at new home purchase agreements, there are time frames and safeguards in place for all kinds of elements of the agreement. Many new home contracts ask for written preliminary loan approval within the first 30 days of acceptance.

Depending on the escrow time for the offer on your home, it would be wise to do the same. This is one of the most critical aspects of either transaction, because everything hinges upon procurement of a qualified, loan approved buyer. (Ask your agent to explain the importance on “liquidated damages”, so that you know what recourse you have should your buyer fail to perform according to the terms of the contract).

Are you afraid your home will sell so quickly that you may not have time to find just the right new home? Add a clause to your acceptance that gives you a comfortable time frame in which to find a home, such as “offer accepted contingent upon seller’s purchase of another home within the first — days after acceptance of this contract.” I am sure at this point everyone will want to give you advice on where to find a new home! This is also a great protection for you if you are moving to an area unfamiliar to you, where it may take some time to scout all the new home areas.

There are three common scenarios when buying a new home while dealing with selling your existing one. One is to make a completely contingent purchase agreement. This is one in which you sign a contract with the builder to buy their home, but the purchase is wholly dependent upon the sale of your own. The “up” side of this is that you really are risking nothing monetarily. You are also put into the position of “first right of refusal” to any new buyer wishing to purchase the same home. This means that, if the builder is presented with a buyer whose position is stronger than yours (home in escrow, or no home to sell), they must give you a period of time – usually 48-72 hours – to decide if you can remove your contingency on that particular home site. If the down payment for your new home is primarily dependent upon the proceeds from the existing home, you may opt to “let go” of the new home and transfer your deposit to another home in the subdivision, or bow out altogether. The “down” side is that you may lose the home site or home of your dreams. Offers contingent on the sale of a home in a relatively healthy new home market have the potential to send you and your family on an emotional rollercoaster, so prepare yourselves for the ride.

Another consideration is to decide not to sign a purchase agreement on a new home until yours is in escrow. This may limit your time frame to move or find another home, but can give you the confidence you need to proceed with a new home purchase. Most builders consider “contingent upon the close of escrow” to be a fairly sure thing, especially when you and your real estate agent have furnished the builder with written loan approval for your buyer. If this is the route you choose, you may need to consider interim housing, should your new home not be ready for occupancy in time.

The third scenario is applicable only if you have the wherewithal to qualify for a new home purchase without the proceeds from your existing home. That is, you are willing to sign a non-contingent purchase agreement with the builder. You may have your home listed you home through the process of buying the new one, but are willing to do whatever it takes to make the new home purchase proceed without the proceeds from your old one. This may include an eventual change of terms or pricing on your listed home to make it sell, or even the idea of leasing it out until it sells. This can be a scary prospect to many buyers who envision double house payments at some point. Your listing agent is the person to rely upon to communicate recent neighborhood home sale activity, and should be willing to recommend your course of action. Hopefully, you would not have to get of the point of renting it out, unless the prospect of it does not deter you completely.

A real estate expert can guide you through this process as your advocate and advisor. Just remember that the agent is employed by you during the listing period. Communicate all of your concerns to your agent so that he or she can better represent your needs to potential buyers of your home. A good agent is, indeed a safeguard. Even if your agent does not represent you in the purchase of your new home, they will want to help you achieve your objective of a new home purchase if they indeed have your best interests at heart.



“Ask, and it shall be given unto you.”  –  Jesus Christ

There’s nothing more frustrating to a ready, willing, and seemingly able buyer than to lose an offer to another buyer — especially since the seller was not specific (down to the letter) about what he expected to receive.

Sure, there’s the list price; but in today’s fast-paced market, a buyer/ prospect may offer thousands more than the list price and STILL not be the lucky buyer who gets the property!

That’s why sellers should be as specific as possible with buyers in what they want to receive and achieve in a successful offer.

Let’s tackle the major elements the seller should be prepared to address with serious buyers. I suggest that sellers (or their real estate agent) prepare a “Suggested Contract Requirement” sheet to give to buyers, outlining what they expect in the following:

Loan pre-approval
By now, it should go without saying that buyers without loan pre-approval shouldn’t be competing in the current market; but sadly, some are. That’s why it’s important for the seller to specify that buyers be pre-approved for loans ample enough to fund the purchase price, AND detail the type of loan and respective costs (if any) the seller would cover.

For example, a buyer might claim to be pre-approved for a mortgage of “x” amount. What she fails to disclose, however, is that it’s Veteran’s Administration (VA) financing and she expects the seller to cover her two discount points. On a $140,000 sales price (with zero down) that’s a hefty $2,800 for the seller.
Or what about the buyer who claims to have “cash” coming to him to fund the purchase (often coming from proceeds of an estate or settlement of a law suit.) The buyer’s funds are delayed. In order to close the sale, he must borrow the money, causing the seller a three-week delay in accessing his proceeds. Verifying the buyer’s funding (which is tougher to do in a “cash” sale) is vital for sidestepping potential delays for the seller.

Earnest Money
In the old, slower school of home buying a decade or more ago, buyers would offer a meager amount of earnest money or even a post-dated check with the idea that they could always up the ante if need be. In today’s market, more (rather than less) earnest money is advised in most situations. Not only does it subtly signify to the seller how financially motivated a buyer is, but can serve as a buyer’s first (and often only) shot at a strong first impression to the seller.
By letting prospective buyers know (in writing on the “Suggested Contract Requirement” sheet) the minimum amount of earnest money the seller is seeking, it places a strong buyer on equal footing with competitors. It also gives a heads-up that if you want a stronger foothold with the seller in this area, exceeding the suggested minimum amount is certainly in order! If a buyer structures an offer to include minimal contingencies like obtaining financing in a certain amount and the property appraising for at least the sales price, etc., earnest money would be at little risk of loss.

And what about contingencies? Should a seller require that buyers make all offers free of positively all contingencies if they’re serious about the property? Hardly. But keeping contingencies to a minimum (as we’ll see in Part II of this article) definitely gives buyers an added advantage over their competition and results in a smoother sale for you as a seller.



“Hold yourself responsible for a higher standard than anybody expects of you. Never excuse yourself.” –  Henry Ward Beecher

The kids are warring over bedroom space — even the dog wants more room! So one Saturday you innocently load everyone into the car, in search of a larger home. Emotionally, it makes sense.

But financially, are you prepared to part with some of your hard-earned equity (not to mention a bit more of your paycheck) in order to purchase a larger home? It’s going to cost you money to move up.

Simply explained, equity is the difference between what you owe on your home (all its mortgages, liens, etc.) and what you could obtain on the open market LESS YOUR COSTS OF SALE. (And the last part of that sentence is often overlooked by over-zealous move-up buyers!) But looking before you leap can make the difference between a financially prudent new purchase and a haunting economic disaster! Let’s evaluate the costs.

1) Some increased costs of purchase are obvious: You’ll be paying a larger mortgage payment monthly to own a larger home (depending on your down payment) your taxes will increase, and yes, even your home owner’s insurance will be more. And if your down payment isn’t at least twenty percent of the purchase price, you may even have private mortgage insurance to pay. It all adds up; but

2) Some increased costs of purchase aren’t so obvious: What about upkeep and maintenance? Utilities? Even the extended period of time it takes to clean the home on the weekend, taking time away from your family and other “fun” things—are you prepared for that?

3) One category most of us overlook when taking the “move up” plunge is to evaluate the chunk of equity it will cost us to sell our existing home, pay our buying costs, and move into another. Since 80% of all sellers hire a broker to sell their existing home (often saving money overall in doing so), you’ll no doubt benefit by that cost. You’ll add to it the additional sales costs of title insurance, transfer taxes, deed preparation, tax pro-ration—-basically all the costs paid by the seller when you purchased the home.

So should you move up? The answer depends on what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re purchasing a home that will appreciate faster than your current one, gives you more space, is in a better neighborhood, and/or will make you psychologically happier, it may make sense to move. It’s true that happiness becomes the over-riding factor to the move-up buyer. Yes, you may want different features than you have in your current home; but you also know that housing is housing— but being happy where you live is paramount!

The bottom line is that homebuyers purchase with their “gut” and justify the purchase with their wallet. Long after you’ve crunched the sales cost numbers and consulted with an expert to evaluate a new neighborhood, you’re still likely to follow your gut instincts and purchase the home that tugs hardest on your heart-strings. After all, it’s what living the American Dream is all about.



“Give whatever you are doing and whoever you are with the gift of your attention. ”   –  Jim Rohn

Unsophisticated home-shoppers tend to select a real estate agent based on a chance encounter at an open house or a friend-in-the-business referral. Savvy home-shoppers, on the other hand, do their homework, contact several successful agents and prepare lists of questions to ask these agents during how-can-you-help-me-buy-a-home interviews. Some of the questions should concern how involved the agent is in the high-tech aspects of real estate. All other qualifications being equal, here are six reasons why a tech-savvy agent can be a good bet.

1. High-tech agents use e-mail to keep in touch with their clients.
If you want to communicate with your agent via e-mail about houses for sale, purchase negotiations and the status of your real estate transaction, you obviously need an agent who not only is equipped to send and receive e-mail messages, but also actually uses e-mail. Even better would be an agent with a laptop computer, alphanumeric e-mail pager or other on-the-go e-mail capability.

2. High-tech agents have great access to information.
It’s no secret that the Web contains massive amounts of pertinent, informative and helpful information about real property and the business of real estate. A high-tech agent can find neighborhood profiles, mortgage qualifying calculators, real estate news, markets trends reports and much more with a few mouse clicks.

3. High-tech agents can steer you toward educational Web sites.
First-time home buyers, in particular, need to educate themselves about the wide world of home-buying and homeownership. A high-tech agent can recommend Web resources that explain everything from how to shop for a mortgage and why you need title insurance to how to pack your belongings and where to get seeds for your vegetable garden.

4. High-tech agents can help you house-hunt on the Web and by e-mail.
The days of squinting at tiny blurry pictures in a proprietary MLS book, then driving around for hours in the agent’s car are fast coming to an end. A high-tech agent can point you to the best and biggest house-hunting Web sites and use e-mail to zap new listings that meet your criteria directly to you.

5. High tech agents network online with other high-tech agents.                                  E-mail is becoming a popular means of communication for real estate agents, who use it to promote their listings to one another and keep in touch with market developments. In some communities, agents who don’t use e-mail are falling out of the loop.

6. Coming soon: High-tech agents will be able to organize and manage your transaction in cyberspace.                                                                                                             A number of real estate companies and organizations are vying with one another to be the first to launch a truly comprehensive real estate transaction service on the Web. These networks of real estate service providers promise to reduce paperwork, speed up communication and bring buyers and sellers to the virtual closing table faster than ever before.

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