Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Bubble Begging for a Pin

With the market not sure what bad news would send it soaring today, here comes the Philly Fed to save the day by tumbling from October's 19.8 to a paltry 6.5, slamming through expectations of 15.0. This is the biggest miss since February and assures that ahead of today's POMO there is enough ammunition for a stock ramp to end the three days of declines. Since the economy is once again sliding on every possible banana peel, we can calmly go back to the "market" ramp.

The Fed has become masterful at blowing insane investment bubbles. Like all bubbles, they eventually burst (LTCM in the late 90's, 2000 Dot Com crash, 2006 Housing Market Crash, 2008 Leverage Crash). This time will be no different. For now, the Fed has managed to bypass the laws of rational finance. Who knows how far they can take it this time, but eventually you ignore fundamentals at your own peril. The Fed is already losing control of the bond market. I suspect we'll muddle through the holidays in a sideways to slightly up bias followed by a possible stock market reset happening sometime in conjunction with the next debt ceiling debate early in 2014. This could erase many months of gains in a few days. Is it really worth buying (or holding) at all time highs and trying to capture the last 3%-5% of upside in conditions like these? We'll soon know.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Our Own Boondocking Paradise (aka What Every Girl Wants for her Birthday)

We spent most of the Summer in Northern Idaho. This spot is close to the Canadian border and a day or less away from some of the prettiest areas of Western Montana, Eastern Washington, Northeast Oregon, British Columbia, Alberta, and, of course, Idaho. It also has the advantage of being in an agricultural area with a climate that allows for grape and stone fruit growing, has the largest hops farm in North America, boasts local providers of grass-fed beef and lamb, is host to plentiful wild game and trout fishing, and is surrounded by tens of millions of acres of mountainous public lands.

This fine boondocking site is on the last benchland above the Kootenay River Valley. It overlooks thousands of acres of farmland down to the river and has the Selkirk Mountains as a western backdrop. Other mountains nearby include the Purcell Range, the Cabinets, the Bitterroots, and the start of the Canadian Rockies.

Anyone who has camped through Northern Idaho and Western Montana knows it's difficult to find relatively flat land with good sun exposure for boondocking that isn't right next to a busy road, a railroad, or power lines. Most of the land up there is steep. Where there is a pass or a valley, the usual drill is to run a major road, a railroad, or power lines directly through it.

So we were pretty psyched when we found this spot with great early morning sun, brilliant sunsets, and, most importantly, no road noise, no train noise, and no power lines running through the scene.  As an added benefit, we have 15 GPM of pristine well water that filters through 300 feet of sand, stone and cracks in the pink granite. Since the location, climate, and neighbors are as good as it gets, we decided we had to buy it. Better yet, we closed on Susan's birthday making for a nice present.

One of our neighbors called the property "the Serengeti of Northern Idaho" because it is teeming with elk and deer. We've also seen mountain lion, bear and wolf tracks. We see a lot of game birds (grouse, pheasant, water fowl) including the local gang of prehistoric looking wild turkeys.

The land rolls over open bench tops and down into gullys that provide shelter for wildlife. It has a perfect mix of wide open vistas and cool forest groves. The forested areas are primarily Douglas Fir, Larch (aka Tamarack), and Ponderosa Pine. For diversity, there are groves of Cedar, White Pine, Aspen, and the occasional Junipers.

The larch is an interesting "pine" tree. It's actually a deciduous tree with pine needles that turn yellow and are shed each Fall.

The land was logged about 40 years ago and there are old logging skid trails throughout the property. Between these and the numerous game trails, we have miles of hiking, mountain biking, or even maybe cross country skiing....someday.

The reason we are spared from a railroad as a neighbor this close to the valley floor is that this spur of the Kootenay Valley Railroad was abandoned and removed in the early 1970's. The entire western boundary of the property, and our road into our boondocking site, is the old railroad bed. We'll need to improve about a half mile of this road into our boondocking site. If anyone wants to pay for the road improvements, naming rights to the road are still available. :-)

A small creek also empties into the valley at our property. This pretty little wetland was ravaged by cattle overgrazing. We plan to restore it and make it even better for wildlife. We're looking to coax the moose into coming back.

An historic old grain elevator is also on the property. It was built high above the tracks and was used by local farmers to load their grain onto the trains.

Our new boondocking spot had some access issues. We've roughed in a nice easy driveway incline and started a pad. After some rock is added next year, this will be ready for any size rig to park and maneuver in comfort.

Idaho is fun, but now it's time to move south again. As much as we love it up there, we're not ready to give up traveling fulltime just yet!