EVERYONE BUYS, EVEN IF THEY RENT!

Understandably, home ownership is daunting to many people.  For MOST people, writing a rent check is like hitting the Snooze button on homelessness.  Fear of equity stability, repairs, flooding or whatnot often keep people tithing to the Landlord.  However, what very few people realize is, even if they Rent, they are Actually Buying (just, not for themselves—for their LANDLORD!).  It is extremely rare to find a monthly rent that is Lower than the landlords mortgage.  Why else would one own rental property? 

Our current market is interestingly unique.  There is precious little inventory available, making competition for rentals fierce.  Often, it’s harder to Rent a home, than it is to Buy a home.  Think of it this way: When one sells a home, unless there are very unusual extenuating circumstances, the seller cares very little about who buys the home.  The deal is consummated, and the parties part company.  However, in a rental situation (especially when inventory is so tight), the landlord exercises greater and greater discretion as to who they will accept.  The rental contract is more like getting married, AND divorced, simultaneously!  The terms of occupancy must be spelled out, as do the terms of terminating the relationship. 

What many renters Don’t realize is, a LOT more of them qualify to Purchase.  There are new programs from VHDA (Virginia Housing Development Authority) and USDA (yes, That USDA!) that promote home ownership in rural parts of Virginia.  Also, there are VA and FHA loans that afford up to 103% of the purchase price, as well as buyers subsidies, that make no-money-down and moving-expense-free buying a reality. 

Debbie and I are offering VHDA-sponsored Homebuyer Classes beginning the end of April.  These classes feature six areas of home buying that often mystify and intimidate the first time buyer.  We will have professionals speak on the topics of

·         Personal Finance: how to most efficiently budget, spend, and save,

·         Credit and Credit Reporting: how to understand, contest, and improve your credit scores,

·         Working with a Lender: Fair Housing, and escrow and PITI (Principle, Interest, Tax, and Insurance)

·         The Role of the Real Estate Agent:  Buyer/Broker Agreements, Negotiating and Marketing

·         Home Inspections: “Life as a Homeowner”, How to find a qualified Inspector, Home Maintenance, and

·         Loan Closing: Preparing for the Closing Table, Closing Disclosures, and FORCLOSURE Prevention!

Because participants and graduates of this class realize a 33% reduction in over-ninety-day delinquencies, and FIFTY percent fewer foreclosures, as well as increased resale values due to greater knowledge on home care, some loans require participation in this class for loan approval.  Regardless, all banks look very favorably toward applicants that have taken this free class.  Watch this Space for information on scheduling! 

Lastly, if you have considered SELLING your home, or know anyone who IS considering selling, Debbie and I would be Most Beholden if you would reach out to us!  Allow us to put our brokerage’s 100+ cumulative years’ experience to work for you, utilizing the most modern and innovative marketing techniques in the industry!   

Our economy is booming, which is a mixed blessing for home owners.  First off, it’s SPRING, and houses are going to sell Very quickly this time of year.  The second advantage is, due to the inventory scarcity, it is currently very much a Sellers’ market.  If you have considered Upsizing or Downsizing, now may be the best time, because home values are up, but Third, the Fed has not YET adjusted the interest rates.  Houses sell FAST in this market, and at this time of year.  Acting soon may both realize current highs in the resale prices, while also capitalizing on currently historically low interest rates.  Consider: A $400,000 mortgage, at current 4.27%, equals both a monthly payment of $1,972, and a total repayment of $710,080 over the life of the loan.  Were the fed to raise the interest rate one point, that same $400,000 mortgage would go up to $2,214 a month, with a total repayment of $796,958! 

Debbie and I would Love to work with clients to find the right Rental unit, offer they our VHDA-sponsored Home Buying Course, assist them with finding your Dream home to Purchase, or find a Buyer for their current home! We are local to the Virginia Piedmont, Very Motivated, and have the horsepower to back it up! 

Beware of Resisting for the Sake of Resistance!

What makes living in Fauquier County special?  Why here, rather than Prince William, Loudoun, Stafford, perhaps Warren, Clark or even Culpeper (all fine counties, in their own regard)?  It’s a special blend of rural Piedmont, combined with culture and proximity.  What our county offers, and what we desire or require as a society, is a fine balance of development vs. conservation.  

Way back in prehistory, around about the early 1980’s, a Local Hero by the name of Till Hazel owned a bit of land on which he wanted to exercise his rights to develop.  It’s what he did.  Some say it’s in his blood.  This land was in the bucolic backwater of Gainesville.  At the time, the only thing there was an old floundering iron foundry and a handful of gas stations.  His parcel was adjacent to property that backed up to the Manassas Battlefield.  The time was right, the stars aligned, awareness came along and BANG!  Protesting his audacity became Hip.  Chic!  One was in the “In” crowd if they hosted benefit balls and protest lines.  Editorials flew like moths on an August night.  Socialites rallied to the defense of the Proud Memory of the United States Civil War (ironic, now, innit?).  Enough bad press was created to motivate the United States Government to step in and perform the theretofore unprecedented (and, as exercised, completely unconstitutional) act of seizing his land through Imminent Domain.  I put it to YOU; How many of you have enjoyed the lovingly preserved piece of battlefield known as Stuart’s Hill?  How many of you even know where it is, or that it exists?  

Yeah!, Victory!  Today, the Eternal Protection of our Heritage is damn near palpable, as one drives through Atlas Walk, to the Target, the Best Buy, the Lowes Hardware, to any one of the thirty or more Fine Dining establishments, perhaps to the Multiplex.  Or, maybe one zooms past all the aforementioned Progress and Development, over the eight lanes of Flyover, en-rout to the OTHER Multiplex, and Duluth Trading, perhaps to dine at Pizzeria Uno and a Golden Corral (Yum!), at Parkland Center, a shopping center actually CARVED from the Real Battlefield.  Aren’t we all so glad we railed and fought and defended the Honor and Memory of our Heritage??  

Let’s revisit an incident a few years later.  Same area.  Same argument.  This time, Disney sniffs around the prospect of bringing grand, first-class commercial development.  Hundreds of construction jobs, hundreds of perpetual jobs.  Good, secure, retirement-fund sort of jobs.  And people went ballistic.  “How DARE Disney even Propose to build an amusement park (An AMUSEMENT Park!!??) near our Hallowed Grounds of the Battlefields!!  How DARE they even suggest such a thing?!  They must be STOPPED!!  We must protect our Battlefields!! Just last month, Fauquier County buried one of it’s Favorite Sons, a Philanthropist and Conservationist who’s crowning achievement was the promotion of the Piedmont Environmental Council.  He was instrumental in the protection and conservation of the precious Heritage lands Disney was coveting.  

Well, due to the relentless media black coverage and endless hyperbole, Disney concluded that shoving prosperity and security across the table at an unwelcoming community wasn’t worth the bad publicity worldwide.  So they pulled out.  Again, “Yay!!” Victory for the “Conservationists”!!  Let’s remember that victory, as we sit in yet more bumper to bumper traffic.  The entirety of Dominion Valley sits completely, perfectly in the exact same footprint that Disney WAS going to occupy.  Aren’t WE proud of our efforts of Battlefield Preservation?!  Aren’t WE grand, having kept the commercial specter of Disney at bay?  Aren’t we glad we’ve kept that “Sprawl” from the doorstep of our precious Battlefield?  I wonder what the Late, Great Mr. Prince thought, as he drove past Dominion Valley.  Did he golf there?  Was he a member of the Club?  Was Dominion Valley REALLY the goal of all that Preservation of our Precious Battlefield?

Our county has, contrary to occasional belief, remained comparatively unscathed from this relentless urban sprawl.  This county does not know true, real, unmitigated sprawl of quarter acre lots across the horizon, far as the eye can see.  We have no Dale Cities, no Bristows, no Leesburgs, no Purcellvilles, no Centrevilles or Manassas Parks. 

There are things that we want for our county.  We want Libraries.  We want County-wide High Speed Internet.  We want spotless cell coverage.  Top-notch fire, rescue and police protection.  But we are rabidly protective of our rural nature.  How to achieve both?  How to receive revenue, but avoid the trappings of sprawling development? 

Revenue is a tricky thing.  It takes money to make money.  Consider this:  Let’s say we want to encourage industry.  We hear that Delphi Corporation wants to build and operate an automotive electronics plant in the Piedmont region.  Hypothetically, they are seeking a location for a one billion dollar factory.  They’ll employ 1700 people, and the county will realize a revenue stream of up to two hundred million dollars.  Sounds great!  Lots of employment, lots of revenue.  Alas, lots of families, lots of housing, lots of commuters, new schools, a new hospital, a fire house, shopping centers, and playgrounds and fast food and Starbucks and El Taco Bells.  Before you know it, the entire region becomes indistinguishable from Dulles Town Center (!).  Before you blink, that $200,000,000.00 is consumed and swallowed up in infrastructural support.  

A medium to large Data Center can easily represent a Billion Dollar investment.  The county Can realize construction jobs, real estate taxes, income taxes, and improvements to the surrounding infrastructure.  A Two Hundred Million dollar revenue steam is an easy realization from a billion dollar Data Center installation.  The Center will also improve local roads, power infrastructure, cooling water systems.  High Speed Internet naturally goes where Data Centers are.  Cellular communications infrastructure are automatically improved.  No, Data Centers do NOT employ many people in their continuing operation.  But that’s actually the point.  We receive the billion dollar installation, and two hundred million dollars in revenue, without having to provide the infrastructure that supports one thousand seven hundred families moving into an otherwise virgin area.  We may THEN take that revenue, improve our County Wide infrastructures, and we can THEN entertain Certain growth, Certain Select developments.  Imagine being able to exercise discretion and discrimination, being able to Elect and Chose which developments we Allow into our proximity! 

Yes, they are huge monolithic structures.  Some may object to them based entirely on their aesthetics.  Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder but, if the LOOKS of a structure are Truly That much of a deal killer, the buildings could be mandated to look like Dairy Barns.  How the building is shaped, what color it is, is really irrelevant to the “ones and zeros” flowing into and out of the structure.    

But I beseech you all.  Please, PLEASE learn from Recent history.  For some reason, it seems our immediate reaction to any Development, Progress, Construction, or Innovation is Knee Jerk resistance.  Consider the public’s skepticism towards the innovative approaches to traffic control being proposed along Routs 15, 29, Broadview Avenue, and the Lord Fairfax interchange.  If it’s unfamiliar or new, we recoil in horror and doubt.  Believe me, if we summarily dismiss the prospect of “Clean” prosperity offered by Data Centers, we WILL suffer the eventual sprawl and congestion and housing and housing and housing and Burger Kings and Traffic and before you can BLINK, Fauquier County will become indistinguishable from Loudoun, Prince William, Stafford.  

And that’s not a Piedmont Horse Hunt Country I want to live in.  I’m a Realtor.  I could make a fortune peddling McMansions all across our county.  But at what cost, to what makes life here desirable in the first place?

When a Guilty Pleasure becomes a Public Nuisance

So, recently I drove down our bucolic and beautiful Crest Hill Road, for perhaps the five thousandth time.  Perhaps it was because it had been so long since I drove it in the middle of winter.  Perhaps it was because the VDOT had recently finished their aggressive mowing and trimming of the brush along the road.  Regardless, I was struck by the amazing, disgraceful, and disrespectful amount of litter along the road.  

Seeing all this litter brought back two very vivid memories of my youth.  The first, I was very young, perhaps five or six.  Mom and the five or six of us kids (often a revolving cast of characters) were driving home from Woodbridge to where we lived in Harbor View, near Occoquan.  My oldest brother nonchalantly tossed his soda can out the window.  My mother flipped her lid.  She stopped the car, and forced my then-twelve-year-old brother to not only pick up THAT soda can, but to walk in front of the car, with her flashers on, and pick up every piece of garbage he found for a quarter mile.  He was humiliated, and an impression was made on us all. 

Alas, the impression was deadened in me some years later by the effects of copious amounts of alcohol.  Fast forward to the spring of 1984.  Spring Break, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida!  I, along with a bevy of high school friends, drove down in two cars.  One fantastic sunny early spring day, I was passenger in one car as we crept and crawled along A1A.  I upended my beer (yes, underage, yes, in a vehicle, YES, this was an entirely OTHER time), and casually dropped the can out the door.  Not three seconds later, the can smacked me in my head, and Very Large, gruff hands grabbed my shirt collar and lifted me out of the car!!  A burly face yelled in my rapidly sobering face, “LISTEN, Yankee!!  We BARELY tolerate you maggots down here At ALL!!  You litter in MY street again, and I’ll kick your punk ass all the way back to Virginia, where you Belong!!  Bravo, to my unknown hero!   

So, back in present day, and with a respect for not littering that has lasted to date, I determined to follow up and pursue the group that had ostensibly “Adopted” this section of roadway.  It was “Friends of Lake Athlone” (the lake around which we, and perhaps thirty other homes, lived).  After further inspection, I discovered the Friends of Lake Athlone had consisted of one elderly couple, who had retired to Florida some two years earlier!  I proposed to Debbie that we take that stretch of road over, contacted Warrenton VDOT, and put this ball in motion.  

The receptionist/organizer of the local Adopt A Highway program was very encouraging, and promised we could have a new sign installed after our second cleaning and servicing of the road.  We loaded up with reflective vests and some twenty orange trash bags, and were promptly met with relentless cold front after frigid air after light snow.  

This week, we were blessed with two glorious days, between bouts of sub teen zero temps and rain squalls.  We attacked the project, thinking we would perhaps complete half the road (one “Adopts” a two mile stretch).  After two days, we completed the first quarter mile of road, and are exhausted and sore everywhere.  While the remainder of the road is sprinkled with trash here and there, the first three quarters of a mile are right out of a third world country.  We gathered up EIGHT TRASH BAGS of garbage.  I learned a few things about human nature, and what I believe are motives for the horrible quantity of garbage right at the headland of Crest Hill.  

First, that there is a surprising similarity in the garbage.  This would indicate that either the same perpetrator is responsible for the garbage (a hefty achievement, tossing some ten CASES of beer out their window!!), or that we are rather predictable animals.  

Second, that the motive is secrecy.  Folks are stopping off at either McDonalds, 7-11, or Fosters on their way home, snatching up the guilty pleasure of their choice (hot dog, pizza, beer, burger, canned or fountain sodas, candy), scarfing them down in rabid desperation, then realizing even the trash, if left in their car, would betray them to their significant others or their families (“you’r CHEATING on your Diet??  You’re Diabetic!!”, or “you Promised you would quit drinking, or drinking and driving!!”)

Third, that familiarity breeds contempt.  We ignore and become contemptible of what we are around all the time, regardless of how beautiful it is.  

Forth, perhaps, is that once litter starts, it simply continues unabated and often accelerated.  I’m reminded of the old joke, “They never put up a ‘No Dumping’ sign, until it’s Too Late!!”  I’m afraid people just don’t think their wee tiny little contribution to the mess really matters or would even be noticed.  Also, I think (and HOPE) that, once cleaned, people will be more reluctant to BEGIN the process.  Who wants to be the First to cast that stone?  

Hopefully, in due course, we’ll find out that people are reluctant to litter on a Now Clean roadway.  At least, discouraged….

Our work on the road continues.  It will take Many days to complete our entire two mile stretch.  If you see us out on 647, Crest Hill Rd., tap the horn, wave, and know, We are Volunteers—NOT on Work Release!  😀    

Everybody Knew This Was Nowhere…..

Way back in 1969, Neil Young released a song and album titled “Everybody Knows This is Nowhere”.  As the youngest member of a family growing up (at that time, in Woodbridge, then Haymarket, then ultimately Marshall in Northern Fauquier County), I heard that refrain sung, mumbled, grumbled, and shouted dozens of times.  There were Precious few attractions, restaurants, venues, and general overall “Things To DO” in Fauquier County then.  

Back in the early seventies and eighties, the Northern Virginia Piedmont was, frankly, Nowhere.  And that was a major appeal to my parents, and many other parents.   Much to the chagrin of so many adolescents, young adults, and teenagers.

Upon returning to Fauquier County as an adult, I realize the region has certainly Grown Up!  Contrast those languid, often boring summers and seemingly endless winters hibernating, with the amazing evolution of activities, attractions, events, venues, and entertainment the area offers today!  

These days, Virginia Gold Cup, is just ONE brief, passing event held at Great Meadows.  They offer events year long, including Polo, the best Fireworks in the tri-county area, and myriad other activities.  

Just last week, I had a completely unexpectedly appealing evening at the sprawling and hugely diverse Orlean Market.  They had excellent live music, a hopping bar, an excellent and extensive dinner menu, indoor and outdoor seating, a great, authentic old-time Country General Store and Market, and even a Gasoline Pump!  Rumor has it the venue is only going to grow and expand, offering rooms and event services!

One can spend DAYS travelling the now famed and world renowned Fauquier County Winery and Vineyard Trail.  I understand Pearmund Cellars has been voted the Best Winery in Virginia!  

When one pauses to consider the evolution and development of our smaller villages and hamlets, and the attractions they offer, one begins to realize that Northern Fauquier County has indeed “Come into it’s Own”. Warrenton, Deleplane, Orlean, The Plains, and Especially MARSHALL (I’ll dedicate an entire paragraph to Marshall–watch this space, there will be entire Blogs dedicated to Marshall!), are in the midst of a culinary and cultural Renaissance.  

The Plains has remained a “one-t-intersection-hamlet”, with only four stop signs, yet offers some amazing new dining and shopping.  With the advent of The Front Porch, and Happy Creek Coffee and Tea (and Bicycles!), Griasole, and the Benchmark Standby, The Rail Stop Cafe, The Plains is ever-refreshing and interesting.  It is a delightful place to shop, view beautiful architecture, and people-watch from any one of it’s cafes and restaurants.  

And as for Marshall!  To witness an historic village undergo a true awakening, a Renaissance without the pretense of Gentrification, is a truly remarkable thing.  Main Street in Marshall is rapidly becoming a mecca for new, innovative, world class dining.  With the imminent burial of all power and utility lines, as well as the renovation of over a dozen historic buildings, Marshall truly will be the one to watch!  There are too many fine dining spots, and exciting events and activities to list here in this blog.  Marshall is even getting a double decker BUS cafe!  I can (and likely will!) devote and entire blog to the next generation of Marshall.  

Horses, Racing, Touring, Dining, Dining, and Dining!, Shopping, Live Music!, Festivals, Hiking, Sightseeing, and more History, Heritage, and Culture than one can find in many States, makes Northern Fauquier truly a Bloom worth watching, and Very little like the culturally barren tundra our Fine Mr. Young sang about some fifty years ago.

Sure, it isn’t, and never will be, Metropolis.  And that’s why we love it here! 

The CLOUD Difference is that we not only are involved in real estate, more importantly its the people, their lives and the lifestyle within their community.

Working together ensures our communities and our lifestyles.  Please spend some time to be aware, be informed and take action with in your community.  Show up at hearings.  Read the paper everyday.  Be involved in your community events & groups.

THE CONUNDRUM of BALANCING PROGRESS with HERITAGE

Since time began, there has been a continuous and delicate balance between Development and Conservation.  The desire and need for expansion and accommodation drives humankind to discover, settle, grow, build, and prosper. 

Throughout the evolution of humans, the Adventurous Ones have ventured into the unknown, claiming new territory, fighting off threats, and staking claim to spaces to be Civilized and Developed.  Simultaneously, we have had Settlers, who have made the Known Areas bigger, more comfortable, with added amenities and safeguards, and developed societies and social norms. 

It has long been that precious area, between the Frontier and the City, that area that has been “Settled”, in the minds of those who came before any newcomers, that is often embroiled in Conservation vs. Development controversy.  What the Settlers of generations back call “Invasion”, and “Sprawl”, the newcomer often calls “Quaint”, or “Remote”.  And they are both referring to the SAME area! 

Perspective has a Very intoxicating and pervasive affect.  That same Settler may venture further afield someday, on an adventure or a vacation.  They “discover” a New place, and ascribe the same adjectives to that New area that the Newcomer uses to describe the hometown they ventured from! 

One’s perspective on a place is indelibly influenced and molded by the point at which they are introduced.  I spent almost two decades in Very remote parts of the world—places that are considerably different than they were when I arrived.  When I return for visits, I sit at a beach bar, and lament how things have Changed, how Built Up the place has become.  “They’ve RUINED it!!”, I lament to the guy sitting next to me.  Meanwhile, He’s thinking the place is just the Bees Knees!  So Remote!  So Primitive!  So Exclusive!  “Yeah, but, you should have seen it WHEN!!”, I say… 

The halted interchange at I 66 and Rt. 55 between the Plaines and Thoroughfare Gap, Way back when I 66 was installed, the proposed Buckland Bypass(s), The Old Town Warrenton Bypass-Bypass, Van Metre in Marshall, Leckner Fords Expansion, the list goes on ad infinitum.  Urban, and suburban sprawl, building, development, and “Progress” are the inevitable consequences of time, population, influx, discovery, and prosperity.  So often, and so easily, we fall prey to the hypocrisy of, “I’m Here now!!  We must STOP this insane Development!!”.   

Researching the recent developments on the proposals being bantered about regarding the traffic problems on the Rt. 29 corridor between Warrenton and Gainesville, I came across an article in the Washington Post about this.  Dateline, November 26, 2006. 

As I read online commentary regarding the recent (non)development about the proposals, I was reminded of an article from the News Optomist.  How do we avoid the seduction of adopting the all-around counterproductive N.I.M.B.Y., or “Not in My Backyard!”, not to be outdone are the B.A.N.A.N.A. folks—“Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone!”, who’s usual followers are C.A.V.E.’s—“Citizens Against Virtually Everything!” attitude? 

How do we accept, influence, control, and determine our own destiny?  How do we manage the inevitability of progress, yet avoid catching “The Tiger by the Tail” (can you Hear me, Gainesville?  Can you Hear me, Centreville?  Bristow?  Woodbridge?), being consumed by Crisis Response to a population and development explosion, one we have not Prepared and Accommodated for?  Equally important, how do we protect, promote, maintain and safeguard our Heritage Legacy, without becoming stiflingly restrictive (Hello, Middleburg!)? 

Our Heritage is a double-edged sword.  One that makes this area so attractive to newcomers, yet is at the heart of what we wish to preserve. 

I fully subscribe to a philosophy of Awareness, that Sunlight makes the Best Disinfectant.  I believe that we all, anyone that has a vested interest or concern for the beauty of our homeland, have an obligation to be as informed and aware as we possibly can.  Attend citizens meetings, attend zoning board hearings, petition your LOCAL government representatives.  Know what the issues are, be Informed about plans, proposals, and problems in the works.  We may not feel like we have much influence or impact, but if we neglect our God given and American Rights to Know about our public hearings, we acquiesce what real power we DO have.  It may not feel like much, but it’s even More valuable and important, as our impact may be minor.  What little we Can do must be fiercely guarded and exercised. 

I am reminded of my staunch position regarding two Major multibillion dollar global industries (that shall remain nameless) that I boycott.  On more than one occasion, they behaved in a manner that federal courts found criminal.  Their actions directly resulted in several deaths.  Their response and decades-long litigation has led me to refuse to ever purchase their goods.  My effect is admittedly infinitesimal.  Completely insignificant, in the grand scheme of things.  But it is ALL I can do, legally.  I Chose to exercise my rights to the Fullest extent of the law.  And because my influence and impact is so tiny, it is ever more important to ME that I exercise it. 

Daylight is the Best Disinfectant.  Be aware.  Be informed.  Be Concerned. 

Debbie and I, Chris Cloud, want to motivate the citizens of Fauquier County to attend Community Meetings, to know, be aware, and be informed of proposed changes to the slice of paradise we call home.  Whether you are for or against any proposal, the important thing is to be Informed!  We recognize the positive position we are in; one of being concerned with Limiting growth, rather than contending (as so many communities are) with contracting demographics and budget shortfalls.  We are blessed with opportunity.  With Prosperity.  

The CLOUD Difference is Debbie’s and my desire to facilitate decisions, either pro growth, development and expansion, or pro conservation, regulation, and throttling.  Our desire is to promote Educated citizens.  

We are available for collaboration and to discuss ideas!  

Misguidance and Faux Outrage in the Age of Environmentalism

The recent bruhaha over plastic straws in California has finally motivated me to present my experiences and opinions on the matters of Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling in the Age of Environmentalism.  I have personal first-hand experiences that are a wee bit unique, and I have a few observations and ideas for being more efficient and less emotionally reactive to our environment.

I believe that we, as a society, a nation, a people, and a civilization Must advance beyond the outdated idea that sequestering our garbage is the solution to our problems.  Rather, I suggest that it is past time to modernize our ideas about consumerism, packaging, and recycling.  All the energy and resources we spend on recycling bins, specialized trucks, separating facilities, and processing plants is at best perpetuating a multi-billion-dollar INDUSTRY, one that Will safeguard and protect itself (as the monster that it is), and is at Worst little more than snarky, smug shaming and virtue signaling. 

When the concept of recycling was introduced back in the early 1970’s, “deposits” were introduced to pop bottles, and value was added to aluminum cans.  Reclamation centers motivated down-and-out folks to gather what would otherwise be considered litter.  What started out as a well-intended attempt to recover our ALUMINUM and lower the number of beer cans and soda bottles along our roads has morphed into a near-obsessive religion of separating and sequestering our metal, tin, aluminum, paper, cardboard (not the same thing!), plastics, glass, hair, lint, and soap scum (ok, I made that last one up…). 

I acknowledge that it makes perfect sense, to a degree, to recycle Aluminum.  Creating aluminum is extremely electricity-hungry and energy consuming.  So much so, that I present that we ought not focus So much on the recycling of aluminum, but rather the progression AWAY FROM IT.  Recent health studies have also indicated that aluminum in our food production may not be as innocuous as we once thought or hoped.  

Little Halls Pond, Exumas, Bahamas

I offer an interesting anecdote I had some fifteen years ago.  I was running Little Hall’s Pond Cay for Johnny Depp.  The island is roughly 50 acres, some 75 miles south and east of New Providence (Nassau) in the Exumas, Bahamas.  There is no grid to tie into—I generated our own electricity via solar, wind, hydrogen, a smattering of symbolic hydropower, and yes, backup diesel generators.  I designed, installed, operated and maintained the power system(s), as well as the rain catchment and seawater desalination (reverse osmosis) plants, cisterns, and water transfer system.  The water that came out of our tap had been ozone purified, particulate filtered, and finally Ultra Violet purified.  I could demonstrate that the tap water showed a dissolved solid mineral content of no more than 130 parts per million.  Evian and Fiji Water (Whuk! Ptui!!) has a dissolved mineral content of upwards of 860ppm.  Not to mention the enormous carbon footprint involved (but more on that in a moment). 

So, the Owner and a few guests were on island.  One evening, we were all enjoying a languid sunset down at the Lanai.  I noticed a member of the entourage standing with a confused look on her face and an empty Fiji Water bottle in her hand, gazing from one trash can to the next.  I hopped up, and told her, “Drop it in the can on the left”.  She did, and noticed all the paper products, dozens (hundreds) of other water bottles, and assorted trash. 

Johnny Depp on Little Halls Pond

She asked me about our garbage plan.  “Did we recycle?” “Oh, boy.  Here we go.” I thought.  I replied, “Well, we segregate our trash into three basic groups—Glass and Metal into one, Paper and Plastics into another, and food scraps into a third.”  “OK, but what is your recycling plan?” she asked.  “Well….  I take the food scraps, and compost them (as potting soil is precious and exorbitant down-island).  I crush the cans and bottles, and about twice a week we head out into 10,000 feet of water and dump them overboard, where they flutter into the abyss.  The plastic and paper, I recycle into SMOKE.” Needless to say, I suddenly found myself the centerpiece of a shit bouquet, surrounded by a dozen horrified Los Angeles starlets and cinematographers and sound engineers.  J.D. had heard it all before, so he was chillin watching the sun hit the horizon, hoping for the mythical green-flash. 

“You mean, you don’t Recycle these bottles?  You don’t (somehow) send them to the (nonexistent) recycling plant in Nassau?  You BURN them??  And you just dump the glass and metal into the OCEAN??” So, I told her (and them all), “First off, do you have ANY idea what it means to ‘send our recyclables to Nassau’?  Used to be, for a while, when we would have a barge arrive with supplies, we would fire up the backhoe, and load all the accumulated glass and metal and plastic and garbage onto the now empty barge and send it to Nassau for ‘Proper’ disposal.  Know what they did with it?  Soon as the barge is off shore (sometimes in deep water, sometimes in 18’ of water), they drop the front gate down, and shove the entire works overboard.  ALL of it.  Including the plastic!  I know this, because I’ve SEEN it, first-hand.  Know what happens to the rare bits that DO reach Nassau?  They get scooped up, taken to the landfill, and burned.” 

“Now, a word about our specific circumstance.  You flew into Nassau on a Private jet from Los Angeles.  You then boarded a 157’ private diesel-powered yacht and spent two days noodling down to this Private Island.  And I have to ship in, on a chartered barge from MIAMI, cases and cases of Inferior, Dirty, Plastic-tea FIJI water for you princesses to drink HALF of.  You leave the half-consumed bottles (bottles that were SHIPPED or FLOWN all the way from the Island of FIJI!!) all over the place. 

Our agent in Miami drives his Diesel Ford F-350 out to Costco, buys case after case of this crap, hauls it back to our chartered barge, where it is carried aboard.  It then floats all the way to Nassau, where it clears customs, continues down here to the neighbor’s island, where I rendezvous with it in our supply boat. 

I load it from the dock, into the boat, drive the twenty minutes back here, unload it onto the dock, load it into the diesel buggy, drive it to the warehouse, load it onto the shelving, pull it out for your arrival, stock all the minifridges on the island with this crap, all for you to waste half of it, then give ME grief for not RECYCLING the detritus of YOUR extravagance??  Seriously?”  (to his credit, JD was now chuckling at the diatribe, enjoying his sunset)

Now that I’ve gotten THAT off my chest, allow me to propose some SOLUTIONS and ALTERNATIVES. 

First off, we need to recognize Bottled Water as simultaneously the very best marketing campaign, and the best scam ever perpetrated against mankind.  One great, huge leap toward mitigating the catastrophic environmental shit storm the 16-ounce plastic water bottle has unleashed against the planet is a rather new consumer product brilliantly called “BOXED WATER IS BETTER”.  And it is.  In myriad crucial ways.  First off, is the packaging.  When you produce bottled water, almost invariably your filling plant is in one place, and the bottle manufacturer is in another, sometimes thousands of miles away. 

Well, those bottles are made (at great environmental impact) over HERE, then loaded onto 18-wheelers and trucked all the way over …THERE.  Then filled, then trucked AGAIN to the distribution center, then to the point of sale.  Boxed Water boxes are shipped from the manufacturing plant to the “bottler” FLAT.  Shipped as such, they take up a Fraction of space.  A lifetime of boxes can be shipped on One truck.  Also, let’s not forget, these boxes are BOXES.  They are made of Paper (well, ok., wax coated paper, and a small plastic cap).  Also, as they are square BOXES, they take up 35% less space than bottles. 

In other words, you can fit 35% more product in the same space, or the same quantity takes up 35% less space.   And it’s cheap. 

Also, on the issue of Water and how to make the most of it, I would like to discuss rainwater catchment.  I find it completely comical that Americans consider rainwater catchment to be unsanitary, third-world, and generally “icky” (actual opinion voiced by a fellow Virginian).  We have this concept that as rain falls, it is somehow inherently contaminated by the sky, hits the ground, sinks to indeterminate depths in the ground where it is magically cleansed and purified.  It then sits in large underground reservoirs, just waiting for us to puncture its underground nirvana with a straw, and drink to our hearts content. 

The overwhelming majority of rain falls as nearly distilled steam, cleaner than almost anything we can buy.  Once it hits the ground, though, all bets are off.  There, it mixes, mingles, and melts with grease, oil, feces, chemicals, fertilizers, poisons, every concoction known to and from the depths of man.  It does seep through the topsoil and, hopefully, through at least ten feet of limestone where mmmmmost of these impurities are soaked up by the rock. 

Alas, we have very little way of assuring the quality of what we suck out of the ground.  And hence the chemical shitstorm of “treatment” we put our tap water through.  If we capture our water BEFORE it hits and mingles with all these nasties, we can Far better “secure the supply chain”.  Rainwater cisterns provide imminently BETTER water than treated municipal water.  This is a no-brainer.  I have LIVED on rainwater and reverse osmosis for over twenty years.  It is simply better in every way.

Another excellent example of innovative packaging is Daisy Sour Cream.  They have made award-winning improvements in their packaging, both from the prospect of environmentalism and product quality.  They have ditched the typical plastic tub, in favor of a squeeze package that sits on the lid, not unlike Heinz Ketchup.  However, unlike the conventional plastic ketchup container (the only thing innovative about that is that it sits on its lid), the soft sided sour cream package collapses as you use the product.  This keeps the remaining contents air-tight, and fresh as ever.  The finished, empty package is flat as can be, and weighs darn near nothing.  The concept that the younger generation will pay a minor premium for superior packaging is finally dawning on some producers!  

A horribly misguided indulgence that was originally promoted as efficient and environmentally friendly (!) is the Keurig.  Not since Bottled Water has a scam this destructive and wasteful been unleashed upon guilty consumers desperate to virtue signal and “feel good”. 

There are many problems with the Keurig.  First, the coffee sucks.  It just does.  The machines are notoriously impossible to effectively clean.  If you want your idealism smashed, I challenge you.  Next time your Keurig breaks and mmmmust be replaced (and we KNOW it will!), deconstruct the broken one. 

I don’t care how many times you ran Special Cleaner through it.  It WILL. BE. a Seething cesspit of mold and smegma.  These machines are filthy. 

Lastly, and most importantly, the pods are stupidly expensive (they remind me of buying printer ink), and they Never go away.  Billions of them now.  And millions more every week.  Filling landfills.  Piling up.  Forever.  These are SO bad, they are SO toxic, that John Sylvan, the inventor of the system has sued to distance himself from this Frankensteininan disaster he spawned.  He now spends his time and energy and money tithing and attempting to redeem himself to a humanity that will never forget his little contribution to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. 

Fortunately, the Anti-Keurig has been around for millennia, is efficient, economical, imminently better for the environment, and produces literally the best coffee I’ve ever had. 

All Hail the Simple French Press, or Bodum.  Ours is stainless steel (I favor the stainless over the glass beaker-type, as those are fragile, in my opinion), and has worked flawlessly for a decade now.  And it’s CLEAN.  Simply boil a kettle of water, add three spoons of coffee, add water, and enjoy.

Now as for the whole ridiculousness of California banning STRAWS to “benefit the environment” (yeah, right).  Straws account for a whopping .002% of all plastic waste in our oceans and landfills.  Absolutely insignificant. 

“Well, oughtn’t we start SOMEWHERE?” one may ask.  Indeed.  But howabout somewhere that MATTERS?  Why must we waste time and energy huffing and puffing about something so insignificant?  Are we that desperate to “Feel Good”?  Or are we just too afraid to effect change that will make a Real difference? 

What’s my problem with the absurdity about straws?  First off, the statistic of “500 million straws used every day in America” is abject bullshit.  This unchallenged figure came from a bored nine-year old’s pet science project (mind you, not a “nine-year-old study”, but a silly little science project from a Nine-Year-Old Boy!). 

Also, fueling public outrage and faux concern was a viral video of a turtle with a straw up it’s nose, being saved by good Samaritans.  What’s more, the figure came from a handful of phone calls he made in 2011!  Now, discount this fine, in-depth scientific method or not, there are some irrefutable facts that are NOT open to opinion or interpretation. 

As much as 46% of the oceans plastic pollution is discarded, lost, orphaned fishing nets and equipment.  And much of that equipment goes on fishing and killing, all to waste.  Plastic water bottles, bags, and industrial dunnage make up the overwhelming majority of the rest of the pollution.  The aforementioned Boxed Water would go a far way to alleviating this pollution.  Especially when this leads to further acceptance and utilization of better, more efficient and biodegradable packaging.  It seems Public Acceptance is the elusive Holy Grail. 

In 1996, I sailed from Fort Lauderdale to New Zealand.  The trip took six months.  In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, aboard an 86′ Sloop, I drew the short straw (no pun intended).  Overboard I went, with diving knife in hand, to cut away the fishing net that had gotten tangled in the keel and running gear. 

The day was flat calm, the sunlight was brilliant, with rays of light that stretched off into the abyss.  The net was so long it extended down from the keel, and floated away behind the boat, out of sight in both directions.  Cutting it away took the better part of an hour. 

Having lived on private, completely off-grid and self-reliant islands for much of the last twenty years, I can attest to the practicality and efficiency of many forms of “Alternative Energy”.  I have first-hand experience designing, installing, maintaining and repairing solar, wind, hydrogen, hydroelectric, and diesel generators. 

I have found windmills to be woefully wanting.  They are loud, they are very high maintenance, and when they fail, they do so with enormous enthusiasm.  I’ve seen them fling apart, over a thousand-yard debris field.  And I’ve heard them whoosh whoosh whoosh day in and day out, to the point of distraction. 

Solar panels just…. sit there.  Silently.  Providing power.  Yes, I will acquiesce that, when the sun ain’t shining, usually the wind is blowing, and wind will blow at night.  So, I’ve long held that a pragmatic system does integrate back-up or supporting wind power.  But the Solar is, by far, the way to go.  This ought to be integrated into Everyone’s home.  It makes sense. 

A caveat about grid-tie solar systems.  We, Debbie & I, lived in the British Virgin Islands for a while.  They had no ability or means to grid-tie solar systems into their power grid.  The power costs were $0.24 per kilowatt hour.  Compare this to Virginia Powers rates of approximately $0.11 per kilowatt hour, that seems rather steep. 

However, take a gander at Saint Thomas.  Just ten miles away, they DO have solar grid-tie.  And they’ve promoted it.  So much so, that their grid had maxed out on panels.  They couldn’t take any more customer supplied power.  They were at capacity.  The panels stretched across the horizon, as far as the eye could see, and atop every single building.   

Now, this would sound like a Great thing.  Except for the insatiable nature of mankind.  The Virgin Island power company took the position that, “We don’t care HOW much power you people are providing.  WE aren’t going to EVER lower our budget, accept less money per month.  We will simply increase the rates; we WILL get the same amount of MONEY from you, regardless of How much power we actually have to Produce!!”

Their power rates are/were a whopping $0.44 per kilowatt hour!  And that was with acres and acres and thousands and tens of thousands of panels, across the horizon!  Ahhhhahahahaha!  Suckers. 

Don’t let THAT happen here! 

–Chris Cloud

From EYESORE To LANDMARK!

 by Chris Cloud

This is a project that we proposing to the community of Marshall.

We have an opportunity to transform the Hagerstown Block Building, located at Old Stockyard Road and John Marshall Highway, from a bland concrete monolith, to a showcase Landmark at the Gateway to Marshall. The building is situated in a way that affords two sides be used as a palette for a World Class Mural.

We are Chris and Debbie Cloud, Residents of Marshall, Realtors with Exit Realty Pros, and Executive Directors of Global Family Alliance (501c(3) (under application).  Our Non-Profit is launching this new Marshall Heritage Mural Project. Our goal is to bring community together in support of maintaining the values of Marshall. The Mural will showcase the aspects of Heritage, Patriotism, and Agriculture that define the Town of Marshall.

Mr. Doy Sneckenberger is the owner of the property and proprietor of Hagerstown Block Company.  He is enthusiastically in favor of the Project.  As the building is privately owned, and not under any Historical or Zoning regulations, the project is free to proceed at the pleasure of Mr. Sneckenberger.  Therefore, the project won’t be tied up in seemingly endless council or review board meetings for years.

After a search for someone capable of such a project, we have secured the talents of Professional Muralist Sam Welty.  Sam has an extensive Portfolio of work, Nationwide.   He has done Larger Than Life outdoor murals, as well as indoor murals in shops, malls, museums, corporate headquarters, and private residences.  Sam’s artistic talent and style is realistic and true to life.   His work is not abstract, outrageous or controversial.

This rendition is an initial proposal for consideration, an example of what is possible.  With community input, support and sponsorship, the final Mural will evolve. It is our desire to feature Agriculture, Heritage, and Patriotism, along with specific aspects of Marshall community, as well.

The components that are needed to realize this Landmark are:

  • CHERRY PICKER to be used as a painting platform. This would have to be one of the larger units available on the commercial market, as the upper right quadrant on the right panel of the building is inaccessible from the railroad track side of the building.  A Cherry Picker is most useful because it is often quite beneficial for the Artist to be able to swing away from the wall, to view the work from a distance, to gain perspective.
  • PAINT & BUILDING PREPARATION – The bare concrete walls must be power washed and painted, to give a clean, well-weather-sealed and uniformly painted palette for the Artist to paint on. We will also need the various paints and supplies Mr. Welty will need for the mural itself.
  • ROOM & BOARD for Mr. Welty. He estimates the actual production of the mural will take between two and four weeks.  We hope to find accommodations for him near the worksite.
  • ARTIST’S FEE Mr. Welty estimates this project to cost between eight and fourteen thousand dollars for his fee. His fee varies depending on the complexity of our final rendition of the Mural.
  • INSURANCE for the project.

We are actively seeking business sponsors that can donate the Cherry Picker, Power washer, Paint & Supplies, and Room & Board.  We are spearheading the fundraising for his Fee, and the other project costs like Insurance Coverage.  In addition, we are looking for volunteers, group fundraising competitions, sponsorship with advertising opportunities and general support for the project.

If we can secure the requirements above (as well as the adequate funding), Mr. Welty hopes to have the Evolution of the actual Mural and all preparations completed, in time to tackle this project in May/June, 2018.

May we count on your Financial Support, and Enthusiastic Promotion?

MARSHALL HERITAGE MURAL PROJECT
Brought to you by
GLOBAL FAMILY ALLIANCE (501C(3) under application)

Hagerstown Block Company
Marshall, Virginia

Why This is a GOOD IDEA

There is a Bridge;

A piece of our history, that can be saved, kept as a reminder of our past.  It is the last of its kind; 139 years old, way past it’s prime, not very pretty, and even in perfect nick, obsolete.  But it is poetic.  Driving or walking across it is a magical, immersive experience in our shared Heritage.  In its day, it was an engineering marvel.  People came from miles away just to admire the technology.  How times changed!  The bridge is a perfect example of a bygone era, a simpler time.  Let’s be honest—the Waterloo Bridge is little more than a museum piece.  It’s on an obscure side road, a short blue highway not two miles long, that has service from each end.  Were the bridge relegated to a walking or biking feature, the residents may have to drive a whole extra mile and a half!

There are many reasons for Not replacing the bridge.  The road serviced by the bridge, Rt. 622, is a very minor side road, not a busy commuter thoroughfare.  The single lane bridge creates no congestion.  There is minimal development along the road, and this is a Very good thing.  A one-lane, rickety old steel bridge May act as a shunt, throttling not only traffic, but development and urban sprawl.  I have heard some say that Marshall’s water dilemma was its saving grace, throttling its unchecked development.  Sometimes, “Slow and Deliberate” is superior to “We should build it and expand, because we CAN!”.  Perhaps this bridge may afford a bit of pacing.

Indeed, a modern concrete bridge would be completely out of place in that setting.  A replacement will cost over six million dollars.  Renovation of the existing bridge would cost less than three million.  A private donor has volunteered a million toward this renovation and preservation effort.  If renovations are not started soon, the bridge, its heritage and history, will be lost forever.  Were this a Snail Darter or a Spotted Owl, I feel the groundswell of support would be deafening!!

Preservation of this unwieldy, aesthetically unappealing and obsolete bridge is wholly and entirely worthwhile.  The Waterloo Bridge is a fine example of why folks move TO Fauquier County, and I hope its renovation leads to it being a feature for another hundred years.  People may come just to gaze at the antique wonder, walk along it or bicycle across it.  One cannot zoom along at 50 miles an hour along this road.  I feel we need more of that.  The places for gentle reflection and reminiscing are becoming frighteningly scarce.  The road, the community upon it, and the people that may come for the experience of the antiquity, are all perfectly served by the 136-year-old single lane bridge.

by Chris Cloud

Am I missing Something?

I remember, when debit cards debuted on the scene, they were touted as heralding in the advent of a Cashless Society (why this was an objective, I could never understand…).  I was skeptical, even as an adolescent.

It’s never ceased to amuse me how vehemently the credit agencies, cloud storage companies, retailers, everyone who handles customer data, defends their security protocols.  “They are impenetrable!”, they declare!  Even as a very young adult, I was able to identify the greatest Volume of vulnerability was to be found in disgruntled employees, an “Inside Job”, as it were.

Additionally, and as has ALWAYS been true, we live in a world where there are day-to-day attacks on an individual and more specified basis.  Organized crime, or Inside Jobs are one thing, but one-on-one robbery and burglary are another Major vulnerability.  And the relatively recent wave of Credit Card Skimmers fall into that second category.

These are devices that are affixed or attached right over top the fuel pump, or ATM, or card reader slot.  Since the overwhelming (nay, complete and total) number of these devices are manufactured so as the entry slot where you insert the card protrudes out from the fuel pump or ATM, this makes affixing the tight-as-a-glove card skimmers possible–nay, SIMPLE.

built-in vulnerability.

My question, my proposal, is:

Were these machines ALL manufactured with a perfectly flush face, with a front that has nothing but a credit card sized slot, would it not make affixing a card skimmer to the device Much more difficult?  If there were no protrusion to affix and slip your identical mock-up over top, perhaps they would be more obvious.

As we sadly recognize the relentless wave of “big-city” crime inch and inch it’s way into our bucolic country living, I am reminded of my conclusion, some thirty plus years ago.  “Naahh.  I think I’ll pay inside.  CASH!”

Something to think about – Chris Cloud

Challenging Cultural Beliefs & Expanding Perspectives

THE WORLD is changing.  Thus, direction is key.  The burgeoning development presents opportunities for all.  Do you have all the pieces going in the right direction? Those with a sense of responsibility are dedicated to positive-growth and change.  Chris and Debbie understand specific needs and requirements, and as a team find the options out there for you to determine what is the best.

AS A COUPLE over the last five years, Chris and Debbie Cloud have developed a strong reputation as a “Dynamic Duo” capable of moving mountains to make things happen.  Both have come from family owned and operated businesses of Entrepreneurs, thus each understand business, contracts and what it takes to get the job done. 

Chris and his hands on mechanical engineer background, his off-grid experience, and yacht, estate and island management has provided a keen eye for properties, business and people. 

Debbie, with her personal/professional development, systems operational management and direct experience in complicated endeavors  brings her unique abilities to the table.  She has always run family businesses or worked for high-net-worth, individual owners of complicated ventures needing special attention to ensure success.

Together you as a client have a half of century of worldly experience and expertise with the dynamic ability to handle real life, the people involved and the final success.

THE CLOUD DIFFERENCE!

Chris & Debbie Cloud