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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

BitCoin usage rejected because they "could" be used for illegal activity.

Today's topic strikes right at the heart of my greatest concern for the way law is approached in the USA today.   It's the idea that we should blind the poor monkey because he "might" see something evil.  Not only do some people want to outlaw "Hip/Hop" music, they want to outlaw i-pods because they could be used to listen to "Hip/Hop" music.   This type of thinking not only leads to a lack of personal freedom, but it also leads ultimately to a state of economic servitude as well.  Unfortunately, people think like this in all sorts of situations.

I've been a big fan of a website that is a competitor of eBay.  I love the site, and I've plugged them here many times.  Alas, it has become apparent to me that the owners of that site think we should blind the monkey lest it see any evil.  Here is a email I got from the site administrator yesterday:

Title: 3 Foot Computer Power Cord ... Bitcoins Accepted

All of your items have been suspended due to the fact we do not allow Bitcoins as a form of payment on the site nor do we allow them to be sold. You will need to edit those items in order to relist them on the site.

You may relist the item only after the above items have been corrected. Any attempts to relist this item without making the above corrections may result in Webstore account suspension.

I'm always careful to peruse 'terms of service' whenever I open a new account with anyone, so I found the above note a bit curious.  They don't have any written policy against BitCoin anywhere that I could find.  So, I wrote them back:

Ok, I will remove references to BitCoin in all my postings. Can you give me any information about when this policy was enacted, or why?

To which they replied:

Hello James,

It was enacted shortly after Bitcoins became available. After researching this the owners of the site were not comfortable with them due to their use on the black-market and for the ease of use for illegal activity. Because of this we have banned them from the site. We do realize that some people may use them for legitimate purposes such as yourself, but unfortunately the risk was too great for us to feel comfortable allowing them on the site.

We appreciate your cooperation and understanding.

Best Regards,

Webstore Staff

 So, there you have it, their reason for not allowing BitCoin is because bitcoins could be used for illegal activity.  I don't quite follow the logic since any currency could be used for illegal activity.  Really, I think there are other reasons that they don't want to allow BitCoin, but still, it's this false logic they are trying to sell to justify their decision that I have an issue with.

That same logic is used by our politicians to push a lot of bad laws on us that are not in our best interest.  The laws are written to favor large corporations and wealthy individuals, and this false logic is used to get the people to accept it.   In Texas for example, it is illegal for an individual to own most basic chemistry glassware.  The reason is because the glassware "could" be used to brew illegal substances.  People accept the laws because very few care about having an awesome chemistry set in their garage, and drugs are really bad.

Well, I care.  As your resident money hustler, I've been racking my brain to figure out how to purify scrap gold without using any equipment or chemicals that are considered to be "the monkey's eyes" ... the other stuff that's been made illegal along with the drugs that the government wants to outlaw.  There are all kinds of cool businesses that people could start in their backyards if it weren't for so many regulations against accessory items.   There is one reason people don't have jobs, and that's because life is over regulated in the USA.   Try to see this connection next time you want to vote for a noise ordinance in your neighborhood.   Regulations kill jobs.   Do you want the right to work and buy food, or starve in peace and quiet?

The effect of a lot of regulatory laws, and financial policy, is to monopolize the labor force (us) for large corporations.  People generally don't care when times are good.  But, when times are bad, the myriad of regulations make life more difficult for regular people, and harder for them to find alternative ways to make a living.  We need more economic freedom.  One step in the right direction is to stop outlawing things like Bitcoin that are merely associated with some illegal activity.

Here's my take on this in video:

 Let me know if you all like the catchy tune at the beginning ... I played that myself.
For more information on BitCoin, please see my previous post:

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Many ways for a regular person to make money in music.

You don't even have to know how to read notes to make money in music, but if you do, all the better.  In this quick post, I'll throw out some old and new ideas.  New technology brings new ways to make money.

One tried and true way to make some extra cash in music is to give lessons.  If you sing or play, don't get down on your abilities.   Do perform some research so that you're not teaching your students bad habits, but then just go for it.  Teach the little buggers as much as you can and graduate them on to another teacher who can take them to the next level.  I'm sure some parents are snooty and expect you to have at least one platinum album out, but others are just trying to introduce their children to new things.  If you are concerned about your ability, only offer beginner lessons and practice up so you can be the best beginner teacher out there.

Suppose you don't even know how to read notes, but you like to tinker on a guitar or the piano.  Can you make up a tune in your head?  Could you write a jingle for a commercial?  Could you play some ambient background music for people to use in their YouTube videos?   

There are many websites that are always looking for new musical content.   Here's one:   Now, perhaps you noticed the word "free" in there and you're wondering how you're going to make any money at this.   If you check out the site, you'll see that artists must offer some of their songs for free, but they can also sell others.  If you're smart, you'll put some teaser work out there for the free stuff and save your best sound tracks for paying customers.   Of course, if you can produce some quality content, you can pound the pavement and sell your tracks directly to end users.  The hosting website method is just a quick easy way to get started.

If you are good at making up a tune on the fly, consider offering your services to video production studios.  With YouTube getting so popular, there are many small time producers that do not have the ability to produce sound tracks that custom fit their videos.  It's kinda like the old days again where someone would play on the piano at the theater to go along with the silent movie.  

Of course you could also produce your own videos, and the corresponding music.   Working up a YouTube partner channel will be the subject of another blog entry, but good music can certainly help your video endeavors. 

I'm not good enough to sell my music, but I do make background sound tracks to use in my own YouTube videos.  Here's a quick view into the process:

And then if you care to see the "how to" video where I used the sound track:

Here's another great link to give you more information on this topic:

What ideas can you think of to make money doing music?   Please leave comments below!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Why pay to exercise somewhere when you can make money exercising?

I really don't get the appeal of a treadmill or fake bike in a gym.  Wow, how boring can you get?  OK, the gym is in A/C, but even in Texas in August where the highs are 104 plus, at 7am it's pretty nice outside.  As it turns out, 7 to 8 am is a perfect time to hunt for treasure in parking lots.  There aren't any cars in the rows. Monday morning, in particular, is a great time to search the parking lot of a busy mall or weekend venue.

Now, honestly, the odds of finding any real cash are too low to justify this activity solely on the premise of making money.  But, there's always the potential of scoring a gold tennis bracelet or a signed portrait of John Wayne.  The trick is to cover a lot of ground fast, and to be able to quickly inspect and retrieve found items.   The best way I've found to do this is on roller blades.

Roller blades are great because they give you the option to get between parking lots quickly, and to slow it down when searching back and forth across the parking rows.  There's no blockage to your visibility and with a little practice you can pick stuff up without even stopping.  

After a busy weekend, you can find more stuff roller blading than by metal detecting because you can cover so much ground and you don't have to stop to dig.   Although I have yet to search a grass parking lot with a metal detector after a large event scenario, I'm guessing you won't find as much stuff as I did in an hour in the video above.   I will try the grass lot/metal detector next and offer data on items found per hour as compared to a roller blade/parking lot search.  Stay tuned, but for now my preferred treasure hunting technique is on wheels.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011


My sister has opened a plant nursery in her front yard, so this is a good time to mention the money making potential in plants.

For me, part of the idea of making money from plants is that I enjoy working with plants.  They're so kewl.   Seriously, it is quite relaxing work for those of you who, like me, are somewhat of a spaz when we're not working on something that relaxes us.   Whatever, the point is that working with something that makes you feel good is totally awesome, only to be out-awesomed by something you enjoy AND you can make money doing it.  That's the subject of a future post, finding that sweet spot where your talent, your passion, and financial viability come together ... stay tuned for, "Being on Mission!"

There's one drawback with starting a plant business though.  Plants take time.  It would really help if you plan ahead ... you know, like get started before you're dead broke.  I mean really, plants don't grow overnight.  So, start now ... fill that yard up with fruit trees and hardwoods and hedges and Seiko palms and ... all in pots of course.   Haha, I just got that.

... listening to YouTube channel .. I'm gonna just go ahead and pulse this a minute ... ah never mind  ...haha, never mind the mess.  That's definitely "yeehaw".  Wow, guess you had to be there ... it was a cooking show ... no, really, I promise.

I'm just throwing the idea out about growing plants.  It is a quick little business you can start up with the hardest part being to find wholesalers willing to work with you and get you stock for a price low enough for you to turn a profit.  That just takes leg work and research.  I thought it was interesting some of the suppliers that my sister found.  Houston is an amazing city in that it has no zoning laws.  So, right up in a regular neighborhood, she found this really cool high-tech, but family run, grower/supplier.

If you don't live where you can just pop up a business in your front yard, and I assume most of you don't, there's always the option to sell online.  You could root cuttings on the balcony of your apartment if that's all you have to work with.  If space is limited, try to specialize in something rare / niche market and then market your items online through eBay, Webstore, Amazon, etc.

There's already tons of great YouTube videos out there on how to do plants.   If you're too lazy to google it, here are some good links:

1.  Grafting fruit trees
2.  House Plants from cuttings
3.  Rooting tree cuttings
4.  Orchids
5.  Starting a Plant Nursery

I'm working on a video to show just how easy it is to get some plants going.  I have over 50 healthy hedge plants that I pulled up by their roots after a rain.  To keep them fresh, I put 20 to 30 of them in a 1 gallon zip-loc bag with some wet paper towels.  They kept fine for a couple of days like that until I could pot them.   Now, all I have to do is plant them in ever bigger pots and water regularly.

In closing, I have three tips on where to get free stuff you can use in your nursery:

1.  Free plastic pots from local landscape businesses.  They often have tons built up over the years and if you make friends, you might get a customer and a source of free pots to start your new plants.

2.  Free potting material.  It's a kill two birds with one stone idea; offer to clean out people's gutters.  The composted leaves in gutters is perfect potting mix.  I've also thought of offering a clean out service for parking lots and gas stations, but I haven't actually tried that yet.  The bonus potential of a parking lot drain is that there may be lost items in there also.  Of course, if you can't find free mulch, plan ahead and start a compost pile in your backyard now.

3.  Free tree / hedge / ornamental seedlings.  While you're scouting for places that you can get free mulch, keep an eye out for plants too.  Lot's of interesting things get started near streams.  Also, I've noticed that office buildings that back up to a wooded area often have a landscape dumping area.  These areas may have all sorts of cool plants that have been uprooted by the landscapers and tossed into the woods.  Sometimes these plants survive long enough for a watchful opportunist to benefit.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Update, selling scrap

Whenever I see a discarded hot water heater, I pick it up.  I can't help myself.  In fact, I keep an old truck bed trailer just for picking up stuff like that.  I pick up small stuff too, screws, washers ... old ovens out in the woods. At $0.12 dollars / pound, any little piece of scrap steel is worth a penny or better.  And as for old appliances, to me they look like a $20 bill sitting on the curb waiting for someone to pick up.

It's not hard to get 1500 lbs of scrap iron in the back of a pickup, and that's enough to go home with $180.00 in your pocket.

Waste not want not.

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Future of Banking, Finance, and Monetary Transactions

The vision has arrived, but the first implementors of the vision are dropping like soldiers on a D-Day beach head.  In a way, money doesn't really exist.  Most of our money is already in a bank account and represented by a few 1's and 0's in some computer.  Money is really just two bits of information: who has it, and how much.  Financial transactions are simply a bit of communication wherein the name of "who has it" and "how much" get updated in that record book in the sky.

Those darn people who control that money book in the sky should just give us all some money ... well, not really.  But, what they shouldn't do is get greedy, or lustful for power.  It seems they always do though, and us common folk get screwed.

Because of the repeated "screwings" many people dream of a financial system that is free from the abuses of the privileged.  Ron Paul is out there touting a return to the gold standard, but others have recognized that money is really just a form of communication.  It is an abstract idea that doesn't need a physical form at all.  Money has always simply been a representation of the "value" that someone has added to the world around him.  The only reason money needed a physical form throughout history is to combat fraud and dishonesty in the form of someone claiming that they have added more value than they ever actually had.  Gold is a good proof that you have added value ... at least you can't just say you have it (like the Federal Reserve); you have to start a war or something to get your hands on it.  What we need is "money" that has all the protections from fraud inherent in a physical amount of gold, but all the ease of transfer as a bit of information on a computer network.

Several companies have popped up and pooped out over the years while they made their attempt to solve the world's "money" problem.  Some of them, like eGold, had some help pooping out courtesy FBI.  They were like the 1st soldiers on the beach, and the governments of the world will protect their financial beaches to the bitter end.  But, the vision is in sight, and others will keep coming and coming with better and better ideas.  Eventually, someone is going to implement a solution that is so much better than what we have today, that no government on earth will be able to stop it.

The latest, most ingenious, solution is the BitCoin.  It is a first stab at some revolutionary new concepts on how to handle the "money" problem.  Here are some features of a BitCoin:

1.  No physical form
2.  Not backed by any physical entity
3.  Internet / computer / open source base
4.  Secure transactions
5.  Available to anyone with internet connection
6.  Predictable growth of money supply
7.  Complete records of activity
8.  Transactions are private

There are pros and cons of each feature above, but the ingenious aspect of this system is the method by which it automates the process of increasing the supply of money as the economy grows.  It takes people, with their bad judgement and selfish ways, out of the process.  (The FED system is an effort to remove decisions about sizing money supply out of the political realm because history has shown that common people don't know how to make good decisions on money supply).  Anyway, BitCoin takes the concept further and takes all decisions about money supply out of the hands of any people.  The odds of BitCoin having the formula completely right on the first try are low, but the concept is what's interesting.

Specifically, it uses a complicated scheme of encryption to produce a predictable level of scarcity to the money supply.  In the beginning, anyone could use their computer to "mine" for a new block of encryption codes that could be used for BitCoins. While more powerful computers are needed today, users are still given  BitCoins when they find a new block.  Wouldn't it be nice if the Federal Reserve gave out $100 bills whenever they needed to increase the money supply?

The value of the BitCoin is increasing as more and more people become willing to provide goods and services in exchange for BitCoins.  The easiest way to get some now is to sell stuff online on sites like Craigslist.  Just take the time to learn all about it because it is money, and money attracts thieves like flies to dead meat.

If you google BitCoin, you can find out more about it than you ever wanted to know.  Some people like the idea, some people hate it.  If it gets popular, the FBI / CIA / IMF / US Military / NATO will probably figure out a way to shut it down.  Hopefully, the BitCoin economic experiment lasts long enough for everyone to learn some better ways to handle money.  Hopefully, banking services and our global financial system will evolve into a system that is as cheap and fair as it can be.  One key to making this so is competition.  Governments have a monopoly on money, and that is the only reason they can get away with doing what they do to part us from so much of our personal "value".  Systems like BitCoin will eventually challenge government monopolies, and that is good for all of us.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Update: Selling Junk Online

I sold my 1st item on last night.  I only made $3.16 selling an NVIDIA GeForce AGP FX5200-DV128 video card, but that was pretty good for a test run.  This Webstore site is similar to ebay, but they don't charge commissions on sales.  That's a big plus for both buyers and sellers.  There are many "free listing" sites, but most sites don't have the customer base to secure much visibility for what you are selling.  I'm excited because Webstore seems to be different.  Ebay is still better, has more items for sale, and more people looking there to buy, but Webstore is gaining ground.  More and more vendors are moving items over to "free listing" sites where they can afford to list items for less since they don't have to share any of the proceeds with the website.

If you are looking to make extra money working from home, or running a full time sales business, your profit margin may stand to gain if you give some of the "free listing" sites like Webstore a try.  You can accept payment via PayPal and Google Checkout as well as direct methods.

Here are a couple more great websites that I've found lately that will help you buy and sell online:

The 1st link above can save you a ton of time when inserting pictures into your ad postings.  You can upload whole folders of pics from your computer and always have your pics "online" when and where you need them.  It's really fast and you don't have to worry about the MB size of the pic when you start the upload.  The site gives you a handy HTML text line that you can copy and paste directly into your online ad listing.  When someone views your ad, they just see the pics.  The site also gives you a link to the entire album, so it's easy to share an unlimited number of pictures with your potential buyer.

The 2nd link above is handy if you are looking for stuff to buy on Craigslist.  When you go to, look for a link on the left of the page that says: "Remotely hosted versionand click it.  Then allow it to install the plugin.  Then, when you view listings on Craigslist, you will automatically see thumbnail pics of items that are for sale under each items title.  It saves you from having to click on a listing to see the pics.  I know that doesn't sound like a big deal, but for anyone doing a lot of surfing on Craigslist, the time saved does add up.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tax Deed Property Sales

  I'm always intrigued by any chance to acquire property at a cost far below its true value.  Consequently, I'm a sucker for auctions.  I buy abandoned cars at auto auctions, pianos at school surplus auctions, and houses at county tax deed auctions.  Buyer beware, some things are pretty worthless, and they won't take it back!!!

  If you want to get into auctions, please always assume that what you are buying is about as worthless as an 8-trac tape collection.  Do research the items as much as possible, but even then, avoid getting into a bidding war.  Just let it go and wait until you find a jewel no one else is dead set on buying.

  Especially before bidding on real estate, know what you are getting.  You need to look up all the info you can on the property before the tax sale.  Find out who the owners are, and even talk to neighbors to find out why the taxes aren't being paid.  Check to see if there is a probate case associated with the property, mortgages, quit claim deeds, or any disputes over ownership.  Many counties have quite a lot of info on-line, and it is best to start there.  Find out all you can on several properties on-line, and then set out to visit your best prospects.  Google maps and street view can also come in handy to save some driving.

  Most tax deed investors are looking for properties that are likely to be redeemed.  In these cases, you would earn a very respectable 8 to 12% annual return on your investment.  It is a fairly safe investment if you make sure that you haven't bid on a worthless toxic dump.  Your investment is ultimately backed by an interest in the property that you have bid on.  If the owner's don't pay, after a time, you can take possession.

  I actually look for properties that are NOT likely to be redeemed.  My favorite type of property to bid on is a vacant house or trailer home where the owner has died recently.  You can usually find properties of the recently deceased by cross-referencing the list of delinquent tax owners with the probate records for the county.  Then, to find out the whole story, go visit the properties you found and talk to neighbors to find out what is going on.  I don't usually tell people who I am exactly when I'm out and about.

  If you successfully purchase a property at auction and it is not redeemed during the redemption period,  you will be issued a Tax Deed.  You can take possession of the property at this time, but that is not recommended if someone is actually living there.  Your next step should be to Quiet Title the deed to secure full uncontested ownership for yourself.  If no one challenges you in court for clear title to the property, a lawyer might be able to get the process done for you for about $3500.  Lawyer fees ~ $2000, 3rd Party fees ~$1500.

View Larger Map
IMAGE:  Google street view can save you much driving, but sometimes it is difficult to be certain of an exact address.  Always do a drive-by before you bid on a place.  The house above is one that I was trying to Quiet Title.  I bought it in the auction for $2000.  House not withstanding, the lot has much potential.

  Issues that you may run into however are that the current owners fight you in court to keep their claim to the property.  If there were any technicality errors at any step, the sale of the property might be completely overturned.  Even if just one heir could prove that he or she was never notified of the tax delinquency, the whole deal could be blown.   You would get the original amount you bid back plus interest, but you would lose any court fees and lawyer costs.   In my example, I have more to lose ( $3500 potentially ) than I originally bid on the property.  But, there are some strategies to strengthen one's case and increase the chances of obtaining a marketable Warranty Deed to the property, or at least get a good return on your investment.

1.  Knock on the door and meet the person living there.  Have an open mind and don't be confrontational.  The object is just to find out what the situation is.  They could be renting from an owner who stopped paying the taxes, and might be perfectly happy to pay you rent instead.

2.  Always be open, upfront, and flexible in your dealings with the former owner.  You don't want to incite them into fighting you in court.

3.  Find out what the current owners want to do.  If the property went through probate, be sure to research who all the owners are.

4.  Find out if they will pay you rent, or if they want to buy your interest in the property off as soon as they get their money together.

5.  Tell them about the money at the county tax office that was paid in for the property ( your bid at the auction ).  Any amount in excess of the back taxes is due to the owners.  If they take that excess money, it strengthens your claim to the property in the Quiet Title hearing if they later decide to challenge you for ownership.

6.  Offer a sum of money in exchange for their signing of a Quit Claim Deed granting you that person's share of the property.  If there are feuding heirs to a property, you may be able to secure signatures of all but 1 or 2 of the heirs.  That dilutes the value that the remaining heirs have in the property, and that makes it more difficult for them to find a lawyer to take the case when such a low amount of value is left.

7.  Remember that you are in the driver's seat.  They can never sell or borrow against the property as long as you own the Tax Deed to it.  Ultimately, you can also have them evicted, but exhaust all other possibilities first.  You don't want to end up paying out more for court costs than the place is worth.

As it turned out, the owners redeemed the property at the very last minute.  I got a good safe 12% interest off the deal, and no hassles after all.  Of course, no windfall profits either.  If any of you have any real experience in this area, please post your ideas in the comments section.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Back Yard Blacksmith ... really, you can do it!!!

Blacksmithing does take some time to learn, but it is fun, and you can make money at it.  Youtube is a great source for ideas for stuff to make and how to make it.  Here are a couple of videos to get you started.

If you haven't figured it out by now,  I'm not big on looking cool, or having all the "right" tools for a job.  I'm more interested in finding the cheapest way to get started.  That said, here is a list of items that you may need to acquire or make:

1.  Forge -- steel box with a hole for the blower, and another, grated hole, for the air to exhaust through the coal to keep it hot.

2.  Squirrel cage blower or reversible shop vac -- it's good to have a foot switch so it is easy to turn it on and off

3.  Fuel -- Coal, charcoal (optional), wood (optional) -- the later items will give enough heat to bend and shape, but coal lasts longer and gives enough heat for welding.

4.  Workbench -- sturdy wooden table, and bolt down all sorts of heavy pieces of steel to use to shape and form your works of art.

5.  Small and large hammer

6.  2 pair of pliers

7.  poker stick

8. At a scrap yard, you can buy scraps of pipe that have a flange welded to one end.  These are easy to bolt to your table and are great for forming curved shapes.   Use different sized pipes for different curve radii

9.  Anvil -- any thick heavy piece of steel will work.   I used a 1" thick x 12" dia pipeline head cap that I got as scrap.

10. Watering can to reduce coal waste due to unwanted burning.

11.  Bucket of water to quench the steel.

Once you've got a fair sized cache of finished items, you can get a booth at any small town art festival for $25 to $50.  In my experience, items that were priced in the $5 to $10 range sold the best.  It also pays to have a wide variety of products for sale.  I made easier money mixing in some dollar store items with my finished iron works.  I would hang a little (made in china) birdhouse on a $75 iron work.  People would admire the iron, but buy the $5 birdhouse.   That's ok, I was making $4 off each one and didn't have to spend  a day working at it.

More expensive items sell best in a real store ... around Christmas no less.  I sold the candle stand in the above video to a shop owner in a mall.  He paid me for items after they sold in his store.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Selling Junk Online

I'm a big fan of buying stuff on ebay.  I've gotten some good deals there.  But, when I checked their fees, I wasn't too impressed with the idea of trying to sell stuff there.  So, I googled "ebay competitors" and after checking all the results out, I found one that I liked.   It's at and it is free to list your items there.  The format is very similar to ebay, and you can receive payments via paypal.  I'm just getting started, so I have no idea how you get your money from paypal.  I'm not worried though, whatever I get in paypal credit will just go towards whatever I buy.

My very first item is listed here:  
I found two brand new video cards in a dumpster near my work.  They were both still in their original boxes with the driver CD and all.  Like a dummy, I pitched the boxes thinking that I was just going to scrap the cards out anyway, but I did save the driver disks.   If I had saved the boxes, I could have listed the items as "new" on webstore.  They are both new and were wrapped in static bags, but you can't list them as new without the original packaging.

Of course, I have sold many items on craigslist also, but it can be a pain meeting people to close the deal.  I almost wish there were Craigslist stores.  So, when you list something you just drop it off at the store when its convenient.  Then the person goes to the store to pick it up and pay.  I guess the store would have to charge a commission though ... and then the tax-man would want a cut ... ah, never mind.

Anyways, I see a lot of potential in this webstore site.  The market place is international there, and with corresponding variety of products always available ... and a lot more people looking at your products.  Ebay is still huge compared to some of these other sites, but sellers can sometimes build their reputations and customer base up on ebay, and then move to webstore for their repeat customers.

No matter what venue you choose, selling stuff online is definitely something that anyone can do. Just start with your junk/dumpster diving finds, and let your imagination take you from there.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Are you planting gardens or orchards?

Gardens are great, but they require constant effort to get anything out of them.  Then, every year you have to start over, cultivating, planting, fertilizing, and weeding.  Having a garden is a little like having a job.  There is a steady requirement for work, as well as a steady supply things you need, assuming all goes well.

Orchards are much different in terms of when you work, how you work, and when you are rewarded for that work.  Orchards require most of the effort upfront, planting all the vines or trees.   Then you are stuck pruning and watering for years before anything gets big enough to produce fruit.   I like to think of an orchard as a small business.  You can put tons of work into it and never really know if you are building up something that will reward you in the future.  Still, orchards can produce fruit years into the future with little or no additional effort on your part.

Unfortunately, we like to eat everyday, and so we tend to spend most of our time in the garden, aka job.  That's fine, but hopefully you can find some time in the day to work on a business venture that will produce a benefit for yourself years into the future with little additional effort.

This site is dedicated to any ideas on how to make money.  Some of them, while not a job, still fall into the garden category, constant work for any reward.  The ideas I'm really interested in however, are ideas on how a regular person can work on an orchard like venture.  Not everyone can buy up 50 rental properties for cash and hire a management company to rent them out ... or invent an amazing machine that pays royalties for life.  What are ventures that anyone can do, that once they are set up and running, will make money without any additional effort?  Please comment below with your best ideas for us all to share.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Smelting Aluminum

I'll have to admit that this was a whole lot more work than any money I ever got out of it.  Still, times are tough, and the price of metals are going up a lot faster than minimum wages.  At one time, I had a larger furnace to melt aluminum, but this one was a better design and easier to operate.  


1. squirrel cage blower (from a home A/C distribution unit for example)
2. metal ducting
3. 55 gal steel drum
4. wire mesh
5. fire brick (special bricks that don't crack at high temps)
6. silicon carbide crucible (the melting pot)
7. Four 50lbs bags of refractory cement (special cement that doesn't crack at high temps)
8. Refractory mortar
9. Various scraps of angle iron / bolts / screws


The wood burner-

1. Find a good refractory supply warehouse to get the firebrick, and refractory cements
2. Cut a hole in the side of 55 gal drum big enough to insert the metal ducting.
3. Also, at the top of the drum, make 2 1 ft. cuts straight down about a foot apart to open an exhaust port at the top.
4. Screw wire mesh to the inside of the 55 gallon drum
5. Coat the mesh w/ some of the refractory cement, but of course, leave the hole open
6. Bury the drum if you can, attach the ducting (running it underground about 4 feet)
7. Put an upwards bend in the ducting and set the blower on top.
8. Use more refractory cement to make a door for loading fuel 1ft x 1ft x 3in thick, with wire mesh in the middle to add strength and bolts stick out of the top so you have a way to attach a handle later.
9. Use heavy steel angle iron to build a square frame over the top to support the door in step 8
10. Cover the rest of the top of the 55 gallon drum (around where the door goes) with firebrick, but leave that one side open for the exhaust port.
11. coat the steel angle with firebrick mortar to protect it a little from the heat.

Furnace -

1. Build a foundation on the side of the drum w/ the exhaust port - ~3ft x 3ft
2. Build the walls up with firebrick about 2ft high, leaving one side open for door.
3. Build the door ... mine was angle iron hinged to a post w/ firebrick attached.
4. Build the 'top' (what holds the aluminum scraps while they are melting). It's going to be a large block of refractory cement with a depression to collect the liquid metal and a hole in the middle to allow the metal to drip into the pot below.
-make a cement form 2ft by 3ft by 5in deep
-make another wooden form that's 1ft 8in x 2ft 8in by 1.5in deep and cover it with plywood.
-place the 2nd form (plywood side up) in the larger form.
-set a short scrap of 3" pvc pipe on top of the smaller form
-drill 4 holes into to smaller form around where the pvc pipe is ... 1/2" from the pipe and equally spaced around
-set 4 bolts into the smaller form around the pvc pipe ... the threads need to be down, with the head of the bolts sticking up a couple of inches. These bolts will hold a steel plate over the top of the hole to prevent big impurities from dropping down.
-fill the form with refractory cement
-when the cement sets up a little, remove the pvc pipe
-when completely dry, remove the forms and flip it over
-drill holes in a 6in.x 6in. x 1/4in. steel plate to match the bolts sticking up
-put several washers on each bolt, and then attach the steel plate. It should be sitting off the bottom ~1/2 in.

5. Put the top over the walls of your furnace. There should be a gap in the back.
6. Build the walls up another 2ft with firebrick, but leave a 1ft wide window on one side. This is so you have access to clean out junk and slag that will accumulate on the 'top'.
7. Rig up a steel grate to prevent pieces from falling down the gap between the back edge of your 'top' and the back wall of the furnace.


Sometimes I used a bigger crucible and just tilted it to pour the metal rather than picking the whole crucible up. Also, if you want to melt copper, bronze, or iron, you have to pack coal around the crucible. Still just fill the 55 gal drum with wood, but adding coal right around the crucible will raise the temp there enough to melt copper, etc. But, only add clean copper directly to the crucible ... it won't melt over the 'top'.

For aluminum, you can bust up old transmissions or whatever and add the pieces to the top. Oils and paint burn off while it melts. You will need to regularly scrape out junk and slag that can block the flow of metal through the hole.

Additional notes:

 I designed the form for the "top" a little better than what I described above. On the clean out side, I had the side wall shaped like a ramp to make it easier to drag irony bits and slag out of the pool of aluminum. I also had a little lip around the edge of the hole to prevent  irony bits from washing into the crucible.

Monday, April 4, 2011

A Crusty Golf Ball's Second Chance at Greatness

It all started with some errant shot on the golf course, and some poor golfer's ball ended up in the pond.  Well, really I can't say exactly, I wasn't there for that part ... maybe a squirrel stole the golf ball out of his bag and buried it along the stream.  No matter, this golf ball's destiny was not to be dug up by some archaeologist 10,000 years from now.  Nor was it to spend eternity there lost in the golf course's waters.  Nope, after only enough time to grow a few barnacles, it was washed out of the pond and down the stream with about 4000 of its buddies by a good ol' Texas gully washer ... a flood of epic proportions ... that we get every other year or so.

The mother load of deposited golf balls soon lay along a bend several hundred yards downstream.  Seeing so many, I wondered if they were worth anything.  Sure enough, people sell used golf balls on Craigslist all the time.  Some are worth up to a $1.00 each, but I planned to just use the crusty ones for my own driving practice.
If you can find a large quantity of golf balls, it is very easy to wash them up and sell on e-bay, craigstlist, or to a local dealer ( who will find you if you post on craigslist ).

Alas, it was also not the destiny of this one crusty golf ball to end up in the cow pasture behind my place.  The Texas Restaurant Association had much bigger plans for it.  They found my add on Craigslist and bought about 1000 balls from me for a whopping 10 cents each.  Then they sold them, ugly ones and all, for $20 each.  Wow, if only I could figure out how to get a markup like that?!?!

I could write more of the story, or just show the rest on video ... enjoy!
As you can see, our crusty golf ball was destined for a second life, and to make somebody $1000.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Just getting started ... buying gold

I've got the gold bug, but there aren't any good mountain streams with gold nuggets anywhere near where I live. So, I'm stuck with buying gold from other people. I'm hoping I can find some folks with old gold jewelry that they would rather have cash for.

Of course, it would not be good to pay full price for some item that is only gold plated. So, my first challenge is to learn to identify real gold, and accurately appraise items.

Here's a video on using an electronic gold tester, a magnet, and a file stone:

Here's a close up of the gold cross that was testing positive for 10K gold in the video.  It's actually marked 14 KT G.F. and after some googling, I discovered that the G.F. stands for "gold filled" and that's not so good.  It really means that it has a thick gold plate, and is only 1/20th by weight 14KT gold.  So, its really not worth much if you were buying it for scrap gold.