August 30, 2010

Top Ten Quotes of the Day

10. 43% of all statistics are worthless.
9. A gentleman is a man who can play the accordion but doesn’t.
8. Carpenter’s rule: cut to fit; beat into place.
7. Your true value depends entirely on what you are compared with.
6. When I am sad, I sing, and then the world is sad with me.
5. They call it "pms" because "mad cow disease" was already taken.
4. Humor is... despair refusing to take itself seriously. - Arland Ussher
3. Do what you like. Like what you do. Optimism can take you anywhere.
2. Patience is a virtue - but I've never claimed to be virtuous.
1. A good part of life is figuring out whose expectations I should live up to and who I should blow off.

And a bonus. Live in such a way that you would not be ashamed to sell your parrot to the town gossip. - Will Rogers

Until next time, may you have blessings and a happy day,

August 28, 2010

How to Get Rid of Ants with Cat Food

Most of the time when people want to ask a question anonymously, they just email me. But this morning there was a comment from another blogger awaiting moderation that started out “Please don’t post this comment….”

I don’t know if she didn’t want anyone to know she reads my blog *gasp* or if she didn’t want anyone to know she asked the question. But anyhoodle, someone wants to know if cat food really keeps fire ants from biting. She was commenting on this post.

Well, yes and no. It only stops ants if they are dead. There is no taming of a fire ant. Also, cat food alone won’t kill fire ants, otherwise we’d have very few cats.

Let me explain why ant baits alone don’t really work.

First of all, you have to understand ants, specifically fire ants. Their colonies are like little medieval kingdoms, well, more like queendoms. The queen does two things, eat and reproduce. The rest of the ants are workers, and most of them are sterile. After they are born, they become little Stepford workers doing their assigned jobs with abject devotion. The worker ants have a caste system, which is also much like a medieval queendom.

Trivia note: The suffix "dom" means domain and comes from the Old English "doom"

At the bottom of the caste are the construction ants. They are all sterile so it really doesn’t matter if they are male or female. Their job is to make new tunnels and rooms for the ever expanding queendom, since the queen lays a couple of thousand eggs every day.

Over them is the highly trained army of biters. At the first sign of trouble for the queendom, they swarm out of the mound, climbing and biting the enemy in order to protect the queen and her realm. They have bionic jaws which will not open once they have latched onto the enemy.

Over the biters are the scouts. They scour the countryside looking for food, both for the nourishment of the entire realm, but also to find delicacies for the queen. Finding such a delicacy permits them to have a coveted audience with the queen where they present their prize.

Over the biters are the nannies. They are assigned to an egg from the moment it is laid. They nurse it through the larval stage, feeding it, cleaning up after it, carrying it out of harms way if the mound is threatened, until it becomes a fully formed ant who goes off and leaves the nanny sitting all alone in her rocking chair for the rest of her life.

Over the nannies is the job supervisor who walks around with a clipboard looking important. Once an ant becomes an adult, it is inspected by the job supervisor who assigns it a place in the caste and determines whether it will be sterilized or retain its gender. The most attractive and virile males are allowed to retain their gender and they are assigned to the queen’s harem where they remain until she needs them. The other males and females are run through the radiation chamber where they are instantly sterilized.

The virile males live in luxury while they wait to meet their queen. They always meet the queen in a totally dark room because once they see her, they are so repulsed by her corpulent stretch-mark scarred body that they instantly become sterile, making radiation unnecessary, and then they join the rest of the construction ants digging tunnels the rest of their miserable lives.

Over the supervisor are the queen’s attendants. These lords and ladies-in-waiting stay in the queen’s chamber and take care of her. The queen is a lot like Henry VIII or Marlon Brando in that she eats so much that she can barely move from bed to throne. Her attendants help her move from place to place, they are her midwives, they are her birth coaches, and most importantly, they are her food testers.

Now that you understand how the caste works, let me explain why ant baits don’t work. You see, the instructions on most baits say to sprinkle it around the mound and when the ants find it, they will take it to the queen who will eat it, die, and without her the colony will die. But it doesn’t work that way.

Haven’t you ever noticed that you sprinkle the bait around the mound, and the next day, it’s still there? Or that some of it is gone and the mound has moved a few feet?

That’s because real ants aren’t like the ants you see on animated movies and cartoons. They don’t walk on their back legs and carry the bait in their arms. No, they carry the bait in their jaws, and sometimes one gets greedy and eats some of the bait before he picks it up to carry back to the queen, or sometimes he just bites the bait too hard as he carries it back. Either way, he dies before making it back to the queen. Then the other ants gather around and try to figure out what happened.

“Hey Joe,” they say, prodding him with their toe, “Git on up Joe, you oughten be sleepin’ now.” (Ants aren’t big on using correct grammar.)

“I jes’ saw ‘im a minute ago, an he ‘as doin’ jes’ fine,” says one.

“He jus' up an’ died,” says another.

Then along comes old Pete. “He wuz pizoned! Pizoned I tell ya. I seed it afore and I knowd it the minute I seed him.”

“Whadda we do now?” the others ask old Pete.

“Drop everythin', and don’t go near ‘im. This here’s dead man’s hill. God save the queen!”

So they all drop the bait they are carrying and make a mad dash to the queen to report what happened.

“Close tunnel number one!” she declares, “and move operations to the furthermost ramparts of the queendom!”

With the biters leading the way, they make their way to the queen’s country estate at the far end of the dom, and it becomes the new queendom. The attendants pick up the queen and begin the arduous process of carrying her rotund body through the tunnels and the nannies follow carrying the eggs and larvae. The workers create a new tunnel to the surface with a magnificent new mound, and life continues within the queendom.

However, I discovered the cat food treatment quite by accident. The cat, whose name is Buddy The Cat, will not finish eating all the cat food in his bowl, no matter how much or how little I put in it. And within minutes of him sauntering away from the bowl, ants have found the cat food and have swarmed all over it so I can’t even pick up the bowl.

What happens is that a scout found the cat eating the food, grabbed a piece of it, and ran to the queendom, leaving a scent trail behind him so he could find his way back. He begs an audience with the queen in order to present the delicious treat. But first, the queen picks an attendant to taste it. Eyes averted, the attendants squirm nervously while she scans the room, mentally calculating who is the most expendable. No one wants to be the queen’s food tester as there is a 50/50 chance the food is poison, but whoever is picked puts on a brave front and takes a big bite.

If the attendant dies, the queen screams “Off with his head!” pointing at the scout who brought the offending morsel.

And another attendant rushes over to the scout and bites off his head. Ants are cannibals you know.

Then the queen says “Bring a bite to me too, I’m eating for 2-thousand you know.”

Cannibals I tell ya!

When they have finished feasting on the scout, some workers are called down to haul the poisoned attendant down to the basement where he is laid to rest with the rest of his kinsmen.

But, if the seconds tick by and the food tester attendant is unaffected, the queen demands that the new found food be brought to her. She takes a small bite, smiles, and gobbles it all down, belches loudly, and then says:

“That was lip smackin’ good! How much is there?”

“There’s a plumb mountain of it milady!” says the scout.

“Enough for the entire kingdom?” asks the queen.

“Yes, milady,” says the scout.

“Get all the workers and gather the bounty,” says the queen, “we’ll have a feast tonight!”

And within minutes, the entire bowl of cat food is covered with ants.

After this happened a few times, I surrounded the cat food with a circle of ant bait, thinking the ants wouldn’t cross the bait line and I could come back and get the bowl. My bait of choice is Amdro, but that’s only because that is all I could find at the store.

But the next morning, ALL of the bait was gone, as well as all of the cat food.

There was no moving to the country estate and forming a new queendom, no dead ant bodies with pieces of bait next to them, just an empty mound.

The ants, gathered in their feasting room, raised a toast to the queen and had no sooner finished saying “God save the Queen” when she fell forward into her pile of cat food and ant bait and then they too keeled over where they were sitting or standing, some struggling to get nearer their queen before they gasped their last breath.

There will probably be more ants, as there are eggs and larvae deep within the many nurseries of the doomed dom, and some will survive even without the care of a nanny. The newborn queens will battle within the nurseries and the survivor will lead her fledgling minions, stepping over the decaying bodies of the old queen and her realm of ants still gathered around the feast table, traveling to new lands where the scouts will once again forage for delicacies to feed the queen. And I’ll be ready.

Until next time, may you have blessings and doomed antdoms in your realm,

Redneck Security System

From tip to toe, she's easily as big as my hand. Anyone who walks through that gate without ducking will have her on his head and will be screaming like a little girl. Who needs a dog when we have her?

Until next time, may you have blessings and vigilant security,

August 27, 2010

I Think I'm Getting a New Right Arm Tomorrow

Today I overused my left arm trying to clean out a front flower weed bed.  I worked on it most of the afternoon until I ran into a vicious fire ant bed.  I was going to try to gentle them with some cat food, but we went out to dinner with the in-laws (it's their 65th annivesary) and now it's dark.  I'll feed them tomorrow and then avoid the mound until it's safe.

My feet are better today, thank heavens.  I can walk with tennis shoes and socks, but not flip flops.  The sandals I walked in yesterday were my church sandals and they are just about toast now.   Those shoes just weren't meant for walking.  I may have to go shopping tomorrow so I have shoes to wear Sunday.

Neighborhood news.  A pug belonging to a neighbor across the street was killed last night in it's own fenced backyard, probably by a bobcat.  Most of the neighbors heard all the neighborhood dogs start barking about 3:30, but no one saw anything.  We have neighbors whose dogs bark all night many nights so we didn't even suspect anything unusual.  Now the neighbors have been alerted to watch out for their pets.  Like one neighbor told me, it's so shocking because we felt that our backyards were safe.  But there are large, wooded areas with creeks on both ends of our street, so there is probably more wildlife than we realize.

Until next time, may you have blessings and a good weekend,

August 26, 2010

The Beastmobile Finally Let Me Down

My new car got a nail in a tire yesterday so I drove the Beastmobile to get my MRI this afternoon.  On the way home, I stopped at a garden center near my house and when I pulled out of their parking lot, the steering wheel suddenly stiffened.  The truck was still running but the temperature gauge was going up and I smelled rubber burning.  I managed to womanhandle the truck to the side of the highway, turned it off and ran back across the highway to the garden center to use their phone.  (When I got to the MRI place, my phone wasn't in it's holder so I guessed I must have left it at home.)

I called Hubby.  No answer.  I thought he might be at home where his phone doesn't get good service, so I called my phone hoping he would hear it and answer it.  Nothing.  I couldn't remember my neighbor's number, and I knew Hubby would call right back so I told the guy who let me use their phone to tell him I was going to start walking home and please come pick me up.  Hubby told me later that he did call back and the guy hung up on him.

I had only walked about  a tenth of a mile when I thought I probably should have asked to use their bathroom before I started walking.  I also wished I was wearing my usual tennis shoes and jeans instead of sandals and polyester slacks.  You know that sound that bare feet make as they stick to and release from the plastic sole of a sandal?  That's the sound of a blister forming.  Two and a half miles from the garden center to my house and not one person stopped to see if I wanted a ride, not even the lady across the street.  She just waved and drove on.  Like Hubby says, she's not very observant and probably didn't really even notice me.  I notice things and would have stopped if I had seen anyone walking in sandals.  But maybe most people don't notice stuff like that.  I have two giant blisters on each foot.   The only good thing is that it was only 94 degrees today and the wind was blowing, so it could have been worse.

Now if anyone knows how to get these blisters to go away quickly, let me know.  I don't think I'll be walking much in the next few days.

Oh, and my phone?  In the Beastmobile the whole time.  It had fallen out of the holder and under the driver's seat.

Until next time, may you have blessings and a dependable car,

If I Were Going to Gripe, It Would be Today

I went clothing shopping today. I hate shopping. Actually, I hate being fat and the two go hand in hand. If you are a member of the hippy club (one whose hips exceed the circumference of any clothing that fits the rest of your body), you know what I mean.

This is a photo from Woman Within. It's a Plus Size dress.


If I were going to gripe, it would be about clothes like this that are supposedly designed for plus size women. If a plus size model were wearing this dress, it wouldn't look anything like this. It would be bulged out instead of in at the waist, lumpy bulges above and below the waist because that's what knit does. And really, without the hourglass waist, this dress is a red, clingy, potato sack.

So instead of griping, I think I'll start my own line of clothing for short, pudgy women. Real women. It will look like camouflage to hide all the flaws.

Oh wait, Michael Kors already thought of it.

Rats! Back to the drawing board.

Until next time, may you have blessings and clothes that fit,

August 24, 2010

Let it Rain!

It's overcast and thundering. Please let it rain here! I heard on morning tv that today is going to be our last day of temperature in the 100's, and it's already dropped down to 98 here. I'm so happy. I have garden plans ready to put into action as soon as the temperatures drop low enough to transplant a few things.

Update on my arm: I went to an orthopedic surgeon Monday and had an x-ray. There are no fractures but there is a small bone spur. He gave me a tube of Voltaren Gel to try out and I go in for an MRI on Thursday. He says most people can be helped without surgery, but most people also have a series of cortisone shots and that is out for me.

Update! It's raining! I went outside to take this picture, and not two minutes later the rain was falling.

Update again.  It cooled off quickly to 85 but as soon as the sun came out again, the temperature started rising and it was so humid it was hard to breathe outside.  By 5:00, it was back up to 98.  Oh well, it was nice for a few minutes and tomorrow is supposed to be a high of 90.  That's going to be nice!

Until next time, may you have blessings and blessed rain,

August 18, 2010

Changing Eating Habits

Lately, Hubby and I have been having a smoothie for dinner (or supper as most Southerners call it).  I eat something simple like oatmeal for breakfast and a filling meal for lunch.  When Hubby first started making smoothies, I didn't care for them.  I don't really like crushed ice in a drink.  (Hurts my teeth.)  But then I started making my own and really like them.  My recipe, if you can call it that, is below.

Strawberry Smoothie

About 15 frozen strawberries, plain strawberries, no sugar (less if they are all big)
1 banana
1/2 cup Bulgarian yogurt

Mix in blender until smooth.
That's about it.  Substitute any fruit and I'm sure it will be as good.  It's the frozen strawberries and the bananas that make it fluffy and full.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I hadn't noticed any benefits from having an evening smoothie, at least no weight loss that I could tell.  The only advantage was having more time in the evening. lol

But yesterday Hubby called on his way home from work and asked if I wanted to go out to eat.  So we went to a little Tex-Mex restaurant in town and I got my favorite dinner, and didn't even eat all of it, even though it seemed smaller than usual.  Afterward, I felt stuffed and miserable.  I knew we still had to come home and pick the garden, but I really didn't want to.

That's when it hit me.  I felt good after eating a smoothie.  Really good.  Energetic, ready to do things when it finally cooled down in the evening.  Not that it ever gets cool anymore, but 90 degrees is more tolerable when the sun has finally dropped below the horizon and the shadows haven't deepened into night.

I picked the garden, but I told Hubby the next time he wants to eat out for dinner that he should not call and ask me if I want to go, and then just go without me.

Until next time, may you have blessings and pleasant evenings,

Diet, My ordinary life

August 16, 2010

How to Research Ownership of Your Property, Part 4

After writing parts 1-3, I thought I was ready to move on to researching the people, but then I thought about the problems that often arise in a search. So this takes up where I left off in Part 3. I thought I’d just cover a few problems and how to overcome them.

Problem 1
I can’t find the previous owner in the grantee index.

This usually happens when you are really on a roll, everything is falling into place nicely, and you think to yourself “I’m going to have this done in just a few minutes.” That was your first mistake. Never ever say to yourself that you are going to have something done quickly; you just don’t want to tempt fate.

Let’s look at another example where such a problem has come up. This is my worksheet for property currently owned by Josh McDonald.

We can find that Josh McDonald bought from Eleanor Ivey in 2005 and Eleanor Ivey bought from James Johnson in 1999. But we can’t find who James Johnson bought from. On the computer we have looked back to 1992 and only found the deed from him to Eleanor Ivey. Since it’s on computer, we can also view the document, but it doesn’t reveal any references to past instruments. We have searched by Johnson James, Johnson Jim, and Johnson J.

Nada. Zippo. Big, fat, nothing. No warranty deed. And we would also expect a release of lien to be filed soon after he sold to Eleanor Ivey when his loan (if he had one) was paid, and we didn’t find that either. We have looked in the Grantee index books back to 1939 and didn’t find him.

Remember that we record the “Instrument Date” and the “Recording Date”. Most of the time, they are within a week of each other. But sometimes a person buys property, and the deed isn’t filed with the county clerk’s office for quite a while. Sometimes, in cash transactions, it could be years between signing the deed and filing the deed, and the oversight isn’t caught until the property is sold again and a title search reveals a break in the chain. Then, you’ll find the missing deed filed with the current warranty deed for the property. But that wasn’t the case this time.

Next, we go to the Grantor index to see if he signed a Deed of Trust for a mortgage on the property. We’ll start at June 9, 1999 on the computer and work backward just as we did with the grantee index, and that is how we found him. James Johnson et ux (remember that means and wife) Victoria signed a Deed of Trust on October 31, 1991 and it is located in Vol. 600, page 352. We’ll look up that instrument and see if it references the warranty deed. Unfortunately, all it says is that there is a warranty deed of even date, meaning of the same date. See what we get for tempting fate?

Just to make sure we didn’t miss it, we go back to the Grantee book for October 31, 1991. The book only goes to October 6, 1991, and there is no note at the bottom of the page saying it is continued on page xxx (which often happens when they run out of room on the last page of the section). We know the computer starts with January 1992, so where is the index for October 7, 1991 through December 31, 1991? Lost? Misplaced?

We go ask a clerk who has another resource that can be checked. It is the daily log, which records every document in chronological order as it is received by the clerk’s office, regardless of type. So if a warranty deed and a deed of trust are received at the same time, they are going to be listed one after the other in this log. The clerk finds not only the missing warranty deed, but also the deed of trust and the release of lien, all in that three month period!

So now we have the warranty deed and find that James Johnson and wife Victoria bought the property from Holly Oak Development Corp. on Oct. 31, 1991, and they paid off the loan on Nov. 10, 1991. The release was filed Dec. 11, 1991. (Various reasons for taking out a loan and then paying it off immediately:  private loan that wasn’t complete at the time of sale, cashing out stocks that didn’t happen in time, inheritance, etc.)

Problem 2
The previous grantee is a big corporation, yet I can’t find them in the index.

Let’s take Holly Oak Development Corp. as an example. Remember that at the front of the index books is a guide page to tell us on what page the name will be located. See if the guide is just for names of people....

If so, see if there is another page behind that one that is for names of corporations - which has a different set of pages:

Problem 3
The corporation bought and sold so many properties that I don’t know which ones to look at.

Right now our worksheet looks like this:

Whether on the computer or in the books, look on the right side of the page for the description of the property.  That will help us narrow our search even if it just lists the subdivision or survey, and will pinpoint the deed if our exact description is there.

(See the computer screen above, and  the index book below)

We are looking for Hamilton Heights, lot 12 in block 59. But if this is a developer, it may not be listed as each lot or even each block, and it’s possible (and most likely) the developer bought the land before it was named the Hamilton Heights subdivision. Let’s add the name of the survey to our worksheet. Since our deeds have only had the name of the lot, block and subdivision, we need to go to the plat records to find out what survey it is in.

Ask the clerk where the plat records are, and how to search them for your subdivision. They will either be in a hanging file (they are quite large, at least 36 inches by 36 inches), or in a file cabinet with lots of shallow drawers. Most of the time, they are in alphabetical order, so you merely look for the letter “H” and then find Hamilton Heights. When we find it, at the top of the plat map, it will tell us the name of the survey, along with the legal description for the entire subdivision, which says it has a total of 112 acres. Now we find that our subdivision is out of parts of the the Isaac Kingsley Survey, Abstract 172, and the William Culbertson Survey, Abstract 293.

Now we continue with the grantee index. At the bottom of our worksheet, we can write down every document that pertains to either the “Hamilton Heights subdivision” or the “Kingsley and Culbertson Surveys”, and if we don’t find the exact acreage, we’ll have to look up every document until we find a legal description that matches the one on the plat. Skip any that specify a lot and block of the Hamilton Heights subdivision that isn’t ours. As we work backward, we find that Holly Oak Development Corp. bought two pieces of land in the Kingsley and Culbertson Surveys. One is for 247 acres and the other is for 112 acres. Bingo, we found it.

*note* If we hadn’t found the exact acreage, it would most likely be because pieces were cut off for roads, etc. In the legal description, it should have wording ending with "and containing 120 acres, save and except the 8 acres within the county road” and you will have to subtract to make sure it is our 112 acres. Or it might end with “less 8 acres, and containing 112 acres”.

Now our worksheet looks like this:

Problem 4
The previous grantee bought several tracts out of the same survey, and none of the acreages match the one I am looking for.

It could be the same as my example in Part 3, and the grantee divided the land and sold pieces to different people.

Or it could be that the grantee bought small pieces and combined them into a larger tract. In that case, you have to find all the pieces he bought and find the ones that fit within the 120 acres he later sold. With any luck, the grantee combined everything he bought and into our 120 acres.

If the pieces are not an obvious fit, each piece will need to be plotted onto a graph to make certain they belong in the larger tract, and I’m not prepared to explain that at this time. If you ever come across this problem, feel free to contact me for help.

I can’t find the address on the deed.

Property isn’t described by address, because addresses can change. Property is described by legal description, often called metes and bounds which is the surveyor’s description of a measured piece of land. The measurement is in feet and the corners or turns are described by degrees. In Texas, older deeds will give the lengths in varas which was a form of measurement in Mexico, and thus in the early Texas. One vara is a few inches short of a yard.

Here is an easy one, a simple square:

Beginning at an iron rod being the SE corner of the Jacob Davis Survey, Abstract #543,
Thence south, 30° 220’ 11”
Thence east, 60° 220’ 11”
Thence north, 30° 220’ 11”
Thence west, 60° 220’ 11” to the place of Beginning and containing 1.121 acres, more or less.

Here’s a quiz for you. Is this land in the Jacob Davis Survey? (Scroll to bottom for map answer)

Here is a harder one, but very typical for older descriptions:  (drawing below with red outline around described tract)

Situated on the waters of Red Dog Creek about 4 miles NW from Casonville.
Beginning at the NE corner of the 116 acres Tucker tract,
Thence South with the East line of said tract 475 varas to a corner in the North line of 160 acres in the name of J.C. Wilson.
West 475 varas to Red Dog Creek.
Northeasterly along Red Dog Creek to a large live oak tree.
Thence North 45 feet to the south line of 200 acres in the name of W. Martin,
Thence east 400 varas to the place of beginning and containing 100 acres more or less.

Did you get the right answer to the first one?

I hope all this isn’t too hard to understand and that it answers the questions that will come up when you do research. If you have any questions or need a better explanation, please ask.

Until next time, may you have blessings and a simple search,

p.s.  Professional title researchers and landmen usually have an account with a title company.  That gives them access to the company records and makes searching much easier, because most title companies sort their records by the Survey.


Genealogy, Title research

August 14, 2010

I Am a Blogaholic

I love seeing what other people create, what they think, and how they organize their lives. I like to read a variety of blogs but there are some that give me that “oh boy!” feeling when I see a new post.

One of my favorite blogs is Our House, written by a forum friend of mine, Pakalana. Her writing style is warm and easy, giving a peek into her life as a homesteading farmwife and mother of five. She milks cows and goats, feeds chickens, rabbits, pigs, and of course cats and dogs, gardens and cans her produce, bakes, and still has time for her family. It’s like a modern Little House on the Prairie, and every entry ends with me wanting to read more. I think her life intrigues me because it’s something I always wanted to do, but I know now that I never will. It’s such a far cry from my usual life of gardening, remodeling, and life near the city. She doesn’t post often during the busy seasons of her life (and they’re all busy) but I hope she posts more soon.

I have found that I really can’t live without Better After. I don’t know how she does it, but Lindsey finds the most amazing transformations and I could look at them all day. (And sometimes I do.) This is one of those blogs where every entry is good and you want to go back and read from the beginning. (And I have.) I was going to link to one of my favorite transformations, but really, there are so many that I can’t decide between them.

Another blog that is a daily addiction is Someday Crafts. Every craft Michelle has found has been one I would like to make. Someday. She finds something for everyone and I love the variety. I used to bookmark each post but found that I was doing that every day! She has a list in her right column with the crafts labeled, so now I use that to find something I want to make.

I’ve mentioned before that Larainy Days is one of my favorites. Her posts crack me up; I just love the way she looks at life. I love her latest, Dressing for Failure. I think every woman, well, every woman over 35, can relate.

I have learned so much from Blogger Tricks. I found this blog when I had accidently changed my blog template and couldn’t figure out how to get it back. Then I started looking at all the tips and had several of those “Aha!” moments when I finally understood some things I had read about. I even learned how to make these links open in a new window there. Kranthi also has some really neat templates. When I find the right two column template, I want to switch to something more contemporary.

Katy Wolk-Stanley at The Non-Consumer Advocate writes a smart blog about frugality, living simply, decluttering, living wisely, green living, and all the things that are near and dear to my heart. I love that she lives what she writes.

If I had little ones at home, I would have to make everything Amy does at The Idea Room. I don’t know if she sits around thinking up all this cute stuff all day, or if she gets an idea somewhere else and tweaks it so it is just right. A lot of her ideas are perfect for adults gifts as well. I’ve made several things and will be gearing up for Christmas crafts soon. Last year I bought all the stuff to make personalized hand sanitizer, and then I never got around to making it. This year I am starting early.

I found Back Porch Musings when I was looking for something to do around St. Louis one year. But I’ve kept reading Pat’s blog to read more of her adventures. She also gives some great tips that I have used in my blog. Seeing her lovely home gives me hope that the chaos of my house may someday be tamed. It does fill me with longing to see a house where every room is not only finished, but perfectly decorated with nary a ladder or paintbrush in sight. Someday. Someday.

There are so many more, I could really go on and on adnauseum. Some blogs appeal to one person and not another, so the ones I like may hold no interest at all for someone else. Some blogs that draw me are because I see myself in the posts. I connect with some blogs in one post and then never really get the same feel again. But there are other blogs, like Grandma's Attic that I swear I see more similarities all the time. It’s like she is reading my mind at times, and that is freaky but oddly reassuring too.

The funny thing is, on most of the blogs I read, I look on their blog rolls and see other blogs I read. What are your favorite blogs?

Until next time, may you have blessings and inspiration in blogland,

August 12, 2010

How to Research the Ownership of Your Property, Part 3

Taking up where we left off yesterday, today we are looking up the actual deeds in the county clerk's office from the volume and page numbers written on your worksheet. Remember we are looking for Volume 707, page 299, hoping to find a clue or reference to the next previous owner so we don't have to look through several volumes of indexes.

Step Eight
Find the document in the deed books. Remember the books are numbered, so it’s just a matter of walking past the rows of books until I get to the one with volume 707.

When I turned to page 299, I read through it and saw in one of the Exhibits that this is the same property conveyed to W. Ralston in a deed located in volume 376, page 347. Yeehaw! That saved some time. You can take the pages out of these books and copy them in the clerk's office, but the cost is $1 per page ($2 per page in Oklahoma!), so I usually just take a picture with my camera. All I care about is that it’s legible, so I take a couple of pictures of every page. Sometimes I have to put the book on the floor to see what I am photographing. The older books are hard to open and close too which is another good reason to photograph.

What is an exhibit, you ask? On standardized forms like this, there wasn’t enough room for long legal descriptions, or to make special provisions, so they did them in additions called exhibits. Exhibit “A” here was the legal description, and Exhibit “B” was where they kept a portion of the mineral rights. Always read the exhibits.

Then I looked in volume 376 on page 347 to find out who sold the land to Ralston.

What I see here is that a lot of people, many with the same last name, sold to Ralston. They are Edna Pearl Carder, Lorita Carder, and Lorena Carder, femes sole (that means they were single females), and Charles Carder, a single man, of Ellis County, Texas, Frances Napper and husband, Monroe E. Napper, Claude Carder and wife, Florence Carder, A.L. Carder and wife, Fannie Carder and Lena Carder, a feme sole, of the County of Dallas. That tells me that these are probably the children of the person who originally bought the land. Further reading through the document references a deed from Thomas Morgan to James D. Carder in volume 30, page 359. There is no name listed as widow in the grantors above, so either Mrs. Carder died prior to James D. Carder buying the property, or they both died after buying it.

I looked at the deed in volume 30, page 359.

And see that Thomas Morgan and his wife Addie, sold the property to James Carder in 1883. No mention of a Mrs. Carder. At this point, I could go to the probate records to see if the will of James Carder was filed, giving his land to his children, if these are his children. James Carder could have been a single man, never married, and these are his brothers, sisters, nieces, or nephews. Or I could go back to the indexes and see if I can find an affidavit explaining the relationship.  My best bet is an affidavit.

Step Nine
I know that the Carder clan sold to W. Ralston in March 1946, so if there is going to be an affidavit, it will be filed at or near that time. An affidavit will be from them to whoever it may concern, which makes them grantors.  So we look in the Grantor Index to see if there is anything on that date from the Carder family, besides the deed to Ralston.  . 

There are two deeds from Lena Carder, one to Claud Carder (who is her brother), giving him her 1/5 of the 100 acres. (Yes, 100 acres. When the Carder clan sold to Ralston, part of the 100 acres became a county road and they were left with 82 acres to sell.) There is a certified copy of a dissolution of minorship of one of the Carder children, Charles, and there is an affidavit explaining the relationship of everyone named as grantors in the deed to Ralston. Jackpot!

It also gives the date of death of both James D. Carder and his wife, Sallie. James died in 1908 and Sallie died in 1924. So now I know that both of them died while owning the property, and their dates of death so I can search for their wills easier.

At this point, this is what my worksheet looks like.

Now I need to look in the Grantee index to find the grantor who sold the land to Thomas Morgan, and I can look in the probate index to find the wills of James and Sallie Carder, if there are wills.

When I look in the grantee book for Thomas Morgan, I see that he bought the 100 acres from the original patentee Bingler who received 160 acres, so there my search ends. The original patent is where the State of Texas officially handed over the land that wasn’t owned by anyone when Texas became a state of the Union. Because most county records start with this state patent, it is hard to research beyond that at the county level.

So now what?

If you just want to know the ownership of your land or minerals, that’s pretty much it. You can search the indexes, both grantor and grantee for the names you have on your worksheet within the dates those people owned it. You can find leases, releases, right of ways, deed of trusts, sheriff’s deeds, assignments, and quit claim deeds, all of which give bits of information about the property, the mineral rights, and the people who owned it. Probate records often give a list of property owned, which family members become owners of the land, what happens to minors, and any debts owed on the land. Marriage records reveal the new names of daughters who were named in a will of one parent but not the other. Death records give date of death and often list parents names. Divorce records and judgment records are at the district clerk’s office.

Next time, how to find personal and genealogical information about the former owners.

Until next time, may you have blessings and an unbroken chain,

p.s. I changed the volume and page numbers as well as the some other information here to protect my identity, but the concept is the same.

August 11, 2010

How to Research the Ownership of Your Property, Part 2

Taking up where we left off yesterday, now we have to go to the county clerk's office in person.

Step Three
Take your worksheet and digital camera and go to the county clerk’s office, usually located in the county court house. Or if your county has outgrown the courthouse, like mine, it could be in a separate building.

Step Four
Gawk. Just kidding. Sort of.  But do spend a few minutes looking around to see where things are located.  I do like to gaze at court houses.  There is something about them that fascinates me. To think that my great great grandfather might have touched the same doorknobs, stood at the same counter, and looked through the same books makes me feel very connected to them. Even the new court houses like this one contain the past, threaded through the newness of the present.

Step Five
If you have never been there before, ask someone at the desk where things are located, and hopefully they can give you a mini tour. You are going to be looking primarily at deed records and probate records. You’ll need to know if they are on computer, microfilm, or books, and the dates covered by each. You’ll need to know where the indexes are too, and how to log on to the computers if there are any.

The main thing you will see is row after row of really big books or binders, something like this:

This is the only clerk’s office I have been in with so many tables. Most of the time, the books are in tall metal shelves. This one is new and very, very nice.

Step Six
Start with the name and date of the last grantee you have on your worksheet. If your worksheet is still blank except for your name, start there. If you bought your property in the last fifteen years, it should be on their computer if they have computers. Our county clerk’s office computers go back to 1992.

Find the computers and log in.

If your tour didn’t include how to use the computers, look for a search box or link to search by grantor and grantee, in this case GR-GE.  Click that and it should take you to a page where you can insert your name or the name of the last grantee you know.

You can search by last name only or narrow down by last name, space (no commas), first name. You can narrow further by putting in the instrument type, but you might miss out on a source of information that way, so I leave that blank. Or you can search by volume and page if you only want to see the deeds you have already found.

Then you can “View Document” and read or print it. If you aren’t picky about the picture quality, you can photograph the screen, but I think I got lucky here that I didn’t just get a glare or distorted photo of the document. Or you can just write down the information on your worksheet. I blotted it out, but the volume here is 845, page 380. The grantor is ERPS, Inc, and this is a warranty deed (WD). The date is actually November 1992. That’s as far back as I can go on the computer, so now I head to the books.

Step Seven
Because not all clerk’s offices have computers, or your start time may be prior to when they are on computer, I’m going to pretend we haven't used the computer and restart my search in the books. Also, other states may not be arranged the same way most are in Texas, so you may have to tweak my advice.  Find the grantee indexes. They will most likely be under or near the only tables in the clerk’s office, but in this office there are so many tables, I had to ask where they were. I know we bought the property in 1992, so I start there. The books are arranged chronologically, and then alphabetically within each book. However, in later years, there are so many deeds that they are divided alphabetically within the time period also.

It appears that 1992 is split up here, so I find the last half of the year in this stack, and the book with last names (or companies) that start with the letter W (for our last name).

At the beginning of the index book will be a guide to tell me what page our name will be on. There is a section for names that start with Wa, with We, with Wi, and Wh-Wy; and then subsections. Sometimes there are full last names written on the lines in the section, for names that have a lot of deeds, like Williams, or Smith, or Jones, etc.

My name is going to be on page 41. These books aren't numbered like any other books.  There may be five page 41’s before page 42 starts, and then six 42's before page 43 starts.  It depends on the number of instruments filed during that time period. If I didn’t know the date of the deed I’m looking for, I would start on the bottom of the last page 41, but since I know the approximate date, and since the all the pages numbered 41 are in chronological order, I look through those pages by date until I find my name. (I cropped my name off here so you’ll have to take my word for it that I’m on the right page.) Remember that I am the buyer or the grantee, and I want to know the name of the person or company who sold it to me, the grantor. And there it is, ERPS, Inc. On the far right side of the page is “Description of Property”. That’s important, because some people bought and sold real estate like kids trade video games and there might be a whole page with just their name on it. So I see that it’s 7.7 acres out of the Bingler Survey, and I know it’s the right one. So I fill in the blanks on my worksheet with that information. Now I need to find ERPS, Inc., as grantee, to find out who they bought it from.

Since I bought the property in the fall of 1992, I need to start there and work my way back in time to find them. I get out the E-K Grantee book for April 1990 through December 1991, find the page in the guide that tells me that the name will be on page 35. I turn to the last page 35, start at the bottom, and run my finger along the names until I get to the top, turn the page and look on every page until I get to the first entry on the first page 35. Nothing. Nada. Zippo.

So I get the E-K Grantee book for January 1980 through March 1990, and start on the last page 35 there too. Finally found their name in July 1984, in Vol. 707, Page 299. The grantor is W.C. Ralston and wife Margaret, but the “Description of Property” column says that it is 82 acres out of the Bingler Survey. If I didn’t already know that ERPS bought about 100 acres of farmland to divide and develop, I'd think I had the wrong one and keep looking until I found all the tracts that added up to 82.  But since I know this is the right piece, I go on.

(note: The grantor could have been written as W.C. Ralston et ux Margaret. Et ux just means "and wife". Et al means "and others". You’ll see et al when there are a lot of names and they won’t fit into the form.)

Here, I have a choice because I know a little history of the property. If I didn’t know anything, I’d look in the grantee index for W.C. Ralston, starting in 1984 and working my way back until I found him. But, since I knew Mrs. Ralston, and knew she had lived there a very long time, I knew I could be looking through several books before I found it and thought I’d try a shortcut by looking at the deed where Ralston sold to ERPS.

In the next post, I'll show how to locate the deeds from the volume and page numbers on your worksheet.

Until next time, may you have blessings and simple title,

Genealogy, Title research, Pix

August 10, 2010

How to Research the Ownership of Your Property, Part 1

This post is for Calamity Anne, and anyone else who would like to know how to trace the history of your property. Calamity Anne wants to know how to find out who has lived on the land she now owns and what happened to them.

Many years ago, before I worked as a landman, and before I became interested in genealogy research, I worked for a title company as an abstractor. That was when it was more common to have an abstract of title when buying property than to have title insurance. Same work involved except the buyer got to keep the abstract when it was completed, which contained documentation of everyone who had owned the property, and now the buyer just gets a certificate saying it’s all there. Basically, Calamity Anne needs to do her own abstract, or the basics of an abstract extended with a little genealogy.

Here is a basic “how to” which assumes a person knows nothing about researching title, so it may be a little too simple for some of you.

In tracing the ownership of the land (and minerals), you work from the present, starting with the current owner of the property and work back to the beginning. I am going to use a property that Hubby and I bought as examples through this.

I am going to put my recap here instead of at the end, because this turned out really long and could be a real yawner. In fact, to make it easier, I've divided this into several posts.

Step 1: Make a worksheet to easily see your chain of ownership and keep from getting off track.
Step 2: Do preliminary research from home if possible.
Step 3: Go to the county clerk's office.
Step 4: Look around and see where everything is.
Step 5: Ask for a quick tour or explanation of where things are and how they work.
Step 6: Start with the grantee index on computer and find your name, or the name of the present owner. or
Step 7: Start with the grantee index in books or microfilm to get document locations.
Step 8: Look in stacks for documents in deed books.
Step 9: Look up extra document locations in grantor index, and then find them in the stacks.

You can stop reading here if you want to.  If you are a visual person and want to walk through a real search, keep reading.

Step One
Make a worksheet on a spreadsheet program or draw some columns on notebook paper. It will help keep your chain of title connected (nothing worse than getting home and seeing that you missed an owner in the middle), and keep you from chasing rabbit trails. Here’s one I use:

Legal documents are called instruments because they are tools that lawyers use to make binding agreements and transactions.

In very layman terms, when you buy a property from the seller, you usually sign an instrument called a Warranty Deed, though there can be other types of deeds. When you get a mortgage from a bank, you sign a Deed of Trust. Let’s go back to the Warranty Deed. The seller is called the grantor because he grants the property to the buyer and warrants that it is legal. The buyer is called the grantee because he receives the grant.

After you sign the stack of papers, you take possession of your new property and go merrily on your way to celebrate, move-in, build, or whatever. Meanwhile, someone gathers up all the papers you signed and rushes them over to the county clerk’s office where they are logged in, copied, stamped, and returned to you. The copy they kept has been stamped with the date it was received and recorded, and with numbers for the volume and page of the book it will be placed into, or scanned into their computer system where it stays for all eternity, for anyone to find. Hopefully. In the past, court house fires have been responsible for huge losses of records.

So the columns in the above sheet are for volume and page, (where the deed is located within the clerk's office), the names of the grantor (seller) and grantee (buyer), the type of instrument (like WD for Warranty Deed), the instrument date (the date it was signed), the recording date (the date the county clerk’s office received and stamped it), the number of acres (or can be lot and block if a town plot), and the name of the survey (can be name of subdivision if a town plot).

Step Two
You might be able to start at home on your computer. The county appraisal district is the easiest place to start if your county is online and if your purchase is recent enough to be computerized. You can google “(Your county and state) Appraisal District”. Some states don’t have this information online, or it’s hard to find. If you don’t find it in a search, you can call them to see if there is a website you can search. If it’s not online, skip to the next step. If you are in Texas, you may be able to find your appraisal district here. Not all counties use this system, so don’t give up if it isn’t here.

Once you find the website, click on search and follow the steps until you find your property. You may have to click on “Details” to open a page similar to this:

Click on Deed History to see the last 3 deeds (back to the point where your county has their records on computer). Here you can see the name of the person you bought the property from, and possibly the names of other previous owners, and the volume and page where copies of their deeds are located.  Jot those down on your worksheet.

Then, if your county clerk’s office has it’s records online, you can look at those deeds. You can call your county clerk’s office or google “(Your county and state) public records”. My county isn’t online, so just for an example, I googled “Tarrant County Texas public records” because I knew they were online.

This is the page that came up:

Open the drop box and go to “Real Property Search”. From there, fill out the form and view the deed. When you read the deed, it may reference a previous warranty deed. That’s always a happy bonus, and with any luck, you can look it up online also.

If your county appraisal district or county clerk’s records aren’t online, it's on to step three.

Until next time, may you have blessings and a computerized county,

Genealogy, Title Research

August 06, 2010

The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling!

Oh wait, it's just rain.

Have you ever had one of those frustrating days when nothing goes right...and then a scorchingly hot day suddenly ends with a refreshing rain storm? Good timing Mother Nature, thanks.

Until next time, may you have blessings and soothing rain,

August 05, 2010

Rolling Blackouts

It's currently 6:30 pm, the temperature is 101.3 according to wunderground and we have just had a series of blackouts. This is soooo not a good night to lose power. Mandy the dog always wanted to be in a pool of water when it was hot, I wonder if I could sleep in the bathtub without drowning?

Until next time, may you have blessings and air conditioning,

Lil's Kitchen

If you liked the bathroom, you'll love the kitchen.  If you are into modern, you won't like it at all. lol

Almost nothing has been done to the kitchen, except the appliances and floor have been replaced. We wondered if they were pink. Pink with red tile? Hmmm. But the counter is a pink boomerang pattern so who knows. It has been suggested that there used to be a scalloped cornice board over the kitchen sink also, but there is no evidence of it.

The cabinets still have the original bread drawer.

That little door in the wall is a pantry over the adjacent basement stairs. Kind of quirky, but they made use of the empty space over the stairs and space is precious in a small house. Besides, quirky is more interesting.

Until next time, may you have blessings and quirks,

August 04, 2010

Lil's Little House

We took a quick trip to see our youngest and her new house, or new-to-her house.  It was built in 1950 and is almost unchanged, which is a good thing to those who love that look.  I love the shower in her bathroom, peachy pink tile and all.  If anyone is into the 1950's look, can you tell us whether the glass shower doors were original to the house?  It would seem that they are, but there is also a shower rod above the sliding doors.  Why?  We don't know.

Isn't it cute?!!! She is in old home love.

 This is the narrow tile border.  It's black, the same peachy pink, and a light green.  Lil thinks pale green towels would look nice in here.

There was evidence that this (and other rooms) in the house had been painted a shade darker than the green in this tile, more like hospital green.  Ugh.  Sure am glad the sellers painted it before Lil bought it.

By the way, blogger made some changes while I was away, and while I'm sure they are good, I'm not wild about the new way to upload pictures. I apologize if they are too large.

The kitchen was practically untouched. Looks like they took out the broiler and added a panel to cover the opening. Look at the odd way the stovetop extends into the corner.

Until next time, may you have blessings and your own home love,

August 03, 2010

It's Hot!

We decided to take a long weekend and visit our daughter. She bought a house and wanted to show it to us, as well as get a little experienced help from her dad. The days were humid but in the low to mid 90's, so not intolerable. And best of all, it cooled down at night.

Now we are home again. This was our temperature at 3:30 this afternoon. If it didn't mean spending twelve hours in the car, I'd turn around and go back!

Until next time, may you have blessings and cool breezes,