Building the House Continues

November
16
2016

 

 

It’s been a couple of weeks.  We wound up living above the garage, now dubbed the “Penthouse” for four weeks total.  Two weeks longer than we expected.  And that right there sums up the project.  Everything is going so slowly.  When the project was just about to start, John and I made a bet.  (For 25 cents.)  He said we’d be in the house by his birthday, which is early August.  I said it would be by my birthday, which is early October.  We were both wrong.  If we get in by the second week in December I’ll be surprised.  Happy, but surprised.  I’m thinking it won’t be the kind of grand holiday decorating that I would have liked, but still, I do expect we’ll finally be able to take our turn hosting Christmas dinner.

So, back to blog-time. It’s mid July.  The roof is done and they are starting on the stairs.  Before this we walked up a board on the side, so this was really an exciting day!

Little Choptank 2016 G July 110

Little Choptank 2016 G July 130

Now, here comes a bold move on our part – according to our daughter.  (And not a decision she was particularly in support of.)  The design of the outside siding called for little half-round CertainTeed shingles at the very top.  Well, at the last minute, we decided to go with……yellow!!   Shocking!  We really live on the edge.   So yeah, we went with the yellow, which we are still happy with, but it did change the look of the place.  What do you think?  Would you have stayed with white?

Little Choptank 2016 G July 125

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It’s different I guess, but when we’re coming in on the boat it looks pretty.

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Here it is at night with the cupola light on:

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The plans originally called for a small set of stairs outside of the great room, and no stairs outside our bedroom, but as the guys were building, we thought having the great room stairs run the whole length of the windows would look much better, and be safer too!  And then we also added stairs outside our bedroom deck.  That also looks much better.

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They also did the wood above the front door, where the curve is.  Things look so simple on the plans, but this curve was really a lot of work!

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And here is what the inside looks like at this point – this is from the great room looking towards the front door:

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This is looking into the kitchen/pantry area towards the Crab Shack.

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And here’s the fireplace:

Little Choptank 2016 G July 228

Ah, the fireplace.  We wound up (unbeknownst to us) buying a fireplace that was much bigger than the space that was planned for it.  We didn’t know.  And I guess no one was paying attention to say, get one that is such and such a size  rather than any old one you fall in love with.  So when it was ready to be installed, the guys had to scramble and build out the wood framing to accommodate the insert.  You can see that in the picture.  What we also didn’t realize at that time was that since this was “extra” we got charged for this extra building, but also…..it threw off the amount of space I was going to have for the great room built ins!  Now the built-in and TV is going to be more to the left than I anticipated or wanted!  We’ve dealt with it – not that it’s done even as we speak!

So we’ll move into August next time, thanks for checking in!

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Green Metal Roof

October
21
2016
Roof going up

Roof going up

It’s July here in blog-time.  And HOT!  Very, very hot….here on the Eastern Shore it’s 98 degrees and with the heat index it’s been up to 105!  And these guys are installing our green metal roof!  To their credit, they work all day, taking their lunch in their air-conditioned cars and dousing themselves with water from the hose once in a while.  I feel badly for them, but we’re happy the work is progressing.

Little Choptank 2016 G July 001

We have a green metal roof on the Crab Shack and we’ve been very happy with it.  It’s rated for winds over 200 mph – and let’s hope we never have to test that! It’s the heavy gauge, which again, is great for us, but a little tougher to install.  To be honest, there are a couple of things about it I wish were different.  In the bedroom of the Crab Shack, when it rains it’s a little noisy.  Not so much in the living room, I guess because the ceiling is so high in there.  The other thing, in the winter when we have snow or once in a while ice on the roof, it slides down the metal when the sun warms it up and crashes to the ground.  It’s loud and would be dangerous if you were out there under it when it fell.  Now I know why they have those little stoppers on some roofs.  Makes sense.

Little Choptank 2016 F June 235

Little Choptank 2016 G July 025

The cupola looks nice with the roof all done.  While this was going on, we were working on the gas fireplace.  We love a real wood fireplace, and we’ve had them before.  Now that I think of it, we’ve always had a fireplace.  In Long Island we had a wood fireplace, in Pennsylvania a wood one also.  We eventually added an insert to that wood fireplace because the room was so big and the ceiling so high, and it was HOT in there, even in the coldest, snowiest winters!   Then in NJ we started with wood, but Chrissy and I would cough whenever John lit a fire.  We even raised the chimney because it was too short and we thought that was the problem. It helped a little but not enough. We finally decided to change to gas, and that’s when we found out the flue wasn’t positioned right and was actually too shallow so the smoke would seep back into the room. Converting to gas solved the problem and actually converted us to believers.  We’ll have the wood fire when we build the outdoor fire pit.  I know just where I want to put it!

Here's the spot for the gas fireplace

Here’s the spot for the gas fireplace

And our front door arrives!

Little Choptank 2016 G July 073

Little Choptank 2016 G July 076

Front door installed

Front door installed

It’s always something, isn’t it?  The plans from Lars (the house designer) called for a mahogany door – at a cost of $12,000!  I don’t know about you, but I don’t really need a $12,000 mahogany door.  So we went with the white.  Then, the side lights he called for were a little wider – something that would have to be custom-made.  It was supposed to be a 7 foot door and instead is 5 foot. If I didn’t tell you, you wouldn’t know it wasn’t as big as it was supposed to be.  Looks pretty good I think.

A real-time update:  We are staying up in the little “apartment” above the garage while they are working in the Crab Shack, it’s a little crowded, but isn’t that bad.

IMG_1353

I’ll be glad to get back into the Crab Shack though, even without a kitchen.  I’ll be back next week as we move along on our building process.  Meanwhile, enjoy the sunset!

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We Didn’t Know What We Didn’t Know

November
20
2015

 

First off, now that I’m “back”, I want to thank you all for hanging in there.  (Although truthfully most of the emails I got are questions about our Katrina Cottage – a/k/a The Crab Shack.)  It’s been a while, I know – but I just didn’t feel like writing.  And here’s why…..

As you may remember, we moved down to Maryland a year ago – and we were moving along nicely for a while with our house plans.  Then our draftsman got sick, and we didn’t hear from him for months (and months and months)!  It was very annoying discouraging.  When we did finally get them back, of course, there was another change or two we wanted done, and that took another few weeks.

House Plans

Finally the day came!  The plans were all done and we were going to give them out to three builders.  Two local regular builders and one modular.  Believe it or not, that process took much longer than we anticipated also!  The two local builders had to come to the property a few times to check out the road, or measure something, and the modular builder (who I dealt with only online) hardly ever wrote and didn’t even acknowledge receiving our plans for two weeks!

I’d say it took at least another month before we were able to make an appointment with each of the builders to go over their proposals.  When we met with the first builder, we went over each and every page, with them practically reading each page in its entirety.  When we got to the last page, our jaws dropped – over a million dollars!!  Yep, you read that right.  I mean, how stupid were we?  We never thought it would have been that much!

Now yes, this was the highest bid, and we knew it would be.  The other local builder was somewhat less, coming in around the $840,000 range.  (Between us friends – this was the one we secretly figured we’d be going with.)  And as expected, the modular builder’s bid was the least – however, they did not have a lot of things included in their price that would still have to be added in, like wood floors throughout, and granite counter tops – among many other things.

OLD HOUSE PLANS 1st FloorAfter waiting ALL THAT TIME I was so disheartened.  And I’m not even just talking about waiting for the plans to be finished and the bids to come in.  I had been working on these plans for years!  I scoured probably a hundred house plan books in libraries and bookstores, I bought at least 10 of them, and looked at thousands of plans online to draw up what we wanted in our dream house.  Then we had the draftsman draw them up, and we changed them many, many times making these some of the most expensive plans you’ll ever see.  If we only knew then what we know now!   I was done.  I just couldn’t muster any enthusiasm to continue talking about house plans.  We told the builders the bad news, we were just going to shelf everything for a while and then see what we wanted to do.  John at first thought we’d start planning right away.  But I didn’t want to.  I didn’t have the enthusiasm for it.  It was our first full-time summer down here and I wanted to enjoy it, not only getting a break from all the house plan talk, but I also didn’t want people coming down to the property all the time checking on wetlands, and height requirements, and setbacks or anything else.

By the way, here is the best piece of advice I can give you…..if you are planning to build a house – buy plans that are already made up.  You can always find a draftsman or house designer or even an architect to change them.  But drawing up plans from scratch, and then making all the changes that will be necessary is unbelievably expensive. Trust me on this one.  And by the way, we have a full set of house plans for sale. :)

OLD HOUSE PLANS 2nd Floor

So we took a break.  And enjoyed the summer.  We fished, we went out in the kayak, we took sunset cruises, we toured around the area a little, we barbecued, we had company, and we relaxed.  It was heaven!  And then we decided to get back to business.

Come back next time to see what we’ve been up to.

 

Gardening Tips

April
8
2015

 

I was busy working in the garden last week, planting some cool weather herbs and veggies, and now I’m on the hunt for something they don’t have around here.  Broccoli raab. I don’t know why nobody has it. It’s not that unusual an item.  But it made me decide to put in some brussel sprouts.  I don’t know if that makes sense to you, but it makes perfect sense to me.  They are all over the place and I have a little room to spare.

What we have so far is arugula and garlic, chives and celery seedlings, and parsley, cilantro and thyme. I also planted more parsley (by way of seeds), and peas and spinach.

I’ll be away this week, back in Jersey, and you can bet I’m scouting around for some broccoli raab! Meanwhile, I saw this wonderful article on gardening.  It’s from fix.com and it’s very interesting and informative.   Hopefully it will get you in the gardening mood and help answer any questions you might have if you’re just starting out.  And I’d love to hear about your gardens!

 


Source: Fix.com

The Best Garden Ever!

March
27
2015

 

Well, that is to say it will be OUR best garden ever.  Right before Christmas John started building our garden.  With several acres to work with, the first decision was where to place it.  Close to where the hose is for sure – no one wants to depend on the rain or shlep the watering cans!  I thought I’d want it close to where the house is going to be, but it is actually too early to tell where the best spot for that will be, and also there is no water set up there yet.  Okay, so close to the garage and close to the Crab Shack.

Building the Garden

Building the Garden

This will actually be our first raised bed garden!  We had a small garden on Long Island when we were first married, and because the ground was so easy to work, and we had the sun all day long, and I suspect because it was small enough that it wasn’t overwhelming, that was our best garden so far.  We had a large garden in Pennsylvania when we lived there, but the soil was as hard as rocks.  It actually was all rock.  We worked some areas of it, and things grew, but as you can imagine, they struggled.

 

Paper to prevent weeds

Paper to prevent weeds

Our garden in New Jersey was manageable enough, and we worked in a lot of good soil, but once all the trees bloomed, it was too shady for any award-winning vegetables.  I usually did pretty well with herbs, had plenty of basil for my pesto, but the tomatoes and peppers were …eh, just okay.

 

Shells for the garden floor

Shells for the garden floor

But we have very high hopes for this garden.  John and Mark (our friend) put shells down on the “floor” of the garden to also discourage weeds.  I love to garden, but I don’t like weeding.  And I’ll try anything to avoid having to do it.

Shells all done

Shells all done

Then John started on building the boxes.  And I started researching what we were going to plant, planting dates, how much room plants need for good root growth, along with soil and fertilizing requirements. What fun!

First garden box

First garden box

By the time we finish for this our first year, with all the lumber, the shells, the soil and the plants and seeds, our first tomato will have cost us $1,000!

Raised bed garden

Raised bed garden

We have four so far

We have four so far

We have one more large box to build, and two more waist-high ones.  Then our garden will be complete.  I’ve already planted a few cool weather things, garlic, peas, and a few rows of arugula.  Isn’t it cute?

Garlic and arugula

Garlic and arugula

I’ll keep you posted as to our progress.  And I’d love to hear about your gardening plans!

March Sunset

March Sunset

 

And the Tide Will Fall

March
18
2015

In December, John, Gene and I went on a fishing trip.  Yep, in December.  In Maryland.  And that is precisely why we wanted to move here.  We have all the seasons, (personally I’d give up the cold for warmer climates if you want the truth), but winters are shorter.  However, along with some extremely high tides, (read “And the Tide Will Rise”) come some very low tides.  We found this out when we ran aground that day.  We were soooo close, but not close enough!

John braved the cold water to go get Gene and I some waders.  He’s the best!

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Here he is coming to rescue us:

Low Tide

The only boat this is a problem for is the “Captain Joe”, our fishing boat named in honor of John’s dad. It’s bigger and heavier than the others, and it’s the one we take outside our river into the Chesapeake Bay to fish.  It’s a Glacier Bay so technically it’s a catamaran.   We saw one when we were out fishing one day, and thought it would be perfect for us because of its stability and because it has a “bathroom” – always a good thing!    So we began a search and found one online that was in a boatyard in south Jersey.  It needed some attention but we fell in love with it the minute we saw it.

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So we bought him, fixed him up, and brought him home:

Little Choptank 2012 April 1 and 2 New Boat 007

Meanwhile, back at our low tide story, Gene is out there waiting for his turn to come in:

low tide

John has to go back and forth taking off the tackle:

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I wish I could tell you that we caught some monster fish that day. We caught a couple small ones, but we let them go. (There are size limits.)  We enjoy catching anything but we’re always on the lookout for stripers (striped bass) – although we have to get used to calling them rockfish like they do here in Maryland.  For some reason we’ve had more luck catching them in Montauk:

Montauk Vacation July 22-29, 06 142 Montauk Vacation July 22-29, 06 144

But we’re learning some of the tricks to catching them here:

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Little Choptank 2012 May 22-29 Memorial 158

We couldn’t bring the Capt. Joe back into the dock till later that night when the tide rose again.  But he looked so nice sitting out there:

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Till next time.

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And The Tide Will Rise

March
4
2014

 

We learned something new about the tides when we moved to our place in Maryland this past October.  And we learned it the hard way.  It’s called the King Tide phenomenon.  It’s the highest of high tides, and occurs when the gravitational forces of the sun, the moon and the Earth’s rotation align perfectly.

This is how it started out when John and Gene went fishing the morning of October 3, 2014.

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And a little while later:

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The tide kept creeping up all day, Gene wasn’t even sure where the road was when he left that evening.

But here’s where we went wrong, the next day we wanted to run a few chores.  We had a Mazda Tribute, a high enough vehicle we thought, so a little water wouldn’t be a problem.  But this is what it looked like the next day:

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Little Choptank 2014 K Oct, Nov and other pics 086

We went out anyway, and found that even the main road was full of water:

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When we returned home we realized that our driveway had gotten considerably worse, but we decided to plow through.

 

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And so, here is where the Mazda died.

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Our expensive lesson was that not only was the engine flooded, it was beyond repair.  It would have cost more to fix than the car was worth, and needless to say, when the King Tide comes around again, we’ll be staying home!

Today’s update:  We just got our house plans back from the draftsman!  We are very excited and will finally be starting our journey to build our dream home!  We’ll have plenty of info on it in the near future, stay tuned!

 

Living in our Katrina Cottage

February
13
2015

 

We finally made the move!  And this beautiful site – taken from my front porch – greeted us two days later!  An omen you say?  I think so.

An all out Full Rainbow!

An all out Full Rainbow!

It’s been a long road moving down to our beautiful “designing our retirement” property. We’ve owned the property eight years now, and have been building things little by little – the garage, the Crab Shack, (see the inside here),  the metal building, the bocce court, the wind turbine and let’s not forget the fence (more on this in a future post) -  till we culminate with the Dream House!

We needed to fix up our house, and it needed a lot more work than we realized!  When you live in a place for 22+ years, you don’t notice how dated things have become.  We actually worked on some part of the house for over a year!  One of the first things was cleaning out the attic.  While I was recuperating from knee surgery, John and Jackson brought down boxes, and I was able to go through them a few at a time. We cleaned it out and brought the bins down to Maryland.  That was “Truck Number One” as it’s called around here.  Just FYI, we went up to “Truck Number Four.” Then we started updating.  And updating.  And updating some more.  Here’s an example:

Before update

Before update

 

After

After

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a future post I’ll chronicle more of the work we did on the house and give you a few suggestions based on things we’ve learned.

 

But as I take a quick look back at last year – February 13, 2014 – here is what was outside my door:

snowstormsnow2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And thankfully, here is what is outside my door today:

Little Choptank 2015 B February 215      Little Choptank 2015 B February 216

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, today it’s cold, and I won’t say we’ll never get snow.  But it’s always warmer than where we lived in NJ, and there will be less snow.  And that – for sure – is a good thing!

 

Wind Power

May
8
2014

 

Since our metal building has been built, we have made a little progress.  We’ve made room in the garage so we could bring down the bins and boxes we’ve already packed, and we’ve taken a truck load of those bins and boxes from our house in Jersey down to Maryland.

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I put Chrissy’s bins in plastic, just to make sure no little critters find their way in:

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Now we will start doing a few more fix-ups at the Jersey house, and also pack up more bins!  We’re finally back on track.  Target month to put this house up for sale is now July, so hopefully things will keep moving ahead.

Meanwhile, I thought I’d write about our wind turbine.  We’ve looked at it a lot lately, since the metal building is right next to it in the field that is right outside our gate.  To digress a bit, whoever cut up this property did a crazy job of it!  There are three properties down by the end of the peninsula, ours has the largest amount of land, but half of it is a field, then there’s our neighbor’s property, then the other half of ours is on the water.  We fenced in the area on the water where we are building the house (and where the garage and crab shack have already been built) but the field was just sitting there, really kind of wasted space. We decided to put the wind turbine there, mostly because it was out of our and our neighbors’ way.  So then, of course, we decided to put the metal building over there and eventually we hope to put some solar panels out there also.

This was when we first had it installed

This was when we first had it installed

Our windmill is a Bergey.  Bergey Windpower is the oldest and most experienced manufacturer of residential-sized wind turbines in the world.  John told me it makes about 1200 kw, which is more than we use right now down there.  Of course, after July, when we’re in the Crab Shack full-time we may use more, but paying a $20 electric bill is a lot better than a $200 electric bill! (and dare I say…a $400 electric bill!!)  And now, since we sometimes don’t use as much electricity as the windmill makes, we get a check back from the electric company!  This month they sent us $93!  Once the house is built, and the pool operational, our bill will be higher, but we’re expecting with the solar panels and the geo-thermal system, they will be quite reasonable.

We were getting the pad ready for the metal building

We were getting the pad ready for the metal building

The cost of the turbine is pretty high as you would imagine. They can run from $30K to $70K for a residential model.  We had a lot of cable to run since it was far from the transformer, which is in our garage.  And we put it up 100 feet, instead of 80, which is what a nearby family had.  So of course, that added to the cost.    You do get money back from the state, at least we did, and the federal government gives you tax breaks, so that helps to offset the cost.  John and I thought we would see a return on our investment in about six years, but it turns out it will be more like ten to twelve years.  But we’re still very happy with it.

The blades are 22 feet long each and weigh about 600 lbs. total!

The blades are 22 feet long each and weigh about 600 lbs. total!

One thing we were pretty happy about is that it is not really too loud!  It does hum when there are really strong winds, but of course the wind itself is noisy then.  Usually you don’t hear it at all, I guess because it’s so high up, and it turns kind of gently.  It turns itself towards the wind, and believe me, down there, the winds can come from every direction and turn rather quickly.  We’re very glad we decided to make the investment.  And being a little greener makes us happy too.

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Finally Moving Forward Again

April
16
2014

 

We will be heading to Maryland this weekend and will finally be moving forward with our plans once again.  As you know, the Metal Building took a long while, and we haven’t been down there for a couple of weeks.  Since then, however, Kyle has been fixing up the sides of the building inside as well as outside, and also fixing up the floor inside so we will be able to start bringing our stuff inside. He’s using some kind of composite made with asphalt so it will pack down and eventually become very strong like a road.  So we will bring in the boat trailers, the tractor, the ATV, the crab pots, etc. Then – next week hopefully – we will rent a truck and start moving out all the bins and boxes I’ve been packing up here.  And we have a lot!  It’ll be nice to clear out the garage up here at the house, as well as get part of my living room back.

What a mess!

What a mess!

Last week John had a business trip to Prague, so I went to VA to visit my daughter.  She wants to buy a townhouse soon, so we spent a lot of time looking at them.  I’ve said many times that DIY is for the young – and now I also think townhouses are for the young!  Those stairs!  I guess it’s good exercise but it got tiring going up and down three or four sets of stairs.  But we both love looking at houses, so we really enjoyed ourselves.  Plus, we got to enjoy ourselves eating dinner at Ozzie’s in Fairfax Corner!  Have you heard of them?  They are part of a chain, and yes, sometimes the food is fantastic and sometimes is it so-so.  But it’s a fun place, the wait staff and managers are very friendly, and we always enjoy ourselves there. Plus, they have Ozzie rolls!

Ozzie rolls! Yum!

Ozzie rolls! Yum!

And the perfect Margaritas!

Delicious!

Delicious!

Last year they started a new spring appetizer, hickory grilled artichokes with garlic lemon aioli, and it’s been such a hit they brought it back this year.  We had it last year and loved it, so of course when we heard it was on the menu again we were very, very happy.

Grilled artichokes with garlic aioli

Grilled artichokes with garlic aioli

And, in case you’re wondering what I had for dinner…..  short ribs, with garlic mashed potatoes, carrots and frizzled onions.  Not a dietic dinner I admit.  But yummy!

Short ribs

Short ribs

We will try and take a boat ride also this weekend, if the weather and water cooperate.  But it will mostly be a working weekend, and then we can truly say we are moving forward again, to designing and building our dream home! Stay tuned!