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.

Little Choptank 2014 G May 2 - 6, 2014 084

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

Little Choptank 2014 G May 2 - 6, 2014 082

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.

Little Choptank 2014 F April 27 - 28 021

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!

In the Words of Etta James….

April
2
2014

 

AT LAST!

You probably know how many times I’ve mentioned our Metal Building.  Or our lack of Metal Building.  We bought the building back in early October from Diamond Pole Builders in Delaware.  And truly, they have been great.  But because of permits, and surveys, and soil testing and planting plans, oh and yeah,  the weather, our building has been delayed many, many months.  But now, we have a Metal Building.

We had to build up the soil by 2 feet

We had to build up the soil by 2 feet

This is looking towards our gate and entrance way

This is looking towards our gate and entrance way

I know it may seem a little crazy to keep talking about this, after all it is only a metal building.  Practically everyone down this way has one.  And all it will do is house the “toys”, the boats, the tractor, the ATV, etc.  But to us it represents progress.  Moving forward with our plans.  We will move stuff from the garage to this metal building, and then we can move the bins and boxes we’ve packed up here in New Jersey to the garage down there.

They dropped off stuff

They dropped off stuff

And then in snowed again!

And then in snowed again!

After we move the bins and boxes from our garage and living room, we can proceed with fixing up this house to get it ready to sell.  We’ve done quite a bit so far, but we need to fix up the garage, redo some sheet rock and paint it, and paint the outside of the house.

 

They started building on Monday, March 24th

They started building on Monday, March 24th

This is what we saw when we arrived on Thursday, March 27th

This is what we saw when we arrived on Thursday, March 27th

 

So finally, now we can start working again.  We originally thought we’d be able to move down there in May while we put this house up for sale.  How naive we were!  Everything has taken much longer than we thought, especially the permit process!

One cupola

One cupola

 

The other cupola

The other cupola

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The company, Diamond Pole Builders, uses the Amish to build their buildings.  And they are working machines!

They arrived before 7 a.m. on Friday

They arrived before 7 a.m. on Friday

They wanted to get as much done as possible on Friday

They wanted to get as much done as possible on Friday

Late afternoon Friday

Late afternoon Friday

And by Friday night, March 28th our building was done!

The side we see when we come out our gate

The side we see when we come out our gate

The inside. We will still add some dirt and rocks on the sides to close it up

The inside. We will still add some dirt and rocks on the sides to close it up

 

 

John is happy it's finished!

John is happy it’s finished!

The front

The front

So now, back to work.  We are ready to move forward.  And our two thoughts, exactly how long is it  going to take to get the permits and soil testing and survey when we want to start the house? And can we get the Amish to build it? They were amazing!

 

 

Modular Construction Part 2

March
12
2014

 

We may, just may, be getting closer to getting our metal building built!  Hooray!  The “pad” is ready now, and a part of the building has been delivered.  They tried to deliver the whole thing, but the truck was too big to make the turn into our driveway and they had to take it back to the main store.  So now they have to deliver it in different loads, but hey, it’s progress!  We’ll be down there over the weekend, and we are hoping they’ll be able to start while we’re there.  We’re very optimistic people.

The "pad" for the metal building

The “pad” for the metal building

 

So, last time I talked about Modular Construction, I included an article explaining what it is, how it’s different from a “stick built” home, and the pros and cons.  You’d think I was working for a modular construction firm.  What I’m really trying to do is figure out of this is a viable alternative to building the entire house from scratch, or if we can incorporate at least “some” modular sections.

Now I’ve heard another term in addition to modular  -  panelized!  It’s similar to modular in that it is built off-site, but according to the National Association of Home Builders, it’s “a construction technique that uses advanced technology, quality materials and a controlled work environment to build floor, wall and roof systems to construct an energy-efficient home in less time.”

Picture from designbasics.com

Picture from designbasics.com

It sounds like the walls, and floors and the roof are built off-site, just like the modular homes, but instead of being trucked down in “modules” or whole components, it is trucked in “panels”. For now, it seems the most common use of these panelized firms is for the pre-building of floor and roof trusses.  Now that we realize the truck hauling the metal building couldn’t make it down our driveway, we might have to use a panelized construction firm instead of a modular one if we want to do part of our house this way!  I have yet to figure out, however, if they would be able to construct panels according to plans that I have, rather than having to use plans that they offer.  They do say they can customize the plans they offer, but we already have our plans.

Picture from designbasics.com

Picture from designbasics.com

There are panelized firms, according to Design Basics LLC. that will help you through the entire building process, but many whose involvement ends with the delivery of the materials.  Other manufacturers will provide a small crew and a crane to help your general contractor.

Picture from designbasics.com

Picture from designbasics.com

picture from designbasics.com

Picture from designbasics.com

Our previous builder, who, as you know, moved away and left us, would be able to find all this out, as he already dealt with a modular builder and incorporated even just parts of the house the modular way if you wanted.  He was very flexible and I guess he had a good relationship with that company, so he didn’t have to buy the “whole” house.  He would, I know, find out about these panel manufacturers and let us know if this was a viable way to go.  I wish he’d move back to Maryland.

Picture from designbasics.com

Picture from designbasics.com

I’ll be looking more into both these options and will report back.  In the meantime, if anyone has any experience with either the modular or panelized type of building, please let us know!  We’d love to hear anything about it from the consumer’s point of view!

You Can’t Stop Progress

February
27
2014

 

You’ve probably noticed I haven’t written in a while.  Mostly it’s because nothing has been happening on our building!  Whoever coined the phrase, “You Can’t Stop Progress” never tried to get a building built on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  I guess as John would remind me, that’s one of the reasons we are moving there, life goes by at a slower pace, we don’t have to rush, rush, rush all the time.  But still.  Slow is one thing.  Not moving at all is quite another.

As you would imagine, there are quite a few “gotchas” when you are building on the water.  Of course you have to take the weather into consideration.  The house and roof have to be built stronger than an inland home since the storms can be very severe.  Also, you need to build it up off the ground more, either by adding more soil, or adding more foundation, or doing both, as we will do on the house.  So, even though we were going to build up the soil for the metal building, we found out we have to build it up even higher. Resulting in more time lost and more costs!  Another “gotcha” -  if you add a building where there wasn’t one “grandfathered” in, you need to plant trees and bushes equal to the square footage of that building.  And they have to be native Maryland plants to insure they will grow.  Now I guess in the grand scheme of things it’s a good idea.  But I think it’s human nature not to like being told you HAVE to do it and what you can and can’t plant.  So, anyway, after these few hurdles,  slowly but slowly things are kind of moving along.  Sort of.  The company building the metal building is now backed up because of the weather.  So we’re hoping around St. Patty’s day is when we’ll start to see something going on.  (We originally thought we’d have it up before Thanksgiving!)

This is really what has been going around here:

February snowstorm

February snowstorm

 

Back Yard

Back yard

 

A friend of mine

A friend of mine

 

It did melt a little this past weekend, so today it looks like this around here:

 

Front

Front

 

This and That 2014 004

 

Here's my friend again today

Here’s my friend again today

And her friends

And her friends

 

The other day there were a couple of foxes in the back!  The animals  are having a hard time finding food.  And one thing I’ve learned about foxes…. they are very itchy.  Must be dry winter skin.

Little Choptank 2014 B Feb. 21-23 112

Little Choptank 2014 B Feb. 21-23 089

Last weekend we decided to take a quick trip to Maryland, and there’s NO SNOW there!  Another reason why we are moving there.  The winters are shorter because the weather isn’t as severe!

Looking toward the entrance

Looking toward the entrance

 

Our Bocce Court (Just past that little tree on the right is where we will build the house!)

Our Bocce Court
(Just past that little tree on the right is where we will build the house!)

 

 

Looking across the water

Looking across the water

 

 

And of course, our beautiful sunset

And of course, our beautiful sunset

Back to Work

January
15
2014

 

I’m thinking it’s about time I get back to blogging.  With the holidays, and packing up for our move, writing has kind of fallen by the wayside.  But now there’s a little bit of progress to report, so hopefully you’ll see consistent articles in the future.

(I write that as if I’m not the one in control.  Hahaha.  Hopefully some blogs will get written, let’s look at the page and see if something magically appears.) 

We always go into the city to see the tree

We always go into the city to see the tree

We had a very nice, if low key holiday. We took our annual trip into New York City.  We went to the Shake Shack for the first time, then to Rockefeller Center, to the store in the N.Y. Public Library, and then to Bryant Park.  The weather was good and the four of us had a great time. 

This year I decided not to take down every single Christmas decoration since we weren’t hosting Christmas and, well, because I just didn’t feel like it.  Our plan over the past few months has been bringing down boxes from the attic, cleaning them out, and then packing them up for the “move” by putting them in the garage.  And our attic was stuffed.  So now it’s the Christmas boxes.  I actually still have them in the living room, some still need to be weeded through.  It’s hard getting rid of some of the old decorations.  They go back a lot of years, and even if I don’t decorate with them anymore, they still bring back memories. It’s not easy letting go. 

St. Patrick's is getting a makeover

St. Patrick’s is getting a makeover

We thought our metal building would be done by now, and we were going to bring down lots of our stuff, so that when we put the house on the market (target date is this May) the house will be somewhat empty, and when the actual move happens, there won’t be that much to take.  I’m not taking a lot of the furniture.  It fit in this house, and I’ve had it for 20 years but we’ll get new stuff for our waterfront house.  Which, you will probably remember, isn’t even built yet.  We will be moving into the “Crab Shack.”  Then, hopefully in the fall, after interviewing builders and finalizing our house plans, we will start to build!  It’s so exciting. It’s THIS YEAR that we’ll be building our new house!  I can hardly believe it!  It’s been 7 years since we bought the property, and the time is almost here!  Of course living in 1000 sq. ft. cabin for a year will be a bit challenging.  Especially because I’ll want to bring a lot of my “stuff” into the Crab Shack with me. (Winter clothes, small kitchen appliances (and I have a lot), all the stuff from my office!)  But I have a feeling most of it will be in bins in the garage.  I plan to mark them well, with “things to leave in front” actually placed in the front of all the other bins.  Will that actually happen? Eh, it’s a toss-up. 

Bryant Park

Bryant Park

Skating is FREE!  You can rent skates, but if you have your own, it's totally free!

Skating is FREE! You can rent skates, but if you have your own, it’s totally free!

So, on to the metal building update:  we met with Nick from Diamond State Pole Buildings in October.  That’s OCTOBER, over three months ago!  We thought the building would have been up before Christmas.  And it was no fault of Nick’s.  He sent his guy to our town hall to apply for the permit, a service they provide when you buy a building.  But here’s the catch.  When you are building anything on the water, there are rules and regulations and protocols you must follow before anything gets approved.

The Chrysler Building had just that minute turned on it's lights.

The Chrysler Building had just that minute turned on it’s lights.

So did the Empire State Building

So did the Empire State Building

We needed to get a surveyor down to the property to map out the surrounding area, and presumably to draw in where the building would be.  But, this area has parts that are in the “buffer zone.” Yes, the dreaded “buffer zone.”  You are discouraged from building in the buffer zone, it would be a whole other rigmarole to get approval, and we had enough property that the building could be moved a little to make sure it was in the safe area. (Yes, maybe some of the regulations are warranted, it saves the shoreline from erosion and the Bay from pollution.  We get it.)

The water around the boat froze.

The water around the boat froze.

Brrrrr

Brrrrr

However, we now needed another guy to come down and draw up where the buffer zone actually was, and to test the soil to make sure it could hold the weight of the building.  And this is where we lost track.  That person was unknown to us, it was around the holidays, and nobody but us cared about the time factor.  We lost a month waiting for him to get down to the property and submit his drawings.  When that finally happened (two weeks ago) we realized that we now had to add plantings (trees and shrubs) to the property in the amount of square footage of the building.  You take away with one hand; you have to give back with the other.  So I researched plants native to Maryland (a requirement) and drew up a map of our property placing the trees, large and small, and the shrubs, and we went down to Maryland to our town hall to submit our plan.  After meeting with three different people in two different parts of town, we got verbal approval.  However, the actual permit won’t be issued for two to four weeks, at which time Nick will order the building, taking another two weeks to get delivered.  Seeing the pattern here?  SLOW.  Everything is slower than you want, and you need a lot of patience!  I said to John that when we move down in May we should start applying for our building permit for the house, which we won’t need until October.  And hopefully we will get it in time!  

Lots of geese flying in

Lots of geese flying in

Ice is gone, all is well

Ice is gone, all is well

 

We’re Getting a Metal Building

October
3
2013

 

John wants to put up a metal building.  Yeah, I know, not very pretty.  That’s exactly what I was thinking.

metal building 3

Kind of plain, kind of boring.

Metal building 1

I think the term I used when I was trying to talk him out of it was ugly.

Yeah, yeah, it has some advantages.  We have three boats.  And we have a tractor.  And a four-wheeler. And a Gator.  (future blog post on the Gator.)  And where do these things sit?  The tractor and other vehicles are now in the garage, BUT, when we start bringing down our bins in anticipation of our move to the Crab Shack, the bins will need to go in the garage, and the vehicles will be out on the lawn.  Along with the three boats on trailers.  That’s a LOT of STUFF!  It’ll be a mess.

So yeah, I get it now.  All these things can go in the metal building (also called steel buildings) and be nice and neat, out of the way.  And if you want to know the truth, the building will be on our property, but outside our main gates, over by the wind turbine. (Also future blog post on the wind turbine.)  So we’ll really only see it when we’re driving in or out on the shared road.  That’s not too bad.  And here are what some of the nicer metal buildings look like:

metal building 2

metal building 4

 

I can hardly believe this one even IS a metal building!  Ours will look like the previous one, only with one big door in the front and one on each of the sides.  But it will be green and white, and the green will run along the bottom like this one has the red.  Also we’ll have two cupolas on the top and quite a few windows with shutters.  So hopefully it won’t look too commercial.

While doing some research on them, I found out there are some benefits to them; they are very durable, being both heat and cold resistant,  they are very cost-effective compared to a conventional building and there are virtually no labor costs, since it is pre-fabricated and just assembled on site.  Also, there is no waste, it is 100% recyclable.  They are also insect resistant, although I wish there was a product in general to keep insects from flying inside open doors!  But that’s another story.  And maybe the biggest benefit, you can design a metal building to fit your needs exactly.  If you need an extra large door to accommodate your boat, or a complex interior to fit farm machinery,  you can choose from a wide variety of options.  Here’s an odd one:

metal building 5

Almost everybody down on the Eastern Shore seems to have a metal building.  When you have a lot of land, you need a lot of “stuff.”  Lawn equipment, boats, trailers, horses, there are tons of reasons to have a metal building.  And I guess we’re going to have one too.