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

What Does Retirement Mean To You?

December
3
2013

 

I am heading out of town today.  Our “little girl” is getting “sworn in” tomorrow, and I am driving down to Virginia to be with her and witness this momentous occasion.  Yep, we have a lawyer in the family. (John and I are very proud parents.)  I will write about our experience later this week, so for now, I hope you will enjoy this article, written by Jean C. Setzfand from AARP, July 12, 2011.  (The pictures, though, are mine.)

Few people see retirement anymore as a time when they’ll put their feet up and do nothing. Increasingly, people expect to work past 65 or 67, even if their job is something completely different from what they’ve done their whole lives. They’ll do this because either the work is rewarding or, more often these days, their budgets require it — especially for health care costs and even if it’s not full time.

But in this new era of retirement, planning shouldn’t focus solely on finances. Without doubt, money is a huge part of retirement planning — probably the most significant part — but it’s not all of it.

Sunset in Key West

Sunset in Key West

When planning for retirement, having a balanced approach that considers both life (what it will look like on a day-to-day basis) and finances will help you achieve the most positive outlook. You must prepare mentally and emotionally for what happens when you actually retire.

For some, retirement means resting and relaxing.

What do you picture when you think about your retirement? It’ll be different for everyone. Is it the luxury of sleeping late and not rushing to the office? Is it the fear of losing the thing that gave your life the most purpose, and maybe your identity — your job? Or is retirement the opportunity for you to do something very specific with your time on your terms? This could mean volunteering, studying photography, writing the novel you never had time for, traveling or even working 10 to 15 hours a week for your former employer or some other organization.

Sunset in Turks and Caicos

Sunset in Turks and Caicos

As I look into the future, I dream of running a community-sustained agriculture (CSA) farm. In the most traditional sense of retirement, that dream is about 20 years away, but I’m imagining right now what it will take to make that dream my future reality.

What does retirement mean for you? Write down a list of specific retirement goals and then try to trim it down to your top five goals. Be creative. Start a collage or a journal with photos, magazine images, words and phrases to help you visualize your goals and make them more concrete. Or start an online community for people imagining retirement. Hearing others describe their plans can enhance your own perspective.

Sunset at our place in Maryland

Sunset at our place in Maryland

Weekend in Maryland

November
20
2013

We went to our place in Maryland for a long weekend and it was just glorious.  We visited with one neighbor for coffee, and we went out to dinner with another.  It poured two nights, but well after we went to bed, it made me think of the song Camelot, where it doesn’t rain till after sundown.  Two mornings were very foggy (it’s supposed to disappear by 8) but it was very interesting looking and it cleared enough for us to go fishing on Sunday.

But first, our winter sunset.  It’s over the trees this time of year instead of over the water, but still beautiful.

We arrived at sunset

We arrived at sunset

We woke up to a thick fog where you couldn’t tell the sky from the water.  As it cleared a bit, we found we had some visitors.

Little Choptank 2013 I November 14 to 18 025

Who then made themselves right at home.

Little Choptank 2013 I November 14 to 18 026

It stayed foggy most of the day, but we didn’t mind relaxing and reading and putzing.  (That’s John, he likes to putz.  Or he is a putz, one or the other, I forget.)  We also had a nice visit from our neighbor, Judy, who came over for coffee.

Sunday, we were determined to go fishing.  The weather was supposed to be warm and sunny, and we were a bit surprised when it was also kind of foggy.  We had to wait for the tide anyway, and as it got a little later, the fog started to clear.

Little Choptank 2013 I November 14 to 18 034

Little Choptank 2013 I November 14 to 18 033

Little Choptank 2013 I November 14 to 18 035

This is across the water from our place.  It looks like a painting with the fog.  It’s such a cute little building, and we always wonder who lives there.

As we headed out to the Chesapeake, the fog was still hanging onto the water.

Little Choptank 2013 I November 14 to 18 040

We hardly saw this guy till he got a little closer.

Little Choptank 2013 I November 14 to 18 039

But then it cleared, and we went out to find some stripers!  Or as people in Maryland refer to them, rockfish.   This is the big prize, since they have to be a certain size in order to keep, plus some of us who aren’t that crazy about eating fish (me) will eat striped bass.

These we caught out in Montauk one year, one of our FAVORITE places to go on vacation.

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Our little family of fisherpersons:

Copy (2) of Montauk Vacation July 22-29, 06 148

And this one John and our friend Bill caught last summer, right out in the Chesapeake.

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And this one John caught last December! He was fishing with our electrician, Rick, in the Chesapeake.

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So, anyway, we’re no strangers to catching them.  And did we catch any you may ask?  Um…. no.  We didn’t.  We caught two crab buoys.  Which we certainly didn’t intend to catch.  And we caught a giant net that must have broken off a commercial fishing boat, it was so big!  We could hardly lift it, so we didn’t bring it into the boat, but I wish I took a picture.  You know what I could’ve said then….   nothing but net.

We did see a pretty sailboat though.

Little Choptank 2013 I November 14 to 18 fixed 043

And we caught the sunset as we were flying home to get in before it got too dark.  It was such a nice weekend, we really can’t wait till we move down there.

Little Choptank 2013 I November 14 to 18 048

 

 

 

Looking Out My Back Door

August 7, 2013

We are spending August in Maryland, at our future (semi) retirement property.  We’re very comfy, with our garage, our dock and our “Crab Shack”, but what we don’t really have is great internet. Or even good internet.  It’s a problem down here because there isn’t enough people (a/k/a customers) to warrant internet providers installing anything like we’re used to (Fios)  – or anything at all, really.  So, it’s on our list of things to research this month because as much as we would love to have good service now, we’ll absolutely need it once we move here.  (Probably spring of next year.)  John’s job depends on it, plus really,  how could we live without it at this point!

So, all this to say, I plan on posting probably once a week until after Labor Day, and hopefully on Wednesday.  I hope you’ll visit each week, and if you have some ideas about getting good – and by good I mean fast – internet service, please let me know!  This is serious, people!

Here are some pictures of what I see from my back door….

Sunset, first day of vacation

Sunset, first day of vacation

Little Choptank 2013 H August 2 to Sept 006

Dock, with new light out there by the boat

Dock, with new light out there by the boat

Light's fixed on the flagpole! It was flooded in the spring storm.

Light’s fixed on the flagpole! It was flooded in the spring storm.

 

Osprey checking things out from the tree on our property

Osprey checking things out from the tree on our property

Sundown.  Or sun's down.  Sounds more grammatically correct.

Sundown. Or sun’s down. Sounds more grammatically correct.

Crab boats are out early in the Little Choptank River.

Crab boats are out early in the Little Choptank River.

 

 

Our new pedal boat! I can’t try it out till my knee is better.

Our new pedal boat! I can’t try it out till my knee is better.

 

Kyle and crew planting our new experiment, palm trees!

Kyle and crew planting our new experiment, palm trees!

 

Aren't they cute!  If they grow, we'll plant  more.

Aren’t they cute! If they grow, we’ll plant more.

Okay, that’s it for now.  It took me two days to be able to get this post up!  So put on your thinking caps, we need some good internet ideas for rural areas.  We’re using either my Ipad hotspot, or John’s phone’s hotspot, but the service is spotty.  We could use the MiFi from Verizon, but the service would be the same as the Verizon hotspot we’re using now, I assume.  So if anyone has a Hughes Satellite, I’d be interested to hear if that’s a good option.  Thanks!

One or Two Stories?

July
27
2013

I’ve just had knee surgery.  And this has started me thinking about how many stories our new house should be. But here’s the problem…. I already have house plans!  It has taken me years to come up with house plans I am happy with.  Literally, years. (And don’t think I didn’t drive everyone around here crazy talking about it, and pondering, and questioning and even arguing.) It’s been a long process.   I searched online, and you know how many plans there are to look at?  Hundreds of thousands.  I searched in books,  which I bought new or second-hand.  I searched in the library. And I’ve been to many open houses.  Finally, I took all the different plans I saved, and I came up with my own.  (This was no small feat.) Then we had a residential draftsman draw them up. Finally, after years of research and drawings and conversations, we’re all done, right?  And now I’ve had knee surgery.  And I’m wondering, do I want a two-story house?

This is the kind of house I'd be looking at

This is the kind of house I’d be looking at

 

And this one!

And this one!

 

We’re building on the water, so we already need the house to be raised up in case of flooding. So we already have one set of stairs just to get in the house. In our present floor plans I have the spare bedrooms on the second floor, plus my office and a craft room.  I can change the craft room I think, and put it in the garage, although then I am left with an extra room.  I originally wanted that room to be a storage room, so I guess I could go back to that.  That wouldn’t make me unhappy, but when you’re paying for every square foot that’s being built, having an extra storage room might not be the best use of our money. So if we say yeah, that can go back to storage,  now we have the two guest bedrooms and a storage room up stairs, not places I’d have to go on a daily basis.

But now we’re onto what the main issue would be…. my office.   This is a place I WOULD go to, not just every day, but many times during the day.   Originally my thoughts were -  we are more active down there, the water and openness just lends itself to being outside more, so there’s more walking, more gardening, more kayaking, more bocce playing.  (Ah, we can’t wait!)   And I figured stairs wouldn’t be an issue. But what if?  That’s the big question.  What if?

Dan Sater design, a beautiful house for a waterfront home

Dan Sater design, a beautiful house for a waterfront home

Do I change years of work and start over drawing up a one story house?  We both definitely want a “widow’s walk” on top of the house, would that look silly on a one story?  And truthfully, I’ve never been that crazy about ranch houses, although I do think architects and draftspeople are making them look better now.  They don’t look as much like a train, all flat and low.  Do we just keep the house the way it is, and hope we won’t run into any kind of health issues that would hinder our doing stairs?  Should I just redo the floor plans somewhat, leave the upstairs with two bedrooms (thereby considerably altering the design of the house) but move my office downstairs somewhere?

So many designs and floor plans for “retirement” homes are one story, and many also have a “universal” design, with wider doorways to accommodate wheelchairs, or railings in the bathrooms.  It makes sense. And we’ll probably incorporate some of these designs into the house. But it’s difficult to realize we’ll be in the position one day where stairs may just prove to be too difficult.

For now, since we’re still a year away from building, we decided we’ll get a price to build the plans we presently have, and then we’ll go from there.  But stay tuned, things could change any minute.

 

Our Kayak Trip

June
26
2013

One of the (many) benefits when we finally move to our place in Maryland will be that we can take advantage of the calm weather to take the kayak out.  It is frequently windy, and even if there is a slight breeze, it makes it harder to paddle.  And for a couple of our visits over the past few months, it was not only windy, but rainy as well.  Except last time.  It was a beautiful, calm day and we took advantage of it.

Little Choptank 2013 F June 6 to 10 034wtmk

Little Choptank 2013 F June 6 to 10 021wtmk

This is just across the little cove.  The storms have knocked down a lot of the trees.

Little Choptank 2013 F June 6 to 10 029wtmk

This is way over on the other side of the river, look how calm it is!  Isn’t that little house cute?  I’d love to see the inside!

Little Choptank 2013 F June 6 to 10 025wtmk

Damage from all the storms just wear away the land. I wonder how long till that little piece is gone all together.

Little Choptank 2013 F June 6 to 10 032wtmk

There are a lot of osprey in the area, they build their nests on the channel markers, or in the trees, or on stands that people put up just for them!  This one belongs to our neighbor.

Little Choptank 2013  G June 20 to 24th 008wtmk

Kids love collecting these snails.  There are oysters around also.  And of course, crabs.  But this day, only the snails posed for a picture.

Little Choptank 2013 F June 6 to 10 037wtmk

And on our way back in, we got such a treat!  The white heron came into the cove to search for some food.  If you get too close, they fly away, so we were on the other side of the cove taking this picture.

We’re thinking this is what our retirement is all about.  What a beautiful morning!

Building Advice and Tips

June
19
2013

 

After John read my blog on Monday, he thought it would be useful to have some specifics about the garage and Crab Shack, and about building in general.  So I’d like to share some of our experiences with the hope that they’ll help you make more informed decisions.  We were total novices.  We’ve remodeled.  We’ve put on additions.  But we had never taken on a job of this magnitude.  So in other words, we knew nothing.  And we made mistakes.  Maybe this will help you avoid them.

Before we even began doing anything, as mentioned in a previous post, we had to take down two buildings.  We found out, through a contractor, that our local Fire Department would consider burning them down, and use the experience as a learning session for new recruits. We gave these wonderful people a donation, and it was a win-win experience. I’m not sure if they do this in other areas, but if this is at all a possibility for you, it’s truly a great way to go.

Little Choptank Dec.07 004

We began to “design our retirement” with the stand-alone garage.  I like to say we started the building process backwards, doing the “out” buildings first, and leaving the house (which we won’t start probably for another year) till last.  But we had our reasons.  (We needed a place to put the “stuff” from a PA vacation home that we sold, and we knew we wanted this garage for the tractor, and the other vehicles right away.)  For this building John found plans online that he liked, and we had them tweaked a bit by a draftsperson.  (Also known as a Residential Designer.)  After we decided that Thom Huntington (of Huntington Construction) would be our builder, he drew up a contract (Time & Materials) and he built it.  It was a very smooth operation and there were no surprises and no cost over-runs.  As for the structure of the building, we went with 2×6 lumber for strength, regular roll insulation, a large propane heater, an on-demand hot water heater (more on this another time) and because we are building on the water, we needed to raise the garage up, which meant building up the soil all around the building to allow for a gradual incline – expensive, but a necessity for a place where hurricanes and flooding storms are likely.

Little Choptank copy 020

The second, and more “exciting” building was (going to be) the Boathouse. (Blog post here.)  This was where we made many of our mistakes.  We had a dream, a vague vision, and needed to have someone draw up this vision for us.  Of course, we again used Michael, the Residential Designer we used on the garage.  Now, because of our inexperience, the costs of these plans (in total) were sky high.  We kept changing things, and having the plans re-drawn.  Many, many times.  (At great expense.)  Then, in one instance, Michael was doing “due diligence” making sure the ground would support our Boat House, and had our soil tested.  I can now tell you what our soil looks like for 16 feet below sea level. It’s interesting, but we weren’t expecting that charge.  And, as already mentioned, this all happened during the collapse of the economy.  So, $20,000 later, rather than scrap all of our plans, we scrapped the building, and bought plans online from Lowe’s at a cost of $500!  (The Crab Shack.)  I’ll speak more about house plans another time, but here’s another tip:  if you can find plans you like online or in a book, use them.  Believe me, you will be saving yourself a ton of money.  Even if you just use them as a starting point.  Or cut out parts from different plans. You’ll thank me later.

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For the structure of the Crab Shack, we again used 2×6’s, but went with the spray insulation.  And I can definitively say this type of insulation is excellent. The building cools down instantly when we need the air conditioning, and heats up and stays warm in the winter when we need the heat.  For both buildings we decided on the strongest metal roof available, which has many, many benefits.  It’s great against the elements, being rated to withstand over 200 mph winds; it saves in home heating and cooling energy costs;  there are energy tax credit incentives available; it’s good for the environment , (considered a “green” solution) and comes with either a 30 or 50 year warranty – depending on the roof you buy.  All this, and of course it has that “coastal” look.   In the “con” list, the only thing I could say is that it costs more initially to put in than a traditional asphalt roof.  But it pays for itself in other ways.  I was worried that it would be noisy, especially during a rain storm, but I can tell you honestly, it’s absolutely not.

We also built it up high, knowing the area could possibly flood if there was a bad storm, (like Hurricane Irene and Super Storm Sandy) and built it with flow through vents in the foundation that allows the water to literally flow through and prevent any structural damage. (You can see them in the photo.)

We used vinyl siding on the Crab Shack, for one reason, to keep the costs down, but next time – for the house – we’ll go with Fiber Cement.  It will be stronger and better looking.  We’ve had a few pieces of the siding come down in both storms, and although not a huge deal, we had to have someone repair it.  We went with Anderson windows that are strong enough to withstand hurricanes and have shutters inside just in case anything should come flying through.  On the house, however, we’ll look into getting something installed on the outside of the windows also, either workable shutters, or hurricane screens.  The decks are made of composite material; we want our semi and real retirement to be as low maintenance as possible.

I hope some of these ideas will help you, and if you have any tips or ideas you’d like to share with me, I’d love to hear them!

 

Little Choptank 2013 May 20-22 115wtmk

 

Katrina Cottage a/k/a The Crab Shack

June
17
2013

 

 

 

The Katrina Cottages were originally designed as a dignified alternative to the FEMA trailer.  They have now evolved into a nationwide option for guesthouses, resorts, camps and affordable housing.  They can range from 308 sq. feet to 1800 sq. feet, and John chose one that was just about 1200 sq. feet for our replacement of the “Boat House.”

Here are some of the choices:

Katrina_Cottages

 

After we found out how much exactly our “Boat House” would have cost, and with the economy doing what it did, this became a good alternative so that we could continue with our plans, but not spend all of our “house” money on what will eventually be a guest cottage.   These Katrina Cottages were designed by Marianne Cusato and her design team.  They now partner with Lowe’s, and after having all our floor plans drawn up by a draftsperson, we wound up buying the plans from them!

 

Here is the one we chose:

Katrina_House_1

We showed the plans to Thom (our builder) and he recommended we make the back of it a little bigger.  He said the bedroom was kind of small.  Here are the floor plans:

Katrina_House_Plans_2

We were so glad we took his advice.  Here is the finished product on the outside:

Little Choptank Aug. 7-14, 09 001wtmk

 

And here’s the back:

 

Little Choptank 2013 May 20-22 163wtmk

 

Isn’t she pretty?   We love her.

 

More on the inside next time!

 

It’s Garage Sale Season!

 

June
5
2013

 

garage_sale

Lots of people love garage sales. According to statisticbrain.com the average number of garage sales each week in the U.S.  is 165,000. The average number of people who purchase at garage sales each week is 690,000. The total U.S. weekly revenue from garage sales: $4,222,375! Yep, lots of folks love a garage sale. I, however, am not one of them.

And yet, last weekend, we had our second garage sale in two months. We are, as you may know, preparing for our move to our “semi”-retirement property, and we absolutely need to get rid of some extra “stuff”.   I’m talking about 30 years worth! And that includes the items left from two sets of parents, plus kids who come and go and leave a lot of their stuff.   Our stuff has stuff.

We have our eye on a prize though, in less than a year our current house will be on the market, free of stuff, and we’ll be headed to Maryland.  My neighbor who had the two garage sales right along with me wants to have one again in the fall! She won’t be “retiring” and moving for another 4 or 5 years. But I guess she’s planning ahead.  We do have more to clean out though, ugh, if you could see my attic! So yeah, I guess another one is in my future. Although according again to statisticbrain.com, the average price for an item sold at a garage sale….. a whopping 85 cents. Yeah, that sounds about right.

You’d probably be able to find lots of helpful information on having a successful garage sale online, there are sites just dedicated to them, but here are a couple of things I’ve learned:  the ad in our newspaper brought the most people to our sale, and taking the “rain insurance” was the best thing I did.  It did happen to rain the day we were going to have it, but for the $10 more, we were able to place the ad the second time for free.   Also, price things ahead of time, people seemed to arrive in bunches, and it would have been hard to price things on the fly when people were standing around waiting to pay.  We also put signs up around town a day or two before, lots of them and that seemed to attract people.  (Don’t forget to take them down!)   And finally, no matter how you word your ad about “no early birds”, people ALWAYS show up early.

So, I’ll be at it again in the fall, just in case you’d like to attend.  And if you’re having one this summer, good luck!  Don’t look for me though, I can’t make it that day.

 

Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

April
29
2013

Little Choptank - July 08 new 182wtmk

Who could be happier than a man with his dock, his boat, and a gorgeous sunset.

As promised, here are pictures of the dock.  When we first looked at the property, the dock was in terrible shape, you could tell it was very unloved.

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We were just happy we had one, because we thought it would save us all the time and expense of getting a new permit.  We reasoned we were just improving what was already there.  But no.  That’s not how it went.  We still had to wait for all the permits to be approved, and pay quite a bit for the pleasure.  Still, fishing and boating are a BIG part of our lives (or would be once we got all this work done) and we wound up fixing up the dock even before we started the “crab shack”.  Like I said, we had our priorities!

Little Choptank, NEW BOAT, April 08and May 079wtmk

 

Little Choptank, NEW BOAT, April 08and May 080wtmk

 

Little Choptank, NEW BOAT, April 08and May 081wtmk

 

It was an interesting process to watch.  We decided to add a cutting table and a bench, along with lights and electric of course.

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Little Choptank 2010  Feb 18 043wtmk

We’ve had some visitors……

Little Choptank April 24-26, 09 043wtmk

 

Little Choptank Sept3-8 09 066wtmk

But one visitor we really didn’t want……

osprey nestwtmk

osprey nest on cutting boardwtmk

An osprey!  Although it would have been interesting to watch them with their babies, they would render the table unusable for a very long time.  Plus they would squawk and fly around our heads, and “mess” up the dock.  So we re-located their nest out on the “point,” closer to the water and away from where we would hang out.  But they wound up abandoning that nest.  But – don’t worry – there are  plenty of other friendly places for them to build, specific places that are built for them, with solar warmed platforms, so we’re confident they found another home that year.  One year we had to take the top of the cutting table completely off since they were so persistent!  But then, Thom our builder, told us to put up one of those plastic owls in the spring before nesting season, and so far we’ve been lucky they haven’t tried to rebuild again on the cutting table.

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We’ve since added a couple more boats,  which I’m sure you’ll see in future posts.  But for now, we are enjoying fishing from the dock, or heading out on one of the boats to take a ride, or to fish,  or just sitting on the dock watching the sunset.  (One of my all time favorite past times!)  Enjoy!

Little Choptank August 10-12 2008 035wtmk