Property Improvement

March
12
2015

pictures from phone 505

When John and I moved down to our “retirement” property full-time a few months ago, we decided to make a few improvements even though winter was coming and we might not be able to enjoy them until spring.  One thing high on John’s list was an awning for the back deck!  One of the reasons we fell in love with our property was the unobstructed view. Yes, shade is nice, but our property in New Jersey was surrounded by trees and was so shady it always seemed dark. Plus, raking leaves is not something we want to spend our time doing.   Our place here is the opposite, it’s BIG SKY country,  but along with that comes a summer sun that is so bright you need sunglasses inside.  Our awning will bring down the temperature in the back where we spend most of our time at least 10 degrees, plus I won’t have to spend my time squinting – always a good thing!

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Here’s how it looks from the inside:

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Nice and shady, huh?

 

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So with that project done, we moved on to what I would say was my number one priority:  finishing off the fence!  John and I both agree Robert Frost had it right when he wrote, “Good fences make good neighbors.”  After we were here all the time we began noticing that our neighbor’s dog was leaving us little gifts.  Gifts you don’t want.  And after spending more and more time cleaning up after a dog I don’t own, we knew it was time to complete the project!

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This part of the fence may look a little strange, but we cut it down this way so our neighbor’s view of the water isn’t blocked.  And it’s not the way we face when we’re looking at our view and sunset, so it doesn’t bother us too much.

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And here’s our beautiful gate:

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Ah, fences.  They are also a very good thing.

The third project which we are all excited about (and by all I mean John and myself, and Chrissy and my cousin Irene) is the garden!  Chrissy and Irene will have a spot for themselves and for our areas we’re going to put in raised beds and one waist-high bed for herbs.   John built it for me in December!  Yep, December.

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Little Choptank 2014 L Nov, Dec and other pics 314

We were so naive then, thinking what a mild and short winter we were going to have.

Then the ice came.

I thought this was bad:

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Little Choptank 2015 B February 024

Till we had this:

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Little Choptank 2016 C March 005

It’s mostly melted now, although the cove isn’t completely unfrozen.  Soon though.  Very soon.  Spring in 8 days!

And that’s a wonderful thing!

Baby Boomer Housing Trends

January
21
2014

Here’s a good article by the NAHB (National Association of Home Builders).  They say that baby boomers dominate new housing trends.  And if we are any indication – being both baby boomers, and on our way to building our retirement home, then what they are saying is very true!  See if you agree.

The largest American generation is either retired or quickly nearing retirement age. Baby boomers, the generation born between 1946 and 1964 and who count more than 76 million, may be getting older, but they are definitely not ready to head to an elder care facility! 

I love this design!

I love this design!

The boomer generation is more active than generations past, has a more sophisticated style and wants options and choices in their homes. Whether they are selling the homes where they raised their children and heading to sunnier pastures, or staying put and redesigning to accommodate their retired lifestyle, boomers are making an impact on new housing trends. Some features that home builders and re-modelers are seeing as they begin to cater to the boomers include:

Home Offices – Many, many boomers are continuing to work past the age of 65 either because they love their work, or because their retirement savings lost value in the recession. As they transition from a traditional 9-to-5 job, however, many want home offices for flexibility. A second career or part-time employment often eliminates the hassle of commuting while keeping them active and bringing in supplementary income.   

Technology – The tech-savvy boomer generation wants a home that will support all their personal technology. That can mean structured wiring that can drive a network of services that include lighting controls, a security system or a home media center. And they may want a wireless home network with broadband internet access for laptops, tablets and streaming movies.  

Wider Doors and Hallways – Designing a home that is livable now but can transition and be functional as the occupant ages is important in ensuring that the home will be a good long-term investment. Wider doors and hallways are useful for moving larger furniture today, and will allow the home owners to use mobility devices such as walkers and wheelchairs, should they become necessary.

Better Lighting/Bigger Windows – The need for more lighting increases as we grow older. To accommodate this, builders are adding more windows, making them larger to let in more natural light, and making them more energy-efficient as well. They are also adding more light fixtures in areas such as kitchens, bathrooms, and stairways, where dim light can lead to accidental injury. Switches at the top and bottom of a stairwell, and the use of dimmer controls to eliminate glare are other helpful options.

This one from Great Falls Construction is also beautiful!

This one from Great Falls Construction is also beautiful!

First-Floor Bedrooms and Bathrooms – NAHB data shows that 73 percent of buyers aged 55 and up don’t want a second-floor master suite. Boomers wishing to save their joints and avoid stairs have helped fuel this trend. Today’s bedrooms are also bigger, with larger walk-in closets and bathrooms that often have a separate tub and shower and dual sinks.

Easy to Maintain Exteriors/Landscaping Yard work, painting, and other landscaping chores may no longer be enjoyable to aging home owners. People who move to a new home when they retire may opt for a maintenance-free community. Those that choose to stay in their homes might make improvements to exterior surfaces such as installing stucco, brick or low-maintenance siding. Lawns are being replaced with outdoor rooms, decorative landscaping, or flower beds for gardening enthusiasts — either at ground level or raised for seated access.

Our new house will be similar to this design by Dan Sater.

Our new house will be similar to this design by Dan Sater.

Flex Space – Flexible space has become more prevalent in both new homes and remodeling. Flex spaces are rooms that serve the present home owner’s needs but can adjust to changes as they occur. What may have once started out as a child’s bedroom can be redecorated to serve as a hobby room, library or home office, and can be repurposed later for a bedroom for visiting grandchildren or for an in-home caregiver. This flexibility allows home owners to stay in their homes longer, meeting their needs throughout life’s stages.

We will actually be following all of these examples.  We plan on having two home offices, we’ll keep our master on the first floor,  our home will be more technologically advanced, the doorways will be wider, the lighting and amount of windows will be greater, and we plan on keeping the grounds as low maintenance as we possibly can.  I was also planning on adding closets to the room that will be dedicated to storage, qualifying as flex space because it could then be turned into a bedroom if needed one day.  We’ll be going against the tide in a way, since we will not be downsizing, but we will still be following what will be the norm for the baby boomer generation.  Will you be following these guidelines also?

December sky in the backyard.

December sky in the backyard.

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.

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Who then made themselves right at home.

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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

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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.

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

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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:

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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.

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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.

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The Gator

October
9
2013

 

Guess what this is:

Little Choptank 2012 May 2-7 004

Believe it or not, it’s a Polaris 4×4 ATV.  Want to see it what it’s supposed to look like?

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Yep, it’s unbelievable but true.  We brought one of our ATV’s to a dealership in Maryland to be serviced and a few days later we got a call.  The area in the back of the building had a fire, and our vehicle, along with three others was totally destroyed!  Here are some of the others:

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Ours is in the middle.  Nice, huh?  They never really figured it out, although they think someone threw a “molotov” cocktail, but they don’t know who or why.   Well, the truth is, these vehicles are more suited to the place we had in Pennsylvania.  There was more acreage, more hills and trails, and we used them mostly for riding and fun.

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Here’s John’s mom on it, she was 86!  Don’t worry, he was doing the driving.

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At first we thought we would just replace the ATV with another ATV.  The kids do enjoy riding them, even though in Maryland there isn’t as much land as there was in PA, and it’s pretty flat.  Very flat.  Still fun, but not the same.  And we do still have the one.  So we decided to go out looking and see what’s new in the ATV market.  And then we saw the “Gator.”

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Here’s the traditional color from John Deere:

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It was like we were made for each other!  Now that we’re old more mature, we loved the back for carrying things around, and we loved that it was a four-seater, so we could haul our friends and family around too!

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It’s so useful! And comfortable!  We ride it down to the beach in the morning to have our coffee and muffins. John packs it up with all our fishing gear and coolers when we’re going out on the boat.  It’s very convenient.

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And it has the other vehicle to keep it company.

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Jackson took this picture of John and I, inspecting the trees and fence:

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I know, it’s crazy, but we love our Gator.

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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.

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

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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!

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

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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.

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

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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!

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.

 

The Story of the Boathouse

May
9
2013

Garage, check.  Dock, check.  Boat, check.   Now, finally, we decided to build a building where we could actually stay, and sleep and make a meal.  (And use the bathroom –  just saying.)   Just like our first boat ride, we were excited to think we could actually wake up in the morning and be on our own property. Not in a hotel.  With the noise.   Still, we weren’t ready for the MAIN house.  So what do we come up with?  A “boat” house.   No, not a REAL boathouse.

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That’s a real boathouse.

We just decided to call it that because we wanted to.  We would store our boats under it, so it made some kind of sense to us.  And we just liked saying it was a boathouse.   It actually was going to resemble a lighthouse if you want to be technical.  (And I know you do.) The kind of lighthouse we’ve seen around the Chesapeake area.  Like this…..

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Here’s what our plans looked like…….

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Up in the northeast, we have the tall kind of lighthouses, here’s one of our favorites from Montauk, Long Island…..

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So, anyway, there we were, all happy, planning to build a boathouse.  We hired a draftsman to draw it up, we got the permits, we tested the soil, and we had Thom our builder give us a quote.  And then….. the economy collapsed.  And that, combined with a quote that would have built the actual house, convinced us to give up that dream and move on to another…..  the Crab Shack!  Yep, we’ll build a little Crab Shack that would eventually be a guest house after the main house is built (which we won’t even start for a year or two).  Brilliant!  So, John found plans online, they were from the “Katrina” collection of small homes, designed for the people of New Orleans, and that’s what we decided to build.  After months and months of redoing the plans, adding this, taking away that, having all sorts of tests to make sure the ground could support the house, we changed everything!  Thom was still happy to have the work, and we were happy to begin!

And then it snowed.

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But Thom and his men persevered…..

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And we were on our way!

Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

April
29
2013

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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!

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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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We’ve had some visitors……

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But one visitor we really didn’t want……

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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!

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