Monday, December 6, 2010

Beaver Love


On our last trip to "The Lakehouse", we discovered that beavers had begun weeding our forest. Actually, we discovered this in about the third year we owned this beautiful place. They felled two trees then, and we thought that was the end of their foray. But, NO!!! We found a "love carving" from the beavers this morning!

Last spring, we found another tree, whose base was left in a chewed hourglass shape, sans its bark. Apparently, beavers love to eat the inside meat of the bark first. That tree has now falled down, and they have moved onto the adjacent Maple. Beavers don't prefer pines; they like the hardwoods. We live in a pine forest and the Pine Beetle has begun eating them. We must get those trees proactively cut down to stem the damage from these insects.

Now, we have the beavers who want the hardwoods near to the shore. Not only do they like Maples, but they also enjoy Crepe Myrtle. Now that I know they are after my blooming trees, we have to figure out what to do. We don't know how many beavers we are hosting right now, but we learned that families can be up to eight members. The young tend to stay with the parents for up to two years after birth.


I brought Jackson and Mattie Grace to explore the cove this morning and capture the damage to show you here. They have been hearing the beavers down here at night, but we don't have a strong enough flashlight to go exploring. Since beavers in South Carolina can grow up to a whopping sixty pounds, our poor little ten-pound "poof" dogs, who think they're really country dawgs, will be outmatched with those long, sharp teeth and claws. We keep a close eye on our babies at night, especially Jackson. He loves to explore and is hardpressed to go to the beaver work area. He doesn't care about the darkness. He's a big boy, so he thinks.

Larry did a little research on the web and discovered there's a hard cloth or wire netting we can put around the base of trees to prevent the beavers from eating them. Also we plan to buy ourselves a motion-detector digital camera to mount on a tree nearby and capture those varmints with a flash. We sure would love to see them. Next we'll also buy a strong flashlight/spotlight for ourselves for Christmas. It'll be fun to try and catch the invaders at work.

They carried off the Crepe Myrtle branches, but we have not been able to find a dam or what looks like the beginnings of a lodge so far. We may take the boat out and check around the other side of the point for signs of a "build"

More on our beaver adventure in another blog. In the meantime, here's a link of interest. Enjoy! http://www.dnr.sc.gov/wildlife/beaver/beaver.html

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Getting ready for Christmas









I have never not been in New England at Christmastime. Well, once since I've been married, we spent Christmas in South Carolina, and my son, Chris, flew down to join us. He hasn't been back since. "It's too dark and quiet", he said. We do live in the woods after all. I knew he was a "city kid" way back when he was a child, and we lived in the country of Blanchard, Louisiana. He likes noise.

My sister-in-law is not doing well, and today neither is my brother-in-law. Cancer is all pervasive in this family right now. I was experiencing such huge stress over what to do about going back "home", that a friend posted on Facebook: "You have a lot of stress in your life right now and the holidays make it worse. Stay in one place and hunker down." Another friend seconded that motion most enthusiastically. Reading those posts made me feel like God answered my prayers. So, we are staying put and hunkering down right here at "The Lakehouse". We bought a Frasier Fir tree at The Piggly Wiggly, that was already in water and standing up. It was fresher than the tree we had cut down right in front of us last year in Rhode Island! That wasn't a Frasier Fir, but so what?

We planted the potted baby Christmas tree we bought in WalMart down here two years ago, and it is huge now! Larry commented that it is getting "very sexy", meaning it is maturing and growing at a seemingly exponential rate. It was just one of those little potted trees you see in the store for $10 and think, why bother? But, look what it grows into if you plant it. It'll be a gorgeous pine one day. That's Mattie Grace sniffing the latest on her branches.

The day after Thanksgiving, we went to Libby's house and decorated it for Christmas. We hung festive lights outside and placed alternating lighted Santas and Frostys on her lawn. But, she remained in the hospital until a week later. She loves it. She decorated "The Lakehouse" every year since we bought this place, just so it would be homey and festive when we arrived, usually after Christmas. It was the least we could do for her.

So now that we're staying put, we've decorated "The Lakehouse" for Christmas and are content playing seasonal music while sipping eggnog with rum; trying to keep our Bichon, Jackson's, tongue out of our glasses. He really likes it we discovered. Geez.

And this morning, Larry saw a Bald Eagle flying around our cove. It landed in the pines and sat for a very long time looking for fish. He got some rather grainy, but reasonable pictures through the windows in our living room. I just saw it fly across the cove again with something in his/her talons before landing in a pine across the cove above the neighbor's cottage. This place is so magical sometimes. Everything feels like a gift.

Larry's outside wielding the chainsaw now. Last spring we had to cut down a dead pine and because Billy had the saw at his house and didn't return it, he's only just getting to cutting it up now. We have to get Billy's pontoon boat out of the water soon, and this time we want to move it further down towards "the point" and out of our view corridor. That downed tree is in the way. And, since we've been here a pine that has been in the water when the lake was up, and was leaning pretty heavily, finally fell over onto the boat ramp. That'll have to be cut up and removed before we can haul the boat onto the trailor. There's never a loss for work here.

We've decided to rest in the month we've been here, but today, Larry chose to get back to work. I'm missing my siblings right now. In choosing to stay here, I cannot attent a special lunch in honor of our brother, Paul, who died thirty-four years ago today. Paul was the second oldest after me, and would be sixty years old now. I will miss hearing all the stories my sibs will tell at lunch in Natick, Massachusetts (Jeanne's house that I sold to her. It was my first house that I bought myself). My only vivid memories are of us as children. I didn't "hang out" in the neighborhood like the rest, so I don't have any adult memories, except of sitting quietly together, watching TV. I wish I had thought earlier to suggest someone bringing a recorder to capture all those memories. God bless you, little brother.

It is a glorious day outside today: lots of sunshine and cool, but comfortable temperatures. We'll head over to Libby's house later to visit. For now, I think I'll put in the DVD I borrowed from her, "The Nativity". I just love this rendition of the Christmas story. Why don't they televise Christmas stories at Christmas? They always put them on leading up to Christmas Eve and Day, but never at the appropriate time. I guess the television moguls decided they just have to get us pumped up to shop and once we've done that, they've done their job. We just get left hangin'.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Dixie, Y'all! Have a wonderful, joyful and prosperous New Year too. Love, Me.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving at the lake.


This was our first Thanksgiving in "The Lakehouse". We hosted my husband's family and my sister-in-law's in-laws, for a total of fifteen adults and three children. Thank goodness our open-floorplan home provided plenty of space for both sitting around the table together enjoying the incredible array of food everyone made and lounging in tryptophan splendor afterwards. I am still full today.

The planning started last Friday night when we invited my sister-in-law, Libby, her family and inlaws to dinner. I made shrimp and grits for the first time. I almost screwed up the grits. Who can mess up grits you ask? Well, when you switch the volume of grits to water, it's easy. Luckily for me, my husband, Larry, saved them with lots of milk and butter. They actually were great. But, the true accomplishment was the shrimp dish. I found a Bobby Flay recipe on-line along with a "Gullah" recipe. I just recently found out about the Gullah culture on the South Carolina coast. The first freed-slaves from West Africa put down roots in Beaufort, near Charleston. They founded their own culture, Gullah, and have their own language.

I combined the best of both these recipes and added my own touches: good Applewood-smoked bacon and Andoille sausage, onion, roasted red peppers, chopped tomato(peeled and seeded so Libby could eat it), lemon juice, butter, shrimp and scallops. It was just delicious and my southern-born relatives raved about it. Yes, bloggers, a Yankee can cook Southern.

Anyway, Libby, her sister-in-law, Mary Pat, her husband, Ed, and I sat around the table after dinner and planned our Thanksgiving menu. Larry and I had already picked up a frozen turkey and honey, spiral-cut ham, so we just added the fixin's and who would make them. Oh, yes, we planned desserts as well. The result yesterday, was a mountain of food that almost made us feel guilty for all the starving children in the world our parents threatened us with if we didn't clean our plates as children ourselves. I learned that this threat has no geographic boundaries. Parents were the same everywhere. Are we still doing this one? I'm certainly not. I gave myself permission to not clean my plate and throw food away years ago. It felt bad at first, but I found myself defending it yesterday when little Amanda wanted permission to throw leftover desserts away with her paper plate. "If you take it, you have to eat it", was what her mother told her. I intervened, and said Amanda could go right ahead and throw it away. I also encouraged her mother to let it go.

The sad part of our day was that Libby, who is terminally ill with appendix cancer that has taken over her digestive organs, got impacted again and doubled over in pain. When she gets like this, there is no pain medication at home that will relieve it, so she was admitted to the hospital two days before Thanksgiving. It was very difficult to go ahead with our holiday celebration without her, but we took turns visiting before and after the day. And, we recorded the day on a video camera that Larry and I took to the hospital last night, so she could hear the songs we sang to Joe's guitar after dinner, and all the good wishes we sent her all day long. She and I sang along to the songs in her hospital room and she was much better. We heard from her brother's wife that in the morning, she was very emotionally upset. The first words out of her mouth when she was admitted to the hospital were, "I don't want to ruin Thanksgving!" I assured her she wouldn't and she didn't.

Before dinner, when the food was ready, we all stood around the kitchen holding hands while I said "the Blessing". I became overwhelmed with emotion as I began, and Mary Pat put her arm around my should for support while I continued to thank God for all our blessings. I asked for help for Libby and thanked Him for the time he gave us with her. Her brother, Billy (Larry's brother too), was also diagnosed with kidney cancer the same day Libby was admitted to the hospital this week. But, he learned that they detected it early and he could consider that "Divine intervention" must have come into play. The timing of his pain attack from gallstones, the lack of patients in the hospital at that particular moment, the area of the ER in which he received his examination all combined to mean he got the additional xray and tests he needed to find his kidney tumor. If the doctors and nurses were busier, they wouldn't have done them at all he was told. So, he should be okay if there are no surprises when they operate on December 15th. Kidney cancer cannot be treated with chemotherapy or radiation, so surgery is his only option. I prayed for him too.

When I was done, several people had tears in their eyes, but we all laughed and hunkered down to the tables joined end-to-end to make room for everyone and their heaping full plates. It was a wonderful meal and a wonderful day. Plus, we were blessed with a gloriously sunny day with temperatures in the low 70's. That in itself was a huge blessing. Thank you, God.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Back at the lake.


It's been a month since we last came to The Lakehouse for my sister-in-law, Libby's, birthday weekend. Since then, the mice have had a field day! The first thing I cleaned was poop off all the kitchen counters and the stove. It wasn't as bad as I've seen in the past, but melted mouse poop is the pits. Then I went into the renovated bathroom to find they pulled much of the woven bathmat cords out. I wonder where their beds are? Haven't found any yet, but you can be sure they are hiding somewhere in the house. Spider poop isn't bad this time, and otherwise, the house is in good shape.

We learned a week before coming here from Larry's brother, Bill, that our power was out. When he and Karan walked in the house after checking to make sure their pontoon boat was still secure, they could have sworn something died in the house. After searching for a carcass, they opened the refrigerator and gagged at the horrid smell. Bill said the once frozen chicken and other meat left in the freezer was liquid. They cleaned everything out of the fridge, after having to go buy trash bags because, of course, we were out. I left a note on my refrigerator magnet pad that we needed more trash bags and 9V batteries for the smoke alarms. Figures. I didn't have time to replenish before leaving the last time.

Once the refrigerator was empty, they hauled everything off to the dump and Karan did a wonderful job cleaning it out. It hasn't been that clean in years! They unplugged it and left the doors open as well as all the windows and ceiling fans to try and air the house out. In two days, Bill said he came back and the smell was gone. When we arrived, I wouldn't have known anything happened because there was no smell from this catastrophe at all. I am very grateful to them both for handling this incident for us.

The power company was very responsive and sent a crew to the house (on a Sunday) within an hour. Bill and Karan had just returned from dumping the refrigerator contents when they came upon the crew on their way out. The crew said vines had grown into the transformer and shorted it out. A road crew would be dispatched the next day to really clear away the vines. This crew merely cleared enough to get the power back on. It has been very warm here, apparently, and the power must have been out for three weeks. We have security cameras on the house, and when Larry couldn't see them, he just assumed his latest effort to make the router not change the IP address in a power outage didn't work again. Next time, we'll make a call to have someone check the house before weeks go by. Maintaining a house remotely is not easy.

Larry and I are both exhausted. I have been feeling a little down and very cranky. I am also feeling a little guilty for doing absolutely nothing except food shop so far this week. I know we deserve the rest and I'm pushing those little devil voices away while I rest on my hammock in seventy-five degree weather reading the lastest book by Richard Castle, Naked Heat. Larry is plunked in front of the TV, but I have to be outside with only birdsong in the background. Well, there are also hammering noises from construction around the lake. Sound travels on the water.

I didn't feel well yesterday. My stomach has been upset. Probably from all the overeating I've done lately. So I never left the couch. Today I got up, took a shower, and went for a walk around this country neighborhood with Jackson and Mattie Grace on their leashes. It felt good to get out and move. But, my mood didn't change. I stayed outside, away from my husband (to protect him from my awful mood), and feel better now that I've had a little lunch.

Tonight, we'll try a restaurant I read about in "South Carolina Living" magazine in Columbia called "Mac's on Main". The recommended dishes are shrimp and grits as well as peach cobbler for dessert. The owner, Mac, is also a jazz performer who is known to hop up on stage and play for the patrons. I hope he does tonight. I would love to hear some live jazz and eat "low country" cooking. Should be fun.

I also read about a Gullah cultural festival in Beaufort that intrigues me. Unfortunately, the ride is two hours fifty minutes one way, and after driving nine hundred fifty-four miles to get here just a couple of days ago, I'm not interested in driving that far so soon. Apparently, on St. Helena Island in Beaufort, near Charleston, is the site of the first freed slave school and the origination of the Gullah culture with its own language. Slaves mostly from Sierre Leone in West Africa and Native Americans mixed to create their own culture. I find this fascinating.

Actually, I am learning a lot more about the Civil War era living here in SC than I was taught in Massachusetts. Larry's family was actually displaced and rampaged by Union solders here. My sister-in-law, Libby, took me to Magnolia Plantation near Charleston several years ago, and I walked through Antebellum houses for the first time. I had never heard that word before. It was very interesting to see how slaves lived in those days. I remain intrigued to learn more as time goes by.

But, a trip to the low-country will have to wait for another time. Instead, Libby and I will go to the Christmas craft festival at the State Fairgrounds this weekend. It is my favorite craft festival. There are hundreds of vendors in several buildings and I always find good stuff there. I'm looking forward to spending some quality time with Libby as well. We'll stay as long as she has the energy.

She just got out of the hospital last week because she was impacted above her stomach peg and was in pain. Her oncologist has told her he has done everything he can for her. We'll see if she will continue with chemotherapy when she goes back to see him on Monday. He is trying to control her bad headaches right now with Lyrica. Her insurance company is still giving her a hard time about approving treatment and drugs to fight her cancer. This fact still amazes me. She only has one "last ditch' option available, and nobody thinks it will do much to help her: internal warm chemo wash at Duke University. She had this when they first removed the majority of her tumors, and the beginning is usually when this treatment works best. The trouble with her condition is that the surgeon was not able to remove all her "paint splatter" tumors, so they keep growing and spreading. They are mucinous tumors that are also difficult to see in a CAT scan. We will enjoy whatever time we can get with her for as long as we can.

Spending time with her is the majority of the reason we are here this month. We'll spend Thanksgiving here and return to Massachusetts on December 3rd. It is supposed to cool off a bit at the end of the week. Maybe a fire in the fireplace will be in order soon. The Lakehouse has a great fireplace.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Update


We're back in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and I couldn't imagine that our varied activities up here had any relevance to this blog. But, I was wrong. Thanks to my cousin in Maine, I realize all our activities up here do have a direct effect on our lakehouse renovation project. Selling our current primary residence in Lexington will bring us the funding we need to continue upgrading The Lakehouse. So, here's what we've been up to since I last wrote to you.

We have almost completely emptied the Lexington house to ready it for sale. I say "almost" because there are still a few pieces of furniture upstairs in the house we were using, that can now be moved out. And, we have storage under a staircase that has not been accessible until this week because we had all the floors downstairs covered in prefinished bamboo hardwood. Painters, carpenters and landscapers were also hired to put a shiny, clean face on the entire property, inside and out, so we can feel proud to show it to our prospective buyers.

The one neighbor we befriended approached us a few weeks ago to tell us she has a friend who may be interested in buying the property. She and her husband love our house, and "thought it was already perfect", then we told her about the renovations and upgrades. She got even more excited, and emailed contact information for her friend. I have since been in email contact with him and am waiting for a reply to arrange a viewing appointment. We really hope this buyer works out because saving money on real estate commissions will be huge!

Also, we have an October 15, 2010 deadline for planting our "coastal buffer" in Tiverton, RI. We browsed around and found really good end-of-season sales on bayberry, winterberry, beach roses, and summersweet plants. We planted most of them to date, but thirteen plants remain in pots as I write this. Our wonderful neighbor there is watering them for us because rain has been elusive. Let's hope they stay healthy until we can get them in the ground.

The rest of this week will be in Lexington, cleaning the construction dust, and washing windows to ready the place for our special, private viewing. So, keep your fingers crossed for us that our first shot will be the only one.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Mayflies have come and gone.


The week following our buying "The Lakehouse", my two sistahs, Mere and Joanne, flew to South Carolina with me to clean and stock the house. Our new lake home had not been occupied in five years, so there were lots of critters to contend with: mostly mice and spiders along with their poop and webs. I didn't know at the time that Joanne was deathly afraid of spiders. I thought Mere would have been the one afraid of bugs because she is such a "lady". Not much surprises me these days, but finding out this fact did.

The prior week Larry and I bought basic, low-maintenance furniture: beds for every room, a sturdy kitchen table and chairs to accommodate the weight of big family members, wrought iron outdoor furniture for the living room with cushions that didn't mind wet bathing suits, and a lovely, stained-glass floor lamp with a Dragonfly motif. This motif then became the logo of "The Lakehouse". We wanted relatively maintenance free furniture because we only planned to use the house up to four times per year, and gave his family keys and free use of the property any time they wanted. We also bought a vacuum cleaner.

My sistahs and I got busy cleaning every room, wall, closet and cabinet. I encouraged them to choose a bedroom to sleep in and clean that. Poor Joanne chose the largest room in back and unfortunately for her, it also housed the largest and greatest number of spiders. Lots of screams emanated from there during the cleaning process, but she survived. She hasn't come back in eight years, but we try not to take it personally. Then again, Mere hasn't come back either, but maybe that's just a coincidence or an indication of how busy life is. I hope.

Once the house was reasonably critter free and clean, we took off in our rented car to the nearest WalMart. I won't go into the politics of this company, but it and Kmart and the most popular department stores down here. Target did not exist here eight years ago. That's all I'm going to say about that.

There's nothing greater for a woman than being able to "shop 'til you drop" on someone else's dime. So my sistahs and I had a ball cleaning out the store. I have never had to completely outfit a house before, and neither had they, so we had to think of everything that might be needed. We bought all the basic appliances: toaster, blender, and coffee pot. They helped me choose dishes, glasses, flatware, pots and pans, bedding, towels, etc. You get the idea. Mere likes to smoke when she drinks, so she bought wrought iron mini-frying-pan ashtrays. They were very cute. Joanne smoked also, so she was grateful.

When we thought we had everything, the three of us managed to push four over-flowing carriages to the cash register. Mouths dropped open when we arrived, and one man and woman stuck around, "Because we have to know how much". The tally came to over one thousand dollars, and then my greatest fear happened. My Visa card rejected the purchase. I was astonished because I knew there was plenty of money on the card, and immediately flashed back to days of old when credit card rejections were the norm in my life. I hated it then, and I hated it now. I was shocked and mortified, but luckily I had plenty of funds in my Reserve Credit Checking account to cover it. Once at the house, I called the bank and learned that when one makes a purchase deemed to be out of the spending pattern, the purchase is flagged and rejected for security reasons. I also learned to call ahead in the future if I had planned to do any more of this form of purchasing. Big lesson learned.

I bet you're wondering what all this has to do with Mayflies. Well, the night after shopping out WalMart and putting things away, the cocktails came out. I led the way down to the dock and noticed all these Dragonfly-looking bugs on the trees surrounding the path. I waved my arms and got swarmed with Mayflies. I just kept waving and shouting, "Y'all go on! This is mah hawse. Y'all get out!" in my best southern accent; all the way to the dock. When I turned around to encourage Mere and Joanne to do the same, they just stood there, mouths agape with hands over their drinks, just about peeing their pants. I yelled, "Close your mouth and run!" They ran to me after much cajoling, and we laughed all night.

I bet they don't want to come back because of bug trauma. What'd you think?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Anniversary!



June 14th was the eighth anniversary of our closing on "The Lakehouse". It was also the eighty-fourth birthday of Fred, the seller. So Larry and I showed up at the lawyer's office with a Sesame Street birthday cake we bought at Bi-Lo, kiddy paper products, and a gallon of sweet tea to celebrate. We sang "Happy Birthday" to Fred after we all signed the papers, and Fred cried with happiness. He and Marilyn have both "passed" now, but their spirit continues to live on here. They were special people and we made them very happy when we bought this property: a place they put fifty years of love into creating, and raised their daughters on in summer.

Did I tell y'all the story of buyin' this place? Well, the January after Larry and I got married, during what is now our annual Christmas holiday trip down here, Larry's brother and wife challenged us. They said, "We'll get the pontoon boat if y'all get the house on Lake Murray to keep it at. Billy, Larry and Libby grew up with many fond memories of fishing with their father on the lake." We said, "Fine", and then a month later, they bought a boat. So, the search for land was on.

We christened the new boat with a ride around the lake looking for "For Sale" signs and realtors. We found Wilder Realty, contacted the Chapin, SC office, and connected with an agent to work with. I can't remember his name now, so let me just call him Bubba for simplicity sake. We met with Bubba one morning, told him what we were looking for and he presented a number of options for us to consider. One of those options was "The Lakehouse".

He described this property to us as fenced-in and owned by an ornery old coot, who kept the gate locked and was very particular who he let in. Bubba tried several times to get the key to show us the place, but could never hook up with Fred. We did not have a very good impression of this property, so we just asked Bubba to give us a list of properties from lowest to highest price to let us explore on our own. We would get back to him if we found something. We wanted to see for ourselves what we would get for our money and how it differed from land values up north.

We rode all around the lake with our map marked for the properties we had a stack of listings for. Once we had seen everything on the list, I said, "Why don't we just take a ride over to that place Bubba keeps pushing on us and just take a look for ourselves." When we got there, it was a very long dark, dirt road with woods on both sides. Half the property was fenced in with what Larry called "hog fencing": like "chicken wire", but the squares are about four inches, instead of one inch, supported by rotting wood posts (more like cut tree trunks). Then there was a utility road (just a cleared path wide enough to fit a truck for pole repair work) across the width and the rest of the property was fenced in with chain-link. The road dead-ended at the lake, and the gate was about a hundred yards from the end on the left. The fence had barbed wire along the top and all I could think of was "Stalag 13" from Hogan's Heroes on TV. No way were we going to live on "Stalag 13". So, we let go of the property and moved on.

We went home to Massachusetts after having no success in our search, and in April, Libby called to say she found an old farm house we should look at. So we flew down and saw this lovely old house on a pristine piece of property. But we also realized that it was at the beginning of a cul-de-sac that had yet to be developed. It was going to become a "gated community" with lots of rules, and we would be looking at all these huge houses' front doors and have very little lake view or access. Plus, the price was over our budget.

Billy said Bubba had contacted him and when he heard we were in town, he said he had to meet with us. He had the keys to "The Lakehouse" in his truck and we just had to see the inside of the property before we turned it down. I was just getting annoyed with him. So, when we met at his office, we again requested the latest "list" and agreed to let him show us the offending property. I said, "We have lots to look at, so we'll just do a quick look and move on." I said this very curtly, and he understood.

We followed him on this long drive around the lake to that dark, dirt road. I was getting impatient because everyplace here is far away. We hadn't gotten a hundred feet down the road when we had to stop because a tree had fallen across it. He and Larry had to move the tree out of the way, and I just saw this as a bad omen that we were right to assume this was not the property for us. My annoyance at this huge waste of time was growing now.

Once we got to the offensive-looking gate, we waited impatiently for Bubba to open it. Let's just get this over with! As we drove across the threshhold of the gate, I was flooded with a feeling; a premonition: "Oh my God, this is it!"

"No," I argued with myself." "This can't be it. We haven't even seen it yet."

"This is it, I'm telling you, just wait. This is it. Oh my God!"

I continued this argument silently in my head until we parked at the garage: a large metal building we also call "the shed". Larry and I got out of the car, walked to the point and I turned to him and said, "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" He said he was, so we said to Bubba, "We'll take it and we'll pay the asking price." Bubba was so dumbfounded, he said, "Wow. I didn't expect to hear that. I don't even know what to do next!" We all laughed because we hadn't even seen the inside of the house yet. But we both knew in our hearts that this was our property. It didn't matter what the house looked like.

Once we looked all around, our tour only confirmed our gut feelings that we had to have this property. It had everything we needed: a garage, a pump-house, a dock, a boat ramp and a three-bedroom; two full bathroom (one with a jacuzzi tub) house with open floor plan and plenty of room for our families. It had a fireplace and was low maintenance. It just needed to be cleaned, but we could move right in. Fred and Marilyn were old now and had not used the place for five years. Their daughters were grown and none of their families used it anymore either, so lots of tender loving care was needed, but that's all. We were so excited that we were not going to have to figure out how to build a house long-distance.

Bubba called us a few days later, and said that Fred would not agree to sell us the property until he met us. They had had a doctor who wanted to build a mansion on the property, but it wasn't wide enough. The land is one-half of a long-narrow peninsula. He had a buyer who renigged on the deal and he lost money. And he had developers come in who had marked trees they would cut down. Fred and Marilyn spent their entire married life building this land and everything on it from scratch, so there was no way he was going to let a developer ruin it's country charm and homey feel. Fred and his boss bought the peninsula together. They put a four-foot anchor fence down the middle, drew up a deed agreeing this was the property line, then flipped a coin to see who got what half. Then they burned down the entire place and planted and built from the beginning; hauling soil and sand in one wheelbarrow at a time. Fred built the hundred-foot boat ramp ten bags of concrete at a time over many weekends. This was a summer place for he and Marilyn. They owned a house in Columbia.

So we agreed on a morning to meet, and we all piled into the boat, including Larry's mother, brother and his entire family; me and Larry. It was a very windy day and there were two to three foot waves all the way across. We got soaked, and I commented, that my mother would never have gone on this ride when I looked back at the scared look on Larry's mother's face. Poor thing. What a trouper. Larry's sister and her whole family drove there to meet us. We arrived at the dock, got Larry's mother on it, and Fred came walking down to meet us, saying we couldn't stay here. He thought we were interlopers. He was very nice, but stern and clear. He said he was meeting people any minute, and we assured him we were the ones he was meeting.

We all shook hands and proceeded to get our separate tours. Fred took Bubba and the men on the "utility" tour, while Marilyn took me and Larry's mother, plus the other women on the "garden" tour and a tour of the house. They both told us stories from their own perspectives about buying the property, building it up, and raising their children on it every summer. They showed us their dog, Droopy's, grave, that still exists, and told us about life on the lake: pro and con. Marilyn talked about fishing by herself in a little boat she puttered around the cove, and Fred warned us about keeping the pump turned off because boaters would invade, leave the water running to drain the well and break in. Marilyn lost a fish mounted on the wall that meant a great deal to her, and Henry next door (now also passed from a crack overdose [that's another story]) also lost diving equipment.

By the end of the day, Fred and Marilyn told us we passed our interview and agreed to sell us the place. We assured them we planned to retire and live on it, and keep it mostly the same. This plan made them both very happy. So, at the closing tears of joy were shed, and we felt a warm feeling in our hearts at making this couple bound for assisted living very happy. The birthday party was also a nice touch and was much appreciated.

We visited Fred and Marilyn at the "Home" for as long as they both lived as if they were relatives of ours. I always brought Marilyn a bouquet of "her Camilias", because they bloom all year long. When each one passed, their daughters called us first to let us know as if we were related to them. We have not been able to connect with their daughter who lives in the mansion across the lake from us (we used that house as a landmark to know we were in the right place before we knew it belonged to Fred and Marilyn's daughter). Marilyn tried to convince her daughter not to buy that huge house, and just shook her head whenever she talked about it. We chuckled at the family dynamic. Life is just too busy now. But, we remain hopeful that we will hook up with them someday. She and her husband are very nice and have a boat. She helps her daughter run their flower shop on the other side of town, and we check in by cell phone periodically.

We are so happy we bought this haven of peace, and feel very blessed to share it with family and friends. I bought a blank book in that first year and started a "Lakehouse Journal". I encourage everyone who stays here to write in it, and enjoy reading about their experiences and feelings for the place when we can't be here. It truly is a sanctuary for all who visit.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Heart's Desire


Grandest Desire: to own property where I could walk around naked outside without fear. My dream was realized when we bought "The Lakehouse": 5-1/4 acres of country privacy. We live on half of a long, stringbean-shaped peninsula. The property right next door has been abandoned for several years now. We tried to buy it, but the owner wants way too much money. I'm sure there's a buyer out there, and we'll have a neighbor someday. But, until then, we enjoy the ultimate in privacy. Both neighbors on either side of the coves are owners who don't use their properties much, so the only intruders to watch for are the fisherpeople, boaters and jetskiers.

I have always liked being naked outside. I think I first realized this in my early twenties after wrestling with low self-esteem and body image issues. I think I have always felt and looked fat to myself. As a small child, I was skinny with stick legs. As a teenager, I developed a pot belly. At twenty, I tried working beyond it by wearing more revealing clothes. It was the 70's, and less was more. "Hair" was hot, and naked was "in". "Free Love" was in the air and on the mind of every hippy or hippy-wannabe. I fell into the latter catagory.

I moved to Albuquerque, NM when I was twenty-seven, and my son, Chris, was six. I felt the strongest urge to get away from my home and everyone I knew because I felt lost in trying to be what everyone else wanted me to be. I didn't know who I was anymore.

I grew up acting like the "good girl": always doing what I was told; never speaking my mind, but obeying without question. As the oldest of twelve children, I became the father substitute because my father worked more than one job and I had his temper. My mother also worked, so I babysat a lot. Again, I did what was expected of me, but I hated it. I just wanted to be a kid and a teenager. I didn't want to be a parent.

At seventeen, I sat in the Burger King in Waltham, MA with my friends, Pat and Kathy, and remember telling them I wanted to try everything in life at least once. That's when I started questioning everything and testing the waters of rebellion.

After high-school graduation, I went to New York City for a week with my friends, Shirley and Dana. We had fake I.D.'s and spent most every night at a club in Greenwich Village. We liked it so much, that we made friends and started going around there during the day. We went to the apartment of a few of those new friends, and when we told them that we were still virgins at eighteen, they treated us like we had leprosy. I knew I had to remedy that situation. Shortly after getting home, a bunch of us rented a room at the Suisse Chalet on Route 2 in Cambridge and that's where I cheered when I saw the blood-stained sheets of my newly declared womanhood.

Long story short: sex, drugs; rock 'n roll ensued, and I became an unwed mother at twenty. It was not socially acceptable to breastfeed in public, so whenever my baby got hungry, I was banished to our bedroom. It always felt like a punishment to not just continue to visit while I fed my baby. I knew somehow that this would probably be the only baby I bore, so I wanted to experience as much as I could. Breastfeeding was "a must". I could be discreet, and hated society's hangups over bare breasts. Needless to say, this experience became much too stressful and restrictive, so I started pumping and feeding him from a bottle. After I was sure he got the nourishment he needed from my breast milk, I started feeding him formula, and found some freedom.

It wasn't until we moved to New Mexico, and I met Kate, that I was encouraged to explore outdoor nudity. It was 1976 and I met Kate at the University of New Mexico in my Freshman year. I discovered a freedom there I had never known. It was a freedom that shot me to my core, and I knew I had to incorporate this into my lifestyle somehow.

My cousin reminded me today about our family reunion in Newton, Massachusetts in 1976 where as night fell, I wanted to go "skinny dipping" in our swimming pool. I'm confused now about the timing of my nudity exploits because I know the paragraph above throws this dateline off. Be that as it may, I was the first to strip down and convinced my friends to do likewise. A little cousin saw us and "snitched" to my parents. My father came bounding out after turning off the pool lights, and I found myself standing naked in front of him at twenty-seven; head hung feeling like I was five-years-old, while he yelled at me in front of everyone. The party ended after that. But not my desire to be naked outside. I just had to learn a comfort level with it.

Much later, after moving back to Massachusetts, I enjoyed vacationing on Martha's Vineyard where my mother had purchased a number of timeshare units. I used one of those weeks by myself, just to see if I could vacation alone. I went to what was then, Gay Head, and saw a shopkeeper who looked like a hippy. I heard there was a nude beach there and asked her if she could tell me where to find it. She sternly questioned my motivation because voyeurs were rampant. Assured I was not one of those, she explained how to get there. I can no longer visit the Vineyard without at least one trip to that beach.

In those days, families romped naked together out in the open: grandmothers with sagging breasts and bellies; mothers, fathers and little children all playing together. It was so European. I loved it. I remember, when it was allowed, playing in a clay pool at the base of the famous cliffs with little kids: smearing my body with orange and yellow clay to then lay on the sand, baking it dry, then diving in the ocean to wash it off. It was the most exhilarating experience of my life. I knew this was how life should be, and I was sad for people who could not feel this childlike, innocent freedom.

Over the years, as I got older and fatter, I went there just to feel normal. Nobody cared what your body looked like. Everyone was accepted. It was so harmonious. I had the highest self esteem at that time. As my own breasts and belly sagged with age, I decided I would be a role model for others with low self-esteem and body image like those grandmothers were for me. I would demonstrate that we are all beautiful, no matter what our bodies look like. I would feel that childlike acceptance and let it shine through me for anyone with eyes to see.

I continue to feel that way, but must admit it is more difficult to do. As a society, we are so hung up over nudity. It is a sad state of affairs, that we do not grow beyond the negativity associated with nakedness. I believe it is one of the main contributing factors to sexually unacceptable and inappropriate behaviors and attitudes.

Yesterday, I went skinny dipping in the lake. I woke up feeling a strong need to do it. It had been a long time. I lay there in bed wrestling with myself over whether or not I should do it. I got angry and just did it anyway. That's how I deal with fear: I force myself to do it anyway. Whatever IT is. In that way, fear has no control over me. I can still be the "free spirit" for ME, no matter how old I get. It is most important to me now to keep doing this as I approach the age of sixty-one.

So, this beautiful lakehouse is one of my greatest "Heart's Desires". It is my dream home where nudity reigns and personal freedom still lives. Yes, I watch out for men on the lake and don't flaunt in front of people. But there are plenty of opportunities to do what I want, so I thank God every day for this blessing. What is your dream; your "Heart's Desire"? Do you have it yet? If not, why not? Life is short. Live it fully. What else is there that matters anyway?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Today


"The Lakehouse" sits quietly in the sauna of South Carolina waiting patiently for her facelift. She is not worried. She waits calmly, knowing it will come in its own time. Things happen more slowly down here. The heat of the sun and thickness of the air make it so. Nobody hurries. She knows this, and is content.

We secured an equity line of credit on the house as insurance for the future. Once we sell our Lexington, Massachusetts house, we'll know how much money will be available to begin her facelift. Right now, everything is on hold while we help Larry's sister endure her hospital stay on the oncology floor of Lexington Medical Center, and her family remain hopeful while the doctor's do everything they can to help her go home again. Her cat, Elvis, has been calling to her. They miss each other. They need each other.

Yesterday, she received a stomach peg attached to a drainage bag. This peg will allow her to drain fluids from her stomach, and was her only hope of going home again. So far, it is working well. In a couple of days, she will receive forty-six hours of intense chemotherapy. This is a "bombs instead of bullets" approach. If her body can handle it, she will receive another dose in fourteen days. In the meantime, she may be able to go home to her family, her cat, her dawg, and the dirt she loves so much. If the chemo works to shrink her mucinous tumors, maybe she can eat again and "pass" what she eats. Then, she will have a much higher quality of life, and can stay on earth with us a little longer.

Meanwhile, "The Lakehouse" will remain vigilent, and gratefully receive her makeover whenever it happens. No worries for her. She has the birds, the "Cooters" (turtles), the toads, the spiders and the mice to keep her company when we're not with her. She is never alone. She stands as a symbol and an example for us all: None of us are truly alone. And if we just wait patiently, every good thing will come to us in it's own time. Never fear. Remain ever hopeful. Life really is good and beautiful.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Catching Up


Larry is a little frustrated that the security cameras he installed at the lakehouse don't work right now. Our brother-in-law rebooted it, but it still doesn't work. We'll have to ask our nephew to go there with a laptop and reset it. He thinks there was a power outage that reset the IP address. What a pain in the butt. We miss looking at the lake.

Life is pretty chaotic these days. Getting houses in MA ready to sell and move into, so we can get money to upgrade the lakehouse is stressful and exhausting. We're essentially living out of a suitcase these days, and I'm getting really sick of it. But, we expect everything will be complete in June, so we can head back down to SC and get our Lexington house on the market. We'll see how the timing works on this plan.

Our house in Upton now has a new floating "honey oak" hardwood floor and is just beautiful. The character of the house has already changed with its installation. On Tuesday, two of the bedrooms will get new Berber carpet. We've contracted with a painter, and chosen colors inside and out. My sister's neighbor gave her photographs of the house in the 1950's when it was a doctor's office. It was a lovely Colonial grey-blue color. Instead of the light yellow we planned to paint it, we are going to restore it to its original color. The white trim and doors will make the white azaleas in front just pop. They are in full bloom now and disappear against the white body. I can't wait for this project to be done.

Once the Upton house is done, we'll move all the furniture we plan to keep from Lexington into it. We'll buy a new shed, put it in "the lower 40", and move all the other stuff we can't part with and don't have room for in Tiverton, RI in there. We also plan to purchase an over-under washer-dryer that will stay with the house if/when we sell. Sistah Joanne will probably move out on June 1st. Let's hope she gets that lovely one-bedroom down the street. I've already told her she has a standing dinner invitation anytime she wants. She said I may regret that. I hope not.

Once we empty out the lower floor of the Lexington house, we can hire the same painter to paint the four rooms down there. Then Larry can install a floating floor or cork flooring to cover the original asphault tile, currently broken and stained. We purchased a new replacement electric cooktop and oven from Sears. Larry still has to resurface the original deck, and add ballasters that will bring the railings "up to code". He also has to replace the glass in a sliding door, and we have to replace at least one custom window from Deck House. Phew!

Once all this work is done, we'll hire landscapers to weed the yard; regrade and stone the driveway. The entire driveway has huge ravines throughout from all the gushing rain this spring. We hope the money we're investing in these houses will reap financial rewards for us once we sell them (so we can stop dipping into our retirement to pay for everything), even in this market, especially Lexington. We'll hang onto Upton for a while longer, or until the market changes.

Who knows? Upton could end up being our primary residence. After all, it is closer to our son's new home in Medway, and our first Grandbaby due in November! Tiverton and the CRMC (Coastal Resources Management Commission, a RI state agency) have too many rules and restrictions. We can't breathe, even with the exquisite "million-dollar view". The view is being taken away from us as is half our yard because of rules they say protect the environment, but we know have nothing to do with that. We are doing nothing, nor is our new house, to hurt the environment. And, we have a substantial buffer at the "top of bank" now! This doesn't matter. It's about power and oppression.

The rules have more to do with protecting the environment from selfish, greedy "land-rapers" like our neighbor to the south. People like him spoil happy living for all of us. The rabbits, chipmunks and Robins can't find bugs they crave for the tall weeds. They're not happy, but CRMC doesn't live here, do they? Ticks rule right now. It's a nightmare for us with our little dogs who can't resist charging through it after possum, rabbits and their favorite treat: rabbit poop.

There is no "case-by-case" review at the CRMC. Like most government regulations, they are reactionary and general. And, if we do not comply, we can be fined up to $5,000 per occurrence and three months in jail for a misdemeanor. I want to fight them, but we don't have the money. My pioneer spirit is being awakened and I imagine myself sitting on the porch with my shotgun to protect my land that the government controls but we pay for. Who said life was fair? It truly feels like taxation without representation, because we have zero voting rights. Even when we make this our "primary residence", we have no rights with the CRMC. I hate government right now.

The town restricts our building a 64-square-foot or greater shed or garage without a permit and variance, which means involving our neighbors on either side who are now friends. Yikes! Our neighbor to the south is obsessed with making our lives miserable because of misplaced revenge, and is beginning to influence our neighbor to the north. Both neighbors have more money than God. The town doesn't want to look at a garage or shed in front of any house on our street, even though we are one of a very few homes who maintain woods on the road.

Our lots are long and narrow, so nothing can be built on the side of our new house either. It is possible to have both, but we would have to endure a neighborhood meeting that would invite our north and south unpleasant neighbors to try and thwart our plans. The town decides ultimately, but we all know how money talks. Our neighbor to the south is a bully, and gets away with breaking many rules. He epitomizes the adage: "It's easier to get forgiveness than permission." And, it is for him because he can afford to pay the fines. We cannot.

Then the CRMC controls what happens on the water side, and are currently in the process of "land-taking" half our yard there. We pay the "lions share" of property taxes for the town with its inequitable tax base, and cannot do what we want with our land without choking on all the restrictions. We have to make this house our primary residence for two years. Then, if we do sell it, we can get the $500,000 exclusion from Capital Gains. If not, we lose 20% to the Feds and up to 10% from the state. We also plan to prepare this house to rent in the summer to try and recoup some of the property tax money. Hopefully, we can get a few weeks rented this year. Either way, we'll definitely have it ready for next summer. There is just too much to do simultaneously right now. I need a nap.

But, the "silver lining" is that we at least have options and possibilities in life. I may complain about its inequities, but we are not homeless, starving or terminally ill. We are happy and truly blessed. And, we are very grateful for our blessings. I thank God and The Universe every moment of every day for my blessings. And, the sun is shining today. Happy Mother's Day to me and every woman out there. "God bless us, every one."

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Update from the North - Phase I


(Picture of Upton House.)

We're back in MA, and I'm already exhausted. What does this have to do with "The Lakehouse" you may ask? Money, honey, money. Until we sell our primary residence and my sister's house, we won't have the mullah to do renovations at the lake. So, here we are and the work continues.

There are two major projects here: finish moving out of the Lexington house, then paint and repair as needed, and create "curb appeal" for the Upton house. Last Friday we hauled seven boxes of books, four large trash bags of blankets, sheets and towels; two fans and other small miscellaneous items to Goodwill. Getting a receipt for a tax deduction is key. It feels like we get something back for our stuff without having to organize a yard sale or put things on eBay or Craig's List. I just don't have the energy or motivation for the latter two options.

We also had a 15-ton dumpster delivered that now blocks our primary driveway. But, it is readily located next to the lower parking spot for easy loading. After we finish throwing away precious items we just couldn't part with (read this as junk), we still have several more trips to Goodwill ahead of us. One can just never have enough tax deductions, can one? There are five rooms to empty and renovate: a large family room (the room we're starting in), a bedroom, a storage room (which could be a bedroom for some future owner), and the furnace/laundry room, plus a bathroom.

We have only just begun emptying the family room, but we already see the massive job ahead: freshly painting every room and replacing all the asphault tile flooring (about 1,000 s.f.!). As Larry put it: the major living space for us right now is down here. Please note, there is another floor upstairs the same size. However, we already painted upstairs and replaced all the flooring with Brazilian Cherry and Bamboo, plus wall-to-wall carpet in the bedrooms. Once our friend moves out, we will just have to touch up the walls and "stage it" for showing.

Our friend, Nancy, moved in upstairs almost a year ago when we finished building our RI house and moved into it. We needed to retain a presence here in MA while Larry still worked at the Observatory in Cambridge, and Nancy needed a place to stay temporarily. We also needed temporary storage for stuff we didn't want to or couldn't keep in the new house, and time to figure out what to do with it all. The timing worked out perfectly, and the arrangement has been good for all of us. She moved in upstairs and we stay downstairs. If we were really creative, we could make a Masterpiece Theater series out of it. Our lives are all in transition, and we support each other while we wait for "the Universe" to tell us what happens next. It is the greatest adventure.

Today, we meet with the realtor in Upton, MA to sign papers, and check the list my sister left us of repairs she deems necessary, and we can add to the list ourselves. Our realtor is my uncle's ex-wife. I just love living close to family. We can trust her and she will take care of us. We have too much going on to worry about dealing with a stranger. So far, we will mulch the gardens, power-wash and Cuprinol the deck, paint the outside and replace any rotted boards, plus paint the little shed to match. "Sistah" has kept up with the yard, so I'm sure we won't have much to do there.

So, here we go again. Work, work, work. But, in the end, we will be free of two huge responsibilities; completing our retirement goal of downsizing, and hopefully, reap a few "greenbacks" to help us upgrade the house down South. Stay tuned, dear readers, and thanks for listening. Anybody wanna buy a house?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Nesting






I watched a Black-Capped Chickadee outside our kitchen window yesterday hanging upside down, pulling fuzz of a fuzz ball stuck to a shrub near the replaced septic pipe. Pairs of critters are everywhere: Cardinals, ducks, black birds among a few. The spiders became active once the warmer weather hit, and the dock rails are covered with webs. Now that the yellow pollen is covering everything, those webs are even more beautiful.

One pest has also become active again: Fire Ants. Old nests we thought were dead are alive again, and new nests are in the walkways, so poison is required. But, we can no longer use the kind of pelletized poison that is bait the worker ants bring to the queen to kill the nest. Because the puppies find and eat everything, we now have to use a finer grain poison that must be gently watered in over the mound. And, we can only do the nests that are in harms' way when the pups are in the house, so they won't go near them right away. Can't have them tracking poison in their paw pads and eating it.

Critters aren't the only ones who are nesting. I have been enjoying adding pictures to every wall, replacing shower curtains and rugs, and the latest is I've hung curtains in the living room to soften the walls for the first time. All together we've added a new desk and file cabinet, a flat-screen TV, high-speed internet and a land-line, and cabinet in the back bedroom to house my exercise DVDs and weights; along with new bedspreads and a bookcase in the living room. The Lakehouse looks the homiest it's ever looked.

I am having trouble thinking about leaving tomorrow to head home up north. It is so beautiful here right now, and we are so comfortable that it pains us to leave. But, we'll be back again in June; then again in September. We'll figure out a schedule that works over time to live this "Snow Bird" lifestyle we've begun. I am looking forward to seeing my son and pregnant daughter-in-law though. I want to see her "glow" for myself.

What happened to Spring?






"That's what spring is like here," declared my sister-in-law yesterday as our truck temperature gauge hit one hundred degrees. This is like New England: it's cold, then it's hot. Where is the in-between we love so well? We had a few days of high 60's; low 70's, but very quickly that reached high 80's and 90's. I think the air conditioning will have to be put on today for the first time. Goodness gracious.

That said, the heat is making everything pop: every color and size bloom Azalea, white and pink Dogwood, cascading waterfalls of Wisteria that climbs to the top of forty-foot trees; Yellow Jessamine vines that do the same thing; Red Bud trees, single and double-bloom Bridal Bouquet bushes and Red-Tip Photinia are all proudly displaying their unique glory. There are many other blooming trees and shrubs that are still unnamed to me. I'm learning, though, slowly. This is "life in the slow lane" down here after all. The Irises and tulips are in bloom while the Daffodils are going past. It is so gorgeous here right now, "my cup runneth over". I wish we could stay another week or two to reap the full splendor of all the blooming color around us.

What down side could there be you ask? Pollen, and tons of it. Everything is coated with it: inside and out. Jackson rolls around on the dock and looks up with a completely yellow face. Mattie Grace roots around the shoreline and looks up at us with nostrils filled with yellow guck. The shoreline of the lake looks like it has a yellow bathtub ring around it and everything sticking up out of the water.

But, the yellow spider webs really stand out. They are in their own lacey splendor. It is truly stunning down here right now, and my heart is filled with Joy. We are having trouble gearing up to head north again. We were supposed to leave tomorrow. We'll see how far we get with our chores, and be flexible about the schedule. As long as we're home by Friday, I'll be happy.

Pointing the Chimney




We feel a bit like we're in New England. It was cold, then cool, now very hot. On Easter Sunday, the truck temperature hit 100! We also discovered that when the house is closed up to keep the cool air in (and the thick layer of pollen out), there is a very strong, almost eye-burning, smell of burned wood from the fireplace. I normally love the smell of burning wood, but this smell is a fireplace version of "dirty ashtray". Larry thinks this is because water may be getting inside the chimney and the wet areas are holding and marinating that awful smell.

He is outside now chipping away the mortar on the chimney that we noticed has moss and lichens growing in it and cracks everywhere. He will clean it up as best he can, then replace the mortar with new cement. Near the top there was a pine tree growing, so you know that can't be good.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Miscellaneous Projects



All the raking is done, but because installing a timer on the sprinkler system will take more time and effort than Larry has this weekend, I decided not to spread seed and fertilizer. I missed all the rain opportunities, but so be it. The yard looks great anyway.

Larry installed two security cameras on the house so we can look at the dock and our entryway from MA or RI and see who comes to visit. Having the ability to see this house from there will allow us to continue to feel connected to "The Lakehouse" when we're not here. This ability has proven to work very well for our other houses, so why not here too? Even if his sister is too sick to come here, she now also has to ability to look at the cameras and see the lake to relax.

Larry finished the outdoor shower and drain from the septic area, and by end of day today, we will have a platform to stand on to rinse the dogs with.

He installed an umbrella holder on the dock to shade the glider, and marine cleats for his brother to tie up his boat. A few years ago, there was a huge storm. Because Billy tied his boat to the railings, the wind trashed the boat and the boat ripped the steel railing right off the dock. Billy has since repaired the railing and the boat, so Larry is just creating an opportunity to not have this happen again once Billy gets the pontoon back in the water. Four new tires on the boat trailer are required to launch it, and hopefully, we'll be able to use it in June.

I have been nesting here and bought living room curtains for the first time to soften the brick walls. Larry needs to mount the 120 inch double rods onto brick before I can hang them though. He has time. We're not leaving until Tuesday.

Finishing the Septic Project


It's done. The trench is filled in, and Larry has installed a new outdoor shower. He has layed ten bags of riverbed peastone beneath the shower, and is out in the garage right now making a platform to stand on over the stones out of wood we have laying around that can't be burned.

As he has found out from this project, there are always surprises lurking. When he dug up the old shower concrete platform, he found the copper waterpipe that brings water to the house. He also discovered that it had a kink or a bend in it. This has been bothering him all along and wondered if our water pressure is affected by this kink. He wrestled with whether or not to cut out the kink and sauter a new piece in. His list of projects is long enough for the short time we have left: install a secure pvc pipe to hold the new umbrella on the dock to shade the glider, install marine cleats on the dock for his brother to tie his boat up to instead of to the railings. replace dock light bulbs, install curtain rods for me on the brick walls, etc. But, he decided he just couldn't live with the kink, so he fixed it.

Not only did he fix the kink, he dug a trench away from the shower and installed a pvc drainpipe with screens and landscape cloth on the ends to keep out silt. He did a great job. It'll work wonderfully until sometime next year when we can knock out that whole wall and expand our kitchen.

The Mallards


Mr. and Mrs. Mallard come to visit us multiple times every day. They moved into our cove with their friends, "The Mallards". There are two pairs. Each day, Mr. & Mrs. Mallard swim casually toward our boat ramp, walk up and into our yard and feed on the birdseed laying on the ground that the blackbirds throw there. They are so adorable. They first visited us about a week ago. Word travels fast in the bird world about free food. I worry what they will think when we aren't here to fill that feeder for over a month. We're leaving to head back up north on Tuesday. We can't figure out if "The Mallards" just don't know about the food or just don't care. They just swim around and fend for themselves elsewhere.

Jackson, our Bichon Frise, loves chasing Mr. & Mrs. Mallard. If he's in the house and sees them out the window, he barks like crazy at them. If we're sitting on the dock, and he spots them, he goes charging into the yard; right up to where they are feeding. They fly away in a panic in a circle, landing close-by on the lake. They are not too bothered by him though, because as soon as his back is turned, they waddle right back up the boat ramp towards the food again unperturbed. Larry says they must have the brains of turkeys.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

We're back!


Hey Y'all,

Now that Larry's sister is home from the hospital, we're getting back to normal.

We've lost some time this trip, so re-roofing the pump house will be put off until next trip. In the meantime, Larry installed two security cameras on the outside of the house (facing the dock and up the driveway) and running network wires around it. Having a network cable plugged into our DVR box also allows us to order pay-per-view movies. I miss those. Having the two cameras allows us to see the lake and anybody who may visit by boat or by car when we're not here. We have cameras at both our MA and RI houses, and looking at live action there keeps us connected. We have missed being connected with SC when we're up North.

He is discovering wiring skills he didn't know he had, but is willing to explore. The problem with learning a new skill is the frustration quotient. He replaced both end connectors three times already on a very long cable, already stapled to the outside of the house and drilled through the concrete blocks at both ends. The cable still doesn't work, so he is researching the problem. We both checked the staple job, and don't see any cable breaks or nicks. He has no idea what the problem is. Therein lies the frustration.

We expect to head north next week. So, between now and then, Larry will replace the tub faucet in the recently fixed bathroom, and I'll get a new shower curtain for it. He'll finish the wiring job and finish filling in the septic trench with clay soil and rock (just a few more inches will do). That'll be enough for one week.

I raked many piles of pine straw that need to be picked up and dumped, plus one last section of lawn to rake. Lots of grass has died, so the raking is hard. I can only do sections at a time. I already bought lots of seed and fertilizer, though, so once I'm done raking, I'll spread those.

We had a huge rain storm last night that we discovered was attached to a tornado three miles away. I had a feeling about the tornado late in the afternoon from the high winds and colors of the sky and water. Very eery looking. I'm happy my intuition is working, but wasn't sure what we'd do if one hit us. Larry and I discussed where we'd sit in the house if it did. I thought our roof would remain attached since it is steel reinforced. Larry said it would be gone.

The weatherperson says no more rain for a week, so one last job for Larry will be to prime our sprinkler system and get it running, so we can water the new seed. We'll have to look for timers as well, so it can get watered while we're away.

It's time to start planning to leave. I am very conflicted about that. I miss my son and my pregnant daughter-in-law, my good friends and some of my siblings, and our new home in RI, but I don't want to leave here. Two months have flown by. It seems like we've only been here for our usual ten days. I'm happy we'll be able to look at the lake once we're gone.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

We're on hold

Larry's sister had emergency surgery yesterday to reveal her cancer is back and has taken over. We will be spending much of our time at the hospital, so this blog will be on hold for a little while. Thanks for ready.

Monday, March 15, 2010

"Water, water everywhere..."

We bought a clean gallon plastic jug with a screw top (from KMart) to take the well-water sample that the SC Department of Health and Environment Control (SCDHEC) said they required on their web site. The site also said the chemical test for this sample cost $20. These people (along with Target, but that's another story) need to keep their web sites updated.

Once Larry removed the filters and tapped our sample, we realized how great our filters work. The water we presented for testing looked like chicken broth. If somebody handed me a glass of that and passed it off as water, I'd pour it in a plant before drinking it; just to be polite. The woman at the DHEC office said she couldn't use the container we brought. So, she pulled out a mailing kit from under her counter (Larry had to figure out how to open it) to retrieve the much smaller plastic bottle into which he had to pour our water. We did use the rest of the sample to water the beautiful blooming pink Red Bud trees outside their building. And, the test was $50! What's the point of using the internet for information, if the data is inaccurate? Update those web sites, people!

The site also said we'd receive our results in one to two weeks. Not so again! The multi-part form I completed at the DHEC office didn't offer us a "carbon" copy, so I asked the nice woman to make one for me. The form said it would take six to eight weeks. We won't be here then, so we won't know in this trip what kind of "proper" filtration/softening system we will need. Another annoyance. Oh well. We'll just have to deal with this in June.

Larry also discovered that a valve on the water pump was leaking. He used a wrench to close it, but it still leaked. This meant another trip to Home Depot. I wish we bought stock in this company years ago. We spend huge amounts of money here. Lowe's is our second best friend. I have also reacquainted us with the benefits of using the local hardware store. Unfortunately, remembering to use them requires more work than the huge chain stores. I'm not proud of this fact, it just is a fact. We had a wonderful experience with the local guys, though, so I'll try harder. Not only did they have bags of rock salt that my brother recommended we use to cover the septic pipe, thereby discouraging roots from growing before filling up the trench, but they were also very funny, helpful and made the experience more personal. We will definitely go back.

Larry replaced the valve and added another to make the tank easier to drain in the future. He really is a genius. He can do anything!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Stop and smell the flowers






It's been raining for two days here, but we are happy for the rest. Of course, rest is not all we do on rainy days...we shop! Larry replaced the shower curtain in our renovated bathroom with one of those curved hotel rods. What a difference it makes. And he installed a new Waterpik handshower. Next he'll replace the rusty spout. Our long-term plan for this bathroom is to expand it by about two feet and replace everything in it. The tub will also become a large shower. But, this won't happen until next year, so whatever we can do to make this room more user-friendly and pleasant to be in is "a good thing".

Today, we will buy a gas grill (we only have a huge charcoal grill, and that just takes way too long) and an umbrella to sit over our new glider on the dock. I bought a two-seater glider from the arts & crafts fair at the State Fairgrounds last weekend. It's made from recycled plastic and is really comfortable. Now it just needs some shade. And, I need more grass seed (Centipede seed is really expensive) and fertilizer. We bought pelletized lime last night.

This weekend, Larry will get the sprinkler system primed and working again, so I don't have to depend on the rain to water the yard and new seed. The system is fed from the lake. A couple of years ago, he replaced the motor and some of the heads. Now it works great. He'll also get his brother's boat trailer tires inflated, so Bill can launch the pontoon boat soon. I want to go touring and check out the island across the way: up close and personal-like. Can't wait to get out on the water again.

The Forsythia are beginning to bloom, and I suspect by the end of the week, they should be full and gorgeous. Camillias bloom all year. We have double and single-bloom red, pink and white Camillias. I just love them. We have not been here enough, so I have never planted blooming bulbs. Next fall, those daffodils will go in by the dozens. They are in bloom around town now, and I just love them. I'm told tulips don't do well down here, but daffodils love this climate and soil. Next spring will be amazing.

Every tree and shrub is in "bud" right now. I hope we get to see everything fill out with greenery before we leave at the end of the month. The Oak-Leaf Hydrangea's leaves are starting to hydrate and look healthy again. They have that lovely deep maroon and olive coloring now. It seems more and more leaves are being born on it too. It is a huge bush, and is just beautiful in full bloom.

Spring is my favorite time of year. I just love being here to begin this season of renewal, only to witness another new beginning when we land up north in a month. We are very blessed, and today, I am the happiest woman in the world.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

More on the fauna of Lake Murray


Larry and I took a break from our respective projects yesterday to sit on the swing and drink some water. We heard a high-pitched cheeping and I saw a huge bird carrying something in its talons land on a pine tree limb above us. It was a Red-Tailed Hawk calling its mate for lunch. I didn't realize such a large bird could have such a little voice. It sounded like a chicky. But lo' and behold, along came its mate and they flew off together around the point to snack on the little bird or mouse (we couldn't tell exactly what it was) the first hawk caught. They were beautiful. The symphony of bird song is so relaxing. Working outside each day, I listen to it instead of my iPOD.

"Lord love a duck!" Right now, there are three ducks sitting high in another pine tree we can see from our living room window. They are in sillouette, so we can't tell what kind of ducks they are. I've never seen ducks sitting in a tree twenty-five feet off the ground. Who knew? They are flying from tree to tree. There must be a ducky mating ritual afoot. It is spring now, and we've seen lots of mating going on around here.

We've seen pairs of several kinds of ducks: Mallard and Bufflehead mostly. We've also seen Loons, Coots, Cormorants and lots of geese. They swim in groups mostly, but we have seen some lone birds calling for a mate. They swim along and dive for fish. Then they pop up again and dive some more. It's very entertaining. Blue Heron and Kingfisher perch on our dock, sometimes eating their catch of fish. They are beautiful birds.

Larry wants to make a Wood Duck box for our shore so we can attract them. We haven't seen any lately but the year after we bought this place is the only time we think we saw them. If it was Wood Ducks, they did something amazing we wish we could see again. A flock of hundreds of little ducks were swimming together. They hung out around our cove all season. The most amazing thing we saw was that when a predator bird flew overhead, the little ducks quickly swam together in a very large, tight circle and all flapped their wings simultaneously. We believe it was to fool the hawk or eagle into thinking they were one very large creature. It worked! We witnessed them doing this several times that season. It was great, but they have not returned. This is a huge lake, so maybe they are visiting each cove in turn. We hope they come back to ours. It was very cool.

There was a large, dinner-plate-size turtle, Larry calls a Cooter sunning on a fallen tree near the shore yesterday. I've seen them on that tree before. Sometimes several Cooters hang out on it. It is a fun site. As the weather gets warmer, we see little Cooter heads pop up in the water, only to disappear underwater and pop up elsewhere. We have fun counting the heads and keeping track of their numbers. The most we've seen in the water at a single sitting on the dock is eighteen. One spring when we had floating wood in the lake, we saw three Cooters getting friendly with one another. This is one horny place!

Once my brother-in-law gets his boat in the water, I want to pay a visit to Purple Martin Island. The Purple Martins nest there and return each year. People around here install gourd trees to attract them to their yards. The Martins eat mosquitoes, and are very handy to have around. This will be another project someday.

Spring is here, and the lake is alive with "randy" critters of all shapes and sizes. Love is all we need!