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


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.