Saturday, October 15, 2011

Just an update.

It's been a very long time since I've updated this blog. A lot has happened.

Our dream of reaping funds to renovate "The Lakehouse" were dashed as the crippled real estate market ruined our plans by not allowing us any funds at all when we sold our Lexington, Massachusetts home. The upside of this disappointment, however, is that we were able to walk away from this home with enough money to have a nice dinner and a bottle of wine to celebrate. That's the lemonade we made from the lemons thrown at us during this sale. What a nightmare it turned out to be, but we came out unscathed and now debt-free of a "balloon" mortgage that was suffocating our financial future.

The biggest shocker of the sale was that we discovered our neighbors, who we thought were our friends, turned into the "nightmare" neighbors they were afraid of getting when we left. The Saturday night before our closing on a Monday morning, the buyers threatened to walk away from the sale when they learned what the neighbors were doing to us. Let me make a long story short.

Because the neighbors' house was older than ours, their water pipe was installed on our property from the street. Our deed had an easement on it for this pipe. When we built our garage, we had the town "find" the pipe only to discover it was not located in this easement which was fifteen feet from the property line, but more like fifty feet into our property, and directly under the footprint of our proposed garage. We wanted to relocate the pipe around the outside of the garage footprint, but the town badly advised us that we wouldn't have to do that if we just laid a capped-off PVC pipe beside it that terminated outside the footprint. They inspected the pipe and permitted it. We thought we were home free. BUT NOOOO!!!

When we saw the Purchase and Sales Agreement, there was wording that made me question the pipe's location with our attorney. We quickly found out we would not be able to sell the house with the pipe left in its existing location. We thought, if we have to pay to move the pipe now, why not just get it off our property all together. So, we approached our friends, the neighbors, and asked that they pay to connect their house to the pipe that we would pay to install in the "paper street" that ran along side our property that they used as a driveway. We also said we would repave the street afterwards. Not only did they refuse to pay, but they refused to let us dig up the street at all; their property, or disturb them in any way. In addition, they said, "We did research and discovered we have legal documents that declare that street our private driveway and you have to close off your access to it." When we built the garage we created a second driveway out the paper street for safer access to the main road and additional parking for parties. We helped maintain the street with our neighbors, and there was never an issue until "open houses" brought unwanted traffic their way while we were in South Carolina caring for Larry's dying sister. At this point, we stopped talking to the neighbors and got our attorney talking to their attorney and the buyers' attorney. Don't you love it so far?

Because the neighbors were being so stubborn about access to their property, we decided to move the pipe (after all attorneys agreed, and full title would be granted to the buyers) outside the footprint of our garage as we had wanted to do in the first place. It would have been much cheaper then, but ce la vie. The neighbors were also pushing us to close our second egress out the paper street, but our attorney told us were were not legally obligated to block off the driveway, so we didn't. Then, she changed her mind and suggested it would be easier and nice to just do it as long as we dug up VW "Bug"-sized boulders while digging the trench to lay the new pipe anyway. So, we had our contractor block off the driveway with these boulders, leaving a pedestrian opening only. This was fine with everyone until our realtor came by.

She told us that the buyers "would walk" if we left those boulders there because the property was advertized with that second egress and we were legally obligated to keep it open. So, we once again consulted our attorney and had the boulders removed. This thoroughly pissed off our neighbors, and they flat-out refused to sign off on the old easement to our deeds unless we blocked it up again. So, we felt like we had a gun held to our heads by both the neighbors AND the buyers. We were "between a rock and a hard place"...literally.

Long story short, we didn't put the boulders back. But the buyers' threatened to walk when they found out what was happening. They got a landscaper to quote $15,000 to plant an approximately ten-foot driveway opening with mature trees and wanted us to pay the entire amount. They did not want us to put the boulders back. They wanted to do it themselves so they wouldn't have to even see the neighbors. We offered half. They refused, so we countered with $10,000, and signed away a check to them at closing. We had enough left over from the sale to pay off our attorney and the guy who dug the pipe, plus the dinner. We were so angry, but soon got over it and are now happy to be done with it all.

We decided that whenever we get around to renovating "The Lakehouse" with our newest plan, which has been greatly simplied, we'll have to go deeper in debt again with either a refinance or a higher equity loan/line of credit. We won't be doing anything very soon, because for now we are just enjoying the "breather". Maybe a year from now, we'll decide to do something at the lake. But, the house there is perfectly livable now, so we're in no hurry.

Lessons learned: You can never "really" know somebody. And, "Dominate Estate" versus "Subservient Estate" legally means the dominant party (our neighbors) were granted an implied easement once we made the new pipe location known, and we as the subservients could have been forced to tear down our garage if the dominant neighbors really wanted to play "hardball" over the pipe's location. When you buy or sell property, check what's under the land; not just what's on it. Really?

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Back in the North Homeland

We had a pretty uneventful road trip north and have spent the last two weeks catching up with homes, family and friends. Tomorrow is Boston Marathon race day, and we've been invited to a couple of friends' houses. We spent the weekend at our home in Tiverton, Rhode island, and will head to another home in Upton, MA tonight. We put the Upton house and our old home in Lexington, MA on the market. We pray they both sell this spring. Our hope was to get enough money from these sales to help with renovations on "The Lakehouse", but with the market like it is, we'll be lucky to break even.

There is an open house in Lexington today at which we hope to get an offer we can work with. In Upton, we're having trouble with the key we left for the realtor. There was a showing with enthusiastic interest yesterday, but the potential buyers could not get in the house. We'll fix that problem tonight, so they can come back tomorrow. Coming back is a good sign, yes?

We are also in the market for an environmentally-controlled off-site storage facility. When the Upton house does sell, we'll have to store some furniture and other things we have no room for right now. Once we do finish our renovations and build-out at "The Lake", we can bring some of the furniture down there. In the meantime, we can sell off what we were using in Upton, and save the rest for later.
I just feel tired all the time. So much to do and no energy to do it.

I think I'm just coming down from all the sadness in South Carolina, and somehow need to make time to rejuvenate my energy level. There is so much to do up here, and I fight feeling guilty every day I'm not doing the work required. I know I'll get over it, and tomorrow I'll call my acupuncturist for an appointment. Acupuncture always helps me. I just need a little boost.

We met our two Mini-Dachshund grand-dawgs twice now, and they are just adorable. They are only four months old, and training seems to be going well. Poor little Roscoe has what seems to be a permanently leaky pee-pee though. How can they get mad with such cute faces looking back at them with unconditional love. Our son turned forty-one last week, but we are not feeling old. That also has to be a good sign, right?

I am reading my bookclub selection, "A Novel Bookstore" by Laurence Cosse, and just received the last in my favorite fictional series by Jane Auel, "The Land of Painted Caves". I have been waiting for over a decade to find out what happens to Ayla, the powerful Cavewoman, who feels like me in another lifetime. I am fascinated by the herb lore in this series, and it feeds right into my "Medicine Woman" fantasy.

I remain hopeful that our lives will receive more balance when the two houses are sold, and we can finally settle into our retirement "snowbird" lifestyle. We still haven't figured out what that is for us yet. But, we're getting closer.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Spring is in full swing!

The air at The Lakehouse is alive with birdsong. All the trees and shrubs are bursting with buds, and some of the azalea buds are showing their color. Forsythias are going "past", but the cherry is in full bloom. One Red Bud in back of the house is in full bloom, but the one at the front is just starting to bloom. We wonder if that's because the thirty foot Camilia trees protect it from wind off the lake in that direction, which is more southeast

Our pear tree is just lovely with blooms. We have never once gotten a ripe pear off it. When they ripen, we are usually not here, and when we are the tree is empty. The mystery remains: who eats them all? The tree is at least twenty feet tall. We have been here when there were actual pears all over the tree one day, and the next time we looked, it was completely empty. Another Lakehouse mystery.

A Japanese Magnolia is blooming on the adjacent, abandoned property. This little tree's blooms are new this year. Very exciting.

Larry has noticed the increase in predator birds around us in the last week or more. We have seen lots of Red-Tail and other Hawks, plus at least one pair of Osprey. The Cardinal males are breaking up their winter clutch; splitting off and forming territories now. The air is alive with birdsong. This hawk remains perched high in the pine tree chirping for love, "Hee-err, hee-err, hee-err".

One pair of Mallards arrived this week. We wondered if they could be offspring from last year, but remembered that the males are basic "hoes" and don't remain with the females after mating. I made sure some birdseed was on the ground under the feeder to see if I could once again lure them ashore. We've also seen flocks of Hooded Mergansers in the cove. Geese are everywhere!

The beavers snuck back and "tagged" two trees with small chewed areas on the bark. We discovered that they do indeed eat pine trees; not just hardwoods. So, Larry got out the hardware cloth and covered five hardwood trees in the tagged area. We don't care much about the pines. The Pine Beetle are slowly eating and killing them anyway. We'd rather retain the longer-lasting hardwoods as much as possible and let nature thin the pine woods

Actually, Larry recently cut down a dead pine on the shore he's been watching for a few years. We discovered it was full of carpenter ants. The Mocking Birds are very happy for this unexpected feast. The Woodpeckers discovered them long ago given the lack of bark on the tree before cutting it down. Those rascally beavers are still phantoms.

But, we did see one Muscrat swim out from under the dock one late afternoon as we sat on the glider enjoying the waning light. It stayed close by enough to watch him/her swim and dive with its ratty tail curled above the water's surface. We remembered that when the lake was down years ago, the clay and rock beach was littered with Muscrat tunnels. So many tunnels that when I walked the beach, I fell into one up to my knee. Luckily, I had on my Teva strap-on sandals to protect my feet. The beach is so rocky, I have to wear them all the time, even when swimming.

The lake level is rising now as quickly as it dropped a few months ago. The water is now just below the deck of the dock. The other night we had a party, and two eleven-year-old girls opened swim season by jumping in the lake off the dock. Their red skin and shocked faces were enough evidence to attest to the water's temperature. In Boston, they would have been called, "L-Street Brownies".

We'll be heading north again in a couple of weeks. I have mixed feelings as this time approaches. We're not sure how soon we'll return to The Lakehouse, and not only will we miss it here, but the puppies will too. This is their favorite home. They have lots of freedom and adventure abounds here for them. They make us laugh all the time, especially Jackson with his boundless antics. He is the adventure boy, but Mattie Grace loves to follow along

Recently, big dawgs have invaded our yard. Saturday night, it was very difficult to get them to go home. They were friendly enough, but we didn't want our little pups to get "into it" with these eighty-to-one-hundred-pound specimens. Both our ten-pounders have picked up on their scent, and have learned to follow it down the long driveway and out to the road. Lucky for us, they have been turning left and headed to the cove; not the open road a half-mile up

Our last Bichon, Sammy, took a "walk about" this way and got lost on the paved road. It was very scary for us all. He was lost for over an hour, and I had to get in the car to find him. When I did, he was scared senseless (he didn't seem to recognize me); was covered in "sticky burrs", and soaking wet from the soggy ditch by the roadside. This little adventure prompted me to write a childrens' book I have yet to finish. We fear our newest little Bichon, Jackson, will one day attempt the same fate. Now we see that Bichon males are extremely curious and seek adventure.

I have been pruning massive Wisteria vines and briars out of all the trees and shrubs. The Wisteria vines in the Camilia trees are so mature that each braid of the tree stalks are now at least three inches wide: very difficult to lop. But, they must be killed because they are choking out our beautiful Camilias that bloom all year long

I am almost done with this process, and Larry started raking pinestraw (needles) at the point; working his way back towards the house. He just came in and declared he accomplished his goal of raking to "the island". This island is a garden area with a lovely Dogwood tree as it's focal point, surrounded by Azaleas. Larry recently cut down lots of other trees like pine and holly that seeded themselves to clutter this lovely arrangement. We figured that if we work a couple of hours a day, we should be done by the time we leave. Once done I can feel good about how we are leaving the property for others to enjoy, and track the growth of those nuisances to begin anew when we return. We consider this work "free gym", and enjoy being out in nature with the wind in our hair, the sun on our necks, and birdsong in our ears and hearts.

We love our Lakehouse Haven.

Monday, January 31, 2011

More on The Birds

When ah firs' took da dawgs out dis mornin', I heard a hammerin' noise in da trees, but ah couldn't find da source. Later, whilst sittin' on the sofa drinkin' cawfee, mah huzbund and ah saw Woody Woodpecker jus' a tearin' bark off a dead pahn tree next to da shore. It's a tree we been tawkin' 'bout cuttin' down 'fore it fawls down on da dawk or da boat.

My goodness. Writing in dialect is hard work. While watching Woody pull huge chunks of bark off the pine tree, we were amazed to notice how far he pulls his head back to slam it into the tree trunk. What protects a woodpecker's head from the vibration of all that hard slamming we wondered. They must have insulation surrounding their little brains to protect them. I must look that up.

Because Woody is mostly in silhouette, it's difficult to get a good look at his big red head and crest. He is a Pileated Woodpecker. They grow to seventeen inches and this feller must be at least that. He's a big boy!

At the same time, a Great Blue Heron landed on our dock rail. I just love these magnificent birds. What another glorious day for birdwatching, even if it is a dreary day. These beautiful creatures brighten up the sky and our lives. Okay. Enough sap. Just enjoy.

P.S.: The Kingfisher is pissed. He flew over to the dock railing to land only to find the Heron still sitting there and had to fly away. It's crowded out there today.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Birds

Larry and I enjoy watching all the aviary activity on the lake these days. It is such an enjoyable and entertaining way to start the day. We keep the binoculars handy, and Jackson stands watch at the window begging us to go out constantly to chase them out of his yard.

These past couple of weeks, we've noticed all the Great Blue Heron in our cove. The most we counted at one time was seven. Last week we saw five. Why the odd numbers I wonder? Larry thinks it's too early for mating, although I do see pairs flying around; back and forth; in and out and around the cove. But he read that during the winter months down here they just tend to hang out in small groups.

These birds are so majestic in stature and so magical in flight. I admire their grace and feel so blessed to have them hanging out around us. We have an infrared, motion-detector camera mounted on a tree in the cove trying to capture the "phantom" beavers cutting down our trees. But we also had hoped to catch a Heron slowly walking around the water, taking off or landing. I fear we have had no success as yet, but remain ever hopeful. We keep moving the camera's angle and height.

The "Stars and Bars" flag on the largest dock across from us lets us know how windy it is outside and the direction it is blowing. Who needs technology when neighbors fly their politics and we can use it for our own purposes?

There is also a Kingfisher that visits us regularly. I have so enjoyed this handsome little bird, about the size of a Bluejay, sit on our dock railing. This morning, he flew to the top of the umbrella we have mounted behind our double-glider, for a nice high vantage point. Success! He is sitting on the rail now, with a little fish sideways in his mouth: flipping it around until he gets it head-down and swallows it whole. His catch is the size of a small minnow. He is just so cute!

Cardinals, Blue Jays, Doves, Black birds, Sparrows, Chicadees and many other small birds frequent our seed and suet feeders, and our concrete angel birdbath. What a blessing to have these lovely creatures visit us every day. When the Mallard ducks start arriving, which they have, Jackson has some real fun chasing them back into the water and proving once again: he is really a big dawg!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Back from the Holidays

We spent twelve days in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, visiting with my family and checking on our houses. Lexington is holding up well, and the contractors we hired to plow snow did their job. They didn't shovel the paths I requested, though, so I emailed them to do that for the coming snow this weekend. There will be another open house on Sunday.

Everyone likes the house, but price is an issue and we have received no offers. We have lowered the price one hundred thousand dollars already, and are unwilling to go lower. We'll just sit on it for as long as necessary. We already purchased three months of "vacant house insurance", and if we have to purchase three more months, so be it. We have plenty of people checking on it and feel confident that our buyer is out there somewhere. It's just a matter of when they show up. At this point, we will not make any money on the house to upgrade "The Lakehouse". We'll just be able to "break even". So be it. With the market the way it is right now, we have no choice and no control. We just have to get out from under. This house constitutes half our monthly expenses by itself. Enough already. We'll be on a fixed income in two weeks.

Since returning to "The Lakehouse" we haven't done much renovating or work. Lots of trees are down, and to save money, Larry now has time and his chainsaw to cut up felled trees rather than buying a cord of wood. He has been keeping up with the wood supply and is getting his exercise at the same time. Maintaining a nice fire not only takes the chill off our house, but warms our souls too. We have a great fireplace.

I got a cold, so I have been laying low and trying not to get what family and friends up north have gotten: bronchitis and sick for two weeks or more. It's been mild here. The temps are mostly in the low to mid 40's at night, and into the mid-50's during the day. So, I bundle up and walk around the yard when I let the puppies out just to move around. My butt hurts from all this sitting and my lower back is tight. I stretch it out, then sit again to read or lay down to nap. Larry's job right now is to take care of his sister, while I am a germ factory. Not a good thing to be around cancer people.

We got some rain last night and it is dark and cloudy today. This must be what we'll have when snow hits New England on Friday. I'm happy to be here.

We are busy making plans for Libby's surgery on Tuesday in Charleston, SC. Larry, Libby and her husband, Ed, will have to drive the two hours down there to a hotel Ed found so she can be in the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) at 6:00am on Tuesday. Ed found a hotel six miles from the hospital that has suites with a kitchenette for $179 per week. We discovered that the Ronald MacDonald Houses only take families of cancer patients nineteen years or younger. Otherwise, hotels with MUSC discounts are $75 per night. Not a good deal when we'll be there ten days or more. We hope she can be shipped back up to Lexington Medical Center, which is our hospital, and would make staying with her much easier and cheaper.

The beavers here at the lake felled another tree. We found it when we got back. It was one they had already chewed. They decided to chew lower down on the trunk and it finally fell over. They have also been continuing to enjoy the bark on top branches of the previously felled tree in the water. They do love their bark!

The camera we set up to capture their activity has been a huge bust. We haven't gotten any critter pictures, and are very disappointed. We'll keep trying, though. We're bound to get something sometime. We keep moving it around to what we think will be the best vantage point. We're bound to hit the mark sooner or later.