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The Realities of Renovation

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Did anyone notice I haven’t been posting? Longer than any absence in my four years of blogging?

Yes, renovating can do that to you. I know why people hate it and avoid it. Despite the glowing pictures shown on DIY reality TV shows. I wish we could all disappear for seven weeks while The Property Brothers make our homes perfect.

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I mean, who doesn’t want their front porch to look like this? It did all get to the landfill with certain items put into the building supply trailer, where they can be used for projects. Most of the trash, we paid to dispose of it. Thankfully, with a pickup and a good contractor, we negotiated a rate that saves us money if we dispose of the materials.

As for the rest of the things happening, a big shout out to Bode Floors.

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I think my husband’s study is awesome, and the carpet makes the room. I love recommending local businesses here in Howard County, when they are family owned and do a great job.

The study is done, except for drapes. The basement room damaged the most by the water leaking down the walls, is also finished, except for a new light fixture. The basement bathroom is coming along.

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We still need a toilet, a vanity, and the molding. The vanity is delayed until the 22nd.

We have learned patience. Things don’t always go as planned. An 18 day job is easily turning into a 25 day job, with the delays, the bad materials, and some electrical issues. I now have three contractors scheduled for a day I was supposed to be available for a Conservancy program. I can’t leave my husband alone to juggle them all.

Doing your own general contracting saves you money, but adds stress to the job. Still, the results are worth it. I just can’t wait until Easter, when hopefully we will be done.

Aging In Place

In an aging place.

Had quite a bit of thought about the whole aging process. Aging of us. Aging of our home. I don’t consider 30 to be old, but around here, it’s almost ancient. Not quite as bad as being 50, which is what many of the original homes in Columbia MD are soon to celebrate.

I worked in the UK, where 600 years old wasn’t out of the question. We are spoiled. Living in a relatively newly developed area. Still, I watched people turn up their noses at our townhouses (gasp) without garages. Ours, built in the early 80s were too old and dated for the crowd who wanted those brand new places in River Hill.

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Columbia is pretty much built out now. The county is expanding, or tearing down and rebuilding. I loved our old townhouse, right in the center of town. Too bad for us, we really wanted to follow our dreams of a big garden, and a couple of radio towers. Bucket list items. Not allowable under covenants.

That house is now 35 years old. Still looks great. Why? Because we took care of it. I see so many places now that are pretty much devastated due to lack of basic maintenance.

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What is this? A pile of the cedar we were replacing in this house. Our “new” house. Built in 1987. At 24 years, we replaced almost 50% of the wood. Not fun. Not cheap. Not sexy.

But, it was the bones of the house. The basics of maintenance. I can’t figure out why collectively we don’t take care of the biggest investments most of us will make in our lives.

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We took care of our infrastructure the first 10 years. New roof. New doors. New heat pumps and appliances. Making our home a warmer, safer, more energy efficient place to live.

Now, we are working on those aesthetic things. Painting, carpeting. Keeping our house new looking, while not shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy something else.

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I think I can deal with six weeks of mess to get painted walls, new bathrooms and carpet in all but those high dollar areas. We still will have to tackle the master suite and the kitchen.

At the end of this road, a house that accommodates an aging couple. But won’t look old.

Building Relationships with Local Businesses

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An Appropriate Post for Mom and Pop Business Owners Day!

Where do you buy things? Foods. Hardware. Plants.

How about services? Plumbing. Car care. Roof. Painting. Landscaping.

There was a time when we were young that we did many things ourselves. Eventually work, and work travel, plus long commutes got in the way. We became time constrained. We needed to find people to help us maintain our home and our things, like appliances and cars.

Over the thirty plus years in Howard County, we established long term relationships with service providers and with local businesses in and around the county. Buy Local means something to us. We avoid nationwide mega centers and big box stores if there are viable alternative sources that keep more money here in Howard County. The Costco runs are only three or four times a year for things not easily bought at local businesses, like printer cartridges, computer paper, and for things like stock pantry items. If I can get what I need locally, I will.

Since 1983, British American has taken care of our cars. Since Brian’s daughters were really little, and when Brian and Rob did most of the work. Now Sandi is general manager, and Brian and Jennifer’s grandchildren cheer up the office when we see them there.

Ken Griffin does our plumbing. Has for years. When our well pump failed and we needed to replace 387 feet of wire as well, they were here in a day to get it all done. They live not far south of us, and work out of their home.

My husband has his yard equipment work done at Lawson’s in Woodbine. We get our tractor supplies from Maryland Equipment, also in Woodbine. We go to Kendall’s or Clark’s for almost all of our hardware needs. We were at Kendall’s Wednesday, after lunch at the Bridge, and a trip to the landfill to dump a truckload of pokeweed. Just the way it has become. Going to local places for food and services.

We buy annual and perennial flowers, plus many of the annuals in my herb garden at Sun Nursery. I could spend hours wandering around their nursery. My tulips, black eyed susans, cover plants and the rosemary and sage in my garden all came from there. Most of the basil each year as well.

Columbia Finishers is the painting company that did all our cedar replacement and staining. They do our difficult painting too. The type where you need scaffolding. There is no way we could do board replacement thirty feet in the air at our attic level.

We first met Craig, the owner, when they used to stain our town house community. They still have that contract, because their quality of work is excellent.

We used S&K Roofing to do our roof. They are just up the road in Eldersburg, and family owned. They did our roof between Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee last August and September. Scary having them show up when we had no power, but done before the week long rains descended upon us. Giving us peace of mind and a dry attic. Absolutely perfectly done.

From this:

To this:

They made our house look like new.

As for this year, we contacted Rhine to help with spring cleanup since I can do no work until recovery from surgery. I always helped my husband with mulching, pruning, and general clean up after winter took its toll on the property. Kept me in better shape than I was when still working at my desk before retiring.

They did not disappoint. Jay is a joy to work with. We are indeed fortunate to have so many quality family owned businesses here in Howard County and nearby.

I know I am a locavore when it comes to finding food and wine in the area, but I also am committed to supporting family operations to do as much as we can no longer do by ourselves. It only makes sense to me to be a part of my community in more ways than I did while working, and spending most of my time commuting to DC.

Buy Local. That’s my motto. It certainly has served us well.

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St. Patty’s Day Gifts

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We got lots of gifts today. Perfect weather.

Crock pot corned beef and cabbage.

Mojitos on the patio (hey, they’re green, aren’t they?)

and a spring clean up without lifting a finger.

When we knew I was having surgery, for the first time in seven years, my husband hired a local family owned business to do our spring clean up. I can’t lift or carry, and he was on his own doing things inside and outside our home.

We usually do all our yard work ourselves. I find it relaxing to putter around in my flower beds and spread mulch. I couldn’t do anything this year, so we bit the bullet and hired Rhine, a local west county family in the landscaping business.

Four really good guys came in, removed shrubs, edged all the beds on the property, cleaned it all up, and will be back tomorrow to mulch, with 40 cubic yards of mulch. That’s what it takes to do our entire property.

The fun part for me now is replacing all we took out. I get to choose my shrubs, bushes, ornamental trees and flowers. It was all cleared up and dug up, including a few massive stumps from dead trees we cut down after two years of blizzards.

A clean slate. And, a few froggies in my pond.

I still like to do things myself around here, but it is nice to have locally owned family businesses to turn to when you do need help. This was such a large job, and I can relax and know my husband isn’t pushing himself to the limit doing it all himself.

Now, when it comes to my garden, ain’t nobody touching it but me.

New Year’s Resolutions

I always seem to make them, but never really keep them. Except for a few.

I did keep on track to lose weight and improve my health by eating better and paying attention to foods that triggered allergies. I did get some of the projects done around here, but not as much as I wanted to do.

So, what do I do about 2012, the year where I will turn 60! What should I finish? Do I volunteer more, or take time to travel. Do we expand the garden and grow more year round vegetables? Do I stay in the CSAs or freelance around the markets?

What projects NEED to be done this year? All good questions.

I do resolve to be more creative and expand my culinary boundaries to include more baking, and more ethnic foods outside our European heritage. I do intend to continue being more and more of a locavore, and use up as much processed stuff in the pantry, and not replace it.

I intend to can more things, pick more veggies and fruits, and process them. I need to get a freezer and buy something at the fair, from the 4H’ers. Maybe lamb, or goat, or part of one of the steers or hogs. Our friends’ children raise animals to bring to the auction. We want to support them more by making it worth their efforts.

Is this the year we get the chicken coop? Haven’t made that decision yet, but we are working on it.

I want to build a cold frame. Will I find the time?

We still need to clean out the stuff we accumulated at our jobs, which sits in boxes in the attic and garage. That is a priority.

Who knows what 2012 will bring weather wise, and health wise, that might get in the way of our plans?

But I am optimistic and anxious to do new things including expanding what I do in my volunteering, like geocaching and giving presentations. Another priority. Looks like I have enough to do, and I’ll see how it turns out in my second year of retirement.

Here’s to a Happy New Year!