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TWO WEEKS AFTER SANDY, my friend M., who has invested huge sums of money and energy fixing up a 1930s bungalow, above, in the far reaches of Queens, New York, has just had her first experience with FEMA. A few blocks of vintage bungalows in the beachside community of Far Rockaway, survivors among a onetime colony of thousands, took a beating in the recent storm.
Most of the time, the beachfront location is a plus. M. thoroughly enjoyed her first summer in her bright, colorfully renovated bungalow, whose interior is shown here. She had even been considering living there full-time, as many of her neighbors do. After Sandy’s havoc, she’s probably not so sure.
Power has not yet been restored. The water went as high as 3’3″ in M’s basement (fortunately she has one), ruining her brand new boiler and hot water heater. FEMA came last Friday to assess the damage. M. says the assessor seemed generous on his visit, noting damage she had missed and putting it all in his report. Twenty four hours later, with efficiency I never imagined the Federal government capable of, she had an email from FEMA. The decision: M was to be given a grant of $499.99 (why not a round $500?) and offered a Federal loan of 50K. “So much for that!” she says.
M.’s report from the front today: “The situation out there is getting desperate, not so much in the bungalow colony, especially with the weather warming up a bit, but elsewhere. Utter devastation and too many poor people, too much public housing. Lines for food and supplies everywhere. Nothing much open business-wise and I wonder how many of them will reopen. Looks like a Third World country.” Transportation is still disrupted; the commute to Manhattan, normally under an hour, can take four.
Rockaway’s unique bungalow community will survive and who knows? In years to come, the whole area may see a turnaround. But it could take decades. Right now, focus is all on clean-up. “It’s exhausting,” M. says. “And I was one of the least hard hit.”
To read the back story of M’s search for a Rockaway bungalow and see photos before and during renovation, go here.
Among the perennially popular posts on this blog are two that constitute a bungalow-by-bungalow tour of the colony as it looked in February 2012. Rainy Day Rockaway, Part I is here For Rainy Day Rockaway, Part II, go here.
THESE WHIMSICAL — OK, kitschy — mailboxes were photographed by my wasband (wubby?) in upstate New York.
I like to express my individuality indoors, but when it comes to something right out on the road for all passersby to see, I keep a low profile. My own mailbox is brown, to match the house, and that’s that. Though I suppose it would be convenient to say, “It’s the driveway with the rooster.”
If I were to do something creative, mailbox-wise, I think it would be funny to have one in the shape of a snail.
Photos: Jeff Greenberg
SOMETIMES WHEN ONE IS IN A STUCK PLACE (definition of my life at the moment), the best one can do is try to get a different view from the same spot. I’m still waiting for a signed contract on the house I’ve been on the trail of for two years, and I don’t blame you if you think I’m chasing rainbows here, to quote Adele. Trust me, it’s happening. I’m 99% sure.
The white-flowering stuff is ‘chocolate eupatorium,’ bought at a stoop sale in Brooklyn. Love it for its very late-season bloom. Don’t love it so much for its invasive character (but that’s why it does so well)
Meanwhile, I’m out in the country at my current home with newfound enthusiasm for yard work, which comes with the cooler weather. It matters not that I may not be at this house much, or at all, in years to come. I’m still moving happily forward on my no-to-low-cost vision for this landscape. I’ve planted a couple of new boxwoods, mulched everything, Hollytone-d the acid lovers. The leaves have not yet begun to fall — they’ve barely begun to change color around here — but my rake is at the ready.
Recently I heard Dr. Esther Sternberg on NPR (Krista Tippet’s On Being) talking about ‘healing places’ and how just being in nature and seeing trees, water, sunsets is enough to release endorphins and make people happier. I knew it! I’m definitely happier in the country than in the city. It’s just that way. And now I find out there’s a scientific explanation.
A dead corner of the living room improved with an inexpensive screen from Chinatown
After a morning of tidying things up, I took some new photos of my present cottage — partly for myself and partly for Craigslist purposes. I’m still trying to rent, and that, too, hasn’t happened yet, though I wholeheartedly subscribe to what a wise friend said: that perhaps I’m not meant to have a renter yet and that’s why I haven’t found one.
Here, from the State of Limbo, are some new angles on a much-photographed subject.
I DEBATED WHETHER TO CALL THIS POST The Disappearing House, The Solid Green Garden, or Midsummer Disappointments. But I didn’t want to be negative, so I’m calling it Half a Ton of Rocks, because those round rocks, above – all 1,000 pounds of them – are the thing I’m most excited about at the moment. I chose them at Southampton Masonry, a stone yard, because they match the existing edging around my garden beds, below, which is incomplete and needs continuation. And because I’ve gotten tired, after three years, of scavenging from the woods, the beach, the roadside.
This summer, I’m planning to develop the wilderness, i.e. the backyard, particularly one area that’s a bit sunnier than the rest and where I hope to grow something colorful, i.e. flowers. Which brings me to the solid green disappointment. My garden beds are hardly ablaze with color; the pale-pink dwarf astilbes and caladiums, below, are about as colorful as it gets around here these days. I did have purple alliums, irises, yellow evening primroses, and some bigger, brighter astilbes in June, but at the moment it’s all just varied shades of a single color: green.
Some of those green things are thriving. The miscanthus are so big they obscure the house, below, which is fine with me. I like the screening.
But no color there either. Even my stand of rhodies, below, which I radically pruned last July, failed to produce more than a single bloom in May — that’s right, one flower on a 30-40′ hedge. But they do seem happy, foliage-wise, and I have faith that next year will bring back the blooms.
The overall lack of color is due mainly to too little sun and hungry deer. Combine the two, and there’s really very little that will flower well. The deer pressure, as they call it, is on. There are two new white-spotted Bambis visiting this season, along with their older relatives, so I guess that means the flock, or pride, or whatever you call a group of deer, is surviving the gradual suburbanization of the area. Below, the Japanese anemones I was looking forward to, reduced to sticks. And yes, I have been spraying Deer-Out, but it rains, and I was in the city for a while, and can’t always be on top of things. They got 90% of the buds. The other thing I was looking forward to for late summer color — ligularias, of which I had a dozen that were fabulous last year — have succumbed to the heat. Most of them are just one pathetic, slug-eaten leaf.
Even the house plants and containers on my front deck, below, are blah. That area’s not so very sunny either (facing east, under huge trees), and — would you believe — the deer come up there when I’m not home. The nerve.
I visited a friend in Shelter Island last Sunday who has, by my standards, an abundance of sun, and was sooooooo jealous of her coneflowers, below, and butterfly weed, and lots of other stuff.
- I can limb up or even remove some big trees to create more sun, but I’ve already taken down 5 or 6 huge oaks, and many of the ones that shade my property don’t belong to me anyway.
- I can sell my house and buy another one on a sunnier piece of property, but that seems rather extreme.
- I can rent a 20′x20′ patch at a community garden a few miles away, well-fenced and in full, all-day sun, and even grow vegetables. Maybe next year; it’s only $175 a season.
- I can embrace the color green. It is serene and beautiful, and I’m doing the best I can with varying shades and shapes of foliage, but that’s never going to be totally satisfying.
- I can get a deer fence, finally, and that I am definitely going to do this fall.
Meanwhile, I’ve got a lot of rocks to play with.
THINGS ARE SO GREEN AROUND HERE after a couple of days of heavy rain… well, all that’s missing is the serpent.
I can’t stop taking iPhone snaps of my humble Long Island half-acre, from so many angles you’d think it was the Parthenon. Top, what looks to my eye like a classic border, with the requisite curving path and conical evergreen for structure. The perennial cranesbill geranium is flowering as never before, thanks to a free hand with the Deer-Out. Mustn’t relax my vigilance, especially after such a deluge — which washes the repellent away, despite what the label says. The deer are wily creatures.
See the results of yesterday’s photography walk below:
Plenty of free parking
A new view of my place, from the next door neighbor’s yard. Looks rather sweet from their POV
Above, not my shed. I had gone next door to check out theirs. I’m planning a shed myself, for garden tools and equipment. It won’t be as elaborate as this one. This is practically a guest cottage; if I had such a structure, I’d use it for more than bike and junk storage.
Above, the area where I’ll be putting the shed
Lilies of the valley and May apples at the rear of the property. I’ve helped them out a bit by clearing garlic mustard from this area.
Above, a peony, one of two I planted three years ago, finally asserting itself, maybe to bloom a few years hence.
Something I like: a variegated pieris putting out colorful foliage.
Planted three weigela ‘Bristol Ruby’ by the roadside — still working on that ‘tapestry hedge’ for screening in a light-challenged, deer-challenged area
Dead boxwood and other yard waste, ready for the dump
That delicate sweet woodruff, a flowering groundcover so charming in a shady Brooklyn backyard, became thuggish in this area under the magnolia. I ripped it out by the fistful to prevent it taking over the pulmonaria (spotted leaves, lower right)
Been moving things around… the Korean boxwood just arrived in this corner from nearer the front, where it was outgrowing its space
All is freshened up by the long, much-needed shower. Sun breaking through!