TWENTY FOUR DAYS ‘TIL CLOSING, and I’m deep into list-making, plan-drawing, and ‘Before’-photo-taking. I was out in Springs (East Hampton, N.Y.) for a couple of days this past week, checking on my existing property, currently rented out, and the one I’m three weeks away from owning, below. I’m jumping up and down inside. My first cottage, as comfortable and charming as it is, and as much as I loved living there for 3-1/2 years, was never my dream house. This one is. Or has the potential to be.
A stand of rhododendrons, above, is the only plus, plant-wise
My primary aim was to evaluate winter storm damage, but I also just wanted to wander and fantasize what I might do with my half-acre. Much of it is pretty flat and featureless, except for an excess of trees. Yes — too many trees. About 50 oaks, according to my rough count (they’re indicated by red dots on my hand-drawn plan, top) and half a dozen scraggly cedars. I don’t love cedars, but at least they’re evergreen.
The oaks are tall and spindly and turn dull brown in fall, not lovely specimens that flower in spring and blaze red or yellow in autumn. And many, many will have to go, at roughly $1,000 a pop. This is the thing that keeps me up at night — not when will I get around to insulating and re-siding the house and installing a heating system (admittedly, also an important consideration), but what the hell will I do about all those trees?! My first and only call so far has been to Eric the tree man of Montauk, who helped me out in the past with his wise counsel as to what can stay and what must go.
So part of my visit was about counting trees. Two fell this winter (hooray!) — that’s one of them, above — and neither on the house. Two fewer I’ll have to take down. The more fun part was dreaming of how I’ll create an entry courtyard where there’s presently a… nothing… and a raised-bed vegetable garden in the area where I recently arranged to have a derelict swimming pool back-filled, on order of the Town of East Hampton (as the contracted buyer, I had to do it in order to get a valid Certificate of Occupancy). It’s a good place for veggies, at least temporarily, since it’s the only area on the property where there’s open sky.
Future entry courtyard with rhododendron and double-trunked tree, which may be a keeper
Above, a huge fenced trash area that I didn’t even realize until recently was part of the property. The tangled hanging vine is wisteria, if I don’t miss my guess, but it seems to have been mostly vanquished
Clear and level, above, where once was a swimming pool. I see a few raised beds there this summer
Before I can do any gardening, there’s got to be some serious land-clearing. That seems as pressing as anything. Come March 28, with the help of Charles the plumber, Miguel the carpenter/painter, Tom the electrician, Eric the aforementioned tree man, Dong the landscaper, and Jeff, the wasband/demo expert/fence-mender/general handyperson, I’m gonna hit the ground running.