Decisions, Decisions

THESE DAYS, I’M FACED WITH CHOICES I couldn’t have predicted a few months back, when I lived in a brownstone in Brooklyn.

They’re fun choices, not matters of life and death. Still, they are perplexing. For example:

  • Fencing: how high? I’d like it six feet high across the front of the property, for a feeling of seclusion, but East Hampton says no more than 4 feet, and I dare not break the rules – they’re pretty fascist around here when it comes to fencing. It will be cedar, to match the house. But what kind of design – plain or cute? mckinley

Above: The McKinley from Wayside Fence: Rather whimsical, with those little cut-outs, but they’re not really going to be seen (they’ll be hidden behind my ‘mixed hedgerow,’ which is in the pre-pre-planning stages), so do I want to bother with that little detail?

  • What kind of gate across the driveway-to-come? Big enough to drive through, or merely to walk through? When it comes to deer fencing on the other three sides of the lot, I *am* planning to break the rules. Nothing short of 8′ will keep those big bucks out. But that’s wire and in the woods, less likely to attract official attention (I hope no Town people read my blog). I’ve had two fencing guys here — both scoffed at the idea of applying for permits of any kind — and one estimate so far for the deer portion: $4,200 for 470 linear feet. Is that good or bad? To be determined.
  • Driveway: how big? What shape? I’m now thinking ‘parking court’ rather than driveway. I don’t absolutely need to drive up to the front door, so why not keep the car(s) tucked out of sight on the other side of my planned gate? I looked up standard driveway measurements: for two cars, a simple 25’x25′ square should do (got one estimate for about $2,000, including excavating 5″ deep and a layer of crushed concrete). I already know what kind of surface I want: gray/beige 3/4″ gravel — larger than pea gravel, which is squishy to walk on. Then there’s the edging question. I don’t want brick or cobblestone. Too urban. Steel would be functional, unobtrusive, and keep the stones from ‘migrating,’ but I could save a grand by skipping it. Would it be so terrible if a few stones migrated into the road or my forsythia hedge?
  • Fireplace. Since I’ve now decided to stay here in the boondocks for the winter, f_14344a fireplace has become a must. Not a wood burning stove; this will be strictly for atmosphere and a bit of extra warmth. I’m ordering a Malm Zircon freestanding fireplace in white, left, from Design Within Reach. The decisions here are size — 30″ or 34″ wide? — and location. Which of two corners in my living room? Also to be determined.
  • Tree removal is underway and going well. Decisions here have already been made (and these were life or death decisions, for the trees), with the wise counsel of Eric Ernst of Montauk, known as “Tree Man.” He and his son Ethan, 19, are out there buzzing their chainsaws as I type. Soon, my yard will be less five or six diseased, struggling, leaning, or unfortunately placed trees (and I will have lots of firewood and wood chips for mulch). A white oak that overhung the yard oppressively is gone already, as is a front-yard pine that got no light. Now its neighbor, a blue Atlas cedar, has a fighting chance.

Boring Stuff

MAYBE SOME OF YOU HAVE NOTICED I’ve reduced my blogging schedule from daily (as if that was ever gonna be sustainable) to a few times a week. I’ve been occupied with such matters as:

  • cleaning out my basement (still)
  • painting a green rattan sofa white (Why does everything worth doing, like painting a rattan sofa, turn out to be either harder than it looks or more time-consuming than you think it’s going to be?)
  • mulling over what to edge my driveway with — logs, railroad ties, steel, cobblestones, nothing — when I get around to having a driveway built
  • considering what kind of material to use for a patio (flagstone, wood decking) when I get around to having a patio built
  • paying bills that built up over two months of vacancy in Cobble Hill
  • having house guests — better enjoy them now, I figure, they’re not going to come in January
  • going to the beach:-)

I’m feeling very indecisive lately regarding my landscaping choices. Everyone who visits has different opinions. For instance, the old, misshapen, non-flowering cherry tree in the middle of the backyard. One friend says lose it. Another says prune it. A third says keep it. I say…I don’t know.

The roses of Sharon are blooming, weakly. They’re weed trees, essentially. I never knew how easily they sprout and how invasive they can be. The forsythia’s out of control too, to name another plant I always throught was ‘desirable,’ and took great pains to nurture along. Oh, and the wisteria’s back. It’s like something out of Sorcerer’s Apprentice, popping up again everywhere. A force of nature, like the ocean.

It’s August. Time to do nothing, I tell myself. Just to bide my time, until the landscapers’ calendars slow down and their prices get (hopefully) more reasonable. And I’ve made some decisions.

Deer count, last 24 hours: 4

Bluestone Patio by Old-School Stonemasons

RATHER THAN BLOG about my exciting day at the shopping mall (I went to the K-Mart in Bridgehampton for such essentials as a new toilet seat and a corkscrew), have a look at my friend Nancy’s new bluestone patio in Boerum Hill.

AFTER (well, during - it's not quite finished)

AFTER (well, during - it's not quite finished)

In my two-and-a-half weeks at her house, I managed to screw up her cappuccino maker and leave a couple of eggs on the stove so long they exploded, but on the plus side, I encouraged her to call Carlos Serna of Stones R Us, an Italian stonemason who re-built a collapsing retaining wall at my Boerum Hill house, and get going on the patio she’d been postponing for ages.

BEFORE

BEFORE

About 8’x10′ (the rest of our design concept calls for a slightly raised wood deck, to be built later this summer), the patio cost $3,800 and took 3 or so days for two men to accomplish, what with breaking up the existing concrete and carting it out, excavating several inches, laying a bed of gravel, setting the 2-foot-square bluestone slabs in a bed of sand, and trimming it with cobblestones.

The bluestone will darken and mellow with time, and the sand between the stones, rather than concrete, allows for the possibility of growing thyme or other greenery in between.