I Wish I Had a Lot of Money

MY TO-DO LIST for 2010 is daunting.

In the past couple of months, I’ve come to a bit of a standstill on home improvements. Most of my list still lies before me. I wanted to do things fast when I first moved into this East Hampton cottage last May. On the other hand, it’s a good thing I waited on some of the projects, because I’ve changed my mind a lot.

Several months ago, I was thinking ‘stone patio.’ Now I’m thinking ‘wood deck.’

I was thinking ‘flagstone walk.’ Now I’m thinking….well, something else. I bought three 2’x3′ pieces of Pennsylvania bluestone and set them down to get an idea of how they’d look as a walk from the future parking court (still a priority) to the front door. Didn’t seem to work. Stone doesn’t have much place in this environment. There’s nary a piece of rock on the property, unlike upstate, where you’ve got massive granite outcroppings everywhere. This is sandy territory (well-drained, yeah!) Two feet of snow pelted by steady rain this past weekend got sucked right up into the ground, with very little puddling.

The wood fence for screening that seemed a must-do in high season, when there was a fair amount of road traffic, has faded in urgency (probably to return in May). I’d still like more enclosure, but I’ll try doing that with shrubs.

I’m glad I didn’t spend $4,000 on a deer fence, which seemed top priority a few months back. I haven’t seen any deer lately

Moments after I wrote the above words, I looked out the living room window and saw three large animals in the front yard. They were casing, if not yet munching, my newly planted arborvitae and holly. I rapped on the window. The rattling of the screens startled them for a nanosecond. I shrieked “Go! Go! Go!” One of them, a still-fuzzy adolescent, made eye contact with me. “Ohhhh, you’re beautiful,” I said.

Then I went and mixed up a couple of gallons of homemade deer repellent (cooking oil, dish detergent, pepper, garlic powder, chili powder) and went out and splashed the vulnerable specimens.

Instead of a deer fence, I’m embracing the challenge of deer-resistant gardening. So I won’t have roses. Or hostas. Or many other things.

Other items I thought were absolute musts turn out to be not so. Like the Malm fireplace I bought months ago that’s sitting uninstalled in my living room, through no fault of my own. First the roofer was going to do it; then he realized it was outside his “area of expertise.” Sag Harbor Fireplace came to do an estimate. I’m still waiting for the estimate. It’s their busy season.

Anyway, my little cottage is toasty. I know from experience that when you have a well-heated house, you don’t use the fireplace much. There’s one in the bedroom of the duplex in Boerum Hill. In the years we lived there, after spending thousands to line the chimney properly, we used it about twice.

Ultimately, it boils down to evil money, or lack thereof. My preference would still be to barrel through everything as quickly as possible. Of necessity, I have to do things in dribs and drabs. Which may not be so bad, if I’m going to keep changing my mind about them.

My Wonderful, Beautiful, Not Bad, Very Good Day


WHAT A SATURDAY I had. Just about perfect in every way.

  • Color is peaking in my own backyard, above.
  • Eric the Tree Man is almost done taking down the big dying oak in front, below. That, plus some huge limbs that overhung the house, and one that protruded unkemptly into the street, are gone. That’ll be it for major tree removal.
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  • I went to 4 yard sales; the number has shrunk since Labor Day. I got nothing at the first three. At the last, I scored a load of gardening books for 25 cents apiece, terracotta saucers for under flowerpots 3 for $1.00, a clear glass urn perfect for a pillar candle $3, and an unused mint green rag rug, about 4’x6′, for $2. Whoopee do. Nothing is going to touch my yard sale triumph of two weeks ago, but I can still get a thrill from a Le Creuset pot for $2 or wicker chairs for $5, below.
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  • My daughter painted the front door. Can’t get enough of that Sailor’s Sea Blue.
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  • I took a drive down exquisite Further Lane, below. There are parts of this area I haven’t yet discovered, and that’s intentional. I don’t want the sense of wonder to end, so I’m taking it slow. Further Lane is quintessential Hamptons. You can buy a lot of landscaping and, well, land — acres of meadow stretching down to the dunes — given enough millions. The houses are plenty big, but you wouldn’t call them McMansions; they’re too good. They’re mostly hidden behind magnificently sculpted hedges.
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  • I went stone-shopping at Southampton Masonry on Springs Fireplace Road, below, looking at cut bluestone for a walk around the house. My thinking: buy the stuff, have a palette or two delivered, and then, one by one, whenever I’m feeling strong or help is around, move the stones into place, laying them directly on the compacted, sandy soil. My hope/fantasy is that they’ll settle in perfectly from people walking on them, and I’ll never have to go through that monstrous excavation/crushed rock/gravel/edging process that probably wouldn’t yield the kind of informal look I want anyway.


  • No trick or treaters came to my door. I laid in a stash of lollipops but, admittedly, did nothing to encourage them.