Category Archives: country house

>Making a Home Make Money

>

Making a Home Make Money

By Wickham Boyle 2:06 pm August 10, 2009

From Recessionwire.com

I love having a house in the country and a place in the city—so much that I have chosen country abode over health insurance. But even that sacrifice has not saved me enough to be able to hold on to my second home year round.

On the last day of July, I drove to my beloved little house a hundred and twenty miles up river from Manhattan, to make it ready for the August renters. We had rented our home before, but never for what seemed to me to be such a long time: five weeks. When you have a garden to grow and tend to (Read “No New Plants, Period.”), five weeks seems like an eternity. But it is a buyers market so when a good family responded and this is what they desired, I said YES.

I am doing this to make ends meet. It is not a tragedy of any magnitude; it is what my mother used to call, “an upscale problem.” I have two homes and so I have the upscale luxury of making one pay for the other. It doesn’t mean I won’t miss it, or bemoan my inability as an Ivy League educated mom to better provide for my family. It also doesn’t preclude me from experiencing some pangs at handing over my baby to another family.

I was grateful that our little house found renters when many of my neighbors have had their ads unanswered.

I had owned another farmhouse, one that I lost in a bitter divorce nearly two decades ago, and finding this house and purchasing it with my new husband, the love of my life, was the final stroke in healing my wounded core. This magnanimous man had moved into the loft where I had lived with the wretched ex and never bemoaned his energy lurking in the corners, but there were moments when we both felt it. This house on the slope was ours alone, a little nest and a testament to hard work and commitment.

In tough times we find ourselves either separately or together engaging in creative problem solving. If the taxes are too high on your home or well… second home, then you figure out a way to make it pay for itself. Like my children, my house is mandated to take a summer job. And it has. I am proud of my kids for finding jobs this summer and grateful that our little house found renters when many of my neighbors have had their ads unanswered. Thus, they are looking to second mortgages or home equity loans as bridges to pay taxes or bills.

And then the renters arrived. She is a documentary filmmaker with a cute lighting designer husband and two oh so sweet little boys, 3 and 5. The big boy and I immediately caught a small, bright ribbon snake and it was game on. They walked the property with me and oohed and ahhed at the giant two person swing my husband built, they ogled the ground hog hole dug right under a hammock, hung in a tall cedar. I showed them where the blackberries were staked ready to bloom.

We covered the more mundane issues intending a 200 year old farm house: water pump, creaky floors, strange light switches and the modern wonders of WIFI passwords and Direct TV, when it isn’t raining too hard.

We did a quick download of where the trash goes, where the best ice cream is sold and how to attract birds. And then we left another family waving from our porch.

I was overjoyed that small children were going to enjoy the hills and hammocks and wildlife, and happy that a harried, working mom was going to sip coffee on the porch watching humming birds and jays. I was also content that I had posted an “early bird special” on Craigslist and found good renters when other houses languished.

I felt wise, and a little sad. I know it is only five weeks but still I know I will miss the peaches, corn, lengthening of shadows and the first chill of fall. I received a cute email from the mom extolling the beauty, and comfort of the place along with news of the zoo established on the porch now housing fireflies and frogs. It’s just five weeks, and yes, it’s an “upscale problem.” But when times are tough, those things that bring us fulfillment grow in significance. I’m happy my little retreat is bringing the same to this other new family.

/www.recessionwire.com/2009/08/10/renting-summer-home

>The Aftermath of Disaster

>Today I went out early to try out my new light, strong weed-whacker and I wept. I didn’t cry at the efficiency of the machine or its ability to cut clean swaths through my over grown acreage. No, I cried because I had snipped a snake in two.

The temperature dropped and it rained hard last night, not ideal circumstances for a reptile, but great for a middle-aged gardener who likes to work hard when it is chilly. The snake was one of my favorites, a ribbon. He was green with light yellow ribbons running all round his small lithe body. I saw him and he was in half.

I stopped and bent over him, there was nothing I could do so I returned to clipping, perhaps a little more carefully. And then I started to tear up, then cry and before I could even identify what was wrong I was collapsed in the garden chair sobbing, with my Maine coon cat galumphing to the rescue.

My daughter and her 25-year-old French boy friend had been visiting us in the in country three weeks ago. They were cute, he is lively, silly an artist and a wild thing. One day he helped me clean the haymow in the big old barn and when we finished sweeping and carting the hold hay, he leaped form the loading door in the mow and down to the lawn. Maybe forty feet. It was thrilling and scary as so many of those stunts are. I laughed and my husband upbraided him. “Never do that again here, do you understand?’ The boyfriend quieted, as do all the boys when faced with my husband’s stentorian tines. He agreed.

The next day we went on a drive to see the local goats and the boy friend took his skateboard. He had asked my daughter to take him to a big hill earlier in the day and he had skate boarded down form the historic house Olana, built on a precipice of the Hudson River. She drove behind him and said he was going nearly 45 miles per hour. No helmet, no pads, shorts and a tee shirt.

On this trip home he hit a rock, pothole, divot and the next thing we knew he was on the street. We raced back and found him quiet with blood pooling on the pavement trickling out of his ears. He began breathing a heaving rattle. Terrie fed I took the car to the neighbor, as of course I had no cell phone reception. They called the ambulance; it came. I convinced the driver to allow my daughter to ride with as the kid speaks little English and in a crisis I know second languages go fast. They left; I followed the tortuous 30 miles to the nearest trauma hospital.

We spent days in the E.R and then the ICU. We had to call his parents in Nice. The arrived and we all translated and intervened. endlessly. We drove back and forth, we slept fitfully, we interviewed and befriended doctors, nurses and aides. He lived. The brain bleed stopped just as they were going to operate. He lost tons of weight, has a cane, is exhausted and jokes that he lost three days. His parents go home tomorrow. He follows in two weeks after the Neurosurgeon gives the OK for him to fly. And I will stay here changed.

I am terrified, and quaking at cars, roads, motorcycles, barking dogs. I made it through September 11, rescued my kids, wrote a book, volunteered and carried on. But this is the first item that someone I know, I like, I am in a way responsible for has gotten this hurt on my watch. I imagined the worst and I fantasized a jubilant return home for the cute, artist boy. I slept next to my daughter and we patted each other every night for weeks, when the nightmares came. I still find myself shaking my head like a wet dog, in an attempt to clear the images that leap in.

My friend Susan who studies the brain and alternative healing says that when an event like this accident happens the memories are logged in the limbic brain. In a way they by pass normal feeds of memory are logged right where they can crop up more easily and unpredictably. And they do.

SO today when I unwittingly sliced into the snake and sniveled, I know full well I was crying provoked by this new memory and sense of incredible fragility that it has installed in my very own reptile brain.

>They wouldn’t sell me my home… now

>They wouldn’t sell me my home now. I know this for a fact because I just got off the phone with the mortgage specialist who was recommended by my broker.
“Oh we don’t have mortgages like that any more,” she demurred.

I am a consultant who works in the arts, my husband is also a consult, but he works in sports. Meaning we both make money some times and have long dry spells. We also have no health insurance. We cobble together a very nice life that has been augmented by the fact that I tumbled into a neighborhood called TriBeCa back in the 70’s and bought, what my old, ornery Irish father called, “a dump.” Before he died, the neighbors downstairs, sold for nearly 3 million dollars prompting him to call the place,
“The 3 million dollar dump.”

I currently hold a mortgage on the dump at about ten percent of its value, but it is at nearly seven percent. My friend and broker said, “Oh let me have someone call you so you can refinance.”
OK, why not?

I had done that before to my advantage including garnering a hefty line-of-credit that allowed me to send my kids to college. So this loft, my dump, has taken care of me in a way that my wild, Irish father never could, and never imagined.

In fact before the mortgage specialist signed off with me, ending the conversation rather swiftly after I fessed up to being a consultant who had a pretty small earned income bottom line, she ventured, “Well you were lucky to buy your home, that won’t happen any more, as all mortgages now, require extreme income verification.”

I hung up with a whoosh of feeling.

My mortgage will change, for the worst in 2012 and it looks as if, unless I find a real job, one that can convince the new bankers of my value, I may not be able to own my own home in my dotage.

I know I was blessed to go to the party of home ownership when they were handling out tickets with abandon. But in fact my husband and I have never missed a payment or sent it in late, even with the vagaries of our employment and the wonder and stress of sending two very bright New York City public school educated kids to excellent private colleges. We still have a year and a half left for our son at Skidmore, but then in 2010 we are freed from tuition and I suppose we will need to focus on putting our home through its version of college.

We will continue to struggle to save the home I have lived in for over thirty years, the dump where my children were born and grew up. The same loft that got all dressed up to give us a major dancing fete for our wedding. It was the site of benefits, birthday parties, and endless orphan Thanksgivings.

Yesterday was a great day for hope, but today I feel deflated that I would not be able to purchase my home if I tried to do it now. It is a strange feeling, one akin to knowing that your mate wouldn’t date you, let alone marry you if he had to do it again. OK banish that thought.

The times they are a changing, again and again and again. I am going to try and stay ahead of the tsunami of financial woe and hold on to my nice, little dump of a loft.

>Where the hell did I put that?!

>I am of an age when one begins to forget. I am not old, I know that, so don’t go complimenting me for all I do and achieve, it is not about that. This is reality. People forget, and the more you do and whisk through, the greater the chance of moving on automatic pilot. And that means losing things. This infuriates me and turns me into a raging harridan. Not pretty.

Then my son, daughter, or husband has to try and locate things, calm me down and stop me from railing and ranting that I am losing my mind. Oh, so not pretty. So this morning I started a notebook marked:

NOW WHERE THE HELL DID I PUT THAT?

Simple. I clean, I decorate for the season, I file things without thinking so that surfaces are clear and I can write, but then I have done it all in a haze of, “I must find calm, and create. . . must find clarity.”

And then weeks, hours or months pass and I recall the gesture and desire, but not the locale. Hence this new notebook idea.

Last summer when I rented the house, I put some fragile things away, there were three hand-made, lemon nesting bowls. I recalled carefully placing them somewhere and then only one month later, they were gone gone and I tore the house apart. Finally Zachary found them in the bottom drawer in a rarely used hall credenza. So this year as I am cleaning, to supposedly write, but really to think about decorating for the winter holidays, I took them back to the credenza, but I took out the notebook and wrote it down. I also noted where I squirreled away a few hundred bucks as I keep losing and finding that. The losing is horrible, but every re-find in funny and exciting.

It scares me–this loss of vigor in my brain and body, although my soul seems pretty much enlivened by age, the other faculties are dimmed. And so I am hopeful this notebook will get me in good habits before I am as wacky as my late-eighties friend, Beati, to whom I gave a notebook. But as she says, “I forget to write in it, then I forget where I put it.” So I started today to note the lemon bowls and tiny envelope of money. I promise to write down after the holiday where decorations have landed so we don’t have to go on an annual scavenger hunt to find the wreaths upstairs and the lights under the coats in my son’s closet.

As long as I believe that every age has a lesson, I can keep forging ahead. Now where did I put my boots, because I need to get out into the sunshine and air out my brain and flex my old legs?

>Birthday Week/Country Blog

>In my family, we attempt to celebrate what we call a birthday-week. Mine started this past Friday, and it ends this Friday with my actual birthday, a show and a party given by child-wonder Madison Pappas’ equally wonderful mother, Liz.

But for the next two days, I am celebrating in quiet fall splendor in the country. Right now my celebration consists of sitting in a café waiting for my car to be serviced, for new brakes to be added and a tune-up to be administered to my old station wagon so that it can keep going until my kid is done with college.

I am also walking while looking in windows thinking about buying a new flannel nightie, mine is 15 years old this year, a pretty good run. I read the things I write sometimes and I think, they make me seem so crazy, or cheap or both but. . . any private behavior we have when exposed to the light of public scrutiny makes us look wacky, right?

I think that is what so much of the political season is about–taking small private things, or big ones, and exposing them to bright light in an attempt to discredit the ideas or experiences. For me, now it is beyond the “silly season” in American politics, a phrase I heard Obama use during an interview. But this is the dangerously silly season and it has me very unquiet in my mind.

The political climate has me missing some of my moments of happiness with this incredible operatic endeavor, or my personal silly season: a birthday. What I don’t miss is the happiness in the moment of unexpected people showing up at CALLING. I have jokingly said that it feels akin to the experience of a back-in-the-day show, called This Is Your Life. A quick recap for youth of America, as I remember the show, hapless folks came on with the pretense of some other show and instead the show trotted out an array of acquaintances and key players from the constantly weeping “stars” life. So far in my version of the show appearances have been made by teachers, former bosses, ex-boyfriends, neighbors and co-workers, whose support is unexpected and so heartening.

So here is my disjointed post , typed at the noisy café in Rhinebeck NY. The one cup of coffee has stretched and lasted for 2 hours now, while I added and sent the final payroll to the LaMama office in the hopes that after this final weekend we may have enough money to cover the tiny amounts we promised to pay the incredible artists who have populated this opera.

I am off to pick up my car, buy a big round pumpkin and maybe the flannel nightgown in the window of the poky store in town.

>The Ides of Everything

>Okay, today is the 15th of September. I had an article due, I had a Guggenheim grant due and this is my first day off in three weeks.

Whew, the market, the stock market, took a giant dive, while I typed, and edited and talked to potential grant recommenders. It seemed all around me swirled craziness and I attempted to keep my head down and write a very large grant.

Although I have received grants, I have never written a grant for myself. Asking or telling or wanting for myself has always been difficult and today exhausted and over wrought it seemed I could only get engaged in long phone calls, calls I wanted, but I had trouble jumping back on the writing pony. But I kept going back.

I finished the story for the TriBeCa Tib and by the help of magic fairies; it must have been that, I rode up to the Mail Box place just as the last Fed Ex guy was about to roll out.

“Hey, wait please,” I hollered.

The cute Fed Ex guy stood while I wrote out the labels to myself required by Guggenheim.

“So if you get this grant, what will you give me?”

“I will take you out for drinks.”

“OK, but I am planning on winning the lottery first.”

“Well, you better take my number then in case I don’t win, then I will need a drink.”

AHHH sometimes I just love humans, the ones who get that a little extra time won’t kill you and it might even help a fellow traveler.

Yesterday at the theater, the show was the best ever, nice because we were video taping it. I joked with the cast saying that if they did a great job, I’d be overjoyed, as we wouldn’t have to re-tape. A joke perhaps but they were flawless, inspired, amazing.

I really loved the show yesterday afternoon and that was a great treat.

I am taking Tuesday and a part of Wednesday off and running away to the country to dig dirt and smell the roses, literally.

>Home-free-all

>Yesterday… what a strange combination of emotions.

WOW — the New York Times saying actual nice things about bone-head me. And me taking my still silent, grumpy son back to college — or at least I drove to the country house. (And yes, John McCain, I know how many houses I have, and, yes I know I am a very lucky person.) My husband, Zac, drove the rest of the way from the Hudson Valley to Skidmore College. Henry is still holding a grudge, and the ride north from the city — where I was bursting with excitement and happiness that we had a real honest to goodness NY Times article that might put butts in seats and make people notice this little opera after months of working for free — and well, the silence was chilling. I talked the entire time in my head, but it was sad.

After they drove off, I took back the little farmhouse from the renter ladies, making the nest my own again. Changing beds, doing more washing, tossing out weird renter food that is perfectly fine, but not mine. I then went out to touch plants, pull weeds, crush beetles and remember what wet earth feels like after a month of dark rehearsal spaces and late night bike rides home. I also fielded tears and confusion about rehearsal times; I dealt with egos on whose name appears where, and if middle names are used or why is former musician listed but not. . .

All told, it lets me know, again, that we are all fragile and all looking to be recognized for the little and large things we do.

After a romp through the woods with the cats, I collapsed into the hammock and fell asleep to find my husband standing over me, having waited, he said, for me to wake up so we could go get ice cream. OH, twist my arm. So we were off to Holy Cow. Can you make that up? We ate drippy sundaes in the shortening light and I tried to forget that in nine days, the show would go up, with lights and dance and music and all the cast members who have never even yet been to a single rehearsal… and I tried to stay calm and see it all working. All safe, all fine, all singing and then the audience applauding.

And in my head I will yell out “HOME-FREE-ALL!” Just like I did when I was ten and ran to hug the tree in dusky games of hide and seek.

When I went out to cut brambles and prune roses this morning, I let the big Maine Coon cat, Auggie, named for last month, lead me where he wanted to go. He wanted to walk in what our Scottish friends call the Dingly Dell. This is a path cut between blackberry brambles and a bogey hollow west of the house. It took me two years to cut this path through brambles and woods that resemble nothing short of Sleeping Beauty’s prison in the fairy tale. But I hacked with clippers and machete and now there is a path where mossy tufts and lazy tress leave a clearing for deer, intrepid humans and fearless cats to tread.

This morning, there were clear paths marked by the pointy hooves of deer and Auggie and I picked our way along. I wondered what the deer think when they smell us and I imagined this conversation between the doe and her spotted twin fawns I spy regularly making crepuscular leaps.

“Oh look, kids, that is the foot print of the human woman who made this path. You know the thing about humans, and the reason they are so dangerous, is that they have forgotten how to use their intuition. They know things, but will never use what they feel until they can connect it to something they have learned in books, or school.”

“What does that mean?” the smarter, small female fawn will say.

“It means they can’t tell if things are dangerous, or fun or wrong unless they learn them, not feel them.“

“That must be a hard way to live.”

I think they are right. And I am going to attempt to feel my way though this last bit of time until we open. Now it is 8 days until our invited dress rehearsal on September 10. I will have to keep feeling the gratitude, luck and hope that I see evinced all around me and keep pushing myself to imagine the woodsy calm and the joy that comes form feeling the tree and yelling, “HOME-FREE-ALL!”