“I think the thing that amazes me when I look at property tax bills is, in spite of owning less than an acre of land and not producing any food, it costs as much to own the buildings as it would to send them through a year of full-time classes at UNCW,” I commented to Jock. “That’s just for the bookstore building and the house to sit there—nothing more. At least if we sent them to college, they could learn a skill.”
Jock gave me a pained look and took a gulp of beer. “Can you imagine the cost of paying to park a house and a building at UNCW?” he asked. “That would bankrupt you.”
He had me laughing at least.
I am sure I am not alone in the annual stress of figuring out how to pay property taxes at the beginning of each January. The refrain “less than an acre of land and I don’t even produce food” echoes in my ears. Clearly, there is something I need to address here. Each New Year I do try to set goals that move my life and work forward—preferably long-term projects. This year I have five goals I am working on:
1. Opening the bed and breakfast in my house on Market Street
2. Getting my bus legal to drive
3. Writing at least one of two books I need to write
4. Spending time with Jock, Horace and Hilda
5. Learning to say no
Last January began with the frantic effort to keep the house from collapsing. Chris Yermal and his band of craftsmen rebuilt a back corner that literally crumbled in our hands. Once the shock and terror subsided over the fact we had been walking on that floor, it really became an incredible relief to know the house wasn’t going to fall over. That was just a very small (but important) piece of what must be done.
I have a B&B permit for the house, and it needs a lot of work to get it ready to open to the public—to begin with, slate roof work. Immediately, two bathrooms need to be overhauled, the kitchen updated, the mortar repointed, the interior and exterior painted, shutters repaired and rehung, and then finding carpets, furniture, linens, and all the details of making a B&B ready for the public. One of the ongoing elements of reader feedback I receive is people want to know where I shop local if not online or at big-box stores. So, part of that is unnerving, but I promise to more consistently address my shopping habits in the column this year. With all the work the house needs, there will be a lot to report. And, so, I will begin right now:
I bought a piano from a local pianist and had it delivered by Rob Lowe of Port City Piano Service. (It’s fascinating to watch a grand piano get assembled—including two men who literally flip it up on to its legs). I also bought a patio set. Yes, that’s correct—it is December and I bought a patio set: a beautiful six-seat wrought-iron set with a glass top table and cushions for the chairs. I found it at Miss Carla’s Oldies & Goodies in Hampstead.
I really love the Market Street house’s backyard. Some of the happiest memories I have with my parents were their daily cocktail hour in the backyard during warm months. Currently, the merry band congregating around the house (myself, Jock, able assistants, residents, and nearby friends) eat a lot of meals surrounded by beautiful pecan trees and hand-grafted heritage camellias. It will be lovely for the B&B to have a nice dining area to serve the occasional brunch or breakfast al fresco. In the meantime these meals are incredibly important for fostering some of the most important relationships in my life.
And this plays in with resolution number four, to some extent. Back in the house in which Jock and I live, he is starting to demolish the laundry room and back porch area. This happens periodically when he gets frustrated with something he can’t control; he takes it out on the wall of the house. Literally. Don’t get me wrong, that part of the house has sustained some serious damage and needs to be rebuilt. With the beautiful (and unseasonable) weather we have had this fall and winter, Hilda has been encouraging me to spend more and more time outside with her and Horace. She has finally convinced Jock that, once the porch is a safe zone again, we should actually put a table in the back, so Jock and I can spend more time outside with them. They can run and bark, bask in the sun. I can work (hopefully on a book—see resolution number three) and get some vitamin D all at once.
As I’ve noted before, I have two books I need to write. It is hard to admit I am scared—but I am. So 2017 is the year I have to learn to say “no” to all the pleasant, wonderful distractions that filter into daily life. We are going to scale back a lot of programing at the bookstore, and I am going to hunker down in the backyard with the dogs and stop avoiding the thing I want desperately and am terrified to attempt.
Well, when I’m not working on historic plaster and painting walls of the future B&B. Or working on my VW projects. Or running a business. Or meeting the other writing deadlines.
Or … well, you see the problem.
Then there is the gardening issue! I have to landscape the grounds of the B&B, and somewhere in all of this, it is still insane to me that I don’t actually produce enough food to feed one person, let alone the people who live in the house. Food security is such a big part of Jock’s work, but am I doing my part at home? I’m not. We have amazing, fertile soil, rainfall and a household that adores nature. Is this not the perfect combination for a lush, abundant garden? After much deliberation and discussion (especially over lunch in the backyard), I have a basic plan for turning most of the yard around the house on Market Street from grass lawn to food-producing beauty. Look for updates from my forays to Shelton Herb Farm, the Hobby Greenhouse Plant Sale, and other venues in search of plants and advice. Readers who have thoughts on perennial food-producing plants that are nice to live with—I am all ears, especially if you know where to procure or how to raise asparagus crowns.
So I started my year with dry-wall compound and plaster (purchased from Steven’s Hardware) in my hair. John Wolfe and I were working on ceiling repair upstairs, and it was nice to know, yet again, my reputation as a fashion plate is secure. But the ceiling looks like it is going to stay attached and that is a good start for my resolution list. Tomorrow the book. Or maybe the VW. Or the yard.