T-Minus 6 Weeks…and Counting!

It’s been a while since we’ve updated our blog, which I attribute almost exclusively to being overly prepared for the coming storm (i.e., new-home orientation, closing, setting up new accounts for utilities, hiring movers, packing, and then, at long last, moving into our brand new house). Being the overly prepared type, I have created macro schedules, micro schedules, lists of new purchases, inventory lists, shopping lists, lists,  lists, lists, and lists of lists!


On the upside, yesterday we received an update from our new Project Manager, Joe (our previous Project Manager, who was great(!) received a much-deserved promotion, so as of June 1, he’ll be moving on). The update read:

“We are in the midst of final trades right now, putting in fixtures, switches, outlets, speakers. The tile back-splash is going in today and looks great! Granite was installed yesterday (May 10) and we have graded your yard. Hardwood is going in the beginning of next week followed by carpet, and then another round of paint and drywall. We are right on track!”

That update was a symphony of good news, especially since the last three or four weeks here in the Mid-Atlantic have been more like the Pacific Northwest, with gloomy grey skies, rain in alternating downpours and drizzles, and a chill that helps to keep us from using the air conditioning (perhaps the only bright spot in the prevailing gloom). What keeps us from getting a bad case of the blues, though, is our planning and packing and planning and packing. Until we move, which is currently scheduled for the last week of June, we’ll continue to plan and pack until we can do neither anymore. Then we’ll just enjoy what remains of our time on Kent Island—a beautiful jewel in the Chesapeake and Maryland’s first English settlement (The More You Know!). We won’t miss the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, though. It’s a miserable failure of a bridge and I’ll be happy to see it disappear into the rear-view mirror.

Also in the past week, we locked our interest rate in at an agreeable 3.875 percent for a 30-year VA loan. Between the deposits we’ve already made and the builder’s incentives, we’re actually walking away from the settlement table with a refund exceeding $18,000! This is a tidy sum for setting up an emergency fund, ensuring we won’t get blindsided by any unexpected tax bills or whatever. Moreover, we still have a big chunk of cash from a prior DC-condo sale in savings, so we’re sittin’ pretty and feeling good about our prospects in our new home.

While we speed toward closing with many things on our minds, we continue our research on creating a Japanese garden that will not run afoul of the HOA’s stringent guidelines. Our recent trip to Japan really inspired us, but we’ll have to wait to draw our plans since we can’t really start planting new trees until early next spring. However, this expected delay in landscaping gives us more than enough time to do everything properly, from interior design to exterior design planning.

I can’t believe how smoothly all this has been… I wish everyone could be so lucky.

If the weather clears in the coming days, we’ll try to get out to the new house to explore and get some new photos. I’m dying to see the progress made since I last visited two weeks ago.

The excitement continues…

T-Minus 6 Weeks…and Counting!

Garden idea: Local Japanese Designs

We have lots of progress, and I have long-promised pictures once I get them off my phone. But in the meantime, I was doing some research about companies in the area that might do full service patio/garden design in the Japanese style. Findings:

Both seem like good options to get some design consulting. Of course, as is normal for services like this they charge a design fee, which they then apply as a discount for the services proper. So it’s like a ‘pick one’ scenario. We’ll have to explore more, when the time comes.

Garden idea: Local Japanese Designs

Garden idea: The Herbaceous Border

If it’s good enough for the Queen of England….

So it’s basically a huge zone of flowers and bushes, often perennial flowering bushes. It seems its more typical of English landed gardens with a lot of space, but we have a large lot in back, and it might work well with the extended patio zones we’re considering. So here are some links on philosophy and practice of the herbaceous border:

I wonder how this would mix in with the Japanese aesthetic, which is otherwise what we’re going for back there. But it could be an interesting mix.

We’re stopping by tomorrow, so more pictures to come of the current state. Exciting!


Garden idea: The Herbaceous Border

Update: We have a roof!

Progress has been steady since construction began at the beginning of March. I can scarcely believe that so much has been accomplished in the span of a month. I mean, we had the pre-construction meeting, we went to the other side of the planet, and then returned to a complete foundation. Less than two weeks later, we visited our future neighborhood to find this:



Oh, and we have windows and doors and HVAC ducts, a hearth, and more! WOW!!!!

Our PM hinted during our pre-con meeting that we could enter the house once the stairs had a handrail. Lucky for us, when we visited last weekend, we found the stairs complete, and so in we went…

And our jaws promptly hit the unfinished floors.

The progress made in March was astounding to see. Every room was completely framed and we walked around each level, mouths agape, stunned at every turn by the sheer size of it all. Moreover, the quality of construction surprised us. Seeing the skeleton of our future home actually gave us a bit of strength: It really is well built!

Yesterday, during the weekly chat with the PM, we learned that we will have our pre-settlement walk-through the week of June 17, with the final settlement taking place the week of June 22. We already have our meeting with  Guardian scheduled for next Monday (April 11), which means we will see even more progress, since the plumbing work has begun. By the end of next week, the builders will be doing the air-tightness test (or whatever it’s called when they seal the house, pressurize it, and look for air seeps). Thereafter, we’re looking at several weeks of interior and exterior work, but I don’t yet have firm details on what all that will include. At any rate, it pleases us to see the progress and now we have to start thinking about the less palatable details of building a home: The move!

We have begun an Amazon shopping list that takes into account some of the more banal items we need to acquire for the new house. Moreover, we have met with our interior designer and have begun discussing what we’ll be doing on the first floor. We went into the meeting with the designer with some very developed plans, which surprised her, so the most significant thing we’ll have to deal with is painting the walls. Other than that, planning is going well (and mostly stress free since we’re so well prepared).

And that’s it for now! Stay tuned, though. We’ll be posting additional photos from our most recent visit soon!

Update: We have a roof!

Site plan, garden planning

So here is what we have to work with for the pre-set plantings:

Basic site plan 252

Pretty extensive!! The tree codes are as follows:

It seems we have some room, but not necessarily a ton, to add trees of our own. If we want two cherry trees, plus a patio, that might take up most of the space. We also can and should plant bushes and such — and for that purpose, this article on “Best Shrubs for a Mid-Atlantic Garden” is an amazing resource.

We have a lot of planning to do, but it’s going to be a fun project to plan. Then of course it will be a lot of work. But worth it!


Site plan, garden planning

Cherry blossom time


It’s cherry blossom time in DC! All the trees are blooming, pink and magenta ones, and most of all the white ones that are so prominent in the Annapolis / Bowie area. There are just tons of these on Route 50 just past the development. We’ll take a trip this weekend to scout out whether anyone has planted them yet in the neighborhood — but we are definitely going to!

Cherry blossom trees are apparently notorious for being difficult. But we do have one leg up in that we know for sure – obviously! famously!! – that our climate is suitable to grow them. Beyond that, best practices seem to be:

  • Have a professional do the actual planting, to make sure it gets a good start
  • They do best in pairs or groups, since they can pollinate each other. So we’ll do 2-3 in the back yard, where there is the most space. Possibly we could flank the front driveway with a pair, but it might be best to instead put a Japanese magnolia up front.
  • Space them 10 – 20 feet apart, and make sure they have plenty of sun. Again, this suggests the back yard. We have the advantage of having some good space between us and the neighbors on the back and one side. So this should work.
  • As for the type of tree: Yoshino are the archetypical DC type, and they are gorgeous. They’re also highly recommended as fast growing when young – possibly 3 feet a year!
  • Some sites recommend paying attention to drainage. This means that we’d have to put them closer to the house than just on the back border of the yard – since that’s the way the drainage functions, according to the plan. We could possibly do them in a row down the side as well, though this might cut down on their sun.
  • Seems like you want to plant in the early spring, water a lot in the summer to ensure the roots take deep hold, then fertilize them every year with slow-release fertilizer just at the beginning of spring. This is something to consult the professionals on, of course

We’re working on a list of other flowering plants, with the plan being a rotational series that will have interest at any point in the year. Brainstorm:

  • canola
  • tulip
  • daffodil
  • japanese magnolia
  • cherry blossom realness
  • peonies
  • mums
  • pointsettia
  • lavender

Some point soon we’ll have to sit down with the site plan and do some sketches. The developers have already planned a more extensive landscaping (from a tree perspective) than seems to be the normal case. They’ve put a lot of thought into the general look of the neighborhood, so you’re not allowed to remove anything. But you can add. So we will!

Celebrate! Celebrate! It’s the cherry blossom paraaaaaaaaade!!
Cherry blossom time

It’s a pit!

We broke ground. Unfortunately could not be there at the time to smash a bottle of champagne on a bulldozer, or whatever it is you do in that situation. But our sales rep took a bunch of photos to send. These guys are really hands on so far, we’re pretty comfortable in their hands. The project manager (PM) is very active in calling once a week with updates. We expect it to be even closer contact as things accelerate.

So far we’ve got:


And then once we got back from our trip, we stopped by for a visit and the foundation is all complete! Progress is going to be very fast, I think…



It’s a pit!