Solar Power System

OK, this is my first post in over 4 years.  Seems we just got busy; and anyway, not much has changed since that first year.

Last year we were able to follow through on one of our long-range plans.  We had hoped when we had the house built that at some point we would be able to add solar — specifically, photovoltaic panels.  Our roof has plenty of area, and is mostly unobstructed by the trees, especially in the Summer.

In 2015 I heard of a solar cooperative starting in Chestertown.  It seemed like a good deal; the co-op identifies an installer with a good reputation, and also negotiates a discount for installations for members.  I signed up, and was contacted by the installer shortly after.

He submitted a proposal, and we iterated to get the price to something we could afford.  My original thought had been to just use the south-facing roof over the back porch, but in order to get the system capacity we wanted we ended up using the east-facing roof as well.  We had taken out a home equity line-of-credit a few years ago, and planned to use that to pay for the system.

We signed the contract in December 2015, and they started the installation in early 2016.  They finished in February, and we got the interconnection agreement from Delmarva Power in early March.  We activated the inverter and started generating kilowatt-hours.

The system has performed well during its first year.  Power generation was very good during the Spring, Summer and Fall, and our electric bills were way down during the air-conditioning season.  Of course, winter generation is much lower; and January is turning out to be remarkably cloudy and rainy.  Even with that, we are very satisfied with the system performance, and glad we made the decision to go ahead with this.


Stamped Concrete and Paving

There were two items left undone when we moved in December due to the weather:  the stamped concrete on the courtyard and porches, and the driveway paving.  We waited until the weather warmed up, and had not heard from the builder about either of these.  We put our outdoor furniture out on the courtyard and side porch so we could use them.  Finally, in June we were contacted by the stamped concrete contractor.  I dug out our original color and pattern selections from last year and forwarded them to him.

The contractor did a 2’x2′ sample for us to look at.  We liked the pattern but decided that the color was too bright, and too orange.  We looked at his web site and found another color that we liked better.  We met with him and discussed the installation.  He did two more samples, and we picked the lighter of the two.  By then it was mid-July.

The contractor started work in early August.   There were a couple of days when it rained, so he could not work, but otherwise the work proceeded nicely, and he was on track to finish up by the end of the second week.

Then the builder called me on Wednesday and told me that the paving contractor was ready to start work!  We left work early so we could meet with the contractor, as we wanted to extend the final driveway for parking and access to the side porch.  When we got out there they had regraded the existing gravel.  We agreed on the additional area, and they excavated and put down  a base layer of stone.

Both the stamped concrete and the paving were finished on Thursday.  The paving contractor told us to be careful driving on the pavement at first, but otherwise we could use the spaces.

The stamped concrete looks terrific, and we really like the pattern and color we chose.   It complements the stucco and trim beautifully.  Here is a view of the entire courtyard with our outdoor furniture:

We have a sitting area set up on the back portico.

The round table is a story all by itself.  We bought the ceramic top during our trip to Italy in 2007, in a little shop in San Gimignano.  They shipped it to our old house, and we used in on our deck the past few summers.  When we moved it to the new house we bought a new base to give it more of a coffee-table height.  We think it looks fabulous on the courtyard.

On the side porch we have some wood furniture from our old place, and a potting bench that we bought after we moved.

It’s great to have the driveway done too, with a smooth surface instead of loose gravel.  (No picture; hey, it’s just black asphalt.)  We’re really happy to have the outside of the house finished.


One Year Anniversary (cont.)

I’m following up yesterday’s very long post with a very short one.  Here’s what I was watching one year ago today:


Amazing to think about what has happened in the year since, and that we’ve been living here for almost six months.  Its great to be here!

One Year Anniversary

This is the one-year anniversary of the construction loan, and also of this blog.  I haven’t posted in months, but felt this date was worth recognizing.  Tomorrow is the anniversary of our groundbreaking.

There are a couple of reasons I haven’t kept up with posting.  One is that I got really busy with work during the winter.  Mostly, though, I just ran out of news-worthy items.

The house does look quite different than when we moved in.  We have furniture in the great room that was mostly empty when we started.  We’ve also unpacked almost all of the boxes and hung a bunch of stuff on the walls.

The outside also looks very different.  Our straw-covered mud field now has grass, at least in most places.  We planted three crape myrtle trees that we bought last Summer in the back yard, and recently we bought a dogwood tree from a local nursery and had it planted in the front.  Last weekend we bought more trees and shrubs to plant in the back.  I need to get some pictures to post when everything is in.

One thing that has kept us pretty busy is selling the old house and clearing out the stuff we had not moved yet.  We had put it on the market last July.  We had a few visits but no offers through the end of the year.  We were surprised that people starting looking again almost right after the holidays.  We got an offer in late January that we were able to negotiate to a contract with a closing date in late March.  It seemed to be going well, and they had a home inspection done.  Then, they came up with a (we thought) lame reason for backing out of the contract, and the house went back on the market.

In the meantime we were making regular trips to the house to load up odd and ends and move them.  We had left the garage mostly unmoved back in December.  In mid-March, our friends with a cargo trailer helped us move the large and heavy garage stuff.  We still kept finding things in closets, drawers, cabinets, etc.

Then, we got another offer in early Spring.  It was for more than the first one, and we accepted without countering  We were more cautious than before, and were waiting for something to go wrong again.  They also had a home inspection done, and came up with a long list of items to be fixed.  We discussed this with our realtor and came back with a counter-list.  Fortunately we and they were able to come to an agreement on this.  I started working off the list of items.

The last remaining hurdle was their loan approval.  The buyers had pre-qualified, but there was still the house appraisal.  We were ecstatic when the appraisal came in at the contract price.

The closing was scheduled for last Thursday.  We were still finding things to move (seemed like it would never end!), and I was working the last few items off of the list.  The night before closing I was there well into the evening finishing up.  We made one more stop Thursday morning to pick up a few items that I did not have room for the night before.

Closing came off without a hitch, and we got our check.  We celebrated at the pub that evening, and deposited the check the next day.  Now we just need to complete the refinancing of the construction loan, but that will be a topic for another post.  Sorry for such a wordy post without pictures; I will have some the next time.

The Desk and Study

In an earlier post I mentioned the rolltop desk that we had had restored, and picked up after we moved.  This desk had been my grandfather’s, and I got it about 15 years ago.  At that time we got an estimate to have it restored; the veneer was shot in a couple of places, and the finish was not in good shape from sitting in unconditioned space.  However, we never followed up, and I cleaned the desk as best I could and used it until mid-last year.

When we were ready to put our old house on the market, we rented a storage cubicle to put stuff so we could de-clutter.  We decided to move the desk into storage, since it was a bit large for the bedroom it was in.  We also decided to go ahead with the restoration while the desk was “between houses”.  We had it picked up late last Summer, with the idea that it would be done shortly after we moved.

As luck would have it, both the desk and the house took longer than expected.  The restorer called shortly after we moved to tell us it was ready.  We left work early the Friday before Christmas to pick it up.  Our son was home for the holidays and would be able to help me carry it into the house and set it up.

We put the desk in the study, which is at the front of the house.  The restorer did a great job, and the desk looks really good!  I set our computer up on it, for when I need to work at home.  I have a view out the front of the house and toward the Chester River from the window to the right of the desk.

We also have a day bed in the study so we can use it as an overflow guest room, and we have put up some shelves and pictures.