Monday, July 23, 2007

For reasons that have never been particularly obvious to me, I have always been pretty focused on dates and times. For example, today July 17th, is precisely 2 years and 6 months since the day Abner and I arrived in Asheville. It is also the 5th anniversary of the day Harvey died. In exactly one week, it will be Abner’s 5th birthday, and perhaps most significantly in my life now, when the sun rose this morning it rose on me as a new property owner. Yesterday I purchased lots 4,5, and 6 on Elk Mountain Ridge in Asheville, NC. I only owned lot 6 for about 3 hours. Matt and Amy bought it from me yesterday afternoon, but that was planned almost from the beginning.

The acquiring of this land has been a lengthy process that has required some patience and a leap of faith on my part. Patience, as most of you who know me are aware, has never been my strong suit, although I seem to have a pretty good history with leaps of faith.

Those of you who are regulars on this blog are somewhat familiar with my year plus search for a place to either build or remodel here that would provide me both adequate housing and a view. I have looked at many houses, most of which were in dreadful condition but many of which had great views. Still, none of them quite came to pass. The only one on which I made an offer ended up selling 4 months after my offer for $10,000 less. It just wasn’t meant to be my house. As luck would have it, in a series of unlikely events described in the April and May 2007 posts on this blog, I stumbled across the land I bought yesterday and have had to go through a fairly nerve-wracking wait to get the purchase to be completed.

The land is part of a large subdivision in North Asheville and is one of the few remaining parcels in the neighborhood that had never been built on. I think because of the relatively steep slope and dense foliage, a lot of people just overlooked it 16 years ago when the rest of the lots on the street were being sold. Because these three lots had languished, and because the owners have a particular distaste for dealing with real estate brokers, they never actually listed the land as being for sale. I just stumbled across it in a conversation with a lady who lives just up the hill as described in the April post.

Well, I did my due diligence and came to the conclusion that this was the land I had been looking for, and made my offer back in April. Unfortunately, the sellers were unable to act on it quickly. The three brothers from whom I bought the land are second-generation Asheville developers whose father died a year ago and whose mother is getting rather old and less interested in active participation in the family business. Consequently the brothers are in the process of buying out their mother’s share of the holdings that are currently in a partnership with her. Since the land I wanted was part of that transaction, and since the appraisals that were needed to transact their purchase were already done, the brothers didn’t want to do anything on my little deal that could cloud or delay their purchase agreement with their mother, so my offer sat unaccepted for almost three months. In fact, my contract was finally signed 4 days before we closed on the sale.

In the meantime, I have, as most of you know, sold my house and have made no arrangements to move anywhere, so without a contract to purchase this land, and with no leads on a place to move if the land deal fell through, I have been one nervous puppy for the last month or so.

So now I am working on the design of the house. I have retained a drafter to help me produce working drawings, have an agreement with a contractor who will build the house for me, and have started having meetings with various manufacturers reps to choose major materials and components. I was originally hoping to be under way with construction in mid-September although that is probably a trifle optimistic at this point. Still, I am going to forge ahead as fast as I can.

My back issues are temporarily settled. I had an epidural injection into my L 4-5 disc on Saturday morning and am now eagerly awaiting it’s full effect. I do feel better but am still aware of some weakness and soreness. I am hoping that in another couple days the pain will be completely controlled and then it will simply be a question of whether or not the steroid can hold off discomfort long enough for the underlying problem to heal. Meanwhile I am considering letting my friend Kristin, who is about to open her practice as an acupuncturist, needle me to assist the steroids.

I am trying to convince Mark Ambtman, Kristin Query’s significant other, to be the landscape architect on my project. It is so different doing this house than it was when I built in Sacramento. I was working with engineers and other specialists all the time in 1992 when I built on Donner Way so I had ready access to professional help. Since the only work I have done here is consulting, I haven’t built up the same kind of network of supporting professionals and it is more like being a client.

Soon I will probably do a one or two day trip to Atlanta to start closing in on some of the major systems and interior materials for my house. There is a huge design center in Atlanta so it is actually a pretty good place to look. I leave for California in a few weeks and would really like to have made a trip down there before I go but that will be predicated on, among other things, my back feeling good enough to handle a 3 hour plus drive.

Today I did a walk at Biltmore with Abner. We have started going back to our old routine of walking but for shorter periods of time. Today’s walk was a little over an hour and I broke it up with about a 15-minute rest stop. I don’t know how much I can handle but I don’t want to aggravate my condition by overdoing the hiking. We are starting easy and will work our way back up to bigger stuff once I am convinced that my discs will cooperate. Still, it was nice to see people at the Inn and Outdoor Center for the first time in about 6 weeks. Several of them asked where we had been and said they had been worried about me. I have to admit that it’s nice that people noticed that Abner and I weren’t around. . .makes me feel significant. I know, of course, that Abner is the significant one. . .I am just the chauffeur.

Well it is now the 23rd and there is a new wrinkle to the saga of the lots. Amy was doing a consult for a “Green” builder late last week and ended up telling him about how excited she and Matt were about buying the lot. Turns out that the guy and his wife have also been looking for a lot to build on and specifically up on Elk Mountain Scenic Highway. . .exactly where our properties are. So Amy mentioned to him that I had another lot that I was probably going to sell and the next thing I knew, he was over at my house on Saturday after having already taken his wife to see my extra lot. I guess they really are pretty sure they want it so now I have to come up with a price. This is so weird. I am not used to things selling this easily or my not having to work at it. It was pretty easy selling the house, Matt and Amy wanted lot 6 up on Elk Mountain, and now there is someone who wants the other lot. How can it be this easy?

On the other, hand I am having a terrible time finding an engineer to design the foundations and retaining walls. This is not completely insurmountable I hope, but I have calls into no fewer than 7 engineering offices. This is so different for me. When I was practicing architecture I had this whole group of other professionals on whom I depended on a regular basis. I had people who drew working drawings for me, had structural and mechanical engineers who helped me with all my projects. To my horror, it would appear that I have become a client.

The fact that I haven’t been out or about much will explain the dearth of pictures this month. I hope to make it up to you with the next posting.
As those of you who have followed this blog since last year know, I have developed a real affection for these Angus cattle. Well this year they had an amazing number of calves and now they all are grazing around the fields. This group was lounging in the shade of one of the fields when Abner and I went by on one of our walks a couple days ago. It is really strange to have all these black cows staring at you when you walk by. I don't know whether they were interested in Abner or me, but by the third shot you can see that they all started headed over to the fence where we were. Nothing happens quickly with these cattle, but it was strange.

This is a shot of Abner when Matt and Bear joined us for a brief hike to the Craggy Peak overlook on Sunday. It was a little warm in Asheville so we headed up to Craggy Peak (6,100 feet) for a little cooler weather. It turned out that it was a lot cooler. . .like 15 degrees. Abner liked it. I almost put on a jacket.
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Spencer has a tendency to enjoy the fountains at Biltmore a little more personally than Regie, Abner or I do. . .although Abner will tend to drink out of this and some of the other fountains. Just not when Spencer is relaxing in one.
This is the Italian Garden where there are three wonderful aquatic gardens. I have shot them before but I don't think ever from up on the Library Terrace.
Don't know what these bugs were but they didn't seem to be too concerned that I was this close and taking macro photos of them.
This was a bizarre web that was on my front lawn early one morning when I went out to bring in the paper. It was covered with dew and very visible. I am curious about what might have made this web. If any of you knows, drop me an email.
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