Posts tagged House

The First Casualty in the Groundhog War


I’ve written before about my battles with the groundhog in our backyard.  I thought I had chased him away two years ago, but like a bad penny, he’s returned.  This time he brought friends.  I’ve spotted two separate groundhogs out in the yard and they’ve got two different hideouts.  The first and most notable of the two is under the shed attached to the back of the house.  I’ve caught them out of the burrow a few times and chased them off.  I then filled in the hole with rocks and dirt.  The next day — and sometimes even within the hour — the hole would be dug out again.  Monica even looked it up online and read that groundhogs hate the smell of dryer sheets so we shoved a bunch in there, but to no avail.


The other groundhog hideout is less of a concern.  It’s a hollowed out stump on the edge of the yard near the stream.  They can have that.  The shed hold is unacceptable.  It’s an eye sore and I’m concerned about the foundation of the shed itself.  After filling in the hole for what felt like the millionth time, I called a professional.  Over the weekend, a guy came and set up a trap to catch one of the groundhogs.  It’s a lethal trap which I’m fine with.  It’s personal now.  He explained that he has to kill them either way due to the law.  They’re considered a nuisance or something so he can’t just set them free.  The choice would be a lethal trap to kill the thing right there or a non-lethal one that he’d then catch and drown or something elsewhere.  Why make the extra work?  Lethal it is.


While he was setting the trap, this guy (who was incredibly nice and very knowledgable) explained that sometimes the animal will try to run through the trap.  This means that it will spring and only catch their hind legs.  He told me that if this happens, just pick up one of the nearby rocks and bash its head in.  You know, like you do.


After he set the trap and left, I had to go visit some family.  When I got back, my neighbor — whom I don’t care for — was having a small barbeque in their backyard with some friends.  Instantly I thought of a scene where the groundhog was stuck in the trap, half dead.  I’d find it there and realize what had to be done.  I would make casual conversation with the neighbors, waving courteously with a smile.  “Beautiful day today, huh?”  Meanwhile, I’m picking up a large rock.  “Can you believe this weather?” THUNK!  The rock lands.  Blood splatters.  “It’s a shame to go back inside.”  THUNK!  One more just to make sure it’s dead.  I never once mention what I’m doing or why.  Then I wave once again and head inside.  The sheer thought of this had me hysterical laughing.  Unfortunately, the opportunity to do this did not present itself.


Monica came home from work today and reported that the trap had sprung and one groundhog had been caught.  He lays there, lifeless, head first in the trap as I type this.  The trapper guy is coming to dispose of the body and re-set the trap so we can catch the other one.  James: 1, Groundhog: 0.  Once the other one is gone, I’ll have to fill in the hole with some extra reinforcement to ensure no other critters make their homes in there.  These are the things you have to do when you own a house.


UPDATE: The trapper came and reset everything.  The next morning we had caught the other groundhog.  The trap was reset once more, but nothing else has come through so I think we’re groundhog-free now.  I consider this a victory against large rodents.

Go Back to Punxsutawney, Phil!


Monica and I have been homeowners for a little over two years now. Last summer, we found that our backyard was also the home of a groundhog. This wasn’t like the cartoons where the creature is digging a million holes in the yard and I’m forced to use dynamite in an effort to get rid of it. Instead it burrowed under the small shed attached to the back of the house where we keep the lawn mower. We didn’t notice it at first because a bush had grown in front of it. After trimming the bush back, the hole was exposed. My father-in-law lent me a rodent trap to catch the groundhog, but I never had to use it as he seemed to disappear after his home was out in the open. It’s fortunate for him because as my father-in-law explained, since the groundhog is a rodent, I couldn’t just let him free somewhere. I’d have to kill it, most likely by drowning it in the stream in the backyard. I shoveled some dirt in front of the hole and forgot about it.

Fast forward to this summer where the groundhog had returned. The hole was dug up again and we’d see him hanging out in the backyard. I put more dirt in front of the hole and he dug it out. I put a large piece of cement that was once under a gutter on the side of the house there and he dug under it. Then a couple weeks ago, Monica and I saw him in the backyard. I had no shoes on, so I threw on some flip flops, grabbed a shovel, and ran out the side door. In hindsight, I have no idea what I was planning to do when I got out there. Was I going to challenge the groundhog to battle or a digging contest? I don’t know.


Anyway, I crept along the side of the house and came between the hole and the groundhog. Meanwhile, Monica opened up the porch door and startled the rodent. He turned and saw me standing in the path to his safe haven. He started running; taking a wide berth around a small tree near the patio in an effort to come around me. Instinctively, I took a wild swing with the shovel and managed to hit the groundhog in the side with it, but it didn’t stop and continued on, presumably into the hole. I grabbed a large rock and wedged it into the hole it had dug under the cement piece, then kicked a bunch of dirt on top of the hole thing. Again, this seems crazy in hindsight because it’s a groundhog. It could dig around this stuff, no?

Then I started to hear a noise in the bush next to the shed. Could it be? Did he miss the hole? After poking the shovel at both ends of the bush, I found that the groundhog did indeed overshoot his hole, most likely due to the fact that I hit him with a shovel. This went on for two or more turns before I saw the groundhog jet out from the bush, run under the porch, and keep going down the stream. I heard him running for awhile. I scared him away from his home.

It’s now been several weeks since my duel with the groundhog. The rocks and dirt I put in front of the hole have remained undisturbed. I don’t know what happened to the groundhog after he ran off, but at least I didn’t have to drown him in the stream.

I Think I Hate My Next Door Neighbor


Monica and I have been living in our house for almost two years. Shortly after we moved in, one of our next door neighbors stopped by to introduce themselves. They’re an elderly couple and seemed nice enough. For the purposes of this blog post, I’m going to refer to them as Edith and Archie as the woman sounds like the mother from All in the Family. During the brief initial conversation, Edith not-so-subtly asked what our plans were for the trees that border our property and theirs. At this point most of our possessions were still in boxes. I knew I had a yard but had barely walked around it, let alone made plans for how to take care of it. I had to remember how to use a lawn mower as I hadn’t touched one in maybe 10 years. We told Edith that we hadn’t thought of them yet. She made sure to tell us that the trees were on our property despite the fact that they’re on the other side of the chain link fence that also separates the two areas. It seems that the previous owners of my house had planted the trees and then later put a pool in the back yard that required a fence.

A few months go by and I forget about the trees. I don’t see Edith or Archie for a bit too because they’re old people that don’t have to worry about basic things like getting to work on time or writing blogs about how their neighbors piss them off. The next time I see Edith, she again asks about the trees. By this point, I’ve had a chance to really look at them and they’re pretty ugly. They’re old cedar trees that haven’t been maintained. Additionally, there are these nasty looking vines that have choked most of them. Monica and I make plans with her father to take some of them down when we get a chance. He comes down on some weekends and we start hacking the trees apart. Over the course of the previous spring / summer, we took down about 8 trees. There are still 4 or 5 that we haven’t touched and the stumps of the ones we’ve taken down remain.

Fast forward to last weekend. Edith flags me down while I’m mowing the lawn. Now that the trees are gone, I have a clear view of their perfectly kept lawn and they have a great perspective on the garbage that I throw on the side of my house while waiting for bulk pick up each month. This is stuff like lumber, sheetrock, and old carpet. Edith says that they’re going to have their landscaper plant some new trees and remove the stumps and the remaining trees. They just need my permission to come on to my property to do so. I have no problem with this and everything seems fine but then she throws in a few passive aggressive comments that rub me (and later Monica) the wrong way. She says “It’s expensive but I want to get this done.” and “Tell your father-in-law he owes me a bottle of wine for saving him about four weekends.” Hey, Fuck you, lady. Monica’s response to this last comment was a furious round of anger that started with “My father doesn’t owe her anything…” and continued on for awhile.

It’s clear that Edith wants me to know that she’s paying for this project. I don’t care. I didn’t offer to give her any money for it for that very reason. After discussing it with Monica, we wanted to make it clear that her landscaper can come onto our land to take down the remaining trees and stumps, but under no circumstances should the new trees be planted on our property. They’re her trees and they should be on her property. I don’t want to go through this shit a few years from now when they either move or die. Edith has been using the area just on the other side of the fence as a garden for awhile and I think that’s my property. I joked with Monica that we should let her put in the new trees and then put the fence on the property line. Thanks!

When I explained all this to Edith, she had some pushback. She said that her landscaper was going to put them around where the old trees were. I again explained that I didn’t want them on my land. She said that the trees are very small. I reiterated that I didn’t want them on my property. Then she relented and said that she guessed they’d have to plant them a little farther in. I guess so.

Now I’m going to keep an eye on this project and see where the trees actually end up. I don’t want to get a surveyor out here to verify everything. I have the original survey that was done on the house when it was built in 1957 which I can use if push comes to shove. Hopefully I don’t have to fight an old lady.

Does This Officially Make Me an Adult?


I’ve been living in an apartment for almost five years now and I’ve grown tired of it. Sure, I really dig my apartment but it doesn’t feel like a home, you know? I’ve longed for the time when I could afford to buy a place to live that I can do whatever I want to and not have to worry about changing everything back to what it looked like before. Sure, I’d have to do things like shovel snow and mow the lawn, but it would be worth it to me.

My goal after Monica and I got married was that we would be able to buy a house by the time our lease is up in July. We weren’t sure that we could afford it though. We actually met with a financial adviser at our bank to take a look at things and everything looked OK. Beginning in February, we started looking at houses in Rockland County. I work in that area so it would be OK for me. Monica just started a new job in Tarrytown so there would be a commute but nothing too bad and probably not worse than what I’m doing now which is about a half hour tops.

We saw about 8 houses and most of them were total shitholes but because they’re in NY and this close to the city, they were expensive. There were some that weren’t bad but would require a lot of updating. Then we found this one house. It was just above our price range but it was damn near perfect. It had almost everything we wanted and plenty of space. After looking at it once, I asked my Dad to come take a look at it with us. Since he’s a carpenter, I wanted him to give it a once over to see if there was anything glaring that we should know about. Everything checked out. We had some questions about the house though so we were waiting. Monica and I had decided we would put an offer in on the house.

Then a couple days later, the realtor called me to answer a few of our questions. She then told me that someone else had put an offer in on the house. It was now or never. We put an offer in, knowing that we had a max that was still a bit below the asking price. We then went back and forth on the price for a day or two before we hit our max price. This was it. We couldn’t go any higher and from what we understand, the seller was basically comparing us to the other buyer and they were going to take whichever one we wanted. We waited another day or so before the realtor called to let us know that our offer was accepted. We got the house.

We had to move fast though. They wanted things set up right away. That was not a problem for us so we got an inspection lined up and an attorney in place. The inspection went well and there were only minor issues with the house, certainly nothing that we couldn’t live with. Plus we have a lot of time because we’re not closing until July.

Now we’re waiting again. The contract has been drawn up and we’re waiting for it to be reviewed by our attorney. If it all checks out, we’ll sign off on it and put a chunk of the down payment into escrow to wait until the closing when we put the rest of it down as well as any closing costs (which amount to a sizable amount unfortunately).

To give you an idea of scale, our current apartment is approximately 750 square feet. This house is almost 2,000. We’re going to move in and have rooms that will have absolutely nothing in it. I’m OK with that because seriously, why do we need a guest bedroom set up right now? Or even the second bedroom? I’m also going to have to re-do the basement for a nice media room. This will be fun though. We’ll have a housewarming party where people will have to bring their own chair so they have a place to sit. I’m looking forward to it.

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