Julie Starr

Fall Purging Can be Fun!

I love finding a new home for the items that I no longer use. This morning, on my way to take the kids to school, I put my carefully culled boxes of outgrown (by kids) or rarely worn (by me) clothing on our curb to be picked up by the Hartsprings Foundation. This local organization (affiliated with Big Brothers/Big Sisters), circulates all over the Pioneer Valley on an ongoing basis picking up a wide array of household donations for families in need. Another great resource is the ReCenter Swap Shop at the Glendale Road transfer station on Saturdays. This is a great place to get rid of many kinds of unwanted household items that are in durable and working condition. In addition, here is a link to the Northampton MA DPW which provides information about where and when to recycling what. To follow is an interesting companion piece from Apartment Therapy about what to purge, and when.

 

25 Things to Get Rid of This Fall

Brittney Morgan, Sep 10, 2017

A "New England Meets West Coast" Style Home (Image credit: Emily Billings)

Summer's over and fall is here, and that can only mean one thing: it's time to do some major decluttering. (What, you thought that only happened in spring?). The change of seasons is the perfect time to reset by going through your home room-by-room to get rid of all the stuff you didn't use all season, not to mention all the stuff you know won't get much use by winter, either.

To help you get started, here's a list of things you can get rid of ASAP from your closet to your medicine cabinet and beyond.

Wardrobe

  • Swimsuits you didn't wear all season.
  • Summer clothes you didn't wear and the clothes you did wear, but didn't feel good about yourself in.
  • Fall and winter clothes and outerwear you don't feel your best in or don't plan to wear.
  • Sandals and other summer shoes you didn't wear all season.
  • Fall and winter shoes you don't like anymore or don't plan to wear.
  • Clothes, shoes and accessories (including sunglasses) that are damaged if you don't plan to fix them.
  • Socks that you don't have matches for.
  • Inexpensive jewelry you haven't worn in ages.

Beauty Products

  • Makeup that's expired or doesn't match your skin tone.
  • Sunscreen you've been holding onto since last summer.
  • Hair and skincare products that have expired (or that you just haven't used in who knows how long).
  • Old nail polish that's lost its original texture.
  • Your loofah (they definitely don't last as long as you think they do!)
  • Samples and travel-sized products you never use.

Sarah's Small & Stylish Brooklyn Apartment (Image credit: Lauren Kolyn)

Kitchen/Pantry

  • Spices you haven't replaced in a few years.
  • Foods you put in the freezer when summer started.
  • All those extra grocery bags you've set aside.
  • Food storage containers that could use a refresh or that are missing lids.
  • Appliances you haven't used since last fall.
  • Extra kitchen utensils you don't use or need.

Miscellaneous

  • Toys, clothes and shoes your kids will grow out of by next summer.
  • Worn-out beach towels.
  • Old magazines you've read through and through or never got around to all summer.
  • Over-the-counter meds or prescriptions that have expired (make sure you dispose of them properly!)
  • Old, worn-out sheets and bedding.

Feeling good? Let's get going!

Don't Forget to Pay Off Your Previous Mortgage When You Refinance!

I came across this interesting tidbit in the Boston Globe today about refinancing an old mortgage. While this piece does suggest the possibility of impropriety on the behalf of ones' attorney... I prefer to see this as information for the informed consumer; another tool in the took kit; a reminder to cross your t's and dot your i's. 

As realtors, we work closely with Northampton area real estate attorneys towards the end goal of home sales and purchases. We are lucky in that we have a wealth of reputable, experienced and communicative attorneys to recommend to our buyer and seller clients. There is always the possibility of human error in any business transaction. This article just makes a salient point about making sure that your old mortgage is paid off at the time of refinancing. Since the current 30 year fixed rate mortgage at Florence Savings Bank, for instance, is at 3.75% with no points - now may be a good time to think about refinancing!

Ask the Lawyer: Refinancing? Make sure your old mortgage gets closed

   

MG/Fotolia

Hugh J. Fitzpatrick III - Globe Correspondent

August 30, 2017 9:41 am

Although the process of buying, selling, or refinancing a home is somewhat standard, as a real estate lawyer, I’ve had more than a few surprises.

One such case was just brought to my attention. Story: Man owns a property in Massachusetts and has refinanced his loan several times. Unable to tolerate another New England winter, he decides to move South and rent out his house. The house burns to the ground, but no one is hurt, thankfully. While dealing with the insurance company, the owner realizes that his prior mortgages weren’t closed before the new ones were opened.

When you refinance, a lawyer is usually involved in the transactions. If the lawyer is representing the lender, he or she is responsible for paying off the old loan with a part of the proceeds from the new one. The money comes into the lawyer’s trust fund account, then he or she issues a check or wires funds to the old mortgage company to satisfy the outstanding balance on the old loan.

Unfortunately, I’ve heard stories over the years of lawyers misusing client funds, taking in the proceeds from a new loan but not paying off the old. In these Ponzi-like schemes, the lawyer will make the monthly payments so the lender will not start foreclosure proceedings. The homeowners never find out; they just assume the loan has been paid.

How do you prevent this? If you are refinancing a loan with a new company, be sure to do the following:

–  Note the phone number on your monthly mortgage statement;

–  Five days prior to refinancing and getting your new loan, call your old mortgage company/servicer to let it know you will be paying off the balance;

–  Wait at least three days after you are issued your new loan (but no longer than a week), and call your old mortgage company to verify that it has received the payoff. (The lawyer handling the payoff should send the money right after the three-day period has passed.)

–  If a week has passed and the loan has not been closed, call the lawyer’s office and ask for an explanation. Tell the lawyer that you want written verification that the loan has been paid.

–  Keep following up with the old mortgage company to verify that it has received payment.

–  If the lawyer doesn’t do as requested, contact the Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers (www.massbbo.org).

What happens if a loan isn’t paid off? Homeowners can seek protection if they purchased an owner’s policy of title insurance when they bought the home — with the outstanding mortgage company making a claim against the lender’s insurance policy, which is issued with all mortgages.

Hugh J. Fitzpatrick III is the founding partner of New England Title and Fitzpatrick & Associates PC, a Tewksbury-based law firm specializing in real estate conveyancing. Send your questions and comments to Address@globe.com. Look for our special Fall House Hunt coverage starting Sept. 11.

Lighting Updates to Attract Home Buyers

One of the many services that we realtors provide our seller clients, is to preview their homes and make suggestions about affordable updates that can give a dated home, or room, a fresh appearance. It rarely makes sense for someone who is planning to sell their home to make a deep pocket investment such as a total kitchen or bathroom renovation. Style choices are subjective, and expensive renovations that a new buyer would want to "undo" can actually negatively affect the bottom-line sale price.  Sometimes a fresh coat of paint and some new light fixtures can go a long way towards making a space feel updated and attractive.

Since we do tend to have a fall upswing in home sales here in the Northampton area, now would be a good time to call your realtor for an opinion about which affordable updates to make before putting your house on the market. This recent article from the Boston Globe gives sound advice about light fixture choices:

Ask the Stager: Tips for choosing lighting that attracts buyers

   

Inspired by factories and older buildings, industrial-style fixtures are now used in contemporary kitchens.

Inspired by factories and older buildings, industrial-style fixtures are now used in contemporary kitchens. Tim Lee Photography/Staging by Staged To Move

Kara Woods - Globe Correspondent

August 15, 2017 11:00 pm

Updated interior lighting is one of the most efficient ways to get a potential buyer’s eyes to light up. Just like a fresh coat of “greige’’ (a color between beige and gray) paint, lighting has the power to change the entire feel of a room instantly. It’s an affordable fix with maximum impact.

We’re currently using the transitional style of lighting to get our clients’ homes showcase ready. A mix between traditional and contemporary, its streamlined and sophisticated look tends to appeal to the broadest audience.

Here are a few of my go-to transitional-style light fixtures:

Dining room/kitchen

The “orb,’’ or round fixture, is replacing the traditional six-candle chandelier. In addition to a dining room or kitchen, these fixtures also light up a foyer.

The Solaris 6-light sphere chandelier by Crystorama Lighting. —Photo by David Turner;Staging by Stage To Move

Kitchen pendants

When updating or installing kitchen pendants, it can be tricky to determine the size fixture you’ll need and how many will fit in the space. The rule of thumb is to space the lights 30 inches apart and 30 to 36 inches above the island surface.

Popular styles that will make your kitchen shine include:

Industrial 

Inspired by factories and older buildings, this style is now used in contemporary kitchens. Industrial-style lighting is common in Restoration Hardware designs.

Glass or clear pendants in a transitional style

Selected for its clean, linear lines, this style creates visual impact without taking up a lot of visual space. A favorite among stagers, potential buyers are able to move their eyes easily over, and through, the entire space. Stick with a polished nickel or chrome finish.

The kitchen pictured below had outdated bronze lantern-style fixtures that felt heavy and blocked the view of the large kitchen and eating area. When we installed these lighter glass fixtures, they opened up the space and showcased the full potential of this beautiful kitchen. (We also painted the cherry cabinets white, which also brightened the space.)

Bronze lantern-style fixtures that felt heavy were replaced with transitional-style glass fixtures, Birch Lane by Northport Pendant, that opened up the space. —Photo by Anthony Acocella; Staging by Staged To Move

Bathroom

Sconces

  • Stick with straight, clean lines and a polished nickel or chrome finish.
  • Avoid the glass shades that look like a bell — in other words, pronounced curves.
  • Stay away from sconces with mini shades.

Stick with clean, straight lines for bathroom sconces. Shown here is the Hewitt single sconce. —Courtesy of Pottery Barn

Overhead

  • Stick with the same rule of thumb as the sconces — opt for straight, box-like lines.
  • Stay away from curves or bell shapes.
  • Select polished nickel or chrome finishes. For overhead bathroom fixtures, select polished nickel or chrome finishes. Shown here is the Alcott triple sconce. —Courtesy of Pottery Barn

Hallway

This situation typically calls for a semi-flush-mount light, meaning there is a small gap between the ceiling and the fixture.

Hallway lighting typically calls for a semi-flush-mount light, meaning there is a small gap between the ceiling and the fixture. The fixture pictured here, by Progress Lighting, features a low-slung shade. —Courtesy of Progress Lighting

Final thoughts

A couple of things to keep in mind as you select lighting and prepare your home for sale:

1. Be sure to combine the new lighting with existing fixtures. For example, if the sconces in the hallway are brushed nickel, pick a semi-flush fixture in the same material so they coordinate.

2. Focus your staging budget on high-priority areas, which include the first floor (or public spaces), the master bedroom, and the master bath.

Kara Woods, an award-winning home staging and design professional who specializes in the luxury market, teaches at the Academy of Home Staging and serves as Northeast regional vice president of the Real Estate Stagers Association. Send comments and questions to Address@globe.com. Subscribe to the Globe’s free real estate newsletter at pages.email.bostonglobe.com/AddressSignUp.

Laminate Flooring is the New Black

One of the benefits of being a realtor, is the satisfaction you gain in selling a home to friends, so that you can watch the transformation of their new home over time. Super handy friends of mine bought a house that needed a lot of elbow grease in Florence center a few years ago. It has been so much fun to watch them transform this diamond in the rough into a sparkling gem, one room and one project at at time. Their most recent project has been to finish the spacious basement. They decided to save some money by GC-ing the project themselves. They hired contractors to do some of the work - hang the ceiling, rebuild the staircase, install lighting and outlets, etc. The rest of the work they did on their own, and the results are beautiful! 

To me, the standout of this space has been their choice of flooring (well, that and the sleek and modern cable stair rail). They decided on a floating laminate floor - and it is beautiful! "Beautiful", you may ask yourself - "but that's not possible with a laminate floor!". Well, that is what I would have thought too, once upon a time. But the laminate "floorboards" they used are just that, beautiful! The photo below (though not a basement space) mimics the floor in question quite accurately. A rustic-looking "wood" floor in medium browns and tans. The fact is, laminate ain't what it used to be. Read on for a recent New York Times article about laminate flooring.

 

Under Your Feet, the Floor Show

By JAY ROMANOAUG. 6, 2008

SOMETIMES neither wood, tile nor carpeting seems like the right choice for a floor. An alternative worth considering is laminate.

“Laminates are probably the most exciting change the flooring industry has seen in the last decade,” said Tom Kraeutler, who is a host of The Money Pit, a radio show, and with his co-host, Leslie Segrete, author of “My Home, My Money Pit: Your Guide to Every Home Improvement Adventure” (Globe Pequot Press, 2008).

Bill Dearing, president of the North American Laminate Flooring Association in Washington, said laminates account for 18 to 21 percent of the retail flooring market for residential remodeling. And since 1993, he said, sales of laminates have increased by more than 10 percent nearly every year.

Mr. Kraeutler explained that earlier versions of laminate flooring were difficult to install because as each strip of flooring was laid, the tongue and groove connection required gluing and clamping of the joints.

Photo
 
CreditJoel Holland 

Laminate flooring available now, he said, is much easier to use. Glue is no longer needed as the adjoining boards snap into place, and it is also more visually appealing, with hundreds of patterns to choose from. “A laminate floor can look like any kind of wood, stone, tile, vinyl, or just about any other flooring material available,” he said. Paul Murfin, vice president of sales for Armstrong Floor Products in Lancaster, Pa., said the flooring can be anywhere from 7 to 12 millimeters thick and can have a smooth or textured finish. With laminate that looks like stone, the surface can have a stone-like texture; laminate that looks like wood could have a raised grain. Early laminates had a tendency to produce a hollow “clippity-clop” sound when walked on with shoes. Newer laminates, particularly thicker ones, eliminate that sound. In addition, Mr. Murfin said, laminates are free-floating surfaces. They are not glued to the subfloor but rest on foam.

Amberlee Virgili, a customer service representative for FloorOne.com, an online retailer of laminate flooring products, said her company sells about 16 brands of laminate flooring, with prices from less than $1 a square foot to about $5 a square foot.

Bob Middleton, technical and installation manager at Lumber Liquidators, a nationwide retailer of flooring products based in Toano, Va., said consumers should look at a product’s warranty. Laminate floors can carry warranties of 10, 20 or 30 years, he said.

Mr. Dearing of Nalfa said, “The best thing to do is to try to look at a display floor.” That is particularly helpful, he added, when a homeowner is considering a laminate floor with a textured finish. Another thing a homeowner can do is visit the organization’s Web site at www.nalfa.orgcom. The organization has established a set of voluntary standards for laminate manufacturers. Manufacturers then submit their products to the organization and can obtain a certificate, usually depicted on the packaging, that indicates that the product in the box meets Nalfa standards.

One final question that many homeowners may ask is whether laminates are right for do-it-yourselfers.

“Absolutely,” said Bob Markovich, home and yard editor for Consumer Reports in Yonkers. Mr. Markovich said his organization tested and reviewed 41 flooring products for its August issue, including a large number of laminates. “If you’re looking for flooring that’s reasonably priced, tough and realistic-looking, and you want to install it yourself, laminates are the way to go,” he said.

Summertime Local Eats!

I love living in the Pioneer Valley through all four seasons - but spring and summer bring with them a bounty of local produce that are the icing on the cake! I love buying seasonal produce at local farm stands, the Northampton Farmer's Market (plus the Florence Farmer's market and Tuesday Market), the River Valley Coop, even State Street, Cooper's Corner and larger supermarkets carry some local produce this time of year. Of course there's also the option of taking a farm share at one of our local CSAs - there are many to choose from in the Northampton area.

I feel my inner chef start to rear her head once the Hadley Grass (asparagus) hits the local markets in the spring. And rarely does a summer dinner go by that doesn't include grilled local corn, asparagus, or squash, a Caprese salad, grilled fish or meat with bountiful salads, desserts made with berries or peaches, or a bowlful of chilled watermelon to fight the summer humidity! I thought this article from The Kitchn which hit my inbox today, did a great job of making suggestions about what to eat in the summer. I might advise against eating ones' weight in ice cream, but otherwise....

 

50 Things You Need to Eat by the End of Summer
 

Sheela Prakash
Aug 5, 2017

There are many iterations of the summer bucket list. Some include going to the beach, hiking, or watching the fireflies outside on the back porch. All crucial to the season, yes, but so is eating all the delicious things the warm weather brings. It seems there aren't enough hours in the long, sunny days to consume all the fresh produce, burgers, and ice cream cones the summer entails. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't try!

Here are the 50 foods we think absolutely must be eaten before the season comes to a close. This is our summer food bucket list.

 

 

(Image credit: Brie Passano)

All the Tomatoes

We forgo those mealy, tasteless tomatoes at the grocery store the entire year in anticipation of the sweet, juicy orbs that hit farmers market stalls mid-summer — and it's completely worth the wait. Once they arrive, it's a seasonal requirement to consume as many as you can, in every shape, size, and color, for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

The Icon: 1-Minute Tomato Sandwich

When tomatoes are this good, they don't need to be fussed with too much. The iconic summer sandwich celebrates their sweetness and requires no more than 60 seconds to assemble, which means you should have time to eat at least a few before the season is over.

Read more: 5 Things to Do with a Pound of Tomatoes

 
 

 

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Eat Your Weight in Ice Cream

An ice cream a day might not keep the doctor away, but it will make for one seriously delicious summer. For the sake of the season, up your consumption. That means ice cream in cones, cups, smashed between cookies, and made into cake. Oh, and other icy treats should be enjoyed too, so don't bypass the Popsicles.

Your Challenge: Make the Best Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream

Definitely hit your local ice cream shop and open the freezer case at the grocery store multiple times, but also try making your own quart this summer. Creamy, rich chocolate is a great place to start.

Related: 25 Creative People Share Their Favorite Pints of Ice Cream

 

 

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Eat Everything That's Hot Off the Grill

Our grills are perpetually fired up all summer long, and we wouldn't have it any other way. It keeps the heat out of the kitchen, and everything from meat to fish to vegetables tastes better after being cooked on one. Toss as many things as you can on the grill while the weather allows it.

 

The New Classic: Easy Lemongrass Grilled Chicken

Grilled chicken is a summer standby for most households, but this season bring a new recipe to the roster. This smoky, savory chicken is extra aromatic, thanks to the addition of lemongrass, and adds just the right amount of flair to your summer weeknight dinners.

Read more: How To Make Juicy, Flavorful Grilled Chicken Breast

 

 

 

 

(Image credit: Christine Han)

Eat Bucketfuls of the Juiciest, Sweetest Fruit

That is strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, cherries, peaches, plums, melons, and more. Eat all of it and eat as much of it as you can. Inhale them fresh, with the juices running down your arms, and then transform them into the desserts you crave.

The Crowd-Pleaser: How To Make a Fruit Cobbler by Heart

A juicy, sticky cobbler is a true celebration of the season. All it asks of you is that you pile as much fresh fruit as you can get your hands on and serve it warm with plenty of vanilla ice cream.

Related: 7 Tips That Will Help Your Summer Berries Last Even Longer

 

 

 

(Image credit: Guy Ambrosino)

Eat Plenty of Light and Easy No-Cook Meals

One of the greatest pleasures of summer is just how fuss-free it is. This applies to what you cook in the season too. Instead of meals that require slow-simmering or excessive roasting, summer meals are light and easy. Embrace this before the weather turns chilly and you do want to stay inside all day and cook a stew. Relish meals that don't require any cooking at all, like salads and chilled soups, and yet are just as satisfying as those that have you crank up the oven.

The Seasonal Standby: Farmers Market Salad

This colorful salad is a catch-all for whatever you may discover on your farmers market strolls this summer. That means it's one you can, and should, turn to over and over again throughout the season.

Read more: How I Turn a Trip to the Farmers Market into Dinner

4th of July Sales!

Since there are fewer open houses in the Northampton area, given that it's a holiday weekend, perhaps your plans include some home decor or home improvement projects? Check out this comprehensive list of in-store and online July 4th Sales from Apartment Therapy!

The 2017 Mega List of July 4th Sales

 
Tara Bellucci
Jun 30, 2017
 
 

Before the festivities and fireworks begin, retailers have already started celebrating America's 241st birthday in the best way they know how—with sales. July 4th is historically a good time to stock up on summer clothes and swimwear, snag a new grill or patio furniture, and check out outdoor sports equipment and gear. We're rounding up all the best sales for home, apparel and more that we've come across, so no matter what you're looking for, you can save this weekend.

 

Home

  • 2Modern—Save 15% on American designers
  • ABC Carpet & Home—Up to 60% off online, sample sale up to 70% off in store
  • AllModern—Extra 20% off with code USA
  • American Heirloom —Free shipping with code AMERICAN; take 50% off all hardwood cutting boards with code HEIRLOOM (codes cannot be combined)
  • Bambeco—60% off site wide with code FIREWORKS17
  • Benchmade Modern—20% off with code HAPPY4TH
  • Bunglo — 25% off with code JULY4
  • The Company Store — 15% off $100+ / 20% off $200+ / 25% off 300+ with code JULY4TH
  • Crane & Canopy—Free shipping on orders $150+ with code SPARKLERS
  • DENY Designs — 30% off with code HIPHOORAY30 through 7/4
  • Design Within Reach—Up to 70% off summer sale
  • Dormify — 20% off site wide sale with code FIRECRACKER through 7/4
  • Gray Malin—30% Off aerial beach prints with code BEACH30
  • High Fashion Home—Up to 20% off select art, valid 7/4 through 7/9
  • Home Depot—Up to 40% off appliances, $10 to $40 off select paint and more
  • Houzz—Up to 75% off
  • IKEA—20% off mattresses and more deals for IKEA Family members
  • illy—$20 off $100 with code JULY4
  • JCPenney—up to 40% off major appliances, 55% off mattresses & tons of other deals
  • Joss & Main—20% furniture, lighting, bedding, upholstery, pillows, rugs and more with code FIREWORKS
  • Laurel & Wolf—Up to 50% off the design package of your choice with code SUMMER50
  • Leesa—$100 off mattress purchase
  • Lowe's—Up to 40% off select appliances, plus rebate when buying 2 or more
  • Lulu & Georgia — 70% off warehouse sale through 7/5
  • Lumens—Up to 40% off plus free vintage string lights with purchase of $350+
  • Overstock—Up to 70% off
  • Of A Kind—30% off select limited editions with code FREE4ALL
  • RugsUSA —Additional 20% off + free shipping with code JULY20
  • Serena & Lily — 20% off everything with code HAPPY4TH
  • Solid & Striped—25% off select styles and free overnight shipping with code USA25
  • Sweetgum Textiles—20% off any order with code JULY4TH. Valid 7/1 to 7/4
  • Target—Up to 30% off on home, furniture, & patio, and extra 15% off with code AMERICA
  • Wayfair—Up to 70% off on patio, living room, rugs, and more
  • West Elm—20% off in stock furniture in stores and online, additional 20% off markdowns with code SUMMER20

Gifts

  • Ban.do—Free shipping on all orders + free sunglasses with purchase of $50+
  • MoMA Store—Extra 20% off with code SUMMERSALE
  • Rifle Paper Co.—20% off everything + four free postcards with every purchase
 

Kids

  • OLLI+LIME — 20% off sitewide with code SUMMER20 through 7/5
  • Oeuf — 40% off spring/summer styles + free shipping (including furniture) through 7/5

Apparel

Summer Projects Worth Doing!

Another Northampton summer is finally upon us. For many people this means, among other things, that new light may be shed upon various projects required to improve your home or property, which weren't apparent during the winter months. 

I love finding encouragement to support a hard won decision. We finally decided to green light our screened in porch construction after two years of hemming and hawing -- and we are super excited that we will have an outdoor space which keeps the bugs out! In addition, look at the words of wisdom I happened upon from the wonderful Apartment Therapy website below - this just happens to suggest that our decision was a good one!

Summer Projects That Will Give You Good Return on Investment

(Image credit: Esteban Cortez)

You don't have to do a total renovation to increase the value of your home. Simple home improvement projects — like landscaping, new doors or shutters, or just a new paint job — can do wonders, majorly transforming the look of your house and bumping up its value.

Landscaping

It's well-agreed that boosting your home's curb appeal will pay off when it's time to sell — though estimates range from 100 to 1,000 percent ROI. Regardless of the exact numbers, it's clear: You'll likely get out more than what you put in. Realtor.com has some ideas, ranging from weeding and maintenance to planting trees (which almost always add value).

Painting

A freshly painted home can get you a 5 to 10 percent premium when you go to sell. It's a no-brainer to paint over those rooms that are scuffed or really need it, but if you're looking to sell in the near future, you can also use paint to appeal to buyers and command a higher sale price for your home. For instance, a recent study from Zillow found that blue is a color likely to bump up the selling price of a space.

Decks and Patios

If you were thinking about getting a deck, patio or porch already, good news: It offers a 90.3 percent average return. You also get a good return if you revamp the deck you already have. You want to make sure all the boards, railings and stairs look sharp and are in safe working order. No one wants a deck that looks like a hazard to have their kids around. And adding things like lighting, planters and gates can up the value even more.

New Doors

Both garage door and entry door replacements have a high return on investment, at 80.7 percent and 98 percent, respectively. Spicing these up can increase the curb appeal over traditional, drab doors. It'll give your place something unique that other homes won't have.

by Sarah Landrum

Jun 23, 2017

41 Pine Island Lake, Westhampton MA NEW LISTING

Check out our new lakeside listing at 41 Pine Island Lake in Westhampton, MA.

Front view of house with stone patio and private outdoor shower on the right side. Storage shed sits behind house

Private beach, steps from the house

View from kitchen, looking towards dining room and living room. Sleeping loft above.

Living room, overlooking the lake

Kitchen, with small balcony off the side of house with steps down to the patio

The larger of the two bedrooms

Wonderful getaway beach bungalow on the peaceful Pine Island Lake in Westhampton. This cozy home features 2 bedrooms, a newly constructed 245 sf insulated sleeping loft with skylights, a separate office on the first floor which could be used as a third bedroom, an open concept living/dining room off of the well-equipped kitchen. A Jotul propane stove for heating and ambience. Step outside onto the spacious patio to enjoy beautiful sunsets, private beach with great freshwater swimming, fishing and kayaking or canoeing, or just a chance to sit back and unwind and take in the views. Pine Island Lake does not allow motor boats which adds to the tranquility of the setting. Property has a large storage shed and private outdoor shower. Tight tank septic installed in 2005. 60 Gallon hot water heater installed in 2011. This home is the perfect spring/summer and early fall getaway - just 20 minutes to downtown Northampton!

Contact Julie Starr to set up a private showing. This home is offered at $345,000. There is a $225 annual HOA plus $100 fee for private road maintenance.

 

Don't Cut Back those Spring (Bulb) Flowers!

It's that time of year when the spring bulbs have stopped flowering, and our annuals are coming to life. This week full of rain has gone a long way towards helping our gardens to grow! Mickey Rathbun of the Daily Hampshire Gazette weighs in again, in the following article, about how to care for your spring bulbs to ensure that they continue to bloom. She offers advice about prettying up garden beds where deflowered bulbs are still hanging out, and lets us know about some upcoming gardening and nature events in the Northampton area! The moral of the story is, don't cut those bulb flowers back just yet!

 

Taking Care of Spring Bulbs

 

by Mickey Rathbun, Daily Hampshire Gazette

Most spring bulbs have flowered by now and are looking a bit forlorn, surrounded by burgeoning spring perennials that are growing almost visibly by the day. The green stalks and leaves of tulips, narcissus and other bulbs may look idle, but they are working hard to store up energy to produce next spring’s crop of blooms.

To ensure abundant flower production next year, resist the urge to cut back the foliage, even though it’s unsightly. The remaining leaves serve a vital function to the plant by restoring energy to the bulb by producing carbohydrates through photosynthesis. Without this, the bulb will not have the necessary nourishment to produce flowers the following year.

Leave the foliage until it turns yellow and dies back, a process that can take six weeks or longer. If the dying foliage is making an eyesore in a visible part of the garden, you can hide it by strategic planting perennials. I finally figured out that if I plant spring bulbs near the back of the border, they are naturally camouflaged by early blooming perennials such as bleeding hearts and euphorbia. This year, a bumper crop of forget-me-nots came up among my bleeding hearts, creating a lake of pale blue. While not tall enough to mask the scraggly bulb foliage, they distract the eye.

Annuals are another solution. Larkspur and Bells of Ireland have good height to block out the dying foliage. Delphinium (some treat it as an annual; at best, it’s a short-lived perennial) and foxglove (a biennial) can also provide a screen. Bulbs of daffodils, tulips and hyacinths are deep enough below the surface that you can put in annuals without disturbing them

 

To maximize the bulbs’ ability to send out next year’s blooms, it’s a good idea to snip flowers as soon as they have wilted. This prevents the bulbs from wasting energy on producing seed. Leave as much stalk as possible to promote photosynthesis.

When the foliage is finally caput, cut them close to the ground. Don’t pull them out or you will risk damaging the bulb. After all you’ve done to nurture the bulb, you don’t want that to happen!

Bulbs will multiply underground on their own. After a few years, if you notice they are producing fewer flowers, it’s likely because they’ve become overcrowded. If this happens, you can dig them up and separate them.

The best time to do this is after the foliage has died but before you have removed it. At this point, the bulbs are fully nourished. Dig them up carefully, separate the bulblets and replant them. The largest ones will mature the fastest. If the main bulb is still firm and in good condition, you can replant it. If it’s shriveled or damaged, discard it.

You might want to wait to replant them in the fall. If you go this route, clean off the excess dirt and let the bulbs dry out for a few days. Toss any that are soft or damaged. Store in a cool, dry place packed loosely in dry peat moss.

You may need to wait a year or two for the bulbs to produce flowers. If you don’t want to wait, you can plant the bulblets in a holding area until they are big enough to bloom. This requires twice as much digging and lifting as immediate replanting. Let your back (and knees) be your guide.

Just think of the delight spring bulbs bring us after a long New England winter. Take good care of yours now and you will be richly rewarded.

Paradise City Arts Festival THIS COMING WEEKEND!

Although this wonderful annual festival offers much more than garden adornments, it’s a great place to find that special object that can transform your garden into something unique and personal. 

Unusual birdbaths, planters, outdoor sculpture, furniture and more. The festival takes place at the Three-County Fairgrounds in Northampton, Memorial Day weekend, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday and open until 4 p.m. Monday. Tickets are $14 for adults, $12 for seniors, $8 for students, 12 and under free.

Forest ecology exploration

For nature lovers and hikers wanting to learn more about forest ecology, the Hitchcock Center is hosting an exploration with plant ecologist Glenn Motzkin of a rich, mesic forest — one where the soils are not highly acid, are rich in certain minerals, and where the soil is moist but not wet. The site will have good variety of trees, wildflowers and ferns.

Motzkin will help bring the ecology of this habitat alive for participants and will share recent understandings about the importance of these habitats. The walk will take place June 3, 9 a.m. until noon, at a meeting location to be provided upon registration. Be prepared for insects and perhaps ticks! Cost is $20 for members; $30 for non-members. For more information and to register, go to hitchcockcenter.org.

Northampton Garden Tour

Come spend a few hours enjoying the six special gardens featured this year in and around Northampton on the 24th Northampton Garden Tour June 10 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., rain or shine.

The self-guided tour raises funds for the Friends of Forbes Library, Inc. to help finance needed programs and materials for the library. It also aims to inspire and educate garden-lovers with visits to a variety of appealing landscape styles and collections of plantings.

This year’s six gardens are located along a scenic 15-mile route, making gardens accessible by car and offering a pleasant bicycle ride with varied terrain.

Driving directions are included with the tickets. At each garden, there are descriptions of the plantings and volunteer garden guides on hand to answer questions. 

Tour tickets are $15 and can be purchased in advance at Forbes Library, Bay State Perennial Farm, Cooper’s Corner, Hadley Garden Center, North Country Landscapes and Garden Center, and State Street Fruit Store. On the day of the tour, tickets are $20 and available only at the library.

There also will be a raffle. of gift baskets on view at Forbes Library through June 8.

For more details visit www.forbeslibrary.org or call Lyn Heady, 584-7041.

Mickey Rathbun can be reached at foxglover8@gmail.com.

 
 

Spring is Springing!

It seems that my favorite time of year is upon us once again (despite the lingering chill in the air). What is more hopeful and celebratory than driving down the Northampton roads and seeing the dogwoods, cherry trees, magnolias, apple trees, peach trees, lilacs and azaleas all in bloom? Before your garden beds are overcome with weeds and the colorful flowers of early spring have died back to allow for the next group of perennials to show their beautiful selves -- you have an opportunity to fill in the blanks! The following article from the Daily Hampshire Gazette lists some local plant sales going on this weekend and beyond - as well as suggestions for colorful additions to your garden beds.

Mickey Rathbun: Colorful New Perennials to Consider

Every year when my perennial beds come to life, I notice two or three places where a shriveled brown clump is all that’s left of a once-thriving plant. I often blame the burrowing rodents who kill my plants by feasting on their roots over the winter. (Surely, the cause of death couldn’t be my lack of care!) Last summer’s drought caused the demise of some of my newer perennials whose root systems hadn’t had the chance to develop. I’m certain I’m not alone in discovering bare spots in this year’s emerging garden.

There is a silver lining to this cloud, though: the opportunity to buy new plants to fill those holes. Many local plant sales in the coming weeks offer hardy perennials. But if you’re looking for something new and different, local plant nurseries are selling scores of bold new perennial varieties. Every year adds a dizzying array of new color choices. Here are some top 2017 picks that will add a welcome punch of color throughout the summer: 

Threadleaf coreopsis provides an easy color infusion for a sunny border. The new coreopsis ‘Crazy Cayenne’ is as hot as its name suggests. Masses of fiery sunset orange blossoms hover over needlelike foliage. The sun-loving plant has a compact, mounding habit. With occasional deadheading, it will continue to bloom throughout the summer.

I love delphiniums. They are short-lived, but their colorful spires of flowers are so spectacular in the early summer garden I can’t pass them up. ‘Pink Punch’ delphinium is perhaps the deepest pink delphinium ever. It bears frilly mulberry-pink blooms with white, brown or pink-striped centers (called “bees”). A New Zealand hybrid, ‘Pink Punch’ grows from 3 to 6 feet tall, but its strong stems seldom require staking.

Delphiniums come in a range of colors, from deep purple to pink and white, but I’m a sucker for blue, a hard-to-find color in the perennial world. ‘Blue Bird’ is another brilliantly hued new variety of this stately, elegant early summer plant. This is a Pacific Giant Hybrid, with a bright blue blossom and a white “bee.” It grows from 4 to 6 feet tall, so staking is recommended.

Foliage can add color, too. I depend on hostas to brighten up my shady areas. A lovely new hosta, ‘Earth Angel,’ has variegated lime and blue-green leaves edged in creamy white. Its pale lavender flowers bloom in early summer.

Heucherella x. ‘Plum Cascade’ is another foliage star, with lobed, silvery-purple leaves that have a trailing habit. Its pale pink flowers rise above the foliage on short, strong stems.

Some people dislike daylilies because, as their name suggests, the blossoms last only a day before wilting and turning yucky. Despite this, I am a huge fan. The bright green, strappy foliage holds up well through the summer, and the abundant blossoms come in an ever-widening assortment of colors. This year’s ‘Primal Scream’ sports enormous blooms (7 ½ to 8 ½ inches wide!) in brilliant tangerine. Its petals are narrow, twisted and ruffled. I’ve found that if I choose varieties carefully, their range of bloom times will keep my daylily border colorful all summer.

‘Primal Scream’ blooms in early July.

Who can resist a splash of bright yellow in the garden? The new Echinaea ‘Golden Skipper’ has abundant, lemon-yellow blooms on sturdy, compact stems that reach only 15 to 18 inches tall. This plant is named after a yellow butterfly of the same color.

Stokesia laevis ‘Blue Frills’ is a new variety of the popular Stokes Aster that brings color in late summer and early fall, when other perennials have finished blooming. With a tidy, vase-shaped growth habit, this aster has large, electric blue flowers (2 ½ to 3 inches wide) with a sparkling white eye. It does best in full sun with good drainage.

This sampling barely scratches the surface of the latest offerings from perennial propagators everywhere.

Mother’s Day Dig Sale

Wilder Hill Gardens in Conway is having a Mother’s Day Weekend Dig Sale, Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. A wide variety of field grown perennials, hardy flowering shrubs, organic small fruits and excellent annuals will be available.

For more information and directions, go to wilderhillgardens.com

 

Berkshire BotanicalGarden plant sale 

On May 19 and 20, Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge will hold its 40th annual plant sale. There will also be a tag sale. Members have special early bird privileges on May 19 from 9 to 11 a.m. The sale is open to the public May 19. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and May 20, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For more information, go to berkshirebotanical.org 

Garden Club of Amherst plant sale 

The Garden Club of Amherst will hold its annual plant sale May 20 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. under the tent, next to the Amherst Farmers Market on the Amherst Common, rain or shine.

There will be many wonderful plants including hundreds of perennials, hostas, woodland plants, grasses, shrubs and trees; plants for sun and shade. 

This year’s sale will also feature bags of fully composted horse manure from a local farm. Proceeds from compost sales will benefit Chesapeake Safe Harbor, a wonderful rescue and rehoming operation for Chesapeake Bay Retrievers run by Roger Booth and his daughter, Gibby, of South Amherst.

 

Southampton Woman’s Club plant sale 

The Southampton Woman’s Club, celebrating 100 years of service, will hold the annual Anita Smith Memorial Plant Sale May 20 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the One-Room Schoolhouse at Conant Park on Route 10 in Southampton. Held yearly since 1991, the plant sale is a nonprofit project with all money going to support a college scholarship program for area youths.

The sale will feature locally grown perennials, annuals, vegetable and herb plants. The club will also be selling a selection of vintage and “gently used” garden tools, containers and decorative garden items. Anyone wishing to help this scholarship program in the form of a monetary donation, or in the form of potted perennials, is encouraged to do so. Please call 527-4568 for further information.

Pollinator-friendly gardening: Lecture and guided walk 

Our pollinators are declining at an unprecedented rate worldwide due to human-induced, rapid environmental change. These declines pose a significant threat to our food supply; consequently, there has been major focus on the development and implementation of conservation strategies to maintain pollination of agricultural crops. However, not enough attention is paid to the key role pollinators play in natural ecosystems, making them an ineffective tool for maintaining and restoring biodiversity.

On May 21, from 1 until 3 p.m., Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston will host a lecture and guided walk with Dr. Robert Gegear, from the WPI Department of Biology and Biotechnology, focusing on pollinator friendly environments. Gegear will discuss the importance of developing an ecologically focused approach to gardening. He will also provide information on how to identify local bumblebee species. After the presentation, Gegear will lead a walk through the gardens to show how to put his suggestions into practice.

Free with admission; pre-registration required. Go to: towerhillbg.org 

Mickey Rathbun can be reached at foxglover8@gmail.com.