Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Postcards From the Lake: It's Hard to Accept

Blogger Lisa asked in a comment about what had happened up at the lake to the place next door, which I wrote about last October in THIS POST. I'll tell all, but first, here's a little background and the rest of the story for those who aren't familiar with this or have forgotten.

Last year, in late September, we headed north to the cottage, arriving late after a wedding. We've had this house for more than 50 years. I was 13 when my parents decided to get a place down the road from the family cottage, which my cousins still have. (I consider that the "ancestral home!")

It was a small cottage but on a lake and on one side, next to a vacant lot. The woman who owned the lot, my neighbor Eulah, lived in a small house on the lot next to it, so basically, Eulah's property was a double lot.

And it was beautiful. Pine trees I would guess were at least 100 years old. Huckleberry bushes where we could eat our fill and make plenty of "Eulahberry" bread.

It was a little haven, an almost-woods right on the lake.

And Eulah was wonderful, one of my "Ladies of the Lake" who knew all the stories and history of the area. She and my parents were great friends. When she died at 102, it was a sad day.

Now, to fully understand this you must realize we aren't on what I call the "fancy lakes." There are many lakes in the north (and area around the bays and Great Lakes) where the property is exceedingly valuable and when you visit them, you see very large, almost palatial houses. We're not that kind of a lake. Most of the homes are older -- there has been some but little building on the lake in the past 20 years because there just isn't land. And those who did build or revamp, for the most part, did it in a lake-oriented style. A log cabin, landscaping, cottage-style.

Now, with Eulah's death, her property went to her heirs who lived there for three years (it was a year-round house) and then the lot was sold. When we arrived on that weekend last fall, this was what we found.

Every tree was clear-cut. Every bit of foliage, every bush, every twig. It wasn't just for the footprint of the house or driveway or even to make a beach. That I could understand. But every single tree? It was what made it "up north."

These trees were enormous and all tall white pine. If you look in the photos showing from the lake looking in, you can see how tall they are. And Rick can show you how wide they are.

Where once you couldn't see across the way, you now could see three lots down.

When we returned this spring, we held out hopes for landscaping. (Not a lot of hopes, but a few.) What we found was a big house that belonged in the suburbs with a three car garage and enough blacktop to make a helipad. (I have considered slipping over in the dark of night and painting a big "H" on it but I suspect they have a burglar system and probably guns.) And don't be fooled by the trees on the right -- those are the neighbors on that side.

The trees you see on the far side? Those are on our side.

If that wasn't bad enough, to make it worse, they tore down one of our birch trees and brush/shrubbery to make room for their septic field. (Like they couldn't have moved it eight feet?) The picture on the left is before and the one on the right is after. Where Rick is riding in the photo on the right is where my car was parked in the photo on the left.

Mark and Katie, parked in that spot where you see my car above, last summer.


This is a view of the same spot looking "into it." You can see the angled birch tree. Some of those in the "second row" back may be on their side but the birches in front and that other, on ours.

And looking at it from the other direction, Rick last summer.

That bare spot on the septic field with the stick in it is where the surveyor we hired last week marked the property line. They didn't take a lot but it changed the character of the drive in.

To say we are heartsick does not begin to cover it. Broken hearted? Indeed. Angry? More than a little (at least about the stuff of ours that went). And baffled? Definitely baffled. Why anyone would want to do this to the land escapes me. Why not build this in town if you want no woods?

It isn't that the house is horrible. Like I said, lovely in the 'burbs. But it just doesn't fit.

Although the thought entered my mind of making that side of my house the ugliest thing that ever lived -- lime green portapotties on the property line, offensive political signs, and such -- I have come to terms that my best solution is to not look at it. But we also feel a little lost on what to do. We might have a case for some financial restitution on the trees that were taken down from our property. Is it worth hiring an attorney? Probably not.

So, as I said, I try not to look at it and instead am investing my energies into finding things that will grow really big and really fast in the lightweight, somewhat sandy soil. No birches. Maybe some tall hydrangeas or lilacs (because after the leaves go, we aren't there anyway).

I know Eulah, who loved the land fiercely and her dear husband Bill, are both turning over in their graves. I almost feel there with them.


Dr. Kathy McCoy said...

Oh, Jeanie! It makes me heartsick to see all the destruction in the name of what? Suburban bliss? Give me a break! What a shame to see the woods destroyed by people with no appreciation for the beauty and majesty of nature. I know how much that lake house means to you and to the others who have lived in harmony with the woods all these years.

So many people seem so tone-deaf to a neighborhood environment. In the neighborhood I grew up in, most of the homes have been torn down to build cheesy McMansions. And the charming L.A. neighborhood - built in the twenties for teachers, police-and-firemen, etc. -- where my brother has a home is being dismantled house by torn down house, with beautiful tall trees being felled, to make room for more McMansions squeezed onto urban lots. Disgusting!

Bella Rum said...

My family owned a beautiful piece of property - almost 8 acres - on the James River in Virginia. When my grandfather died, my father and his six siblings sold the land to a prominent local lawyer. He built a huge McMansion there. Part of the property had a path that led down to the beach. It meandered through an untouched natural habitat. The new owner ripped everything natural out, brought in loads and loads of soil, and created a long, rolling lawn that swept down to the beach. All of the marsh grasses, bushes, trees, underbrush... everything... was removed and a huge lawn that required fertilizer, weed killers and pesticides replaced it. Horrifying. I don't know how he managed to get away with it. There are serious restrictions about touching natural habitat near the river. I know this is what happens when property is sold, but you always hope for a buyer who thinks of the wildlife that lives in those habitats, not just his view or his desires. I feel your pain. It still rankles.

Barbara said...

Jeanie, we have the same problem here in cottage country. People buy lots and clear off all the trees and build what I call 'Mansions in the Woods'. These are year-round, often multi-tiered, multi-level abominations. Then, once they move in they also bring along numerous power boats for their numerous children. The boats are running up and down the lake from day break until dark. So much for peaceful cottage country.

What a shame. I love a cottage - a real cottage where the screen door bangs and you don't have to take off your shoes every time you enter. A cottage where a kid can bring in a fish on the end of a line still dripping from the lake.

What to do? You could try planting something small and dense that will grow quickly interspersed with pine trees that will eventually get quite tall. I don't know if you want to approach them and let them know that they did indeed cross the line and cut your trees. Take a bottle of wine as a welcome. They may want to to make reparations.

Joanne Huffman said...

Oh my. I hope they now know the proper boundary lines (at least the physical ones) so that they do no more harm to your property. I think lilacs are an excellent idea.

Deb said...

This really is very sad. It would bother me every time I looked in that direction. takes all kinds, doesn't it. :(

Linda @ A La Carte said...

WHY would anyone do that? The lake is lovely but the trees make it special. I am so sad that this happened. I don't understand how someone could destroy all those trees. Keep your chin up and just find something that grows FAST!!

Joyful said...

Wow! This is so terrible! I feel very sad for you and your neighbours.The plans and home of the new people on the lake do seem inexplicable. I don't know what the solution is but I do hope you can feel good there again. Hugs. xx

Danielle L Zecher said...

Wow, that's a lot to change in one year. Not that it matters much, but do you think it might have been built as a vacation rental? Maybe they thought bigger/fancier meant better? It does look like a cookie cutter McMansion, not something that fits in with what you describe.

It might be worth talking to an attorney, less to seek some sort of restitution (though that does seem appropriate since they took down trees on your property), but more to make sure that they are made fully aware of boundaries, and that you won't tolerate encroachment. Especially if you're only there in the summer. You don't want to come back next year to find they've crossed the property line with a pool or a fence, or something else that would be really hard to undo. I tend to have some unfortunate redneck tendencies when it comes to property/land, but my knee jerk reaction is to address it to make sure it doesn't get any worse.

Totally off topic, but do you drive a Camry? That's what it looks like to me in the pictures. I drive one (and love it), and it always makes me happy to find out someone I know (even just through blogging) does too.

Laura Beth said...

It is so sad to see that! We have an issue in our neighborhood where people tear down cute houses to build these giant McMansions and they just don't fit on the street. It's worse to see them tear down the trees! Luckily they couldn't touch your lot. I know you'll still have great times there.

My name is Erika. said...

That happens around here too. No one wants small places anymore. They buy cottages and rip them down, no matter what lake they are one. Too bad for you to have that open land scar next to your place, which, by the way, us very cute. It's what I would want, not some big fancy home. Glad you shared this post and those photos. Hugs-Erika

coffeeontheporchwithme said...

That's so disturbing. What is the point of living at the lake if you are going to rip trees down and pave it (reminds me of the Joni Mitchell song... paved paradise, put up a parking lot). I kind of agree with the commenter above about making sure they know your property line. I think there is some sort of law about if you allow it to happen without doing something about it, then it sets a precedent that future infractions can occur, but I might be wrong about that and it might just be a law around here. I would much rather have a "cottage" that feels like being at the cottage, than just being at home. -Jenn

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I remember the post from last year, and I felt bad for you and the loss of trees, too. However, now I feel even worse. I think you SHOULD contact an attorney and let him/her settle the matter. Now I realize you may pay more than you gain monetarily, but if you let them get by with it, they will take advantage of you and everyone else who live or vacation on the lake. This might not stop them, but it will surely slow them down while you are gone. I hope you find a good solution, but I think you should notify someone who can help stop the rape and destruction.

eileeninmd said...

Hello, that is a sad sight to see. I am sorry your view has changed, I would try planting more trees or high bushes to hide that house. I am sure Eulah would be very upset if she were still here. :(

Hubby and I are tree huggers and would never cut down a tree, we would much prefer to see a wooded lot. I hope you find a solution you can be happy with!

Your time at the lake should be fun and not stressful.
Happy Thursday, enjoy your day!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Oh, it does hurt, to see the land being stripped of its life. Jeanie, it never ends, and it never will. I'm so sorry you have had to witness the slow demise of such great family memories. It's a gorgeous property and it maintained the small and cozy feel for so long. But many people just want to have a slice of LIVING LARGE, but some spaces are just not meant for that. So sorry.

La Table De Nana said...

:( A mourning period for certain..

I hate when things change our zen.
They are creating theirs..unfortunately at your expense..Amazing what a huge cedar hedge would do for you:)

shoreacres said...

You know how much I hate this. I hate this so much I dare not even really get started with a comment, because it wouldn't end well. My initial impulse was to hit them collectively upside the head with a 2x4 and scream, "WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?" But of course, what they were thinking was that it would be nice to have a nice, comfortable place where they could look out their danged windows at the lake without having to go outdoors unless they were barbequing.

Hedges, my dear. Great, large hedges. What a loss.

Sandra Cox said...

So sorry. Hugs.
I like the idea of putting up foliage that blocks the view between your place and theirs.

Jacqueline~Cabin and Cottage said...

What a saga of insensitivity. I see bamboo planted here to block unsavory views. It would grow like a weed where you are. Very rapid growing and makes a nice visual barrier. Maybe a little out of place in your neck of the woods. Does it even grow in your climate? I'm so sorry that you are having to live with the insults. On a happier note, I sure have enjoyed your visits to me! We have had many weeks away from home with more to come. My summer posts are so different from the usual. Thanks for stopping in!

Julia - Vintage with Laces said...

I totally understand how you feel, Jeanie. I'm amazed that there is no law against cutting trees of a certain size in such a location. Your neighbors probably wanted a low maintenance yard and additionally make some money with the wood. They still have trees to look at but don't have to rake foliage. How convenient! It's pretty reckless that they didn't even stop at your property line when they "cleaned" their lot. I hope you find some fast growing plants to block the view. At least the house isn't ugly, so it could have come even worse. It's not much of a consolidation though, I know.

Jeanne Washburn said...

So sorry to read this...I'm surprised there isn't a big fancy dock stretched out into the lake...maybe that's next. You certainly have a claim for takings (of your trees) and some negotiating might get you a settlement that could go to planting coverage to block the new view...just a thought. It still is a beautiful spot.

Stacey said...

I'm so sorry Jeanie!! I would die if that happened right next to us. Your lifelong love of that place and the fact that you know the history makes it so much harder. Seriously, I'd throw up probably.

The French Hutch said...

I know this was hard to take Jeanie. I think they probably cut the tress to sell to help pay for building. Why anyone would cut more than necessary to build I don't know. The lush trees and brush are what makes these properties so lovely. Go to your nursery and purchase fast growing shrubs and hydrangeas, mix in pine, which grows fast and you should have your privacy back in a few years. I'm sure your neighbors would be appalled! Will the new neighbors live there year round or is this a summer home?

Mary Rose's said...

OUTRAGED, party of 1 here.

I think you should get an attorney, not for vengeance but for the propriety of the land. They damaged your property, they removed trees from your land. That's a no-no.

Have the McNeighbors plant a properly-situated line of cedar trees (or whatever you want) at their expense.

Shaking my head,

Rita C. said...

Oh Jeanie, without reading anyone else's comments, this is the stuff that really gets me riled up. It is often that my husband and I say good fences make good neighbors. The problem with you NOT doing anything is that it may become a situation of adverse possession - after so many years, their intrusion on your property without action on your part essentially allows them eventual ownership (in more words or less). It looks like they literally are using your property for their septic?? or at least minimally have destroyed your property. I'd have been knocking on their door as soon as I saw what happened and TRIED to stay calm (I'm practically hyperventilating just reading this!) and ask for their explanation. Then I would let them know clearly what they had done (glad you have such distinctive B&A photos and hopefully a survey), and ask what their plan for restitution was/is (with yours & Rick's most desirable outcome already discussed and known). Then it would be a matter of negotiating until you were either satisfied, or plan to take further action. I would NOT let this go. Please keep us posted. What a shame. And yes, I'm sure Eulah and Bill are rolling in their graves.

Lynne said...

Oh my, I will never understand the wide sweep removal of beautiful wooded areas.
Isn't that where the glorious log cabin was nestled?
Changed the ambiance completely, didn't it!!!
Wonderful that you have the before pics . . . BUT!
Have you met the new neighbors?
Just a thought, how about a field of pink flamingoes, along with those political signs!?

Jean | said...

Oh, Jeanie! How awful! I'm so sorry. I think you're doing the right thing - not wasting time/life on lawsuits, but planting big, fast-growing plants. What is wrong with people! My husband is not going to like this - someone spoiling "up north."

Kitty said...

I hope this is not what they did to Minisa. I am with you. I do not understand why and how people are so bent ;on destroying what has been growing for so many hundreds of years. Our ecology is important even in (or maybe especially in) the "out-of-the-way" parts of our country.

Regine Karpel said...


Pam Jackson said...

Wow...your neighbor lived a long life. Sorry for her passing and sorry for what has changed at the lake. I don't think the house fits there either. And yes, you do have a law suit that they took down your trees. It happened to my brother. A guy was building homes next to my brothers place and ventured over on his property and took down a few older tress. My brother won that suit.

Carolyn Marnon said...

I don't understand why developers/people have to cut down all the trees. I think trees can make a place a home. Who wants to live with all that sunshine beating down on hot summer days? Wouldn't it be nice to relax outside in the shade, especially at the lake?

Since you are an artist, my thought is to build a giant art installation that is please to you at the lake, but might be considered an eyesore by someone who had to build a big house with no character.

Lynda Shoup said...

I can imagine how heartbreaking this was for you. It's so hard when the environment around us changes. I remember how bewildered I was when it was decided that the interstate should go through my Grandfather's backyard. It decimated the garden that he had always tended. I remember that Grandpa consoled me by telling me that he now had a modern garage in exchange. More recently I found myself being horrified when a couple of acres of forest along the road I commute was raised. I wondered what was to be built. Two years later and the answer is - nothing. Nothing at all, but the trees are making a comeback. The land lives despite it all. So I wonder. I wonder if the trees will be allowed to do their thing when they reappear. I wonder whether your hydrangeas and lilacs will be a balm to your soul. I wonder whether, with time, things will settle into something better. I hope so. I surely hope so.

Angelsdoor * Penny said...

Dear Jeanie,
What can I say. I am just stunned. Seeing Rick standing next to all the beautiful old pines cut down just makes my heart sick.
Eulah... What a sweet looking woman she was.. I am sure she would have never thought that this would be the future for the property. How very sad.
I love your before photos.
blessings, dear friend.

P.s. Thank you so much for your most kind words.. I am truly humbled.

Red Rose Alley said...

I'm sorry to hear all the trees were cut down on your friend's property. There are always so many changes, and much to our surprise. I often wonder why things aren't just left the way they are. This is a sweet picture of you and Eulah. Those huckleberries made me smile. They remind me of my dad. : )


Victoria Zigler said...

I remembered about it, but didn't want to ask. I feel your pain, and I don't have to see what they've done, or remember how it looked before. I just don't understand some people.

Tracy said...

Oh, my goodness... what a shock! How sad is this... That place definitely belongs more in the suburbs--not by a lake and the woods. Why??!! It just boggles the mind... :( This kind of thing seems to happen more and more. They do that here too. And what are supposed to be cabins in the mountains, often end up being like big city apartments. I just don't get it... LOL! It's the point of a "little place away," meant to be a but of "away from it all"--the two-car garage, big, driveway, dishwasher, the big TV and all that? Oh, my... I like Barbara's idea. Maybe take over a bottle wine and try to talk. Maybe they would be willing to at least go half on some new shrubs or other. Lilacs is a nice idea. Lilacs can grown BIG and tall, you know... kind of a nice, pretty, scented block-out screen?! ;) LOL... Let us know how it goes. ((BIG HUGS))

Kathleen Grace said...

What a shame! Good or bad neighbors can make all the difference and you have no control over who moves in next door. We have new neighbors who we have caught trying to dump in our woods and my husband had to walk over and tell them the lilac he was butchering with his chainsaw was on our property. The one thing that would give me pause is if they have put their septic on your property in any way you may have a problem selling your place some day because of the encroachment. At the very least you need to reaffirm where the property line is. If they have encroached they will have to bear the expense of relocating their septic.

Jemma@athomewithjemma said...

I just want us all to go back to the way it used to be.
I am a naturalist and a preservationist. I don't believe in chopping things down.
I am in favor of you investigating the property lines and making certain that they are clear. In certain states, after so many years, the party that did the encroaching actually ends up owning the property they blatantly and abusively took over.
I am just sick over this too.

Marilyn Miller said...

This just makes me want to cry. I would be soooo angry! Yes, they should be the ones to pay for what you plant there too. So sad for you, I can't even believe someone would build a house like that for a lake house. So very sad!!!

Pam Richardson said...

Jeanie, I feel your pain. You had the idyllic set-up and they came in and ruined it. I am so sorry. Fast growing trees and shrubs will certainly help! You are doing the right thing by not dwelling on it!

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

Oh how sad, Jeanie. I was afraid to even ask about it. The pictures are worse than what I had envisioned in my mind. Looks like their home is going to stick out like a sore thumb. It's so sad to lose those beautiful, gorgeous trees. I hope you can come up with a solution that blocks your view of their property in a tasteful way so you don't have to look at it day in and day out for years to come.

BeachGypsy said...

I cannot beleive they did that. Seriously. Remember that old song about paving paradise and putting in parking lots?? That was my immediate thought when I saw the pictures.

Carola Bartz said...

How can anybody cut down trees on such a big scale and build a house that is completely inappropriate for the area? I simply don't understand and it breaks my heart to see this kind of destruction.
It probably would be best if you planted something beautiful that grows fast so that you don't have to see this anymore.
I think you should contact an attorney. They literally crossed a line and you shouldn't let this go - they will think that they can do whatever they like and since you are not there part of the year (but they might be?) they can do more damage to your property that you will only realize much later. Perhaps you don't want to make enemies of your neighbors which I can understand and therefore shy away from involving an attorney, but if you don't do anything you kind of accept this behavior and encourage them to repeat it. Have you met them and talked to them? Perhaps they weren't aware of the damage they did to your property? Maybe you could contact them first before involving an attorney (if you can stay calm - I would have real difficulties with this).
I hope you can find a good solution that you are happy to live with.

Sally Wessely said...

This is a disheartening post for sure. I am heartsick for you. I see this type of thing happening everywhere. I now live in a place where I remember being heartsick when these homes were built. Heartsick. Never would I believe when I saw this little piece of heaven being developed in the 80's that I would buy one of those homes 30 years later. Now, as I head home I drive up "my" beautiful valley that is near the foothills of the mountains nearly every day and rejoice that I live in a place where there is such wooded beauty. Then, a few months ago, in that valley that I have prayed would remain undeveloped, I saw a sign saying 30 lots were available for development! I see more lots becoming available around me. I see trees being ripped out and houses built in front of amazing rock formations and want to cry, stomp, and turn back time. The real estate market is HOT right now, so land is being sold off like crazy as one generation dies, and the next generation only sees dollar signs. I'm so sorry for the loss of all that made your spot so special. Those trees, those beautiful trees...

Barbara Fisher said...

I’m heartbroken for you and for the trees, it’s just so sad. How on earth did they get planning permission? Or can anyone build anything? Thank goodness for planning laws in the UK, they don’t stop everything, but they certainly stop a lot.

Esme said...

I'll probably get in big trouble-but you lawyer friend is coming over with a big H. What the H. To each their own-too bad it is next to you without any trees.

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