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The Weekenders: Welcome to the Country

Welcome to The Weekenders, a new weekly(ish) column by blogger Kim McGalliard, a Brooklynite with a weekend pad in Greene County who’s going to answer all your pressing questions about how the upstate/downstate life works. Who keeps your pipes from freezing in the winter? How do you discern your perfect country house — in town, modern, rural, vintage? And what of this pesky tax man and his country house levees?

Kim grew up in the mountains of Colorado, but has been a city girl in San Francisco and New York for 20 years. She’s very happy to be back in the country, even if it’s only for the weekends (for now anyway).  She also blogs about cooking and usability at Edible/Usable. Feel free to leave questions and topic suggestions for Kim in the comments sections.

Catskills Barn

Ever since my boyfriend and I bought a house in the Catskills a little over a year ago, people at work have stopped asking me what I’m doing for the weekend.  On Monday morning it’s never “What did you do this weekend,” in a general way, but rather very specifically, “What did you work on this weekend up at your house?”  They all know that we make the trip to the house EVERY weekend.  Like friends we used to hangout with in restaurants and bars in the city that we never see anymore because they’ve had kids, we’ve gone AWOL.  Worse, you could say we’ve gone over to the “other side.”  Buying a place upstate has been transformative for us – even though we’re only “weekenders.”

In March of 2011 we bought a house in the town of Lexington in Greene County.  Since then we’ve taken the three-hour (sometimes plus or minus 15 minute) trip to our place in the Catskills every weekend.  Well, OK, there were four weekends we missed:  two  to pack up and move out of one of our two apartments (we didn’t live together when we bought our house), and two others for important friend occasions in the city.  But other than that, when Friday evening comes around, we’re on our way upstate.

When we started looking for an upstate home back in 2010, we talked about writing a blog about our home search and our experience in creating a second home upstate.  In the end we never got it off the ground because work on the house got in the way.  So when I discovered Upstater, I definitely felt a kinship and identified with what they are trying to do. In the year since we’ve bought our place we’ve learned a lot about having a second home upstate.  We’ve also learned that we have a lot more to learn, but that we have a lot of ideas and experience to share.

So in these (hopefully) weekly posts,  I’m planning to write about multiple topics that current or potential weekenders face: searching for and finding the right upstate home; ideas about transportation, budgets, money and local taxes; maintaining a part-time place;  making friends and building a second social life in a new place, while maintaining your city social connections, and in general how we’re making a great weekend home.

We love our house and we love spending time there.  We just spent a week there and didn’t have any desire to go back to the city, but alas we had to (work, work, work). Conversely, I know some people who have a place not far from us that feel like they’ve found the perfect balance for them – after a weekend in the country, they felt rested and relaxed, and just as they start to get bored, it’s time to go back to the city.   The important thing is that you identify which type of weekender you are, or at least think about what type of weekender you think you are, and and try to find the place that fits.

I welcome any questions, comments or suggestions and look forward to contributing to Upstater.

Category: Lexington, Top Stories, upstate new york, Weekenders

By: Kim | 8 June 2012 12:00 PM | 13 Comments

13 Responses

  1. missy says:

    Thank you, Kim! I’ve been hoping for this kind of series and look forward to reading about your experience.

    My husband and I have been discussing a weekend place upstate for nearly a year. One month we’re all for it, the next we’re not. I look forward to this kind of discussion to give us some perspective and make the decision easier.

    One of our current sticking points is the drive. We’re concerned that we’re not prepared for all of the driving that we’d have to do. We’ve been “practicing” with day trips to Sullivan County and to nearer locations to do some hiking and whatnot and we can agree on one thing: driving back into the city sucks. If we don’t plan the timing correctly, traffic is beyond awful, especially coming after such peace & quiet. If we do plan it correctly, it’s not terrible but it is exhausting.

    I also want to know more about what your expectations were going into the process re: repairs & DIY projects. We don’t generally think of ourselves as DIYers but we do find the prospect somewhat attractive…but we’re trying to be realistic about what we can accomplish ourselves given our skillsets and patience.

    Finally, can you walk us through the obvious: the process of searching properties, finding and working with an area realtor, getting the financials in order and how long that all took? We’ve been renters all of our adult lives so that’s a mystery to us.

  2. blueirisheis says:

    Great to get another perspective. I bought a second home in Delaware County about 18 months ago. I drive up (3 1/2 hours) from Long Island almost every weekend. I find the weight of the week lifting off of my shoulders as soon as I get over the Tappen Zee. I am not a DIY at all and have found some great local resources to help me on my renovation. I feel like I get to live the best possible life–access to the greatest city in the world, access to the ocean and then mountains on the weekend. I look forward to hearing about your adventures in Greene County.

    • lisa says:

      Hey, blueirisheis! What sort of resources have you found to help with your renovation? We’d love the hear about them!

      • blueirisheis says:

        Lisa:
        I went through a process of searching out people by word of mouth and going to the local hardward stores in the local hamlets. That led me to a great carpenter (who has gotten ALOT of repeat business from me), an electrician, painter and even a reupholsterer. I will tell you, the first project I needed done was a new roof–ripping of the old and replacing with a metal roof. I met and got estimates from 6 separate people and they were all over the place. I had educated myself in the process and could tell who knew what they were talking about and who did not. IN the end, I had some estimates that were 2X. I wound up selecting the last person I met with not just because of price, but because he answered every one of my questions (not every one could), he demonstrated knowledge of old homes (my house is 150 years old)!, and even stated how he would protect some of those elements in the construction phase. That roof project has turned into alot of repeat business for him. I always say I need him to come down state and work on my other house!

  3. thefort says:

    We found out place on this blog – Napanoch. Biggest criteria was the drive which is about two hours without traffic. We have been going regularly to keep an eye on the place and to meet with various contractors and vendors. On several occasions, the trip back has been like 4 hours and made it for a very long day… On our various trips we have learned about the town and met a few neighbors already, since everyone in town knows about the change in ownership. Its a long process before this home becomes habitable (no utilities) with all the changes needed. We are looking forward to the whole experience.

  4. Abel Fernandez says:

    Taxes. There seem to be endless taxing authorities upstate, especially in Columbia/Dutchess Counties. How about the “West Side” — Greene, Sullivan, Delaware Counties?

  5. dj says:

    Welcome, Kim! Very much looking forward to your columns. I’m a Manhattanite just about to close on the Greene County weekend pad I’ve always dreamed of.

    Missy: my partner and I use the drive time to catch up on our comedy listening with iPod downloads like the Ricky Gervais podcasts. Two hour-long podcasts make the drive fly by (and help drown out the cat’s loud complaints).

    • missy says:

      That’s a great idea that hadn’t occurred to us.

      You mention something else that we struggle with: what to do about the cat. Our rule is, the dog always goes but the cat always stays. However, it breaks our hearts to leave her behind for multiple days on a regular basis. She wasn’t the best traveler during the Hurricane Irene evacuation so I wonder whether she’d get used regular car trips or if it would stress her out too much.

  6. cabinfin says:

    Wow, Kim – your experience sounds very similar to mine. We bought (in New Paltz) almost two years ago, and we go every weekend from Brooklyn. The endless list of things to do on the place is part of the fun for us. The choice of isolated serenity verses townie comforts, winterization, the social trade-offs in both places, and the financial wizardry needed to pull it all off are great topics for Upstater. For now, we love every bit of the experience and find the balance very helpful in raising two young kids who will know the trailhead in addition to the subway.

    Best of luck to you and I’ll look forward to reading your regular updates!

  7. Kim says:

    Thanks for all of the comments! I’m planning on addresing most if not all of your questions at some point. I’m on the Trailways bus to Kingston right now: much more on that topic in a new post soon.

  8. priscilla says:

    Hi to all my fellow upstaters. We are so lucky to have this site.
    We were weekenders for 11 years, now full time. Reporting from Saugerties-loving the the Greene Co. info.

  9. frankwild1 says:

    Hi Kim–
    Looking forward to your blog. My family has had a farm for over 40 years in nearby Prattsville. It’s fairly removed from a lot going on, but it’s always been a welcome respite from all the madness of NYC. And although the place requires a lot of care/work, it’s a different kind, usually rather physical, but also extremely satisfying… Much luck to you and I look forward to your posts.

  10. Sam Pratt says:

    If property taxes are going to be a topic, you might find this of use:

    http://www.sampratt.com/sam/2012/06/property-taxes-101.html

    –S.

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