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Experience Matters

About 25 years ago I was called to provide pricing for a rather extensive drainage project in Bethesda, Md. The homeowner had consulted with an experienced builder and drainage expert who had provided recommendations for keeping existing underground water (springs) away from their home. I was asked to review their site and then talk directly to the gentleman who had made the recommendations. This was my first introduction to Alvin Sacks. Since this initial project together, through numerous other collaborations on storm water and site drainage over many years, Alvin has provided me with a wealth of information, advice and sound common sense when it comes to hydrology. To know that water flows down hill is simply not enough. Alvin says you must understand the “science” and how it relates to the structure of your home and site. Approximately 10 years ago, Alvin invited me to be a member of a group of professional business people in the Metropolitan area whose purpose was to help each other in business through information and leads. Alvin is one of the founding members of Metronet and, as far as I know, has rarely missed a meeting. I learned more about Alvin at these…

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Melting Snow and Molds

OK, it's going to melt....we hope.  This is when the saturation starts along the exterior walls of the foundation. If the gutters have pulled away from the house it's only going to get worse.  I don't know about you, but my mold allergies keep me vigilant year-round for water seapage.  It's easier to prevent than fix.  I've been in many homes where the residents are living with and breathing black mold everyday!!  They just got used to it and yet they only buy organic foods!!!  It's like my painter telling me his health concerns about lead-based paints and how he takes a meter with him to check the levels before sanding; (which is a important and necessary), but meanwhile, he is puffing on a cigarette!!! Fortunately, my body tells me when mold is around.  I can feel it immediately. My mother-in-law died 5 years ago from pulmonary fibrosis.  When she was sick the doctors could not figure out what was wrong with her.  She remembered that in the house she used to play in across the street as a child, every member of that family died from pulmonary fibrosis.  She mentioned this to her doctor who tested her and confirmed that she did, indeed, have the disease.  She and her brother…

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What difference does 1 Lousy Rain Barrel make?!

Through a series of coincidental meetings (the third being a clear indication for action) I enrolled and was accepted into the Watershed Stewards Academy (WSA). For the next several months I have/will attend evening classes at the Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center in Severn, Md. along with weekend intensive trainings in various locations throughout the County. "The quintessential role of Master Watershed Stewards (which I intend to be one of) is to organize community action toward the restoration and preservation of our watersheds” and, in particular, to learn, in depth, pollution source reduction strategies – Capturing water at its source is still the best way to reduce the pollutant load it carries to a stream. During one of the first evening lectures Stephen Barry, the coordinator of the Outdoor/Environmental Education, told us future Stewards that we would be getting our very own rain barrel.  I thought, great, 1 barrel - how much good will that do; I don’t even have gutters.  Don’t get me wrong, I know the value of water and never take it for granted; turning the shower off while I soap up and the like.  I’m incensed when the media refers to rain as a ‘threat’ as…

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Early Spring in Timonium

Feel, smell and see spring early this year at the Maryland Home and Garden Show. Petro Design/Build has been on the judging panel for over 10 years and, it's true that the displays 'just keep getting better and better.' This years theme is 'Beautifying your Outdoor Living Space'.  Go to www.mdhomeandgarden.com for dates and times.

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Proper Insulation Can Save your Plants!

This past snow was exciting, beautiful, and for some, provided much needed time indoors.  For others, the snow and subsequent colder temperatures cost much more than they anticipated. Attic spaces that are not properly insulated can allow heat to escape.  Melting of the snow/ice will ensue (in our case from this storm, up to 3 feet of snow in some areas!!!) thus creating an avalanche of destruction on the foundation and plants below.  In some cases, it will bring the gutters with it!!  Additionally, trying to shovel the snow off your plants will only make it worse. Properly insulating your home not only saves you on your direct energy cost but will avoid potential subsequent repair cost and is the MOST COST EFFECTIVE amendment you can make to your home at this time!

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Garden Clutter

Oh, it's been a long winter, as evidenced by the copious amounts of garden ornament and furnishings (often still in the boxes), awaiting warmer temperatures.  Those enticing garden catalogs were hard to resist, as their focus is on wonderful outdoor summer life; something that seemed so far in the future.  The down side to all this early buying is that it was purchased before the garden was designed.  So instead of asking, '"How many people do you typically entertain?" or "What sort of play areas and spaces do you want for your children?" our challenge is to make all the styles, colors and themes fit together cohesively in the landscape.  Clutter is confusing and can negatively affect the energy of a space.   In design, it's truly putting "the cart before the burro"  Style should be determined first.  Traditional, contemporary, arts and crafts, country home, etc. and then the spaces determined by desire and need.  If the client is set on 'collections', than vignettes may be the solution to organization and simple hardscape materials to provide a canvas for the 'stuff'...I mean, 'ornament'. Bottom line; start with a theme/style; lay out the desired functional spaces and then coordinate the furnishings and ornament within those…

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