My GOOD friend, the Appraisal District

When I decided to move from my old house in Austin, TX I never held a garage sale to get rid of my garden possessions although an irritating acquaintance kept badgering me to sell her certain items.  “You don’t want to get rid of ____, do you?” No.  “How about _____?” No.

Most of what I own holds meaning for me… For example, I’m in love with the antique wire gate I took off a fence during my lunch hour one day. I have NO aptitude for anything mechanical so removing it from the fence posts was a feat. I was told the gate was free for the taking if I took it off myself.  I did it in 45 minutes. The gate had to be removed THAT day because the house it belonged to was being demolished (and I thought that house was so cool). I didn’t eat lunch that day, but I have a terrific gate to show for it. And it’s now the gate on my veggie plot.

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There’s also a chimney pot my late husband gave to me as a combined birthday/Christmas gift. I use it as a planter.  I remember wanting the chimney pot in the worst way. It traveled from Pennsylvania to Texas in the back of the shop owner’s friend’s car, and it represented a lot of money for us to spend back then when money was tight.

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Next, there’s Herman, the homemade Easter Island statue.  Herman brings mixed emotions…He was made by an ex-boyfriend whose departure was not on the best of terms.  Is that Herman’s fault?  NO WAY!  So Herman moved with me too. (My neighbors, Norma and Tom, offered to take him more than once. They knew of Herman’s history.)

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Finally, I knew if I sold any of these items, I might never be able to afford some of them again, and I certainly can’t replace the memories they provide.  Do you own items like that too?

Anyway, unpacking the garden stuff (including a few rocks—not the ones from my head) and deciding where to put it has taken more than a year.  Some items weighed a ton, and I had to be darned sure where I wanted them before I paid someone to move them.   ( To my handyman – Oh, wait, I’ve changed my mind…Move that 100 lb bird bath over there by the fence.  No, that’s not good either.  Let me see….How about over there? Nah, put it back where you had it first.

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Ha-ha!  My handyman actually told me I could not put my sundial in the veggie patch.  “Oh, you wouldn’t want it there,” he said.  And of course, you know exactly where it lives now, right?)

Plants have come to this garden SLOWLY.  Last fall, I shopped for plants at Pandora’s Box, a fun little shop in Frankston, TX, and at a local nursery that is only open for about 4 months out of the year.  I bought seeds because seeds are cheap.  (These provided mixed results.) I moved small native plants the birds planted to places I wanted them to grow.  Finally, I hit the big time going to the Smith County Master Gardeners’ Bulb Sale, the Stephen F. Austin State University plant sale, and the local master gardener’s sale in the spring.  (I’m in awe of master gardeners.  I think they are terrific.)

So where am in this process now?  Well, for one thing, there is an ugly 16’ x 16’ concrete pad in my back yard.  (See left side of photo below.) I’m pretty sure it used to support a garage.

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I find spark plugs, license plates, and other car stuff in the dirt all of the time.  Some of it I even USE. (1969 license plates found in the dirt below.)

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Anyway, maybe you can help me with suggestions.

First, I decided I was going to have a sweet little potting shed built on that concrete pad.  I went with this idea for about 6 months, before I realized if I put a shed there, it would block the view of a large portion of the garden-to-be.  Also, I already have a shed, not a pretty shed, but a usable shed never-the-less. Sheds are also pretty expensive.

Second, I decided I might like a rustic pavilion built there.  Yes, I could see through the pavilion to all parts of the yard, yet it would allow for outdoor entertainment even in the rain.  Okay now, honestly, who entertains in the rain? Plus, the concrete pad is shaded. Still, it was pretty in my mind’s eye with a lovely red metal roof.

Since I had business with the property tax appraiser a couple of months ago, I asked them exactly what they would charge me if I put a shed, a pavilion, a tepee, etc. on the concrete pad .  Turns out, they charge for it ALL, be it a shed, pavilion, igloo, wimpy grape arbor with lattice, hut, you name it, they charge $$$, and I already pay $183.00 per year for the concrete pad in all of its ugliness.  That didn’t make me happy.

So then I became CUNNING.  My neighbor, Mr. Harris, influenced me.  It’s not my fault.

When I told Mr. Harris how unhappy I was about the cost of putting anything on that concrete pad, he said, “Well, just don’t tell them.”  I replied, “That’s no good.  They can see whatever I put on it via satellite. They can spy.”  He responded, “Well, then get on your roof and paint 628 Sycamore on it. When the appraisers call you about taxing your un-permitted igloo, you can look at their satellite photo and say, ‘Well, that’s not MY address!’”  Mr. Harris got me to thinking, and I came up with three ingenious-if-I-say-so-myself ideas:

  • Buy a used utility trailer and put a roof on it. Make it look like a little caravan-patio.  Since it’s technically a vehicle, the appraisal district can’t charge for it.
  • Build a LARGE “chicken tractor” that has the dual purpose of being a pavilion, and purchase two laying hens to go with it. A chicken tractor with WHEELS is not a permanent structure.  It’s a vehicle, and they can’t charge for it.
  • Give in and buy a large patio umbrella, a set of patio furniture, and then decorate the concrete pad with a rug, plants, and maybe lattice without a roof.

Got suggestions?  I’m all ears.

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