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Friday, January 17, 2020

Another One Sold in Stone Ridge NY - Bigger Barn

I bought 4 building lots at the end of an abandoned cul de sac a little over a year ago, and now here we are, just about finished building it out, and successfully selling all 4.  Finally, after years of effort, I've been able to stack the team with enough all stars to run two independent crews, one in Sullivan County and one in Ulster.  This has enabled each team to stay focused on the project at hand and not bounce around from job to job, emergency to emergency.  This has allowed for better quality control, and less stress, as the jobs are manned each day, and there is a sense of ownership on each specific job by a crew leader, and the responsibility therein.

Of all the things I've achieved over the years, the team I've assembled at this moment in time is top notch.  It's always been good, but this one really rocks in ways that were missing before, be it accounting, book-keeping, or site management.

This rejiggered organization of labor allowed us to power through 2 homes in Olivebridge and now 4 homes in Stone Ridge.  Stone Ridge isn't the easiest place to build, with a stringent building department and a part-time inspector, a mix that can create a slow administrative process.  But we figured out their sweet spot and made it happen, developing and building out $2.5m of new construction, all sold or under contract.

The stories of each home owner, and how they found us, and what they considered before us is telling and individual but contain many common threads and strains.

Barn 33's owner went through more trials than most.  They shopped and bid on a farmhouse on Dawson Lane in early 2018, then they went the whole way to a last and best bid process on the FourSquare in Olivebridge.  After not getting that house, we found them a new piece of land, and built them exactly what they wanted, in record time.  Now they own it, and are spending weekends there.

More picture can be found on our website at CatskillFarms.com - Barn 33.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

New Year, 50th B-Day, Miami Beach

First, I don't know where I was this past year, but who knew Michelle Williams separated from her husband of less than a year last April, and now is 6 months preggo with director of Hamilton.  Wow.  Her hot messiness on screen I guess carries over into her personal life at times.

And I'm hearing a lot of sacred 60's and 70's songs as soundtracks for commercials, but the most disturbing and painful is the Righteous Brothers epic Unchained Melody being used to sell Kentucky Fried Chicken's newest product.  Seriously, that's criminal, and wrong.

In Miami Beach, packing. Been here since Dec 27.  Brought down a big gang to pre-celebrate my 50th, which I turn in February, wedged between Lincoln's B-day and Valentines Day.   Rest left on 31, son stayed till 3rd, and I'm packing up now to get back to work for 2 days of bill paying and cash flow sweating.  Caught myself watching Entertainment Tonight and America's Got Talent the other night - now that's relaxing.

I like to read, but for some reason half the time I pick up books I know are going to be a slog - I don't know why I do it.  But recently I've been zeroed on autobiographies and memoirs.  Elon Musk, Nelson Mandela, and currently Richard Branson.  I lack industry peer groups, so I have to get my motivation, insight, caution, ideas, affirmation from somewhere, and these books are doing the trick.  "Staying the course" is an unspoken motif through all the books.  I'm reading Branson's "Losing my Virginity' now and it's a good one for me since it seems to be reigniting that caution is for losers streak I've always had, but that has been tampered by a plateau of success.  Spend through problems was/is his secret - don't pull back, push forward.  (I'm aware the pics below might not be oriented upright, but that's just the way it is and I can't figure out how to turn).

Christmas was good, always surrounded by family.

I've had a bay front condo in Miami since 2012.  But with a shitty Board of Directors, a never ending building construction project, sea rise that floods the streets on sunny days and better use for my money, I'm selling at the end of February.  Will be sad, but risk management requires hard decisions.  I can always airbnb is without the macro risk of Southern Florida.

Harvard Business Review advice for new year.

Maureen Hoch
From Maureen Hoch, Editor, HBR.org  |  January 3, 2020 
In my last email to you, I asked for input on what’s on your mind, workwise, as we begin 2020. Flexibility was a big theme in the responses I received. First, you want to know how to plan your career beyond retirement. It sounds like many of you want to keep working, just not in a full-time, all-consuming kind of job. I also heard about wanting advice on managing younger workers who prefer a portfolio of part-time roles over a traditional, full-time job. An interesting twist on the same topic! We will be thinking about more ways to cover this challenge from both angles.
As we kick off the new year, I also find myself wrestling with two competing impulses. Like many of you, I’m thinking about how I want to grow and change. To start, I want to deepen my skills this year around motivating my employees and giving them the kind of purpose that makes coming to work about more than just the next rung on the ladder.
I’m also thinking about how we spot new ideas and grow. That can take so many different shapes, depending on whether you’re anentrepreneur, or whether you’re figuring out how your company competes in our age of artificial intelligence, or whether you simply have to demonstrate your own strategic-thinking skills. I’m also trying to be conscious that we’re not simply practicing “innovation theater,” which won’t move the needle.
But as I’m setting these goals, I also find myself feeling skeptical about the pressure we feel to rededicate and reinvent ourselves each January when it comes to our careers. After all, too much passion about work can also lead to burnout.
So let’s resolve to keep learning and growing, but remind ourselves that not everything has to be about rigorous self-improvement. Sometimes we just need a dose of self-awareness, a willingness to express gratitude to others, and moment to pause and remember what we already do well.
Thanks for reading and Happy New Year,

Friday, December 20, 2019

Annual Sojourn - Catskills to NYC

Each year, about two weeks prior to Christmas (exact weekend depends on how the calendar falls - we try not to do it too close to the 25th, but not too far that Christmas isn't yet in full swing), my son Lucas and I head into the Big Apple.  We cut out of school and work a few hours early, and arrive at the NYC hotel around 4 or 5, depending on traffic.  This year was more like 5, because I thought taking the Lincoln Tunnel into the city on a Friday afternoon was a good idea and it wasn't.  Who has ever seen so many tour buses, broadway buses, transit buses and similar jostling to get into the city via a little tunnel. There literally must be 10 lanes of traffic merging into 2.

For several years, we stayed at the Le Parker Meridian on 59th+/-, tried the JW Marriott, but eventually - after FOA Schwartz closed, after the menace and inconvenience of the Trump Tower security and related street closures, etc... - we moved it downtown to the Union Square W, this year enjoying a room at the very top, on the 21st floor, looking downtown, over the debt clock, over the Park, towards the Freedom Tower.  Pretty fantastic room, even by our high flying standards.  Lucas learned long ago how to ask for 'a room on the upper floors'.

From this launching pad, we have easy access to movie theaters, gramercy park area restaurants, the holiday market at Union Square for gifts, subways stations, and of course, the W itself, a pretty great scene of a hotel.  I've stayed at the hotel a fair amount, and they put us on the top floor facing south.  It wasn't a wall of windows type of thing, but it was a pretty great view.

The room was centered, top floor, in the tapered part of the building.  The kids stared and were bewildered by the USA debt clock racing onward that we could see from our window.

We've been doing this literally since he was born, the first trip 2 months after he was born in October 2008.  I think there are pictures of him on the subway and at Balthazars and Pravda that first year, all bundled up.  We've done a lot of great things in those years, including the Botanical Gardens train show, and of course Macy's Santaland.  Lucas brought a friend this year, which was actually pretty fun, though I definitely overlooked or underappreciated how loud (2) 11 year olds can be in a moderate sized hotel room.  Let's just say I spent a fair amount of time in the lobby in what the W calls their Living Room - a great casual space of people coming and going.

Regardless of where I travel to, I typically underplan.  I'm not a morning to night itinerary person, more loosey goosey head a certain way and see what turns up type of person.  While that sometimes backfires, many times it allows for experience by lottery, and as long as you don't mind a bit uncertainty, it can work out fine.  More than that, it works out really well when traveling with a young child who is hard to plan around.

NYC is a fun place to get out and about and let the city happen to you.  Subways, street scenes, taxis, restaurants, holiday markets - always something to catch you eye.

I guess my biggest mistake of the weekend was on Saturday, when I hanging with Lucas and his two friends (1 we took along from home, the other just happened to be in the city that weekend and so he tagged along), it was a Saturday and I knew we would be using the subway so I got an unlimited weekly pass, but didn't know - though in retrospect it's pretty logical - that you can't just swipe 4 times in a row for a party of 4 - there is a timed delay on it, which makes sense since without it all sorts of malfeasance and abuse would occur - I've thought of 6 ingenious ways in the time it took to write this sentence.  That type of monday-morning quarterbacking didn't help me then, and back to metrocard dispenser I went for a more mundane 'by trip' card.  I ended up giving my unlimited weekly pass to a food delivery guy, so that was sort of unintendily Christmassy.

Here's a good photo of letting the city happen around you - I don't know what kind of person attracted their attention, but clearly from the look on the faces of the 2 kids sitting, it was a mixture of fear, weird, and fascination.  Also, when 1 normal person got up, there were able to squeeze their two little butts on the bench.

From Union Square, we headed north to the Guggenheim, where we were seeing a short musical rendition of Peter and the Wolf, but we took a wrong turn on Museum Mile Road and ended up on the steps of the Met, so we decided to get a hotdog, and turns out there was someone proposing to someone on the big concrete steps not too far away.

From there we tried to see Santa at Macy's, ended up at Rockefeller Center (very crowded), the line for Santa was too long (even with our reservations), so we ended up hanging at a watch store which featured a bunch of NBA sneakers and had a playstation area.   It was raining, and we had been rushing around so the kids sat in the store and played NBA 2k for awhile, while I regrouped.  Random, I know.

Simon's mom in Tannis, -community art savant, as well are farm manager of Willow Wisp farms that she runs with her husband Greg,- and she and her troupe were in NYC for a small theater showing of her Farms Arts group's short play about immigration.   She's a little out there (which I like - I've tried to support her various efforts financially for years) and so was the play.  (yes, they are on stilts - Tannis explained it as, since they do a lot of street theater, this helps people see the art, plus adds a real element of off-the-wallness to each production)

Simon and Lucas definitely intrigued.

A few stops at Dunkin Donuts never hurt anyone, was our mantra.

And my boy, growing up.

Of course, the fuel for all this fun was ongoing, with 2 homes half down in Narrowsburg, 4 starting in Callicoon, 4 going on in Kerhonkson NY, 2 finishing up in Stone Ridge NY, 4 new pieces of land being bought in Kerhonkson, 19 lots being pursued in Saugerties, 3 in Narrowsburg.   Renovating new offices in Wurtsboro NY, and working through a 4 lot subdivision in Phoenixville PA.  I'm probably forgetting a few things for sure.

Pics below of the 3 homes going up in Kerhonkson currently.  Really great real estate available in Kerhonkson and Accord, some of the best value around the Catskills.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Narrowsburg Real Estate and Christmas Festivities

First snow of the year came last week, the Sunday night after Thanksgiving.  The big range of projected snowfall kept us in suspense, and we ended up with a good amount, with a little icey rain first to make it a real mess.  It was end of day Tuesday before everyone was plowed out and logistically operational.

I really like my home in Milford PA, and the morning sun is highlighted each day.  This is a shot of Tuesday morning, circa 6:30am.  I renovated a pretty non-descript mid-90's ranch into something pretty neat and inspiring.

Lulu checking out the snow before stepping off the porch.

The light 15 minutes later.

 The hillside in front of the house that I cleared this past fall made for some serious sledding.  We've been talking about it, and on Sunday, with Lucas' friend Jovanni, we geared and gave it a shot.

Tree lighting ceremony in downtown Milford ye ole community house.  My boy in the center, the origins of his height advantage unknown.

The maniac trainers at Burn the Ships crossfit in Milford woke up at 7am on Sunday in order to do 420 burpees, which was the amount of food they collected from their members for a local food pantry.  It took them an hour of constant motion.  These people aren't right in the head.  I dare you to try and do 10 burpees, and see how you feel after 420.  Nearly dead, in need of defibrillator.

Lulu loves the radiant heat at the office. She tries to get every single inch possible of her body to touch the floor.

And since this is a business blog, I should post something about a house I guess.  here's a cool barn house in Narrowsburg NY going up, about 1/2 way done, looking awesome its first snow fall.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Another Day in the Sullivan County life. Holidays, football, crossfit and dogs.

Friday nights in Milford at the Ecumenical Food Pantry.  The future business leaders from local high school were there helping out and I think a few of them thought lucas was cute, for a kid.

The next day was the first annual Rock Climb at Port Jervis Watershed hiking and biking trail area.  1.2 miles down, 1.2 miles up, just like Band Brothers on Currahee Hill during boot camp prior to being deployed in WWII.  Our local crossfit, Burn The Ships, in Milford PA, represented.  You picked a rock, average was around 30lb, you paint it, you carry it.

Down to my sisters in Phoenixville PA for T-Giving.  Playing a board game Trekker, a game based on the National Parks.  Super fun.

Lulu, a really great dog, chilling.

Lucas' new pup, Izzy.  As in, 'time to get busy, Izzy'.

Our 8-0 football team.  Me on the left.  Boy did the other coaches hate to see us win so much.

Then I treated them to a day at a water park.