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Thursday, August 7, 2008

Deja Vu - Moving Day

Ok, so not only are we finishing up Cottage 7, Cottage 8, the Old Farmhouse, are 1/2 way done with Cottage de Emily y Gavin, framed up on Cottage 9, pouring footings at Cottage 15 and Cottage 13, digging a foundation at Cottage 14 - BUT WE ARE MOVING TODAY - AGAIN.



So let me count the ways - since spring of '06 I have moved my offices 5 times, and my home 4 times. Up here in the sticks nothing is easy, and moving is doubly hard. Not the move itself per se, but you can't keep your phone number and one house you need cable and the next you need The Dish, some houses use DSL, some Road Runner, some telephones are power by Frontier, others by Verizon. We are on our 5 telephone number in 2 years, and my business has changed tele and fax #'s just as many times (luckily, people really want to find us, and throwing a few annoyances in the way hasn't stopped that determination.)



Ahh, the country life. Well, this is it, at least for a couple years. The fact of the matter is we are exploding with business here in this economic and real estate recession and one of the main reasons is because I was able to unload some of our larger projects, keeping cash flow greased and debt loads minimal. To do that, as I kept doubling down in '05/'06/'07, we sometimes had to make some tough decisions - one reoccuring one was selling the home we were living in to go live in one that wasn't selling for some reason. The downside was the constant stress of moving - the upside was we have lived in the great houses the past 2 years, however briefly it may have been.



In the beginning, the Rock House in Cochecton, NY. 4 acres, 600 sq ft. One single big room on top of a big rock. This is where it all started, where the dream came alive, where Fridays evenings were spent going through 16" of accumulated bills (with no way to pay but to borrow more money) while listening to the Dead Hour (grateful dead) on WJFF, the hip local radio station powered by water in Jeffersonville. We had a snake in the house incident, a skunk in the house incident, a bat in the house incident, and a few times we had various animals come scurrying out when we drove up the driveway (which was only passable in the summer months). Probably the most memorable though was the time I lit a fire in the woodstove on a chilly September late afternoon, and failed somehow to notice Lisa was using the woodstove as a 'book display area', ran into Jeffersonville to get something and came home to fire engines and our neighbor Frank exiting the heavy smoked-filled house with 5 burning/smoldering coffee table books - best was he had thrown on Lisa's flowered oven mits to do the rescue. Worst was the fact that it was broadcast over the police/fire scanner that 1/2 the people in the area tune into for recreation - so every knew what happened - but hey, it's a small town area, so everyone always knows your bizness.



It was said this house was built by some Swiss pioneers in the late 1800's, changed hands a few times, was owned by a guy who drove buses in the city until the mid-1960's and then somehow was donated to the "I have a dream" foundation in NYC, and then I bought it, with a credit card, in November 2001. I developed Tusten Farms (Farm 1,2,3) outside Narrowsburg, Callicoon Farms (Old Farm, Farm 4, 5, 6) outside North Branch, and Crawford Farms (Farm 7, Barn 1, Modern 1) before we 'moved on up'. We were broke for most of that time because I had the very bad habit of reinvesting every penny I made back into the business, and leveraging that investment as far as it would stretch. We lived here for 5 years.


Then I found a pretty little farmhouse on 30 acres near Jeffersonville, on the backside of Bethel. Pretty much abandoned and left for dead, we spent a year fixing it up, adding on to it, shaping up the land and fixing up the barn - only reinforcing my notion that the 'fixer upper' is not for the faint of heart, tight of budget, or impatient.


Compounding matters in a negative fashion, I got into a huge fight with my neighbor (photographer mentioned and deleted previously) about the placement of his new playpen barn for his car collection - basically, the placement saved him money and damaged the value of my largest personal asset, my house. Really taking the cake in a kafkaesque fashion - it digressed into litigation and my bank's attorney (who I was trying to protect since I had a decent mortgage on the place) ended up defending my neighbor. That's when I really realized who had my back -no one - and it was up to me to watch out for what was in my best interest.


A very sweet couple with 2 children ended up buying the spread from me, and I'm sure they are enjoying it because it couldn't have been a better house and property - on a great quiet road not to far from everything.


The far front section of the house was original, and the rear taller section with the wraparound porch was the new section. We gutted it, did everything new, and it was really large and stylish living. It had a gigantic laundry/mudroom, big room with a fireplace/kitchen and dining room, 3 baths, and 5 bedrooms. We lived here for 6 months.


Then off to Chapin Estate, on the other side of Bethel, NY. As I have threaded before, Chapin Estate is a 2500 acre nature preserve (gated no less) with lots of big homes and fancy people. This house was nice - new, big, super low-key stylish, on 5 acres overlooking a big horse pasture where the sun set nightly. We lived here for 10 months.


Then, when we unloaded our Farmhouse at Chapin Estate to a real sweet young family, we had to act quick. Previously, when I would sell our homes out from underneath me and Lisa, I would 2-4 unsold houses to choose from - this time I had nothing. And since I was also running a part of my business out of my home office, I needed a shelter and I needed an office.


So I pulled a rabbit out of my hat and ended up renting an unsold adirondack special just down the road from us, still inside the gates of Chapin Estates. This big new house was all log, all the time and couldn't have been less Lisa and Me - but you know what, it was a nice house, quiet, secluded and perfect place to hang our hat while we finished up the old farmhouse we were renovating. We lived here for 6 months.



And today, we move to Eldred, NY - into a 1300 sq ft 140 yr old farmhouse that I have spent the last 4 months restoring. It couldn't have turned out better. And, rumor has it, we expect to stay for a while.



So, there you have it. A whirlwind tour of what we've been up to over the past 6 years - building 24 new farmhouses and cottages, restoring a bunch of antique structures, injecting $15m into this local upstate community and building a neat little business that hopefully is getting better everyday.