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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Addition is nearly finished.

In a tribute to the passing of Michael Jackson, I do my best imitation of his famous 'hanging baby from window' moment from a few years ago. Don't worry Lucas, Daddy's got a firm grip.

Speaking of Lucas, he has just entered his real pudgy phase, so we have taken to calling him 'the potato'. Just learned how to get his one arm out of the way and now he roll over and over, to his endless amusement.

I'm dipping his feet for the first time into a pond over at the EarthGirl's house before volleyball the other day.

I don't know when I started wearing my dad's shoes.

At my house on Crawford Road, where Catskill Farms builders are putting on an addition and a lot other bells and whistles, here the guys are putting up a picture perfect picket fence. Say that 5 times (not you Jeanne, after the screen door martini incident, keep things simple). And by the way, a nice shout out to DM, for the new book out on her boss, profiled last week in the Times. We do have quite the varied and accomplished client list at his point.

As it appears, this shot was staged - the men were supposed to act a little more natural, and I asked but did not receive a spray bottle for the imitation sweat - but here it is, by best attempt at manual labor. As Lisa like to joke, 'hey, is that Manuel?", "Manuel who?" "Manuel Laborer." Cracks us up everytime.
That's Juan and Joe looking on.

Front porch looking out onto the street, with lots of symmetry by Mauricio.

And back at the office, James continues to try and figure it all out while not losing a step. Seriously though, as most of my clients know - there is a BJ phase of Catskill Farms and a PJ phase - before james, post james - those lucky enough to buy in the last 12 months have the PJ phase, meaning they were able to work directly with James on many of the home building decisions, tasks and chores, and rumor has it, James has a better bedside manner than lil' ole me. Well, I think that is unarguably true - so Rock on Karpowicz, keep those customers happy. With his purposely slow speech, monotone, odd humor and disinclination to make the tough decisions (passes the buck to me), James has proved an asset worthy of this shout out - always the consummate good guy in white hat.
Nice work James. And Thanks, from me, and the clients I'm sure. He used to always wear one of those french/scottish hats, but he lost that in Vegas when we went in January.

And Lara - our new bookkeeper, project coordinator, and all around facilitator, she comes off a 5 year stint with the largest design/development/build company in the area - so their loss is hopefully our gain. Like I posted previously, we are picking up a lot of great help as other companies in the area slow down, and we remain busy- which, of course, helps us get better while others are fading away.

Frickin' rain continues. I don't think a day goes by where it doesn't torrentially rain for 15 minutes or so at least, coupled with the fact that it rained for a solid month. If this is global warming, this is really going to suck. Too much rain is really depressing. Thing about it, just because it stops raining doesn't mean that you can 'get to work'. Landscapers need dry earth, and painter need dry wood, which takes a few days after the last rain to actually happen.

Here's the front of our 1860's farmhouse we bought, stripped down, and put back together last year. Now this year we added an addition, fixed up the sleeping cottage, and are working on the grounds. I'm planning a big time professional badminton court with a high referee chair, lights, spectator seating and weekend tournaments with celebrity referees.

We had two main challenges for this addition - don't overwhelm the original sweet little house, and 'follow the grade' as the earth tiered down over the the bedrock and ledgerock. Worked out pretty sweet, but it definitely took some experience to make it work out right - which by this juncture in my country building career, I got plenty of.
One thing I do know, without question, is that I am probably one of the most vetted Catskill builders at this point. I can see a piece of land and with a little study, know the problems are, the opportunities are. I can see a house and identify the issues, the resolutions and the problems that are going to arise while traveling from Point A to Point B. It's hard-earned, expensive experience, but while many other things in my business may be fleeting - from the waiting list to the cash flow cushion - that experience of what can go wrong and how to avoid it can never be taken away.

Planting some dogwoods, a pear tree, some grasses and hydrangeas.

The tiered look, from the west - and we are wrapping a fence around to make a nice little play area for the kids and dogs (hopefully getting two dogs shortly).

Our Kitchen, with 4 red lamps, rolling barn door, white pine ceiling painted white, open shelves, reading 'man-chairs' and a plywood countertop. Lisa likes color splashes, and she's also proud of her saw collection on the right.

Looking into the dining room that was the living room. Before we moved into the addition, this was our living room, and the house as a whole was around 1100 sq ft.

These are the original floors we uncovered while renovating. Probably heart pine which would cost $20/sq ft from Carlisle reclaimed flooring if we had to buy it.
It was very exciting when we broke through from the old to the new. We built the entire addition before we broke through. The board & batton wainscotting, stained Anderson french doors, bedroom off to the left and the new living room pod down below. The baby was crying today and I couldn't even hear him, poor thing. We added on around 650 sq ft.

The living room pod. That's my mom - she comes up everytime we move because she is a master coordinator and isn't afraid to get her hands dirty. Since she has been here for every move - let's rewind and remember.
Lived in the 600 sq ft no bedroom rock house for 4+ years - moved to 2900 sq ft 4 bedroom 3 bath renovated farmhouse on 30 acres - got in a financial pickle and sold the estate to Sarah and Dennis, moved to the fancy gated Chapin Estate where we lived on 5 acres and 6000 sq ft, sold that to Erik and Shannah, moved into a 3000 sq ft rental at Chapin Estate, then soon after moved into our present 1100 sq ft now 1700 sq ft renovated farmhouse in Eldred NY. Oh yeah, and Lisa was pregnant for 2 of those moves.

This room turned out extraordinary, and as a builder who has created many great spaces, to be wowed by the emotional feedback from a room is really saying something at this point.

We retained the original exterior of the house in the new section hallway - that clapboard is a century old, and those old foundation stones were laid by hand after being plucked from the fields.

Marrying the old with the new is definitely a challenge, and a real design mistake can really be pronounced and unfixable.

And a great guest bedroom, that will be private and almost serve as a guest wing when we have guests.
The Delaware River outside of Callicoon, NY.

And a picture of the sky, on a day of clarity.

From one of my favorite Jackson songs - "Shake Your Body"
I don't know whats going happen to you baby
But I do know that I love ya
You walk around this town with your head all up in the sky
And I do know that I want ya
Let's dance, let's shout
Shake you body down to the ground
Let's dance, let's shoutShake you body down to the ground
Let's dance, let's shoutShake you body down to the ground
Ya tease me with your loving to play hard to get
Cause you do know that I want ya
You walk around this town with your head all up in the sky
And I do know that I want yaLet's dance, let's shout
Let's dance, let's shout
Shake you body down to the ground
Let's dance, let's shout
Shake you body down to the ground
You are the spark that lit the fire inside of me
And you know that I love it
I need to do just something to get closer to your soul
And you do know that I want ya
Let's dance, let's shout
Shake you body down to the ground
Let's dance, let's shout
Shake you body down to the ground.
A quiet Sunday afternoon, with only the birds doing much of anything.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Our Homes for Sale

Rachel called me up after the eblast went out and wanted to see some pics of the houses I'm selling (she's been up with her husband and child once or twice), so I thought I better post them. But first, up above, a word from our sponsor - Me and My Son, Lucas - who is just entering the real pudgy phase , - sorry Lucas for the shout out.

That's our new picket fence out front.

So here is the perfect country road we are now building on - we currently have 2 houses that are unspoken for.

Couple of deer high-tailin' it out of the way, mistaken me for some version of Bladerunner.

First, we have Cottage 19 - very pretty 5+ acres with 2 bedrooms, two porches, and a big open floor plan. Like a lot of these perfect country getaways, the houses feel quite large and airy even though they are under 1000 sq ft. I think it has something to do with the expansive outdoors, and porches, and the open floor plans.

This picture below is a what it will look like when finished, although not really because we are using cedar shake shingles on the exterior and tricking it out here and there with original details.

Here's the actual house.

And a dreamy version of the interior, with barn doors, strap hinges, wide plank floors and wood


And a pic of the open interior just crying for someone to show it a little love. I expect this house to be finished in September. $245k.

And Cottage 17 is all framed up, electrified, plumbed and ready to insulate. 1300 sq ft, 2 bedrooms, and 8 acres. Audio, security, 2 full baths and a lovely lovely setting. Will sell for around $340,000. Will be ready around September.

Sure, - we're a little bit nuts, building spec homes without a buyer up here in the middle of nowhere during the great recession. But hey, what the heck - Life goes on.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tractor Parade 2009

That's right - Early June means one thing to us event-starved residents - The Tractor Parade - a tour de force down the main street of Callicoon. Like a kid with Christmas, Lisa and her friend Amy wait impatiently from one year to the next.

This year Lil' Lucas participated. That's me in the red shirt and shades, looking too cool for school.

Amy and Adam and a big cabbed tractor in the background.

Lisa and Me and Adam and Amy

Big Sullivan County mountain man making his way down main street in his big rusty tractor.

Lisa has a crush on this one farmer/tractor drivin' man, and here he is. Funny thing is she probably picked the guy with the kindest face out of the whole 350 tractor gang - that's just the way she rolls.

So the tractor parade has been going on for maybe close to 9 years now and Lisa and Amy have taken in most, if not all of them. We've taken most of our family at least once and a whole lot of friends over the years.

That's me again outside the wine store.

Here's a picture of an 'aging hipster'. Not pretty. At least he's wearing underwear today.

Lucas and Duncan kickin' into high gear at Gavin and Emily's house that we finished and they moved into back in December 2008.

And this is a real sorry picture to end this blog - with Gavin and I forced into forced labor to build a garden for Lisa and Emily and not only did we build this kind of sad garden box, but our wheel barrow broke down several times and the topsoil and compost we used was over at David's house which really isn't that close once you load up a flimsy wheelbarrow with dirt.
Here is Gavin swearing at the wheelbarrow, while I'm doing my best inadvertent 'I'm effeminate' look for some reason - probably to try and get out of some manual labor.

So, there you have it. Another funky day in the life of us country bumpkins.
Oh yea, it's raining a lot for the past 4 weeks, and soon I'm going to jump off something high because after a long hard winter, I need some SUNSHINE. Give me some of that SUNSHINE. Lord knows I've earned some SUNSHINE!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Houses in Progress

We're rocking and rolling, firing on all cylinders, pedal to the metal, letting the goose loose.

About 6 weeks ago I bought 44 acres, and with the help of the recession, we have been jamming on all the building fronts. I mention 'with the help of the recession' because it is solely due to the fact that great subcontractors are looking for work, looking to please. As opposed to 2004-2007 when I was building the foundation of my business, when the best I could do was field a team of bad news bears, getting cheated over and over again by subs/employees who completely had me over a barrel - we built a good house since the inception of the business, but the amount of work and management it took to get it done with team I could afford was really beyond description.

Presently - Cottage 17, building lot is cleared, foundation is in, slab is poured, and the house is framed.

It's a 2 bedroom, 2 bath, 1300 sq ft cottage on just about 9 acres outside of Barryville. This house not spoken for yet.

And the same thing over at Cottage 19 - a mini-house with just under 1000 sq ft on 5 very pretty acres.

It's going to be a very sharp house, with particular attention paid to the details.

And then we got Courtney and Bronson's house going up. 5+ acres, little stream running through, and a real nice piece of land that rises and falls. Also some nice stone walls.

And here is Richard and Nancy, who are planning to buy the Barryville Cottage, and they promise I can use their house in the rainforest mountains of Ecuadar.

And my main man Juan, one of the consistent bright lights over the last 7 years - Juan has worked for me since the beginning, leaving for just a few months in 2005, - he's returning to his family in Guatemala in October, after have been away for 9 years. He has two children he hasn't seen, he's earned enough money to build a small apartment complex, and return to his home with a financial cushion and a very good handle of english, which is an advantage anywhere.
Anytime I hire someone new, I always make them work with Juan for a few days and that tells us a few things about the new person - do they know how to work hard? and do they know what they are doing?
Just like a bad egg that takes long lunches and sneaks a joint when no one is looking can move a business in one direction, a hardworking ethos among the crew can make it very uncomfortable very quickly for those who don't desire to contribute evenly or honestly.

A butterfly I found.

And the Barryville Cottage.

And the old lonely road that leads to the houses we are building.

And Peter's gothic cabin -
And my addition at my house on Crawford Rd, Eldred.

It's late, I'm tired, and the baby, wife and Cat are upstairs. Played volleyball at Jill Wiener's farm tonight, outside of Callicoon Center. Joe and Viv from Global Home in Jeffersonville were there, Darren Wisemen from McKean Real estate, and a few other notables were present