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Monday, September 27, 2010

Barn III - Sold

One day the ferns are green and lush and playful and provide an exciting canopy for entire sections of forest floor, and the next they are a dying ember of their former selves. I'm no fernocologist, but Ferns actually seem to be the most dramatic hint of the change of seasons, everything from the trees to the grass take a little more time.

Barn III just began a few short months ago, and here this past Friday we sold 'er off to Gary and Nikki and kids and dogs and extended family and friends. Our barn series incorporates a lot barn ideas and accents without being too barny - just a hint of barn in the shape, a shade of barn in the loft look and feel of the interior, a nod to the barn in the hand hewn beams across the ceiling.

I was so busy last week that I didn't get a chance to get in and snap my 40 great finished house photos so I had to sneak in yesterday, post-closing, with my master key and snap a few shots. Definitely probably going to get 'in trouble' from the new owners, who still seem to be smarting over a sneak shot photo a few weeks ago.

Anyway, so very simple, so very tasteful, so many small little decisions of restraint and taste that add up to something extraordinary.

Nice corner fireplace below.

Hot red kitchen leading out to the big screened in porch which doubles as a kid pen.

Screened in porch made of locally harvested timbers, posts and rafters.

So, another day in the Catskills, where living comes easy and we drink for free.

Oh yea, to answer your question Gary ( the new barn owner), you have two choices for liqueur shopping. At 'the corner' in Eldred, or by the Barryville Sports Bar down in Barryville, on the Barryville/Yulan Road.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

National Press

USA Today picked up a story from Builder Magazine, so here you go.

Catskill Farms kickin' it, big time, recession-free style.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Building Boom

Cottage 33, a presold 960 sq ft mini-cottage. We have started 3 new homes in the last 8 days. Hey, why not, it's just the biggest gosh darn economic depression most of us have ever seen.

I'm convinced that I need to start a support group for small business owners. Maybe I'm genetically pre-inclined to wear a skirt in such matters, but I swear the constant challenges thrown our way are difficult to manage. Whether it be our design team, our development team, our construction team or our organic spray foam team, it's like a day in day out battle against forward-like progress.

Worse, I have found, is to surround yourself with competent, or worse yet, uber-competent people, since then the forward progress becomes accelerated, and the decisions and signatures and directional maneuvers become a daily cascade and bombardment of progress opportunities. When lacking staff, or retaining incompetence, forward making progress is limited by their talents, but all of a sudden putting some real good fits into the right places and the business can zoom ahead, and plans that were on the chalkboard all of a sudden become doable and actionable, and then all of a sudden the rubber hits the pavements and you are wondering whether all the daydreaming is actually a good real life opportunity but it's too late because the deposit check is sent and cashed, the application completed, the contest entered - and then truly in a surprising moment, you wonder if incompetence didn't keep you from moving too quickly in tempting but dubious directions, keeping danger at bay through lack of time and inertia.

Then down the road is our next 723 sq ft micro cottage. We aimed for a 400 sq ft shack but it ran up against the local zoning floor of 720 sq ft, so instead of 'fighting the man' (most who probably live in 500 sq ft trailers), I just stayed above the minimum.

One thing I've learned to accept is to avoid locked and closed doors - find one that's open - there's plenty of them - don't try to pick a lock. Move to the open door. I guess that' the same as saying 'pick your battles carefully.'

And here's an unsold beauty - Cottage 29, just finishing up. It's sweeeeeeeeeet.

Henning and Edwin, two great guys and carpenters, taking a quick lunch before returning to the final details of a perfect sweet cute cuddly little cottage.

And our top-notch cleaning crew. This is a pretty good example of our efforts - we clean our homes not once, not twice, but three times before we hand the home off to the clients. The first clean is just before we start the final push, just to get everything to the next level, the next clean is right before the painter is coming in for his next to last touch-up phase so he doesn't have to deal with dust and stuff, and the final clean happens the day of closing. if nothing else demonstrates our goal of excellence, this does.

Barn III will be closing next Friday - Certificate of Occupancy in hand and the bank said Clear to Close.

Great house - wide open living spaces, lots of elbow room. We started this house back in July or so and Nikki and Gary (Nikki put the kybaush on any new surprise blog pictures) signed up soon after. They are on the way up this morning to do a final walk-thru, and then high-tail it back to the city for Gary's 40th.

And next week this time this baby will be all theirs.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Ranch III - Another One Sold

Someone ought to tell our buyers that THERE IS A MAJOR RECESSION HAPPENING, FOLKS. If I sell one more house this year, or get one more pre-construction deal signed, seriously I 'm just going to go in for a check up cause obviously I'm living in one of those non-real imaginary environments you learn about in freshman philosophy, or worse, maybe it's like "A Beautiful Mind' and I actually haven't sold a bunch of homes this year, doubled staff, and introduced a bunch of folks to the country way of doin' it - it's all in my head.

That would actually be a bit of a downer since who's going then, pray tell, is going to pay for the trout for our pond, Lucas' pre-school at the Homestead, or Lisa's whole food fetish?

Mid-Century Ranch III is pretty cool. It really came together for us and the new homeowners, Kat and Greg (I can't write "Kat" without thinking how cool that name is compared to "Chuck" - some people have all the luck).

Greg is a partner in a commercial space design firm so has a good idea about what he was hoping to achieve with house, and I hope he's as happy as I am with it, since I think it rocks, big time.

I remember during the dark days of November 2008, when the world was ending and panic was in the air, and Catskill Farms decided to start 3 new spec homes, - and one of them was going to be this Retro Mid Century Ranch idea, which was pretty out there. A niche within a niche.

And then young Erin pops up one day from NYC, has never house shopped before, the house is barely begun with like no windows and lots of framing members confusing the layout - so she calls a few days later and says 'she's in'. And history was made - Ranch I was history.

That in no way, however, makes up for what my diet has consisted of since Lisa and Lucas are out of town. Tonight I really hit a low point when I bought frozen pizza from Pecks, the local grocery monopoly. In terms of what Lisa serves this family in terms of nutrition, buying frozen pizza is at the other end of the spectrum - only one step away from the Hungry Man frozen meatloaf and mash potatoes frozen dinner I nearly walked out of the store with.

Our homes are pretty unique and that's really a testament to the wide diversity of clients that we attract. And we strive pretty hard to keep it real - it's pretty difficult to do, to keep these homes unique after 70 of them - it's a fine line, because we aren't introducing new materials - we keep strumming those 3 chords, using our arsenal of tricks-up-our-sleeves, experimenting with products we know, and products that we know won't bust the budget of our value oriented homes.

Like the photo above - not a typical home for us, but the harder you look, the more is familiar, from the sliding barn doors, to the simple trims and mouldings, to the mixing of stains and paints.
The stained concrete was a trick we mastered at my offices and now are comfortable exporting it to our homes. We definitely try new things on our own stuff first when we can..

This ranch sits on 5+ acres, on the same ridge as Cottage 20, Cottage 24, Ranch II and Cottage 28. Soon Cottage 31 is commencing and we own one more lot up there as well. So, we have really colonized that 1 mile of dirt road 2 miles outside of Narrowsburg. And we have a diverse crowd up there as well - diverse people in there diverse homes - or "Unique Homes for Unique Homeowners" -
Radiant heat in the floor, spray foam insulation in the walls. This house will be incredibly comfortable.

The whole house is sort of sexy and when I walked into it, completely finished, sparkling and ready for sale - I definitely understood why we can move as much real estate as we do.

No one provides as much style and service for the kind of money we are charging. And I swear we keep getting exponentially better.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Labor Day 2010- Cue up the Queue of 3

I have watched at least a dozen episodes of TruTv's 'Rehab:Party at the Hard Rock Cafe' since Friday after work. I love it, and it's definitely probably not the type of show I would get to watch if the wifee and son were in Town. I mean, this is where we are different - she likes "Top Chef" and bunch of other food shows (and Project Runway, which she tries to tape and erase before she thinks I will notice that she is watching Project Runway, or America's Next Top Model). I like "World's Most Shocking" videos of police chases, car accidents and redneck convenience store robberies. Also, I'm a big fan of the those new military training shows about boot camp and the like, and I like 'Flipping Out' - the home show that Deborah my bookkeeper says reminds her a lot of me.

Anyway, maybe next year I'll some Rehab parties here at my house by the pond - 'Rehab:67 Crawford Road' - and lots of hot babes in skimpy outfits playing badminton, doing jackknifes of the cliffs and dancing to a cool techno groove. I'll have $2000 minimums by the pond-side Cabanas, and big Crystal bottles of bubbly for the high rollers.

So, I forgot how pathetic I am alone. There's animal guts on the front patio (that's where I am now) that one of the cat's drug home - and since it's 3 days old it kind of stinks and the flies are all around it. The kitchen is a wreck, I've eaten nothing but breaded chicken tenders for 3 days and inside of the house is starting to feel very 'lived in', if I can beg a clumsy euphemism.

I always like to to take the dog Jake out for a big walk in the woods, without his leash, when I can, because the exertion of energy of his part mellows him for the whole day. So today I tried to double up on tasks and went on over to Tuthill Road to let Jake run, visit with some homeowners and grab some photos for the website and for the upcoming Sullivan County Showcase of Real Estate, which we use to monopolize, but then started getting shut out after we made too many enemies - oh, the good times, good times.

So I start at the top, at Cottage 22, and say Hi to Courtney and Bronson and their bulldog Polly started mixing it up with Jake, and they just got this new floppy bulldog puppy which was cute even to me. It was a great sunny day of light and I took some great shots.

Then off to Cottage 19, where Justen and Jason and company were out drinking coffee, cueing up the badminton and drinking some joe on the porch. Grabbed some great shots.

Then over the Daniel's at Micro Cottage 3 where he was doing some sort of construction. Again, grabbed some shots and then off to Cottage 17 where Thom was planting and gardening.

Across the street to Richard's of Baker's Tap Room fame, where the yellow stain of the Barn 2 was looking pretty sweet.

So I walk the 3/8 of a mile back to my car, load up a tuckered out Jake and cruise back to the office. It was about then that I realized I had forgotten to put the memory card in the camera.

Hey, I'm only building 7 homes, running 3 businesses, developing 4 pieces of land, designing 3 homes, showing prospective clients our homes, etc... I got plenty of time to do shit twice.

Luckily there was some ying to this yang- we closed on a house 2 weeks ago, close on Ranch III this week, Barn III in two more weeks. We have also signed letters of commitment on 3 (that's right) on 3 new deals. Cottage 34, Cottage 31 and Cottage 33. One guy who wishes to be known as the 'international art dealer power couple who is going to bring punk rock back to the Catskills', actually wants to trade a Warhol for part of a house. Now, that's really pretty flattering. But like I've been saying for years- these homes are little pieces of art. Should be a busy winter.

God, someone really has clean up those guts on the front porch. They really stink.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

This Post On A Friday Night With the Family Gone, Gone, Gone

Now I’m pissed. I just spent a good hour liquering up to the correct degree, downloading some pics, queing up some Tom Waits – I mean, really taking the time to set up the atmosphere, - and I’m nearly complete with the opening genius of a great blog paragraph when somehow my reflexive hands hit the 4 wrong keys at the same time and 17 pictures and a paragraph of genius is gone baby gone.

So then you are left which the indelible instinct to go watch some Law & Order instead of writing about this total love and affection for life’s little travails. And the thing about it, the travails really usually aren’t that trivial or nuanced, they are serious and attention-getting and in the end, really just the guts of life.

'Now the sun is coming up and I'm riding with lady luck freeway cars and trucks stars are beginning to fade and I leave the parade' - --- just me trying to stay up with a Tom Waits tune -

These Modern little houses like the one above repel people like a Tom Waits song can do to the wrong crowd, - like a bad David Cross joke, or a sick Gavin McInnes plot line, or a lame joke about burned butts - these new little modern houses really have a tendency to rise the ire of the long-time country set. The 2-D version of the plan submitted to my friends at the building department always motivates some gutteral real negative response.

For me, I love them. Retro Ranches, turning the joke inside out on themselves. Proving the often proved cliche that you can't please all the people all the time.

By Mr Waits - " i spent all my money in a mexican whorehouse, across the street from a
catholic church, and then i wiped off my revolver, and i buttoned up my
burgundy shirt, i shot the morning in the back, with my red wings on, i told
the sun he'd better go back down, and if i can find a book of matches, i'm
goin' to burn this hotel down.

well willard's knocked out on a bottle of heat, drivin' dangerous curves
across the dirty sheets, he said when the bitch is wound up, and her parents
are gone, man you ought to hear her with the siren on.
you got to tell me brave captain,
why are the wicked so strong,
how do the angels get to sleep,
when the devil leaves the porchlight on."

I mean, this is no Nantucket talk, Martha Vineyard's whisper, Key West line or Aruba tunage. This is strong stuff for strong stomachs. Waits always kicks it clear of good taste and foot-tapping cleanliness.

Mr & Mrs Mitchell's 2600 sq ft farmhouse on 20 acres has never looked so good. Nearly 60% complete, without a hiccup, a home starts the big bend towards the home stretch of finish and livability.

"Down the shore everything all right, don't you my dreams come true when I'm down the street with you..."

My wife and young son are out of town for a 11 days - not just out of town, but out of touch, in rural Ohio, for some wedding way out in the boonies. Lisa always accuses me of not listening, but I definitely didn't catch the part that she was out of touch - no cellphone, no landline, no passenger pigeon can reach this girl of mine. The Callicoon Farmhouse on the hill outside of Callicoon Center is really taking shape. Talk about kicking ass and not taking names - I mean, this was hillside pasture 800' off the road just 2 months ago - and now we we will be painting in another 3 weeks.

And Cottage 29 just about wrapping up. Just a few faucets and sinks and countertops and grass growing and then we will really have something.

Here's Van and Eric checking out Cottage 29. They are building a very nice new design with us - Cottage 31 on lot 11 on Lake Ridge Road. That house will start construction here in about 10 days.

And Barn III looking real sharp. I don't when we got the building permit but this house will be finished in 7 days and the Tenkman family will be in, enjoying the fall breezes by the end of the month. I'm currently in shorts in my office, and the chill in the air is decidely Autumn in character.

This big wide open barn with 2 bedrooms and a grand loft is killer space.

Above, in these pics, we are installing the handhewn beams across the ceilings that really made the whole house pop.

Steve working away in the bath.
And the bad ass red countertop. I love it - I mean - bam - what a risk - totally worked and a great accent.

Van in the house, getting some ideas and inspiration for his soon-to-be-construction abode.

Screened in porches are all in fashion all of a sudden.

Here's the whole crew - James in the foreground, and Nikki and Gary and 2 very handsome children in the background. Van with the man purse and Eric taking it all in.
Here's a beauty - Cottage 28.

and Susan's Cottage 20.

And the entry way to Ranch III, which we are just finishing up and set to close on Wednesday.

And some great pics of some deep sleeping beauties. Lucas looks like he is 15 already - 'who's that man in my bed?!'

Big long weekend - every one of my homes seems to be occupied this weekend - pretty cool to provide the country way of life to so many.