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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cottage 22 Gets Hitched (and endearing pics of Lucas my son)

Anyone who has followed this blog for any length of time knows we have struggled here and there with some of our early customers. I really don't make excuses anymore for since while we played our part in the drama, we certainly weren't the driving force of most of the inanity we suffered through. But as we have gotten better and there are more layers of insulation between me and every single little issue and problem and situation, most of the issues we deal with are put to bed relatively quickly and painlessly. James is a real master with the clients.

So, it's a real marker of our progress as a company to be invited to Courtney and Bronson's wedding the other day. They were our first customers on Tuthill Road, proud owners of Cottage 22, and pioneers of the open basement stairwell look that has reinvented our small homes.

So they got married down in Tribeca at Duane Street Park and it was outside and pretty classy, avoiding a lot of the pomp and circumstance that can really confuse the purpose of the day. It was very tasteful, certainly full of class, and had that one thing that is real hard to achieve - the real affect of intimacy and affection. It wasn't a small wedding, but it was intimate, where the love of the people getting married, and the love of those who were there for them - was palpable and defining. It was cool, especially when Courtney got up at the music venue they rented in the lower east side and professed her love for Bronson - that is what they call a teachable moment. it was great.

They invited their two dogs along, and I got say those dogs aren't typically that well behaved, but they were on this day. I love the story they tell of riding up in the old jeep Cherokee (or something like it) and the electric window motor on the passenger side didn't work - only the driver's side could control it - and the gaseous dogs would be smoking Courtney out and Bronson wouldn't put down the window - I love that type of 10 yr old humor - really works for me.

And from my window in Times Square.

Then, when it was raining every frickin day and we were just trying to get a little post painting down and one of our dumb efforts was to keep them dry with plastic bags - and then some immature person said this is what they 'look like with a condom on' - referring to the undersized bags - I was like 'really'? Grow up for once.

And then Sunday was guys day and Lucas and covered some serious territory. I like to include pics and stories of Lucas cause it makes me seems soft and cuddly as opposed to the total arrogant sob that is rumored to be more accurate. It's all just talk -

Here's Lucas saddling up the bar at Baker's Tap Room in Yulan.

Then we traveled up to Apple Pond Farm in Callicoon Center, and checked out the horses, goats, chickens, etc... he's sporting his 'love stinks' shirt and boots with eyes on them.

then we came across this crate of horns and skulls. We saw Van and Eric of Cottage 31 fame at Apple Pond Farm - they were taking a tour of the farm and some of the energy efficient techniques they use - Eric, the Times writer, just published a fun article on the hotty tennis player Maria Sharapova -

And Lucas back at a cottage I own with Jake and his bone.

And then, when he just couldn't go anymore, the all-in big nap.

We got a lot going on - and the weather has been terrific.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

500th Blog Post

Wow, in September, 2007, I started this blog (i reposted that thread at the bottom) and once, or twice, or 3x I week I go around, snap some photos, brainstorm on an angle of interest, edit and upload the photos, and write some narrative, sometimes compelling, sometimes angry, sometimes depressed but all the time real.

The goal was to track the highs and lows of this endeavor, and with remarkable consistency, I've done it, for better or for worse. They say that like 99% of all blogs are abandoned or un-updated for over 6 months, so just the consistent enthusiasm necessary to get it done on a weekly basis is pretty telling as to the enthusiasm as to which we tackle our day in and day out of running this home design and build and sell company.

Here is a retrospective of the first home in each of our home design lines -

Farm 1, our very first home, inspired by a run-down home outside of Fremont Center, started in 2003, and sold in 2004. Every driveway rock, every piece of lumber, every nail and window nearly bankrupted me - now we build 8 homes at a time and have money left over. We've come a long way baby.

This home was purchased by Phil and Karla and their two children, and they still own it, 7 years later, which is a long time to own a country home. The house wasn't perfect, but it's standing the test of time.

When it used to take us forever to sell a house, we used to furnish them. This one we furnished with a lot of shabby chic antiques. I was so all in in the house, that during the winter I slept there during the coldest nights just to ensure there was not a heat malfunction of any sort.

Matthew and Christopher bought Cottage #1 in May-ish of 2007. Farm 1 was an interesting idea because it was an attempt by Catskill Farms to give upstate retreaters another option besides 'this old house'. This old house is fine, but it's not for everyone. Most of our homeowners have experienced zero extra homeownership costs - which compared to the owners of 'that old house', is an extraordinary way to stay stress free and keep that dough in your pocket - or at least spend it on fun things like furniture, landscaping or building out the basement.

So Cottage #1 was developed with a macro idea in mind as well. At the height of the McMansion/ Hummer craze (sorry Christine), Catskill Farms understood the marketplace well enough to understand what the real sweet price point for our target buyers was. It was around $300k - was true in 2003, was true in 2007 and remains true today. Problem was that prices had inflated to such levels that it became very difficult to find anything half-decent.

So, in a very contrarian and counter-intuitive move, we kept the cool design, we kept the details and the aethestic, but we shrank the house, eliminated a bedroom and brought to market a brand new idea - a small, 2 bedroom, 1300 sq ft perfect little house.

We have just started Cottage 38, so I'm guessing we were onto something. At the time, small was not cool, modesty was way out of vogue, and money was cheap and easy like some whore from a Tom Waits song. Now, everyone builds small, everyone builds affordably, everyone had reduced unused living space.

But back in 2007 - you couldn't find a well-designed small home to save your life, irregardless of how much cash you had.

To keep things real, we also launched a few new styles, like the Barn #1 we built in 2006. We've now done 4 barnhouses, all with great lines, and loft-like attributes.

Once we started building small, we started really playing around since the one thing that keeps us moving is our inclination to keep things real and fresh and new. It's a hard thing to do- especially in building homes when all efficiencies come from standardization. But it's a trap, one that you don't escape from if you sell to clients as savvy as ours.

Mid-Century Ranch 1 is such a great story - It was a 900 sq ft 2 bedroom recession house, with both the bank and lumber company pretty skeptical about us starting 3 spec homes in the beginning of the great slow down - granted, no one knew how bad it would get, but it was pretty bad by the end of 2008.

Erin comes up, middle of January, freezing cold, looks around, sees the Ranch which was just a bunch of studs (framing lumber, not me and James), checks out Albert's barn/music studio that was under construction, and says she'll take it. She buys it, loves it, ends up getting married and the whole story just is really great, especially since her house hunt took all of 12 hours (some families take months and years).

Very cool home and interior.

Mini-Cottages were meant to hit a new price point - the mid to high $200's. With 1000 sq ft, 2 bedrooms, a bath and 5 acres on Tuthill Road, Jason and Justen are pretty settled in 18 months after the purchase.

This is Cottage 19.

And Mauricio's MicroCottage - our first 800 sq ft effort. We really sweated this one - since no one had dared to build a cottage of such miniature dimensions. but it worked out good, and now we've built a half dozen of them.

It's plenty of space, especially when you add in the front porch, back deck, couple of acres and the basement.

And the Shack - 500 sq ft of lovin'. It's our first one - It's cute.

So there you have it. 75 plus homes, $25m invested into this little community, 150 new people introduced to the area and added to the school and town tax roles, all tracked and documented on this little ol' blog of mine.

Which reminds me of a song, 'Sweet Child of Mine', but that's for a different day, different time.

To all of our faithful readers, We Salute You. That actually reminds me of a song as well - "For Those about to Rock, We Salute You'.

So, to our clients, and to our team, hats off. it's been a whale of a ride.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fr*(%^$#cking Rain and Mud

Do I need to say any more? This is what we've been reduced to.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Broken Guitars and Bloody Fingertips

Sure, Jimi Hendrix may have made love to his flaming freak guitar and Janis may have belted out the blues under the bourbon sky and Pete Townsend may have smashed his guitars with bloody fingertips and Ozzy can bit off the all heads of bats he wants, the Dead can space out for decades at a time and Zepplin can destroy hotel rooms, throwing TV's out the windows and ravaging women, and but in terms of just full-on, rock-the-house, head banging, design and construction, no one is topping the charts quite like Catskill Farms.

We are building outside Narrowsburg, up above Lucky Lake, now in a beautiful area named Weiden Estates. It's nearly perfect with evergreen landscapes that remind me of the western Rockies, a big lake and lots of large private parcels of land. We bought up a 12 acres piece, a 15 acre piece, a 17 acre piece and a 8 acre piece - all with the help of our local Jeff Bank, of course.

Up above is one the driveway trucks coming down the road. God, with the rain slowing and the sun and wind drying out the land, we put in 3 driveways and started 3 foundations this week.

It was operatic in it's melody of noise and activity. 2 excavation teams and a hardworking mason flew us threw us across the week. We dug three foundation wholes, formed and poured 3 footings, formed and poured 2 foundation wall systems and at Barn IV we stripped the forms, put the drainage in and poured the floor and backfilled. That's impressive - I would match our design and construction team against any team, any where, any day. Bring it on.

Barn IV is under construction, with a big windy driveway ending with 1300 sq ft of loft living. Comes with 5 acres above Lucky Lake. It's a home that does not have a buyer as we speak - going to go for $335k +/-. A couple who just left my office is seriously considering jumping in.

And then the tar and the backfill. That's quick, especially for a bunch of country boys. I'm a big fan of the Hank Williams Jr song "Country Boy will Survive", and lately man this album from 1993 by a band named James is never leaving my side - the album's name is Laid, and everyone pretty much knows the title track, but delve a little further and jeez those guys can feel it.

And once you can feel it, everything else is easy.

The long and winding road up to Cottage 36.

I think the picture above is pretty cool for it's proportion and scale.

and then the walls are formed and poured almost like magic. Although it's actually because we have the best team since '68 Dodgers (I don't know anything about baseball, so if the dodgers stank in '68 then this analogy probably should be rethought.) And it's actually also because the team is fielding my calls and texts and emails at all hours of the night and day.

"Get it done" - "Where are you?" - "What's next?" "Don't fuck anything up" are my most common refrains these days.

Like they say, make hay while the sun is shining - and the sun is shining. Gloriously.

Farm 11 on 12 acres and long ass driveway to the top of the hill.

And like whoa, holy cow, deja vu. Another foundation hole.

And Micro Cottage 4 coming along nicely. Just saw where a national home builder is coming out with a micro project of 35 homes. We constantly stay ahead of the curve.

Plumbing's in and electric right behind it.

And Mid Century Ranch V shaping up nice with a perfect siding color choice.

Just a few days prior...

And the screened in porch at Cottage 35.

And that's about it for now -