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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Long Ass Blog Post

I hate setting myself up for coming up short by prenaming this blog post as I have, but I'm really feeling it and to be honest, a lot of shit is going on to write about. I'm in Saugerties just settling into a beer and my apartment after two meetings in Woodstock, while managing by satellite 7 homes going up in Sullivan County. Shannon Mc Nally is singing a cover of I'd Rather Go Blind and it's a bit chilly outside and now She & Him are singing You Really Got a Hold On Me (I want to leave you, dont want to spend another day, you do me wrong now, , my love is strong now, oh you really got a hold on me...)

This picture above is the sort of thing that really warms my cold downtrodden heart - a house-warming gift from wife to husband of Cottage 36, defining the entry mudroom. It's of a local bowling alley, where the pins are handset, custom framed back in Rye. Like our homes, and their homes in particular, it's in very good taste.

Thing is - I have no business having such an instinctual sense of taste and design, - there is nothing in my background or upbringing that would point to me being able to hold my own, and even compliment a pretty savvy and talented set of clients. But it's there, and it's fun to let the talent grow and bloom on a daily, weekly, monthly, yearly basis - watered not only by constant practice but by the uber-fertilizer of collaborating with fresh client talent constantly. I mean, my clients have good taste - there is no other way to frame it - and they come to us to help them fully realize - and actually live in - the design called their home.

And the dolphin I bought for lucas in Orlando at the International Builders Show James and I attended the other week.

Interestingly, James and I were talking, and somehow we started talking about the last time we called someone 'fart face'. Neither of us could remember, but we did faintly recall it was a real good defense in certain situations. Not too vulgar to get in trouble with the 'rents, but good enough to really put some bully in his place.

I own and run a spray foam insulation business, which James and I started back in the height of the panic when the world was ending - Winter and Spring of 2009. It was like 'screw it, let's double down' so we talked to Jeff Bank who's been financing me and my ventures since 2003 (they just helped us buy another spray foam rig last month) and they gave me some debt and we here we are, still in bizness a few years later. Spray foam is the bomb, and we haven't looked back since discovering it in late 2008.

That's Mike posing for what I guess is the 'The Guys of Spray Foam' calender coming out next year. I was talking to someone today about coming out with a 'women of catskill farms' calender, but I think I better stop there before this becomes inappropriate even by my loose standards.

Yep, you see it below. That, in the flesh, is Deb's business card in Ranch III - Deb from Selling NY. In the flesh, Getting her makeup down in Cottage 35, trading gossip with Cat Greenleaf and the Director at Cottage 34.

I mean, as you all know who have been following for any amount of time, we get a fair amount of press and attention. NYTimes, NY Post, Daily News, USA Today and a lot of other pubs. But a starring role in HGTV's #1 show, a show with 3m viewers (yes, 3m, not 1.7m as earlier reported), a show with international reach, a show that showcases Manhattan's hippest and most expensive property - now, a starring role in that show, that's really saying something about who we are, where we are going, and who our clients tend to be. And there we were. Lil ole Catskill Farms.

The cast and crew at Ranch III above...

and Cottage 36 above...

and the bright and early breakfast I supplied at Cottage 35 - bagels, fruit, donuts that no one admitted eating but they disappeared nevertheless, juice, coffee, pretzels, etc... And yes, they are Oreos off to the side of the table end.

I bought all this Friday night, prior to there bright and early Saturday morning rendevous of 5 different cars at Cottage 35 - so I bought all this stuff then proceeded to break into the donuts, oreos, ice cream and pretzels, making a big bowl of awesomeness, which evolved into a stomach ache pretty quick.

But before that, I had to rush 30 minutes down the road to a zoning meeting a Lumberland Town Hall, which was moved to the local school due to all the people who were expected (ok, maybe I had something to do with that). This was the zoning changes I've been blogging about, - new land use regs that make no sense in the rural area which we reside, etc...

The absurdity of the Supervisor Nadia's tenure and leadership of this zoning never better demonstrated by the constant presence of police at these meetings. It's like 'seriously, what's really going to happen here that we need police'. The two towns up the river didn't feel the need, it was just really insulting but only par for the course. They say 'difficult times make great men/leaders' - meaning only those leaders in power during tough times end up lasting in the historical spotlight. Tough times also expose those not ready for the role, and never has this been more true than in the Town of Lumberland - a leader without the skills to navigate the seas on which she sails.

So I create stiff breeze, and blow her ship off course, and while sacrificing quite a few friends and relationships along the way, end up alerting and motivating an entire community about the threat on their respective doorsteps. And they responded enmasse. Super interesting to communicate outside the typical channels - very annoying to the powers that be, those who pretty successfully miseducate entire communities on certain issues. Local newspapers, local politicians, etc... Without alternative sources of news, very scary how agenda-motivated people with the right connections can manipulate an entire community. Of course all media have bias, but when there is no other voice, it's pretty serious.

Below are our 3 local constables, ready for action.

And the gym is full, with people who have never attended a meeting before, concerned with a basic invasion of their rights and privacy. That's James filming the whole thing - they were lying so much we just decided to tape it for the record.

So that was Saturday before 10:30 am.

Here is the Big Barn and now the Big Garage being built outside of Narrowsburg NY.

From the back deck, looking at the 3 openings that will be retractable garage doors, with the garage sitting down below politely.

Painted, trim going up , tile complete, lap pool filled, and ready for action.

The upstairs bedroom (below) is open, looking down to below. It's a big space, just what the owner wanted.

Great looking garage, for sure.

Modeled after my friend's Benoist's house.

Cottage 38 in Stillwater just turned two big corners, with the Ecotech Spray Foam Insulation being installed this past week, and that all important mortgage commitment and accompanying validating appraisal, verify not what I say the house is worth, but what the area's recent sales say the house is worth. This was the big wild card as we enter new marketplaces - yes, maybe if you are skilled enough you interest someone in your home, but at some point the bank comes in a comes up with it's own value - the biggest issue in modern day home buying.

But here we are, area after area, house after house, - getting our houses financed, getting them appraised accurately - or, simply, in a nut shell, getting it done. Getting the job done.

And Farm 18 is no joke either. This beauty is on the home stretch, with the the horses pounding and jockeys sweating and whipping.

It's a home that mirrors the homeowners. Truly unique, but within the bounds. Tech start up guy and his microsoft spouse. Like I always say, our clients are half the story.

This pics are pre floor stain phase, which by the time I write it, the floors are done, finished, polyed and ready to roll.

As the owner of the company, this pic below says one thing - get those lights lifted up before someone cracks something into them and breaks them and leaves me with the bill. James, are you hearing this?!>!?

And Ranch VI, modeled after unsold Ranch V - just a little bigger, and a little deeper in the woods, with a basement. Just enough to make it their own.

Tomorrow we start the insulation.

Dancing Queen just came on the local Saugerties pub radio where I am finishing off a quesidilla and a beer.

And Barn V rock and rolls and is preparing for a mid-May finish.

Big spaces, real live spaces.

And Lucas behind my offices, playing on a stone wall. He's such a little man now, with full sentences and a real understanding of the important things in life like cookies, toys and Momma.

It's nearly 9. one of the truths of our success to this point is I know how to work like a mule - and so does everyone who is associated with us. For the sole benefit of our clients - funny how simple it is sometimes.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Selling NY and Zoning Meeting

My days definitely have a broad mix of activities - from design, to construction management, to development, marketing, sales, HR, PR, etc...

But rarely are they on such opposite ends of the spectrum today, where we meet and greet a 10 person production/talent/pr team to film an episode of Selling NY in a few of our homes, but right before that I need to lend my rabble-rousing instincts to halt some of the most retarded zoning initiatives ever to appear on the Sullivan County landscape, all while many people were paying attention to gas drilling protections, some mis-guided soul slipped in some really crazy stuff considering where we live.

No cutting trees without permission. Sorry John, Steve, Bryan and Bryce and really just about everyone else.
No fixing cars in your driveway - sorry most of the people who live in Sullivan County, earning less than $30k a year.
Some suburban conservation subdivision - where project over 25 acres need to commit half the land to 'open space forever', shared among the new property owners. Sure lots of people want that .
No smoke emittances over 1 unit on Ringelmann chart (look it up - it's more absurd than it even seems).
And that's just the beginning.

No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, this Lumberland zoning is offensive - it's invasive, it's unnecessary, and it's exactly the opposite of why people are in the area. 5 not highly educated persons on a town board (which was not elected to reinvent the land use laws of Lumberland) are passing rules that claim this small local, ever-changing town board knows how to use and respect the land and private property better than the owners do.

It's insulting. And it's as important to me than the 1.7m viewers that will catch the Selling NY show, if they even let me in the episode cause I'm showing up late cause I'm fighting with the community against this heavy hand of dishonest know-nothings.

Lumberland School, across from the Town Hall. 10am. Believe me, it affects you.

Heavy winds. Should be interesting.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

They call me 'Talent'

Funny, on the call sheet (details of the shoot) for the TV show, the list the PR rep, the Director, the producer, and the 'Talent'. I'm listed as 'talent'. Nice, right?

Also, a little makeup person for me never hurt anyone. I hope they can amplify my high strong cheekbone structure and general TV worthiness.

Lucas continues with his swimming lessons... One day when he went he didn't want to get into the water because he didn't want to get his paws/claws wet. He currently thinks he's a lion.

3's a Charm

Now, everyone knows we here at The Catskill Farms have weathered the recessionary winds pretty well, and we have a fair amount of homes sold to prove it.

But when you leave your house on a Saturday morning and by the time you come back on a Sunday night, have sold 3 homes pushing $1.5m, now that's really raising the bar on what it means on 'being the man', or 'too hot to touch'.

Hello new owners of Farm 20, Cottage 40 and Farm 19. That means we are within a hair's breath (is that a saying?) of matching last years' sales, and, hello, it's not even the end of February.

Interesting stuff this weekend, with a big 10 person TV crew coming up from HGTV to include us in one of their real estate voyeurism shows.

I don't know what it is about all these roadkill motifs as of late. James reported back that the pheasant, with roasted potatoes was delicious, and one of my framers showed up with a fox he found along side of the road in the back of his truck.

Not trying to be gross, but just reporting like I see it.

Bottom line, you can't make this shit up. This is where I live, and who I work with.

Friday, February 17, 2012


So my architect Kevin shows up and comes into the shop and says he just hit a pheasant and it's stuck in the grill of his car. Of course, after the bank robbery, our nerves are a-tingling and the adrenaline is cooking, and then Kevin comes in with some comic relief with a pheasant in his grill.

Sure, it's sad, but life is sad and for some people (or pheasants) life is short and ends poorly. That's a real pretty bird.

But then the story gets weird as Kevin is crying about the damage to his grill. In a strange plot twist, James comes out and says he'll take the bird, and calls his wife up and tells her they are having pheasant for dinner.

So, as we speak, the pheasant is in the back of James' car and his wife has the pheasant stock boiling and seasoned.

Life, it's one big circle of birth and death.

Breaking News - Bank in Barryville Just Robbed

You heard it right - our little town bank, just heisted - more details to follow.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Valentines Day Note

Here' s note from 1861, from a Civil War soldier who felt that death may be lurking in the battles ahead. It serves as the ending moment for Ken Burns' Civil War series, end of disk 1. I always like it a lot, and then someone kindly sent it to me recently. The way it was read in the Burns' thing was extraordinary indeed, with the Ken Burns filming genius adding to any emotional pull of the letter itself. I've cut a little, but left most.

July 14, 1861
Camp Clark, Washington

My very dear Sarah,

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days – perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more. Our movements may be of a few days’ duration and full of pleasure – and it may be of some conflict and death to me. "Not my will, but thine, O God be done." If it is necessary that I should fall on the battlefield for my Country, I am ready.

Sarah, my love for you is deathless. It seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and burns unresistibly on with all these chains to the battlefield.

The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grown up to honorable manhood around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me – perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar – that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not, my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battlefield, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults, and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often times been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness, and struggle with all the misfortunes of this world to shield you and your children from harm. But I cannot. I must watch you from the Spirit-land and hover near you, while you buffet the storm, with your precious little freight, and wait with sad patience till we meet to part no more.

But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights, advised to your happiest scenes and gloomiest hours, always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath; as the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah, do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again.

As for my little boys – they will grow up as I have done, and never know a father's love and care. Little Willie is too young to remember me long, and my blue-eyed Edgar will keep my frolics with him among the deep memories of childhood. Sarah, I have unlimited confidence in your maternal care and your development of their character, and feel that God will bless you in your holy work.

Tell my two Mothers I call God's blessing upon them. O! Sarah. I wait for you there; come to me and lead thither my children.


Monday, February 13, 2012

Traveling and Construction

James and I just got back from the 2012 International Builders Show, hosted in Orlando this year. Last time we went it was in Vegas in 2009. Thats James below (on the left).

And at the Marriott, getting ready to go to the gym and pool.

We were right across the street from SeaWorld.

and a highlight of the show was this spray foam sculpture.

A lot of construction for mid-winter. We have Ranch VI, which is inspired by Ranch V, but with a build-out, walk-out basement.

Good space for sure.

The Big Barn continues apace with the siding being completed, the interior floor going in, the window trim finished up and indoor lap pool being installed tomorrow.

Porches, decks and patios define part of this home's lifestyle.

And Barn V, just entering the insulation phase of things. After that the sheetrock and the wall coverings and then before you know it, we will be painting.

And Farm 18, pretty much rounding that last bend to completion.

...with the interior walls and ceilings covered.

...and board and batten wainscotting.

...the bathroom waiting the tile guy.

...fireplace, bookshelves and lots of space.

And our newest spec house for sale - Cottage 39. Just an idea less than a month ago.

Cottage 38 in Stone Ridge has just passed it's 'rough-in inspection' and is now ready to insulate.

Not to be gross, but most of our current customers are happier than pigs in shit. And why shouldn't they be - I mean, we are really delivering a product and process that is unparalleled in quality, taste and timeliness.

And then a good play I'm reserved to see in early April.