Catskills - Sullivan County - Ulster County Real Estate -- Catskill Farms Journal

Old School Real estate blog in the Catskills. Journeys, trial, tribulations, observations and projects of Catskill Farms Founder Chuck Petersheim. Since 2002, Catskill Farms has designed, built, and sold over 250 homes in the Hills, investing over $100m and introducing thousands to the areas we serve. Farms, Barns, Moderns, Cottages and Minis - a design portfolio which has something for everyone.

Saturday, April 20, 2024

Progress impeded, progress attained

Another week of rain. I'm not being a baby, I'm just reporting it as it is. It rained a lot more in Olivebridge than Wurtsboro, so I was quite beside myself when I went up to check on the jobs on Friday and found a muddy, intractable, progress-impeding mess. Not cool. It's been going on for months, and everyone expects it to one day just straighten out and be sunny, but that dream has been out of reach since September 2023. The cost of it is adding up, and I'm sure I'm not the only one experiencing financial harm because of it. It's more of a drip drip of impeding progress and lost gain than anything overt, and you can almost lose track of it from one day to another, but make no mistake, the rain we've experienced since September 2023 has been unreal - it's turned my Ashokan project into a constant concern about the degrading impacts all the rain.

Starting a pool company. A modular, crane-installed, container pool shipped whole to the site and installed in a day. Pretty cool idea and should be an interesting pool solution for many families, rather than the drudgery of the 2+ years process a lot of people experience currently. Plug and play as they say. They come in a variety of rectangular options- just enough options to be fun, just enough options not be overwhelming.

The bill from my lumber company for March was INSANE. That's the price of progress, the price of putting up 3 homes in Narrowsburg, and 3 homes in Olivebridge, with their associated windows, roofing, decking, etc... The cash flow that sloshes in and out of this company, from my pockets to the pockets of others, is - as I've often said - remarkable for the economic crossing multiplication ripple effect across towns, families, businesses, and communities. Every month for years if not decades Catskill Farms pumps a million dollars a month into the pockets of small businesses, helping them grow, hire, stabilize, maintain. And that's the thing about why the actions of Ben Forman and Corby Baumann just didn't work for me - throwing shade and accusing these men and woman of purposely sabotaging a construction site is literally the most offensive insult you can hurl, based on the efforts I observe on a daily basis, the problems I see they solve, the sacrifices I see them make. It's going to be worth the price of admission to see these two millionaires and their pompous attorney explain how they were victimized by these hardworking Ulster County small businesspeople, while these people were building their 3rd home and 4 bay garage. Only morons think that's going to play well.

The thing about rain and progress is you can get a lot of it done with the right crews - the right crews - excavation, framing, roofing, etc.. will find a way to get it done. They will show up and wait out the showers and get a half day when a lot of companies would sit at home and get nothing. So you can get it done, but it's slower, more dangerous, a lesser product in some short term ways. But when it gets near the end and you have to grade the land to a manicured state, or install a septic, or dig a utility trench that fills up with water - when guys are working in calf-high water. Whatever. Just another push to wrapping up this Catskill Farms journey.

I can tell things are calming down on the chaos front since I have less to write about, less to figure out. Just a low simmering annoyance at the weather and all the difficulty it's creating. Today, Saturday morning, overcast, wet, puddles and mud everywhere. I literally over the last few months have to be ready at a moments notice of a break in the rain just so I take my dog for a walk.  You can tell I'm over it. As are a lot of people in my circle.

I thought venting would help - but it hasn't. It's actually a dreadful existence at this point for what I do for a living. And the impacts are widespread- I can't believe that businesses across the board aren't suffering as people huddle up depressed in their homes, unwilling to go out once again in the drizzly rain.

Whatever. So much fucking construction going on it can make your head spin.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

Rain, Writing, Management and Health

Another week of rain.  Sure, we had a sunny day, then an overcast day without downpour, but for the most part, that last 5 days have been raining. It has been raining since September of 2023 - not hyperbolic raining - but real life raining 4-5 days a week.  Hard rain, torrential downpours, heavy rain, then even heavier rain.   It’s depressing, it takes all the fun out of construction entirely.  People can’t do their jobs right, materials suffer, everyday is a strategic plan of how move forward with wet, saturated ground you can’t drive on.  But more than that, it’s just well past getting old.  To make up for it, we literally need a month of sunshine.  And I’m going to keep complaining about it till it changes, since I grinned and beared it for too long now.

Interesting aside, as I was wondering if ‘grin and bear’ or ‘grin and bare’ I did a quick search and came up with this timely and appropriate result - 

Where does grin and bear it come from?

“Hickey used the phrase is his Memoirs from 1775: I recommend you to grin and bear it (an expression used by sailors after a long continuance of bad weather).”  So, killed two birds with one stone: verifying ‘bear’ was used correctly, and inadvertently using a phrase first attributed to someone complaining about the weather.

The good thing about writing, as with any muscle flex, is that you get better at it - in this regard, I find myself able to retrieve the word I’m looking forward with more ease, describe a situation with a bit more precision, be patient in the craft of a sentence.  This gets easier, just as running that first mile, reaching that deeper stretch, displaying emotional intelligence.

With the team back in place for the moment, I’m able to let go a little of the 7 additional jobs I was performing in the first quarter of 2024.  As I mentioned, I wanted and needed a stable start to 2024, was all set to have it, and then literally was served everything but.  Luckily, the profit incentive of keeping things on track superseded the stressful drudgery of ordering people around and actively seeking out and solving job site and office problems.

So with the space and freedom of time, I quickly pivoted and began planning my new modular pool company and planned an 8 day trip to the French Riviera with my 26 year old traveling wingman nephew.

Even with the weather, we push ahead at breakneck speed, with oversight offered at every stage by the tradesmen themselves, my project manager, me and oftentimes the client as well.  It’s redundant and effective.

Just finished my biannual - every other year, soup to nuts, inside and out, physical on the 70th Floor of the Freedom Tower in downtown Manhattan at the Princeton Longevity Center (PLC).  I’ve been staying a lot downtown, way downtown, like Battery Park/Southport Seaport area for half a year now and I like it a lot down there.

PLC offers these ‘executive physicals’ that scan you, evaluate you, measure you, test you, in every subjective and objective, every surface and subsurface test known, to use a comprehensive approach to preventative care.  With an approach like this, the odds of something sneaking up on you - plaque buildup in important arteries that lead to a widow-making out-of-nowhere heart attack, cancers, diabetes, colon cancer and dozens of other identifiable creeping issues.  At 54, I’m in extremely good health and I guess a lot of it is the effort I make in that regards, but let’s be honest, a fair portion of it is genetics and genes and nature, not nurture.  But whatever the cause, I checked out again pretty well, and all the stress of the last 16 months hasn’t (damn, can’t think of the word I need) hasn’t (damn Im so close to getting it) exhibited itself with any measurable physical impacts such as drug/alcohol overuse, weight gain, raised blood pressure, or other common maladies that go with high stress loads.  Harder to directly measure mental health, fortunately, since I’d hate to see that graph as of late.

So, off to fight another day or two.

Sunday, April 7, 2024

Piloting the plane

That landing on the sale of the last two homes was definitely harder than it needed to be - I just watched Aviator again, DiCaprio starring as Howard Hughes (and the creepy mother scene) - so the hard landings in that movie are pretty apt to the sale of Farm 74 and Barn 54 last week in Olivebridge.  Not the hardest for the passenger (buyers) but for the pilot (me), jeez, wow, just when you thought you could get out, the house pulls you back in with a bunch of last minute needs.

And I was pretty beat up to begin with, and the lift here in Olivebridge has been a bit brutal, needing my constant intervention, guidance and instruction.  I guess what is true is that is could be less of an ordeal if I’d slow the whole production machine down a bit, but I’m just wired to keep it going - and any new factor of production that enables us to be better, well, we don’t just do better at the same speed, we do better at a new faster speed.

I mean, just in the last 6-8 weeks, we put in 6 foundations, with the framer right up our ass ready to go, with the windows being ordered 8 weeks prior and ready to install when the last nail was hit, the roofer right behind, and siding being trucked in right after.   I mean, we are moving.

Which makes me realize how even after 20 years, I never shirk my duty of being where I need to be, when I need to be there.  I might not want to drive 1.5 hrs on a Saturday, or Sunday, or a Monday at 6 am, or to Narrowsburg at the end of the day and foundation mason is forming his walls, but if there is a piece of oversight to be done, a problem learned before that I don’t want repeated, a quick personal eye on something before it’s too late to be undone, I’m there - regardless of the convenience or timing, regardless of my energy or enthusiasm, I never shirk that duty to my client, and even if it’s a spec home, I never shirk the duty of putting out the best homes we can.

I think I was deceiving myself thinking that all the balls in the air and the prolonged ROI on the Ashokan project was not causing some serious stress, and all the related and unrelated issues - some expected, some unexpected, some par for the course, some completely out of left field, some about people, others about process - just a lot.

So I piloted two new homes to a successful landing, and we have 1 a month predicted for the rest of the year.  That's serious cha ching.

I’ve been fighting a case of the blues for months now, and it’s pretty understandable- 1, it’s rained everyday, literally, since September.  That’s hard on the mood but it makes my job nearly impossible.  It also adds a lot of new managerial tasks, none fun and none easy, like patrolling muddy shoes, and taking mud into consideration any time you have anyone enter a home, since you know they won’t.  Plus, I’m not the first one to say that sun is important to general well-being.   We’ve had periods of rain over the last 23 years that have caused me to have to navigate it, and change my plans daily, but this is the first time that no matter how I rearrange the sequencing, the time arrived where we just couldn’t move forward and actually got delayed.  Now that’s a big deal when you don’t get paid at all on 90% of your projects until you can turn over a completely finished home.  It’s just hard to get up and hear the prattle of the hard rain on my home’s metal roof and soldier on another day.  It's hard to drive 3 hr a day in the rain. Visit jobs in the rain. Can't get pictures, etc... And we are talking rain, and then intermixed in the rain are periods where the downpours are insane.  If this is climate change, this will be no fun indeed.

Ever since Amanda left - you remember Amanda, the most talented hardworking woman in Hudson Valley who Corby Baumann dismissed as an administrative assistant of sorts in her deposition after Amanda worked on her behalf for 6 months (a standard practice of Baumann it appears to diminish the efforts of those who work on her behalf), who left the company February of 2023 - it’s been a rebuilding effort, and that effort was hard.  There is no other way to say it.  It’s not been straight-forward, it has not been linear.  It’s taken a ton of my time and energy.    We are building faster and better than ever before but it’s been hard, and more than hard, it’s been a rotating cast of professionals, meaning the need for fingers to be in every pot is unending.  Without exaggeration, I lost a year of my life, just out of the blue, gone, keeping the plane in the air.

Another subtle drag is the damn rotator cuff surgery recovery.  That’s 7 months and counting now.  With baseball season (men’s league, 45+, can’t pitch unless your 48+) starts today and for the first time since last July I was throwing a ball.  But the 7 months of rehab was pretty rough, largely unexpected, a full-time job filled with of PT, fear, and pain.  I ran this company when I was supposed to be on a couch.  The process was such a bear that you can forget or downplay the reason you did it in the first place since that lack of mobility in some movements seems like a small price to pay in lieu of having your life turned upside down for 7 months as you work your way through the recovery.  But here I am, spring of 2024, throwing a baseball.  It’s not the most accurate throw since the whole shoulder is restrung now and is still a bit tight, but no pain, and a lot of strength.

Then there’s the whole idea I’ve been doing this gig now for 23 years, and it can seem a bit a like a hamster wheel process, where the gigantic achievement of building a good looking home at a fair value in a respectable timeframe is mostly lost as we just cue up another where the groundhog day of predictable hurdles pop up like a whack a mole game right on cue (interestingly, I used ‘cue’ twice there, I’m wondering if both are correct, but it’s early and I don’t care enough to figure it out, since it seems right.)

And then there's the knowledge of knowing you just aren't getting to half the things you need to - that you are stuck in operations, when marketing and strategy and planning are needed now, and since most results of that planning takes months if not a year +, everyday it's not done, is a day where someone's job may be at risk since if you can't keep the work in front of the men, then there is little use for all the help- and we have a ton of seasoned professionals working on our behalf right now, so that would be a depressing day indeed to not be able to utilize their skills to the fullest.

It’s sunny today.  That’s 2 days in a row.  And literally, that’s cause for celebration for a host of reasons. Maybe I'll even be able to get some photos tomorrow.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Barn 54 Sold, & Pictures

This home has slowly evolved since its coming-out, back in 2008 or so - this version, with a large primary suite on the first floor with walk in closet and lux bath, comes in at around 2300 sq ft, and the finished ground floor comes in at another 1000 sq ft. 4 bedrooms, an office 3 full baths, 2 half baths and a large screened porch. Vaulted ceiings and a dedicated mudroom. It's a nice house. This exact model was first built in Sheldon Hill Road, Olivebridge I believe, then in Woodstock, then Kerhonkson, then North Branch, then the project that went awry in Saugerties and now a show-stopper in Olivebridge, another version going up in Olivebridge, and a version going up in Narrowsburg.

My question is how many times will I build this home before the Defendants (they wanted the same version) get their home built once -you remember the one, the one where I was called 'unprofessional' and 'purposely sabotaging their homesite' after we just finished their foundation. I think this in track or motor sports is called 'lapping' your competitor, and if this is the best Dan Dwyer Contracting can do (taking 15 months to insulate a home when I had already got the foundation in), it's weird that he gets the business he does - hard to explain how word doesn't get around.

But it's not that hard to understand - from my vantage, some people would rather have a wet dog noodling around that doesn't bark back then someone who is actually serious about what they do. And we are serious indeed.

So this home turned out nice. And was built in about 10 months - but at the same time, we weren't just building this home, we were putting in the infrastructure of the entire project - 1/4 mile long road, 1/4 mile long underground electric, and a host of other necessary projects.

It's just such a beautiful home -

I was under some pressure on this one for sure because one of the buyers owns Tetta's General Store just up the road, so a person that has a ton of contact with a ton of people. Definitely better not to have this project goes sideways off the rails, but at the same time, holding firm to our process and the discipline I find is important to pull something like this off. We literally finished on a timeline as predicted - a rarity indeed, especially since a lot of that schedule was over the unpredictable winter months.

Love this kitchen. Expect me to mimic it shortly in another home.

This closed on Friday and that night I got some pictures of the closing night party. Rewarding for sure.

Terrific basement space - this picture captures less than half of it.

Charles Petersheim, Catskill Farms (Catskill Home Builder)
At Farmhouse 35
A Tour of 28 Dawson Lane
Rock & Roll
The Transaction
The Process
Under the Hood
Big Barn
Columbia County Home
Catskill Farms History
New Homes in the Olivebridge Area
Mid Century Ranch Series
Chuck waxes poetic...
Catskill Farms Barn Series
Catskill Farms Cottage Series
Catskill Farms Farmhouse Series
Interviews at the Farm ft. Gary
Interviews at the Farm ft. Amanda
Biceps & Building
Catskill Farms Greatest Hits
Construction Photos
Planned It
Black 'n White
Home Accents at Catskill Farms, Part 2
Home Accents at Catskill Farms, Part 1