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, July 16, 2022

Why Zebras weren't domesticated (and other useless information)


Maryland Authorities Now Attempting To Use More Zebras To Capture Runaway  Zebras | Whiskey Riff

It didn’t take long in Africa to be confronted with a lot of questions as we toured the cities and bush.  One that I asked myself, seeing all the zebras, but seeing none put to work like the donkey, the horse, the oxen.  I guess the same could be asked of the water buffalo, though that seems easier to answer since its closest North American relative is always undomesticated, unlike the horse.

So I started asking around, when you read and see all the human labors and efforts that could have been aided and assisted by a strong animal - why not the zebra?

So I didn’t get very far with human inquiry, so I delved into that all-knowing source of information - Google.

Turns out, the zebra is too jumpy, too ornery, too high strung, too ‘mean’, too stuck in its ways to domesticate.  After living its entire history in the African Savanah where quick predators lie in the tall grass, the zebra’s fight or flight instinct is so fine tuned, is tightly wound, that a few impatient attempts from the English colonists had no chance to overcome and supersede the hair-trigger response of a zebra to stress.

“To be domesticated, animals must meet certain criteria. For example, they must have a good disposition and should not panic under pressure. Zebras' unpredictable nature and tendency to attack preclude them from being good candidates for domestication.”  (Google result).

From Science Alert -

All equids are herbivorous prey species with a well-developed "flight or fight" response. But to survive in an environment where there is an abundance of large predators including lions, cheetahs and hyenas, the zebra evolved into a particularly alert, responsive animal that flees in the face of danger but also possesses a powerful response if captured.

The kick of a zebra can break a lion’s jaw. They can be savage biters and possess a 'ducking' reflex that helps them avoid being caught by lasso. Familiarity with human hunter-gatherers may also have fostered a strong avoidance response in the zebra.

All of this means that zebra are not really "people friendly" and as a species they do not fit the criteria for domestication.

According to the English explorer and polymath Francis Galton (a relative of Charles Darwin), these requirements include displaying a desire for comfort, being easy to tend, being useful and showing a fondness for man.

Galton uses the zebra as an example of an unmanageable species, stating that the Dutch Boers repeatedly tried to break zebra to harness. Although they had some success, the wild, mulish nature of the animals would frequently break out and thwart their efforts.

Although it appears possible to tame individual zebra, this species was not a good candidate for domestication. In addition to the intractable nature of the zebra and its strong survival instinct, the fact that this species is 'lion fodder' may also have made them appear less attractive 'partners' to early humans."

So, the moral of the story is some things just can't be tamed - I could have told anyone who was listening that was the case from my hiring attempts over the last 20 years.

Thursday, July 14, 2022

Recession (and sold Ranch 56 in Saugerties)

Recession (and sold Ranch 56 in Saugerties)

I still have some stuff to write about re the travel adventure but first I want to write about all the recession talk going around.  

So weird, just 2 months ago we sailing along and now all anyone can write about is about the looming recession which may already be here.

I remember way back reading an article in the Financial Times that studied the correlation between the frequency of the word ‘recession’ used in journalism and the news (not necessarily the same thing) and the likelihood of a country going into recession.

Seriously, if the news wouldn’t be shouting it, or say you were in say Africa and didn’t have access to news, there is nothing in the day to day that would give you any hint of a recession.  

I know in my business, there is zero indication that anything has changed.  I nary a colleague in any industry reports anything other than busy busy can’t return all the calls environment.

Sure, interest rates are up, prices are up, but wages are up and employment is full.   And there is so much money out there, from god knows where I haven’t a clue.

We just put another $3m in contract in the last 30 days, which continues a winning streak that started in Mid-2020.  A lot of this is covid related but since our sales to completion cycle takes 8+ months, we are still just beginning to monetize what most in the real estate industry long ago pocketed.  In fact, getting a little rocky out for the real estate pros who were printing money just a year ago  - low inventory, pickier buyers, and rising rates.

Ranch 56 on Rivka Road in Saugerties sold today - this was a project I was hesitantly buying in early 2020, then really foot-dragged when Covid hit, then the 16 lot purchase was the best thing that ever happened to me (this is hyperbole but ranks up there for sure).

16 affordable building lots in the prime-est markets in literally the whole nation.  Bought just before they would have doubled or tripled in value and would have had interest out the from investors, speculators and families.  When I made the commitment, I was certain 2020 was going to be a tough year for real estate and we had 4 or 5 homes under 900 sq ft going up.

Then Covid hit and I occupied my historically profitable contrarian position and thought all was over, and things were going to tougher, making my purchase of these lots all the more the bitter pill to swallow.  Then it turned out I was wrong - Covid propelled real estate as we all now know, and I was holding gold on my balance sheets with every piece of property I owned.

The same scenario with the Crest in North Branch NY in SuCo (Sullivan county for you none hipsters not mentioning any names Eric Goldstein (square)) - some big league world-wide property owners who owned 25 lots in North Branch, decided to get this money losing decade old development off their books, right onto my books.

Seems easy in retrospect, but it was certainly a combination of being in the game, luck, and old fashioned risk-taking, good timing - luckily being in the market for land just prior- and of course I always have my bank - Jeff Bank - there to finance my decisions and choices.

Ranch 56 is a beaut.

These houses sold for $510k in 2019 and before.  This one just sold for $710k.  You do that a dozen or more times a year and you really start to have something to show for your efforts.

(this is the way it formatted when posted from Notes, and I'm just going through it)

Monday, July 4, 2022

United Arab Emirates

UAE - Dubai

Glad I read up on this country since its real color and personality is subtle.  The Emirates is formed from 7 kingdoms sometime in the last 100 years, and is only swimming in its oil wealth since the mid-1950’s.  It’s stewardship and investment of those oil monies is impressive and in direct contrast of what you hear about African countries and their squandering of their mineral wealth.  It’s an odd and interesting study in contrasts - both areas colonialized by the West, hard-earned processes of independence, but two very different outcomes.

The Emirates is considered the safest city in the world to walk around at night.  Due to the invisible but pervasive invisible hand of surveillance and harsh, unmerciful punishment that includes a lot of floggings.   People obey the law, and stay out of trouble - it was only just a couple of years ago that alcohol was permitted even among Westerners.  Incorporating Sharia law, a body of religious law, is based on the precepts of Islam (taken directly from wiki)and  the sacred scriptures.

Floggings and lashings are common, for kissing in public if not married, verbal abuse even on social media, alcohol consumption if you are a muslim, etc…. It’s safe to assume all communications are being monitored and most actions filmed.  It feels in some soft way like a well run household, where everyone knows the rules and the punishments are swift.  Stoning is also an option they make use of from time to time.  Homosexuality is a capital offense and sodomy can be punished with imprisonment of 14 years. At least unmarried couples can live together and drink alcohol - newly allowed since 2020.

The Wikipedia entry details the following - emirates only make up 15% of the population.  Indians, from the subcontinent make up 30%, and it’s only a 3.5 hr plane ride from New Delhi.  Expats and migrant labor for the hospitality and construction industries make up 70% of the population to serve the other 20%.  Its economy is of the most diversified in the Gulf.

United Arab Emirates

The Atlantis, where we are staying, is a $3b hotel finished in 2007, themed after the lost city of Atlantis.  1600 rooms, and the largest water park in the world.  Set on the man-made Palms of sand dredged, blown, tamped to created a whole new area of Dubai.  I’ve stayed in some nice hotels, some that claimed 3 or 4 or 5 stars, but here, the opulence is in every detail of architecture and service.  In some ways, the service is so well done, the training so precise and its execution so consistent, you feel the same laws and codes of behavior carry thru throughout the hotel, that a vein of fear, subtle and nuanced, codify the efforts of individuals.  Let’s just say you could get used to this, and it makes a lot of other hotels that stake a claim to good service look poorly executed in comparison. (Take a look, it’s cool).

Gigantic aquarium that anchors the whole hotel around fish and water (note the pun with ‘anchors’The waterpark is insane.

The water park is insane. World's largest they claim.

There are several things to note - mostly about the heat.  The ocean is literally like 95 degrees.  Not refreshing, so the 6 pools around the place help a great deal.  It’s summer here, and temps are averaging 100 degrees during the day, and 95 at night.  You can’t walk barefoot without burning the bottoms of your feets

On the Catskills side of things, the team did good and I’m looking forward to getting back and leading from the front - first man over the hill type of thing.  We got a ton of stuff going on and there is really nothing that happen right now that would change the fact that we are a financially stable company, regardless of what macro recessionary winds are blowing this way.  We have at least 6 houses under contract that we are working on, and 3 independent projects where we are being paid to build on of our homes on land purchased by the homeowner - 1 of them is a client that bought our very first or 2nd home in Ulster County back in 2011 or 2012.  That’s always validating for sure, as are the resale prices our existing clients are getting when they sell these little jewels we build.

I would add pictures, but that always just turns into a huge debacle.  But a good lesson and perspective I always keep -

I think it’s hard to argue my haircut and shave for 550 dirham proved worth every penny.  My barber was a super nice guy with limited English from Uzbekistan, and worked in Russia, then somewhere, and now Dubai.  I was still unshaven from the safari and the beginning of the trip so it felt good to let someone else do the heavy lift of cleaning me up.

Now off to play my son (Lucas Petersheim) some basketball in the 99 degree heat.  I beat him yesterday, and he’s been pouting ever since, but it is true, my 3-part game rarely comes together as nicely as it did yesterday.  I think George Clooney called it the ‘old man moves’ but done right, downright hard to defend.

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Travelogue, Part 2

God this fricking blog. I love my new website which needed to be done after my last was DELETED in July of 2020, but the bugs in the blog are never ending and turn what is already a somewhat heavy lift, - writing about my journey - into something altogether not fun, with unpredictable issues nearly every time I try - UGH. Maybe the 4th time will be the charm of trying to post this update (I'm sitting on a balcony on the 12 floor of the Atlantis in Dubai, home to the world's largest water park. There also seems to be 2 military jets skimming the coast line for the last few hours. I need to find the name of these crows that crow a bunch in a really obnoxious.

Ok, here goes the cut and paste again -

I chose wisely, my reading for this trip.  A book about Stanley finding Livingstone in the African jungles, a Bill Bryson short book about his visit to Nairobi, and Out of Africa, which I also watched on the plane over.

(insert pictures of books here, not available though)Lucas doesn’t get why I read about the place I’m at, but for me it’s a no brainer.  Like understanding something about art before looking at paintings, like appreciating the finer parts of music while listening to a composition, reading about where you are traveling to adds texture to the experience, especially a place like Africa, where it can go unnoticed, undetected without prompts from another more studied observer.

It could be the ‘boma’ which is a structure that is made to protect homes and herds from the native thorn bushes, encircling the encampment with hard to penetrate thorns 1” or longer.

It could be a narrative from the 1850’s journal of Dr Livingstone, the fearless Briton obsessed with trying to find the source of the Nile, describing the impregnable vegetation of the western Tanzanian jungle as it leads to the Lake Victoria.

Few can pick up Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa without hearing Meryl’s Streeps cadence and accent as she begins the 7 Oscar winning movie with Robert Redford and others.  Streeps intonation and pace seems perfectly pitched to capture the voice of Dinesen’s writing - without rush, mirroring the natural movements of both the tribes and the animals of the African Savanah - without a jerk, or quick movement to draw attention to oneself, in a world of predators.

I’m gone, and will be until July 3rd.  We will have closed on 3 homes in that time - one resale of an early Ranch in Narrowsburg on Lake Ridge Road, a forgotten road that I picked up some land in 2008 and have continued to build on since.

Ranch 3

Another is Ranch 3 ( I believe), our first sale at the Crest, a several hundred acre project that I bought from an investor/speculator that got tired of carrying it on his balance sheet for 13 years without much progress.

Ranch 49

So the show must go on, even in the boss’s absence.  In fact, it’s a good test of the team, which I know will do just fine since they are good people, take pride in what they do, and have shown in many instances years of loyalty and respect for both me, themselves, the customer, and all else who play a part from town building departments to all the other assorted factors/components of productions.

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