TUESDAY, JULY 18, 2006

Coming together

Wow. In two days, the painting is finished, the duct work is finished, the kitchen island is finished, the locks are finished, the windows are finished, and the shutters are almost finished. (I was responsible for those, which is why they are behind schedule.)

The walkway will be finished tomorrow at 6am, the blinds and last mattresses will be here tomorrow, the B&B sign and office lights should be here on Thursday, and the drapes, sheets, and towels should be here by Friday. We’ve hired two Amish ladies to clean, and have some friends coming over to help organize the furniture.

The Summer Kitchen plumbing and air conditioning is complete, the doors are ready to hang, the cabinets are hung, the wainscoting is set, the gas stove (fireplace) is installed, and the painting is almost complete. We should be able to set up the bed, day bed, and armoire tomorrow.

We still have to install window pulls, thermostats, and bathroom hardware, buy a coffee maker, and unpack all of our stuff from California, but it really is going to come together. Amazing.

Oh, and the best news: After a blistering week of temperatures in the high 90’s, the forecast for our grand opening this weekend is 81 on Saturday and 77 on Sunday.

MONDAY, JUNE 19, 2006

Todd Auker

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: The people on this project have been fantastic. Todd is no exception. I’m not sure how Dawn found him, but it was a last minute thing, and he had to squeeze us into his schedule. (Which meant he would do one room, disappear for a couple of days, come back to do another room, etc.) Still, you can’t argue with the results:


Brian Schaeffer

I feel bad for Brian because, while he’s probably put in the most time on the project, his work will be the least appreciated.

Finishing the outside of the Summer KitchenThat’s not because his work is poor — on the contrary, he does excellent work, and he approaches every job with such care and attention to detail that even Dawn is impressed. (And she’s not easy to impress–there’s a reason they call her “Sarge.”)

No, the problem is he’s gotten all the jobs that no one else wanted. Nobody is going to go into the basement to look at the cement floor he poured. And if they are in the basement, they’ll notice the sound of water running, but they’ll never appreciate how Brian had to deal with three springs when pouring that cement floor.

Similarly, they’ll appreciate the air conditioning, but they’ll never see the workshop that Brian cleaned out, sealed, poured a cement floor, and installed a sump pump, all to keep the air conditioning units clean and dry.

Nor are they likely to notice how beautifully the mortar is pointed into the stone. They’ll notice the stone, the paint, and the windows, but not the mortar holding it all together.

They’ll never even know we had a back porch unless they saw the original video.

And except for the folks that visited before, nobody will notice the stone stairs and pavers that have all been dug up and re-set. Now they are flat and perfectly positioned, and look like they always have been.

Brian also did the demo work on the Summer Kitchen, taking out six walls and seven layers of linoleum, and he cleaned out the Paymaster’s Office, including the basement.

Plus he helped clean up the fields, removing seven dumpsters full of metal, countless loads of trash, a boat, and a freezer. Our guests will notice how nicely the grounds are kept, but they’ll never think, “I’ll bet there used to be a freezer in the middle of the yard; I wonder who removed it?”

When it’s cold, they’ll have Brian to thank that the heaters are working; when it’s hot, they’ll have Brian to thank that the air conditioners are running; and when it rains, they’ll have Brian to thank that the ground isn’t flooded. Brian worked on both chimneys, the retaining wall, the wine cabinet, and just about every other thankless task on this project.

About the only thing that guests will notice are the beaded board doors in the game room hiding the air handlers, and I want to replace those with panelled doors. I feel a little bad about that, too.

TUESDAY, JUNE 13, 2006

Leaders and followers

Make no bones about it: I’m a follower. I must hold a record for belonging to the most Pennsylvania organizations without actually residing (or ever resided) in the state. Here’s the list I’ve joined, am joining, or am trying to join:

  • Historical Society of Pennsylvania
  • The Lancaster Chamber of Commerce
  • Lititz Retailers Association
  • Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitor’s Bureau
  • Pennsylvania Travel and Lodging Association
  • Lancaster County Historical Society
  • Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce
  • Lancaster County Conservancy
  • Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County
  • Lancaster Vegetarian Society
  • Lancaster Herpetology Society
  • The Franklin Institute
  • Pennsylvania Heritage Society
  • WITF (PBS)

Plus I have memberships in the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Professional Association of Innkeepers International, the Nature Conservancy, and soon the American Chestnut Cooperators Foundation.


American Chestnuts

The world is an amazingly small place.

Several years ago, I read an article in Nature Conservancy about American chestnut trees. In the 18th century, they accounted for one-quarter of all trees in the Northeast. They grew up to eighty feet straight up, their wood was light, strong, and resistant to rot, and the chestnut itself was a food staple. Then in 1904, an Asian virus was introduced which wiped them out, literally. (According to the article below, of the estimated 4 billion trees, only 25 survived. Not 25 percent, just 25!) Oddly, the virus only attacks mature trees, so saplings will grow for about ten years and then, just as they start to reproduce, they die.

This, of course, brought out the romantic in me, and I decided to plant American chestnuts on the farm when we moved back. Of course, in the meantime I hadn’t done any research, but I had mentioned it to several landscape architects, who must have thought I was crazy wanting to plant trees that will probably die in ten years.

Then, today, I stumbled upon an article that was written about a month ago:

“Rooting out infestation” By Jon Rutter (Lancaster Sunday News, May 7, 2006) … A few weeks ago at Speedwell Forge Lake,

[Derek Pritts] and other chestnut lovers embarked on a groundbreaking project… They are establishing two groves of trees with seedlings and seed nuts gleaned through The American Chestnut Foundation and the American Chestnut Cooperators Foundation in 12 states.
So I want to plant American chestnuts, and here is someone looking to plant American chestnuts, and he ends up right next door! I contacted him and we are going to meet in July, with the hope of planting next Spring. I’m also joining the ACCF, which sells 50 American chestnut seeds for $40.

Dawn, however, is not as enthusiastic. We already have a couple of chestnuts on the farm (probably Asian chestnuts, which don’t get as tall but are immune to the virus) and when they flower, it stinks. I mean, it’s like a skunk sprayed a manure pile. It’s awful.

And that’s just two trees. I want to plant dozens, maybe hundreds.

TUESDAY, JUNE 06, 2006

Grand opening July 23, 2006 – You’re invited!

I would like to say that Dawn and I drew up a list of everything that still needed to be accomplished, set down a reasonable timetable, built in sufficient contingency, and then selected an opening date. However, we more or less just threw a dart at a calendar and came up with July 23.

Please come by that Sunday for an ‘open house,’ any time from 10am to 6pm, to see what we’ve been up to for the past three years. There will also be tours of the wolf sanctuary, although there is a charge for that. Tell your friends (especially the ones that work at newspapers, TV stations, magazines, colleges, and local businesses).

We’re also taking reservations now for July 24, with the assumption that we will get our occupancy permit in early July.

That gives us seven weeks, although the remaining tasks look more like seven months: Finish painting; finish the floors; install all plumbing and lighting fixtures; re-upholster the furniture; build the kitchen island; install blinds, storm windows, and shutters; set up phones, cable TV, fire alarm; replace basement doors; and make glass tops for all the furniture. That doesn’t include the Summer Kitchen, which needs a door, seven windows, plaster, paint, a heat pump, a fireplace, kitchen cabinets, lights and plumbing fixtures. Oh, and resurface the driveway, which is 500 feet long.

Plus, we need to buy 5 mattresses, 2 armoires, 2 chairs, a secretary, a day bed, kitchen bar stools, 12 sheet sets, 36 towels, a stove, washer and dryer, a commercial dishwasher, a pool table, exterior lighting, a sign, 4 hairdryers, and luggage racks. Then there’s the new web site, online marketing, a credit card account, a AAA inspection, insurance, guest tracker software, reservation forms, room diaries…

And even after we’re open, we’ll still be working on the Paymaster’s Office, privy, and the chicken coop. (Yes, I still want to restore the chicken coop.)

However, an impossible timeline is just an incentive, and Dawn is confident that anything that’s not finished by July 23, she can hide. Besides, once we’re open, we won’t be able to give tours except through the local historical societies, so…

MONDAY, JUNE 05, 2006


Time was, planting grass over a large area was a tedious chore of spreading fertilizer, then seed, then raking it all in, then watering it all daily. No more. Now a truck backs up to your house and blasts water, seed, and fertilizer out of a firehose. Plus, the fertilizer acts like a glue to keep the seed in place, a definite bonus in an area prone to heavy rain like Lancaster.

So applying the seed wasn’t the problem; finding someone to do it was. During the dead of winter, with snow covering everything, we weren’t thinking about seeding, but apparenly everyone else was, so by the time we started calling around, everyone was booked until July! Since we thought a giant mud-pit was not a good backdrop to our grand opening, we couldn’t wait that long.

One day the tree guys were on the farm (their third visit this year, since there was so much dead wood on the trees overhanging our brand new roofs) and Dawn happened to mention she couldn’t find anyone to do the seeding. “Uh, we do that,” was the response, and they squeezed us into their schedule at the end of May. Two weeks later, we have baby grass everywhere.

I know we’ll regret this as soon as it’s tall enough to mow…


Dawn’s status

Dawn wrote:

The condensors were installed today. Mike started installing the shoe molding in Bill’s room. I primed about ten peices of shoe molding and five window sashes for the Summer Kitchen. Mike is off the week after next for vacation. I watered half an acre today, and noticed baby grasses here and there. How exciting. Darin came by and picked up some of the Paymaster sashes that need repair and will deliver them to his father Richard. Richard is working on the card table for the Boys’ room and it should be back sometime this month. The painters are working on the grand stairway, Matt is priming the mansion exterior doors, Ted is preping the exterior to the Summer Kitchen. Brian and Bob will start hiding the drains along the driveway. Then Brian will start the basement doors for the Mansion and Paymaster.

I have received the cabinet shipment, and a Timex alarm clock radio with MP3 line-in and nature sounds. I have scheduled the electricians to come and do finish work (install lights) July 5th. I have picked the granite for the kitchen island. The range hood is installed and works. The ceiling and walls in the utitlity room are complete. The coolant lines have been run but not connected yet. The island is being built. The floor guys come back on Monday for the week. The tiffany billiard light has been delivered.

What’s amazing is that all of this happened within two days after I was there. Maybe I should visit more often…?

TUESDAY, MAY 30, 2006

Site visit

I spent Memorial Day weekend in Pennsylvania, which is no surprise since I’ve spent just about every holiday in Pennsylvania for the past three years. I came with a laundry list of things to do, and I left with a laundry list of things undone. Part of this was because the northeast had a heat wave, and I flew out of the mid-70s and landed in the low-90s, and I didn’t pack any shorts.

Our biggest accomplishment was spending two hours “researching” new mattresses for the B&Bs. I put that in quotes because Dawn, who has been sleeping on a futon for the last 15 months, would not lightly surrender the comfort of the new beds, leaving me to fend off the salesmen while she snuggled in with a thick pillow. That said, we both really liked the Stearns & Foster Garden-something firm mattress, which my cousin also highly recommended. (This is not an ad for Stearns & Foster, but should they see fit to donate some of these mattresses for marketing purposes, we would not refuse them. They cost $1800 each, and we need five.)

We both agreed not to do custom cabinet pulls on the kitchen island, which would have run about $179 each, and instead buy some $10 stock “Eastlake” pulls. We tried out the Sherwin-Williams “Colonial Yellow” in the kitchen and realized why it was nicknamed “DeWalt yellow” — it was not the light, pleasing shade we expected, but a sharp, cut-through-the-fog color that blended well with power tools. So Dawn picked up “Harvester gold” which, she hopes, will pick up the subtle colors in the granite slab she selected.

We also went and looked at an antique secretary desk Dawn had found for $900. It has a pull-down lid that doubles as the desk, plus a set of drawers that would be perfect as a small dresser, and it fits in the small corner of Bill’s room. Using the small closet for clothes, this would avoid losing any more space to an armoire (like I had planned), plus include a nice writing desk that is perfect for a laptop. However, the secretary had several scratches, and I was not comfortable paying that much for something in second-rate condition, so we passed. We tried looking at other antique stores in Adamstown, but it was Sunday afternoon and we managed to arrive at three places just as each one was closing.

MONDAY, APRIL 10, 2006

This week

kathryn's room chandelier

kathryn’s room chandelier

Except for Thursday, this has been a very productive week:

  • We filed our taxes, and I was actually disappointed at how much we owed, since we’re going to be filing for a refund of all of it with the historic tax credits.
  • We visited the furniture, and I’m always amazed at how beautiful each piece is. My cousin spent two hours there, arranged all of the furniture by room, and picked out fabrics for four items, which was more than Dawn and I had accomplished in a year and a half!
  • We met with a landscape architect, sort of. Let’s just say she was on the property, and we weren’t*. In any case, it became obvious that we couldn’t do anything besides plant grass this year, and hope to work on the landscape next year.
  • We met with the contractor and started drawing up plans for the kitchen island and refrigerator cupboard. However, he needs us to choose a dishwasher and a refrigerator first. We also decided to go with a granite countertop instead of the engineered stone–even though it needs to be sealed regularly, Dawn prefers the look.
  • I also walked the house with contractor, and the opening date now looks like end of June. That was actually a relief, because there’s so much to be done besides the restoration, I wasn’t sure how I’d get it done by May. Channel 11 news also called to see if we were open yet, and I had to tell them it was going to be a while longer, but they’re definitely interested in a follow-up.
  • We bought a chandelier for Kathryn’s room at an antique shop in Adamstown (“antique capital of the USA”). This had been a problem because we’re putting a canopy bed in that room, and even though it has high ceilings, there still wasn’t room for a chandelier. But we found a flush-mount, five-layer, wedding cake crystal chandelier that looks very similar to the other two chandeliers, so it’s perfect.
  • We also found an old print of Elizabeth township from 1876, which we’ll have mounted and framed. It clearly shows “Speedwell Forge” which is cool beyond words. I hope someday we can find an even older map.
  • In a bit of whimsy, Dawn bought a cast iron horse stand (for tying horses to). I’m not sure how many guests will arrive by horseback, but it’s kind of fun. We found it at Don and Ann’s Antique Roe, which is the scariest place in the universe. (They don’t have a web site, but I found some pictures here and here.)
  • I met with the PA Dutch Convention and Visitor’s Bureau. I’m trying to get my mother-in-law to advertise the wolf sanctuary so she gets more visitors, which brings in more revenue, which makes it self-sufficient, which means I won’t end up supporting it, but so far she is very resistant. (And I know she’s reading this. 😉
  • I gave a tour of the building, my first in three months. We even had some repeat visitors, who were impressed at how much had been accomplished. (Actually, the only major accomplishments were finishing the windows and putting up the plaster, which only took a couple of weeks.)
  • We picked up some wine from Chaddsford winery. (Well, actually, we picked it up from the Springfield Mall, because we didn’t have time to drive to the winery.) I have asked my friends in California to try it, but they are such wine snobs, I’m sure they’ll turn their nose up at this just like they have the other Pennsylvanian wines.
  • I contacted the local YMCA about the labor day triathlon they sponsor, which passes right by our property. Unfortunately, they put it back on me to figure out what I wanted to do about a sponsorship, and I have no idea. Someone suggested putting our logo on hand towels or sports bottles, but that just seems too commercial.

*I had to pick up my cousin at the Philadelphia airport at 8:15am. I left late, then I got lost when trying to transition from the 76 to the 476, and I ended up on the 202. A quick glance at a map shows the 202 goes in the wrong direction, then goes into Delaware, and is a good hour out of the way. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a map, so I called Dawn, who can’t read a map to save her life. She told me I was “three inches” from the 95, so I just stayed on the 202.

Then my car died. Or more specifically, my mother-in-law’s car died. Worse, my mother-in-law was in the car at the time. We happened to be in front of a diner, so first I called Dawn, then I called a tow truck, then I had breakfast. That’s when the landscape architect called, wondering where I was.

Dawn was not happy about having to drive to the airport, so imagine her reaction when she got to the 76/476 transition and found the entire freeway was closed. (Apparently a pedestrian had been killed on the turnpike, though what a pedestrian was doing on the turnpike is beyond me.) She was forced to take the 202, and she drove right by us without ever realizing it.

Needless to say, she didn’t arrive at the airport until 1:15 pm, five hours after my cousin had landed. Meanwhile, my mother-in-law had been sitting in the diner for over three hours, so I called Enterprise rent-a-car and they came and collected us. I drove the rental back to the farm (an hour and a half away), dropped off my mother-in-law, picked up my cousin, and drove back to Delaware, to pick up my car. (I needed my cousin because the car rental was now closed, and the auto shop was four miles away.)

I actually calculated that between the four of us, we spent 36 hours driving and waiting that day. At the end of the week, my cousin’s flight home was at noon but she was ready to go at 5am, because she really thought we were five hours from the airport. (On the bright side, I got to check off “Delaware” from my list of states visited, which pushed me over the half-way mark.)

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