MONDAY, MAY 08, 2006


My cousin blew through Pennsylvania again this weekend, prompted by the furniture restorers saying we needed to pick fabrics today if we wanted them to be finished by mid-June. Nothing like a hard deadline to inspire you.

the logistics constantly amaze me: We need fabric for 9 chairs, 1 chaise lounge, four footstools, and a canopy bed. We could have invaded Normandy for less money, and required less planning! On the one hand, I wish we’d started years ago, but on the other hand I’m glad we’re getting it all done at once. At least this way we’re sure the fabrics go together.

In two days, it’s amazing how much else they accomplised, and it’s even more amazing how much they spent. We now have four amish quilts, an antique settee (sofa) for the parlor, a secretary/dresser for Bill’s room, a card table for the Boys’ room, light fixtures for the boys’ room and summer kitchen, and appliances for one of the kitchenettes. (I won’t point out that the only thing that was on our list was the light fixtures.)

Of course I knew this was coming, but I tend to prefer these things as potential abstractions, not items on the credit card statement.

THURSDAY, MAY 12, 2005

Slow news week

Speedwell Forge Dairy

Speedwell Forge Dairy

Actually, lots of things have been going on, I’ve just been in denial all week. (It’s my ‘overload’ defense, and it does not serve me well.) We’re moving ahead with the appeal on the sprinkler system, as nobody wants to talk sense there. (I swear they’d be happier if we bulldozed the building and put up a Wal-mart.) There was some confusion about how to file the appeal, with the township pointing at the code inspector and the code inspector pointing at the township, but I think Dawn got that straightened out today.

Meanwhile, Mike is making good progress framing out the baths and shoring up the dormers. In fact, he’s moving too fast — he wants to get the ductwork in next, but I haven’t decided if we’re doing a conventional system or a geothermal system yet. It’s strictly a cash flow issue; hence the denial. Thinking about our cash flow for the next couple of years is an extraordinaly depressing activity.

Gary Geiselman, our contractor, paid Dawn a back-handed compliment: He said when we first met, and I was volunteering Dawn for much of the grunt work to save costs, he didn’t think Dawn would last two weeks. Well, it’s been two months now and Dawn is still going strong, so Gary volunteered her to do all the exterior wood and window sashes as well. It’s the Pennsylvania Dutch equivalent of “G.I. Jane.”

SUNDAY, MARCH 06, 2005

Moving Day

Dawn farewell dinner party in LA 2005

Dawn farewell dinner party in LA 2005

Dawn flew to Pennsylvania today. There were a lot of tears, and a lot of questions — is it worth being apart? Is there a better way? Will Dawn and her mother kill each other? Hopefully, in a year, we’ll know it was worth it.

She took a lot of new toys with her – a digital piano for practicing, a laptop with wireless high-speed Internet access, a camcorder, and a bunch of DVDs from her friends. We even got webcams so we can talk to each other at night. It was Christmas in March. (No, really — I didn’t give her anything at Christmas because I knew this was coming.)


Being green

I mentioned that at the PAII conference in April, the Pine Hurst Inn did a presentation on green building principles. In fact, their mission statement is:

To be the best bed & breakfast in the Chequamegan Bay area, providing the highest level of hospitality and guest experience while preserving and promoting the unique historical and environmentally sensitive nature of our property and the area. We are committed to sustainability in all practices.

I’ve always tried to be cognizant of the long-term consequences of my actions, and like to consider myself environmentally benign, and the restoration work was really weighing on me. In my defense, I had talked to a company that installed solar electric in Lancaster, but he told me it wasn’t worth it. Lancaster is one of the few places that doesn’t subsidize solar, and to meet the peak demands of a B&B would require such a large installation that we’d never recoup our investment. (Incidentally, he said most of his work was installing solar panels for Amish families.) We also looked at aerobic treatment units, which treat the septic on-site (rather than having it pumped and taken away). Again, the salesman talked me out of it – too expensive, and since we don’t have any restrictions (small lot, buried system, etc.) it wasn’t worthwhile. I tried to find a contractor who had experience with “green” building, but of the two or three I found, none of them had much experience with historic buildings and, unfortunately, in our situation historic had to take precedence. Finally, I looked into geothermal heating/cooling systems. These work by drilling wells, and tapping into the constant temperatures underground. Alas, I’ve gotten very mixed reviews – some love them, some hate them – but the first bid came in at an astronomical amount, so it may not even be an option. We’re in the process of getting a second bid. Of course, when we open, I’ll try to use non-toxic and organic products (I’ve found a line of “organic mattresses” that look pretty good, as well as organic cotton towels and sheets) and we’ll buy Energy efficient appliances, gardening, composting, etc. But in terms of a meaningful commitment in the home restoration, my failure has been complete.

SUNDAY, JULY 30, 2006

Hh2>Day One, Revisited

I know I wrote that a year and a half ago, but now that the restoration is (almost) over and the innkeeping has begun, it seems just as appropriate today.

Our first guests were a couple from Philadelphia just looking to get away on a Friday night. The sheets had arrived that morning, and I had to rush out at the last minute to find little bottles of shampoo, but we just finished it when the guests arrived…at 8pm.

They went out to dinner and I went to turn down the room, and realized I had no idea how to turn down a room. Dawn, who had to show me how to do “hospital corners” earlier that day, was also stumped. So we unmade and remade the bed at least four times, finally abandoning the whole idea.

The couple didn’t mention the bed when they returned, but did let us know the remote for the whirlpool tub wasn’t working. We assumed it was batteries, but the only other AAA batteries were on the other side of the farm, so I ran as fast as I could, in the pitch dark, to the other end of the farm and back, only to find it wasn’t the batteries. The wall controls worked, but after a few minutes of us playing with those, they stopped working, too.

So there was no whirlpool bath and no turn down service. And no phone or water glass, either; I’d forgotten those. In the morning, though, I think I made it up with home-made bread, fresh fruit, and waffles, plus a mini-tour of the wolf sanctuary. When it came time to go, though, I couldn’t pay the bill.

I’d just set up a merchant account a week ago, but hadn’t received the credit card reader yet. So even though the couple wanted to pay, I couldn’t accept it. I ended up printing a “receipt” on my computer, and telling them I’d charge the card as soon as the terminal arrived.

And that was it. Oh, except for the part about cleaning the room. I realized that I haven’t cleaned a bathroom since 1996, the year we discovered housekeepers. It took me twelve trips around the house to assemble all of my cleaning supplies, and in between I was interrupted by phone calls and several people stopping by for tours. In the end it took me six hours to clean the room, but I just finished it before the next guests arrived…at 8pm.

But that’s a story for Day Two.


The week after

I thought the grand opening meant we were done. I’m not sure how I can still be so naive after everything else we’ve gone through, but I think that eternal optimism is one of my charms. Of course, that may just be me being optimistic…

I’d forgotten about all the crystal and china that had been packed away and needed to be cleaned, or the 141 new sheets and towels that needed to be washed (85 if you don’t count washcloths and pillow cases), or the property management software I was supposed to setup two months ago, or hanging 40-odd paintings, or buying 25 pounds of granola, or setting up Internet access, or moving all of our stuff from the greenhouse to the mansion. Our building inspector also helped out, giving us a list of a dozen items to correct before he would issue the occupancy permit. Needless to say, we were quite busy all week.

Everyone who sees this place tells me we’ll never be finished, and I’m not sure if they’re trying to steel me to the cold hard facts of life, or they think that will somehow cheer me up, or they’re just having a private joke at my expense. In any case, they’re right. I’ve had to abandon my day planner because there’s just too much to do every day to fit it on those little pages. It’s quite overwhelming.


The end of the beginning

The building code inspector came out on Monday for the “final” visit and flagged us for a dozen issues, from a broken emergency light (which we knew about) to all of the shower lines being reversed (which we didn’t know about). Dawn has taken care of everything and so we expect to get our occupancy permit tomorrow, after the inspector’s “final, final” visit.

Our grand opening weekend went very well, with over 500 people attending. (At least, that’s how many signed our guest book.) Matt, Terry, Louise, Josh, Ben, and Beverly did an amazing job managing the parking and shuttle service, and deserve a lot of kudos. In fact, the only foul-up of the entire day was mine: I made 100 copies of the “tour guide,” and we ran out within an hour. Everyone else just got to see the results, without getting any context, but I think they appreciated it anyway.

I’ve got eight reservations so far, including three this weekend, so we’re getting ready for the next stage. It’s not the “second half” because we’ve still got a lot to do–finish the Paymaster’s Office and privy, landscape, clean up the barn, stabilize the Stallion Pen, etc. Caring for a place like this is truly a neverending task.

But right now we’re in the eye of the storm, as it were, with only a couple of contractors, and after the last two weeks of chaos, everything seems kind of serene. Last night I hooked up my stereo and played some of my dad’s vinyl records–that may seem quaint, but I find it very relaxing. So relaxing, in fact, that I fell asleep in my office and slept there overnight.

TUESDAY, JULY 25, 2006

Grand Opening!

The moment you’ve been waiting for — I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves:

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.

FRIDAY, JULY 14, 2006

Down to the wire

One week remaining…


  • Buy coffee maker
  • Install new mailbox
  • Order sheets and towels
  • Find (or order) window pulls
  • Order one more kitchen pull
  • Schedule clock guy
  • Buy bathroom hardware (towel racks, etc.)


  • Set up walkway, lay wood chips
  • Unpack boxes, organize furniture
  • Invite neighbors
  • Set up canopy bed on new frame
  • Find frame store
  • Yale lights (porch light, any standing lamps)
  • Verify wi-fi in all rooms


  • Finish painting kitchen island
  • Hang shutters
  • Finish raingutters and spouts
  • Schedule cable guy
  • Finish plumbing (by Wednesday)
  • Finish electric (by Thursday)
  • Finish painting (by Wednesday)
  • Prime and paint Summer Kitchen door


  • Granite countertop arrives
  • Restoration Clinic visit (remaining chairs, fix foyer light)
  • Take down billiard light
  • Set windows in Summer Kitchen (paint?)
  • Custom beds to arrive


  • Install cabinets in Summer Kitchen
  • Hang blinds
  • Hang Summer Kitchen door
  • Pick up B&B sign
  • Call vendor re: directional signage on 322


  • 9am Blue Ridge Channel 11 news
  • Building inspector visit
  • Office light fixtures arrive
  • Paint workshop
  • Move Grubb stone
  • Prepare “welcome” sheet, make copies


  • Clean!!
  • Prepare slide show
  • Drapes arrive
  • Sheets and towels arrive?
  • Set up bed in Summer Kitchen


  • Pick up food
  • Set up musicians
  • Grand opening activities at 12pm and 3pm


  • 12pm-6pm: Public open house


  • Open for business (I hope!)
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