Saturday, October 27, 2012

Here Comes Sandy

It was just a little over a year ago that Irene came to town. Her pal Lee followed right on her heels and the Catskills certainly haven't forgotten their visits.

The junk swept into the Schoharie and Esopus Creeks is still caught in the trees. Huge mountains of broken limbs are still piled along the banks, in places that seem impossibly high for our beautiful fishing streams.

We've got an awful lot of brand spankin' new bridges in the Catskills. It's not that we got ambitious all of the sudden - the old ones got swept away.

And now Hurricane Sandy is bearing down on us.

We're not the same people we were before last year. We're more cautious. When the forecast calls for an historic storm, we listen.

In our house, we've got our plastic bags of water in the freezer - a great discovery during the last storm.
First, the bags of ice keep things in the fridge cold for awhile. When they melt, you can drink the water.

We've got our mini-camper stove, a find I credit to my daughter, who spent a summer camping in the Adirondacks. The Pocket Rocket heats just enough water to make coffee.  Ahhhh. And we can heat soup on the woodstove. We'll fill the bathtub for plumbing necessities and we got a bottle of wine, just in case.

We know the local Holiday Inn will take pets. We evacuated there last year. It flooded a little, but it was a chummy crowd. We all sat on the back steps and watched the water rise til they had to shut the power off.
Then it got stuffy inside.

We're all facing this new storm with a combination of anticipation, dread and determination. There are long lines at the stores and all the batteries are gone, but people are laughing.  The bottled water is sold out, but we're joking as we look. One lady was buying clothesline - her old one is shot.

"I'm planning to use it on myself if the power's out too long," she joked.

We appreciate gallows humor more now. Seeing your home, or your neighbor's home, knocked off its foundation or filled with water will do that to you.

Our neighbors, the ones with the generator, have already invited everyone in the neighborhood to use their fridge, take showers, even sleep there. It could get crowded.

A new friend, whose home is in the mountains, has told us we're welcome there if we can make it, that the fires will be going and "the scotch will be neat."

We've told him he's welcome with us, though there's a higher risk of tree-thru-roof syndome at our place than his.

We're survivors. We made it through Irene. And we'll all be here when Sandy's gone. Whatever kind of guest she is, we'll clean up after her and keep on going.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Trend: Just a Little Bit of a Place

Small houses are big.  Really big.  Maybe it's the economy.  Maybe it's the cost of heat. Maybe it's just a predictable reaction to years of excess.  But I'm meeting a lot of clients who are looking for a small house.

"Nothing too big," they tell me.  "Just a little place where we can come and enjoy the country."

Our real estate office has all kinds of beautiful home pictures in the windows. But guess which ones generate the most excitement?

"Look at that little off grid cabin for $52,000!"

"Where's that little place in the woods?"

 I've seen a lot of them in the past couple of weeks, from a very rough, rustic place down a dirt road in the mountains to a small cabin nestled among similar neighbors near our artsy enclave of Woodstock, New York.

It reminds me of my parents' summer cabin near Cooperstown when I was a kid. They bought some farm land and then happily scrolled through plan books until they found the simple modified A-frame that was exactly what they wanted. It was a wonderful little two bedroom cabin with a massive A-shaped window that looked down the winding driveway and across to the neighboring hillside.

We'd arrive in the spring, throw open the doors, then vacuum up all the dead flies that had accumulated over the winter.  My mother was an exceptionally thorough housecleaner, but even she could get the cabin sparkling clean in a couple of hours. It was an easy place to be.

I love little places like the ones at Tumbleweed Tiny Houses and Tiny House Design.

I think my clients are really smart. The Catskills are best enjoyed outside - all your vacation home needs is a comfortable bed and the few necessities of life. Walk in, drop your bags and go!

If this is the new economy, it makes sense to me.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Don't Like the Weather? Just Wait...

It's a strange climate zone around Woodstock, New York. Neighboring Kingston sits solidly on the banks of the Hudson River - it's part of the Hudson River Valley. To the west, Phoenicia is most definitely in the Catskill Mountains. Woodstock's in the middle - nestled on the foot of the mountains, a bit above the river valley. And that means we see some pretty weird weather.

I was out in the country with clients last week, looking at homes they hoped might be their new weekend getaway. It was a lovely, warm, autumn day in the Catskills. And then it wasn't.

The clouds grew dark and heavy, rain started to fall, then, as we turned onto a country lane, the skies dropped buckets of hail in an unrelenting torrent.

Watershed Post hail video

We were just a mile from the house we were going to see; I decided to keep going. Behind me, the van carrying three teenagers and their parents was bedlam: Dad opened all the windows and let the hail pour in as the kids tried to yell above his laughter. A disheveled, laughing family fell out of the van when they stopped behind my car and I struggled to get the door open.

"Please, please, please let us in before it starts again," I muttered.

And then the sun came out.