Be there, and get square! Straw Bale garden seminar May 3, May 24

We have a group of bales curing in the Odell House west yard, about to become a vegetable plot.  And a stash of extra straw bales have arrived At Blue Moon Garden and Nursery center.

Blue Moon Garden & Nursery
1732 S. Inland Empire Way
Spokane, WA 99224

(509) 747-4255

If you want to learn how to make this honestly easy vegetable garden for yourself, Terese and I are teaching a little straw bale intro class–two Saturdays a month apart down the hill at Blue Moon.

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May 3, and May 24, 11 AM  “Be there and get square!”

$10 buys you a spot and a straw bale–good while supplies last.  (That’s the truth–they are limited.)

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Blue Moon is just past the creek on Inland Empire Way–about three minutes from Browne’s Addition.

 

http://www.bluemoonplants.com/

 

Straw bales can be a little hard to find at this time of year, and Blue Moon has about forty for sale–stacked on pallets to the back of the nursery–you’ll have to ask.

A straw bale garden is defined as “a different kind of container garden.”  Essentially you are using the water holding capacity of the straw–its hollow tubes make straw an expert in capillary action–and its rich source of carbon/soil bacteria.  You add nitrogen (pick your favorite) to the mix to jump start decomposition, and then take advantage of the heat that comes with it.   That is about as complicated as it is–a real fast start to your vegetable garden.

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http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/21/garden/grasping-at-straw-a-foolproof-vegetable-plot.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Straw bales are ideal if:

*You are temporary.

*You don’t have good soil.

*You don’t have any soil–yes, pavement can be the base.

*Your soil is contaminated (lead paint, oil, pollution etc.).

*You don’t want to damage tree roots by tilling.

*You are late and think a vegetable garden would be nice, but really a lot of commitment.

A straw bale garden is NOT a lot of commitment because at the end of the season you can stuff it in either your compost pile, or in your Clean Green barrel for city collection.

A straw bale garden is also inexpensive.

My raise bed containers cost aver $300–more like $450 with the tops.  Ouch!

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The straw bales in the front (one of which has a trellis and row cover just like the box behind it) provide an equal amount of growing space and can be had from a a set of conditioned straw bales for under $30.

Row cover can add weeks to your planting horizon by making a micro climate for your seedlings.

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And the straw bales themselves will hover at around 80 degrees after the first spike–creating a pleasant environment for your plants.

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April 3, the start of curing three bales–which I enclosed in row cover to speed the process–it’s early and still cold here.

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April 16, temperatures close to freezing last night and the new berry plants transplanted to the bales yesterday afternoon are happy as can be.

 

Anyhow, that is what we are up to in the Odell House yard right now–lots of people are asking and we are happy to share.

 

The missing trees and the west yard garden on Poplar Street

This post is really more for the neighborhood than our guests, though return visitors may be interested at the change in the landscape.

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In the past six months  eleven huge trees have gone missing on the corner.

I hear some neighbors are angry at us about this.

(My first response is sadly a little sharp:  Weren’t you listening in the past four years?

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(Signs tied to trees for a year and a half as they slowly finished dying from growth retardant applied by Avista to keep them from having to trim so much.  Not that they didn’t do a lot of that too.)

 

As much as I resent (a mild word) our treatment by Avista over the years as we fought with them about killing our internal trees with growth retardant–and probably thousands more over the city–sometimes you have to move on.

Truth is that hundreds of trees were planted a hundred years ago, and if they all die out at the same time we are left with–no trees.  Sometimes you have to plant a new generation, and that is what we and the City–department of Urban Forestry–are doing here on the corner.

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The picture above shows the two new Bur Oak (in fall foliage) that the city helped to plant in the yard last October–well away from the power lines.

We lost the two internal trees and four parking strip trees in March,  a few weeks ago.

The parking strip group on Poplar were planted directly under the lines and really had no future.

This is all annoying the neighbors and walkers who enjoy the corner and feel some ownership of this historic and beautiful part of the city.

But beautiful or not–and it is–please, please, please Tree Huggers, LOOK above when you plant a tree destined to grow to more than 15 feet tall.  It may be cute now in baby tree form, but a Norway Maple wants to be a big tree and it is a death sentence to put it directly under the wires.

We have plans for three new smaller trees in the parking strip: Japanese Lilac. They mature at about 20 feet, bloom a bit later than a standard lilac shrub around here.  More tree like than shrub like.  I think they will be pretty.

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And then, because there is really only room for one large tree in the central yard–again keeping well away from the power lines, we’ve opted for a Dawn Redwood.

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According to The Arbor Day Foundation:

“An ancient tree that knew the dinosaurs, but is well-suited to modern landscape plantings. Likes full sun, is easily transplanted. Deciduous. Prefers moist, deep, well-drained soils. Fast growing. Grows to 70′ to 100′, 25′ spread. (zones 5-8)”

Also known to live to 1,000 years.  (Take THAT Avista!)

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It may take a while to get to this point.  One thing I have learned about trees in the long process of watching ours die is they do not do anything in a hurry.

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The yard, as you might imagine, has taken quite a beating through all this.  And there will be a lot of change over the next years as the roots of the old trees decay and things shift and settle.

So we had an idea–at least for the Poplar side of the house.  Plant a kitchen garden  Amid all the Poplar (still bravely standing!) roots?  Yup.  A straw bale garden in an enclosed kitchen garden sitting area.  I’ll show you real pictures as the project continues, but this is the general scheme:

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A non visually obstructive (you can see through it) fence, grass suppressed by natural means (black plastic and then mulch), and a raised garden of straw bales growing vegetables and flowers.

 

A straw bale garden is a neat idea–it enables you to have a temporary raised bed in almost any location with sun–even pavement.

Terese and I are going to teach a little class on it down at the Blue Moon Nursery and Garden Center in a couple of weeks.

http://www.bluemoonplants.com/

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Their tag line: Nice Plants. Nice People.   Really, it is true.  Go get stuff from them rather than the big box places.

Here are the starter bales being conditioned at the Odell House:

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Organic lawn fertilizer to the right.

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The start of conditioning them for planting–only 40 more to come!

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If you want to read more about this, this fellow wrote a book–my copy is down at Blue Moon.

http://strawbalegardens.com/

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Anyway, neighbors, don’t panic, we do have a plan.

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In fact we’ve been working on it for a while now.

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Cress and chard awaiting transplant. . . .

I’ll give you a post about it next.  We are getting lots of staring. . .

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Unit D, Anna’s Apartment

Unit D was named for a long-time resident whose politics we greatly admired.  It is a medium-sized, second floor, one bedroom apartment on the south and west faces of the house.  The main entry is off the Poplar Street side of the house:

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Those are the living room windows on the second floor, just to the right of the entry.

Background: When I bought the Odell House in 1997, roughly 99 years after its construction, to say I was overwhelmed with the updating required was a bit of an understatement.  The house was in many ways well taken care of, always owner occupied, and updated as needed–just not very recently.  The kitchens and baths were all were carpeted, the appliances about twenty years old at the time, much of the interior paint a very light green.  The kitchen floors were on my hit list as first priority.  Every unit got a new refrigerator.  I replaced some, but not all of the stoves.  Everything got painted.

That was 17 years ago.

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I’m not saying time stood still.  We replaced the roof ($80,000 and three roofers later, one still in jail–but that is a different story.) We’re painting the exterior face by face.  Kept working on the apartments as time, money and need arose.

This December we discovered a leak in Anna’s Apartment.  And the leak led us to replacing the bedroom ceiling, and refinishing the floors.  And while we were at it, remodeling the kitchen.  And the bath.  Construction is like that.  And such a mess really that you might as well get it done all at once.  (That is the thought anyway.)

So here is what it looks like now:

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Entry off second floor landing.

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Living room above.  On the other side is a full futon, to the left a dining table.

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This combination of a drop leaf table and glass cabinet make a breakfast nook at the end of the galley kitchen.

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Here’s the galley kitchen, which needs a bit of explanation.

In the old version there was an apartment sized electric stove, then a rather large refrigerator from the nineties stacked in a row jut beyond the metal sink base–a vintage piece that I actually like.  (Gutting an apartment is a word developers use.  In remodel of an old house there are always charming elements that you want to keep–as well as some that just need to go.  Usually things from the last remodel that have plain worn out–or were not well thought out.)  Anyway, the refrigerator was an example of not well thought out.  It completely blocked the use and opening of the glass cabinets to the end.

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We repositioned the new refrigerator under the L in the counter top.  Where is it, you are asking?

Right there below the microwave.

It is an under counter, Electrolux, double-drawer refrigerator.  I have lived with and loved an identical one for six years now.  They are wonderfully energy-efficient, have really a lot of space (6 cubic feet).  No freezer.  But, it is very easy to put a similarly energy-efficient chest freezer elsewhere in the house.  In this case in the laundry/utility room just outside the hall door of this apartment.

In the lineup where the old fridge and stove used to live are an 18 inch Boshe dishwasher, a bit of cabinet space, a wall oven mounted low in custom cabinet, topped by a two burner induction cook top.  (These are great, safe also energy-efficient inventions.  They simply refuse to work if you do not have a magnetic pan.  Out with the aluminum!)

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What you are looking at is more than $4,000 worth of top of the line appliances in a $2,000 custom counter top.

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The floor is from the nineties–tile I had put in.  The sink is from the fifties–works great, re-plumbed of course to accommodate the new dishwasher to its side.

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The rather charming original wood cabinets from the twenties remain.

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and back out into the hallway, breakfast nook to the left.

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Bedroom door to the left and left again to the bath, which I will take better photos of presently.

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What you are seeing is a new tile floor, with a pebble exterior, a vessel sink over a custom soapstone vanity that creates a shelf over the radiator.

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The huge claw foot tub remains, but got a new, larger, chrome shower ring, new faucet and shower hardware built for this purpose.  I’m sure you will miss the hose I had clamped onto it for years. . .

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So there you have it.  Three months, $30,000. 100% Energy Star rated.

To say we’re pleased with Apartment D’s update is a great understatement.  We are hoping you like it too!

A lot of people who believe they can’t live without a large refrigerator are surprised once they experience the convenience of a small one.  And that’s not too odd really, considering that in Europe, most apartment refrigerators are under-cabinet, and even smaller–three cubic feet.  Why?  Because people live near grocery stores and tend to shop every day.  That would be about like Browne’s Addition.  Never mind that right after the water heater and electric clothes dryer, the refrigerator takes the third highest toll in energy use in most households.)

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Not this one.  Under half of the energy requirement of the old one.  (One advantage of drawers in a refrigerator rather than doors is the cold air does not “tumble out” as you open it.  Same for chest freezers.)

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The open cabinets to the left are very useful for storing the extra bottles of whatever you might like to put in the refrigerator next.    And zero energy used maintaining the backups.

Consider the alternatives.

Public Transportation to and from the airport.

People ask about airport transportation without a car pretty often.

(This is either going to be the most boring or most useful post of your booking experience.  Personally, I like to know what to expect when I venture off on public transportation in a strange place.  Nothing like getting off the bus at dusk and walking in the completely wrong direction!)

Getting to and from the airport  IS VERY EASY HERE. Though keep in mind this is not the case for Spokane as a whole.

You can take a cab for about $20 from or to the Spokane airport, (GEG),

105 South Poplar Street, and 2325 West First are the two Odell House house addresses.  Wakefield is 2828 West First. Zip code for all is 99201.

There are almost always cabs at the airport, but if you would like to call one the most common service seems to be City Cab 509-455-3333

But I also hear very good things about Felix’s cab service (509) 995-3905  (Yes, owned by Felix who must have taxed sleeping hours as he is open from 3AM to midnight)

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We are a very walkable neighborhood, so if you you like to walk, are a reasonably light packer, and don’t want to rent a car, you really don’t have to.  Rick also offers a bike loan program in suitable weather.

But, back to the airport,  you can also hop on the bus!

(And you would be like a lot of people recently who do: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/10/us/use-of-public-transit-in-us-reaches-highest-level-since-1956-advocates-report.html?_r=1)

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If you don’t want a cab, or would like to save the roughly $40 here and back–which is pretty comparable to a 24 hour economy car rental–there is also city bus line with a stop three blocks from the Odell House.  The current schedule is every half hour on the weekdays and every hour on the weekends to and from the airport.  The cost is currently $1.50 per trip.  They accept cash but not credit cards and cannot give change.

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The ride takes 11 minutes, the walk to the house 3-5 minutes.

Be sure to check the link below and confirm bus times, particularly if you are traveling very early or late.  It is not a 24 hour service, and more limited on Sundays than Saturdays. An early morning Sunday or Holiday departure would be problematic.

This is a link that gives you a larger version of the map below and current time table of route 60, airport, Browne’s Addition

http://www.spokanetransit.com/routes-schedules/route/60-airport-brownes-addition

The advice from their website is as follows

  • Be sure you are visible to the bus operator as the bus approaches. Stand as close to the sign or shelter as possible.
  • As you board, ask the bus operator for a 2-hour pass (transfer) if you need one.  (Which you will not if you intend to come to the Odell House, there are no changes necessary)
  • If you don’t know which stop is the one closest to your destination, ask the bus operator for help. When you are one block away from your stop, either push the yellow strip or pull the overhead bell cord. The operator will let you off at the next bus stop.

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Your general destination is Browne’s Addition.  Bus Route 60.  The easiest stop is the corner of 2nd and Spruce.

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On the map above, your stop would be by the little 2–Second and Spruce St.  (The Odell House would sit roughly under the  little 2.)

Rick and I took a trip to the airport this morning via bus to show you what it’s like.

Not the prettiest season–March in Spokane–but you can see things well without the trees.

Here’s our little visual tour from the airport and back:

From the Spokane airport there are two bus pick up locations:

Outside the C concourse near C baggage claim:

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That’s to the “entering traffic” side of the one way route under the walkway,

and another at the end of the A-B Concourse–to the “leaving traffic” side of the A-B baggage claim.

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They both have one of these little glass shelters with seats.  This one is just before the car rental places on beyond the A-B concourse baggage claim–the door to the left is easiest:

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Bus arriving to  the A-B concourse stop:

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The trip from the airport to our area takes 11 minutes.  You will cross a major bridge and turn left (right by our favorite espresso joint which also has a bus stop by it for route 60,) and left again where the houses will look more residential–large older homes converted to apartment.  In a couple of blocks you’ll begin to circle clockwise around a large park.  (The park by the way is called Coeur dAlene park and it is the site for a lot of fun things like Art Fest in early June, and concerts every Thursday night in the summer.)  Sadly it no longer has the fountain,

Coeur D'Alene Park Spokane, WA

The trees are present and accounted for, and so is the gazebo.

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Really, Browne’s Addition is lovely in the summer.  But back to the bus!

You’ve circled around the park on two sides to the Spruce and Second stop: (Be sure to ring the bell there by the park if you have not told the driver where you are going.)

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Photo taken of the park drop off location.

Here’s the the view across 2nd as you get off the bus in the park.

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Walking from the stop to the Odell House: 

You are now on Second and Spruce, one block east and two blocks south of your destination at the corner of First and Poplar.

(Keep in mind that though you’d intuitively expect to find First Avenue one street over from Second Avenue, in reality Pacific runs between them.) 

On exiting the bus, you’d walk away from the park, one block north on Spruce,  toward the large red/brown clinker brick building in the left (built circa 1902).

(It’s really detailed on the front, but you can’t see that yet.)

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(Front)

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Here’s the other nice half timber house on Spruce and Pacific that you’ll be walking towards:

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a gray and white half timber duplex (circa 1901) ,

Go left (west) on Pacific for one block

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and then you would find Poplar St. to the right. 

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This yellow house sits on the corner of Poplar and Pacific–sister house to Odell House, very similar architecture.  You’d be turning right now, you can see the red roof of the Wakefield House at the corner.

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Turn right, north on Poplar Street one block and you’ll find the Odell house on the internal corner of First and Poplar. (With thee large Poplar Trees flanking that yard–go figure.)

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This is the Poplar Street face of the house, showing the diagonal parking lot off Poplar Street.

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This is the Poplar entry, the other entries are from  First Ave, around the corner.

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On the map above, Coeur D’Alene park is on the middle left side, above the arrow.  The top left of the park is the bus stop.   The Odell House is the little red star above the park.

So now you want to go back to the airport:

(We hope you have had a wonderful time.)

Get yourself back to Spruce and Second–you know the way now.

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Pick up the #60 bus (NOT the 61 or you’ll end up in Airway heights,) from the corner of Spruce and Second.  The stop is not on the park, but diagonally across the street from where you arrived:

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Back up the hill for an 11 minute ride:

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I think there is only one drop off at the airport, at the C concourse, as that is actually very close to the check in of the A-B concourse too.

Have a nice trip home, we hope we’ll see you again soon.

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Recipe–breakfast–Dirty Eggs!

Since I can no longer shop for you (please see last post,) http://odellhouselodging.wordpress.com/2014/03/07/fruit-loops-but-not-fruit/ I thought I’d give you a recipe:

Here is what Rick and I eat almost every morning:

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We unglamorously call it “Dirty Eggs.” (With pumpernickel toast and quark.)

A slice of pumpernickel–whole kernel rye bread–(found to the right of the regular bread at our local Rosauers here in Browne’s Addition) will get you 120 calories, 8% of your carbs and 34% of your dietary fiber.  It tastes great toasted.  I made the quark, because you cannot easily buy it in this country. http://www.cheesemaking.com/Quark.html will tell you how it is done.  I used the Creme Fraiche starter

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and unhomogenized milk from Family Farms north of here–found to the right of the milk section at Rosauers.

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Quark is delicious, but you can substitute butter or cream cheese too.

Dirty Eggs relies on polluting a scrambled egg with vegetables–many more than the egg itself.

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Ingredients.

A tablespoon of olive oil in a pan at medium heat.

several green onions

a large tomatillo, with papery covering removed

peppers–any kind you like.  These are small sweet ones, but hot ones are nice too.

Handful of cilantro

Two duck eggs, or 3-4 chicken eggs (you can see the chicken egg in the rear–I did not use it but put it in to show the size difference.

Two pieces of pumpernickel bread.

Goal: a five minute breakfast that will not kill you and that you’ll love–but you have to have done the shopping.

Ready, Go!

Directions:

Put bread in toaster, then cut ends off green onions and chop white part into oil.  Reserve green part.  Then cut up tomatillo , dump in pan, (same with peppers), stir slightly,  (brush hair, do somethng for two minutes), come back, push toast down again.  Scramble eggs in bowl and before adding them to pan cut up and add cilantro and green part of onions to the pan.  Cook briefly, add eggs, stir a couple of times until eggs are done to taste.  Salt and pepper to taste.

This will net you about 500 calories, a nice lot of fresh vegetables, take less than five minutes and less than $3.00 a serving.

Why do people not cook?

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Shopping is more time consuming than cooking.

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And speaking of which, here is a neat product that will help you keep those expensive fresh vegetables fresh longer–doubles shelf life and makes them easier to wash–which is a must.  You can see mine down there with the lid off, surrounded by other crucial supplies. . .

Fruit Loops but not fruit

In most cases, eating out regularly is not good for you.  Arguments?  (I hear none)

This post is actually not about eating out.  Really it is about eating in when you are not at home.  This should be possible–and is–but not as easily as before here at the Odell House–and I am sorry about that.

No big deal , we will all get over it, but I can’t go shopping for you any more.

And because it is going to make some changes in what we can offer our guests–subtle and probably only slightly annoying, but still changes–I thought I’d tell you about it.

http://odellhouselodging.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/the-spokane-air-bnb-scuffle-februarymarch-2014/

Currently morphing from a scuffle to a genuine kerfuffle.

Kerfuffle: “A social imbroglio or brouhaha. An organizational misunderstanding leading to accusations and defensiveness.”  From The Urban Dictionary–many thanks.  (Of British Scottish origins.)

New update: with today’s news, the description gets more and more appropriate!  See below that the owner of a very big, (ornate, and utterly beleaguered) B&B a little east of us is really miffed at the perceived theft of its business by smaller “illegal” offerings.

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Not that I am right, but I think they are all wrong: the taped complainer above, the gal running a code violation fest in her back yard, and the city official (s) who have no doubt opened a can of worms that are eager to escape the can.

Word has it now that even though a hornet’s nest has been kicked over for hosts and guests of Air BnB (etc all), no action will be taken against the hosts for “X” amount of time.  Rumor has it anyway–and it is just that because to date there has been no follow up on the cease and desist of March 31. Which leaves everybody in an uncomfortable limbo.  You really want to book a date in June with that kind of uncertainty?  Bad move all around.  The wag of the finger is starting to point more and more to the city.  You don’t like how its working but its okay to keep doing it because its so popular–even though it could be stopped with three weeks notice–and MIGHT be.

Like many things about an anonymous complaint–no one knows.

And that is unfair.  (To hosts, guests, legitimate and unlicensed.)

But heck, we all make mistakes–lots of them!  (Imagine photo of shooting self in foot.)

(Keep in mind this picture below is the horse barn at my great grandfather’s summer home–er, island–and shabby elegance was a sought after quality–I think most particularly after the money started to dwindle and the reality of shingling something like this firmly set in.)

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The point is gaudy has no attraction for me, it just takes a lot of work to keep an old house going.  No doubt about it. But so does keeping ANY house running and as said before I don’t back the “must be on the historic registry to keep an overnight guest.  That should be up to the guest!

In my book it is okay to offer different options–as long as you make yourself aware of the rules, and obey them.

In Spokane currently to be legal for short term guests, you have to live on site (good idea) and be part of a historic district or on the Historic Registry.  (Why?)

But why not fast and loose?

Because “level” is what a level playing field is all about. No “ifs ands or buts.”  It’s important.  And, never mind how one might feel about either party in the video above, the gal with the business plan is right: she should not be suddenly undercut after investing hundreds of thousands of dollars thinking she knew how many “alternative” rooms were–or likely could be–for sale in Spokane.

But, as I’ve said before, I think the real culprit does not live here in Spokane.  The problem/opportunity exists all over the countryht_airbnb_vandalized_nt_110728_wmain

So anyway,  back to the Health Department and the complaint everybody got–legal or not. I used to go grocery shopping for people.  (Not cook for them, I don’t have an inspected kitchen.)  Just shop.  Now I can’t.

Really?  Why ever not?  It made their lives easier.  It was friendly.

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Allowing (and supporting) guests to eat as they choose is why we supply kitchens!  It is what we do!

This “gift” is not because we are too lazy or incompetent to cook breakfast.  Far from it.  It is because nutritionally every day is not Christmas morning, and a lifetime of most host’s “treats” may shorten your life considerably.

Here’s what we would cook for you–except we can’t.  Almost every bit of it would break the law.

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http://odellhouselodging.wordpress.com/2014/03/07/recipe-breakfast-dirty-eggs/

None of this can be served to the public in a private manner: from eggs laid on site, to home-made cheese, to the butcher block they are sitting on. None of that would be allowed.  Fortunately, if you stay with us you can do it yourself.  Your choice.  And that’s the point

Frankly, when I stay at a B&B (which I have done a lot of over the years) I never stay for breakfast.  Several reasons.  Usually I am on a mission, and they serve it too late.  (That and I really don’t like having breakfast with strangers. Honestly, how many times do you want to answer “Oh, where are YOU from?” at 8:30 in the morning?)  Anyway, when I travel I usually have a horse to ride and leave early.

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(I just could not decide which picture I liked better–but you get the point.  When I’m out-of-town there is a reason I’m out-of-town!  I assume this is true of you as well.)

Don’t misinterpret me, I’m not down on Bed and Breakfast service per se.  I’ve used B&Bs all over the world, but I AM against the “everybody must do it the same,” largely provincial, atmosphere that I have experienced in my sixteen years of operating here in Spokane among the B&B community.  There, right on the table.  If you don’t fit that profile, you don’t have to be offended, it’s not you I am talking about.

It is true that in the last five to seven years roughly 50% of the B&Bs in Spokane have gone out of business, or gotten tired, or whatever causes people to close the doors.  Maybe it is undue competition.  And maybe the average traveler can no longer afford a full staff dressed in white to serve a breakfast for one?  (Could they ever?  It is a business model appropriate to time when the horse barn pictured above above was considered practical–and right off the island was moored the Americas Cup yacht.)

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“The Puritan” 1885 winner of the Americas Cup, and owned by my great-grandfather.  (Not that he knew anything about sailing a yacht particularly, though HIS father did do a good bit of junketing about in China circa 1865. . . )  Note the man, up from the helm in the final picture, giving dangerous-looking directions to servants, was also an employee of JM Forbes. . . .

The point is that just having a great place, or idea, does not keep one in business.

My other great-grandfather is the family cautionary tale of this.  Having discovered the process for refining crude oil (in a New Bedford outbuilding, after he had given up on the project, he set the glass jar on his sunny windowsill and then noticed the heat made it separate into layers) he gave it back to the scalawags from Pennsylvania who’d asked him to figure out what to do with it, and said something to the effect of:

“Sure, heat will do it, but no, keep your patent, this is filthy stuff!”

adding,

“Now, nice, clean whale oil, that is the thing of the future. . . “

Banner American Whaling page KWM434_pg310

http://www.whalingmuseum.org/

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Modern try pots if you will. . .

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So anyway, stories and business model problems aside,

I like to cook and distrust the cooking of “most people.”  Particularly many of those in it for profit.

And cooking is an activity which is notorious for needing equipment.  Fancy stuff–like a stove and something to put on it.  And in the course of my travels I have often chosen small furnished places with humble kitchens over somewhat fancier places without.  That is my experience, and the basis of our “business model”, if you will.

It pleases me to offer our guests a choice:

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And I think my belief that eating out–which a standard B&B counts for–is usually bad for you is largely true.

Plain fact, real, home cooked food, made out of actual food–nothing your grandmother would not recognize–is generally best for you. Why?  A no-brainer.  You would never include the amount of fat, sugar and salt that normal restaurants, (B&Bs  included) or fast food places do.  At least we hope not.  And you do not need to have food last a millennium, as is profitable for processed food manufacturers.

You probably also do not consider every meal to be a”treat.”  So you probably do not make deep-fried french toast with huckleberry sauce and a lot of whipped cream every morning.  But you might make it, as your signature meal to get people’s attention if you were in the business.  Never mind wreck the rest of their day with blood sugar issues.  People do not need assistance with eating unwisely.

Sure, there are exceptions to the “don’t eat out” rule–establishments exist that valiantly go above and beyond to give you real food.  (I’ll give you a list below.)

And, true, even given a kitchen, some people do not purchase or consume healthy alternatives for themselves.  (We know.  We empty the trash.)  But increasingly people DO pay more attention to what they eat–both at home and while on the road.

So, back to current events.   While we still want you to cook and enjoy eating any food that appeals to you in your own kitchen here at the Odell House, we can no longer buy groceries for you.

(This used to be a regular question:  “Can I pick up anything for you at the store?”  Seems a logical, friendly sort of question. At least I thought so.)

How come no more grocery shopping?  If you’ve been following the recent Air BnB local scandal, you’ll know that “someone” in Spokane filed a complaint against local Spokane hosts–it was pretty broad brush, I know because I got one too.  Never mind having a license.

And, like I said, yesterday I got another broad brush note, this time from the Health Department.   It was pretty general, not to us specifically.  It began,  “Dear Bed and Breakfast Owner”. . .  and related that if we served food we’d need to be inspected and permitted for that.  I know that.  But I still called them up, asked some questions and gave some answers.

No, we do not serve food–and it turns out it is a good thing, because if we did it would not be just installing stainless counter tops, we’d have to meet certain standards–standards that have nothing to do with preserving the quality of food in its natural state.  Essentially, if you provide food “to the public”–and public is the critical distinction–you must comply with rules that minimally keep fast food “safe”.

Anyway, I explained to the nice man from the Health Department that we don’t serve food, but if we are given a shopping list we will pre-stock a kitchen to make it easier for our guests to cook real food.  That would be okay, he explained back, except we are not allowed to buy them real food.  We can shop, as long as everything we purchased for our guests was prepackaged and in no case needing refrigeration.

Really?  Nothing that needs refrigeration?

“Only for ‘quality.’ not for safety.” He informed me.

Prepackaged was a word that came up frequently in the conversation.

(Note here, prepackaged produce–the kind of lettuce that is cut up for you already and is sold in a sealed bag–is one of the biggest offenders in produce-related contamination.  Just thought you’d like to know, though we can’t buy that for you either.)

So now we can’t provide “real” organic dairy products–and, as I understand it, fruit, vegetables, and any bakery bread are also out.

Rule is, if it is intended for consumption and we have any hand in it, food must be from “the middle isles” of the grocery store.  That is a place I do not frequent as all the produce and dairy and fun stuff lives at the edges.  In fact, except the wine aisle, I try to avoid the middle of the store.  (If you don’t buy it you won’t eat it.)

So now, according to the Health Department,  I can buy you Fruit Loops

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but not fruit.

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We are not even going to talk about the garden we have planned this summer.  I did not mention this garden idea to the truly nice man from the Health Department. I figured that question was not going to help either his, my, or your day.

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I also did not mention our composting program:

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What compost?

Please ignore the container on your counter, ah also please only eat from the paper plates and plastic forks–the others are only there for decoration!  (I kid you not–it’s a rule.)

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No locally produced vegetables or half and half for you!  I’m allowed to provide “creamers” or irradiated cream in those little containers that don’t need refrigeration.  (Don’t need refrigeration and have no spoilage date?  Cream?  What?)

Ditto, “butter substitutes” in little packages.  I can give you those.

Eggs from the real chickens that live on the place and eat scraps of real food and spend the day digging around looking for grubs?

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No!  No eggs at all in fact.

(They are wrong about this by the way as per Mother Jones

http://www.motherearthnews.com/real-food/how-to-store-fresh-eggs-zmaz77ndzgoe.aspx

fresh eggs do not actually NEED refrigeration, and it is best if you do not wash them as they have a natural protective covering to keep bacteria out.  They will last a very long time just kept in a cool place–obviously not on your dashboard for weeks, but let’s be sensible . . .)

Oh, the “S” word.

Well, speaking of eggs and sense, there is a quirky egg law in Spokane.  If you take an egg from the coop to the farmers market, and try to sell it,  you must have with you a permit, a large tarp (to protect the environment in case of breakage,) and a good supply of hot water–in excess of 180 degrees I think–for the same purpose: environmental contamination.

But, if you have your own chicken, and get an egg, and put a sign on your fence that a fresh egg is available, that is okay.  Your neighbor can come and buy it from you.

But I cannot place that same fresh egg in your refrigerator.  You have to get it yourself.

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Okay.

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There is, by the way, a time-honored method that owners of small-scale egg production–duck eggs for instance–can take eggs to the  farmers market.  How?  You can sell them for craft purposes–as in blown eggs to paint small pictures on.

So, at the Odell House you will no longer find fresh eggs in your refrigerator.  (If you tell me you want some I’ll tell you about the supply–chickens have moods too–and tag them for you.)  Easter is coming and I know how artsy you are feeling.

And, as I see it,  there is also nothing stopping me from providing a “decorative” fruit bowl in the hallway.  You may, for all I know, really be an artist, and in need a subject for your next still life.

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Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio
Fruitbasket, 1593/94 (?), oil on canvas, 31 x 47 cm, oil on canvas

We often put flowers in the rooms and halls.  We do not expect the guests to eat them.  (But truthfully I never check.)

So on our list of things you can have–it’s on our online booking already–flowers in the room, a decorative fruit bowl, and eggs–for craft purposes only!  You can have them, but we can’t give them to you.

Geesh.

Oh, and by the way, many thanks to the complainer for helping to ensure the health of our guests by making more difficult and risky providing them with safe, healthy, organic food, a real plate fork and knife.  I’m sure that was a real community service. . .

You guests will find, as always,  a list of places to shop that stock organic produce here:  http://odellhouselodging.wordpress.com/category/thing-to-do-in-the-neighborhood-places-to-eat/

And here are my picks for the two best places to eat rationally created real food–if you want to go out.

The first is in our neighborhood.

With somewhat limited hours, but open for brunch on Saturdays and Sundays, Italia Trattoria

http://italiatrattoriaspokane.com/

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The corner of Pacific and Cannon, a bit toward the south, on the west side of the street.

And if you are headed east or south in the morning (they are open until 2PM every day) The family owned and run Old European either in Post Falls or Pullman.  These people are passionate about real food correctly prepared.  Great oatmeal–honestly.

http://www.oldeuropean-restaurant.com/

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PS. Re plastic.  Today I did go shopping, looking especially for things in little packets, at a big restaurant supply house.  They had lots of stuff!

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Hmmmm. . . . not this. Latest word re heart disease.  Don’t eat these.

http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/?s=fat+and+heart+disease

But then I started to think outside the container and came up with some ideas.

$132.40 worth of them in fact.

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Some of which I think are okay.

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I’d prefer organic cream to the little miniature buckets of it, but, at least it is better than the powder.   The small jars of honey were local, cute, and not too pricey.   I don’t think we’re going to go through a lot of those darned paper plates and individually-wrapped plastic cutlery sets.  But by golly they are there!

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The pineapple juice is not what I’d prefer, but its not from concentrate.

And then I remembered that there is one great thing that comes in small packets!

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Bingo.  This WILL be a nice addition.  Right next to the tea.

The Spokane Air BnB scuffle February/March 2014

This is our blog–The Odell House News, Spokane Washington.

http://www.odellhouse.com is our website.

This post is about the Air BnB Spokane Scuffle 2014

News: “Somebody” is trying to shut down the small short term lodging hosts in Spokane.  Because the complaint (s) were made anonymously–which is a subject of some strife in itself–it is hard for all those who got notices from the city to get a bead on what the actual problem is or was.  This just in, from a reliable source, but not yet absolutely for sure: apparently a loud party generated by some Air BnB guests was staged (sadly or happily depending on your view) next door to a public official’s house.  He or she then reportedly birthed the fuss.

It is a complicated issue, because it involves a huge multi-national company, the tourist trade, a local grudge, a group of sometimes contradictory city ordinances, and a lot of notably middle-income people who have been actively-encouraged to invest in something that in most places, including here, is not legal.

If you like, read on and I’ll give you my take.

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To make our location and bias clear: here we are, owners of The Odell House, which sits on the corner of First Avenue and Poplar Street in Spokane, Washington.  We’ve been licensed for short term lodging since about 1998, as Spokane Bed and Breakfast and The Odell House Lodging.

Being an inn-keeper is a glamorous job which include milliseconds of sitting on the porch swing.

Lots of biking.

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Hours of cleaning dark spaces.

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And then, the thrill of participating in restoration projects.

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Spokane Washington is a town that, last I checked, the population hit a bit over two hundred thousand.  A small, “friendly” city.

Caring for the Odell House, and the people who live here–or visit–obviously keeps Rick and I busy.  This week has been busier than usual because there is a Big Stink going on with short term housing right here.

Last week, we were peacefully tearing apart apartment D to repaint and refinish the floors. (Don’t they look nice now?)

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When we got a bunch of phone calls indicating there is a lot of other tearing apart in Spokane.  “Someone” is going through all the short term lodging websites (vacation rental by owner sorts of things) with a specific target of eradicating the small hosts.  The Air BnB list came first, but we don’t know who will follow.

I know something about Air BnB because I have both hosted for them and stayed in other host’s units when traveling.  So I thought I would chime in with my opinion on the subject.

Re the grudge mentioned above and the target of home hosts: I’m feeling a bit impatient here (sanding will do that to you) so forgive me the attitude, but it looks like “Someone” had the bright idea to cut out some illegal hotel “competition,” and filed a raft of complaints which ended up serving every one of the close to 100 amateur Spokane Air BnB hosts with a notice from the city this week:  Comply to code, or close by March 31! 

Comply to code is all very nice if complying means tuning up your paperwork.   The problem is, the vast majority of these “home hosts” can’t comply to code because the regulations for short term stay–where you can do it, how much of it you can do, what the state and city taxes are–are totally different than keeping a renter long term, (usually defined as over thirty consecutive days.)  So though most places allow rentals of 30 days or more with very loose restrictions and no tax due to the state or city, short term rentals have a very different set of rules and expectations.

So why not just do nightly rental under the table secretly, and expect no one will find out?  Or believe that it is so innocuous that no one will mind if they do find out?  It’s your house, (room, apartment, etc,) shouldn’t it be your business what you do in it?  The trouble with this popular line of thought is, the very thing that makes it easy for folks with a spare room–and those in search of a spare room to find one–(The Web) makes it also very easy for anyone with a grudge to do a little research themselves.

So no matter how inviting you make your spare bedroom, for Spokane City regulations, which are a lot slower to change than the Internet (and this is possibly a good thing), it is currently not a legal short stay–unless it (at minimum) conforms to something like this: https://beta.spokanecity.org/smc/?Section=17C.315.120

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Without regard to that, “Hosts,” have been gearing up to keep paid guests in their spare space–and have been doing so with a lot of personal investment, and with a lot of encouragement from several big (huge) businesses, advertising these rentals on the Internet.  These enabling Internet companies make a gargantuan profit on the work of these small individuals, with comparatively little investment.  They pull this big profit as the middleman, electronically connecting travelers who are sick of hotels, with individuals who would like to host them–and get paid for it.

So that’s the background, and right now there are lots of offerings out there for keeping guests in a private residence for less than 30 days.  Unfortunately, the Spokane city regulations (and this is true of most cities), as they sit, will not allow an individual to rent to transient guests, without some very specific requirements, such as you are supposed to be a Hotel, Motel, Boarding House or B&B, and abide by the rules and zoning of each of these types of business in your town.  And while your neighbor might not squawk about to odd transient guest, if you asked him or her directly for permission to open a motel, you might get a different reaction.

Welcome to the Air BnB universe: they are one of several big companies (Vacation Rental By Owner, Flip Key, Rentalo, are others) who run websites connecting travelers to amateur hoteliers.   Air BnB so clearly targets the middle class that we will pick on them–never mind that’s also the starting place for the “owner of the grudge” in Spokane. Air BnB is a California-based company that enables individuals to rent their extra spaces–rooms, garages, apartments, villas (and probably small towns) on the vacation rental scene for periods of time ranging from hours to years.

Air BnB opened their doors–or in this case a lot of other people’s doors–in 2008.  The name came from the idea of renting out spare space with an air mattress to visitors.

And sometimes Air BnB offerings are made without even the air mattress!  There was one local Air BnB host, north of the Kendall Yard district (just north of the river west of downtown Spokane), where you could rent a bare room for $30 a night.  No limit to how many guests, just bring your own–err–everything.  The listing was priceless, advertising one of the virtues of the space as “lack of clutter.”  Discounts to veterans.

Is Spokane completely without a sense of irony?

Sadly, it disappeared.

Anyway. it turns out the Air BnB idea had some traction with thrifty or adventurous guests, and with hosts in lots and lots of places. Current numbers are that Air BnB  has half a million listings in 33,000 cities and 192 countries, and is thinking of going public.  Which, if it happens, means we can all invest our retirement money with them!  After we solve the legality part, that is.

The legality issue seems particularly hot in New York City, where rent control is taken pretty seriously and landlords often do not appreciate their properties being illegally sublet to strangers at a profit. People–the tenants offering space–have been kicked out of their apartments.  Anywhere this would be a shock, but particularly in New York City, that is a very, very big deal.  But, notably though the odd New York City landlord has evicted a tenant, and neighbors have sometimes complained (I am sure an almost unheard of event in that city) the city has not filed action on the websites or busted the offending hosts. Yet.

It takes a complaint.  In New York City the Air BnB website states there are “in excess of 1000 hosts”, not the paltry under 100 that we have in Spokane.  In reality, Air BnB is getting very cagey of late about letting out these numbers.  There are probably more like 20,000 listings in New York City.  Proportionally Spokane has similar to slightly fewer offerings per capita than New York.  And filing a complaint is really easy with numbers in the less than 100 range.  Just go to the website below and print enough for everyone!

http://www.beautifyspokane.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Complaint-form-w.abanveh.2013-14.pdf

And somebody did.

So in Spokane, no matter what their investment, it looks like all “non complying hosts” will be out of the business  at the end of March.  That’s what the city said anyway.  Close, or face fines of $275 a night for violations.

We’ll just get rid of all those scofflaws!

(What a great word: scoff·law ˈskôfˌlô,ˈskäf-/ noun informal noun: scofflaw; plural noun: scofflaws

  1. 1.
    a person who flouts the law, esp. by failing to comply with a law that is difficult to enforce effectively.)

An example of the menace that Air B&B has helped promote here in Spokane?

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This, a risk to the community, at less than $100 a night?

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What an outrage!  Someone with taste has offered to share a view of it?  We can’t have that!

I’d be really sad if they close the doors, as this is a neat place and worthy of a second look.   (No “legitimate” hotel will school you in making your own fire to heat the place.)

It is part of the charm, and the experience, probably violates a host of regulations, and guests don’t care–they uniformly LOVE it.

But this is clearly not the “just cheap,” somebody’s extra room without a fire exit and with a roommate you don’t want to think about.  That would be not such a great thing.  Below (and you’ll see them again even further below) two pictures from a fully-licensed Washington establishment.

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Perhaps a threat to public safety?

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If not, then high on the “eeewwww. . .” factor.

So it does not look like a quality of experience issue for the guest–though more on that later–it looks as though someone took it into their own hands to decide how all the neighborhoods should react to hosts.  Who decided (in Spokane) that the often charming Air BnB offerings had to go?  Well, the obvious thought would be a hotel or business that felt threatened by their presence–and competition.

The thought has always been that as long as home lodging offerings stayed small, the hotels would pay no attention, or at least turn a blind eye.  And if they did, so would the local cities.  Personally, I always assumed the customers who want to stay at the Davenport (hotel pictured below in downtown Spokane,) and can afford it, are generally never going to look at that $30 bare floor north of the river.

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It really is a different market–until you get into the over $100 range, which is starting to happen more and more.

For example, this lovely Air BnB entry, which was offered at $165 (or so) a night.

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I knew the previous owners slightly.  Intensely creative.  Great garden. Interior to die for–done!   Very busy street.   Inconsistent neighborhood.   Really an “Oasis” as claimed–nothing of note for blocks and blocks and blocks.  But what a great place!  Spokane is full of these little gems, tucked in odd places.

And I suspect the rising cost of some of the Air BnB entries, and the evidently increasing niceness of the offerings got someone’s jealous attention in the business, and thus the fuss and the raft of nasty notes.  Yes, the uneven playing field of some people have to meet expensive regulations while others look to be undercutting those who do, needs to be addressed.

But really, what a mistake to make such a lot of local strife by complicating small host’s lives instead of going after the real problem nationally. Before closing down one city at a time, we should at least ask the question, is it legal for a large company to promote, and profit by, encouraging people to skirt the law?

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In my opinion, the lodging wunderkind, Air BnB, are enablers extraordinaire.

Turns out, in Spokane, and many other places, they have actively encouraged people to break the law.  And in doing so, yes, they have created a playing field where legitimate small businesses are at an annoying disadvantage to the people who are a bit fast and loose with the rules–or just plain don’t know.

And if I have one, this is my beef:  There is very, very little–microscopic–effort from Air BnB to educate people on the downside (or ways to avoid the downside) of renting out that extra space–and undercutting the people who play by the rules.

And here’s how they target the middle class and tempt people to opt out of required local taxes:

1. It doesn’t cost anything up front to use Air BnB. (Most websites have a monthly fee).

2. It is a slick website, easy in every way.  You don’t even have to take your own photos.  They will send a professional–its Free!

3. You don’t have to take checks or set up a credit card account.  Air BnB collects from the guest at booking (the whole rental fee, plus a hefty portion for themselves), and disburses a portion of it to the host after the guest has checked in.

4. There is a double review system which is supposed to inspire trust, and a lot of look-good attempts to link people to various other internet connections–Facebook accounts, for instance

5. The note on local taxes?  Air BnB’s only advice is only that they should be “included in the rate.” Right. It is perfectly easy to list the rate in a way that everyone has to acknowledge it.  Currently, whether the home owner files or not is up to them, but as the monthly income is now reported in detail to the government (new this year and a surprise to all Air BnB proprietors,) people who have not filed state taxes may be in for a not-pleasant surprise.  It would also be perfectly easy, to collect and withhold  those local taxes for these very small hosts–air BnB collects all the money anyway and generally local short term lodging taxes (for places with under 40 units in this state and many more) are a static cost.  It is not like being poor gets you any break on them!  The point is local taxes should be part of the game, and it should be up front for everyone–and they are not.

And speaking of taxes, there is remarkably little said about the fact that if you use part of your house for business and take a deduction for the new wallpaper (which is reasonable if you are making money in (or with) your residence and paying taxes on that money,) it has consequences for the US tax-free status of the sale of that residence.

Anyway, the limp end of official direction is that the Air BnB host is to “check the local zoning rules.” Right after that they should give directions to the guest, make the bed, provide keys, Internet codes and hopefully breakfast.  (TV, hot water, travel aids are all optional–as it seems are the local zoning regulations.)

Air BnB doesn’t much advertise either the fact that, after spending thousands in improvements–decorating, writing, responding, giving up space and your house’s amateur status–you can be shut down, evicted, fined, or have a nasty surprise at the taxes due (that you should have paid but did not 100% know about) to both the IRS, local, and  State Department of Revenue.

Harmless?  That’s how Air BnB seductively sees it.

Here, copied this morning from their website pushing (errr, “encouraging”) new victims to list their spaces. (Bold in quotes mine and (!).

List (!)

“It’s completely free to create a listing on Airbnb. Click the yellow ‘List your space’ button on the top right of any page on the site. This will take you to a form where you can enter initial details. You can always change any of these details later. Your listing won’t go live until you’re completely ready, so go ahead and click ‘Continue’ to keep entering information.”

Dale’s note: re “completely ready”: what happened to going down to the local city and state offices and asking if you can, before entering the “just click” fantasy?

Book (!)

“You’re always in control of who books your place. When you receive a reservation request, you have 24 hours to accept or decline the request or it will expire. We encourage you to reply to every request, even if just to decline it, as expired requests will negatively affect your search results and response rates.”

Dale’s note: see the pusher?–”respond NOW or we’ll ding you.”

Host (!)

“You’re so close to a payday you can almost taste it! Just a few more things to get in order, and then you’re ready for the fun part – meeting your guests and getting paid.”

Dale’s note: A few more things to get in order would be as follows:

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1. Go find out what it takes to house guests for less than 30 days. Planning department can help here. (City Hall, Riverside, near the statues in the park.)

(Hint it’s either a Hotel/Motel (certain zoning and permits) or a B&B,  if you charge for more than X (small number) days a year.  If the later (B&B) please make sure you are living in the building–that is a requirement.  And you must be in a historic district or on the Historic registry.  (Oh, that. . .)

2. If not in Historic District, apply for a review (with professionally researched history) to be on the Registry of Historic Places. (City hall second floor)

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3. After (if) you are accepted to the Historic Registry, apply for your license as a B&B.  (City Hall)

4. Go the the Department of Revenue office and apply for another license, and tutorial on how to file monthly or quarterly city and state lodging tax.  (Office is on corner of Boone or Broadway and Washington)  File quarterly.

5. Go talk to your insurance agent and make sure you are covered for renting to short term guests.

(Hint, you are not.)

Now, do tasks 1-5 sound like the kind of sales job that will get a bunch of innocent home owners or renters to offer a place for guests to stay in their house, so Air BnB can skim a profit?

No, that sounds like a lot of work and expense.  That might ruin the fun illusion Air BnB promotes–never mind hurt the bottom line. And I bet the reason the Air BnB home-owners and apartment-renters are listing their places is–they are in need of the money.

(Remember what has happened to finances of the average American since the “ownership economy” took over?  People might just see this “illegal activity” as a way to KEEP their house–or be able to afford to go on vacation–finally.)

That’s why I did not file a (city-wide) complaint.  Even though that is apparently the rumor that is going around.

On average, we offer much nicer accommodations than most of Air BnB.  There are exceptions of course, but frankly, it is not a high bar to meet with many new hosts.  They are most probably busy making the same mistakes we made in 1998.  And most don’t have the same bones to work with.  A beautifully-built Queen Anne house in a quiet, historic neighborhood, next to the museum, split into several gracious apartments in the twenties is a good place to start.  The house was made for comfort and privacy, and has a track record to look at.  We are still in business after fifteen years, and I’d hope we’d have learned something.

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Air BnB does a great job with its marketing, the target client so far is a young, hip internet-savvy thirty-something who likes to see and do new things.  Great.  Forgive the generalization, but this is a much lamented  hotel industry discussion right now: market to this group and house them at your peril, because no matter what you do to please them they will not be back.  Seeing the next location is what they really want.  And ironed sheets, chocolates on the bed, or not, you’ll get a four star review, and probably a suggestion about installing more electrical outlets. . .

With Air BnB the pictures might look good, but pictures won’t tell you who’s living next door, the parking situation,noise levels.  The longevity of the business tells you those things.  Be a first responder and you’ll find out once you get there, and the review system is about as reliable as Ebay.  Lots of five star reviews resulting from the fact that the reviewed gets to review you too.  Let’s keep it nice unless it is a REAL wreck.

And there just are no guarantees in lodging away from home–regulated or not. Rick and I took a trip to Seattle recently. Here’s a little side-story for you:

Mr. Rick and Ms Dale’s excellent adventure in Seattle:

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Purpose was to pick up Ricks “new” car–1972 Saab model 96

Isn’t that the cutest thing?

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The first two nights we stayed at an Air BnB offering.  It was nice enough.  $90 a night.  I gave them a five-star review.  Truth was it was tiny–a compact and cleverly photographed space, undoubtably shot with a wide-angle lens by a  professional Air BnB photographer to make it look bigger.  Small is okay, but this smallness, (reviewed as “cozy” many times over), was way too close to the strident noise of our hosts’ bickering about their teenage kids.  Really, just inches away, behind fabulously thin walls, spotted with doors that might open to their difficult lives.

This left us prone to abandon the bedroom, which was just big enough to fit a bed, no real sitting area, and hide out in the kitchen, on two garage sale chairs.  (The wobble adds to the challenge of not spilling  wine on the host’s belongings–and thus getting a bad review as a guest.).

The first night was cold (they forgot to turn on the heat) and when the forced air heat was turned on, the ducts smelled so strongly of rodents that I thought I might have to leave–asthma issues.

The reviews state a “great garden”, and that is true, but way too close for comfort in my book.

This was not a wreck by any means, but it was not a nice experience, and these folks keep a LOT of guests with very high reviews.  But did we say how it really was?  Heck no.  It was worth $90 a night, and is there any way to politely say your hostess has an embarrassing relationship with her family, and the place smells like rats?  In Ballard?  Let’s be serious.

The night we spent on the trip home was very different–we alighted in an elderly motel in North Bend Washington, just west of the pass.  On the good side it, was $15 cheaper than the air BnB offering–base rate $65–though it ended up being identical in rate to the Air BnB  place–after tax was added and a surcharge because we  were traveling with a “Threat To Modern Humanity”:

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Headed into a snow storm on the pass, we could not be too picky–not that we really are.  (See below)

What a deal!  There was no neighbor noise at all, the odor better than the previous “vermin evenings”, though an unfortunate “nicotine patina” coated the walls and furnishings.  What do you want for $90  night including tax, for Pete’s sake?

I liked the manager.

He was truly sympathetic to the lack of heat.

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(Wall unit burned out–in 15 degree weather)

And lack of hot water

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(Frozen–this is the cold side running to keep it from freezing too.)

And general lack of decor.

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Rick always travels with two sleeping bags.  In this case one to cover the porous window and one for the bed.

(See Threat to Modern Humanity by his leg?)

No doubt about this place’s legality.  I saw that license right on the wall at check in.  Above the ash tray.

The point is that regulations unto themselves do very little to guarantee your personal experience.

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And the regulations are, well, let’s face it, pretty discouraging in most places.  Spokane is no exception.  They are hard to get right, even when you try–trust us, we work at it and often screw up–and they are expensive.   Easy perhaps  for a chain, or for someone with employees, but for a single or couple of units?  Really a lot of trouble.

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Forms, forms, lots of forms!

But, back to Spokane,  someone thought Air BnB hosts were a problem.  Right here in little Spokane, and so we have not followed New York City’s lead and turned a blind eye except if an actual neighbor or actual landlord complained.  That would have been a reasonable, case by case basis.  But here?  No!  OUT WITH THE LOT!

Obviously someone out there thought the night on the floor at $30 WAS a real threat to their livelihood.  Or was just mean–who knows?  But diligent I will give them–it takes some significant work to file that number of individual complaints.  (Someone had some time on their hands!)  And eventually the author of this little bit of Spokane insanity will come out, take a bow and get the wag of the finger from the community.  At least I hope so.

(And my guess was it was not the night on the floor, discounted for Veterans that “motivated” the complainer, but the several legitimate, wonderful places that really were starting to make a living doing this.”  Follow the money.)

In closing, I’m in the business, and of course I knew about Air BnB.  I used it for some advertizing and sometimes was annoyed at the very close competition to our smallest units it promoted.  The super-thrifty nature of its typical clients, combined with the “race to the bottom” pricing that hosts inflict on each other, and then the margin that the company took on the top, left little for what we laughingly call profit.  Air BnB stays didn’t quite cover expenses most of the time, after we provided the visible things we always provide: a completely private, roomy apartment, cable, Internet, lots of heat and hot water in a locked building with good security.  And the invisible community things we provide as well: property taxes at $500 a month, professional and correct insurance at $300 a month, 10% off the top for state and local taxes. There is simply a LOT of overhead if you do this business legally.

I always wondered why people kept using Air BnB when they could simply find us themselves.  Its not like we don’t have a website–which Air BNB goes to great lengths to hide in every case they can.

In the end the illusion Air BnB runs on is that it is a “people to people” transaction.  A real transaction of that sort would not be “marketed” by a multi-national company.  Truth is I have many repeat customers who have used us for years that I give a weekly rate to at half of Air BnB’s fees.  But not the first time they visited.  A track record of orderly behavior and loyalty go a very long way in a real “people to people” transaction.

But until recently I was too busy to pay it much mind–most of our clients are 30 days or more, repeat customers and long time guests. I have ironing to do, the phone to answer, apartments to clean, floors to refinish, horses to train, a dog that wants playing with, and chickens to feed.

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Anyway, when it comes out who complained I’ll let you know.

(This just in one week later, and it appears as though an owner of a grudge has come forward–I don’t think it is THE BIG CITY GRUDGE, but a good indication of how those who really have to deal with the city regs deeply feel about the issue.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sgWThdDBzsk&feature=player_detailpage  )

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