Long term guests. Check out cleaning.

This information about how a unit is to be left is not applicable to short-term, nightly or weekly stays. Short-term guests have already paid to have their units cleaned for them–it is included in the rate.

Renting a furnished unit long-term, that is month to month at a steeply reduced rate, involves a partially refundable cleaning fee.

IMG_1117

If you want some of the cleaning fee back at the end of your stay, that can be accomplished.  But, we are also perfectly happy to clean your unit for you after you depart.

If you’d like us to do the cleaning, and most people do, please let us know the week before so we can schedule both help and time in between tenants.

What does it cost and how long does it take? A checkout clean will easily take up the total of your deposited cleaning funds.  If you do it yourself please make sure you allocate roughly six or more hours to effectively clean your unit.  Really.  That is how long it takes.  We don’t expect to just wipe down your unit before the next guest arrives.  It has to be dismantled and really thoroughly cleaned.

I tell a story below, but for those who’d just like to know what is expected (and not expected), here is a list.

To get all but about $30 of your cleaning money back you should make sure the following have been done.

Pots and pans, dishes cabinets: Dishes should be squeaky clean, cabinets wiped out.  If you suspect a pan has worn out please leave it on the counter.  We will donate or discard it.

Leftover food: please either discard (or leave in a bag for us to sort for the chickens) any opened containers.  The exceptions to this are salt, pepper, sugar, flour and the teas and supplies your unit came equipped with.  Do NOT leave partially used items “for the next tenant.”  We know it makes no sense, but they will not use them.  Trust us.

Bath soap: Please do not throw away our containers for the organic soaps.  We refill them.

Linens and towels: please do not bother to make the beds.  We will be washing everything. Used towels should go in the bathtub.  (This service is where the partially refundable comes in.)

Appliances: The microwave, coffee pot, toaster, refrigerator and stove should be clean. The drip pans should be cleaned and covered with new tin foil–or replaced. (Roughly $15)

Carpets:   If your stay has exceeded six months or you have had pets in residence we will have the carpets cleaned.  We use a black light to make sure any problem areas are dealt with.

The hardwood floors and most woodwork have a polyurethane finish. Do not use any oil base soaps (for example Murphy’s) as it makes them impossible to re-coat as needed  Please vacuum, sweep and wipe down hard surfaces lightly with water, or glass cleaner (vinegar). Damp rag, not wet.

Bathroom: If you don’t think you could happily eat off of every surface in the bathroom, it is not clean enough. If the next guest sees one hair in the bathroom the assumption will be that it has not been cleaned.  This is not easy to do and not something you would ever have to do in your own home.

You are not responsible for the following: replacing the shower curtain, cleaning the chandeliers, the blinds, the baseboard, moving major furniture to clean behind it or under it.  And as stated, we always do the linens for the next guest.

The law on damage deposits is the landlord has two weeks to assess and actually clean/repair the unit to reach a total documented damage deposit refund, but there is no such rule on the optional refund of cleaning fees.  That is truly at our discretion.  If you are concerned or have questions after reading the list above, please ask. And certainly, if you find something amiss on your check in let us know.  That is not complaining, it is information we need.

Now the story:

The purpose of a checkout cleaning is to make the just lived in unit “as new as possible” for the next guest.  A totally clean slate.

IMG_1118

And that, my friends and clients, is not something that is just like tidying up for a casual visitor.  Things must be more orderly than “normal”.  This is complicated by furniture that is antique, and the extreme variance in people’s perception of “normal”.

And the attachment to the idea that slight effort will result in  “good enough” for the next tenant has its problems.

IMG_1116

Nice floor!

People “read” the situation carefully when they arrive.  And if they find a hair in the tub, a spot on the refrigerator, crumbs in the pans, fingerprints on the windows–all normal unnoticed things that happen in the course of living in a place–they notice.  And not in a nice or comfortable way.

An economist would call leaving a unit needing work (that would be resented if it was paid for) an “externality.” That is a cost that affects a party who did not choose to incur that cost.  The tenant in the future does not want to pay for the maintenance required by the actions of their predecessor.  And they should not have to.  Most people are orderly, but sometimes even if orderly, they are busy and pressed for time.  We know this.

That is why we do not charge equally for everyone–because it is not fair.  The living habits on one set of guests may take three hours to erase, for others, six times that.  A $500 difference in resources expended.  In our opinion that should not be spread between all guests.  Simply, we have a policy of cleaning funds being set aside because we like to keep our rates as low as possible and do not like to charge the tenant in X for the cleaning of Y.  Time required is ridiculously variable and the cleaning funds, though present are relatively minor.

We also know that tidiness has nothing to do with the character of a particular guest.

How people approach the cleaning funds on deposit, public comment after the fact and behavior while on site, really are character issues.  Grime is not.  I don’t care what your mother said!

Oh, and it also does not matter what people self-report.

So, though we really don’t care if a guest cleans or not, the unit must be close to perfect for the next guest, so we like to know in advance so we can schedule appropriate time both for the cleaning, and not booking the unit too closely.

Indulge me in telling you a story that may make this more clear, and ask yourself in the window of between an 11 AM check out and a 3PM check in if the cleaning I describe below could have happened?  Hint: it involved three workers, two trips to the hardware store, a makeshift repair, and about a day and a half.  The tenant was great–just busy and not a slavish housekeeper.  No problem.

If you like, here’s the story, with pictures, and keep in mind when you look at them that the more updated, more expensive units are MUCH easier to take care of.  Smooth, shiny, hard, surfaces are a lot easier to deal with.

IMG_1119

This unit (D of the Odell) recently had about a $40,000 upgrade having to do with surfaces.  Tile floors, new fridge, induction cook top, dishwasher, self cleaning oven.  These things make life easier.  We understand this. The furniture is still antique.

We once had an individual stay with us  in a different apartment who was memorable in wit, education, and charm.  This person was communicative, but not invasive, smart, funny, clear and reasonable in every request.  A really delightful individual.  The rent was negotiated to the lowest possible point in the oldest and smallest apartment of the Wakefield House, but paid 100% on time and in full. This individual was truly a great guest–and we think so to this day.  We would invite this guest back in a second, and give a glowing recommendation to any other landlord.

Even though we retained the cleaning fee.

It is our job to make sure the units are clean for the next guest, and sure, we sometimes get paid to take care of that.

On the appointed hour of departure, the guest cheerfully related,  “It should be good to go.  I left some things for the next tenant.”

This kind of statement tends to make me nervous–because it can mean anything.  As you will soon see.

I took a quick look around the unit.

At first our littlest apartment, the tiny Hobbit Hole unit, appeared pretty orderly.  The counters were clean.  The rug and floor had been vacuumed.  The things, as my own cleaning helper says, that make it “look” clean–like the faucets wiped off–had been done.

We have learned however, over time, that things can’t just look clean on the surface, they have to actually be clean.  And in a place where people can and do cook and live deeply, that can be a project.

First there were some dishes to do.

IMG_1018 IMG_1019

Not an abusive pile, but when I started to wash them I found every cup and glass had a slight film of grease.  All the pots and pans were sticky or had crumbs.  Trying to remedy this, I discovered that the replacement dish soap the guest had bought mid-stay would not cut any grease,  The dishes had been washed, yes, but they were not clean.  Troublesome!

So I loaded all the cups and plates and cookware into a wheel barrow and took them to my apartment to run through the dishwasher, returning with some better soap to stock the unit.

I inspected a bit deeper.  Found a grocery bag worth of stale and mostly used food in the fridge.  Into the trash, it went and in doing so I noted that the trash can was both broken and dirty.  Note to replace. $20.

The handle of the freezer had been broken.

I expected this because a few hours before the guest had told me about it, stating it appeared to have been glued in the past.  I looked at it and took down the serial number to order a part, attempted to re-glue it and made a note to apologize to the next tenant–scheduled to move in almost immediately.  No time to order a part before arrival.  This kind of thing makes us look disorganized.  I wish the tenant had told me about it so I could have had it fixed in time.

IMG_1038

(The tape is to secure the glue which may or may not be effective.

Then I looked at the stove.  It is a self cleaning model that the tenant had noted cleaning.

IMG_1017 IMG_1016 IMG_1025

That was of course true.

Would you like to be the next guest?

I noted this was going to take several hours and another purchase.  New rings for the stove because  grease had been baked through the tin foil covering. Not bad. Easy to fix $15 and a trip to the hardware store.  Given that one can spend hours attempting to clean these things, it is often better to just replace them.

I moved on to the bathroom.  There was a weird stain in the tub.  (Later I began to think dye had been used–either hair or clothing.)

IMG_1022 IMG_1030

The stain is there for good. (I know, I worked on it for over an hour.)  The other dirt washed out.

I have ordered one of these: a commercial adhesive anti-slip mat.

416+S6-x7ZL._SL500_SR78,100_

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B006OB5TK0/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

$20.  It won’t fix the tub, but they do work well as long as you are careful applying them.  A good thing to have and know about for older tubs. Sadly, I can’t get it in before the next tenant arrives.

Then I checked the toilet.

And I have to admit, this will take a bit of explaining.

IMG_1023

Never mind the “ewwww” factor, on closer examination I found the guest had, for some reason, made a failed attempt to flush half a pot roast down the toilet.

This, though a classic example of “cutting out the middle man”, was not a good idea.  I went back to get my disposable gloves.

Below is how it should look when a guest checks in.

As noted above, if you don’t want to do all or any of this we don’t mind.  Just be clear with yourself.  If you have not cleaned the oven and refrigerator don’t worry about vacuuming.  We’ll have to do it again anyway after we get done with the actual cleaning.

IMG_1045

Microwave clean, soap on counter, appliances clean, counters and sink clean, clean dish towels set out.  Pot holders washed and dried.

IMG_1046

Pots and pans orderly and clean.

IMG_1034

Trash can empty, cleaned and with new liner.  Note the floor is not really clean in this picture.  That comes last, after all the other cleaning is done.

IMG_1039 IMG_1036

Oven clean, new drip pans if needed.

IMG_1041

Refrigerator empty and clean.  The only things that can be left in the fridge are baking soda and non perishable condiments–no mayo.  People will generally not use open containers.  If it is not something you would find on a breakfast table eating out, it can’t be left.  (We do collect things for charity and the chickens, but it is not a favor to us to not decide yourself what should be done with leftovers–of all types.)

IMG_1052

Here are things we try to do between every stay which we don’t expect departing long term guests to do.

Clean the windows and blinds.

Install new shower curtains

Iron the doilies

Clean the light fixtures

We do the these things because in an old house with inevitable wear they shout: “We care about how you found the place!”

IMG_1043 IMG_1033

Please tell us well in advance if there is a problem that we will need to deal with between guests–not as your hand is on the door knob–well in advance.  That is not complaining, that is just keeping us up to date, and we really, really appreciate the information.

Everyone deserves a clean, fresh start to their stay.  That said, the apartments are probably not perfect when every guest checks in. For instance, we do not clean the older ovens between every short stay because it takes chemicals to do so.  It smells bad and sometimes there is no time to let things air out.  The ovens do get cleaned at the end of long stays–we schedule time for this.  Likewise, we do not move all the furniture and clean behind it on every stay.  Nor do we expect clients to do this.  In fact we hate it when the furniture is moved!

The partially refundable cleaning fee is a gentle limit on how much time, effort and money a departing long term guest leaves the collective house economy with.  It is not a value judgement or a character issue.  No one gets a perfect score. Everyone gets some help for free.

Rick and I have talked about it many times, and we persist that we will not raise rates on everyone in order to accommodate potentially expensive checkout cleaning for long term guests.

Here are some pictures of a very clean check out that happened this morning.

IMG_1119IMG_1116IMG_1118IMG_1117

The unit was better than when this client moved in–I’m going to have to ask what she used on the bathroom floor–talk about perfect!

IMG_1116

Wow.  What a great job. Nice surfaces, sure, but way better looking now than when she checked in.

I walked downstairs with the laundry and refunded the whole deposit

But really, I visited her on occasion and her unit actually looked very orderly almost every day.  She did not cook much.  (Grease on walls is time consuming to remove.)  It probably took only an hour or two to make it “as was.”

If that’s not you, you cook a lot, are busy with other stuff and not tidy every single day, then my advice is, don’t sweat it. There’s no shame in having someone tune up things for you.  And we won’t think better or worse of your character over a few crumbs under the table or the fridge not squeaky clean–we’ll just clean it up and charge you appropriately.

We do take it rather more personally if you have not emptied the trash or recycled the whole time you have been in residence. . .

IMG_2100

Fondly, we hope,

Dale and Rick

The Studio Gallery, Unit A and the house heat system

Last summer a guest staying a night in The Gallery asked me from the porch:  What have you done to your home!  Imagining of course I had demolished the entire house to rent out apartments
I had to laugh, as it would never cross my mind to occupy a house of this size solo, and my mother was not yet alive when the Odell House became apartments.
There have been many renovations and updates over the years, yet the boiler and radiant heat system are original to the house, and have gone largely unchanged.
Why?
Because they work so very well.
The house thermostat is another issue entirely.
The thermostat, controlling the massive boiler in the basement, used to be in The Gallery–the front apartment on the ground floor, facing First Avenue.
IMG_0425
We recently rewired and replaced the thermostat, moving it to a more protected area of the basement–a place not influenced by the opening of doors, or the use of the small space heaters we provide for the various unit.
IMG_0562
(Those of you who have stayed in The Gallery in the winter may be glad to hear this!)
With all those windows The Gallery runs cooler than some of the other apartments, and its nice to be able to tweak the heat a bit at will.
IMG_2058
The house has had, from the time the boiler was converted from coal to gas, one central thermostat regulating the supply of hot water to all the apartment radiators.
There are little trails of confusingly-abandoned thermostats around the house.  None functioning currently, but the one that does function–in the basement.  Originally the thermostat was in apartment B, but the previous owners deemed that unit A was a better choice.   (Probably largely because they lived there on a part time basis.)  But unit A was a problem because unit A both runs cold and is used for short term guests–many of whom did not understand why we locked the thermostat: for the good of ALL the guests!
This “whole house service” means that heat levels have to be decided by consensus of the residents.  General agreement rules. Cooler at night is appreciated, and temperature increases timed to make use of the inevitable spikes that one gets with this sort of system.
But people, particularly new guests who are not familiar with the heating pattern of the house, often want things a bit different when they arrive–even just for a little while.
So rather than explain, “Just wait a bit,” which modern folk unanimously interpret as “bad service,” we have a series of  dedicated plugs, served by their own circuits, for small auxiliary heaters, as well as the air conditioning units in the summer.  These were never meant to be the primary heat sources of the building.  And, the heaters, when used, have to stay exactly where placed.  Our engineers insist!  Please don’t move the heaters to any other plugs, or fiddle with the voltage. 
(We are not engineers, we try to do as told. . . .)
IMG_0563
(I think what “those in the know” are giving caution about the variably-aged electrical circuits in most older buildings.  It is important to use only new, dedicated circuits for high voltage items that did not exist when these buildings were constructed.  But it is also sensible to keep the load down in general.  Quick is not necessary with heat–steady is.)
Speaking of construction and the physical plant of these huge old homes, Browne’s Addition was a very progressive neighborhood right from the start.  The mansions had carriage houses, not barns.  (Barns meant flies and manure.  Horses were considered a source of pollution–before the car took over that role) .  So livery, “rental horses” were called for from town and arrived with a driver to be hitched to the owner’s carriages.)  For heat, all the homes had coal boilers at first, but both gas and electric were run in the original construction, used for lighting and small tasks.
And there were of course telephones from the very start.  How else to call for your horses to be delivered?
It was all very modern.
property-2017 yellow bedroom modern
That scene lasted a scant thirty years.
With the twenties, came a nation-wide depression, a dip in the price of silver, and a slowing of construction.  Silver, lead, lumber, Spokane staples of wealth, all plummeted, and Spokane’s great luxury building boom was over.  But, there was government money for conversion of large private homes to much-needed apartments.  Most of the large local houses were purchased and transformed.
So the buildings were originally and correctly wired in the last part of the 1890s, and then gradually updated as things changed within them.  But even into the seventies, people had little idea of the numbers of electrical items that would eventually be in common use.  So sensible electric consumption is still indicated.  Even a modern house will trip breakers if, while making toast, you plug in your hair dryer to the same circuit your microwave is warming your coffee!  It is all about load and that is why we have circuit breakers.
The boiler-fed gas heat system  is a much more elegant and efficient system than the slight electric “tune up” heaters we provide.
Why have them at all?
As one guest cleverly said: “To accommodate various thyroid levels.” 
Some (most) of the old radiators are gorgeous.
get-attachment-1
fauxrococco02
You can see how the water would flow in on one side and out on the other.
The hot water boiler system is a very clean, healthy and efficient way to heat.  It consists of a huge system of paired pipes filled with hot water (outflow and return to the boiler). It is a circulating loop.  There are no dusty air ducts or shared air flow between the apartments.
I grew up with boilers in New England and obviously like them.
(Many fusty New Englanders, traditionally felt creepy about central air heat, calling it the “instant hot and instant cold” method.
Never mind, “Particles of ‘who knows what’ blowing all about”, my grandmother used to fuss.)
horsestable
(This is the barn of my great grandfathers summer home which sadly had no boiler (nor insulation!) as it was always shut down in the winter.)
Not so in Browne’s Addition.  These houses were built for the cold.   Radiant heat–now all the rage in concrete floors–was here from the start.
But, though a wonderful system, radiant heat is not fast or easily customizable on a moment to moment basis.  The boiler is either actively running hot water, or it is not.  Like the more modern floors,  radiators are designed to store heat and give it off gradually.  There will be moments when they are quite hot to the touch.  Moments when they are cooler.  This is the nature of the system.  It does not mean that it is “off,”  just not running at that moment.
The radiators have valves that can crudely shut them on and off by not allowing the hot water to run through them. Shutting individual ones down–something the boiler hates–has nothing  to do with if hot water is flowing through the system–the thermostat controls that.
Over the course of time there have been many more complaints that the house is too hot than too cold.  And if it is routinely so for you, then we can shut off one of the several apartment radiators–and leave it off.  (That way we can anticipate the water pressure needed in the system.)
The worst heating season is not the dead of winter.  Ten degrees outside?  No problem.
The house boiler (AKA The Beast In The Basement) is more than up to that.  The trouble arises in the shoulder seasons when it does not get quite cold enough in the morning to trip the boiler on, and folks are a bit chilly come 8 AM.   And then, like the saying, “We would all be worse off if God said “yes” to all our prayers,”  it gets just cold enough to make hot water start circulating.  The radiators get nice and warm–and then the sun comes out and it goes to 80 degrees outside.  (This is Spokane, after all!)  And then all that hot water has to cool . . .  Trust me, it is better to err on the side of a little too cool in those situations than to inspire the Beast in The Basement to go to work on a day expecting high temperatures.
Anyway, we discourage turning the radiators off and on for two reasons: first, the valves are inclined to leak and need tightening if used much–please tell us right away if you see this.  Second, randomly turning them on and off isolates the apartment from the main heat source. In some cases it is actually better to open a window for a moment–and tell us you had to because it was too warm–than to try to influence the system by shutting yourself out of it.   Because it is very likely you will on the next day be too cold!
I’m going to repeat myself here, this is Spokane, land of boom and bust in more than just the economy.  Last month (November 2014) had a period of daytime high of -5 degrees.  Yesterday, (December 2014) I think the high was 62 degrees.  This makes a four month range of, let’s see, since August, (105 degrees) November ( -5 degrees0. . . . er. . .  110 degrees F.
That said, if you visit Spokane, “layering” is a clothing strategy we live by, and if you live here long term we can pretty easily customize your heat to suit you–though possibly not like the union rep who worked here many years ago during an election season.  The young activist complained pathetically of cold in unit F–the top floor.  When I came to check his radiators I found him lounging in front of his computer in a swim suit, watching the snow fall.
Correct dressing for the basic climate aside, there are a couple of units that do get too hot and turning off one of the radiators on a more or less permanent basis can help with this. (The bedroom in F and the hall of D are examples of this).  Units A and E tend to run cool, and that’s not too surprising as they both face north and have huge banks of bay windows.  Units C and B are practically perfect in every way–show offs!
So if you are too hot or too cold please tell us–there is a lot we can do to help with either situation that has nothing to do with the central boiler–though with proper feedback that is also possible.
(Obviously it does no good to turn up the house heat if for whatever reason the radiators in a particular unit  have been turned off!)
Just let us know how its going–or beforehand if you know you tend to be cold or hot–and we will help you stay at the right temperature for you.
IMG_0851
IMG_0700
 th-1
th

????????

Peppers!

This post is actually written for my son Nick.

(But you can read it too if you want.  It’s about the peppers I’m sending him–because the guests just don’t seem to eat enough of them!)

77ffb01bc0898d1a80286e9efac91c39_400x400

Hi Nick!

He’s back east without a garden, dogging his doctorate in Econ, so I’m sending him some of “our” peppers.

Background: Nick as a twenty-something, exhibiting typical Forbes social skills, put himself “into training” to be able to eat very hot raw peppers with a flat affect.  The purpose of the “skill” was tempting his “friends” on the debate team to partake as well.   A sort of culinary, come on in, the water is fine. . .”

Of course this tempted me to try to grow something that even Nick could not eat.

(The apple does not fall very far from the tree.)

So, here’s what’s on the “pepper menu” here at the Odell House.

To the right of the Poplar Street door.

The pepper Chenzo,

VECHI25917_1

A feisty ornamental, developed in England, that we planted last year in a pot.  It looked too pretty in the fall to let freeze, so we overwintering it in somewhat rugged conditions in unit 2.  Lots of heat, but little water and almost no care.  Lots of sun.

And it came back at us this spring with a perfect vengeance of peppers.

IMG_0264 IMG_0265

Which remain almost unmolested.

Really, they do get almost sweet when they turn red. . .honestly.

Near them on the steps is an interesting little number, still green at present, called Hinkelhats.

IMG_0250 1446-pepper-hinkelhatz-organic

In our climate they may never look like they are supposed to above, red, but are so incredibly hot that Nick may be the only one to make a report on their flavor.

IMG_0266

For those of you that must know “Hinkelhatz” is Pennsylvania Dutch for “Chicken heart” and they have been grown since the 1880s, according to Seed Savers Exchange, “Traditionally used for pickling and making pepper vinegar. Small fruits (¾” wide by 1-2″ long) ripen from green to glossy red. 80-90 days from transplant. HOT.”

Chicken hearts–they do kind of look like that.

To the left of the door, a lovely and prolific pepper that I have made more than one meal totally inedible by not taking out the seeds.  It is innocently called “Lemon Drop”

IMG_0267 IMG_0268

Rare Seeds reports “Seasoning pepper from Peru ripens to a clear lemon yellow, sometimes with a dark purple blush. The flavor is a very clean, uncomplicated, slightly citrus-y heat. 2-foot plants are covered with the thin-walled, conical fruits which reach 2-3 inches in length, with very few seeds”

Our advice?  Even if it has just one measly seed, take it out.  Left of the door, eat all you can. Take some home.  (Prolific).

Then on the other side of the house there is a stash in our private area

IMG_0272

IMG_0274

These are Hungarian Wax and Sweet Banana.  (Nothing sweet about them.)

And some which you are quite free to ask for if you are in the mood to really hurt yourself.

1296258451358-553261474

 

IMG_0261

The upward facing longer ones (1.5 inches or less) are, as they report, Super Chili.

The middle a somewhat intimidating “Vietnamese Tear-Jerker”.

The ones to the right of there, (up in the picture below,) the very small ones, are described as “tiny slivers of fire”.

IMG_0262

Or by the very short Hmong woman that I bought the plants from this spring at the farmers market,

“Very hot.”  (Sly smile.)

One seed source identifies them as “Chinese Ornamental”  Later saying they are great for containers.

My question, containers of what? 

I have been too frightened to touch them–except when I packed up a couple of handfuls for Nick. . .

1296258451358-553261474-1

So there you have it!  If you want some left in your unit now is the time to ask!

Spokane Farmers Market

We have a rather nice farmers market here in Spokane.

carrots1203_2_orig

 

Several in fact, but the one I usually use is open Wednesdays and Saturdays eight AM to 1 PM.

Mid May to Mid October on Saturdays and Wednesdays, about a month at either end only Saturdays.

http://www.spokanefarmersmarket.org/

market_loc_new

It is located off the Division Exit of I-90.  Just to the south of the highway.  5th and Division, 5th and Brown.  There is a small field there that you can see from the highway.

elitorpe's stand 2

Why this particular market?  Well, loyalty for one thing because we were involved for a number of years selling hand spun yarn from our sheep and goats up at the farm.  Finally we just got too busy and had to cut back on that activity.  (Though I still spin on occasion and the carding equipment exists in the basement.)

Locally-produced food is undoubtedly better tasting and better for you and the planet.

Alice Waters from the Wall Street Journal

http://online.wsj.com/articles/alice-waters-says-the-future-of-food-is-sustainable-and-locally-sourced-1404763421

“This movement [valuing local food] poses a threat to fast-food businesses and industrial food companies, both of which I predict will continue to shape-shift and co-opt their values for profit. As long as their products continue to be supported by government subsidies, they will be successful. The reality is that the sustainable-food movement’s reach will grow only to a point and ultimately will be limited to those with access, means and education—unless legislators dramatically change food and agriculture policy.

I think that those in government will come back to their senses in the coming years and begin to subsidize farms instead of factories. As access to real food becomes increasingly divided between the haves and the have-nots, food security will become even more of a social-justice issue.”

(A good example oF corporate interest shape-shifting was the Starbuck’s infamous series of field trips to actual local coffee bars to see what ideas they could come up with to seem more “real.”  Apparently they took up a lot of space for a time and bought no competitor’s coffee.)

Here by the way is one of our favorite coffee roasters:

INDABA-COFFEE-STAMP

http://www.indabacoffee.com/

(Great coffee–you’ll find some and a grinder in your unit, but visit them too–right across the river in Kendall Yards)

The Farmers Market sadly offers no coffee, but makes up for it with several great bakers, cheese makers, organic meat (Beef, goat, pork, chicken)  seedlings, flowers, wonderful fruits and vegetables in season, and eggs.

i_bouzies_logo 202_1_orig

On weekends, when our little flock cannot possibly keep up with demand, we sometimes supplement our egg production with other home-kept chicken’s offerings.

IMG_1750IMG_1759

Anyhow, the market is easy to find and not five minutes away by car, or an easy bike ride.  Go east on the Highway to Division St exit, bear right, go right at the light and it is there to your right.  Or wend your way through town, under the highway and follow 5th east until you run into the market field.

That thing in the bathroom–a Turkish Towel

A Turkish towel is a fine thing.

I discovered them hunting for “all cotton towels”–which as you can imagine we use a good number of, and replace pretty frequently. (They get washed a lot).

Up popped Turkish Towel.

And now we have some.

IMG_0717 IMG_0718

 

Until recently, I didn’t know that a Turkish towel is a cotton or linen flat weave (no loops like terry) cloth that is soft, very absorbent and quick drying.  I found some on Amazon and some on Etsy.

Nervous at first about having things shipped from Turkey I was hesitant to go to the source with Etsy.

But after a while I got over it, lured by the deep colored ones above.  I found a very nice and communicative Turkish shop who in due time (about a week) shipped me the best ones I have come across.

Here they are.

https://www.etsy.com/shop/TurkishTowelStore?ref=l2-shopheader-name

All the towels are nice, and all are cotton and/or a linen blend, but these are thicker, came out of the bag smelling faintly (and nicely) of goat rather than petroleum.  I wash everything anyway, but there was no doubt in my mind that a bit of goat was a lot better for the weaver–and there is no doubt these are hand woven–than whatever else was being applied.

They are excellent for drying yourself after a bath, wrap and dry hair very effectively.  They are also easier on energy as they dry very well on their own, can be line dried without getting crunchy, and take less both washer and dryer space if you use the machines.

Never mind, in use they add a certain flair to the user–better illustrated than described.  🙂

IMG_0748

A nameless Turk modelling in his natural environment. .  .

The Gazebo and Kitchen Garden on the Poplar Street side.

hidcote_long_view

This rather stunning photo is of a winterscape at Hidcote Castle.  It is in England–where they take gardening pretty seriously.

In case you were wondering, the strong geometric influence behind the twin gazebos–one of which you can walk through to reach the other if you were to approach from the side–is a group of pleached Hornbeams.

images

Pleaching.  A task outside my vision, and one I am sure would not excite Rick, who often gets the “heavy labor” side of inspiration.  Still, it is an interesting effect.

We got our square and circular effects in a slightly less labor-intensive manner.  (This was of course by cheating: copying the already nifty architecture on our corner.)

IMG_0707

IMG_0715

I ran across the formal Hidecote garden while looking for design ideas for the Odell House gazebo and kitchen garden. We’ve had plans to build something for years, but just got ’round to of late.  We also wanted to enclose the space and on the side of the house that, well, originally had the central kitchen.  The Poplar Street and south face.  But we didn’t want to create an eyesore–which can be a problem when the uneducated (us)  plop something down in the middle of the work of people who did know what they were doing.  Our answer?  Careful research and hiring someone who could build on site in the manner of the original carpenters.

And that would be Dave:

IMG_0458

IMG_0579

One of Dave’s gates.

On to the Gazebo!

A small structure in a garden is not a new idea by any means.  Below, the little kitchen garden pavilion at Monticello–the home of Thomas Jefferson, who experimented expensively with horticulture in the Colonial days of America–a lot of the focus was in growing vegetables.

TheGardensatMonticelloWQuote

Of course, by “cultivators of the earth” Jefferson is referring in 1790 to his 118 slaves who actually did the work in the garden.

Their plot is of course a lot more elaborate than ours. . .

orch_veg_mulb_house

Back in Spokane, we decided to have fun with the Gazebo roof structure, mimicking the Odell House roof lines, attempting to give it a feeling of “always there.”  This is also a common hope that the smaller “outer house” will mimic some features of the larger one

IMG_0470

(Practical note: A more recent photo of the same area: below to the right of the gazebo we installed a gas grill. This is common space–please go cook whatever you cook. That area over the lawn is also a good place in nice weather to smoke–which  is not allowed within 50 feet of an opening window or door of the main house.  The advantage of course–assuming it is not raining is that one need not sweep up ash.  Small flower pots make ash trays–please to not transport any of these items into the house or house trash cans.  The general refuse area is just behind the parked cars. )

IMG_0713

Here is the gazebo creator, our carpenter Dave, on the job, if notoriously camera shy.

IMG_0458

You will note no construction debris.

This is because every single day when Dave left, the place was neat as a pin.  (Part of his day is cleanup.)  And so he would go off in the evening, taking with him yet another chair for regluing, appearing again in due time to tackle another phase.   And in the garage I would find the repaired chair, and on returning it to its mates, pick another for a trip to “Dr. Dave’s”.

(There are few things more wonderful for beefing up maintenance than having a dedicated cabinet maker regularly on the place.)

IMG_0727

We painted the interior one of our lesser used trim colors–Templeton Grey.  It makes the interior recede a bit.  The door with circular window was a chance find at an architectural salvage place.  We like how it mirrors the main house details.  The second little landing deck makes the step up less severe, and is offering another place to grow food instead of lawn.

IMG_0707

Back to Dave and the details of the project.  People actually stop to take photos of the fence all the time.  Not that it is fancy. It is very simple, made out of cedar and simple 2×4 inch rectangular woven wire.

IMG_0700

IMG_0600

But like everything Dave does it is well crafted and every detail thought out and executed with care.

IMG_0585 IMG_0577

The self closing “cannon ball” gates were his idea.

IMG_0577

The clenched fist hitching posts (there are a pair) were popular c. late 1800 when there were actually equines to be tied up.

The gazebo soffits (under the roof line) are antique bead board–just like the main house.

IMG_0489

Dave created trim to match the house as well.

IMG_0490

The siding is cedar, identical to the original.

IMG_0492

The decks are redwood to resist rot.

IMG_0714

 

IMG_0425

We think it fits nicely.

Looking across the kitchen garden to the Wakefield.

IMG_0715

So why a gazebo?

Sitting outside, with just a little protection is wonderful.  Part of our nature.

But the the apartments on the south side of the house have no porch.

Attempting to share the main porch, if you have not rented apartment A or B means you are sitting right next to the current residents bedroom.  That just doesn’t work.

Seeing the need across multiple tenants, I wanted a common space that was easy to access for everybody, but not connected to any one unit.  I wanted something that took advantage of the beautiful view north to the Wakefield and bluff.  A place to take shelter from either the sun, or the prevailing wind, depending on the day and season.

Thanks Dave!

IMG_0577

 

IMG_0579 IMG_0614 IMG_0600 IMG_0612 IMG_0577 IMG_0570 IMG_0600

Above, our version, lacking several hundred “employees,” of a raised bed–the straw bale garden.  If you want to read more about that please see:

https://odellhouselodging.wordpress.com/2014/04/15/be-there-and-get-square-straw-bale-garden-seminar-april-26-may-24/

280x201VictoryGardenPoster-1

Oh, and PS, (don’t tell Rick,) thought daunted by tree pleaching, I am somewhat interested in topiary. . .

600px-Herb_Garden,_York_Gate_Garden_-_geograph.org.uk_-_691818

 

ladewtopiarytrimming

 

For pretty relaxed folks you’re very rigid about your booking procedures. How come?

Here is the short version about booking and check in: (stories further down if you want them.)

We do not have a front desk–nor any employees. 

It’s just Rick and Dale and the other friendly people who live and stay here.

Official check in time?  3PM 

Check out time? 11AM

That said, we are actually very relaxed abut these times. 

If we can make a schedule work better for you, either coming or going, we are happy to do so.  Just let us know.

(Unannounced late check outs are very stressful for us and we do charge if people surprise us by not asking first–and that is a practicality.  If we work our day around getting ready for a three PM arrival and find the previous guest’s belongings still in the unit at one, that makes us really nervous–and inclined to call the other partner off whatever job they are on, to help in a hurry!)

We are very relaxed about your arrival because we are are in fact pretty rigid about communicating booking and check in information.  Mistakes happen–but they are rare.  We consider it an emergency if we think you do not know where to park, what door to use, where your keys are, what the Internet codes are–without us being there.

As policy we do not hold reservations for more than twenty-four hours without billing information, and you MUST get check in instructions well before arrival.  Communication is key.  We probably will not be visible when you arrive because by that time our job–getting ready for you–has been completed.  We are here if you need us.  Let’s not make check in an emergency.

That’s the message of this post, and the rest is a story or two, which you can read if you like.

***********************************************************

To illustrate this I’ll give you a story–maybe two–and a half with the final update. 🙂

I had a moment to write this waiting on a guest scheduled to arrive with an incomplete reservation–about the middle of April.

It is noon and I should be at the barn–I have another job, I train horses and teach riding almost every day.  But not today: the last moment guest guests who booked recently wrote and said they would be arriving at noon, would that be convenient for me?  Visiting from Canada, they did not want to use their phones–just email.  I had emailed back that noon was fine BUT I needed billing information before I could send them check in instructions.  I have not heard back.  And so I am waiting, lessons cancelled.

These particular guests have been slightly problematic.  They arrived through Trip Advisor which can be fine, but in this case meant they did not have a lot of the information one can get from fishing around in our website and blog.  Trip Advisor has some very basic information, but not what you can get in the details of the website and blog.  And the link on TA  can be subtle.

Several emails began the process.  They were going to stay three days.  I quoted them the discount for that, and asked them to get back to me with billing information.

That is the order of things.

Why so rigid?

Mainly because one part of the process leads to the other, the end goal that when guests arrive they will be sure of the following things:

What apartment they have booked, the correct night,  and at what price.

The correct address.

Where to park.

Door codes and or key locations.

Internet codes.

When we make a reservation, including an email address, a note gets sent automatically containing some links to our blog posts on places to eat, neighborhood information and contact information.  It also outlines cancellation policies, check in times, etc. Guests need to know these things.  They have a window to ask questions and can cancel without penalty if something looks amiss.

Q. Why can’t guests just give billing information when they arrive?

A. Because we don’t have a front desk and we can’t send out check in information without knowing how to bill.

In fact, we will 100% not give check in instructions without billing instructions.

And this brings me to the second part of my story which explains how this came to be.

One Sunday, a number of years ago in a desperately slow March just after the financial downturn of 2009, I got a call from a man saying he was a minister of a local church and needed help.  They had an inspirational speaker coming into town who had had his wallet stolen in the airport after security.  The man was traveling without cash or ID and of course all of his credit cards had been cancelled.  The pastor said he himself was on a retreat in Kellogg but would be home Wednesday and would come and write us a check for the good man’s lodging.

Would we please take him in?

A thrill of do-goodedness filled me as I told the man the price and said it would be fine to pay us on Wednesday.

I told Rick, Isn’t it great to have a business where you can make decisions like this?  NO chain could do this!

Rick looked patient, if not entirely convinced.

The local minister left us a cell number, but warned us that his was out of range where the retreat was happening. He told me the speaker’s name and when he would arrive.

The appointed hour arrived and down the street from the bus stop came limping a disheveled middle-aged man, dress shoes lightly scuffed, shirt partly untucked, leading a rolling bag down the side-walk.  He looked totally stressed.  I led him around the unit–our nicest one at the time, offered him a glass of water and showed him a few supplies I had stocked his refrigerator with.  He was totally grateful, recounted what a stressful day he had experienced.

I gave him the keys and left, feeling like I was doing the right–and nobly trusting–thing.

Wednesday rolled around, and towards five when I had not heard from the original booker of the unit, who now of course was supposed to be home from his retreat, I made a call.  No answer.  I left a message.

Thursday came and went.

I left another message.

On Friday I decided I’d need to go into the unit.  Rick and I did this together.  It was empty–probably since Wednesday.  Reeking of cigarette smoke, piles of half eaten frozen dinners and partially opened cans littered every surface.  The couch had soup spilled over it, the bed side table had been burned by the lit matches cast onto it.

The toilet was unflushed, the sink literally overflowing with dishes and sodden food scraps.

The place reeked. 😦

To the side of the bed was a pamphlet from the local church.  After several desperate preliminary trips with garbage to the dumpster, I called the pastor of that church.  I told him the story and he asked me to describe the man.  I did and he said that was very odd, as a man matching that description, claiming to be a pilot moving to Spokane had complained of a broken down car, needing money for repairs.  The pastor had given hims $200 and some food from their food bank.

 

Same guy–the food from the food bank strewn around, every package open, mashed, but not really eaten.  Hundreds of dollars of food, partially consumed pizzas, mixed with cigarette ashes.  A loaf of bread floating with the dishes in the sink.

 

And as Rick and I figured by tracing phone numbers, the original call had not been from the local minster on retreat, but from the man himself, setting up the situation as though asking for help for a known friend.

 

I called the police, reported the incident.  It took us two weeks to put the place to right.  $600 worth of sheets and duvet covers were discarded for burn holes.

I’m just glad the house survived.

And that, fellow travelers, is why we insist on names, phone numbers, email addresses and credit card numbers before we give out check in information.

My Canadian travelers?  It is closing in on 2:00 and they have not arrived.

I cannot send them check in information–we have no billing information.

If I leave they will not know which door to come to, where to park, or how to get in.

 

And if they did arrive, without these clues–they have a reservation!–they would probably knock on all doors reachable, disturbing innocent guests, or stand forlornly on the porch with their useless phones, wondering at the lack of service we provide.

 

I will stay until 2:00

 

You’ll notice there are no pictures in this post.

Oh here is one for you,

Miss Marley practicing a down stay in the unit the minister trashed in 2009.IMG_0348

 

And one of me on a walk with my cat.IMG_0196

Which is what I think I am going to go do now.  He does not get too far. . .I can still see the porch.

Update 4:13PM my guests call from a pay phone!

We’ll be there in twenty minutes! But we are at a pay phone, we can’t call when we arrive.

I answer, Okay, I’ll wait and watch for you. . .

Update 5:24  PM after waiting more than an hour  in a brisk spring wind on the porch I gave up and wrote a note to be taped to the door recommending the other B&B who I see has vacancies and is only three blocks away–$45 a night more expensive than us, but they have employees–and that is what it costs per guest if you do.

IMG_0350

As I walk upstairs, discouraged after almost six hours of waiting, a stunningly beautiful blonde woman walks up to the door.

I go to meet her, retrieve the note, check them in, saying, I am so happy you have arrived, I have waited for hours! 

She corrects me, taking off her shoes at the door: “I only said we would be in town at noon, not that we wanted to check in then. . . ”

The moral of the story?

Please, please PLEASE understand that we are trying to make life predictable and easy for everyone by following a certain order of business.  And if you travel without a phone it is fine–really, we were in business before cell phones were even common–but if that is the case you must help us to make your arrival seamless by obtaining information before it is an emergency–and you yourself are left standing in a brisk wind on the porch with no clue what to do next.

In short, if you have communication problems please attempt to be sure that they only have to do with the electronics. . . .

Update 10AM following morning.

Guests departed having done own dishes–much appreciated–but tell me what is wrong with this picture?

IMG_0351

The huge fan will give it away I am sure, but please note in old houses with claw foot tubs it is advisable to bring the shower curtain to the inside of the tub when taking a shower.  It is only left to the outside for a cleaner look, and because nothing is better than a 5 foot claw foot tub for a bath–except a six foot one. . .

Anyway, we arrived in the morning to clean up and found they had flooded the bathroom floor–squishy wet!  Thus the fan and abject apologies to the next guest who we upgraded to another unit.

There is a code that you might not know about in the business; that is the stealthy addition of the simple letters “DNRB” behind a guest’s name in the electronic file.  It is rare to earn this title from a hotel, and what it means is that the damage inflicted by the practices of a particular guest make it a liability to accept reservations from them.

Do Not Re Book.

Just forgetting to put the shower curtain in will not earn you  this badge–as you can see it takes a concerted, in fact dedicated, effort! 🙂

As always, if you have questions, ask!!!