The little garages outside the Hobbit entry to the right.  On the left you can see the historic Campbell House–our next door neighbor.DSC_0001wakefield

The front of the Wakefield House above–Hobbit entry is around the back under the portcullis.


Hobbit closet and Heywood Wakefield vanity.  Note floor!

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Living room from bedroom door

The living room is a good bit more spare than shown–red futon is no longer present.


New paint–and now new appliances


Hobbit kitchen from entry

The Little River House on Clarke

The Clarke Street House was built in 1952 and added onto, doubling its size several years later.  It has two bedrooms and one bath and according to the city it is just under 1,100 square feet–though it lives a bit bigger than that because the L shape that makes it look smaller from the road encompasses a generous back deck space and useful and private back yard.

First I’ll tell you about the area, then at the lower part some pictures of the interior.


It is located on a pastoral, secondary waterfront lot, with peek views of the river, directly down the hill from the Odell House complex and has a very steep public set of stairs behind it leading up to Browne’s Addition, just under the MAC Museum and all the activities therein.


Another wonderful walk is down through the meadow to People’s Park and across the foot bridge to Kendell Yards near the confluence of Latah Creek and the Spokane River.


There is a good wading spot before the rapids of the river.


Or you can walk up toward downtown with a beautiful view of the Monroe Street bridge.


The house sits on a bus route directly to downtown and the SFCC community college. It is served on the weekdays, which is handy and also means the street is plowed regularly–as can be an issue in Spokane!


The setting of the house is unique. It has a double lot right across from the river, and a city owned and as far as we know unbuildable set of lots will preserve the view–rare in Peaceful Valley.

The drive is crushed asphalt, on a right of way owned by the city which at present serves one other small house.

It has a care free back yard–well fenced and very private with shade plants and vinca–a ground cover that does not need mowing.

It has a sunny and productive front yard, partially planted in wild flowers and very easy to care for.



The large sculptural tree on the southeast corner of the house is an ancient cherry from old root stock.  Beautiful in the spring and good feeding for the birds in fall–they leave not a one.

The entry to the house has a small sitting porch with a tongue in cheek “security” gate complete with “kitty observation deck”.  Yes you can lock the gate, but the main purpose is to create a small enclosed outside space. Very fun.




One of the things we love about the area is the abundant wildlife. The riparian habitat makes for great bird watching.  Almost a dozen Mule Deer call this end of the valley home.  They are regular visitors and we often see fawns in the yard.

The kitchen is the first room you enter.






It is well equipped with a new glass top stove, a full sized Bosch dishwasher and ample storage.  Also a separate pantry in the hall.  It has a fold down breakfast bar–the trike shown in the front room fits easily out the double french doors to the back deck.





The front room is double sized with two large and bright picture windows.



The back bedroom also has large and new windows.


The middle bedroom is smaller, but with ample closet space and plenty of light.

The bath/laundry is well equipped with all new plumping in the sink and shower area.




So there you have it. A very solid, easy to manage living space with great access to downtown, the hospitals, the Centennial Trail.

Nuts and bolts below.

The house is heated by two gas burning free standing fireplaces.

The water heater is natural gas.

The dryer is electric, as is the kitchen range.

200 Amp service

Utilities run between $45 and $150 in a typical year providing ample heat, laundry use, dishwasher and air conditioning.  Currently we share a neighborhood wifi and trash service, so it is very affordable.

The water heater came with the house.

All the faucets and other appliances are new.

The plumbing to the all sinks and the bathtub is new.

It has two new frost free hydrants/faucets for outside water.

The drain to the city sewer is about fifteen years old.  All the parts we can see are modern and it has never been an issue.

We have never had a winter pipe freeze issue in the house.

Things that could be worked on, or to take note of:

The floors slant–it never bothered us, but we like old houses!  By virtue of being built in two phases, one half of the house is on a slab, the other on foundation.  There is no actual crawl space.  No movement, just different heights.

The back deck planking needs to be replaced or repaired in several places.  Not knowing what another person would want with this space we have left it.  Views of the river are possible and might be fun.

There is a parking space/garage/shed that used to be covered.  We have cleaned it up and left the footprint walls so it could easily be rebuilt on that footprint.

It is rentable, currently rented until the end of September at $2,000 a month. For sale in the early fall of 2017.  The price is a very affordable $179,000 which would give a payment of less than $800, and keep basic living costs at less than $1,000 a month.

The neighbors are friendly, but picky about noise, commotion and tidiness.  That would be us.  We live next door, up the hill on the little dirt road.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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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.


(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.

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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.)

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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.



$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.


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.


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


Pots and pans orderly and clean.


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.

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Oven clean, new drip pans if needed.


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.)


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!”

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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.


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!


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. . .


Fondly, we hope,

Dale and Rick

The Gazebo and Kitchen Garden on the Poplar Street side.


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.


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.)



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:



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.


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. . .


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


(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. )


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


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.)


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.


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.



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

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


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.


Dave created trim to match the house as well.


The siding is cedar, identical to the original.


The decks are redwood to resist rot.




We think it fits nicely.

Looking across the kitchen garden to the Wakefield.


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!



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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:



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





Honestly, we don’t serve breakfast! Never have. Is that a three star offense?

Well, here we go.  We got a two star review.  Never mind chocolates on the table, ironed sheets and organic soaps.  We are frauds because we do not serve breakfast!

According to the article linked below, this is serious.

“Research at the University of California, Berkeley, in 2012 showed that an increase or decrease of just half a star can have a significant impact on the number of bookings a restaurant receives. For very small establishments, such as out of the way country pubs, the effects can be devastating financially and incredibly upsetting, personally”

Stars are important.  People glance at stars and move on. They may never read the logic or factor it in.

And re the review, while everybody makes mistakes–we probably more so than many–this review was a set up.

(As well as a good example of a factor called “online disinhibition effect.”)


This review violated the Trip Advisor guidelines for reviews because it was written by a close competitor, only a few miles away.

And this is increasingly a problem.  As is guest blackmail.  For instance, a long term guest who leaves the apartment a wreck and then threatens to give a trumped up bad reviews unless their cleaning fee is waived.

Or a false positive review, solicited from like minded members of an inn-keepers group, or written from India by folks who make a living doing it.

For perspective, read below:


In our case it was not very subtle.  For obvious reasons a competitor cannot write a review about their competition–particularly a negative one.  Just like we are not allowed to write reviews about ourselves.  Public reviews are supposed to be a places for people to exchange useful information–but that’s not really what is happening most of the time.

I guess our “set up” two star was useful in a way, pointing out again something that is already stated repeatedly. I’ll say it again below: In Spokane you must be licensed as a B&B to keep folks less than 30 days.  We are.  You must have a central and inspected kitchen to serve breakfast.  We don’t.   Everybody here has their own kitchen.

I read reviews and think they can be a valuable first tool for travelers–and also can be a valuable pointer to hotel keepers as well.  We do care about honest feedback.  It’s just that it does not happen often on the public forum which seems more inclined to subjective and emotional responses to what are often one-time events.  Honest, helpful–if invariably hard to hear–critical feedback goes to the owner privately and is responded to.  If that response is not satisfactory, or in fact confirms the complaint, then it might, might, be time for public negative review.

Time and time again you see owners responses of WHY did you not tell us at the time?  It could have been remedied!

Negative public reviews are the last course of recourse, not the first contact.  Statistics show a vast proportion of one and two star reviews are false–a setup. As are many five stars.

Take a look at the numbers: Some places of our size have hundreds of reviews.  I think we have less than 30. The oldest and probably most-used B&B here in town has had 12 reviews since 2005–a mix of positive and negative as would be natural. These low numbers (average 1.3 a year) are probably because the innkeepers are not soliciting reviews–or worse yet–paying for them. It probably says more about their marketing strategy than their operation.

Frankly, when people are happy they tend to just go on and be happy.  Only when mad, mistreated–or having a grudge–are they inclined to be vocal in a negative way.  The motivation to write bad things is much bigger than the motivation to write good things.  Many establishments, seeing the benefit of hundreds of good reviews to dilute the several inevitable mediocre ones, have paid services, or a network of like-minded individuals, to write glowing snippets for them.  The top review (as of today) for our “in the business” accuser?

“Kudos from one inn-keeper to another!” 

I bet.

Not that one inn-keeper could not love another’s service,  it’s just relatively unlikely that a fairly new B&B would generate 60-70 honest, public and completely ecstatic reviews–all but one completely 5 star, and an average of one a month.  It just doesn’t work that way.

I’ve written many very good reviews for hotels I’ve stayed at. Unless they do it really wrong, and I’ve informed them, and not gotten help with it, they get five stars. Why take the trouble? And why five stars? Because I realize it is important to them–and I’m inclined to appreciate creative tactics and small gestures.  You can always learn something from someone’s model. I tend to forgive the small errors because I know that perfection is close to impossible.  Lessons learned from a 120 year old house–and working with the public.  And five stars because, why not?  Appropriate value for what was paid–and value is an important part of it–good service, clean and orderly. Why not five stars?

I’d expect something different from the Savoy in London at over $500 a night,


than I would at the Mt Si Motel at $75.


Which is where Rick and I stayed with the water frozen, and I wrote them no review at all–I figured 18 degrees and a strong north wind were extenuating circumstances.  Though it was certainly cold, they were attentive and kind.


But I did once wrote a terrible review about the Rodeway Inn in Corvallis Oregon–where I stayed two nights teaching a clinic.  See if you agree with my stab at their reputation.

I was at work and I was kept up of both nights.  The first by drunken teenagers vomiting and shouting in the halls, and the second with a major fight in the parking lot. (There’s just nothing like bodies slamming on the wall to lull one to sleep).

Prom weekend. Oregon State University

I actually could have forgiven even that–it was, after all, guest behavior not hotel behavior–but when I told the management of my plight the owner said, What noise? You must be Crazy!  There was no fight in the parking lot!

Except there was.  And I got no sleep in a filthy room that I actually would have been afraid to leave.

So the scene was set for a terrible review.  One star.  Filthy room, screaming occupants, vomit, physical violence.

They did offer breakfast.


I suspect the Rodeway Inn, Corvallis does not care about reviews–or cleanliness or upkeep or service–because it can take a $50 room and sell it eighteen weekends a year (for prom night or game night at OSU) for triple that.   They are a really bad hotel.  One and a half stars overall.  Been in business for years. Overpricing their rooms on sold out weekends in a university town works well for them.  Not so much the customer, but that’s not the point.

So, if you agree with me, this is a place worthy of some scathing reviews, particularly on busy nights when it is honestly impossible to sleep.

How did we get our recent two star review?  (In spite of local chocolates on the new bed, ironed sheets, organic soaps, fresh flowers, gourmet coffee, full kitchen, great views, and $95 for the night?)

Here is the review: *****

“This was listed as a B&B. We are B&B owners and we certainly know what qualifies as a B&B and that is it includes breakfast. This is more like a nice boarding house. Each unit has its own kitchen – no breakfast served. Most of the drawers in our unit had somebody else’s belongings in drawers. This is advertised as a “Green” echo friendly establishment. Organic soaps etc. were on the kitchen and bathroom counters, however I would NOT consider Soft Scrub, Clorox, etc. as echo-friendly green cleaning agents found under the sink in the kitchen.
We could recommend staying in this place as it is in a lovely part of Spokane and it was adequately furnished and clean. However, it is misleading to advertise it as a Bed and BREAKFAST and green, echo friendly. It was also creeping having someone else items in drawers. This was misleading.

Room Tip: Just come prepared to fix your own breakfast or go out to breakfast – false advertising.”

Here’s a link to the review.


So here’s what we did wrong:

#1. Lack of cooked communal breakfast–which we  do not promise and have not once in 17 years served.  In Spokane you currently must be licensed as a B&B/hotel/motel to keep folks less than 30 days.  We are–and fit ALL of the guidelines, owner in site, historic registry.  The unlicensed group have a stay of execution to be out of bussiness by end of August.  You wonder we make the distinction?  Licensed, legal, inspected, insured..

Breakfast? You do not HAVE to serve food to keep people legally over night as long as you fit one of the categories, pay the taxes and buy the license.   But if you do serve food, in Spokane you must have a central and inspected kitchen where it is prepared.  We don’t.   Everybody has their own kitchen.  That’s actually a big draw for people and we are very clear about it. (That you can legally make your own free breakfast from on-site materials, and have the invitation to use fresh eggs from the chickens and veggies from the garden was not mentioned in the review  Local coffee, a grinder, gourmet tea, pumpernickel bread in the cooler, fresh eggs, butter and cream?  They were all there.)

#2. The presence of bleach products.  Right next to the vinegar.  That critique of our “greenness” is, I think a bit of a stretch  (EV charging station, organic garden, chickens, compost, recycling and a fleet of loaner bikes?)  Clorox on site is worthy of criticism?  Let’s be serious.  (Besides, there are on occasion good reasons for Clorox.)

#3. Items in the drawers.  (There are lots of shelves–close to fifty–and drawers–more than 30–in that apartment. The North River View.  They booked The Gallery which is very small.  I upgraded them.  That is policy–the nicest unit available.


Storage in the River View is not an issue.



As in many of our units there are things in the cabinets.  Like tea pots.


And every unit has a tool kit so we can fix simple things right away.  Extra sheets exist, some books and DVDs or videos.  We assume sometimes people find these useful.

And I suppose it could happen that we forgot to open one of the thirty drawers and something personal was left in one.  Except we checked, and there was not.

This is the profile of the gal who reviewed us.

This is public information, right there with her review.


Here is mine:  Also public information.


(And on looking at the travel demographic in the link above it appears a lot like the red and blue maps we see commonly in November. . .  But, as my good friend and staunch Libertarian Noel says, (in fond tones,) “You are after all an egg-sucking liberal.”  Oh well.  My son’s work is funded by the Koch brothers currently.  Shouldn’t that get me some cred for tolerance? And I confess, I have enjoyed mean jokes about Sarah Palin.)

Back on course!

Honestly, I have lost count of the B&Bs or small, micro-establishments I’ve stayed in. (India, France, Germany, Holland, England, Scotland, Ireland, Mexico, Belize, Nicaragua, probably thirty here in the US.)

And you know what I can tell you for a fact about them?

Almost nothing that I could say for sure.

Because they are all different–and called different things in different countries, offering what the hosts think of as hospitality.  And that is different for each host and guest.

So it pays to read what the offering is–kitchen provided, no breakfast served is pretty darned clear–and accept it with some humility if you go to stay.  You’re in someone’s home for heavens sake!  They don’t have to be just like you. . . And you might learn something from that.  If you’re not busy trying to put them out of business for being different than you expected.

Re expectations.  I have mine, but I realize some of them–perhaps most–are not shared by other inn-keepers.  Or the public in general.  Am I going to write a bad review over sheets not ironed in another establishment?  Just because I do it–and have not one, but TWO of these mechanical dinosaurs:


(A mangle from the forties.  Isn’t that just beautiful?)

Furthermore, I hate, Hate, HATE,  all fabric softeners and dryer sheets.  (These are bad for you, I just KNOW it! 😉 And anyway, the secret to good sheets and towels is. . . good sheets and towels.

Am I going to write a bed review because someone does not iron and uses dryer sheets?  Nope. Just because that is the way I do it does not mean I’m entitled to publicly cast judgement on the practices of others.  I might not go again over the dryer sheet issue–seriously.

The ironing?  Eh. . . I do it because I think you’ll like how it feels, and it really, it makes me feel more orderly when the top sheet folds down nicely.  Do I think it is really important?  Not in your life.  It is just my habit.

If you’ve stayed with us and want to write a review.  Please be my guest:


Best wishes!  Dale

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.


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?


(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.


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.

The one below in the spring, not yet leafed out but with our new gazebo and straw bale garden showing to the right.


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 fellow 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.


And they are.

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.


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!)


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.


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.   We want something see-through,not a stockade.



Non visually obstructive fence, still grass, and a raised garden of straw bales growing vegetables and flowers.

You can see the start of this behind the little redwood.



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.

May 24th, a Saturday at 11 AM is the next one.




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


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



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


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


Cress and chard awaiting transplant. . . .

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


IMG_0339 IMG_0340



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.


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.

index~~element45 Maid_with_Tray


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.)


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.


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.



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.

images                    1439513296_gladys_kravitz_nosey_neighbor_100179375_l_xlarge

(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.)

m3L1g6cqqKeh0F-xfYUvAnQ $T2eC16RHJGYE9nooh8!TBS!WNy4GuQ~~60_35 IMG_0089

“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!”


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

Banner American Whaling page KWM434_pg310



Modern try pots if you will. . .


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:

IMG_1952 vs ml_rm_ilib_rm_2cc_l_e

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


but not fruit.


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.


I also did not mention our composting program:


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.)


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?


No!  No eggs at all in fact.

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


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.



IMG_0087 IMG_0088

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.


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.


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:  https://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




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.



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!


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


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

$132.40 worth of them in fact.


Some of which I think are okay.


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!


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!


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