Garden 2.0

New Garden Plot

Originally uploaded by j-co

Labour Day weekend is traditionally the last summer cottage hurrah. While our weekend was tempered with a glorious lobster feast and a shopping trip to catch the Labour Day sales, we did a serious dose of work on the garden. Garden 2.0, that is.

With a full 6 months of gardening experience behind us we are using this end-of-growing-season time to re-evaluate many things about our first-ever garden. We did a highly scientific comparison of the sunniest spots on our property (which mostly consisted of squinting into the sky and arguing) and decided that the spot we chose this year for our garden had some good qualities, but was far from perfect.

The other thing we figured out is that we don’t have the “perfect” spot for a garden on our property so we’ll probably have to make do with a few different plots in different places for different things.

To that end we identified what we think is the sunniest spot which is at the end of the lawn right on the border with the farmed acreage. This might be the best place for the things that really need sun to thrive like tomatoes, peppers and, of course, sunflowers.

We also took some very sage advice (pun intended) and transplanted our herb garden to the plot right behind the house and right outside the kitchen door. This will make it easy to pop outside for fresh herbs while in the midst of cooking.

We did a rather drastic weeding job on this plot, as you can see from the photo. The entire area you see as dirt was covered with Japanese lanterns which can be lovely in small does but which had gone completely wild. We reduced them substantially in order to plant some new perennials and create another of our several garden plots. What’s great about this area is the soil–it’s rich, dark and easy to manipulate, nothing like the clumpy clay of our previous garden plot in the sheep paddock. We added several new perennials that we hope will thrive here and keep the Japanese lanterns at bay, as well as transplanted the herbs and planted 20 head of garlic.

Most interesting with this plot is the archeological discovery: a foundation from an old woodshed or similar. The foundation, in addition to being a lovely relic from past incarnations of the house and the people who lived here, is also a great boundary marker for our new perennial garden.

Now, we’ll just have to wait and see another year for the verdict on this particular patch of ground and what thrives and what dies. This whole gardening thing requires an awful lot of patience!


A Family Business

Welcome to the cottage

Welcome to the cottage

Have you ever been involved in a family business? Well it’s still a new endeavour for my family and we’re negotiating our way through the business of renting our family cottage. Now this is no pickle factory, tailor shop or restaurant we’re talking about, we have a vacation rental business. We rent out the cottage that my grandparents built in the 1950s during the peak summer travel season, from roughly late May to late October.

We are incredibly lucky in my family in a wide variety of areas, but importantly, we all get along relatively well and we all are pretty easy going people. There are definitely times that discussions get serious, but it is extremely rare that we shout or say mean things to one another. These qualities make it it easier to go into business together as a family.

We also tend to play to our stengths, which is something that has grown organically once we started on this journey. Everyone has taken on different tasks in the running of this business, ones that we have developled as we have discovered what needs to be done and who is best to accomplish that task.

My parents take on the majority of the running of the day-to-day operation of the business because they are retired and have the most time of any of us. My brother and I both have full-time jobs and taking on this operation would be out of the question. My parents are responsible for booking the guests, liasing with them for all their arrangments and keeping track of the accounts. In addition they do the bulk of the weekly turnover house cleaning in between guest stays. I come down for weekeds to help whenever I can, but they definitely do most of this work–cleaning the cottage from top to bottom, inside and out and preparing everything in about a 3 hour timespan.

As I mentioned, we play to our strengths, so I’ve been employed in our family business on the marketing and communications side… kind of. This is my profession and so I do have some expertise in this area. Additionally I’ve been pulling my knowledge in the online world into practice. A large part of my afternoon today was spent improving our business website. I discovered a wonderful website called SythaSite that is a very user friendly build-your-own-free-website website. It was extremlely easy to use and I think our new website is going to look really great.

As I said, we are all extremely lucky, first to have this gorgeous property in the first place, and specifically my brother and I are very lucky that our parents are able to run most of the business without us having to do most of the day-to-day operations. We all contribute in our different ways and so I am particularly looking forward to sharing our redsigned website as soon as it’s ready!

The Wallpaper Store

The old sign from the Wallpaper Store

The old sign from the Wallpaper Store

I remember when my grandmother had a business selling wallpaper from the building across the street from her house on Main St. in Lodi. It wasn’t a store as much as it was a place where ancient wallpaper was stored with a sign on the door that said something along the lines of “If you want to buy some wallpaper, come across the street and knock on the door and if I’m there I’ll sell you some wallpaper.” I do remember someone arriving at the door once with such an intention. It was probably in the 80s sometime.

My grandmother’s wallpaper business was something she inherited from her father. He ran a bigger operation out of that building back when wallpaper was more ubiquitous in home decor. She also ran a millinery business in the same building before the wallpaper business. Why someone would give up fashioning stylish headpieces for boring old wallpaper I’ll never know. Maybe it was at the end of the hat era.¬†Last summer we found some ancient records from the wallpaper business among the piles of artifacts and other stuff.

Before the building’s incarnation as a wallpaper store it was accommodation for hired men who worked on my family’s farm. This is going back to the early part of the 20th century when my grandfather had a large commercial farm with crops and livestock. This building was given some cosmetic upgrades by my uncle in the 90s, but still has no indoor plumbing, as it dates back to the outhouse era.

In most recent history, the Wallpaper Store was my uncle’s art studio. He was an artist and art teacher at the Massachusetts College of Art and Designin Boston for 40 years and retired to Lodi in the mid-90s. Since my uncle’s passing about 3 years ago, the studio has become storage for his artwork as well as¬†accumulated furniture and stuff from the various properties.

This weekend we needed to ask a friend in Lodi to go in and turn on the heat in the studio because we don’t want the cold to ruin all of my uncle’s artwork or anything else that’s stored in there. The items stored in here now may not be valuable in the monetary sense, but precious in terms of our family legacy.

I am permanently Stuck in Lodi Again

This is the view from the back porch of the home farm house on Main St. in Lodi

This is the view from the back porch of the home farm house on Main St. in Lodi

I am permanently “Stuck in Lodi Again”, as the CCR tune* goes. Well, figuratively if not literally.

My family has lived in or around Lodi, New York for over 4 generations. Over the last decades the houses, farmland and cottages have been left to my small family and we are doing our darndest to keep everything going because we love the place so much. We don’t live in Lodi full time and so keeping everything running is a challenge, for a number of reasons, but it is a labour of love for us.

Here are the properties that we are working on:

1) main farm house, Main St., Lodi, built c. 1875 (aka The Home Farm)

2) farm house, just outside of Lodi, built before 1850 (aka The Golding Farm)

3) house in town, Main St. Lodi (aka The Wallpaper House)

4) house in town which is artist studio/storage (no plumbing), Main St. Lodi (aka The Wallpaper Store)

5) cottage on Lodi Point, built 1960s (aka The Covert Cottage)

6) cottage on Lodi Point, built 1950s (aka The Green Cottage)

In this blog, I aim to document the work that we do on these properties, puncuated by tall tales of Lodi, family lore and photos of our travails.

*in the interests of full disclosure, the Lodi in the CCR tune is actually Lodi, California. If anyone knows of a tune about Lodi, NY, please let me know!