Golding Farm Redux

The Golding Farm

Front door of Golding Farm

Last summer we did a lot of work on the Golding Farm House to make it habitable for folks. Fortunately for us at that time the folks were friends and not paying customers. They didn’t mind the fact that we’d covered up the cracks in the walls with “tapestries” and that there was one room that still had giant holes in the ceiling among other issues.

We’re starting now to get more serious about getting the Golding Farm ready for real visitors, perhaps even vacationing renters. There are a few major jobs that need to be done: a new bathroom needs to be installed upstairs and the small room adjoining it needs to be subsumed into that bathroom. The room next to that room needs to be turned into a hallway and the room with the holes in the ceiling needs some, um, work too.*

There’s something really special about this house, but it’s hard to put your finger on what exactly. We really love it. None of us has ever actually lived there, but there’s just a really warm and special feel to this house. There must have been a lot of love in this house over the last 150 years that we can sense somehow.

Sadly I remember when this house was not treated with a lot of love–we used to rent it out to a series of families that didn’t treat the house or the grounds with much respect. I remember more than one occasion when we hauled out loads of junk, cleaned off caked-on grime from many surfaces and washed windows that hadn’t been washed in decades.

Over the last 3-4 years we’ve worked slowly at it and the improvements have been incremental. Many of us have done this work: my Mum and Dad, my brother of course who lived there last summer, my aunt and uncle and even my uncle Floyd before he passed away. Maybe that’s why we love this house, because so many of us have invested in it.

My Mum put together an amazing photo album that documents the transformation of the Golding Farm. Here’s hoping that we’ll be adding to this album soon with even more gorgeous photos of the newest set of improvements

*Please note that not all Covert family members agree on this plan of attack for the re-configuring of the top floor. I am a fan of this plan because it preserves the size of the stunning master bedroom which is huge and lovely, in my humble opinion. Stay tuned to see if I get overruled.

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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!

Renting the Cottage

The Porch at the Cottage

The Porch at the Cottage

It’s a kind of a strange thing, having a cottage rental property. It’s something that my family was thrust into and we’ve had an interesting time of adapting to this new aspect of our lives and watching it grow into a small family business.

In February of 2006 my uncle, Floyd Covert, passed away after a lengthy battle with cancer. He owned several pieces of property in the Lodi area that he had inherited from various relatives over the years and these properties came to my immediate family, as we were his closest relatives. Floyd had had no children of his own, so he left his cottage to my brother and I. Floyd had inherited this cottage from his mother (my grandmother) when she passed away in 1994.

So much to my surprise, and possibly my brother’s even greater surprise, we were now property owners. Neither of us owned property before this (we still don’t) and so this was a pretty big adjustment in our lives. I mean, it’s incredibly cool–I co-own a cottage! How awesome is that?! But on the other hand, it’s a little nerve-wracking, with the myriad things that need fixing in a 60-year-old property, paying property taxes for the first time and the inherent sense of responsibility that comes with such a thing.

Let me just point out here that many people my brother’s and my age do, in fact, own property and so it’s not such a shocking proposition, it’s just that we had avoided this life milestone, that many others pass at our age or before, quite successfully until it was thrust upon us in this way.

So here we were, faced, all of a sudden, with the very real property tax bills, repair and maintenance bills that came along with this incredible gift. Without the means to afford these new expenses we decided that the only way to be able to keep the cottage would be to turn it into a vacation rental property. Did we know what we were getting into? Not remotely. But we learned and adapted as we went along and ultimately have been able to make better improvements to the cottage than we ever could have without the income the rental brings.

Family Dinner at the Green Cottage

Family Dinner at the Green Cottage

The first summer we were barely up and running in July, what with neccessary improvements to the water and well system and some cosmetic changes to the look and usability of the cottage. We redecorated, outfitted the place with sensible and useful items and got rid of an overabundance of chotchkes and pickle dishes in order to make the place ready for guests. We hosted several couples and families that first year, enough to get our feet wet and make some notes on how to proceed for following years.

This is a serious undertaking, renting out the property on a weekly basis, but luckily my parents, who are retired and living at an adjacent cottage 6 months of the year, are able to manage the day-to-day operation of the business. My brother and I are peripherally involved, though we are all contribute to the management of the business in the larger sense.

It sounds strange, but we love the cottage so much that we actually kind of enjoy sharing it with others, even though they’re relative strangers and staying in this precious family cottage that was built by my grandparents long ago. We are so lucky to have this incredible treasure in our family and the more people that can enjoy it the better.