Saturday, December 22, 2012

Getting Located

We've finally discovered the boundaries of where we live.

My wife, Chana, and I operate a B&B in Bayfield, WI on 24 acres. 
It went on the market in late June.  We have an accepted offer, whose
final requirement was to complete a survey to identify the east and
north boundaries.  The survey was done Dec. 19.  On the 20th we
walked the land, following stakes topped with pink surveyor's tape
to see exactly what we own.

In past walks around the land, we tried to estimate the north boundary
by following a buried strip of barbed wire that probably collapsed years ago.
On the 20th, we congratulated ourselves on our guesswork, because the
official survey and our path were surprisingly close together.

The gently falling snow also revealed a tiny everygreen tree that
Chana decided had a proper place in a Charley Brown cartoon.
And we discovered the intricate abandoned nest of a colony of bees
or hornets, which we'll save and use as an enhancement on the house.

The adventure also included a decision to move two benches from
where they'd been located for nearly 15 years.  Both had to be
carried--schlepped is the word-- over snow-covered uneven ground.

One is a Carolina bench, whose construction and use of decorative
wrought iron added weight and required that we each balance it on
one shoulder and, as much as possible, walk at exactly the same pace.

The other, a six-foot, home-made project, needed to be balanced on
its side on two large boards laid on a kid's plastic coasting sled.  We
had to pull it a couple hundred yards through fields of deep snow--
a challenge because the bench resisted our efforts to keep it centered
on the sled so the weight was evenly balanced.

It was a wonderful few hours.  We discovered the boundaries of our
land, re-located two benches near our firepit--in time to celebrate the
winter solstice--and found a new appreciation for Mother Nature.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Ideas & Decisions

The Artesian House is for sale.

And we're in the process of renovating Chana's home in
nearby Washburn, with the goal of moving there after the
B&B sells.  The renovation will take 5-6 months.

As for the sale of the inn...over the past several weeks,
we've rejected 3 offers, most recently Oct. 12.

On the 12th, we expected to receive 1 or 2 offers--
recognizing that if either were accepted, the likely late fall/
early winter closing would require us to 1)  pack and store
the contents of the inn and 2)  find a place to live during
the renovation.  Cost estimates for both told us that
we were looking at significant dollars.

Chana had an idea.

Of course, she said, we need to monitor the renovation.
But let's step back from trying to sell the B&B right now.

Instead, let's stay in the inn during the renovation,
continue to welcome guests and save ourselves
some physical, emotional and financial strain.

Her idea led to a decision that makes good sense.

Thanks, Chana.

An announcement about "quiet season" changes at
the B&B is on our home page.  Please visit.

Monday, August 20, 2012


Not the gas guzzlers most of us would rather not see on the road.

But the tiny feathered ones that amaze us with their agility,
speed, territorialism and mysterious ability to navigate back
and forth over the Gulf of Mexico and--as I understand it--
return to their previous food source at both ends of the trip.

I spent part of today laboring over a Sudoku and watching
the birds.  The birds won.

It was a feeding frenzy most of the time...2, 3, 4 even 5
fighting for a spot at the feeder.

Bird A lands and starts to drink (or do they sip?).  Bird
B wants a spot, but is chased away by A.  While they're
gone, Bird C settles in.  A returns and is challenged by C. 
Off they go to see who prevails, and D arrives.  And so
it goes.

There's still time left to enjoy them before they beef up,
respond to whatever tells them it's time, and head south.

All it takes is a feeder and a cup of sugar dissolved in
3 or 4 cups of boiling water. 

And you're a spectator.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Every four years we get a bonus day on Feb. 29. It's called Leap Day.

This year it's aptly named. It represents a giant leap from three months of non-winter--December, January and all but one day of February--to the real thing.

As of noon on the 29th, it had been snowing steadily since midnight, and the weather folks said it would probably continue for the rest of the day.

The snow left our deck totally covered, and created nicely-rounded roofs on our bird feeders, making it hard for our feathered friends to access their food. So Chana, who is devoted to keeping the birds well fed, tiptoed out in her robe, cleared a path to the feeders and filled them. The birds were happy; the squirrels didn't get the message that they weren't welcome.

Our driveway is about 1,000 feet long, and the storm covered it with nearly 12 inches of beautiful--but heart attack-heavy--snow. No way to use the driveway, and I had no thought about anything resembling shoveling, but felt a short walk to the main road was called for.

It was more a trudge than a walk, but a perfect way to experience real winter.

The snow removal will come soon enough. For now, we'll relax and enjoy nature's Leap Day gift.

And it's obvious: March will come in like a lion.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Chana has moved.

From Washburn to Bayfield. Nine miles. Our households are combined.

It became a reality on December 19, 10 busy months since our February 19 wedding on Lake Superior.

From February to early June, she completed her teaching in Washburn, and retired. There was no chance to do any real moving during that four months. June through October brought the tourist season. So, with guests in the house...again, no time to combine households, except for her terrific reorganizing of the B&B basement to create "people" space and better storage. And during this time we had a garage built, where none had been before. It was finished in August, and we love it...but it occupied so much time.

In November and December we decided not to take guests, and devote those months to the priority of combining households. That meant Chana needed to sort and pack an incredible amount of accumulated treasures, plus countless trips for both of us, back and forth between Washburn and Bayfield, with trunks full of small boxes. In addition there was painting of the basement floors, stripping old carpet, prepping walls, painting and re-carpeting one of the four guest our bedroom.

With holiday family commitments dead ahead, we rented a van and recruited friends to help move everything possible on December 17--a huge success. Two days later, the items too big to handle--freezer, refrigerator, washer, dryer and a few very special pieces of furniture--received the TLC of professional movers.

And that was it.

At 11 a.m. on December 19--exactly 10 months from the date and time of our wedding--Chana signed the bill and the movers said goodbye. We celebrated with Makers Mark and a fire in the yard where we'll build a fire pit--using the grate from Chana's fire pit in Washburn.

Still ahead: finding a place for the contents of at least some of those boxes.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Penn State

Our email to the Board of Trustees at Penn State:


Your board acted courageously and correctly in dismissing the president and football coach to achieve the larger goal: preserving the school's reputation.

We can only hope this sends a clear message to your colleagues on university boards across the nation: that the school runs the football (and the athletic) program--not vice-versa.

Your board has already absorbed criticism from students and alumni. And we know there are too many other well-known examples of the "win at any cost" mentality--especially for football--at other schools.

That said, your action has properly set the bar at a higher level for a board's willingness and ability to deal with the excesses--financial, ethical and moral--of athletic programs.

Well done.

Al and Chana Chechik
Bayfield, WI

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Progress Report

Chana and I are working hard to merge households...a challenge for two people who have been single--think of all the acquired habits of daily living--for a combined total of 45 years.

As Chana began to move--a few boxes at a time--into the B&B we share on three-day weekends, she insisted on becoming a part of her new residence by cleaning. That means cleaning virtually everything: rooms, closets, cupboards, the basement. Her theory is simple: the more she's physically in touch with her new home, the better the transition. And it's working.

She's done an amazing job of getting in touch...dusting, sweeping, washing and vacuuming.

Example: With 2,000+ sq. ft. of space--much of it unused, or poorly-used--the basement had great potential for her re-organizing touch. One area, home to firewood and tools for 15 years, has been given a great start toward becoming more usable. We've also added new doors to create easier access to two 14 x 40 foot spaces, one of which has been filled mainly with "stuff", the other completely vacant. They'll become storage and kids' play areas respectively.

Other projects have given the great room a new look by adding art pieces important to her, removed a surplus of my family photos from a stairway and "encouraged" me to take steps to convert my single-guy space upstairs to shared space.

The really remarkable transition has been the kitchen. It pitted the irresistable force of a skilled cook and veteran kitchen person ( with a major inventory of glasses, cups, bowls, platters and other kitchen equipment ) against the immovable object of a guy who's run a B&B for 15 years, and organized the kitchen precisely to suit his convenience.

The irresistable force is winning. The kitchen now has a new look, including: a much improved setup for coffee storage and preparation...the shift of plates, bowls and glasses used for B&B breakfasts to a much better spot...the simple move of a large bread box drawer one level higher, making it so much more convenient...and ditto for a gadget drawer.

Then there's the baking drawer. It holds mixing bowls, a sifter, a shredder, baking dishes and--importantly--flour. One day the flour was elsewhere... in a spot that made sense to both of us. The next morning I began to prepare breakfast featuring a favorite dish that requires flour. I looked in the previous location, then in every other cupboard and drawer in the kitchen. It was nowhere to be seen.

With apologies to Peter, Paul and Mary--I approached Chana and sang "Where Has All My Flour Gone?" She led me to the baking drawer. Which now contains one more important item.

Thanks, Chana. Your re-organization is very much appreciated.