Every year is a busy year at Four Quarters, and for those of us who live here on the Land life is a succession of projects that move from lower priority to higher, and in the face of the unforeseen, sometimes back again. 2007 and now 2008 seem even more so, as we “dig into” some big projects that have been in the offing for a number of years. Seems like an update is in order.
Patricia, our vintner, has successfully navigated the uncharted world of official approvals and permits for the winery, and we are now fully legal. What does that mean? Well, our basic product and packaging has been approved and permitted by the Federal Government, a long process that was necessary before we could sell at the state level. Regionally, we now have the permits to sell on-line to Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Connecticut, Virginia, North Carolina and the District of Columbia (and many other states, too). We also are now permitted to sell to retail establishments in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
To that end, long-time Member Kate Burlett has joined us as our Winery Sales Manager, with her mission to introduce Four Quarters Wines into retail stores in the DC/MD/PA region. And Patricia has begun to seriously pursue vending at regional conventions and festivals, with her season first at Maryland's “Sacred Space” event a standout success.
Please do visit our winery web site at FourQuartersWine.org to keep up on Patricia's travels this season, or to order a bottle or two. And remember, that as a tiny handful of non-profit wineries in the nation, every penny of profit goes to secure and support Four Quarters for your future.
The Shop Building
Since we began the foundations in August, we have gotten many questions about the BIG building we have been a’building down by the Farmhouse. And it is big, quite a bit bigger than the Farmhouse itself. We call it the “shop,” because the ground level floor is just that, a metal and woodworking shop to help keep all the repairs and improvements humming along. Old time Members will remember when the shop was the back porch of the Farmhouse, and then when we moved our equipment into a dilapidated old trailer. After 13 years, we feel like we are living in the lap of luxury with a clean, dry and spacious shop. But there is more going on here.
The second floor of this building is designed as a sleeping dorm and teaching space. We think it is beautiful. Orren engineered the supporting structure to evoke the feel of the old timber framed barns in this area with high ceilings, large open windows and plenty of exposed woodwork. Think beams, trusses, posts and flying braces. It is planned to have 6 bedrooms with double beds, 20 bunk bed berths, the amenities to support 22 people and that much open workshop space too. Did we mention it is big? As of this writing the building is buttoned up for winter, roofed and windowed, but as always there is much yet still to do. We are focused on building out the shop floor first, so we can put our equipment to good use (and get it out of the weather). Then, this spring, we will begin insulation, power and drywall buildout of the upper floor. We hope to be able to accommodate sleep-overs by early in the camping season, and to be fully finished in time for winter. By 2009 we hope to begin weekend intensives using the Dorm and the Farmhouse together to provide for our guests.
Which brings us to...
We have wrassled with the issue of sleeping cabins at Four Quarters for many years, without success. Any way we have looked at building cabins, either using “cabin kits” or conventional construction techniques, has always given the same answer. How will we ever pay them off at the low rates we would charge our Members and Guests? But unconventional thinking is the conventional at Four Quarters.
We are very seriously considering the purchase of an industrial planer/molder, a $5,000 piece of equipment that would allow us to process the local rough sawn lumber into finish grade material sized and shaped to our own specifications. Why is this important? With such a machine we could convert 2x8 roughsawn stock into finished tongue and groove panels that when stacked on edge would produce an attractive, weather tight insulating wall. Our numbers say that such a building technique would cut the cost of a cabin by 50%, and make building them a “do-able” project.
Of course, in order to purchase such a machine we must first have a large enough shop to house and use it, as well as a tractor with lift to move the large volumes of wood involved, not to mention the skilled labor and construction equipment required to actually build the cabins. Do you see a pattern here?
The Four Quarters
Water + Power Works
We continued to expand the water and sewage system in camp during the 2007 season, completing the construction of the High Meadow toilet and shower building in late spring. It is not fully finished, but does have 4 working flush toilet stalls; they are pretty with their hand made wooden doors and are very well appointed. We have received many compliments on them. This spring we will be finishing the two shower stalls in this building, and hopefully the small laundromat. Yes, that’s right. A washer and dryer!
We also installed almost 5,000 feet of new buried water lines throughout camp, with spigots placed about every 150 feet. All the way from the camp entrance gates to the far end of the Big Bottom. This spring we will be updating our pump house and then will apply for state approval of the entire system.
Of course our water system cannot run without power and part of our improvements in this area is the installation of a new diesel generator to power the camp. We are very happy with our Isuzu 10kw machine, and we built an insulated sound enclosure for it to live in. It is cozy and quiet!
About The Land Trust
As the rate of infrastructure improvement increases, it could be easy to lose sight of what has made it all possible. Because the foundation of Four Quarters and its mission is The Land. In January of 2005, and after two years of fundraising, Four Quarters secured a commercial bank loan to purchase the entirety of the camp. It was our long history of financial accountability, and more importantly the gift giving of our Members, that convinced the bank to take a risk on our small little non-profit.
At that time the Board of Directors made the decision to pay down the principle of the note as fast as we could, through belt tightening, and an appeal to our Members for monthly pledges to The Land Trust. Three years later we can begin to see the remarkable results.
In January 2005 we began the loan, owing the bank $145,000 to be paid back over the next 15 years. With our advanced principle payments, in January 2006 we owed $134,000, in January 2007 we owed $113,000, and beginning 2008 we owe the bank $92,000; which if we make no additional payments will retire the mortgage in 2013, after 8 years. But if we continue at our average rate of prepayment we will retire this mortgage in just three more years!
Our thanks for this must go to the Members who have made their commitments to the Pledge Program. Never doubt the ability of a small group of people to make for real change in the world. They did it for you!