Thursday, January 28, 2010

What's In A Dream?

The lovely
Christine Collier of the Southern Oregon Wine Blog recently asked me to answer some questions regarding our bed and breakfast. As I ended up typing what practically amounts to a short story, I thought I would repost it here for others to enjoy.


Well, I just finished cleaning out the chicken coop, and now have my clothes sanitizing in the washer, so I guess that gives me some time to respond to your questions...

I don't recall exactly what moment Ryan and I decided to open up a bed and breakfast. I know we talked and dreamed about it very early on in our dating. We both love to cook, so I think that was part of it. I remember once my family joked that they should buy us a bed and breakfast because we loved to cook so much! Ryan and I had discussed opening up a little cafe, but decided that we just weren't cut out for the restaurant biz. We wanted something a little bit different...

My grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimers several years ago, and my grandmother was having trouble taking care of him. I was finishing up my degree in geology at the University of Utah at the time. I had no idea what I wanted to do after graduation, and when I found out about my grandfather, I decided moving back to Oregon might be the wisest option. We would be closer to our family, and could help care for my grandfather. So, after graduation, we packed our bags and headed out to Oregon with no set plans and a whole lot of hope. We never expected to move out into the Applegate Valley. Originally, we had fallen in love with a little farm house in Rogue River, and had planned to open up our business there. I grew up in Grants Pass, so I was familiar with Medford and Rogue River, but had never really ventured into Jacksonville or the Applegate. We actually ended up at the house on Upper Applegate Road by sheer Fate. The two other houses we had made offers on had fallen through, and this property was our last resort. It was what my friend April called a four letter word: WORK. This place was a fixer-upper's dream, and a first time homeowner's nightmare. But, it had potential, the owners were desperate to sell, and we were desperate to have a place to live. The rest, as they say, is history...

I remember the first evening we spent at the house. None of our furniture had arrived, so we had to resort to sleeping on one of the old mattresses that the previous owners had left in the master bedroom. There was a spider (not to mention mouse & snake) infestation in the home at the time, and though the sellers had had the place treated, it had not taken full effect yet. So, there were roughly 500 million brown recluse and hobo spiders in attendance as well that night. I don't think I slept at all.

It’s been almost three years now since that fateful first night, and I am proud at how much we have managed to accomplish in that time. In the beginning, things were so financially tight that we could not afford to do more than paint the walls in the house. When we had moved in, the house was completely white-washed. Ryan and I, tired of living in apartment after apartment with beige- and pastel-colored walls, vowed to bring color into our life and our new home! We have collected antique furniture since our early days of marriage, and we wanted to pick out room colors that would compliment our bold antique pieces. In the living room, we picked a metallic gold paint as an accent wall for our large, black antique china cabinet. We wanted that to be the first thing that people noticed when they entered the house. Our wedding china is a turn-of-the-century set by Villeroy and Boch, and we picked out the coordinating red current and dark pink colors to match. Our most recent acquisition – an oil painting by Y.W. Leung measuring roughly 7 feet long and 3 feet tall – completes the color scheme in the living room.

As the months passed, we were able to do little bits of home improvement here and there. Finally, in late 2008, we were able to tear down the old, hideously blue barn and replace it with a beautiful red barn (no more having kidding season in the garage!). Then, we could finally begin on the real remodeling of the house. From January – April 2009, the house was almost completely gutted: new walls, insulation, appliances, electrical, and more! The kitchen and the Duchesse de Portland bathroom are the two most impressive features of the remodel. One thing I will say about remodeling: if your marriage can survive a remodel, it can survive anything! I think the biggest shock about remodeling your house is getting used to having random people in your home at all hours of the day and night, and lacking the use of rooms or appliances that you have grown accustomed to. It can be very stressful. Thankfully, Ryan and I made it through our remodel just fine.

With the Apothecary Inn, we have strived to bring people a unique experience not offered elsewhere in Southern Oregon. It’s not simply about fine breakfast dining – we want to show people where their food comes from. One of our goals is to be entirely self-sufficient. Whether or not we ever manage to achieve that on this property does not matter – this is the goal that we strive for; this is what keeps us going. We raise registered, show-quality Nigerian Dwarf Dairy goats, and these provide the farm’s dairy products. Fresh milk, yogurt, kefir, and soft & hard cheeses are produced from our five (and counting) adorable does. We have a flock of chickens (averaging between 30 and 50 birds depending on the year), who provide us with eggs. You haven’t truly lived until you have tried farm fresh eggs – you’ll never go back to store purchased after that! I work hard at maintaining a very large vegetable garden, which grows in size every year. I save my own seeds, so there are no hybrids found in my garden. This past year, Ryan and I have constructed a formal herb garden next to the house. In four raised beds made of river rock from the ravine at the side of our property, I have planted my culinary and medicinal herbs. Besides the obvious personal and bed & breakfast needs, these herbs are also used to produce our line of all natural botanical products under the label, “Sangue di Dragone.” We stock each guest bathroom with samples of our soaps, shampoos, bath oils, salves, and facial products.

With our breakfast menu, we work hard to make a delicious meal using simple, homegrown ingredients and no sugar or chemicals. Breakfast consists of two courses: the first course is generally a lighter, sweeter course, and is followed by a second, heartier course. Ryan has a 250+ year-old sourdough starter, and makes sourdough rolls to set out as pre-breakfast snacks for guests.

Ryan and I love wine, and enjoy being located nearby several Applegate wineries. I can’t honestly say that we have a “favorite,” as each winery brings something special and valuable into the mix. Anyone who claims a favorite vineyard has not visited all of them yet.

Apothecary Inn is still the “new kid on the block.” We opened our doors on May 10th, 2009 with a lovely Grand Opening Celebration attended by 30-40 friendly faces. Even with our limited advertising budget, word spread, and we booked a fairly full summer. We have had a great deal of positive feedback from guests, and I look forward to seeing this trend continue in the future. I believe that word of mouth is the best form of advertisement. The people who come to stay at our bed and breakfast are doing so because they want a truly unique and rewarding experience. In a time where most people don’t connect that their hamburger comes from a cow, or that their Thanksgiving turkey did not start its life in plastic wrap, we are here to show people that there is something good to be said for going back to basics. It’s about using your hands, working hard, and accomplishing a dream. Each generation walks a different path, but that doesn’t mean that we should forget our ancestors. In a day with Walmart and work cubicles, we traded a 40 hour week for a 60 hour week and came out ahead. There is something to be said for returning to your roots. At Apothecary Inn, we’ll show you why.


Christine Collier said...

I loved your story! It put a smile on my face while reading it. I especially liked your last line, "We traded a 40 hour week for a 60 hour week and came out ahead." Very inspiring. Thats exactly the type of life I want to lead.

Apothecary Inn said...

Well, more like a 119 hour week, but still...*grin*

My grandmother and I were actually discussing this the other day and I think you might appreciate it: she said that the reason so many people are shocked when they first meet us by how young we are is because people our age have stopped being motivated to work hard and achieve dreams. Everybody in their 20's to 30's wants to party (quoting my little Italian grammy here). The problem is that so many people then reach their 40's and wonder (1) where the time went and (2) what they want to do with life. Most people don't start working toward their true dreams until 40's or later. The way I see it, we are working hard in our 20's to achieve our dreams by our 40's so that hopefully we won't HAVE to work quite so hard at that point! ;P

The whole conversation made me laugh...but it felt good to know that someone who worked hard their entire life was proud of MY hard work.

Christine Collier said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Christine Collier said...

I agree with the 119 hours! 8-5? What is that? Weekends? People get those? :)

Your grandmother sounds like a firecracker. But, its the truth. Some of my peers feel like they have all the time in the world to "figure it out." But, really what is there to figure out? I am afraid for them that they will wake up one morning with inspiration to chase their dreams, but they will already be tied down with responsibility. Just do what you love and work really hard at it.

Its that entrepreneurship gene in me. I admire hard work and hope that I inspire others to work hard at what they love too.