The Table That Chuck Built


Check out the table that Chuck built for the A-Z West guest cabin.  It is a very nice table – out of redwood and fir.  In stripes!


I’ve been wanting to try this pattern forever – and have been interested in learning how the softer woods respond to age and use.  (I suspect that they will age well – though this wood is a lot softer then the materials that I have typically used for table tops in the past)

Dialing in the Kitchen

A little over a month ago we installed the tiles from Arena.   The room has one big southern facing window, which should be getting light all day long, but for whatever reason it always feels dark.  I thought that the tiles might brighten the room – but they didn’t.  In fact the dark room didn’t do the tiles full justice.  So the newest (and hopefully last)  modification has been a long thin skylight – right where the wall meets the ceiling.  Amazing difference.  Feels like a pool room – or sometimes the diffused light even reminds me of being at the beach.


Much better then the cement board that that had been on the walls for the last two years…


And the battered concrete floors.

Pulling the Plug


A-Z West is now an internet free zone….  Not free internet – but internet free!

Out of synch with the world that wants to be connected all the time everywhere – I have been sorely feeling the need for some limits.   Email has become a sport, like a game of tennis, in which I spend the entire day flinging back messages trying to get the in box down to zero (which actually happened once, years ago, when I lived in a different house) – but the faster they go out, the faster they just came back in.  To say nothing of my inability to focus on a conversation without excusing myself every ten minutes to check the latest incoming news….

Now I’m only allowed to go on-line at the office (the HDTS HQ).  Yesterday I did a test run for this plan and managed to clean out my inbox in two hours – a new world record.

Not Exactly as Planned


It all ended with this…. but that part happened later on.  On Saturday Catharine Stebbins came out to sit the HQ.  It was a good day, there were loads of people in town (odd for an august weekend) and things went smoothly – Catharine has lots of really cool overlapping skill sets from sewing to photography – and she made a new volunteer check in list as well as a sales record.  (which we needed since we sold another Brian Bosworth planter!)


At about 1:00  the former smockers began to roll into town. Peggy, Ashira and Kenturah and then Kate, Michelle and Molly all came out from LA to help prep for for our Portland Maine debut as “the Group Formerly Known as Smockshop” (check it out – September 11th, 2010!).  We set up a work area in the back room of the HQ and spent the afternoon sewing a new banner and table coverings.


In the afternoon, after the shop closed for the day I had plans to meet with Doug who was working on a series of filmed conversations with artists for the NY Times.   We headed back to A-Z West with plans for the panelists to finish the day working on the back patio with cold beers while I did my conversation with Doug.  And Sarah and Luke from Lucky Dragons were also working with Doug – so they came out to A-Z West too.   And to make scheduling more tricky my friend Jeff was doing a show that night at 7:00 in downtown Joshua Tree.  (This is a very difficult story to simplify).  I went with my posse to see Jeff’s gig while Doug and his crew filmed Lucky Dragons playing music at sunset on the top of the rocky hillside behind my house.


This is a picture of everyone up on the hill as we were leaving the house.  What no one anticipated was the bee hive right in the boulders behind where Sarah and Luke were playing. About an hour later, disturbed by all the commotion, the bees swarmed the musicians and the film crew.  Described as thick dark roaring blankets they descended each person in the group who were trying to scramble while under attack down the precarious boulders – with bees stinging their faces and getting in their hair and clothing.  Sarah and Steve were allergic to bees and had to be immediately bundled off to the ER and all the filming equipment was abandoned up on the hill.  I got home just in time to wait for Brian the Bee man who arrived at about 10:00 PM with bee suits to help retrieve the recording instruments, computers, cell phones, sunglasses, etc that had been lost on the flight on the way down from the hill.  It was a long strange day and I’d bet money that something in my astrological star sequence has been out of whack all week.   (Though overall, and despite the chaos,  it was still pretty rad to meet Catherine, see all of the smockers, Sarah and Luke, and Doug and his really fabulously competent and courteous film crew)

The Rest of It

AZ West June 2010 - Photo by Giovanni Jance 032 copy

Since as I’m showing the kitchen, I should throw in an image of the patio area next to it.  A few months ago TK made the fire-ring with a drop-on barbecue grating.  The ring is totally huge which is fantastic for wintertime bonfires in which I secretly burn almost all of my household paper waste (meaning fewer trips to the dump which is about a 45 minute drive from A-Z West).  The gnarled teak root chairs and table came from the Sky Drive In Swap Meet in Yucca Valley (where Amy and Wendy Yao will be doing an HDTS project in October) – they used to have loads of great furniture like this, but sadly it has since been all sold off.  (thanks to my friend Giovanni Jance for this very perfect and professionally shot pic of the fire-ring)

Outdoor Kitchen


Over the last several years I’ve been trying to figure out how to reconfigure my house so that I still have some privacy, but am also able to serve the needs of guests who come to stay in the wagon stations or camp out in the wash on the west side of A-Z West.  Eventually, when I have a little more cash, the long term plan is to pipe water down to the parcel and build a kitchen and showers down there – but in the meantime I’ve been working on an outdoor kitchen next to the house so that people can use whenever they want.  TK Smith, fabricator extroidinare, came up with this deluxe design for my kitchen.  I had wanted horizontal redwood siding, but was worried about wood not holding up on the south side of the house, which gets blasted with sun.  TK came up with the horizontal metal design –  that will eventually rust to match the rest of my house.  two weeks ago while I was traveling back east he put the final touches on the kitchen – amazing!

Crazy Sweet New Tiles

Screen shot 2010-07-09 at 11.36.55 PMCheck out the new tiles in the kitchen at A-Z West!  This is a pattern that I designed for Arena in Mexico who will be producing and selling them….  soon.

Fresh Stucco

Screen shot 2010-07-09 at 11.36.10 PMAbout two and a half years ago we started a 499 square foot addition on the house.  (If you add more then 500 square feet you have to bring the entire structure up to code -and as it turns out over half of my 800 square foot cabin had been built illegally with no permits) At first the structure went really quickly – but since then it has taken years to finish all of the details.  Today Danny Simpson re-stuccoed the back and side of the house which were riddled with at least ten different patch jobs.  Next we finish the outdoor kitchen (coming soon) and finally there will be an outside sleeping deck on top of the area that Danny is working on in this photo.

Raugh Stuff

IMG_0886A few years ago I made a big carved Raugh desk in the middle of the living room – and in the process learned that two-year old toddlers not only regurgitate on foam, but also love to chew it (go figure) and also that mouse pee melts little craters in it.  I loved the foam but the foam didn’t love us.  Or at least it didn’t love our desert lifestyle.  This week we are prototyping a new setup of a smoothly sanded walnut frame with a plush raugh foam interior… the potential seems limitless.