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)

Last Trip Post (swear)


For years I’ve scoffed at tent owners, preferring the canopy of starry skies at night.  But not having BLM maps for most of Arizona and New Mexico I realized that we would probably be staying in a lot of public campgrounds – and finally broke down and bought a really comfortable REI car camping tent.  Not as glamourous as a little high tech backpacking tent – but it is pretty darn nice to be able to stand up when you pull your pants on.

This was the best campsite of the trip – right on the edge of the waters of the Rio Chame, not too far from Georgia O’keefe’s hometown  of Abique.  The campground was 11 miles down a bumpy gravel road leading to a monastery – even on the even of Labor Day weekend there wasn’t another camper to be seen or heard.


The travel book described Taos as being capable of inducing spiritual enlightenment – however the town itself felt a bit touristy and homogenous.  However Michael’s Kitchen provided sustenance in the form of heavily spiced breakfast burritos and Ms. Quick-stop on the northern end of town managed to likewise revive the struggling Subaru with a radiator flush, oil change and new air filter.

The biggest regret of the trip was arriving at the Earthships 9 minutes too late for a self guided tour.  I’ve been wanting to visit these for years and discovered that there are a few that you can even book for overnight stays.  Later we found this one for sale on Zillow (hard to tour the country without the Zillow Ap on your iphone honed in on every possible purchase)


I heart Earthships.  They both bring out the hippy in me and make me want to make love to a sci-fi alien being.

Gila Gila Gila


The night after staying in  Gila Bend in Arizona we ended up at Gila Hot Springs in New Mexico (and the next day at Gila Cliff  Dwellings).  The hot springs were at the end of a tiny twisting mountain road that looked like it would take about 20-30 minutes on the map, but took one and a half hours to navigate in reality.


There were a few different campgrounds – but this one won the prize with it’s outdoor communal kitchen.  I’ve been wanting to do something like this at A-Z West so that people have a sheltered functional area to cook in when they camp in the wash.


And I’m a huge sucker for ACX plywood and simple fir 2x6s  (as the furniture in the HDTS HQ will attest).  Even the bathroom, a converted mobile home,  was glowing with wooden goldness.


And not too far down the same road was another totally different kind of communal living situation.  The Gilla Cliff Dwellings were amazingly complex in their network of small interconnected rooms which originally were entered from above – their roofs creating a large platform for the inhabitants living functions.




My much yearned for camping trip through the southwest was a long time coming (years actually) – but last week it finally manifested itself a 2,000(+) mile journey that Thomas Stevenson and I took through the California Desert, Arizona and New Mexico.

Once-upon-a-time I used to go camping all the time – sleeping out on BLM land and exploring sketchy dirt roads that sometimes felt like little more then goat trails.  This trip however was more of a research expedition – targeted at checking  out further regions of the southwest – and finding greenery and cool temps in the August heat.


We got a late start on Monday afternoon and drove into the night to Gila Bend where there was a “space age” Best Western and giant desert creatures both past and present.


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.

New Panels for GFKAS


Two new panel garments for our GFAS (the group formerly known as smockshop) sale in Portland Maine next month! This design is really wide so it drapes over your arms like sleeves.


And I’ve been having a long-running inner idealogical debate about whether the garments should be one single panel folded over, like this, with a cutout for the head –


or two panels stitched together like this.  So I tried one of each.

Summer Uniform


It’s not the greatest photo because I couldn’t get the self timer to work right with autofocus – but this is the Summer Single Strand Uniform.  I’ve been wearing it a few months, but kept making changes.  Longer – shorter – sleeveless – sleeves a little longer…. by now the whole thing has been pretty much dialed in.  The uniforms have been going on since 1991.  At first each one lasted six months – but now they generally go for a season (three months). So right now there is this dilemma because I’m also making these new panel garments (as part of GFKAS) – so it becomes an daily debate about sticking through the season in the summer top, vs wanting to check out the functionality of the different dimensions/shapes of panels.  Plus the lighter weight linen panels tops are pretty darn comfortable in the heat.

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)

Saturday at the HQ

IMG_1720_BlogcropAlex and Kimberlee were the sitters at the HDTS HQ this weekend – Saturdays at the HQ always go by really quickly!  Brian Boswoth came in with some porcelain succulent planters that were cast in in the shape of rocks for us to sell (Alex and Kimberlee both immediately each bought one) and we did a “product shoot” of some of our new goods that I had gotten from Chuck Moffit – I’m going to send this out as an email announcement so I hope he doesn’t panic when he sees our unorthodox treatment of his artworks (no white glove handling in this place).