When we bought the land we spotted a flat area on the property that has what a worker while taking a break called "you have a million-dollar view right here".
We decided to make that area a leisure spot for dining outside, social gatherings (FU COVID), sunset watching, and other fun activities, like beat Margot's ass at GO.
Like everything else on the land, the first step is to dig a hole, then find what looks like a little rock, attempting for 30 mins to remove that little rock out of the way to ultimately finding out that is a boulder or a piece of the mountain. And at that point after swearing, likely in four languages. Only at that point silently shifting away and attempting to make another hole and adjust your structure measurements.
After laying down the "pillars" of the going to be a gazebo with a view and tables, the whole thing looked like this.
And that my friend is a glimpse of the view, it is majestic and so fulfilling doing yoga from that spot. I put tar at the bottom of the posts not because there's a risk of rotting. Rain here is of the same frequency of checkups on spaghetti in a traditional Italian family. #horrorstory
But primarily for the termites and another zillion of tropical bugs that when they are in re-hab from kiawe trees love to feast on pine. Fortunately, they are not interested in humans but they definitely have a palate for all sorts of woods.
To avoid that guests have to cross the rest of the property to get to the dining spot, I created two access points directly from the street, both with a very islander-ish style and a touch of modernity. Like this gate made of milled Kiawe branches and a finger reader lock. 😎 🤙🏽
While I am working on this project, one of the girls was studying the meaning of life and the other was allegedly taking care of the future dead hens. Ironic, when there's work to do on the land, those activities sprout like mushrooms in Seattle!
To access from the house to this elevated spot, I built, again, national sport on the land after finding a rock into a hole, stairs. Getting wood here is pricy, with hassles, and timely unpredictable. So we recycle literally everything that we can find around. Those steps were built out of recycled garden boxes, pallets, and one piece of store-bought wood. For which, blood was donated, a lung was rented and sexual favors were still up in the air for final payout. Yes, lumber is pricey in Hawaii.
After seven in the evening, it is pitch black, there's no light pollution even wanting to pay for it. I love it! I am like a cat in dark, I can easily move around with great sense or danger alert. It must have been all those years of training in avoiding legos on the floor when Margot was in the business of sharpening them to make them fit into "prototypes". Victoria, on the other end, is accident-prone, or more specifically, she is used for calibrating the GPS of any sharp corner for inanimated objects.
Therefore, knowing that when we use the BBQ which is conveniently located in that area, going there in the dark with food on hand, she would stub herself into the steps, or the fig tree on the left or the rock wall on the right, or literally anything else. I placed a light path, now from that picture above it doesn't look like much during the day but at night is "resort quality" as Margot put it the first time she saw it.
Eventually, all my efforts of digging holes and the coca-cola carpenter break I was taking, with poles on my shoulder, grabbed the attention of one of the girls in the house who conveniently came to help in close proximity.
Now that "the box" of the poles was up and stable, it was time for building the cocktail tables and the buffet table aka "the bar". I have developed a knack for spotting dead trees with a gift, as I call them. Like this stomp, I harvested it to make the central support for the buffet table.
To make that wood look like that there's a process and it is hard work but it is very rewarding once done.
To make sure that the table wasn't going to tilt when an extra tequila shot would make someone pushing too hard on the far end of the table, I used branches to create an octopus looking from which I was inspired by the Pirates of Caribbean the night before. They anchor the table to the posts which have rebars in the ground.
I was trying to find an elegant solution for the top of the bar/buffet table and couldn't come up with anything that was island-ish enough or practical. The day before the idea popped in my head, I was on the beach with froggy, where a conversation about "you are never too old for a bLife moment" I challenged her to build a castle on sand. And that bridge, which is the road that leads to the tower where Mario's princess lives was the answer to my design dilemma.
I milled a log to transform it into a rectangular shape on two sides and then sliced it like a bread loaf. It is very sturdy and beautiful looking.
To make sure that the height of the table, the width of the surface, and the edges were right, I hired for kisses and hugs the girls that simulated a bar attendant and going to be drunk with water customer. As Borat would says
The place would be mostly used at night, so have solar lights is as critical as cheese on a Margherita, by Steven's standards: LOTS OF CHEESE!
We tested it out with steak, mashed potato, and other authentic American food that can guarantee food coma. And as matter of fact, passed out under the stars began the new official family night sport, that night. #truestory
The calm before the storm
Working under 80F can make you darker or in the case of Victoria giving a human color different from Panteon certified white. Therefore, it was time for a shade not just for using the place during the daytime but also to keep me and our tools from getting too hot.
On occasional breaks or tools clean up, setting by the new table, sipping (more drawing down) Athletic greens water was resting the body and pleasing the eye. It's a lot of really hard work but every time I would gaze out to the view, I was getting even more motivated to continue building out the project.
I can only work on those projects after my day job (3ish HST) and for some reason, the wind would go strong while I was in the house on video calls and stop suddenly when I would go out for working on the project. Murphy come here!
Figuring out the squaring, how to handle the really aggressive winds that we get during some months of the year, was a real puzzle! I finally bought a wind cone to figure out from where the winds were blowing, to make the right corrections on the engineering side.
That was when I realized that wind twirls are a thing and an absolute construction nightmare. At lunch, I was complaining about how difficult the tension of the shade was and the girls were giving me hard time because according to them I was taking the wrong approach.
That was until they tried themselves and agreed that hens and the meaning of life needed their attention!
I start going full engineering on this challenge using a winch and a static rope to fight the wind and straight up the poles which were bending while I was placing the shade. The wind would create a sailing effect converging the poles in the center.
The battle was won but the winds won the war. A few weeks after the perfect installation the coated deck rail wires (!!) start failing. I have another plan on how to fight back but for now, I figured that I can use a tan... Hard problems require a pause in between mini solutions.
I decorated the posts with branches that have some character, where the character was too short, as she said, I joined multiple branches together in a seamless way. If you look closely... wait let me zoom, some of you have an age and the reading glasses are always too far... #iknow!
To make the transition seamless, I used some brown clay and then stained it to make it bound really well.
While I was dealing with all sorts of weird carpentry challenges, chainsaw gimmicks, supported by my courageous partner, Margot was refining the new path to the gate. That Victoria had made the day before. That is what I tell my friend Eugene about the "the gold touch" of some coworkers, basically, someone else does 90% of the work and another shows up for the team effort picture. Way to go Margot! By the way, that amazon parcel on the floor is proof that even the deliveries like the spot. 😄
And by Vickie's courage, I mean real bravery at work! As I write this, I realize the irony of some branches are cut with a table saw and for some jobs, while straight lumber needs chainsaw cut. 😅
As more lights were added, more part of the plan was coming together, the reward and the anticipation of dining out regularly were getting stronger. But the plan is big, as she said, and so the road to Damascus is much longer for the workers involved.
When we were all out working on the project, the inspector Scarlet would normally drop in and certify with purrs, the operations, however, when it was getting too hot for her Seattle fur, she had a preferred location. The living room...
When I am not working outside but in my maker shop, she is a persistent companion and trusted inspector. And as any inspector well respected, she looks with superficial attitude, yawns in the face of hard workers, and watches like an oak spotting a mouse coming out for food. #catforent
One slice at a time and the buffet tables were coming to life.
I have a devasting sleep disorder that results in the order: moody, asshole-mode, quite like a puma in the night, fat like a gorilla with lethargy while eating just a salad, and finally zombie mode for weeks while wearing the face of a meth lab worker.
The worst is that from the outside I look "fine" or slightly off sync as my friend Oliver says over video conference. But clinically, I am on a path to die for lack of good sleep. I designed an AI that controls my intakes and activities which has made remarkable strives that doctors couldn't crack. It isn't perfect because this type of work requires many and awake brains to be built in the first place and I am alone and often brain tard. But it is what keeps me alive. 🧟♂️
All that intro to say, that FLINT (how Victoria nicknamed the AI), set the lunch and the WIF-I makes it. So I had lunch on the new spot. It tasted like heaven, yes, a salad, a fucking salad, with all that hard work, and that view tasted like pearly gates with Eddie Van Hallen hitting the right chords after I rang the bell at the door.
While we were having lunch on the new spot a mystery start unfolding. And by unfolding I mean quite literally. We are aware that some cats are capable of using the toilet to process their outputs (so nerdy of me...) but one that wipes the butt with mint toilet paper during COVID times is definitely a first #catforsale
The view at night is as great as during the day.
Day 19, the building continues and so the challenges ahead.
It was now time for the main course, I mean the main table. This is a very large chunk of work, harder in finding the right materials, lots of crafty skills required and so many combinations of materials together to achieve the design I have in mind.
The plan is to have four table feet (doh!), milled slabs, and epoxy rivers in between the slabs. Will our heroes be capable of achieving such a feat? No idea!
Again, if you haven't been paying attention, starting with a picture on the wall, leveling anything is hard, leveling with this type of materials and custom cuts, is god-level power. #justsayin'
We had a wily-wily tree that was sick (huge hole in the core) but about 5 feet of the body was not reached yet by the bugs, so I decided to mill it and evaluate if I could make benches for the table.
Those type of tree/wood gets easily affected by humidity and bugs. It literally charcoals as in burned (see the black spots?) when exposed to water and insects. Normally to leverage this type of wood, you need to store the slabs in a heated room controlled temperature for a while. With the weather we have here most of the time, it was a matter of putting them in a windy spot under the sun and raised from the ground 😁 worked like a charm.
Another day went by and another sunset, tired, really tired but pretty content about the opportunity of being able to be a geek during the early hours of the day and a wood Mazinger during the evening.
The day after, I custom cut the feet of the table to make the supporting frame hold all together.
The wood is majestic looking. It is the Sean Connery of the trees. The Travolta of the twisting and turns, the Madonna of the shades, and finally the hardness of AC/DC while the Hells Bells intro begins. Some of them are a bit Dire Straights but they have their own Sultan of Swing. If you were born after the 90s you have no clue of what I just referenced there. Go back to your InstaSomething!
Surfing teaching was up and when the waves are up, you don't build, you grab the wheel, the table, the Apple Tag to track your board at sea, and you hunt the waves.
Or...or... if you are so excited for the moment that you jump in the car too quickly, rush like a flying dragon to the place, and realize that you picked everything but not the table, then in that case and only in that case you can activate the plan B.
Plan A was awesome but as my friend, Tim taught me once "doing nothing is a job. I want that job". So I applied his wisdom plus some of Steven's entropy to make sure that I would totally bomb the opportunity that plan B was offering. Bombing as riding a Mountain Bike downhill from Whistler in Canada, that good! Cristiano gets it. Dan still thinking because he just got married and his decisions are on hold until approved. Stay strong brother, we know the struggle. Stay strong!
The day after I squared the circle, checked on the wily-wily boards, and ruled out that once cured the wood is ugly but strong.
I start milling the slabs for the top of the table and that was a huge challenge and a strength test. From the harvesting to the setup all the way down to actually creating what you need is a process.
I have never done it before and the learning curve is not just steep but also as twisted as a kiawe tree! After painfully milling the first slab, I went back to the drawing board. Which in my case are my inventor's book and the bed.
The outcome was poor so I took a walk at a high pace, up to the highest hill we have around, and judging by the sweat soaking my tank top, it was definitely steep.
Scarlet was worried about not seeing me returning for dinner time so to make sure that my chair wasn't going to be taken, she stepped up, quite literally.
I took a week off from the project and as expected a ride to my favorite beach came to be the actual solution to my engineering blockers.
I bought a new chainsaw and automagically many of the challenges I was facing became just hard work and no longer WTF time-continuous loops.
That was the day that I learned how to pronounce this brand! Worth every penny!
Milling your own slub is like making the dough for your family using the pizza oven you built and the biga using validated virgin nuns from the only consecrated castle in Transilvanya. It is that fucking badass.
You may wonder, what do you intend to do with all those slubs? A picture might be worth more than I could explain in callous and sweat.
Now we're in the phase of hand-chiseling
Routing the shit out of it to level the plane and giving it the shape we need for the ultimate phase. Epoxy rivers and controlled rustic look!
The road to the table of Damascus is closer now but still pretty far from the final destination. Lovely neighbors have been stopping by inquiring, marveled, about the project. Some have even asked if I want to start a business because they would buy! And now that the project has a more obvious shape, they are asking when we're going to open the beers on it 🤣 🌴 Jim, is ready for Bud Light!
There still sanding and coating to be happening while other projects need attention. We're strong makers but we can't stretch time although we have figured that if we interlace the beach or the waterfalls in the between, time does slow down quite a bit. After all, it is Molokai in an Italian salsa 🤙🏽+🤌🏻
The table it is getting there and between a granita with our lemons, local watermelon, and the front yard mangos to get some sugar in the blood, we can do this!
Coating the wood will require some time, mostly because it has to be done when the wind is kind and the sun is not directly pointing at it. In a place where throughout the year the temperature is 80F and windy at intervals is going to be another run-up to the hill.
Sanding on the other is heavily facilitated by the wind, that is if you stand in the right orientation... tsk tsk.
as we make progress, I will publish an update, for the time being, I am going to get a shower with the hose because the dust is all over my body and I can easily get murdered to crossing the rooms for a shower being so dirty. Surprisingly at 7:30 PM, the water outside is as warm as the one from the water heater and Vickie does enjoy spraying me like in prison break. Grab a glass of whiskey, the Go board, some papaya, and then floating to the deck in reading some comics.
We share our stories because we are makers with no filters. We believe the greatest gift evolution has given to humans is the ability to pass learnings to the next generation. Without, we would still all be hunted by T-REXes.
Some may wonder, why the heck you guys go through all this?? "just hire somebody" someone said on Instagram. With the assumption of "you are well off" or other convoluted logic of why bothering...
There are two versions of a reply to that question/mentality. Vickie has this answer
mine is a bit different as an Apple 🖥 computer of the 80s.
Hiring someone means moving the same apples from one basket to the other. Doing it ourselves teaches us skills, generates lasting memories, leads by example for the children on work ethics and never giving up mentality, and ultimately makes you having more apples for a bigger cake at the end.
Don't be distracted by the whys, focus on the hows, and any dream you might have becomes as true as ours.
That's when you will say, at the crack of the dawn, when the deers crash with their feet the dead branches while they retreat on the mountains, and your gaze goes to the sea line while drinking your morning expresso
Now, lunch is ready, this post is done, it is time to feed the beast that is growing inside my belly. No, I am not pregnant mom! I am in shape, and rounded IS a shape 🙈
Love you all.
🌴 Have a bLife moment, every day and for no reason whatsoever 🤙🏽 you won't regret it!