Summer Camp

4/7/12 Spent the weekend in Vacaville at Soul Food Farm laying out the deck foundation for the BIG TENT.

Every city dweller has a the dream of a place in the country for weekend unwinding and I was no different. If you can scrape together $150K, you can buy land near Ukiah and get to spend 8-10 hours per weekend on the road to get there and back. Then you have to spend the other 40 hours of the weekend building and maintaining the place with some sleeping and relaxing squeezed in somewhere. Not to mention the Friday you arrive and find the entire place trashed by vandals or actually removed completely by thieves.

I had polled my friends with houses in the country and found they used them once every 2 months because it was such a schlep.

I thought here had to be a simpler way and then I saw the Montana canvas wall tents like they had in Out of Africa, like the ones in Ralph Lauren advertisements-Glamorous camping or "Glamping".

The concept was to find someone with some land within 60 miles of SF and convince them to let me set up a semi-permanent campsite. They could use it as a guest house when I wasn't there.

Eric & Alexis at Soul Food Farm were new friends and I helped them rebuild after their farm caught on fire a few years ago. They were excited to have me set up the tent and I finally got around to it last Sept 3, exactly two years to the day of the 2009 fire.

The 20 X 16 foot tent had been shipped from Idaho. I had all the right equipment to cut the metal conduit for the frame: Generator, chop saw, nail gun, compressor etc.

We drove up the hill and unloaded the equipment in the dry brown grass and started measuring and cutting. Down below at the house, Alexis was hosting a party for twenty of her girlfriends and Eric and I were instructed to stay away. Fine, we'll build a fort up on the hill.

Grown men turn into young boys when building a fort, drinking beer and blowing things up. All caution goes out the window. Women, too, revert to young girls sometimes, but it doesn't seem to be as dangerous. A chop saw makes sparks and the grass burns quickly in California in early Sept. The fire department comes with planes dropping orange powder and helicopters dumping bags full of water. Big off-road fire trucks arrive and drive all around, crushing the culvert at the creek crossing and adding to the festive party mood.

I managed to drag the tent onto my truck and drive it down the hill before the flames swept across our work site. At that moment, I seriously considered continuing to SFO, leaving the truck in the white zone and getting on a plane to Asia to start a new life as a monk.

It was a point of honor to get the tent up the next morning, albeit at a location other than the nice overlook above, which was now charred black.

We got six weekends of use out of the tent before the cold weather. We furnished the tent with a bed that I made, table, chairs and kitchen island. In November, I had a shipping container dropped in the pasture to store the tent and the furniture until spring.

Seven months later, the hill is a verdant green, fertilized and renewed by the fire. Soul Food friendship retained with gifts of steel I-beams for a new bridge over the creek and promises of home improvement and hand-forged chandeliers.

I sited the tent deck just below a sheltering rise in the hill to block the wind that comes through periodically. I laid out 18 pier blocks and leveled them with bags of cement. 4 X 6 sleepers across the blocks and 2 X 6 floor joists for the deck.

I slept in the container last night and didn't see the light of day until I opened the door at 9 am. It was a three dog night. Remember that old rock group? It was named after a really cold night where you needed three dogs sleeping with you to stay warm.

Next weekend back up with Peter to nail the joists, lay down the deck ply and hopefully set up the tent.