|Cove Country Cabins in Halibut Cove, Alaska, boreal forest retreat and ideal family business|
I just had the pleasure of a tour of Cove Country Cabins, here on Ismailof Island, Halibut Cove, Alaska (a 5 mile boat ride from Homer, Alaska).
I finally accepted an invitation to come see the 'project' of Carl and Tammy Jones, husband/wife team and owners of Cove Country Cabins.
The approach to the 'project' off the main trail (a dirt road just wide enough for two "Gators"-which are small agricultural 5 or 6 wheeled utility vehicles commonly used for transportation on this tiny island) was a small ground level boardwalk leading through a bog, with dwarfed spruce trees and tiny tundra crowberry plants, lichens and mosses and small handcrafted timberframed cabins, built by Carl Jones, a long time log home building expert, and Tammy, his wife and partner in life and work. I found their house amidst spruce trees, alders, and mosses, and made my way down a steep trail toward a pounding noise. I came upon Carl and Tammy at their 'project'- a giant timber frame structure, five years in the works, with likely several left to go, 3 stories tall, and drenched in an aura of fine craftsmanship. Tammy explained that it will eventually serve as a lodge and have a small section partitioned off for her and Carl's living quarters and family use.
Tammy showed me the solid concrete foundation, resting on bedrock and well reinforced with rebar. She showed me a model of the frame of the entire structure, built of tiny "timbers" and told me about a copper ball that will be set on top of the finished building. Carl made a crude sphere with 9 wooden circles of varying diameter, and Tammy estimated she spent 300 hours sanding the ball down to a perfect sphere. Once it is coated with Copper, it will sit on top of a glassed observation room perched on top of the lodge. She pointed to some floor joists, and explained that Carl had begun to notch them all in to the timbers after she had commented on the looks of the metal joist hangers.
She showed me a small pond encircled with various flower beds, including many types of roses, some still in flower, and all now crisply frozen.
And she pointed to a circle of brown grass visible just under the thinly frozen surface in the center of the pond. She said one day the circle of grass, diameter about one meter, just appeared, 'like a crop circle.'
I told her the place had a very distinct feel and character to it, and that it seemed like a place I might expect to meet elves or other friendly mythological creatures. She said others had told her the same and their goal has always been to make people feel comfortable, and that the lodge attracts both visitors on a budget and visitors of more generous means who desire a more private experience in a lodge, a place to just relax and feel at home without being waited on any more than desired. "If it feels right," she said, "and we have several groups of guests, we sometimes invite them to all have a potluck together."
As I was about to leave, knowing she had work yet to do this Saturday evening, she showed me one last blooming fuschia-colored rose and picked it for me, as a gift, inviting me to drop in any time, for any reason. "I love roses," she said,"they're so unexpected for here, and so beautiful."
As I biked my way back home, across the isthmus that separates the two halves of the island, I reflected that here is a concrete example of the type of family business that Hans so often mentions- a husband and wife team, working together every day, loving what they do, doing all with love for their customers, friends, and neighbors, and creating a quality product and service of unique character.
I had recently been wondering about the feasibility of carpentry-construction as a family business, but during my talk with Tammy-Carl was happily busy working- she had told me they had built log cabins together for 30 years, until the pain caused from many daily hours of chainsaw use had prompted Carl to devote his skills to other projects (the lodge and their water taxi business). She was so humble, and was quick to point out that Carl was the builder,and she was simply his helper. When I had complemented Carl on his work, he had smiled humbly, and said, "Its Fun."
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