To honor Earth day this year, SunPower, the manufacturer of the solar panels we install, decided to do a campaign about South Mountain here on the Vineyard. They put a ton of effort into this. They spent time here with us last Fall, did several videos and photo shoots, and wrote extensively about our company and our work. We’re honored by their decision to feature us, and we appreciate their beautiful work. We also appreciate our relationship with SunPower, an American company that makes the best solar panels in the world. If you’d like to see what they’re up to with this, click here.
My cousin Peter Lazes was in Copenhagen on business. He was having dinner alone in a restaurant. Next to him were a man and his daughter. She got up to go to the restroom. While she was gone Peter and the man made small talk. Turned out the daughter is a woodworker, just done with four intense years of school and yearning for an internship in the U.S. My cousin suggested she might want to talk to me. He gave her my contact information.
Architect Ryan Bushey, one of my co-owners and co-manager of our design department, recently designed and built a house for he and his family in Oak Bluffs. Building a house shouldn’t be much of a trick for a talented and experienced architect like Ryan, right?
Hmm. Let’s see. Last week Ryan shared with us, at a company meeting, “Ten Lessons I Learned Building My House”. Here you go:
After a year of design, we’ve just begun construction of a sweet project for a great family on an extraordinary property at Seven Gates Farm. It’s the third project we have done, on different pieces of this remarkable this part of the Vineyard. The first was in 1995, the second in 2004, and now this one.
In 1980 a woman named Madeline Blakeley asked me to look at a piece of land with her. She was a librarian in her early sixties whose husband had recently died. They had no children and had always lived in rented apartments. Her dream was to own a piece of property.
She had $7,000 in cash. A realtor showed her a lot priced at exactly that, but her friends advised her against buying it. The lot fell steeply south to a sweet little valley, a perfectly matched solar exposure and view, but it was right beside the main road from Vineyard Haven to Edgartown, which was very loud. Except for that proximity and the fact that the whole lot was a hillside, it was lovely. There was nothing else on Martha’s Vineyard even close to her price range.
I suggested that we could cut and fill and build an earth-bermed, partially underground house. “The southern orientation aims away from the road just enough, and the berming would dull the noise as long as the house doesn’t open to that side. We can design the traffic right out of this scene!” She was excited. Even though she didn’t imagine she could afford to build anything at all, the idea that the land could eventually be sensibly used was appealing. I didn’t tell her that we didn’t – at the time – actually know how to properly build an earth-integrated house.
She bought the property.
Our 40th year in business will soon come to a close.
We had a party to celebrate. It was different from our usual parties. This time none of our beloved clients were invited. It was a party was for the people who do the work – our employees, our former employees, our subcontractors, and our other work partners.
We missed all those incredible clients with whom we have established such important friendships. But it was satisfying to honor and emphasize those who get up each day, go to work, and make it possible to do what we do.
It was a gorgeous day at the Tisbury Waterworks. Our FunCom group (the SMCo party and event committee, which includes Siobhán Mullin, Betsy Smith, Jim Vercruysse, and Rob Meyers) had worked closely with Deirdre Bohan and Abbie Zell to orchestrate the event.
Patrie Grace and her wonderful catering group, along with master barbeque man Tim Laursen (a former employee) had the place set up and done up for a magnificent feast. My son Pinto played music that set a sweet tone.
Before dinner, I said some welcomes, mentioned a few old stalwarts who weren’t there, and told a story or two. Then I invited others to ascend the hill and share stories and memories. A string of people took the mic– Richard Green, Tara Simmons, Jill Walsh, Billy Dillon, Pete Ives, Siobhán Mullin, Bill (Norton) Russell, Christina Platt, Eric Bates – for tall tales and rollicking sketches. Finally, Pete D’Angelo dramatized my own exit interview in the distant future – in his inimitable manner he sent the doddering old idiot (me) out the door.
A bit later photographer Wayne Smith assembled as many of us as he could and shot this picture.
We missed some people. Many old employees were far away and couldn’t make the trip. September is a time when many Vineyarders take post-summer vacations. Two major events were happening at the exact same time – a memorial service for Ernie Mendenhall (longtime West Tisbury building inspector and affordable housing advocate) and, remarkably, on the very same day Morning Glory Farm was celebrating its 40th anniversary, too! Sister companies from way back in 1975.
For those of us who were there it was one fine party – homey, collegial, friendly, tasty, and touching.
Onward to the next 40!