Our First 10 Years

Four days working, one day driving and we’re back to work on the next home. Now in Japan, newer facilities have American toilets, but by and large most are the traditional oriental style. There would be stalls, but no doors and no privacy. There’d be guys squatting over a hole in the floor and doing their thing right out in the open. “Which way to the American toilets, please?” The toryo on this next job had twelve helpers for me and the biggest truck crane I’d ever seen. You’d have thought we were building a skyscraper instead of this small two storey cabin. Honestly, I liked having the extra helpers and with Brian translating we were very productive and finished a day early. I had the only chainsaw, so when anyone yelled… “Cut-Oh, Cut-Oh”, that meant I was needed. The toryo and I had a friendly competition to see who could cut a square tenon on the end of a round log the fastest. Me with a chainsaw and him with an Oriental hand saw. I have to admit I won, but just barely. The Japanese men were very competitive and out to prove how much better they were than us, Americans. “Down, Ninja boy.” When you heard… “Bolto, Bolto”, that meant something needed to be lag-screwed together or bolted. After a hard days work we’d relax by watching Japanese baseball on TV. Because we never picked up much of their language. It was the only show we understood. We would always be rooting for the Hiroshima Carps, the Yokohama Tigers or Nagasaki Bombers. We loved the TV ads, because they’re mostly for beer, liquor or cigarettes. Our favorite was an Olympic swimmer doing laps, then hopping out of the pool, lighting a cigarette as bikini clad girls would swarm him. “I can swim more laps, because I smoke Winstons.” I think that’s what he said. They were hilarious. At the end of the job the Japanese owner bought us a fancy dinner, got us drunk on Russian Vodka, and tried to buy us a monkey to take home with us. “You think we could have snuck him on the airplane? Darn.”

It paid off. Over the next seven or eight years we sent over seventy five log cabins and homes to Harumi and a couple of other importers. Our visit to Japan had been successful and we had begun a great overseas business relationship. We were getting good at loading containers and had devised a cable choker system so it was easy for them to unload the entire trailer with a forklift. I went back to Japan with Tricia a few years later to see all the different homes and meet with our customers. This was the leisurely trip I had looked forward to the first time, being tourists and exploring their culture and landmarks. Tricia, thought Japan to be overly crowded and congested. To this day, she considers that week not a vacation, but a work week. But, all the Japanese customers treated us like ambassadors and welcomed us with dinners and warm sake the entire time.

One of our marketing strategies over the years was to participate in one day log home seminars up and down the West Coast. One of the national log home magazines put them on and featured guest speakers, slide shows and a dozen or so log home manufacturers, or their local representatives. A show in Los Angeles would not normally be on our schedule, but we decided to be a part of it anyway. One of the people we talked to and apparently impressed was an architect from Santa Barbara. He called us a few weeks later, back in Oregon, and was flying up to see our operation and begin working drawings. I’m sure that Shane planned on driving him across town to see our extra logs. The blueprints were for a big, ranch-style log home for a client that he would not disclose any more information on. The plan process took around a month and I finally got it out of him, that the home was for Sylvester Stallone.

The contract was for Homestead to manufacture a 7200 square foot log home kit and erect it in Thousand Oaks, California. The floor plan featured a 2000 Square foot master bedroom, commercial (restaurant style) kitchen, workout room and all the amenities for the rich and famous. It was a one bedroom. Sly had purchased a thirty acre cattle ranch and was converting it to a polo ranch. He planned on reselling it to polo people, because if you’re into polo, you’d better have a lot of money. The existing ranch house had been remodeled; a big polo field, practice polo field, horse Jacuzzi and new stables for 40 polo ponies were all erected. The entire property was irrigated and planted with shrubs, flowers and trees and his sloping jobsite had a huge pad cut into a hill with panoramic views to the South. The project would include us building the main house, two guest houses and a large eight car garage. All the buildings were to be built by Homestead with big, hand-crafted logs to a closed shell stage. Finished on the outside and framed on the inside, with their contractor completing the rest.