Words and photos by Ryan Morse.

Since 2021, Sitka Conservation Society has hosted construction specialist Tristan Rhodes at Sea Pony Farm. Tristan was born and raised 30 miles west of Portland, Oregon, and went to school for building construction technology with an emphasis on designing, building, and remodeling. He found his way to Sitka through a building construction project for Frontier Charters. In true Sitka fashion, one project led to another, and Tristan ended up moving to town in 2016. “I was told that people who do everything are really appreciated,” he laughs.

In 2018, Tristan got involved with Sitka Conservation Society through working on renovations for public use cabins across the Tongass National Forest. Done in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, Tristan worked with remote construction crews at Kanga Bay, Allan Point, Deep Bay, Fred’s Creek, as well as Greentop Cabin, a remote public use cabin in the West Chichagof-Yakobi Wilderness area. Tristan has been a reliable staple in various remote projects, which made him the perfect fit for working at Sea Pony Farm.

Since SCS was left the Sea Pony Farm property by artists Eric and Pam Bealer, we have developed it to host community leaders and artists of all backgrounds. Tristan has supported this work over the years by visiting Sea Pony Farm to help work on necessary construction upgrades to the property that ensure a safe, comfortable, and as-easy-to-maintain space, all while building and renovating in a way that keeps true to the spirit and aesthetic of the property the Bealers left us. In 2021, he installed the new solar array for the property, wiring the main house in a way that no wires would be exposed. The following year, he returned to provide updates and fixings to the property’s water pipes and support on the main house, and in 2024, he built new doors for the windows for the renovated machine shop and the barn. Tristan also had the opportunity to draw experience from working with his father, who originally worked as a brick mason, to repair the “heart stove” made by Eric in the main house.

“When I first came to the property, Andrew (SCS’s Executive Director) said ‘don’t worry, the house will start speaking to you,’ and I feel that it does,” reflects Tristan. “You can read through Eric’s books and find the dog ears on how he built and moved things. When I rebuilt the wall in the kitchen I found an old love note from Eric to Pam. Jenni (my partner) insisted we work it back into the kitchen somehow, so now you can find it when you’re walking out of the pantry.”

Tristan’s time and work at Sea Pony Farm wasn’t dedicated totally towards property renovations. He also had time for more personal projects, like building clocks out of discarded materials found on the property, including burlwood, yellow cedar wood pieces, sawblades, and copper squares from Eric’s old printing press. Another even more personal project that Tristan worked on at the property? Crafting the ring out of metal found on the property to propose to his partner Jenni Goddard, who frequently joins him on the property to work on renovation work. “You could say I enjoy making functional artwork,” says Tristan with a grin.

Tristan's ingenuity, creativity, and know-how shines through in his renovations at Sea Pony Farm, paying homage to the property's original homesteaders while also having his own personal touches. “What I want to resonate most is just that feeling of being out in nature, and how anyone can literally use something that’s found or discarded to make it a centerpiece.”

Support Our Work at Sea Pony Farm

Tristan's work in 2024 has helped us prepare for one of our most exciting transformations at Sea Pony Farm – turning the beautiful barn that was used for animals into a communal gathering and maker space to be able to host art workshops, leadership retreats, folk musicians, and more. We want to be able to comfortably host up to seven people on the property at once, so it will also have cooking, dining, and sleeping areas. Labor on the barn project will involve specialty carpenters and local contractors with volunteers, staff, community members, and artists that will work under them. All upgrades will be made using local Tongass lumber to support local economies, and communities, and create the smallest carbon footprint possible. 

If you would like to support our work renovating the property to host more artists, or want to support our creative retreat program at Sea Pony Farm, please consider making a donation today.


Support Our Work at Sea Pony Farm