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Live From SolFest '07

Lew and I have been here at the big Northern California solar energy festival for two days now. We get wonderful feedback. Yesterday, Gary Kleimia, owner of the Bookbeat bookstore in Fairfax, picked up a copy of Home Work and said, "This book changed my life." After reading it, he bought a piece of land near Mt. Shasta and is building a tree house. Today a young California girl picked up the same book and said, "This is the best book ever." Just an hour ago, Sasha Rabin, a practitioner and teacher of cob and natural building methods stopped in to tell us she had been at one of the Natural Building 3-week courses at Yestermorrow, the school of building in Vermont, and one of the students was a 30-something-year old guy who had dropped out of a high-paying job in the business world. He said he had seen a copy of Home Work and it had inspired him to quit his job and change his life. It's great to connect. People get ideas by seeing what builders are doing in various parts of the world. It's a network of inspiration.

Yesterday I took my bike, hot afternoon, and went a few miles in the countryside through, ahem, private property — vineyards and pear orchards, and made my way down to a sandbar on the Russian River. Swam in the cool water, a refreshing interlude. No one in sight. These days (especially hot summer days) I jump in just about every body of water I come across. — instant way to tune in to the local environment.

SolFest continues to be a great event. Good spirit. Each year the alternative energy field has new improvements. A lot of things are working now that weren't 10 years ago. Real Goods, the hosts, have got it together. There's a guy here with a diesel truck that is rigged up so he drives up to a KFC or MacDonalds, puts a suction hose into their discarded french fry oil. His truck converts it to fuel on the road. My friend Paul Wingate said yesterday with a big grin, "He pays zero for fuel, and he drives 50,000 miles a year. It's free!"

Today a builder stopped by. He said he's now building houses for millionaires and he hates it. "I used to build maximum 1200 sq. ft. houses. Now the mud rooms are that size." It's true, just about all the builders I've known, if they've wanted to stay in the trade, have had to work for big-bucks clients. A lot of people stop in our booth to talk about their houses, or their dreams.

Last night Lew and I went to the Ukiah Brewing Company in, yes, Ukiah, and heard a great band from Oakland, The Delta Wires. There were less than 30 people there, and these guys were blowing out the rafters. They're like a blues quartet, but augmented by a horn section playing tightly-orchestrated back-up. I was ready to head for bed after we had dinner, but they woke me right up. The Ukiah Brewery, by the way, makes organic beer that is not only organic, but great. All their food is organic as well, it's the only 100% organic restaurant I've seen.

The music at Sol Fest is always good. Yesterday, a bluegrass band from Colorado. Today Buce Cockburn, who I'd never heard of, a wonderful Canadian musician AND the last act — Sambadá, the Brazilian dance band from Santa Cruz, of which my son Will is both drummer and booking agent. The band seems to be on a roll. They just got back from performing at ESPN's party for personnel in Connecticut and they were picked by the Santa Cruz Metro newspaper as Santa Cruz's favorite band.

Last in the music dept.: Stones fans, Love You Live is an album I just got, recorded in '77 and it's a killer. The band at full power. Mick's kickin' ass. He does a great version of Mannish Boy, copying Muddy Waters' phrasing and orchestration just about note-by-note, not something for the faint of heart, and he brings it off totally. The band is crude and funky and perfect. The song Cracking Up is a rocker, never heard it before.

On the Road in Mendocino County

I haven't done much blogging in a while. Too busy. To tell the truth I love reporting on what I see in my life, so here I am on the road, and you can ride shotgun for a bit of the trip, thanks to digital photography.

I took off from Bolinas 2 days ago, my truck loaded with books and a booth that Lew and I will set up at this weekend's SolFest, the annual solar energy celebration and fair at Real Goods headquarters in northern California. I dropped my son Evan off in Ukiah; he was picking up his 2000 VW Golf bio-diesel sedan. It was good to get out into the real heat. It's been a cold windy summer at the beach.

I've shot this little farm building on several occasions.

I jumped in the Russian River under a bridge near Ukiah (cold!), then headed out to Boonville and through the giant redwoods to the Navarro River on the coast, heading for my friend Louie's place. I went out to the beach where the Navarro hits the coast, where there's a lot of driftwood.

Navarro river in background

This is a Ford diesel van converted to 4 wheel drive by a company called Sportsmobile. The owner loved it. it's got bed, table, stove, frig, the whole enchilada. These rigs start at 60K.

On to Louie's where I stay in this beautiful room. I do some writing and computer work looking out at the grape vines and sun on the redwoods and occasional deer.

Central ring is truck wheel.

The river running by Louie's is great for swimming this time of year, with the occasional deep green pool. I went a ways upriver yesterday, took off all my clothes and lay on the warm sand. I'd forgotten how great it is to get naked. No one around. Just the sun and the water and the trees. In Baja I'd spend days on remote beaches sans clothes. A simple and wonderful type of physical freedom, getting warm in the sun and then slipping into the water. A few hours ago I went swimming in a big pool and swam back and forth for 10 minutes in the clear green water.

David Bailey's "007" salmon boat