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Shelter Is More Than A Roof Overhead

I just happened to notice the introduction to our book Shelter, written in 1973. 36 years ago!:

In times past, people built their own homes, grew their own food, made their own clothes. Knowledge of the building crafts and other skills of providing life’s basic needs were generally passed along from father to son, mother to daughter, master to apprentice.

Then with industrialization and the population shift from country to cities, this knowledge was put aside and much it of has now been lost. We have seen an era of unprecedented prosperity in America based upon huge amounts of foreign and domestic resources and fueled by finite resources of stored energy.

And as we have come to realize in recent years, we are running out. Materials are scarce, fuel is in short supply, and prices are escalating. To survive, one is going to have to be either rich or resourceful. Either more dependent upon, or freer from centralized production and controls. The choices are not clear-cut, for these are complex times. But it is obvious that the more we can do for ourselves, the greater will our individual freedom and independence be.

This book is not about going off to live in a cave and growing all one’s own food. It is not based on the idea that everyone can find an acre in the country, or upon a sentimental attachment to the past. It is rather about finding a new and necessary balance in our lives between what can be done by hand and what still must be done by machine.

For in times to come, we will have to find a responsive and sensitive balance between the still-usuable skills and wisdom of the past and sustainable products and inventions of the 20th century.

Of necessity or by choice, there may be a revival of hand work in America, We are certainly capable and these inherent, dormant talents may prove to be some of our most valuable resources in the future.

This book is about simple homes, natural materials, and human resourcefulness. It is about discovery, hard work, the joys of self-sufficiency, and freedom. It is about shelter, which is more than a roof overhead.

Bromeliads in the Greenhouse

These bromeliads in our greenhouse do not grow in soil, but rather get their moisture and nutrients from the atmosphere. These are growing on the wall in dried-out pieces of cholla cactus that I brought back from the Baja desert some years ago.

Success, Failure, Failure, Enthusiasm

“Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.” - Winston Churchill

Awesome Mountain Bike Riding in Scotland Filmed April '09

Amazing mountain bike artistry. California and British Columbia riders, check out mountain biking in Scotland. The following description of this video is from damncooltopics:
"Filmed over the period of a few months in and around Edinburgh by Dave Sowerby, this video of Inspired Bicycles team rider Danny MacAskill features probably the best collection of street/street trials riding ever seen. There's some huge riding, but also some of the most technically difficult and imaginative lines you will ever see. Without a doubt, this video pushes the envelope of what is perceived as possible on a trials bike."
-Sent us by Jan Janzen

Gravel and Gold, Cassie McGettigan, Stewart Brand, and 24-Hour Donuts in San Francisco

Yesterday I met Cassie McGettigan, who happens to live in my home town, and is one of the owners of Gravel and Gold in San Francisco, of which a fan writes: I really couldn't love this tiny shop more--every time I walk in, I find something that makes me look over my shoulder to make sure I don't have to fight someone else off for it. It's the perfect place to find an unusual gift for someone or, say, yourself...I love the mix of perfectly chosen antiques and vintage clothes, and great stuff by local designers, some of it commissioned by the owners. These ladies have great, great, great taste. -By Arwen O., on Yelp

Not only did Cassie turn me on to a 24-hour donut shop in SF (Bob's Donuts at 1621 Polk) as well as other cool places for food, coffee and wi-fi access (and I'm an SF native!), but her blog turned out to be SO in tune with my sensibilities.

Among items: a link to an article on Stewart Brand, Whole Earth Catalog founder in the NY Times by Edward Lewine, with Stewart's typically spare, haiku answers to questions. Photo: Jason Madara for The New York Times

Builders of Pacific Coast Slide Show San Francisco Tonight

I'll be at Get Lost Travel with my roadshow slideshow of our recent book tonight. It's at 1825 Market Street, 7:00 PM. Get Lost is a great travel book, gear, and info store — way beyond Lonely Planet. Their informative website here.

More NorCal Beach Graffiti

Taggers are a lot like skateboarders. They're on their own. No parental support. No art school. No grant money. No academic or organized support. Peer-encouraged excellence.

NorCal Beach Graffiti

Shot this morning. Powerful stuff. Real art.

Act Naturally –Buck Owens, Dwight Yoakum, Patty Loveless

A film crew from Stanford is doing a short (6-min.) documentary on shelter and coming out to film me this week. On the occasion of which, Lew sent me the below youtube link of Buck Owens, Dwight Yoakum and Patty Loveless doing "Act Naturally," first performed by Buck in '63, then made famous by Ringo in '65.
Click here

Drawing of Buck Owens by artist Mark Stivers, who has a witty and unusual website Click here (and a book I just ordered: There Is Only Unibrow and Other Cartoons).


•In Friday's NY Times, in a review of State of Play (Russell Crowe et al), critic A. O. Scott referred to Ben Affleck "…wielding a Philadelphia accent as thick and inauthentic as low-fat cream cheese." NYT, 17 April 09
•Dashiell Hammett:
"Smoke Stink. Heat. Noise...." -Red Harvest
"Beginning night had reduced night to a thin smokiness when Spade sat up…." -The Maltese Falson
"A bullet kissed a hole in the door-frame close to my noodle…." Red Harvest
•California license plate the other day: OBVS
•Jonathan Greene just wrote to say that the quote I attributed to Mark Twain ("I didn't have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead."), was in fact by Blaise Pascal, and research turned up the following:
"Je n'ai fait celle-ci plus longue que parce que je n'ai pas eu le loisir de la faire plus courte."
Translation:" I have made this [letter] longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter."
Blaise Pascal, Lettres provinciales, letter 16, 1657:
•Words I dislike: veggie/yummy/goody/munchies/impact (as a verb)/"have a good day"
•Mel has a sign on his studio door saying Don't Tell Me What Kind of Day to Have!
•Just leverageing some content here…

Painted Lady, San Francisco

Happy house out by the beach in San Francisco

Beamer Bike Late Night San Francisco

I like the looks of this bike. Parked outside The Great American Music Hall last Friday night. Sherm, Nicole and I saw Beausoleil, the Cajun band from Louisiana. Great American is a fabulous club, it originated in 1907, after the big SF earthquake, was Sally Rand's burlesque club, designed by a French architect, very rococo. Good vibes, good fung shui, and a great staff. They cleared an aisle so we could get Sherm in his wheelchair right up to the front. Great band. Opener was David Lindley, gunslinger guitar player extraordinaire.

GIMME SHELTER Newsletter - Spring 2009 -Pura Vida

Yoga retreat under construction at Encanto la Vida hotel, Costa Rica

I send out a newsletter to about 600 people every month or so, covering our publishing activities, and my travels. The latest is a bit on my recent trip to the Pacific coast of Costa Rica and islands in Panama + other stuff. Click here.

Playing With 10-Year-Olds in Oakland

After shooting a bunch of photos I went into a nearby schoolyard to ride my skateboard. There were a few kids with skateboards, but they'd never seen anything like my Loaded bamboo longboard, or my Big Kahuna pavement paddle. It didn't take much encouragement for them to get rolling on the longboard. They were a little tentative at first, but soon got into it. I got another board out of the truck and soon they were whizzing around the yard. I showed them how to carve, and they picked it up fast. Pretty soon kids from the block were trickling into the yards, waiting to try it out. They were having fun and so was I.

Old Houses in Oakland

Friday night I went with my friend Sherman to see the Cajun band Beausoleil at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. I had an hour or so to kill in Oakland before going to Sherm's, so I drove around in the Bella Vista neighborhood shooting photos of some of. Oakland's great old houses:

Old Shipping containers tuned into eco-friendly cabin

"Here’s a novel way to get yourself an eco-friendly home. Paul and Scott Stankey, of hive Modular, got themselves a couple of discarded 20-ft long shipping containers for $800 each and over the course of 9 years, turned them into these stupendous rustic cabins at a total cost of $15,000! The brilliantly solid cabins feature a sleeping unit, a kitchen as well as a storage room making them a perfect housing solution created from recycled materials."
From ecofriend.org
Sent us by Marcia Miner

Corrugated Iron Building Santa Cruz

Neat (I mean that in the sense of "tidy") building.

I'm just discovering it's rather simple to post one pic at a time with short text.

Barn on Hwy One

I've always liked this little building, a mile or so down the road from Swanton's, with its graceful lines and indented sides, and shot this through the rain.

Entrance to Swanton Berry Farm

I talked to 4 great people running Swanton. Gave them some books, Both Jim and Forest, owner and manager, knew our book Shelter. They gave me strawberry shortcakes, jam, fresh picked sweet strawberries. As I left, the rain started.

Swanton Berry Farm — Certified Organic Strawberries 15 Minutes North of Santa Cruz

I got up before dawn for the 3-hour drive to Santa Cruz. Just before Davenport, I went by this sign — whoa! Turned around to shoot photos of the signs leading up to a wonderful Hwy One roadside stand selling jams, strawberry shortcake, strawberries, truffles, all organic, all delicious. I got there at 8 and had coffee and strawberry shortcake. Was it good!! There was a CD of Dr. John singing The Right Place, the Wrong Time when I walked in. If you ever drive to Santa Cruz, stop in. All are full union employees. The are great old photos of the old days when Swiss Italian farmers grew artichokes and brussels sprouts. It's a totally charming, right-on place with exquisite food.

Barbecued Rattlesnake

And no, it doesn't taste like chicken. It's not that bland. More like squirrel and other critters who feed in the wild. Delicious. My brother gives me the occasional rattlesnake from his olive tree fields. Those are local potatoes, asparagus from the garden (a venerable old well-composted asparagus bed).


Expensivo! ($200K+). Sucky gas mileage. But what a dream machine for off-road. In place of a home?

"An EarthRoamer XV-LT provides an 85 gallon water supply, a 90 gallon fuel supply (range approximately 1000 miles) and plenty of storage space for food and gear. Four wheel drive, a turbo-diesel engine, high output lighting, front and rear winches and off-road tires with military bead-lock wheels will ensure that you get to your destination. Once you arrive safely, 510 watts of solar power and a 510 amp-hour battery bank will provide power for all necessary systems. Sleeping facilities, a galley and bathroom with toilet and shower provide for the necessities of life." http://www.earthroamer.com/

Hip is Irish

My friend Alan Wherry, writer, musician, publisher, and world explorer, wrote today:

"…did you know that all those new york words like, hip, cool, dude, and dig, are 100% pure Irish? i didn't."

Bill and Athena Steen 2009 Update

Bill and Athena Steen, along with David Bainbridge, wrote The Straw Bale House Book, the breakthrough 1994 book on the subject. It has sold over 120,000 copies. Bill and Athena live at the end of a road an hour south of Tucson, Arizona and not only conduct workshops, but travel throughout the country demonstrating and teaching strawbale construction techniques. A unique specialty of the Steens is plastering with natural materials, using exquisite organic colors. Bill sent me this photo of Athena plastering the inside of an oven. I asked him what they were doing these days and he replied:
"As part of the San Jose (Calif.) Mariachi festival we did a small workshop showing how to build an oven, but didn't have time to finish. We also redid the earth floor on the inside of an historic old adobe on the same site. This September we're set up to do an interior clay plastering workshop on the same building.

Canelo Project? Geez, in reality it's Athena and I doing what we like. Trying to keep building simple, hand-done to the extent that is practical and sensible, inexpensive and of course, making it look really good. Along the way we enjoy meeting people from all walks of life, try to learn from them and in return offer whatever we have to give. And of course, enjoying food and drink together is an essential part of that process. It's been great having our kids grow up as part of that same way of life. And lastly, when there is time, we love writing about it, photographing and sharing with others all that we've learned. Seems like much of what he do has been centered around the border and Mexico although we have a two month tour of Europe this summer."

Here is the Steen's website.

LK Slide Show Bookshop Santa Cruz Tomorrow (Tuesday) Night

I'm doing a slide show and talk at Bookshop Santa Cruz tomorrow — Tuesday, April 7,at 7:30 p.m. (1520 Pacific Avenue). I was a Santa Cruz beach lifeguard in 1955. When I went to Stanford (entry requirement much lower back then !), I spent more time in Santa Cruz than in Palo Alto. My last class was at noon Thursday and I'd head for the beach, coming back Sunday night. Although it's changed a lot, it's still a great town. I love the drive down the coast (taking surfboard) and Bookshop Santa Cruz is one of the Great Bookstores.
Details from Bookshop Santa Cruz

Two Old Guys With Cameras in Panama City

I looked at this guy and he looked at me. Both, with cameras around our necks, same age group, on the paseo in Panama City. About 3 weeks ago. He shot a Polaroid of me (right) ($3) while I took the photo of him. We kept running into each other on subsequent days.

Interview: Lloyd Kahn: In Praise of the Hand-Built Home

Here's an interview of me done last Sunday by Martrha Danly, editor of Green By Design.

Brand New Ghost Towns

Unoccupied new housing complex in Novato, Calif. All over America, there are overblown housing developments looking for buyers. This one was 5 times as big as what's shown here.