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Lone Ranger and Tonto go camping

The Lone Ranger and Tonto went camping in the desert. After they got their tent all set up, both men fell sound asleep. Some hours later, Tonto wakes the Lone Ranger and says, "Kemo Sabe, look towards sky, what you see? "
'The Lone Ranger replies, 'I see millions of stars.'

"What that tell you?" asked Tonto.

The Lone Ranger ponders for a minute then says, "Astronomically speaking, it tells me there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets. Astrologically, it tells me that Saturn is in Leo. Time wise, it appears to be approximately a quarter past three in the morning. Theologically, the Lord is all-powerful and we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, it seems we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. What's it tell you, Tonto?"

'You dumber than buffalo shit. It means someone stole the tent."
-From Godfrey Stephens

Student shelters in desert at Taliesin West

"A writer for the New York Times called the student-designed and built structures at the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture perhaps 'the hippest dormitory in the world. 'The "shelters,' as they are called, dot the natural landscape surrounding the campuses (near Scottsdale, Arizona), and are offered to students as options for living while attending school.

The structures at Taliesin West can be visited on the student-led Taliesin West Desert Shelter Tour, Saturdays at 1:30 between mid-November and mid-April and by appointment at info@taliesin.edu."
Photo © 1999 Victor Sidy

Weekend house in Minnesota woods built of shipping containers

"Paul Stankey, along with wife Sara and his brother Paul and wife Krista, constructed their weekend getaway in the Minnesotta woods from 2 small shipping containers ($800 each) and birch wood. Holyoke Cabin was built completely by hand, without electricity, and water was pumped from a creek 1/4 mile away to mix concrete. Paul is co-founder of HIVE Modular, specializing in modern prefab design that is affordable and efficient."
-Photo and text from: http://is.gd/bpZo, which highlights about a dozen shipping container homes (and apartments)
Step-by-step construction photos (November, 2007) at: http://is.gd/bpZWE

Bjork's house on remote island in Iceland

"This house is located on an island called Elliðaey near Vestmannaeyjar, a small archipelago off the south coast of Iceland. The house was given to singer, Bjork from her motherland as a “Thank You” for putting Iceland on the international map."

Tuesday Morning in Berkeley

In the mid-'70s ("The '60s happened in the '70s," right?), Lesley and I tried to make a go of it producing food for ourselves and to sell. I was building our house. Had no plans to publish more books (after Shelter). Lesley tended a big garden. At one time we had 50 chickens, 5 beehives, and 3-4 goats (on less than ½-acre). Our friends were into the same things. Neighbors Bob and Sabena had a Jersey cow, pigs, a few sheep, ducks, chickens, and a huge garden, about one acre. Mike and I tried some small-scale farming. Mike and I both learned a lot from Arnold Brost, an old German who had grown up in Bessarabia (Romania) on a self-sufficient farm. Tending bees, making wine, smoking hams, making sourdough yeast…

Turns out producing organic food on our small scale in those days just didn't pay. We sold fertile organic eggs for $1 a dozen, a quart of organic raw goat's milk for $1, and honey for $1 a pound. We didn't end up being farmers, but we learned a lot of food skills that still serve us well. Grinding grain (wheat millet, oats, rice) just before using; making cheese; gathering wild foods; all the myriad things Lesley's learned to cook, from fresh-baked bread to pizza to sushi to a —ahem!— chocolate soufflé.

I discovered a homemade book called Stretching in 1979, used it to cure a bad back, and ended up publishing it in 1980, and voilá, I was no longer carpenter/farmer, but publisher. That book changed my life.

Note from todays NY Times:
-Highly efficient waste-to-energy plants in Denmark burn garbage to produce electricity with minimal pollution. U.S. of course drags heels on this technology.
-Reading the hard version of the NY Times is such a treat compared to the dumbed-down San Francisco Chronicle.
-Andrew Russ Sorkin says the bailouts might just be working.
-Pfizer reveals it's been making payments to doctors as consultants or speakers. Why am I not surprised?
-Lala.com is a great music site. Can play any song, many albums free just once.

Sun's shining, I'm off on my city rounds.

Butterfly roof "treehouse"

"Perched atop steel pylons that abstractly emulate natural branches, the project is not literally a tree house but rather a modern interpretation of one. The design pays the ultimate respect to the pre-existing tree, literally shaping itself around the contours of the trunk. Inside, a single glass cut out in the floor reconnects the tree house inhabitant to the tree itself, a respectful and subtle nod to Mother Nature."
Photo (c) Eric Staudenmaier
Design by RBA

Shelter's Tiny House book going into Phase 2…

I got the idea to do a book on tiny houses about a year ago. After all, the main theme of our 1973 book Shelter was the small house. Instead of borrowing money from a bank to buy an existing house, you'd do it yourself. We showed designs, with drawings by Bob Easton, of five small houses, each with a different roof shape.

This idea has really taken off in the last few years. There's a ton of material out there on tiny houses. So I began exploring the web and copying down URLs of websites with good material. I did this on and off for about a year, while we finished up other projects.

In December, 2009, I started a review of all these websites and all this material. Which I've just finished. I have about 100 folders assembled here: tiny houses on land, on wheels, on the water; cabins, shacks, sheds; saunas, studios, greenhouses, chicken coops;. Small living — urban or country. A ton of wonderful material.

Next week I'll start contacting these people. I'll be seeking permission to use photos and stories. We can't pay much, if anything for photos, since our books have 1000-1200 photos each. And, as is usual, I have no idea what the book will be like. My method is to start assembling pages and let the book take on its own form. So here goes, our first major building book since Builders of the Pacific Coast.

Above: my photo of cabin by Vin Gorman (one of the featured builders in the above book).

3 families share one house

Left: Jennifer Acosta and her sons, Derek, 12, and JanPaul, 5, live in an apartment in a house that she bought with a sister and a brother and their families.
-Photo by Uli Seit

This story in the NY Times (4/07/10), by Constance Rosenblum, about two sisters and a brother, each with their own families, buying and sharing a 3-story house in Queens, N.Y.:
"… for these three grown children, Ecuadorean immigrants raised largely in a one-bedroom apartment near Fordham Road in the Bronx, the arrangement offered an escape from cramped quarters in a troubled part of the city.
The three had long talked about buying a place together. Yet only when they discovered this century-old house opposite Forest Park seven years ago did they realize they had found something both large enough for them all and priced at a level they could afford.
'We’d been looking for a year,” Ms. Acosta said. “The day we saw this house, we had already seen seven other places. This was the last one.'
They bought the house for $400,000, dividing the down payment equally among the three families. And the sharing continues. On the 15th of each month Ms. Andrade takes a check for the mortgage to the bank. Mr. Garcia makes sure the taxes are paid. Ms. Acosta administers to the sometimes temperamental boiler, a task she is proud to say she mastered on her own.…"