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Swimming in secret pond

I felt tired Tuesday night. Couldn't run with the boys due to knee injury, so went off alone at a slow pace up to this hidden pond in the hills and by the time I'd done two around-the-pond circuits, I felt great. A beautiful spot, a little valley damned up at one end. Swallows swoop around, just skimming the surface, grabbing insects, a peaceful place. Once in a while, humans actually improve a bit of the natural world.

Cities giving out free land

"Beatrice was a starting point for the Homestead Act of 1862, the federal law that handed land to pioneering farmers. Back then, the goal was to settle the West. The goal of Beatrice’s “Homestead Act of 2010,” is, in part, to replenish city coffers. The calculus is simple, if counterintuitive: hand out city land now to ensure property tax revenues in the future.…"
Left: A cabin at the Homestead National Monument of America near Beatrice, Neb., Photo by Kevin Moloney for The New York Times. Article published: July 25, 2010 by Monica Davey: "Cities View Homesteads as a Source of Income"
"Around the nation, cities and towns facing grim budget circumstances are grasping at unlikely — some would say desperate — means to bolster their shrunken tax bases. Like Beatrice, places like Dayton, Ohio, and Grafton, Ill., are giving away land for nominal fees or for nothing in the hope that it will boost the tax rolls and cut the lawn-mowing bills.…"

Vermont 2005, #5: John Connell's sustainable house

Artist/architect John Connell designed and built this house in a played-out gravel pit near Warren, Vermont. It was built over 16 years with input from about 65 students from John's six-week Deign/Build sessions at Yestermorrow School in Warren, Vermont.

John: "The idea was to show that intelligent land development could actually help repair land as opposed to its usual role in degrading it. I purchased this played-out gravel pit which was then subdivided into four lots with a common area. In the common area we built Vermont's first licensed engineered wetland specifically designed to treat waste. It was sized to accommodate four 3-bedroom homes. This house was the first to be built (proof of concept). Sadly, the people who purchased the house also purchased the remaining lots and closed down the project. So we successfully refurbished the gravel pit (maybe a bit too well) but failed to create the neighborhood we had hoped for. Had we sold the lots separately, it would have become this fabulous little neighborhood of four hi-performance homes and a green house on ten acres along the Mad River. That was the vision.

As it was designed and built (over those 16 years), that house was meant to reflect the very latest in sustainable thinking. It is super insulated, is heated by less than 500 gallons of propane each winter with a super hi-eff boiler (93%+), the wood was mostly local, the materials were recycled whenever possible, non-toxic glues and sealers were used (after 1991), etc. etc."

Steep old railroad tie steps in Belvedere, CA

I noticed these stairs across from my brother's house a few days ago. Concrete stringers on sides, railroad tie steps

Bougainvillea in San Francisco yesterday

In the Mission district in San Francisco yesterday. As often, it was sunny in the Mission and foggy at the beach.

Vermont, 2005 - #4

Dave Sellers' shop

Vermont, 2005 - #3

John Connell's home

Barefoot Architect cheers up Devin in South Africa

In this mornings email:
It's Devin from Durban, South Africa here....
Just a note to say thanks:
About a week ago I took a drive up the coast to check out a small town I hadn't been to in years... shockingly the place had been completely taken over by shopping malls and mile after mile of upmarket housing estates.... major bummer. Bad mood settling in, I stopped for a coffee and checked out a local bookshop. Only to discover..... The Barefoot Architect! Instant transformative power! A complete antidote to the crap that had ruined a town/whole stretch of coastline. A good mood ensued and it was only after getting home that I realised it was a shelter book (I've got Shelter, Homework, and my dad's old copy of Shelter 2).
Keep up the great work!


Vermont, 2005 - #2

Mortise and tenon framework for tiny house at Yestermorrow Design/Build School in Waitsfield, Vermont

Nice roof framing detail

3-bedroom, 2 bath cottage Athens Georgia $215,000

SETTING: This cottage (2,125 square feet) is in a residential neighborhood just across the Oconee River from the University of Georgia and downtown Athens.… There are walking and biking trails along the river, about two blocks away, and 2 parks within 6 or 7 blocks…The cottage is divided into 2 apartments, one on main level and one at basement level.

CONTACT: fullcircleathens.com

From NYTimes, July 13, 2010: http://is.gd/dzBDz

Vermont, 2005 - #1

I'm going to post a bunch of pics from Vermont, 2005.

Mud-spattered muscle truck in Sierras Saturday

My son Evan discovered what's going to be the most unique tiny house in our book. Pentagonal in plan, immaculately built, unique in dozens of highly crafted features, this world-class snowboarder's wilderness cabin is a stunner. I mean, Louis Frazier (Home Work) and Lloyd House (Builders of the Pacific Coast) will love this place. We went up to the Sierras to shoot photos and do an interview, and on the way back spotted this truck in Colfax, with these two young backroads spirits. Click on pic to get bigger size.

Monday morning reggae/Dave Sellers, John Connell, Yestermorrow School in Vermont 2005/blogger's "Duh" moments mid-July 2010

I've had a couple of those lightbulb-on moments of late:
1. In preparing for my tiny house book, I started looking over my photo archives. Wow! I've got a lot of good stuff. I'd forgotten. All the creative building going on out there.
2. I was planning to go to the Frankfurt book fair in October, then take 10 days to Istanbul and the coast of Turkey. Yesterday — flash — I need to stay here and get this book done. A two-week trip actually knocks me off schedule by about a month, since I can't help shooting pictures and reporting wherever I go, and then must unload it upon return. Plus take care of all the brilliant ideas I've made note of while traveling (most of which don't get carried out).
3. I'm starting to get more feedback on this blog, some of it critical. We like your blog Lloyd, but:
-a) Stay out of politics. You're wrong in calling it Arizona's hate law.
-b) Growing pot indoors hydroponically is fine.
-c) Stop knocking Dwell magazine
-d) Shame on you for printing color books in China
Criticism is welcome, no kiddin..Keeps me on my toes, but much as I'd like to respond, I need to focus on forward movement.
Today we started out socked in with fog from the sea. Started to clear around 10, now the sky is blue, with floating patches of low wispy fog, perfect temperature, Gregory Isaacs singing "Willow Tree" as I write this, a lovely song.

Wow! I'd forgotten this little Green Mountains beauty.

I just happened to run across photos I shot in the Green Mountains of Vermont in 2005, when I visited architects Dave Sellers and John Connell, the Yestermorrow school of building, and environs. I'll post a bunch of these. Dave and his pals are in a vortex of creative architecture.
Hound Dog Taylor doing Give Me Back My Wig. I can't hold still…

Mortise and tenon frame of timber house from early America

Another drawing from Shelter. Looks like the frame for a New England home.The drawing tells you a lot. This was reprinted from The History of Notable American Houses, by Cal Sacks.

Shelter Serra skating bowl at Chelsea Piers skate park

Twins Shelter and Ivory Serra were born in Bolinas 35 or so years ago and now live in NYC. (They're sons of my longtime friend Tony Serra.) I hang out with them a bit every time I go to New York. When I was there for the book convention in late May, we went down to the new skate park on the Hudson. I got Shelter to strap my G0Pro Helmet Hero video camera onto his helmet as he made one round around the park and into and out of the bowl. Hang on!

Cottage for sale Boston $235,000

This cottage for sale in Dedham, near Boston. 737 sq. ft., built in 1910, 1 bedroom, 1 bath.
Open house Sunday, July 18, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.,
Margaret Matthews of Donahue Real Estate in Dedham
Sent us by Kevin Kelly.

Mrs. Restino's Country Kitchen back in print

14 years ago, we thought the world was ready for a cookbook based on what's growing in the garden, the wild, or locally available. We published this book — which turned out to be ahead of its time. Now we're happy to have it back in print. It's a great cookbook "…for people who want to learn more about how to use healthy ingredients to whip up delicious meals without too much fuss." Suzy and Charlie Restino moved from New England to Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, in 1971, built a house, planted a huge garden, large greenhouse, root cellar, had chickens, cows, goats — a real homestead. Suzy's a real writer, witty and insightful, and did all her own drawings. A few people have told me it's their favorite cookbook. This is the style of cooking we practice. As local as possible. As home-grown (or gathered) as possible. “Country cooks have to do a lot of improvising, experimenting, and inventing in the kitchen. You have to, since the store may be far away.…” Interspersed with homesteading experiences of two people who left city for country in the '60s (and super relevant today).
Available here: http://shelterpub.com/_mrck/mrck_book.html

Whirling logs — Navajo hogan

In Spring 1973, Jack Fulton and I took off in my BMW 2002 for New Mexico to shoot photos for the upcoming book Shelter. On our way home, we ended up on a dirt road on a Navajo reservation in Arizona. We pulled into a market, and this hogan was sitting out in front of the store. I put my fisheye lens on the dirt floor and set the camera on self timer. That's me and Jack standing in the doorway (and reflected in lens-bounce). This shows pretty clearly the ingenious method for framing hogan roofs, with succeeding layers of poles overlapping at 45° angles. They were then covered with soil (and probably bark underneath). This photo appears on page 35 of Shelter.

Baby chicks and tiny houses in Petaluma

We got a shipment of baby chicks in the mail a couple months ago, and 2/3 of them died. A combination of cold weather, too long in transit, and the fact that they are all bantams, which are quite small. We ordered another shipment of 28 bantams, and yesterday I drove up the Petaluma to pick them up at the main branch post office, so we got them a day earlier than if we'd waited for them to be delivered to our town. This batch looks really healthy, they're already running around like a bunch of little punks. We keep them in the house under in a big box under an infrared light for a few weeks, then put them in a special wired-off area in the chicken yard, still under a light, until they're feathered out.

On my way home with the box of peeping chicks, I spotted this little building on wheels (at 1840 Petaluma Blvd. N.) There are 4-5 other little buildings there on wheels, the builder is Stephen Marshall, and the website is: http://littlehouseonthetrailer.com/

Tiny houses are hot right now!

Mudbath in lagoon

A few nights ago I went for a paddle late on a foggy afternoon. The wind had been blowing for about a week, and the water was really cold. I paddled down one of the channels to a spot where there's black, oozy mud on the bottom. I didn't feel like a 100% mud bath, so stopped and plastered my face. The stuff smells of deep ocean and sea minerals and is like glue. I left it on my face for a few minutes and had a bit of panic because my eyes felt glued shut. Then rinsed it off. My skin felt alive.
Here's a post  about mud baths (with pix) from a few years ago: http://lloydkahn-ongoing.blogspot.com/2008/07/paddleboard-and-kayaklow-tide-lagoonmud_13.html

Free To A Good Home – Historic Tourist Cabins in Richmond, Vermont

"…these little cabins need a new home and are free to anyone that can take them away. There are four identical cabins, each measuring about 12′ by 12′. The only catch is that they must be removed by July 31, 2010… Each cabin measures approximately 12′ x 12′ with a small bathroom and kitchen area. Exterior features include novelty siding, exposed rafter tails, original windows and door, and Craftsman-style entry hoods. These are great examples of roadside architecture and could be rehabilitated into wonderful little guest cottages, playhouses or retreats."
From Michael Jantzen's Tiny House Design: http://www.tinyhousedesign.com/

Communication - Economics of publishing

Communication 2010

The heart of my work will always be the physical book, but I'm loving the blogging (and tweeting) process. Starting with a high school journalism class, I've been trying to communicate what I see going on out in the world. I'm some kind of combination naif, Pollyanna, and communicator, and can't wait to tell people what's out there. I don't need to tell you this is a golden age for communicators. As soon as I post this on my blog, it's out worldwide — it's staggering — especially for someone who started out in the world of hot lead type.

I've got revolutionary avenues and tools of communication available now: The WEB — hoo! And tools: big Mac Pro desktop honker in office, scanner, great Epson pro 4800 printer, plus Road Gear: MacBook Pro laptop, 3G iPad, iPhone, 4 different cameras, not to mention GPS in truck and satellite radio. An "…embarrassment of riches." I better do something with all this!

Economics of publishing: 40 years of tightrope walking

For 4 decades it's been nip and tuck. We sure ain't in it for the money. In years past we had to borrow to pay printing bills. When Random House was our distributor, they handled reprints of our most popular books. They'd pay the printers and eventually deduct it from our quarterly check — 6 months after the bill was due. It was a great deal. When things got tight, they'd give us an advance on sales. When Random House got conglomerate-ized, we switched distribution to Publishers Group West, and it was a match made in heaven. As years went by, we got slightly ahead of printing bills. We even had a nest egg of about $130,000 3 years ago and bingo, bankruptcy by parent company Advanced Marketing Services wiped that out. Now we're rolling with PGW again, but still tightrope walking. We need to sell enough books in the next 6 months to stay afloat, until we get the tiny houses book out there, which I suspect is going to be successful. Keeps us on our toes.

Foreign Editions

We've sold rights to the new edition of Stretching in Spain, Brazil, Korea, China (complex and simple Chinese), Viet Nam and have offers from Germany and interest from Japan. (Stretching is our flagship, the only reason we're still afloat.; the new edition has sold 18,000 copies in the US and Canada in 5 months.)

SolFest back on

The event got so big it couldn't be accommodated in Hopland, so it's moved to the Ukiah fairgrounds, September 25-26 this year. My favorite fair. We have a booth and always sell tons of books. Info: http://www.solarliving.org/display.asp?catid=62&pageid=217

Music in my life

Is a huge part of my life. 2 of my 3 sons are musicians*. I took violin lessons for 7 years, gave it up in high school because it didn't seem cool. Didn't play it for 50 years. A few years ago I was in a music store and asked to see a violin that was hanging up. To my surprise I could play like I'd never quit.Bought it for $200.  Lesley had no idea I could play. I took it home and she was baking a pie. I snuck the violin out and played "Can she bake a cherry pie, Billy Boy." Surprise and merriment.
*Will plays in the Brazilian band Sambada, from Santa Cruz: http://www.sambada.com/

Sirius Satellite Radio

I kid you not, Sirius has changed my life. The quality of music is just off the charts. My pre-selected stations are BB King's Blusville; Outlaw Country (rockin' country); The Joint (reggae); Bluegrass; the '50s; a classical station Bach etc.); Raw Dog Comedy; I switch around a lot. Tuesday on the road: The Right Time by Otis Rush; Bumblebee by Memphis Minnie; Gregory Isaacs... reggae somehow goes with Mendocino county; I Have a Boyfriend by the Chiffons, made me think of all those great girl groups of the 50s with their intricate harmonies and witty backups. Doo ron-ron...As I write this I'm sitting in my round room at Louie's listening to the Abyssinians singing Satta Mass Gana, "There is a life far, far away..."

Bass Madness: My new box bass is so great that I've been playing it a LOT. It's wonderful to discover the world of bass playing. I never really heard the bass before. It's like a different world, steady, the underlying current. Most people tune into only the melody.

My first musical love was the Mills Brothers, in the late 40s and 50s. The harmonies, the trumpets and trombone and bass done with the human voice. The much later, age 18, I walked into Sherm Welpton's room at the Fiji house at Stanford and heard "Yes it's me and I'm in love again" by Fats Domino (pic left). Ooo-wee! That led into the world of what was called rhythm and blues.. We started listening to KDIA, Lucky 13, in San Francisco, the black music station. We (ages 18-20) started going to R&B concerts in Santa Cruz and LA, with groups like the Clovers, Medallions, Robins, Drifters, Coasters...fantastic singing and dancing in unison...Earl Bostic on saxophone. Lieber and Stoller songs, what a couple of geniuses. Which all led me into blues and rock and roll.

This Tuesday, the Kahn family is backing up 91-year-old ragtime piano player Phoebe Babo at the Aegis Rest Home in Corte Madera. Brother Bob on banjo, son Will on drums, me on box bass. A sort of celebration of my mom's life, for the residents. We're going to film it. Here's Phoebe a few weeks ago doing Bye Bye Blues: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TIM3WVFROYs

3-day trip, chapter #2

I'm deliriously in love with the Pacific Ocean, it fills my heart with joy. You never know with a body of water. I went down to paddle in the lagoon around 6 the other night. The water was like glass, the air was fresh, I stood talking to surfer/fisherman Andrew for 5 minutes, both of us enjoying the moment, the birds, water, sunlight, ridge in background. It's a bond that surfers, fishermen, and beachcombers share. We're drawn to the ocean. Tuesday night the cove in Pt. Arena was beautiful at sunset. The wind had dropped, and the waves shimmered with silver as they broke.

When I was around 12, I had my first insight into a deeper level of nature. We used to spend the summer at the Russian River, and one evening around sunset I was walking through a hay field and saw a mouse scurry by. I stopped and held still and soon more mice came out. I stood there for like 20 minutes. It was next to a haystack, which was like a mouse skyscraper, and the mice ran all over the friggin place, carrying stuff, chatting, almost climbing over my shoes. They thought I was a tree. It was this busy little society, seldom seen by humans. I was practically ecstatic.

The room I stay in at Louie's (see below) is in his shop. His house is on the other side of the river. To get there you ride in a bosun's chair 500' across the river on a cable. I went across Wed. night to have dinner. (I shot a video of the ride, which I'll put on YouTube next week.) We roasted 2 wild ducks, and had them with a salad, Louie's homemade Syrah wine, and an apple pastry he whipped up for desert. Oh yeah, a few shots of tequila and olives before dinner. Listened to music of the '40s, then CD of The Harder They Come while we ate … we old guys, like, know how to have a good time.

3-day trip up the coast

I get up a 5 Tuesday morning, load up the Tacoma, and take off for my friend Louie's, 3 hours up the coast on Hwy. One. Fragrant latte and cookie at Toby's in Pt. Reyes Station (best coffee in Marin), then skirt the eastern edge of Tomales bay, mist drifting across tide flats. In spite of the terrible things going on all over the world, I still have these days, magic moments when I'm thrilled to be alive. The hills are still moist from all the rain. Cattle all have shiny coats. Flock of fat butterball looking sheep. Coffee, ganja, blues on radio, not too shabby eh?. Sometimes a song will be perfect with passing scenery, and I make a movie in my mind, moving through space with music. It's a low tide and I check out a clam digging area for future trips. Lots of clams, a bunch of clam diggers. Pick up some beautiful large sheets of nori seaweed, will see if I can clean and dry it when I get home There's a roadkill faun on the highway, but it's too old.

Great breakfast (preceded by um, a Bloody Mary; hey, it seemed appropriate) at recently refurbished Timber Cove Inn. There's something good going on in that kitchen. Looks like a great place for a weekend getaway, on rocky point looking out at ocean. Not cheap, but elegant in its present incarnation.

Around noon I get out to Louie's, which is in a valley, on a river. I unpack in this room, which always makes me happy, every part of it is so right. Bed on right, desk for my MacBook at left, looks out into sunny vineyard, redwoods in background.

Louie and Lloyd House are my two favorite builders in the world. Louie's next project will be willow furniture, There are always little things around that are a delight, like this Birch branch hose holder:

I go down to the swimming hole, lie in sun a little, boy does it feel good to have sun on my skin, I'd forgotten. Dive into deep green water, the river is beautiful (and cold) right now. About 8' deep alongside rock face.

 Three 13-or-so-yr-old girls are on the beach, talking.
"And I'm, like, no way!"
"She like had 2 kids."
"He's like, sorry to be so late."
"And she's like, where have you been?"

Then, like, a 15-yr old boy comes and he and the girls start jumping off the cliff into the pool.

They're playing and giggling, having a great time. Gaiety on a sunny afternoon at the swimming hole.

Back home: I wrote a bunch of stuff yesterday afternoon, will post when there's time. Also shot movie of going 500' across river on Louie's aerial tramway cable, which I'll get up on YouTube.