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Plain House, Nice Garden, Berkeley

Shows what you can do with vegetation. Somewhere down around 4th St. in Berkeley. There are tons of great homes in Berkeley and Oakland. I keep jumping out of the car and shooting pictures when I'm in the East Bay.

New - iPad Stretches Available Free

Our (free) stretching reminder for iPad users is now available. It's in the "books" category on your iPad. When you click on one of the images shown here, it opens to a page with the instructions for that stretch — a reminder to take a stretching break during your digital day. iPad users, see: http://bit.ly/ipadstretches

We made it free in hopes of generating interest in our program StretchWare, ("The software that reminds you to stretch"). You can download StretchWare free for 30 days at: http://bit.ly/Stwrdnld. Works great on Mac and Windows.

Round barn in Vermont

This round barn is at The Round Barn Farm Bed & Breakfast in Waitsfield, Vermont.

SunRay Kelley's Solar and Biofuel-powered Hybrid Road Vehicle

Sun Ray Kelly is building a unique rolling home (which will be featured in our book on tiny houses). Inspired by gypsy caravans, he got a vintage 1984 Toyota dolphin camper vehicle (1-ton rear axle), demolished the camper shell, and built a canted-wall, curved-roof frame out of recycled aluminum. Called the Gypsy Wagon, it's got a wild new shape and a unique solar/electric/diesel hybrid power plant.
The sides are cedar, there's a forward solarium, a stained glass rear window, and a back porch. There will be 3000 watts of solar panels (some of which will fold down), two 156 volt banks of lithium iron phosphate batteries, and a 12 inch GE electric motor. The Toyota's gas motor has been removed and a four-cylinder 1500 cc diesel motor installed that will run on bio diesel.
The batteries will be charged 3 different ways: one, by plugging into a standard 110-volt electrical outlet; two, by the PV array installed on the roof and wings; and three, by a 26-kw Perkins diesel powered generator (a "gen-set"). As SunRay explains, “Trains have for years been run with an electric motor powered by a diesel generator.”
Sunray is a brilliant (and competent) builder. Click on the link below, then go to the slideshow at the bottom of the page and click on the arrow to see some 2-page spreads of his work in Builders of the Pacific Coast: http://www.shelterpub.com/_builders/BPC-book.html
Any green angel investors out there? SunRay, as usual, is working on a shoestring, and could use financial backing. It's a wonderful project that will enlighten and inspire people to utilize alternative sources of energy and recycled materials. Contact him at: sunray@sunraykelley.com,  all and stay tuned in here for progress

Handmade Envelope

Pretty nice huh? Can't remember who sent it.

Skunk Skin

I pick up roadkill animals. OK? I'm out of the closet with it now. I've been doing so for years. Food and fur. This is my second skunk skin. He was in the outdoor freezer for about a year until I skinned him a month or so ago. Most skunks release their odor when hit on the road. But once in a while one will get bopped on the head and not have time to release its musk oil out into the world.
I've got skins of squirrels, raccoons, a fox, a beautiful bobcat, a weasel, and a white spotted baby deer skin.  I love the idea of taking something that's otherwise going to rot on the road, and turning it into a beautiful object.
Technique: I skin the animal, stretch the skin on a piece of plywood tack it down, cover it with salt, and then in a week, ship it UPS to a tanning guy in Pennsylvania. Six weeks later I get back (via UPS) a tanned skin. This one was surprisingly pretty, glossy and rich.
Also, I collect skulls and bones, mostly in the woods, sometimes on the beach, and clean and bleach them. Bones fascinate me. Nature is a marvelous designer and engineer.

Apple Core Skull

Sent me by Godfrey Stephens. Neither of us know where it's from.

Latest Gimme Shelter Newsletter

I send out an e-mail newsletter called Gimme Shelter whenever I get time. The mailing list includes people in the publishing business and friends. It used to be about monthly, but since I've been blogging, it's been less frequent. You can see the latest one at: http://www.shelterpub.com/_gimme/_2010-07-29/gimme_shelter-2010-07-29.html

Rice paddy art in Japan

"Every year since 1993, the villagers of Inakadate, Japan, have created pictures in the local rice paddies as a way of attracting tourists to the area.…The original paddy art was formed by using two varieties of rice plants, one with dark purplish stalks and the other bright green. In recent years, genetically engineered plants have been added to produce three more colors: dark red, yellow and white.…"
Photo: Shiho Fukada for The New York Times

Wham Bam - Accident in Woods Friday Afternoon

The end result: no really serious injuries, and for that, I thank the Lords of Karma, or the benevolent invisible uncle spirits I sometimes feel are looking down upon me, and protecting me from more dire consequences of stupid actions.
I took off Friday afternoon in my truck to get a final load of oak firewood; fallen dead trees by side of road. A good-sized section of a tree was lying diagonally on a pretty steep slope. I climbed above it, and cut it in two with my chainsaw, leaving the upper section about 15 feet long, 2 feet in diameter. I put down my saw, climbed up above it, sat down, and started pushing with my feet to get it to roll down to the road for easier chainsawing. It started sliding and I shuffled over to the side of it on the steep bank. Suddenly, in one of those moments when time seems to stand still, yet things move at lightning speed, the log sprang loose, spun around and hit me in the face. It knocked me to the ground and I slid down the bank. It had hit me on the cheek and bloodied my face and nose, and I had a swelling and a cut on the back of my head. Luckily it didn't knock me out.
I drove the 3 miles to home, we called 911, and pretty soon there were six or so firefighters checking me out and cleaning the wounds. I was lucky, we all agreed. Two paramedics arrived, hooked me up to an IV solution, and took me to the emergency room at Marin General Hospital in their ambulance. Bottom line: x-rays and CAT scans showed no broken parts. By then my ribs were aching, and they asked if I'd like a shot of morphine. Would I? In about 30 minutes, rib pain was abating, and I was feeling puh-ritty good. Sister morphine.
I've been home a couple of days now, taking some pretty strong painkillers, sleeping a lot, and feeling better each morning. Swelling going down. Got a classic black eye. Man, I am so lucky. If the log had been a direct hit, instead of a glancing blow, or if any of a number of other things had gone differently…

And in the cosmic connection department: my friend Sun Ray Kelly, wildman builder from Washington, called the next day. On the same afternoon, he'd fallen off a log with a chainsaw running and cut into his foot. Turns out he's OK too, but out of circulation for a while. We talked about the forces looking over us, he sees them as spirits and thinks they spank us every once in a while, sparing us from more serious injury. The very day before this, I'd remarked to Lesley That SunRay was a kindred spirit and a brother.

SunRay, we gotta be more careful, I said.

English cottage with thatched roof

This lovely photo of a thatched cottage in a garden was reprinted in Shelter, and is from the book English Cottages and Farm Houses by Olive Cook.