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Dwell gets funky

Dwell, the magazine of mostly architectish soullessness, has come up with "…a map of resources across the United States for salvaged materials. Whether you’re looking for 200-year-old barn beams from Georgia or resurrected steel panels from the Pacific Northwest, we bet there’s a stockpile of goods in your neck of the woods. Let us know the place in the comments, and we'll add it to the map!"

"Mary Don't You Weep," Georgia field hands, Aretha Franklin

 From Boing Boing last night, posted by Xeni Jardin. It's a rainy Sunday morning; I managed to haul myself out of bed early and am now listening to Aretha's wonderful version of the song.

"'Oh Mary don't you weep,' an early film recording of unknown origin, found on YouTube with the description "Georgia Field Hands, recorded 1928-1935." More about the song, which was a sort of coded message of resistance in the American South, and seems timely today, with current events in Egypt. Thanks to NPR's Andy Carvin for the inspiration."

Lyrics here. There have been many great renditions of this song throughout the ages; Aretha Franklin's from 1972 is one of the finest to be found on YouTube."

Home of artist J. D. Harris in Eureka Springs, Arkansas

"…Two of the more remarkable things about the Harris's home and studio are that there are no blueprints other than a sketch on a piece of paper, and J.D. built most of it by himself, with little help.
'It's all in his head,' Cathy said. 'He just sketched it to show me what my new home would look like. Every cut and nail is in his head.'
   'It's all two-by-fours and one-by-twelves,' J.D. said. 'I can see this so clearly in my mind, and it stays. It doesn't just come and go.…'
   Others have constructed sloped roofs, J.D. said, but he came up with a way to do it without steaming the wood, which would be impossible for some of the lengths he's using in his roofs. He figured out a way to put two 2x4s together, put pressure on them and then nail the joints with nails at different angles so the planks hold their curvature.
   How did he get 40 feet in the air to do this?
   By building the walls from the ground up and making a hand- and foothold "ladder" out of pieces of 2x4 nailed to each vertical section. 'He hung upside down by his toes from these to do some of the work,' Cathy said. 'I couldn't watch.'"
Sent us by Fred W. Weisenborn

Cob with living roof, Portland, Oregon

"This structure was designed in a group setting, with input from architect Mark Lakeman, builder Scott Howard, and school headmaster Maitri Erson, among others. Construction was lead by Scott Howard and Joshua Klyber, assisted by architect Gabriel Prost. Completed over two consecutive years during the annual Village Building Convergence with the help of hundreds of enthusiastic people. Scott created this work with many artistic elements inclduing: Stained glass windows depicting local landscapes, woodcarvings of animals and plants, and colorful mosaics."

Sea shells and staggering beauty today

Beautiful sunny day after a lot of rain and cold. I got up early and worked until 1 PM on the tiny houses book, then went to beach. Look at these shells. The beauty out there in the world sometimes staggers me. Years ago, when the kid in American Beauty said the below, it resonated:

"…when there's so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I'm seeing it all at once, and it's too much, my heart fills up like a balloon that's about to burst... And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold on to it, and then it flows through me like rain and I can't feel anything but gratitude…"

New graffiti on beach yesterday

Great blog: onetrippass

Check this out. So few blogs look this good: http://www.onetrippass.com/blog/ 

The Half Acre Homestead in the 21st Century

On Tuesday I did a talk/slide show titled "The Half Acre Homestead in the 21st Century" at St. Mary's College in Moraga, Calif. The course was titled "Shelter," inspired by our 1973 book of the same name, and taught by Kristen Sbrogna.
This is the 2nd presentation I've done on the subject; the first was at the Maker Faire last year in San Mateo. I started creating a home and surroundings 50 years ago, have gone through a lot of trials and tribulations as they say, and felt that my experiences might be of interest to anyone attempting to evade the bank/mortgage or high rent syndrome of getting a roof over one's head.
Above: one of the slides, showing our kitchen dish drying/storage rack, built years ago by Lew Lewandowski. Dishes are slid into slots as soon as rinsed and remain there until used again.

Feedback from Nevada City, Calif.

Cycling into sunset

Danny cycling up the road Friday night. Danny has beautiful curly auburn red hair, and when she got into the light, it glowed.

Dave and Dogs on the beach yesterday

Fisherman Dave and his girlfriend have, between them, 3 chocolate Labradors. When Dave would throw the stick into the channel, they'd dive in and race to it. As soon as one of them grabbed it, they'd swim to shore en masse and beg Dave to throw it again. They raced around the beach, digging holes, chasing each other, leaping and bounding. Dogs know how to have fun!

Godfrey Stephens' carving tools

Aren't these beautiful?

For Bob Dylan fans only…

Can we talk?
Last week on Sirius radio they played "Most likely you go your way and I'll go mine," and it was stunning. After all these years, it sounds better than ever.
Put on Blonde on Blonde, track #9. Jesus! And if you've lost it over the years, buy the album. Trust me.
Then time will tell
just who fell
And who’s been left behind
When you go your way and I go mine

Several years ago, my neighbor Chick, who has turned me on to music such as J.B. Hutto and the Hawks, gospel singer Dorothy Love Coates, and the radio recordings of Hank Williams — said, "Listen to Blonde on Blonde." And I did and was knocked out and played Dylan music for weeks.
Boy, was something going on back then! It can almost bring on tears.Click below for words.

Colombia police catch drug-smuggling pigeon

"Call it a case of high-flying criminal ingenuity: Colombia police captured a carrier pigeon trying to fly into a Bucarmanga jail with marijuana and cocaine paste strapped to its back, the BBC is reporting.
Officers say they recovered the bird about 1 block away from the prison. Carrying a package with 40 grams of marijuana and 5 grams of a paste containing cocaine, the bird -- which police believe had been trained by inmates or accomplices -- appeared to be unable to successfully clear the prison walls.
"We found the bird about a block away from the prison trying to fly over with a package, but due to the excess weight it could not accomplish its mission," said Jose Angel Mendoza, the local police commander, told the Telegraph. The bird is reportedly now being cared for by the local ecological police unit."

Straighten Up and Fly Right-Andrews Sisters, 1940s

A buzzard took a monkey for a ride in the air,
The monkey thought that everything was on the square.
The buzzard tried to toss the monkey of of his back
But the monkey grabbed his neck and said now listen, Jack:
Straighten up and fly right,
Straighten up and fly right,
Straighten up and fly right,
Cool down papa, don’t you blow your top.

Timber Frame and Natural Building Work Exchange 2011 in Missouri

The Wabi-sabi sub-community (Ziggy, April, Thomas, and Ali) at Dancing Rabbit Ecovillage are seeking individuals to help with building our cooperative kitchen and maintaining our organic vegetable gardens for the summer of 2011.
  Are you interested in roundwood timber framing? Do you want to get some hands-on experience building using natural materials? Would you like to experience community life in an off-the-grid, sustainable ecovillage?…
  Wabi-sabi wants to host excited work exchangers during April to October 2011 to help with the construction of a timber frame, straw bale and cob kitchen.…
  The Wabi-sabi kitchen is a oval structure composed of a reclaimed urbanite foundation, a local roundwood timber frame, and eventually, a reclaimed metal roof and straw bale/cob walls with an attached greenhouse and outdoor cooking space.…
  We are seeking builders with timber frame or carpentry experience.
  This season, building work will largely consist of helping to design and construct a timber frame from locally harvested roundwood using hand tools. Logs will be cut, split, hewn, mortised, and shaped to build the frame for our kitchen. The ideal candidate would have experience using hand tools to shape logs (saws, adzes, chisels, etc.), but a candidate with more general carpentry experience could be a fine candidate, too. Ultimately, we are seeking an individual excited and enthusiastic to experiment and learn about timber framing techniques and methods!

Great Blue Heron lets me get close

On my way to the beach around 5:30 PM yesterday, I spotted a blue heron in the creek, Funny, because these are the spookiest birds in the area, and this one wasn't bothered by my proximity. I kept inching forward, shooting pics, until I was about 25 ft. away. He stayed there, aware of my presence for sure, but not concerned. Finally I walked past his part of the creek and went around a bend. I heard this fluttering, and he had flown over my head and descended into the creek right in front of me. It was a thrill, this elegant creature swooping so close. (Look at those delicate white plume feathers, nature's decoration.)
This is the same general area where I talked to an owl one dark night a few years ago -- no kidding, owl and me had a conversation -- and Ron and I spotted a young mountain lion another time. It's where a creek comes down from the mountain into an estero and ultimately the sandy beach. Maybe there are spots on this earth where the elements, including planetary vibes, come together in harmony and animals allow us a closer look.

Horse on beach last night

I was on the beach last night around sunset. The surf was big and I was taking pictures of 2 surfers (who were getting hammered) and turned around and here was this horse and rider materializing out of the surf. (It was darker than it looks here.)

Riding the cable across the river to Louie's house

To get to my friend Louie's house, you ride a cable 500 feet across a river. Here's a short video of me walking down the road, climbing up to the 30' high platform, attaching the bosun's chair, and rolling across the river. On the other side there's another platform and another cable to get back. It's a thrill every time. Not for the faint hearted.

Horseneck clams and a marauding seagull tonight

It's really a lot of heavy shoveling in sticky clay-y sand to get these clams, so no one does it. Me, I have a strange affinity for shoveling, having done it since age 12, and I look on it as a workout. Got these 5 after about 45 min. of shoveling. Took them out and put them in the channel to wash off, went back to get my shovel, and when I got back, a seagull was tugging one of them along. Chased him off. What an opportunist! Such a strong, elegant bird. A survivor.

I leave them in salt water with corn meal sprinkled on top overnight (makes them discharge sand). Then will take long necks, blanch off skin, Cuisinart the white meat, and make clam fritters. Will make broth with the rest of the clams.

Cacti luminosity

So much going on now, can't capture much of it. Numero uno, the tiny homes book gets more fabulous weekly. Sheesh! We've hit a vein here. Plus the book is now alive and healthy and growing daily. I did 6 pages in the last two days, mama mia! What people are doing out there…
This afternoon, went clamming, stopped off at Eatdog's succulent garden to set up for a photo shoot later this week, and shot this in the afternoon sun.

Panorama of lagoon

Panorama of lagoon with wisps of fog shot on a bike ride Friday.

Birchbark sauna in Finland

"Birch bark has been used in Finland for centuries as a construction material and as material for making small objects like baskets and shoes. One of birch bark's features is good thermal insulation. The surface is water repellent and it can be gently washed with water. Some components of birch bark also protect it from decomposing.
Finnish architects Teija Losoi, Anne Varsamäki and Ilari Pirttilahti used the technique to build a lightweight sauna - basically a huge traditional birch bark basket turned upside down. The light walls are supported by a wooden structure that is hidden inside two layers of braided birch bark.…"

Baja beach photo

Photo from Baja California Sur por mi hermano Chilon

New VW 4x4 diesel van

"Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has introduced the Transporter Rockton 4MOTION. The all-wheel drive, rough terrain variant of the T5 Transporter includes a fourth-generation Haldex four-wheel drive system with a rear axle differential lock and a 30 mm increase in ride height on the standard model. Heavy-duty springs and dampers make for a gross vehicle weight rating of 3.2 metric tons to carry large loads across hard terrain.
…a 2.0 liter TDI engine with an output choice of either 140 PS (138 bhp / 103 kW) and 180 PS (178 bhp / 132 kW). Standard is a six-speed manual gearbox…Prices…begin at 34,545 Euros…"
Sent to us by Evan Kahn

Dragon gate sculpture by Mark Nichols

This is at Harbin Hot Springs in Northern California. The dragon's eye lights up at night. It's brilliant! It grabs me every time I see it. (See other sculptures by Mark on pp. 208-09, Builders of the Pacific Coast.)

Silver Seabright bantam rooster

Latest GIMME SHELTER newsletter/Our iPad Stretches up for award

I do an irregular email newsletter called GIMME SHELTER and send it out to about 600 people in the publishing business, friends, acquaintances. Here's the latest:

Also, our iPad Stretches has been nominated in the non-fiction category by Digital Book World Publishing Innovation Awards.
"The Publishing Innovation Awards will recognize the best ebooks and book apps based on their merits in the areas of origination, development, production, design, and marketing."

It's free and so far we have had over 19,000 downloads.

Squirrel in chicken yard this morning

Is life exciting around here or what?

Panorama of lagoon last night

As I rode back home, the water had a pink sheen from the sunset. By the time I got camera out and positioned, the pink had faded. Still...

Mountain lion spotted on bike trip

Took off on my bike around 3 yesterday afternoon. As soon as I hit the gravel road, potholes and all, I felt excited. This bike is like a motorcycle. Vroom-vroom! A few miles from here there's a small winding steep paved road going up to the ridge of the mountain, it's a good workout and yesterday was the first day I went all the way up. Hardly any cars. Bike muscles coming back. Boy, it's good to cover (and see) so much territory.
Speaking of which, my thrill of the month: came around a corner, saw what I though was a big bobcat bounding up the road. He spotted me and crossed to run into the brush, and just before he melted into the landscape, I saw that his tail came down to the ground! My 3rd mountain lion spotting. This is the most elusive and arguably, most beautiful graceful, powerful animal in our territory. Tot-uhl thrill!

A friend, a hunter with a bunch of guns, recently told me he would never shoot a predator, not even the coyote who was snatching his chickens. Made me realize the beauty of our local predators like cougars and red-shouldered hawks. They're built for speed, and therein is beauty. Form derives from function.
Above, a spot on the road, a double creek, magic spot I'd say, that only flows in wet months; I stop and drink. Hello mountain!

Tiny house in Toronto

"Built in 1912 by…contractor Arthur Weeden… it's the smallest house in all of Toronto…One day, Weeden noticed the tiny open lot on Day Avenue that was tucked between two existing houses and decided to build on it.…
After he finished building the house, which is on a lot that was originally intended to serve as a small thruway for cars between these two existing houses, Weeden lived in it for twenty years with his wife.…"
Sent us by Kevin Kelly

Small buildings

This is on the blog of Ches, Alt Bldg Blog: An Exploration of Alternative Building Techniques and Design Ideas. The upper story here must be nice inside, with the large dormers and recessed balcony. http://altbuildblog.blogspot.com/search/label/Small%20Buildings
This adobe casita is near the Rio Grande River in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Dead fat possum on Berkeley street this morning

This guy looks better fed than our country possums. I've just never wanted to skin and gut a possum although I'm sure they are good eatin' Actually I hear people trap them and feed them for a few weeks before offing. I've skinned squirrels, 2 foxes, 2 skunks, a weasel, a bobcat, several raccoons, many deer --  all road-kill, no problem, and have the beautiful skins. One of these days I'll do a possum, then roast him. Country people, you'll understand this.

Marathon: You Can Do It! by Jeff Galloway is our 1st eBook

Of interest to marathoners (or those who want to run their first one): Shelter Mac wizard Rick Gordon has just finished preparing Jeff Galloway's revolutionary marathon training book for both the iPad and the Kindle, and I kid you not, it really looks good. It makes the majority of iPad books look dowdy. The graphics, colors, and tables are elegant.

It also works on an iPhone: you can carry your training program in your pocket. Marathoners. click below for more info.

The Last Men, fully adorned New Guinea tribe

This photo from The Last Men, by Iago Corazza: "Indigenous New Guineans are presented in their full body paint, with extremely striking colors and patterns representing their tribal identity.…fully adorned, fully committed, fully made-up for special occasions, pedal-to-the-metal New Guinea, and the effect is viusually stunning. This is quintessential MAN AS ART …"
–Amazon review by James I. Cole

I discovered this book about a year ago and put it on my calendar for this month, and sure enough, the price dropped. I found a copy on AbeBooks for $15. Also ordered a copy of Man As Art for $6 used from Abe, which is consistently cheaper than Amazon.

Treehouse in LA

"This isn't your ordinary tree house. Designed by the architecture firm RPA, the Banyan Treehouse is a small home/art studio/getaway overlooking downtown Los Angeles. Made of wood and glass and raised 12 ft. up on steel pillars, it's nestled into the base of a large pine tree. (And we love the outdoor shower!)"

Tankless water heaters

This seems to be a good guide to a variety of instant hot water heaters. For some reason they have not listed Paloma water heaters -- we have had one for 25 years and it still works fine. However, it has a pilot light, and many of the new ones don't. If this one wears out, I'll get one sans pilot light.
Tankless water heater guide: http://www.tanklesswaterheaterguide.com/
Paloma tankless water heaters: http://www.palomatankless.com/

Grandson Maceo/Barista coffee in Santa Cruz/Bike muscles/Frogs back

Today we took off early for the 3-hour drive to Santa Cruz to see, ahem, ahem, our first grandchild, Maceo, age 3 weeks, parents Will (our son) and his wife Aine. I won't bore you with photos, but he is a beautiful little creature. I didn't know that having a grandchild would be a such big deal, but it is.
When we got to Santa Cruz we went to Verve Coffee Roasters on 41st, excellent java, serious barista artistry, hip & friendly staff.

Backward and downward:
  • Yesterday I went out on my bike, slowly getting the bike muscles back. (John Howard, winner of the 1st Ironman and holder (back in the '80s) of world's fastest bike speed, said that we have "muscle memory," meaning that even if we get out of shape, our muscles remember the finer-conditioned moments, and will respond to training -- getting back in the groove).
  • I'm starting to hear frogs out in the hills, in the ponds. I can feel the barest nuances of Spring. The days are getting a tiny bit longer.
  • A little out of context, but I've been meaning to mention this great dish soap, made out of good ingredients, and OK for the garden as well as septic systems: Seventh Generation Natural Dish Liquid, I order 6 bottles at a time, under $2.50 each.

Bike, candy cap mushrooms in woods yesterday

I'm using my bike to get out in the woods, then parking it and searching for mushrooms (and animal bones). Yesterday found these candy caps. When dried they smell like maple syrup. Also got more of the bobcat bones I'd discovered last week. The bike is so great, with its disc brakes and air shocks.

Progress on tiny homes book

I started putting pages together a few months ago, getting a feel for what this new book was going to be. I've been gathering materials and making contacts over the course of a year. That's my m.o.: assemble a ton of material, then figure out how to put it together. This includes making physical (folders with photos and print-outs) files, as well as an email mailbox and folder on the Mac for each contributor (containing text and photos). There are over 100 files, and new material coming in almost daily.
Layout: I've been doing layout whenever I get the chance (and mood) over the past several months. I do layouts by hand, using a color copy machine. It's a pre-computer process and although time-consuming, gives the pages a touch of hand-crafting that direct-to-computer ain't gonna do.
I've been going through the folders (in a rolling file cabinet), grabbing ones that are the most exciting, spreading the material out on the layout table, and designing and assembling a 2-page spread at a time. And boy, is it going good! The book's got a life
It's such a rich world. Building small (rather than large) gives the builder a chance to do something unique. Not having a lot of money means being creative. Small and simple can be (even if only temporarily) the alternative to the half-million house or condo and mortgage enslavement.
Contributors seem to be aware of the significance of it, and are on the ball (with hi-res photos and text). People are (still) sending us one wonderful thing or another. Lots of women builders. Lots of cob. Lot of road vehicles.
I've been thinking about a book like this -- the kind you'll hold in your hands and thumb through the pages -- compared to an eBook of any persuasion..."I knew Jack Kennedy, Senator, and you're no Jack Kennedy..." This ain't gonna be no stinkin eBook.
The times are obviously right. It reminds me of 1973 when we were assembling Shelter. There's a spirit of simplicity and self-sufficiency afoot these days. Hell, even the New York Times is on it. I think this will be a major book, as was Shelter, a reflection of the times.

Shameless commerce dept.: we are selling a package of 3 building books -- Shelter, HomeWork, and Builders of the Pacific Coast -- for a 40% discount. Both of the latter 2 books have lots of buildings directly inspired by Shelter, so there's a continuity and some history here: http://is.gd/kfiEq

Layering, music, running, sk8ing

Layering for the cold: Yesterday I managed to get up at 6 AM - needed to get work done on tiny homes book before heading over the hill - dark and cold at that hour. We have very little heat in the production studio, so I wear layers. Silk t-shirt, other layers of various wool shirts*. Gloves with open fingers for typing. Yesterday I had on 7 layers. Lesley came out and draped one of her homemade coats on me. (She dyed and wove the fabric, then made the coat), So I had on 8 layers. Plus my Cowichan warmest-of-hats with ear flaps (from Hill's Native Art).
*My favorite article of clothing of all time is my Icebreaket Sport 320 shirt, which I wear every cold day (all winter).
Music on the mountain: Took off around 9 for Mill Valley, sun was out, yahoo, powdery blue skies, sun reflecting off water in the lagoon, felt warm, John Lee Hooker singing Chill Out (Things is Gonna Change), perfect. On the road again…
As I drove, I was thinking of the "downturn:" Fact is, we (Americans) were way over-consuming. It couldn't go on. Plus the money-savvy pricks , with Bush & Co. leading the way, caused a huge transfer of wealth to the few.
"It's not over til it's over,
And it's not over yet…"
by Billy Joe Shaver came on, a great song by a great songwriter/singer. Then Lay Down Sally by Eric Clapton, next Good Old Boy (Gettin Tough) by Steve Earle, and I turned up the volume full blast as I went through the redwood trees with dappled sunlight on the mountain road. Creeks were gushing. Little seasonal waterfalls were streaming, the mountain's alive…

Running at night: I ran by myself south along the coast from Muir Beach last night. I counted  lights of 14 crab boats out there. Best crab season in many years, they're all over out there, creeping along the ocean bottom. Deep blue black night, here they are once again after all the rains: Orion, the glittering Pleiades, and my boy Taurus. A beautiful night. I'm running lightly, boy, when you don't care about speed or training for races, it's a whole different experience. Went down the ridge to a lookout spot, San Francisco across the water, 1000 feet down to the waves. Place of power.
Pic of Mt. Tam yesterday driving into Mill Valley
Oh yeah, I got on my skateboard for the first time in 4 months yesterday. Old brown eyes is back.

SunRay and Bonnie

In our driveway last week, on their way to Mexico

The Beatles - Something/onetrippass.com

The Lads cavorting with their respective ladies. I just picked this up from Jay Carroll's excellent blog, http://www.onetrippass.com/blog/

This led me to John's Imagine: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVg2EJvvlF8&feature=related