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Triple play birthday

I had 3 great things happen on my birthday yesterday:

1. Lew found a stunning treehouse for the tiny houses book. We're doing a full-bleed, 2-page spread of the interior, and it's so far the best two pages in the book.

2. I went skateboard-sailing with my umbrella. Tried various streets and directions and found a 2-block stretch along the ocean where the wind pulled me along rather smartly. Fun! Made me think of rigging up a lightweight junk sail that I can unfurl.

3. We watched Der Blaue Engle (The Blue Angel), the original German version. Oh what a movie! Marlene Dietrich is stunning, a luminous presence. I couldn't help but think of all the special effects krap movies of today by comparison. The power of black and white…

Shop door illuminated by sunset last night

Cow skull on left from Canyon San Bernardo, near the town of Miraflores in Baja California Sur, 1988; 16" horns. The skull at right is from a horse I found near Diana's Punch Bowl hot springs, which is south of Austin and Highway 50 in Nevada. On the shelf in front of the shop window is my growing collection of skulls. The latest two are a bobcat and a fox. I've learned how render the skulls (if fresh), then bleach them in hydrogen peroxide. Each one is so beautifully constructed, with unbelievable joinery of skull plates on top, and each one is so different from those of other species.

On beach early this morning

Exhibit at MOMA on Whole Earth Catalog

 Stewart Brand just sent this out to a bunch of us who worked on the Whole Earth Catalog:

"Dear all...

The Museum of Modern Art Library has an exhibit titled "Access to Tools: Publications from the Whole Earth Catalog" open till July 26.  It was curated by David Senior and may be seen on the mezzanine of the Bartos Educational Wing next to the main Museum on 53rd Street.

The online version is here:

John Brockman shot a short video of the exhibit, here:

Congratulations on making the Catalog a work of modern art.

Beach scenes Sunday

There are about 4 waterfalls on the stretch of beach I've been walking on these days. The rain was just stopping Sunday when I got started, and water was heading out to sea via every arroyo and crevice. Wind came up, sun came out, the ocean was choppy but with a nice swell.

Negative ionized, energy-generating air…

Here was an engine block, had to be off a ship because there's no way a car could get within miles of the cliffs.  Ocean life creeping over it, looks like fossilized ghost.

About a 3½ hour roundtrip. I got to a rocky point, took off my backpack and just looked out at the reef and waves. I felt an overwhelming sense of love for the ocean, Jesus, it's so beautiful and rich and wonderful, an everyday miracle in our lives. And it's just there.

Today it's a Spring sunny morning, mmm-mmm! To boot, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith is singing Muddy Waters' song, "World Is In An Uproar." Ain't it?

Craftsman-style house in Birmingham for $169,000

From New York Times:

"WHAT: A three-bedroom, one-bath Craftsman-style house on just under two acres

HOW MUCH: $169,000

SIZE: About 1,300 square feet


SETTING: The house is in a neighborhood called Roebuck Springs, which is about 10 minutes northeast of downtown Birmingham. A planned suburb developed in the early 1900s, the neighborhood has curved roads that, for the most part, do not have sidewalks. Grocery stores and other shops are nearby, and bars and restaurants can be found in the southern section of downtown Birmingham, in the area known as Southside.

INSIDE: The house was built in 1929 and renovated over the past 10 years. The interior woodwork — including floors and molding — is original and has been refinished. The living room has a fireplace, built-in bookcases and picture molding. Its French doors lead to the dining room, which has another fireplace, and sconces and a chandelier purchased at an architectural salvage shop. A wall in the kitchen was removed to incorporate what was once a back porch. There is a built-in hutch, and the red marble countertops were recycled from a nearby high school. One of the three bedrooms has a window seat and a fireplace; another is used as an office.

OUTDOOR SPACE: The house is set on almost two acres, about one-third yard and the rest wooded.

TAXES: $587.31 annually"

Photo by Meg McKinney

The Shelter Live Oak

This tree was a landmark for years in the valley we drive through to get to Petaluma. I shot this photo maybe 15 years ago and we used it for our logo. It was on the banks of a creek, which was probably too wet a location for it, and a few years ago it died. Here it is in its glory days, studly at the left.

Berkeley Hort

This is a magnificent nursery in the San Francisco Bay Area.

"We are a family-owned retail nursery located directly across the San Francisco Bay from the Golden Gate occupying most of a city block on the north side of Berkeley. We have been blessed with a temperate climate; one where extreme hot or cold is a rarity. Our primary endeavors are to offer quality plants of all types to the general public, to collect and disseminate information on anything garden-related, and to provide a pleasant atmosphere in which to browse an array of horticultural products & accessories. We can provide local delivery, but we are not set up for mail-order purchases. Stop by for a visit!"

1310 McGee Avenue
Berkeley, California 94703

Godfrey Stephens sculpture

Godfrey Stephens, the Northwest Coast artist and carver featured in Builders of the Pacific Coast, just sent me a bunch of pictures of his sculpture "Three Graces." Also, pix of  two adzes.

The great First Nations carvers had tools that were art objects in themselves, each one meticulously crafted, things (tools) of beauty.

Tiny Tiny Houses

This is really the bible of tiny houses, written by Lester Walker almost 25 years ago. We did 2 pages on it in our book Home Work: Simple Shelter in 2004. As I work on our new book on tiny homes I realize again what a great book this is. Here is what appeared in Home Work. You can click on the pdf's to get clear images of the entire two pages.

"The six little house plans shown here are from Tiny, Tiny Houses by Lester Walker. Lester is a rarity — an architect who not only has designed these little houses, but has drawn clear and useful plans that he shares with others."


Around home…

Last night we had fried oysters. I drained the juice into a glass and added a little cocktail sauce, some Worcester sauce, shot of Tabasco, a little lemon, it was startlingly good, elixir of the sea…I made some pasta with squid ink, olive oil, garlic, nice flavor…The night before we had abalone. We're eating more local food than ever…

Cold winter, we burned more than the usual oak firewood. We just started burning pieces of a hawthorn/rose-type treelet I'd cut down a few years ago. It's very dense, and burns like coal. Long-lasting bright embers. Was thinking how we're keeping warm with wood we planted, harvested. A renewable resource, no transport needed…

Went paddleboarding yesterday afternoon, overcast day with drizzle, water like glass. I paddled into some long channels against the outgoing tide and when coming back, I was flying, paddling hard and the tide doubling my speed. There was a wake off the nose of the board. Below is my 12' Joe Bark racing paddleboard on the town dock, before I took off.

Here's the Golden Gate bridge, coming into San Francisco at 6:30 this morning:

Barn architecture in Tennessee: Langston Hughes Library by Maya Lin

"The Langston Hughes Library is a private non-circulating library designed by Maya Lin (most famous for her Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial in Washington DC), and located on the Haley Farm in Clinton, TN. It contains a 5,000-volume reference collection focusing on works by African-American authors and illustrator, and books focused on the Black experience.…

An 1860s refurbished barn and two corn cribs comprise the exterior skin of the building. The rustic exterior, which evokes the 'architectural vernacular of 19th-century East Tennessee, a plain language of silvery, time-worn siding, rough logs, and minimal geometries,' is melded with modern Shaker-like simplicity on the interior.

Maya Lin pointed out that the function of the exterior and that of the interior were different and thus she 'wanted to make a real cut between outside and inside…there didn't seem to be much point in preserving the rustic feel of the barn's interior.'

…A striking aspect of the design (is) the glass-encased corn cribs that act as a base for the cantelievered barn that sits atop them. Margaret Butler of Martella Associates states that the glass between the logs 'glows like a Chinese lantern' at night…"

Maya Lin's website: http://www.mayalin.com/

A scare at the beach

On my long northward beach walks, I've passed this spot several times. The sign says this is a marine preserve. Kind of odd, since this place is a few hour's walk on a difficult beach -- not a stroll on sandy shores, but beaches sloping sharply in places, rock-hopping and rock scrambling the mode du jour. I've never seen footprints here.

So I've been looking up above this little beach framework at the hill above, trying to figure out if there was some way to get to this spot from an inland road. It looked like there were more hills above the top of this ridge, and maybe a way to get here without the long beach walk. Mountain bike, heh-heh.

I had on hiking shoes with Vibran soles, and started up the little gully. Lot of sliding rocks. About halfway up, it got steeper, more sliding rocks, and I had to start going up on the diagonal, criss-crossing back and forth. By this time I was on all fours, crawling up. Any steeper and I wouldn't have made it.

About 20 feet from the top I saw these cracks in the soil, hmmm, kind of deep… But in typical Taurus M. O., I kept scrambling up. Got to see over…

I got just below the top and had a funny feeling. When I inched up and peered over the top, I was looking about 500 feet down to a beautiful isolated cove with breaking waves. One part of me was saying, get your camera out, this is spectacular, but another, stronger part of me was scared shitless. I was on terra infirma, and the cliff sloped inward underneath me. And, fuck, there were CRACKS! I started backing down. Please, lords of karma, don't let this cliff crumble. Backwards on hands, knees, stomach, all on top of sliding rocks, heart pounding.

Not smart…

Yesterday on the beach

I took off yesterday around 2 to coincide with a 3 ft. low tide. It was a bit windy, sort of overcast, not a soul in sight for the next 3 hours. There was something melancholy about the day, it made me think of an Ingmar Bergman movie for some reason.

I was searching for a particular type of shell to send to a couple of carver friends in British Columbia.

I've got so much time to do stuff like this now that I'm not training for races. My time outdoors has a lot more variety.

Homemade mountain bike ramps on BC homestead

This is one of the film clips I referred to in the recent post. It shows Andrew Dunkerton working in his shop, feeding the chickens, and at the end, his son Dylan and buddies going way airborne on homemade ramps just walking distance into the woods.

"An inspiring look behind the scenes at what makes the Coastal Crew tick, their amazing surroundings and their upbringing in that environment that makes what they create as rad as it is.
The Crew is a group of three best friends and sponsored mountain bike riders living the dream - doing what they love every day! Their days are made up of riding, building, (trails and bridges and jumps) and filming. The crew consists of  Dylan Dunkerton, Curtis Robinson and Kyle Norbraten. They strive to create captivating media and lush content. Usually it is Dylan behind the camera, but this time he's in front of it, talking with his dad about their lives.  Of course there is some great riding content at the end of the video."

Boys just wanna have fun!


Bantam chicken eggs

Eggs from our Silver Seabright and Auracana bantam hens. They're about half the size of regular eggs. Bantams make a lot of sense if space is limited.

Preparing bite-sized pieces of cauliflower leaves for chickens last night. Chickens love it any time you do something special for them. I was unloading lumber for our new chicken coop yesterday and let them out. They were so excited. Boss man rooster was telling everyone to get out here and get those bugs.

Gopher blaster

"This looks a bit … direct, but it dates from 1882. James Williams needed a device that would destroy a burrowing animal and give an alarm so that it could be reset. His solution was a revolver attached to a treadle. Touché.

The patent abstract adds, 'This invention may also be used in connection with a door or window, so as to kill any person or thing opening the door or window to which it is attached.' Evidently Williams had bigger problems than rodents."

Spotted this on Boing Boing this morning.

Māori jade pendants

This young Māori artist makes beautiful New Zealand jade pendants. From Spirit Wrestler Gallery in Vancouver, BC, Canada:

"Tamaora Walker
(1984- )

Te Arawa

Tamaora has worked with Māori jade artist Lewis Gardiner since 2004 and has quickly developed his own style. Tamaora's work was included in the Spirit Wrestler Gallery's Mini Masterworks II (2008) and Kaitiaki—Guardians (2006) exhibitions. He was also recently featured in the Toi Māori: Small Treasures event at the de Young Museum, San Francisco (2008)."


Soulful old shingled house

Check out this little slightly tattered house in Sausalito. Spotted it last Tuesday. The proportions, the wood sash windows, the nice little pop-outs (you might call therm wall dormers) on left and front. Southern exposure facing blue bay. I know it feels good inside. Fung-shiui, um-humm…

Shrimps on Sunday

I went paddling in the lagoon Sunday afternoon and luckily came  in at the same time as crab fishermen Robbie and Josh. They had just caught a bunch of shrimps, and gave me a couple of handfulls. That night I boiled them, then deep-fried the heads. Salad from the garden, Louie's Petite Syrah wine…

Haight Ashbury 2011

Last week in San Francisco, sigh…

Shelter books "…life-changing."

Hello, Lloyd.
…I discovered your 'Builders of the Pacific Coast' book a month or so ago and was instantly hooked. A friend gave it to me, and I quickly got a hold of copies of Shelter, Home Work, and Barefoot Architect. I've been reading those three simultaneously.

The reason I have such an interest in these books is because I've had, for some years now, an unshakable desire to build a sustainable house of my own, with my own two hands, and do most of the work myself. Before I found your books, I thought I was crazy and pretty singular in my desires. I'm from a mid-size town in Georgia where such a thing is pretty uncommon. This bug first bit me about 3 years ago, during a tumultuous time in my life when things just seemed so complicated. I felt there had to be another way. That we've lost something in modern times, specifically self-reliance and the abilities to do things our ancestors did routinely. But I didn't know anyone who actually built their own homes, by themselves. People I discussed this with at best thought the idea amusing...though extremely strange. Most just thought it strange. And impractical.

Through odd twists of fate, I found myself living in Los Angeles...a bit further away from the back-to-nature life I started to seek. I'm here for the reason why most guys do foolish things--a girl. She's trying to make it in the entertainment industry and so we have to be here for that. However, she's also a Bay Area gal, born in Marin, and friends with all sorts of free spirited folks, which is how I discovered your books.

The purpose of this email isn't just to blab on about myself but to thank you for your books and to let you know how life-changing and inspiring they've been. To know I'm not alone and to see that others have done what I want to do has been invaluable to me. Thank you for chronicling these builders in your books.

Please keep doing what you do, and if you're still doing it when I finally get around to building my house, I would love to send you photos.

Thank you again, Lloyd, and have a wonderful weekend.

                         -P.A. in L.A.

Pig Car Award: Cadillac Escalade

Spotted this 12 mpg chunk of trash in San Francisco last week. Shitty design to boot.

Inspired by Iceland Video

Just picked up this joyous video from Loobylu, a soulful blog written by Claire Robertson, who says: "I am a writer, illustrator, mama, crafter and procrastinator living and dreaming with my raggle-taggle family in a forest on a small island in Canada’s Pacific Northwest. We have been here since August 2010. Before that we were suburb dwelling people who lived in Melbourne, Australia. We decided to make our lives a bit more of an adventure…"

Inspired by Iceland Video from Inspired By Iceland on Vimeo.

Direct link to video on Vimeo: http://vimeo.com/12236680

Please tell me, where will the resources come from? 2 letters from New Zealand

Here is some good sense from New Zealand. (I put these in chronological order so you read from the top down.)

On 4/6/11 at 11:59 AM +1200, John Knotts wrote in a message entitled
Re: GIMME SHELTER Newsletter Spring 2011:

Hi Lloyd
New Zealand calling. I am inspired by your work. This country has seen the greatest natural challenge ever visited on us: the Christchurch earthquake.

We are hard pressed to even house those that have lost their homes. The authorities are using parks of mobile homes; many are using portaloos and chemical toilets weeks after the event.
Infrastructure is chaotic; most sewerage storm water and power was damaged, with repairs likely to take years.

Given your methods, whole towns could be constructed if land was provided; man has an inherent ability from thousands of years of knowledge of housing himself.

Yet regulation and autocratic government takes us down the path of more regulation, engineering requirements, et al.

We have seen massive destruction of wooden buildings without any care for the husbanding of the timber resource in the central business district. One building of three stories was an old drying building for tobacco (but not sure) but it did contain thousands of board feet of Oregon clears 6”*2” about 100 years old. The walls were two layers. This was sent to land fill.

It is now impossible to build a modest dwelling in this country; even in your extreme climate you do not always double glaze; here it is mandatory. A 150 square ft building can be built but must meet all regulations. These include the banning of recycled windows and doors.

Roll on the revolution.
Fair winds at your back
John Knotts

Go to the post page…

I just ran across this buried in my email files. I mujst have written it decades ago A friend of mine recently bought 80 acres of wooded land in Northern California and was speculating on what kind of house she might build. She had heard of straw bales and was also attracted to the idea of a circular building. What did I think?

I told her this, from my experience (and this could apply to a lot of other people as well): if you start out with an abstract concept in design (such as a building with curves) or materials (rammed earth, straw bales, etc.) you are very likely to end up spending a lot more time and money than if you started out with the concept of what's practical, and what has worked in the area in the past.

My specific advice to her: get a copy of Lester Walker's Tiny Tiny Houses, and use it to build something small and simple to start with. This is an wonderful book, with dozens of carefully drawn and simple little buildings to choose from, and my idea is to put up a cabin quickly and then have a place to spend weekends or vacations while you more carefully study how to construct the right home for the land.

Les Walker is a rarity in today's architectural world: a guy who has turned his attention and drawing skills to the art of building small houses. There are 40 designs in this book, each one showing sequenced construction details, dimensions, and photos of the finished products, all under 325 square feet.

If I had a piece of land, I'd use this book for ideas on building something small and simple, perhaps that could be added onto later, or left as a guest cottage OR maybe one would find that the tiny house is all that's needed. Published by Overlook Press; other books by Walker are The Tiny Book of Tiny Houses (a cut-down version of this one) and American Shelter, about the best book in print of classic American house styles.

Trailer for new movie on theVW Bus

Unofficial trailer for "The Bus," a feature-length documentary film currently in production. "The Bus" is a celebration of the most iconic and beloved vehicle ever produced. It explores the history, culture and evolution of the Volkswagen Transporter from its Nazi heritage to its modern-day cult-like following and status; the film celebrates the 60th anniversary of the VW Bus and its vibrant and resonant place in modern culture. The film will be released in late 2011.

Sent in by Lew Lewandowski. From Solar Burrito: http://solarburrito.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/the-bus-trailer-volkswagen-van-movie/

I had a '60 VW bus with a 40 HP motor for about 7 years in the '60s. It had a plywood fold-up bed, table, frig, closet (precursor of the Westphalia). I carried half the materials for a house I built in Big Sur on it, drove to NYC one December (wrapped in sleeping bags for the cold), drove down to Puerto Vallarta before the bridge and had to cross the river with a guy walking to show us the way. I probably put 100,000 miles on it. 40 HP!

1956 Cadillac Sedan DeVille camper for sale eBay

Only 5 hours left to bid on this stylish old road warrior.
As of now, the high bid of $1525 doesn't meet the seller's minimum. If you miss the auction deadline, you can contact the owner: SportsCar LA, 310-330-9909.
Sent us by Evan Kahn

Godfrey Stephens' rebuilt dinghy

Godfrey Stephens, artist, carver, and seafarer, wheeling his rebuilt old clinker dinghy down to the water from his house in Victoria, BC, Canada

Tiny Homes book update

Here's what's happening at Shelter Publications and environs at this moment, day of our lord April 3, 2011, with sunny Sunday morning blue skies and warm days after cold rainy months. The hills are verdant green, with Spring life pulsating, creeks rushing, ground soaked deeply. It's the month of my birthday, and I feel energized.

Tiny Homes book It's extraordinary. This book is evolving daily. Some of the best material is coming in right now. Just last week a small group of artists and homebuilders creating unique shelters on a piece of land in France; we just did 8 pages on them. "France is the California of Europe…" says our friend Paula.
   The best and most unexpected thing about working on this book is that so many of these builders say they were inspired by our books, going back to Shelter (1973). Boy! Plus our books are being discovered by a new generation.
  We've got a thread of continuity running between Shelter, HomeWork, and Builders of the Pacific Coast. (Shameless commerce dept.: we've been selling the set of 3 for a 40% discount: http://www.shelterpub.com/.
   We're in full gear production now, have maybe 155 pages (out of 228) done in rough form. We just changed the publication date to February 2012. Got to do it right. It's gonna be a beauty, is all I can say. I have the feeling that I did with Shelter, back in the '70s, that we were plugged into something vital and current. There's buzz.
   This time it's about figuring out a way use your own hands to get shelter over your head without getting tied up with a bank (or landlord) — we're talkin freedom here! Maybe not right away, but some (especially young) people can move in this direction…

Gimme Shelter to asend out as EMAIL

I started writing the GIMME SHELTER newsletters in the early '90s as a means of communicating with sales reps about our books. I was inspired to do this by GeorgeYoung's Ten Speed Press newsletter to sales reps entitled "Verbal Abuse." It was witty, chatty, and got the word out.
   For a while, the newsletters were on -- are you ready? -- paper, and we mailed them out. It was fun, I liked doing it every month or two (or three). About 10 years ago I started doing them as emails, and as I went on, I started adding other-than-publishing stuff. Life here on the homestead, on-the-road, whatever was happening.
   In recent years I've segued into blogging daily, and this been taking so much time that I've fallen behind in the emails. I know most people don't read my blog, so I'll try to send one of these out once in a while. (Although this is written as an email, I'm going to blog it now, then email it in the next few days.)

Here's what's happening at Shelter Publications and environs at this moment, day of our lord April 3, 2011, with sunny Sunday morning blue skies and warm days after cold rainy months. The hills are verdant green, with Spring life pulsating, creeks rushing, ground soaked deeply. It's the month of my birthday, and I feel energized.

One Thursday in November - The life of a busker

I get some really great comments on this blog from time to time. Last week, on the post about the old German diesel housetruck, came thus comment from acep hale:
"Just fell totally and completely in love. Did you ever see One Thursday in November - The Life of a Busker? I know google video has it up. Completely inspires me, I watch it about once a month and pass it along to as many friends as possible.
   Found it:

This sat in my in-box for a few days. and on this early sunny morning, I clicked on the link. It's a wonderful 30-minute film about a remarkable guy. Make it full screen by clicking the little box to the right of the Google logo. (OK, OK, so I've been a little late in figuring this out…)