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Firewood Art

Several people have sent me emails with these and a bunch of other photos of art made of firewood. (One of them is in our book Builders of the Pacific Coast, done by Alastair Hezeltine (p. 170).) I can't locate where this group came from.

Red Sky This Morning…

When a friend came over this morning, he said, "Red sky in the morning...," referring to the phrase:
Red sky at night, sailor's delight,
Red sky at morning, sailors take warning. 
In other words, a storm is coming.
Caused me to think about this saying, familiar to coast dwellers and especially sailors and fishermen. So, why does a red sky in the morning mean a storm is coming? I looked it up here, on Wikipedia:
"In America:
Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.
In Great Britain and Ireland: Red sky at night, shepherd's delight, Red sky in morning, shepherd's warning.…
Weather systems typically move from west to east, and red clouds result when the sun shines on their undersides at either sunrise or sunset. At these two times of day, the sun's light is passing at a very low angle through a great thickness of atmosphere, the result of which is the scattering out of most of the shorter wavelengths — the greens, blues, and violets — of the visible spectrum, and so sunlight is heavy at the red end of the spectrum.

NorCal Beach Graffiti Dec 2012 -- #2

Eating Prickly Pear Cactus

Photo shows fruits in bowl, skinned pads (nopales) in plate. I was defeated by this plant a few years ago, just could not get stickers out, especially from skins of fruit. This time, with help from Nature's Gardens -- Edible Wild Plants by Samuel Thayer, I got more serious. Used tongs to hold, scrubbed with stiff brush, used heavy duty potato peeler on pads. Still difficult, but was able to eat fruit without mouth punctured with stickers -- nice mild sweet taste, lot of seeds --  and last night sauteed the pads along with garlic and onions, pretty good.
   Any one got tips on cleaning, eating? These are so abundant, at least  on the West Coast.

Surf Rack On Bike

Surfer Jeff and his homemade bike surf rack. He used a curved piece of scrap metal—can't see it here, it's on other side—covered with duct tape, strapped to side of bike. He can go from his house to the water all on his own power. No gasoline.

Your Amazing Brain

Paul Wingate just sent this:

7H15 M3554G3
53RV35 7O PR0V3
H0W 0UR M1ND5 C4N D0 4M4Z1NG 7H1NG5!
1MPR3551V3 7H1NG5!
1N 7H3 B3G1NN1NG
17 WA5 H4RD BU7
N0W, 0N 7H15 LIN3
Y0UR M1ND 1S R34D1NG 17
W17H 0U7 3V3N
7H1NK1NG 4B0U7 17,
C3R741N P30PL3 C4N
R3AD 7H15.
PL3453 F0RW4RD 1F\
U C4N R34D 7H15.
If you can r ea d this, you have a s trange mnid, too. O nl y 55 pe o p l e out of 100 can.
I cdnuolt blveiee that I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd what I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in what oerdr the ltteres in a word are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is that the frsit and last ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can still raed it whotuit a pboerlm. This is bcuseaethe huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the word as a wlohe. Azanmig huh? Yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt! If you can raed this forwrad it…

Love the Rain

About 4" in the last 4 days. Creeks rushing, reservoirs pretty full. Can it be that there is some good news in these messed up times? I have about 18" of rain this year, about a third more than normal. Caused me to dial up Toots singing "Love the Rain."

NorCal Beach Graffiti Dec 2012 -- #1

Sailing Wind Wagon On Nevada Salt Flats

"Swedish adventurers test drive a self-made replica of an 1853 Wind Wagon before sailing it 500 kilometers across the salt flats of Nevada, United States." www.windwagonproject.se
From Bertil Klevner via Godfrey Stephens

The Day After Lots of Rain

Blogging is perfect for me, what with my compulsion to blab about everything I encounter in my world. It takes maybe a year for me (with substantial help) to get each book together, but here I can get things out daily. Actually I'm a frustrated newspaperman. I love the immediacy of newspapers, but  could never take the pressure; nor could I write well and quickly enough to work for a grownup daily paper. I don't tweet these days, and just can't join the FaceBook conglomerate. Blogging's enough. Finding the time to do it, along with getting books out in today's turbulent publishing seas, is a challenge.
Winter Solstice I felt something Friday, like a wakeup call. To get it a lot more together and quit moping because of an injured shoulder. I have so many friends with debilitating body parts, that I'm like a wimp. One body part goes wrong and I get depressed. OK, days are getting longer. I actually felt the first wave of Spring the other day, the new grass growing as the hills turn green, the call of a red-wing blackbird (lodged in my all-time memory from teenage years prowling my dad's rice farm in Colusa (Calif.). Come on, April!
(Above pic, Amanita Muscaria, bursting out of pine needles everywhere right now…

Customized Bikes From Recycled Parts

From Kevin Kelly on CoolTools:
Bicycle Builders Bonananza
"A fun and detailed guide to hacking unusual bicycles from old bike parts. With a bit of welding here and there you can take castoff bicycles and repurpose them in dozens of imaginative ways. Here are notes for customizing choppers, tandems, unicycles, and crazy stunt bikes with frames found at the dump. How to strip down a bike to its useful components, and what to keep in mind as you modify its design and performance. "

Off-grid Tiny Cabin NY State

"Scott Newkirk… spends every weekend living off the grid at his 300-square-foot house in Yulan, New York. There’s no electricity or running water, no TV, no computer. There he can slow down, sleep late, and take his daily bath in the nearby brook (weather permitting).

Newkirk had been living close to the land on the property already, in a wood-frame tent, but it burned down. Not long after, he came across the 1973 classic eco-architecture book Handmade Houses: A Guide to the Woodbutcher’s Art, which celebrated small, handcrafted houses constructed out of recovered and scavenged materials. That got him thinking about building a house on his property with the same innocence and integrity he was reading about.…"


Blogger's Blues

Rainy morning, from Cafe Roma, North Beach, latte, brioche, MacAir. I asked the barista for wi-fi password, she said "I don't know." Meaning password is "idontknow." Like "Who's on first?"
Turns out I need shoulder surgery. After all these years of intense usage, I finally tore the rotator cuff muscles in my right shoulder. Skateboard fall. (Yes, yes.)  I've put off this type operation (in both shoulders) for years, since there's a long recovery period. But this time it's beyond a shot of cortisone and rehab, so biting bullet. One step back, two steps-forward. I want upper body function over the next 20 years. "Fall seven times, get up eight." - Japanese Proverb.
Scattershot of stuff going on around here:
Tiny Homes on the Move: Wheels & Water I've probably got 60 pages roughed out. A lot of homes on water. 72-year-old Swedish sailor who is building a 10-foot sailboat and plans to circumnavigate the globe. He's already sailed around the world solo. Young woman living (and sailing) on own sailboat. Further adventures of Swedish welder Henrik Linstrom (in Tiny Homes), sailing with his girlfriend from Baja California to the South Seas and then (now) in New Zealand.
   On wheels: a family of four who sold their home (no more mortgage payments) and now live in a very spiffy self-remodelled school bus. A French circus wagon home on the road. Two ski bums (a couple) and their winter camper/home.A bunch of custom housetrucks. Surfer van/home. I'm getting a few pages done each day.
Travel I'm kind of travelled out for a while. Long periods of sitting in order to get somewhere great no longer seem as tolerable. More time at home means getting deeper into surrounding natural world. No longer having to train for running races leaves more time for pure exploration. What can I find out there, going on own power (no gasoline) from home?
Tiny Homes, the book Still selling well, people love it. Hopefully sales will keep us afloat while we craft the new book into existence.
Feedback From Our Building Books is phenomenal these days, seems to be increasing. I think it's that we now have a suite, or critical mass, of building books, connected in a very real way. People were inspired to build by Shelter, and their work appears in Home Work. Inspired by Home Work, appears in Builders of the Pacific Coast or Tiny Homes, and so on. Especially great are the 20-30-year-olds discovering Shelter (40 years after its publication).
Gun Control. Jesus, Mr. Pres, will you please kick some ass? Come out in warrior mode about controlling assault weapons and hand guns. Jesus!
Rolling Stones in NYC. They sound and look amazingly good. How about this duet Mick does with Mary J. on one of my favorite (for more reasons than one) songs?:

Primitive Living Skills Gatherings Coming Up

Photographer Cliff Volpe sent us this info about Primitive Living Skills gatherings and some "stone age" projects Cliff may do next summer:

These are week long events where instructors teach a variety of classes that focus on primitive technology, hunter-gather culture, and ancient ways. There are usually a very wide range of classes taught…from the more spiritual inclined to skills focused…such as primitive archery, atlatl manufacture, shelter building, wild edible plants, brain tanned buckskin, basket weaving, footwear/moccasins, felting, roadkill animal processing, diaper-less baby rearing, flint knapping, animal tracking, friction fire, primitive pottery, etc. Here’s a list of primitive living skills gatherings that happen on the west coast:

BUCKEYE GATHERING http://buckeyegathering.net/
Summary: Held in May in California, about 500 people attend, I’ve never been but have heard great things about it. Registration filled up early last year.

Go to the post page…

A course this Spring at the North House Folk School:
"Want to learn the classic dovetail log home construction technique, also known as American heritage or Appalachian log homes? This course provides the opportunity for students to learn by constructing an 8'x8' shelter with a 4' porch out of 4"x8" pine timbers from foundation to roof, including window and door placement and framing, that can be outfitted as a small guest cabin or sauna.… "

Bill Steen's Photos of Our Homestead

Bill and Athena Steen and their son Benito visited us a few weeks ago. They're the folks that started the  strawbale movement with their book The Straw Bale House, written in 1994. I'd been to visit them 3 times at their end-of-the-road compound south of Tucson, but this was their first visit here. We had a lot of fun. We have a lot in common. Bill shot all his photos with an iPhone.

Go to the post page…

From Godfrey Stephens today: http://www.worldometers.info/

Renovation by Mike Litchfield

This is a book I wished I’d had when I started building, but it is also one that’s extraordinarily useful to more experienced builders. Mike Litchfield was the original editor of Fine Homebuilding; in 1982 he published the first version of Renovation, and it’s been updated periodically, this being the latest and 4th edition. Popular Science called it “The most comprehensive single volume on renovation ever” — totally true.
   What differentiates this book from others of its ilk is that the author has gathered all this information in the field, interviewing carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and contractors, finding out what’s important, what works, what’s new. These guys love to talk about what they do well, and in this sense, the book is one of collective wisdom. It’s at the same time highly useful to professionals, but also one that’s invaluable for homeowners and people of the fixer-upper persuasion.…
See Full review on Cool Tools here.

Video of Pirogue Carved From Cypress Tree

Hi Lloyd,
I know you have an interest in handmade boats.
   A friend passed this video along about pirouge making in South Louisiana, my homeland. The video was created around 1948-49 and depicts local craftsmen carving a local pirouge from a felled cypress with hand tools. The actual boat making starts at around minute 4:15.
   Pirouges were used by the trappers and fishermen in South Louisiana to travel through the shallow inland bayous. I'm sure there is a study somewhere that will describe how they were derived, in some way shape or form, from the dugout canoe but their shape and draft and size are much different. Current varieties are built of fiberglass but there was a transition between the dugout and the fiberglass versions that were built of marine grade plywood. Those are still being made by hand and are collectors items.

Our 3 New EBooks

About a year ago, we gave up on finding a person or agency that could render any of our graphic-rich books into ebooks. So Rick Gordon, our Director of Production, decided to create Shelter ebooks in-house.

Marathon: You Can Do It!, by Jeff Galloway, was the first one. It works on an iPad (and iPhone), as well as the Kindle, and it was a beautiful job; it went on to qualify for a QED (Quality/Excellence/Design) certification from Digital Book World. This certification is given to ebooks that pass a rigid test of quality, functionality, and compatibility. It was also a finalist for a Publishing Innovation Award in non-fiction. See review of it here.
Ebook available here.

Tiny Homes, the 2nd one, was more of a challenge; it contains 1,300 color photos. In May 2012, Rick completed the job, and the (fixed layout) ebook version of Tiny Homes is now available for the iPad (not Kindle). I don't know of a single ebook of this complexity that compares to this one. It maintains virtually the exactly look and feel of the print version. It even looks good on an iPhone.
Ebook available here.

Stretching Now Rick has completed the e-version of our best-seller (over 3 million copies), Stretching, by Bob Anderson. This one, the biggest technical challenge so far, has lots of interactivity, and some unique and very useful features for navigating through the book and saving personal information.

We had over 20 responses to an earlier post for beta testers and tests are now under way. We'll make an announcement once we deem it ready to go.

Congo Square/John Mayall


SunRay Kelley Revisited

On November 29, I posted a link to a large New York Times article on SunRay Kelley. In retrospect, it's not really good or fair reportage on SunRay; it doesn't do him justice. Part of it is East Coast reporter snark about West Coast free-spiritedness. Part of it is that the reporter just didn't get SunRay— that he's not only an artist, designer, architect, and inventor, but a master builder. His mortise and tenon joints, even with gnarly lumber, are tight. He's a carpenter whose buildings soar. There's a joy and a spirit in both builder and buildings. The NYTimes reporter missed all this and focussed on a bunch of trivialities.
    And there was a very weird interview with SunRay's ex-wife, who came up with some mean-spirited comments. This shouldn't have been included in the article. Cheap shot, ex-wife-wise and journalistic-wise.
   SunRay's way better than you'd get from this account. In my opinion, there's no other natural materials builder in the world who's combined such ecology, design, and craftsmanship in so many buildings on the American landscape.
   Just settin it straight…
    For anyone interested in SunRay and his work, we have posted a PDF of the 27 pages we did on him and his work in Builders of the Pacific Coast in 2004. (We do—ahem—a way better job on builders than does the New York Times.)
   For the real SunRay, click here. (To get this in Acrobat, you may have to right-click and save linked file in downloads folder.)

Morris Minor Woody

"Hi Lloyd,  After seeing your image of the Morris Minor on your blog I thought I would send you this picture. This woody was turning heads at a local village show at the end of summer, I couldn't resist grabbing a photo once I could get a clear shot between passers by.
Best regards,
Al" (Alan Whittle)

Art at Mill Valley Surf Shop

On side wall of the Proof Lab Surf/Skate shop in Mill Valley (254 Shoreline Highway). About 8' in diameter. The artist is Charlie Callahan (see comment below by Charlie about his other work, including a 25' wall mural at Facebook headquarters in the works).

Koko Taylor - "Don't Mess With The Messer"

Wow! What an album! Total powerhouse mode of her career. And the band!
"We're gonna get your /Wang dang doodle/All night long."

Mini Antique Cars For Sale

"Hi Lloyd, Several months ago I sent a link about a family's visit to a mini-car museum.  Thought you might want to know the museum is closing and the cars are for sale come February. Here's the link: http://microcarmuseum.com with all the details.  Own your own mini car.… Enjoying the blog, Lloyd. Anne Thrope"

I just like to look at them.

Mills Bothers Music in the '30s

When I was 12, I was crazy about the Mills Brothers. (I didn't discover Fats Domino until 6 years later.) I loved their vocal harmonies, their cupping hands to mouths making trumpets and trombones. Plus John's vocal bass. That was in the late '40s and I didn't know about all their earlier work with Count Basie, Louie Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, Bing Crosby -- on and on, until I discovered this 5-CD set ("1930s Recordings.")
   In "My Walking Stick" with Louie Armstrong, the Mills Brothers "band" plays behind Louie's vocal, then there's a duet with Louie's trumpet along with Herbert's mouth trumpet. With Cab Calloway, Cab's band does a solo, then the MBs come in with their vocal trumpets and trombones, like a little band. Wonderful music."Flat Foot Floogie With A Floy Floy." Check out the vocal bass with "I Can't Give You Anything But Love Baby" here.
   Note, I know I repeat stuff from time to time. Goes with the getting older territory. Well hey, your memory is not infinite, right? As new stuff comes in, other stuff gets jettisoned. Right? Right?

Go to the post page…

Maestro Irish Spoon Player

This just came in from England, a bit of London cheer on a rainy wet Wednesday AM:
Hi Lloyd,
Thought you would enjoy this amazing dude playing the spoons to Faithless' "Insomnia." He is an English street person but has amazing presence and seems to spread a bit of joy wherever he turns up.
   I have found a few vids of him in various cities links collected together on my blog here.
   Cheers Robin (Wood)
I learned to play the spoons, also the musical saw, from an eccentric old guy, Holger Christiansen, in the (ulp!) late '40s. He was caretaker on my dad's rice farm in Colusa, Calif., and also built a foot-powered organ and carved his own violin. In the last part of this video, the guy is talking to me: "Now that be a lesson to you, young man, when you think you can play the spoons…"

Elegant High-Tech Wedding Rings

There's been a "…technology revolution in ultra precision machining design and manufacturing…" and artist/designer/athlete Jeff McWhinney has designed some unique (openable) rings. When you see these in person, they take your breath away. http://www.mcwhinneydesigns.com/

Tiny Home On Wheels For Sale in Texas - $29K

"Recently built tiny house on a new 8×16 dual axle trailer. Cedar tongue & groove siding, double pane windows, and a metal roof.
The interior has bamboo flooring throughout, built-in cedar shelving on two walls, kitchen area with sink, counter top space, room & outlet for a fridge/freezer. The loft fits a queen mattress comfortably and has a window & ceiling fan to circulate air. The bathroom has standard size shower & toilet with a window, vent, & lighting. Hot water to bathroom & kitchen supplied by a propane tankless hot water heater. There are standard RV hookups for water, 30 amp electrical, & sewage." Here

Low Tide on Reef Last Week

Low Tide On Reef Last Week

$5 Dinner San Francisco Taco Stand

I was in San Francisco Thursday to see a new movie on the Dipsea Race. Had some time to kill, so went to the Honda dealership at Market & Van Ness to look at  a Honda Fit -- which may turn out to be the car I get. Was hungry, and got a taco at this stand at Mission and South Van Ness, and it was great. $5 for taco, soft corn tortillas (2) with chicken and manzana apple soda. I'd think all the other things they serve here would be good too (including hamburgers, chicken sandwiches, salads). Street food!

Tiny Home For Sale in Idaho

237 sq. ft., Sagle Idaho

"… Wood floors, custom trim, doors, cabinets, glazed walls, insulated floors and ceilings. Fully wired and plumbed. Electric heat. $39,500 not including fixtures, (shower, sink, toilet, fridge, kitchen sink). Can be transported to any location to be placed on a foundation of your choice. Fixtures…$2-4000)" From Tiny House Listings here

Gathering, Preparing Wild Foods

Great website for food foraging. Preparing and eating plantain, primitive breads, salting fish, curing olives… http://www.urbanoutdoorskills.com/

Foxy Lady

Went off on my weekly coastal run last night. The  (full) moon had just come over the horizon, and after getting lost and cold last week, I had gloves, a warm hat, and a flashlight and windbreaker in my Camelbak carrier. Closing barn door after… A big storm front moved in and pretty soon, the moon was blocked. Unlike last week, I knew exactly where I was and retraced my route from last Tuesday and saw where I'd taken a wrong turn. Kind of like when I was a diver on the high school swimming team, did a full gainer, and hit the board with both knees. My coach made me go right back and do the dive again. OK the 2nd time.
   On the path back down, salamanders were out in force. They're kind of like dumb, happy mini dinosaurs, taking their time—clomp, clomp, clomp. Nobody wants to eat them; I imagine they'd taste like mush. When I got back to the pub, here was this beautiful little fox on the lawn. Healthy coat, bushy tail, constant awareness.


Two Great Books on Wild Foods

Nature's Garden & The Foragers Harvest by Samuel Thayer
Kevin Kelly recently sent me an email about these books, reviewed on his Cool Tools (here), and I just got them, and they are the best I've seen. From Kevin:
"…They are AMAZING. This guy knows his stuff. And he is a great teacher. He does not include any plant unless he has gathered and eaten it at least 50 times! So he shows the plant in all of its life cycle from seedling, to mature, to seeding, and in great detail of how to find it, and how to harvest it -- not just a few plants but enough for a meal. And the common lookalikes and their stages. And what not to do while harvesting. There's tons and tons of photos of his process. His chapter on acorns is magestic -- born out of years and years of making meal from dozens and dozens of varieties in dozens of different species in dozens of different states. And he is pretty picky about laying out what tastes good based not on one try but dozens and dozens of tries. He has two volumes; because these are based on his own first-hand knowledge, they are biased to the midwest. (If he cites any second hand knowledge beyond his own he humbly gives a full citation of the source.) Nature's Garden is a bit broader in geography, but really you want both volumes. They are similar with no overlap of plants, but each contains his general orientation, so can stand alone. He is to wild food plants what David Auroa is to mushrooms. I believe he knows more than Euell Gibbons did. I've spent evenings the past week reading it till late at night. He has completely re-invigorated my interest in wild greens."

iPhone Panorama of Golden Gate Bridge

I'm learning with iPhone photography; I didn't hold camera even while panning, and got wavy horizon line at right, but the iPhone camera is something!

Mikey and GoPro Camera Times 2

That's Mike Basich, legendary snowboarder, spokesman for GoPro cameras, and star builder of Tiny Homes, shooting a self portrait (with his GoPro), of himself driving down the highway, with a billboard in the background featuring a photo of him wearing a GoPro Hero. Kids, don't try this…
Sent in by Evan Kahn

Grizzly Trashes Toyota SUV

"There are no scratches on the outside of this car, but the vehicle is totaled! A man in Waterton Park, (south of Calgary), came out to find the inside of his 18 month old Toyota Sequoia trashed. A grizzly bear had somehow got a door open. Once inside it got trapped when the door shut behind him, probably by the wind. The Toyota was the Platinum edition, all the door panels were ripped off, the head-liner torn to pieces, all headrests, the leather seats, the dash shredded. The steering column was twisted sideways. Two of the six airbags went off, the other four the bear ripped to pieces.…" From yougottobekidding
Sent by Lew Lewandowski