From Sun To Sean

A Trip To SolFest — Solar Energy Festival in Hopland

I take off Friday morning for points north. As soon as I get into the countryside my spirits rise. Hills California golden brown, Nicasio lake full. It’s foggy even inland and I stop in Petaluma for a latte and read the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

A Few Random Clippings

“Israel should announce that, henceforth, any rocket launched from Palestinian territory will immediately trigger a mechanically automatic response in which five Israeli rockets will be fired back. There will be no human intervention in the loop…This new policy would echo…America’s Cold War policy of “massive retaliation.”

-Charles Krauthammer, Washington Post

(Regarding the Gaza occupation): “It was an overzealous dream, a dream so single-minded and devoid of empathy — this land is ours, although we have just arrived; you are the usurpers, although your great-grandfathers turned this soil — that it was always precarious, a castle made of Gaza sand.”

-Eugene Robinson, Washington Post

“Randy Moss, a model for his first five months with the Oakland Raiders, has caused a firestorm for the team by admitting he has smoked marijuana since he enrolled in the NFL in 1998.”

-Phil Barber, The Press Democrat

“F. Scott Fitzgerald is said to have told Thomas Wolfe that there are two kinds of writers: taker-outers and putter-inners.”

Rick Marin, New York Times

Roll Around Heaven All Day

It’s a good day. The fog clears around Cloverdale. KPIG, AM 1510 in the SF bay Area, playing a great mix of blues, rock, Cajun, country. When I get out of range I put on a CD from my new Ray Charles collection, Genius and Soul, the 50th Anniversary Collection. Oh, is it good! If you’re a Ray Charles fan, you’ll be thrilled with this. Trust me. Then to Ruth MacGowan’s pub in Cloverdale for a fresh and tasty crab salad and a pint of their home-brewed Monster Brown Ale. Oh yeah! Things are going good. I get to SolFest, at the Real Goods headquarters in Hopland and set up our booth to sell our building books. It’s hot and on the way back to my motel in Cloverdale I stop and jump in the Russian River, which is green and clean this far north. Check into room and head up into the hills above Cloverdale for a run and on my way back I hear music and it turns out that Tom Rigney and Flambeau, a great band, are playing a free concert in the town plaza. It’s one of those concerts where the musicians and audience connect. 150 people, everyone up dancing, Rigney is energized and fiddling madly. Everyone happy.

SolFest Itself

This is a great event. It’s well-organized, thousands of people attend, there are seminars, workshops, music, food, and solar, wind, and water-generating devices. There are a bunch of very together “alternative energy” people with their systems on display. There are yuppies, hippies, homesteaders, builders, eco-folk, Deadheads, farmers, gardeners. David Lindley, a marvelous musician, did an afternoon session. He was preceded by a good local blues band. We sold over 100 copies of Home Work, plus other books, and gave away 200 Home Work posters. People kept stopping in and telling us how much our book Shelter had influenced them, and how they loved Home Work. One couple bought 10 copies to give away as gifts. Gratifying.

Civet Incivility

It’s now 9:30 PM and I’m in the office writing this. A few minutes ago I heard what sounded like a cat fight, but shriller and more volume. Turned out to be a skunk battle royal. I had left my shop door open last night and one had got in and devoured about 4 energy bars, and a bunch of “Gu” energy gel, and they were back to fight over it tonight. It’s more country than city here, and with a big garden and chickens (a bantam flock), there’s a constant battle with critters of all sizes. Ants, termites (very big deal here), bats (huge problem once), mice, rats, possums (once trapped 13 in a month in Have-a-heart trap, released way out in country, they’re too stupid to find their way back), raccoons, skunks, foxes (not lately), deer.

Foggy August

The heading of our local newspaper yesterday was “Fogust.” We’ve been socked in for a month. I’ve always thought of myself as a fog-lover, growing up in San Francisco and all. But it was getting to me. On my Sunday runs I’ve been going over to Mt. Tamalpais to run in the warm sun. Today the sun broke through out here today and everyone’s spirits rose. Plus Rick just finished Photoshopping my pics from British Columbia and I started printing them out and Jesus, they’re better than I imagined. I ran across the most wonderful bunch of builders and am heading back up in three weeks to go 40 miles up the west coast of Vancouver Island with builder/surfer kindred spirit Bruce Atkey, to shoot more pics for the following book:

Builders of the Northwest Coast

Since I finished Home Work, I’ve been searching for the next major book. These kind of books have to be created from scratch. I constantly gather material and then try to figure out how to make it into a book. Today I went on a binge of printing photos out on glossy paper and it was like cream rising to the top. This is such wonderful stuff. Many of the guys in BC are ex-Americans who refused to go to Viet Nam, and became Canadian citizens in the 60s and ‘70s. They built their own houses on the islands and the coast. It’s a wood world. Trees grow everywhere and beaches are lined with cedar logs. With no building codes and a spirit of craftsmanship, the homes are extraordinary.

Sauna by Lloyd House

Pride Goeth After the Fall

I don’t fall often skateboarding, but the occasional fall is inevitable. Know the first thing I do when I fall? I look around to see if anyone saw me. Then I start taking stock of body damage. I’ve got a hot new skateboard that turns on a dime. It’s pretty squirrelly, but I can thread my way around on city sidewalks a lot better. A few weeks ago I was able to (for the first time) make all the turns in a slalom course that rollerbladers set up in Golden Gate Park each Sunday.


How about riding a bike on abandoned railroad tracks? My friend Louie and I sat around in the pub Saturday night designing a bike with outrigger for balance and little solid rubber wheels running along the sides of tracks to keep the bike tires on the track. I came back and with Lew’s help found a ton of info on the web. I sent away for plans for building one. Woo-woo!

Sean Penn in Iran

It’s not enough that he’s a brilliant actor and a cool guy, but he’s just written some dynamite accounts of his trip to Iran. He makes you feel like you’re there. He’s not afraid, and his take is fresh and insightful. He does a better job than most reporters.

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

One Response to From Sun To Sean

  1. Ruth MacGowan's Pub, I love that place! I'll have to look back and see when I first visited (I live in Chico). I enjoyed dinner, (and some great stout) there last summer. They have popped through to the next building, right where the mural was on the wall. They did a real nice job of incorporating it all in.

    When I'm around cloverdale, I like to stay up the hill, at the KOA. Sleep in the open bed of the pickup – good stuff! Probably not your cup of tea, but I don't know someone in every little town, like you do.

    Well, I don't even know if you read comments this far back. I just found your blog last week – I'm very interested in building small houses, sheds, greenhouses

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