Layering with 100% Wool/Grind Your Own Oats/Roast Your Own Coffee

Natural Fibers

I used to wear mostly natural fibers. Then along came Patagonia and other outdoor outfitters with some great artificial (usually polyester) products: fleece, Synchilla, Capilene, warm lightweight coats, polyester shirts for travel that could be rolled up in a backpack, and look wrinkle-free when worn. I’ve been running in cold months wearing Maxit tights and long-sleeved top, a type of polypropelene, keeps you amazingly warm – just one layer.

Last month I went into a natural fiber store in Victoria, the sparkling capitol of Vancouver Island. I’d just bought a great Patagonia jacket. Started talking to the guy running the store, he said it really feels different to wear cotton and wool (and silk and hemp) and no clothing made from oil. He looked at my new coat and said, “Yeah, that’s made out of recycled bottles.” When he said it I thought, cool, it’s great to make spiffy stuff out of trash. Of course a little later I thought, maybe I don’t want to be wearing a coat made from plastic, no matter how elegantly tailored. He got me thinking about going back to natural fibers.

The thing that clinched it was discovering clothing made of Merino wool. I started with running socks. I’d tried for years to have cotton running socks, but almost everything was Coolmax or other oil-derived fabric. These Merino socks felt good. Noticeable difference from Coolmax. Two companies have wonderful selections of Merino wool apparel:


I got Smartwool socks (they’re actually 70/30 wool/nylon). I got the Smartwool Microweight 100% wool bottom tights and a long-sleeved Microweight crew for running and let me tell you, does it feel better. My body breathes, I’m more in tune with the surroundings. Wool doesn’t smell bad like artificial fabrics.

Tights, $64.95


Crew shirt, $79.95

Crew shirt


Icebreaker has an elegant line of products (in spite of the very weird cover photo on their home page). They have testimonials from athletes who wear Merino wool clothing in various combos (there are 3 weights) climbing Everest, on kayak trips, wet or dry, hot or cold; 100% wool in various combos works wonders. How great, natural fibers out-performing artificial. I got one lightweight long-sleeved shirt for next-to-skin, the Skin 200 long-sleeve crew, $69.95

and as well what is the best single piece of clothing I’ve run across in years, the Sport 320 Wing Zip, $118.95

I’ve been wearing this whenever it’s cold, over a cotton or silk t-shirt, or if colder, over the lightweight merino wool shirt. It’s light, it keeps you warm, it breathes, feels good, looks great.

Grind Your Own Oats

This elegant little Italian grain grinder has three hardened steel rollers that flatten grain for making flakes or crack it for making hot cereal or granola. I’d never had fresh oats before, that is, you’re taking the whole oat grain (groat), and crushing and flaking it just before cooking. Nutty, delicious oatmeal, the flavor of the whole grain just released. Bruce Atkey showed me this, just after he gave me a breakfast bowl of fresh oatmeal along with flax seeds, shredded coconut, a little hemp oil for flavor, and brown sugar. Chrome plated steel, 9″H. Clamps to any surface up to 2″ thick. $79.95.

Roast Your Own Coffee

I read an article on roasting your own coffee in an old popcorn popper, one of which we had lying around ready to go to the goodwill. Bought some green coffee beans from Capulin Coffee (“Natural Hand Crafted Shade Grown Traditionally Dried Jungle Coffee”):, roasted them and voilá, discovered the secret to good coffee: freshly roasted. If you use a popcorn popper it should be the type that has air blowing in around the bottom so the beans circulate. For instructions see:

Fiddle with it to get the roast you want. Like the article said, once you roast your own, you’ll never buy roasted coffee beans again.

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 Layering with 100% Wool/Grind Your Own Oats/Roast Your Own Coffee

  1. Lloyd,

    I couldn't agree more with your selection of CAPULIN.

    I've been using CAPULIN for years and I trully believe that there is no higher standard of quality in the industry.

    They have a great set of instructions for HOME ROASTING in a popcorn popper too!

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