Louie's Place, Two Homemade Stoves, Coldwater Surfing

Louie Frazier

I got up at 4 AM yesterday and drove up the coast to stay with my friend Louie for a few days and get some away-from-the-office writing done. Louie lives in a river valley 5 miles back from the ocean and I have this beautiful little room in his shop to sleep and work in.

(Louie is the first builder in the book Home Work.) His house is across the river from his shop and to get there you go in a bosun’s chair 500 feet on a cable across the fast-moving river. I worked until the sun went down, then walked down the road to the cable. Every time I do it, I’m astounded at how beautifully it works. And not a little scared.

This pic taken in the near-dark with my little Olympus Stylist 1200 camera, ASA set to 6400

You climb stairs of this 30′ high platform, attach a bosun’s chair to the cable, check fittings — and zing — hanging from the chair, you roll across the river, apply the wooden brake, and come into a landing platform, powered by gravity. This ain’t for the faint-hearted. Louie is 80 years old and still coming across the river like Tarzan. We had wild duck for dinner, with cole slaw. A few shots of tequila with lime before, but no wine during dinner. We’ve both cut back on the booze. Hung around the fire, it was cold outside.


To get back across the river that night I climbed the steps to the platform on this side, clipped the bosun’s chair onto the cable, checked and re-checked fittings, switched on my halogen head flashlight (it was pitch black), and pushed off into the darkness, river rushing below, I can’t believe I’m doing this, sailing across, coming into a perfect landing on the other side of the river. Louie’s a wizard.

Louie’s wood-fired clay oven with fire bricks on oven floor, 8″-inch thick layer of cob around one layer common brick for the dome. Door height 2/3 height of oven ceiling. No chimney. Cold air goes in bottom of door, smoke out top of door. The design called The Crouching Beaver.

On the subject of stoves, Louie asked if I’d heard of the Rocket Stove, so I looked it up and came up with this website on the Winiarski Rocket Stove It’s a low-tech, homemade stove designed for efficient wood cooking.

Surfing at Pt. Arena

I love it on the Mendocino coast in the winter. Pt Arena is a hairy surfing spot. Cold water, long paddle-out, a big flat rock in the surf zone, but this day the sun was out and surf coming up. Here’s long-time local Jack Williams, who has the place wired:

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:

4 Responses to Louie's Place, Two Homemade Stoves, Coldwater Surfing

  1. Hello,

    Wow! You blog! That's great. We have your books and LOVE the stuff you photograph. In fact we're building our own place and use your photos for inspiration a lot of the time. I was using you as a reference for a couple of friends and googled your name – lo and behold – blog!

    Anyway, thanks for your books.
    All the best
    lisa and oscar

  2. How wonderful to hear about Louie. Surely that good livin' keeps you young. I have loved that part of the Cali. coast, good beers from Boonville, the Redwoods that make your hearts sing…Just a piece of heaven.

  3. Louie's place sure is cool, I fell in love with his shop in your last book, god I need to build one like that. I particularly like the attached studio. I wonder if rastra block would be a good material to use. Thanks for sharing and pass on my best wishes to Louie, I'm a fan of his work.

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