Paris, soil, wind energy, gypsy wagon…

A loft in Paris

We took the high speed train from Frankfurt to Paris yesterday. A bit weird: you see a nice village, and pffft! it’s gone, at 100 mph. And so into Paris, where we’re now ensconced in what has to be my favorite hotel room of all time, a half-timbered 6th-story, top floor garret in the oldest part of Paris, next to the Sorbonne, walking distance to Notre Dame, the Latin quarter, and all manner of cafes and shops. Right now I’m sitting in a sunny dormer in our attic room, looking out at Paris rooftops, dictating this with a with my Sennheiser ME-3 head microphone.

Soil and non-oil-or-coal-burning power

I’ve been noticing that soil everywhere in Europe looks rich and fertile. If plowed, it’s black; if there are crops, it’s a verdant green. Ireland is glittering green. Better soil stewardship than in America. Yesterday at the train station, I met a South African electrical engineer now living in Germany, and working on large-scale windmill generators (blades 150 feet long). He told me that Europe is now laying very large transmission lines for a grid that will tie into wind power and other generators, that they will eventually be sending electricity from solar farms in Africa under the ocean to Europe. Also that China is building a huge transmission system. He told me a bunch of other exciting stuff about wind and solar power generation; I’ve never heard of any of this via the US media. He said to Google “supergrid,” “D. C. light,” and “ABB.”

Dollar in dumps

Man, is it expensive in Europe! Costs in London and Ireland are shocking. Hotels in Frankfurt (except for mine) are $250+. Upon reflection, it’s corporations who pay these one reasonably high rates; the corporate executive ripoff of the economy rolls on.

Tell St. Peter at the golden gate/you just hate to make him wait/but you just gotta have another cigarette*

There seems to be 10 times as much smoking in Europe as in California. It’s surprising.


…never went away like I thought they would. Such an uncomfortable way to dress. Why do companies insist on burdening their employees with coats that are non-functional and ties that restrict the throat?

Germany into France

There’s something bittersweet to me about Germany. I like the land, the buildings, and the orderliness (for a while). But after a week, I want less order and more funk, less rigidity and more soul. And so you cross into France. Immediately things look different. There’s a softness in the landscape and the buildings. Think of the difference between the two languages. I feel a sense of relief. It makes me cherish the freedom we have in the US, especially in California.

Tiny gypsy wagon

Oh yeah, in the tiny house department: as we pulled out of the urban congestion of Karlsruhe on the train yesterday and got into the countryside, there was a green field with a row of trees, and a pretty little curved-roof gypsy wagon on wheels along the edge of the woods, with smoke coming out the chimney. I don’t know if this was a shepherd, or a gypsy, or just some cool dude from Karlsruhe escaping into country tranquility for the weekend.

Possibly short-term thinking

There’s a lot of fiberboard used in building in Germany, as in the US. Think of what’s going to happen throughout the world if the fiberboard glue fails in 50 years.

*Hank Williams

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 Paris, soil, wind energy, gypsy wagon…

  1. The use of fibre boards is very common over here. Because contractors and architects are not held responsible for long durations (50 years is certainly not a normal option) on buildings they tend to be pushed forward. After all they are easy to cut and don't tend to warp or move like natural materials, they seem to lessen the learning curve with regard to learning about materials. Sadly many of the traditional crafts folk who could make something beautiful out of something natural are becoming scarce.

  2. Could not verdant green be the result of wetter climates with higher fertilizer applications? Ireland and California don't have much in common when it comes to rainfall patterns.

    Look at the sad shape of overfertilzed watercourses throughout Europe. Problems with getting rid of manure, overstocking livestock, surplus production of food.

    Do not mistake "old world" for wise world.

  3. re: orderliness of Germany. Stay there long enough and you will begin to see its underbelly and it's just as interesting, fascinating and shocking as anywhere in France…and I'm guessing you've never been to Berlin. All those old countries exist on many levels – what you see is not what you get…

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