Gimme Shelter — Late, Hot Summer 2017

I started writing GIMME SHELTER email newsletters about 15 years ago, maybe one every month or two. They were originally intended for sales reps (first at Random House, then Publishers Group West), to keep them apprised of our publishing activities, and then later, I added friends to the mailing list. As I got into blogging, the frequency of the newsletters dropped off.

Here’s the latest one. If you’d like to be on the list, sign up here.

Water tower near Prineville, Oregon, on my trip last week to see the eclipse

I’ve written less and less of these newsletters recently, as I’ve been blogging and now doing Instagram regularly. Made me think about all the different forms of communication I’ve employed over the years. My high school year book, running an Air Force newspaper in Germany for 2 years, then working the Whole Earth Catalog, and then — books.

Followed by, over the years: booklets, pamphlets, flyers, posters, 20-30 handmade books, mini-books, magazine and newspaper articles, videos, interviews … I’m a compulsive communicator.

These days I put up posts on my blog, but not as often, or as in-depth as a few years ago. I do Instagram almost daily and all these photos automatically go onto my blog, and to my Twitter and Facebook pages. You can check my Instagram account here; it’s a summary of posts:

Three New Books

The ’60s

I decided to do a book on the ‘60s, since there’s been so much attention given to the “Summer of Love” lately, and because as a person who grew up in San Francisco, went to high school in the Haight-Ashbury, and watched the ‘60s unfold first-hand, I don’t agree with what’s being presented all over the media; these accounts don’t coincide with what I saw happening at all.

“The Haight-Ashbury was a district. The ‘60s was a movement.”  –Ken Kesey

I started the book tentatively, to see if it was going to fly. I thought I’d give my background, what San Francisco was like in the ‘40s and ‘50s, and track my life — a kid growing up in San Francisco, college, Santa Cruz, Big Sur, the Monterey Pop Festival, building domes at Pacific High School, the Whole Earth Catalog — so readers would know where I was coming from. Rather than starting in 1960.

I started getting into it, recalling things that had been buried in my semi-consciousness. This was fun! And I realized that the ‘60s completely changed my life. In 1965, I quit my job as an insurance broker in San Francisco and went to work as a carpenter.

I’m going to illustrate it with black and white photos I took doing those years.

I’ll start posting parts of the book on my blog as I go, to get some feedback.

The Half-Acre Homestead

What we’ve learned in 40-50 years. Building a house, gardening, chickens, solar power. I’ve learned that self-sufficiency is not attainable. It’s like perfection; you never get there. But you do what you can. If you live in NYC you can grow chives and parsley in a window box. We’ve refined things, made mistakes, made adjustments. By the time I did my 5th chicken coop, I got it right.

Tools: Not the obvious ones, but unique tools we’ve discovered. For kitchen, garden, shop, building, crafts. Like this cats’ paw Lew showed me last week. (It’s 11” long.) Anyone who’s done any wrecking will see how cool this is. About $35 (and there is a titanium one on Amazon for $80).

AND: I’m gonna design a home, the way I’d do it now (after building 3 homes). Kitchen facing south, opening out onto outdoor cooking area with roof, cob oven, sink, dining table, and garden. You can do a lot of living outside in nice weather, just a roof overhead. Central core of wood stove with coil for hot water in winter, solar panel on roof for hot water in summer, kitchen/bathroom back-to-back, with hot water centralized. Greenhouse with double-wall polycarbonate roof. Deck with roof for sleeping outside. Photovoltaic solar panels feeding back into grid.

Does it make any sense to think of building your own house these days? It’s sure not as easy as it was in the ‘70s, but the principles are the same. You save about 50% of the cost of a house if you do your own labor. AND you may be able to get by without a mortgage. Can you make a living and build your own house? I built most of a house when I was an insurance broker, building after work every night and on weekends. I’ve never had a mortgage or paid rent.

Finally, whereas everyone wanted to find 10 acres in the country in the ‘60s, what may make more sense these days is fixing up a run down small home in city or town. (See about 75 photos of such places in our latest book, Small Homes: The Right Size.)


I’m going to trace my building career, starting when I was 12, helping my dad build a house in the Sacramento Valley, then working as a carpenter on the docks when I was 18, then starting to build houses in 1961. From the viewpoint of a novice, starting from scratch. I had to learn as I built, and I think I can explain things to young builders in simple terms. I started out with post and beam houses, including being foreman on a large house built of bridge timbers on a 400-acre ranch in Big Sur, then 5 years of building domes, then settled on stud-frame construction.

Kevin Kelly suggested we make short videos as we go. Great idea.

The above two books are gonna be fun, simpler than the book on the ’60s.

The Shelter Blog (theshelterblog)

My son Evan is managing this. Whereas my blog is all over the place, this blog is about building, gardening, and doing stuff for yourself. Here it is:

A few photos from my trip to Oregon (August, 2017) to see the eclipse:

On a lonely road near McDermitt (population, 30), Nevada. Ready to be fixed up and opened as a roadhouse.

Perfect gambrel roof barn in central Oregon

I met Alejandro and his girlfriend, fellow eclipseoids, at the Crooked River Pub in Prineville, Oregon. Alejandro, a carpenter, is caretaker on three acres in San Jose, and has 100 chickens and 30 goats. We totally hit it off. I invited them to come visit some time.
Small home in small Oregon town

I’m back from a lot of recent travels, recovering from pretty heavy shoulder surgery 3 months ago, having a blast working on this book, looking forward to getting back into shape when the shoulder allows. I can’t wait to start paddling (surfboard, paddle board) again.

Musica del día, de 1955:

Take it easy, and if you can’t take it easy, take it as easy as you can,

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:

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