A Whole New Octave

Years ago I was in the Adolph Gasser photo store in SF and a bike messenger came in. He told the guy behind the counter he’d just had a baby. “It’s a whole new octave, man,” he said. (He was a musician.)

I think of this phrase whenever I’m about to change directions, like about now:

I feel like I’ve finished a cycle with my 7 building books, from Shelter in 1973, up through Small Homes in 2017, each book with over 1,000 photos. I’m working on a new book, to be called something like Handmade/Homemade: The Half-Acre Homestead. I ought to get it out by the end of 2018. Then a new direction.

Small books I have a bunch of maybe-not-for-prime-time books that I want to do. After publishing Driftwood Shacks, an 86-page digitally printed book, I realized that this and other books I want to do are for friends, probably not for bookstore distribution. I want to do these books without worrying about sales, “marketing.” The next one, a shrunk-down copy of a scrapbook I put together 25 years ago, hand-lettered, hand-bound, original 11″ by 14″, 48 pages, called Pop’s Diner, about a trip through the American southwest, hot springs –jeez, I’ve written this all before…us old guys…

I have 200-300,000 photos I’ve shot over the years. A great thing about Google Photos: you download all your photos with GPhotos, then you can go in and do a search for “barns,” or “Baja” and GPhotos will come up with just those photos. Man! How does the computer tell a barn from a house? Beyond me.

Subjects of these books: barns, Baja California Sur, trips in Southeast Asia, motorcycles, facsimiles of scrapbooks I’ve put together over the years, and yes: architecture. Have I said this before?

I’m going to get the homestead book done and then do some of these smaller ones.


On the road I’ve been a compulsive communicator since an early age. Mom, look at this caterpillar! High school journalism, running USAF newspaper in Germany for 2 years (linotype–hot lead), then Stewart Brand’s Whole Earth Catalog style of journalism and production, then 48 years of publishing. I’m a journalist at heart, I want to tell people about what I see going on out in the world. Have I said all this before?

I’m trying to figure out how I can take people along with me in my travels. Photos, videos, writing. There’s just a ton of interesting stuff going on. Trying to figure out how to do photo stories online. Usually I don’t have time to do more than a few blog posts about my trips. I’ve got some ideas about how to get these things out here with the help of my young co-conspirators, Evan and Em-J. I’m pretty excited about doing some different things.

Louie at his house across the river. We cooked wild ducks for dinner last night. Have I said all this before?

Sign in Louie’s shop: “The easy way is hard enough.”

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:

8 Responses to A Whole New Octave

  1. I don't care if you've said it all before, I enjoy all your writings. Get working on that Baja California book. Just got back from 7 weeks in Melaque, MX and I love that country. Keep on trucking.

  2. I really would like for you to seriously consider creating YouTube videos. I would love to hear you speak more with only a general script. Yes, editing videos is a big challenge, but you could get some help as needed. Maybe you are already skilled at that. just a polite suggestion.

  3. I have loved ALL YOUR BOOKS even from Mother Earth C….and if you've said it before, it's okay, we may need to read it again. Keep on trucking and remembering and putting in any books you like to do….We all love 'em. and a HUGE THANK YOU for even those that don't express it, I'll express it for them. we are all grateful for your excitement on building, learning and reporting. You are one of a kind. aloha, irene

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