Gimme Shelter Newsletter – Shelter’s 50th Anniversary – Jan. 2020

This is a newsletter I send out maybe once a month. If you’d like to be on the list to receive it, you can sign up for email delivery of the Gimme Shelter newsletter here.

This is so un–de rigueur in these days of concise communication, but here I am with a long, rambling newsletter to start off the new year.

Shelter is 50 Years Old!

In 1970, we printed 5,000 copies of Domebook One and began our publishing career. We’re trying to figure out if we should have some sort of event celebrating the occasion this year. We’re still rolling!

The Half-Acre Homestead: 46 Years of Building and Gardening

I picked up 12 copies of the just-bound book in San Francisco recently. The thrill is NOT gone! After a year of putting it together, page by page, not being sure how the whole would look, came the moment of truth — it, ahem, looks really good. The size, the colors, the soft cover. It seems friendly. From us to you, here’s how human hands have created shelter and food.

The shipment of 5,000 books is now on the high seas, heading from Hong Kong to LA, where they will then travel by truck to the Ingram warehouse in Tennessee. Books should be in bookstores in late February.

Shameless Commerce Department: We’re offering it on our website for pre-order, with free shipping. It won’t go out until mid-February or so, but pre-sales will help us with printing bills.

Here’s a link to how I did the book (this was in the previous GIMME SHELTER newsletter).

The 40th Anniversary Edition of Stretching

I discovered a homemade book called Stretching in 1979. It was aimed at athletes, with stretching routines for some 20 sports.

I wrote the author, Bob Anderson, and suggested he add stretches for builders, waitresses, truck drivers, kids, and older people. We started talking. He said he and his wife Jean (who did the drawings) had sold 35,000 copies from a garage in Southern California. Wow! End result: We rented Bob and Jean a house on the beach here in Spring, 1980, and in 3 months, we did a complete revision of the book.

We did a first run of 50,000 copies, and the book took off, with Random House as distributor, selling madly. It’s been selling ever since, now over 3¾ million copies worldwide, and in 23 languages. As far as I can tell, it’s the best-selling fitness book of all time.

Tech Neck  An important (and timely) addition to this new edition will be stretches to combat the bad posture caused by (1) cell phone usage and (2) working on computers.

Take a look at how bent-over people are when talking on their phones. It’s called “tech neck.”

The point is, we all spend too much time at screens of various sizes, and it’s not healthy. Not good for the body.

Want to take 30 seconds and stretch right now?

Analog Tool in This Day and Age

We’re going to print up some self-adhesive stickers to go on the back of phones. You don’t have to turn on an app: just flip your phone over and take 10 seconds to s-t-r-e-t-c-h.

This is just a rough first copy of the sticker. It will also have drawings of bad and good posture.

The new book (and stickers) will be out by May, 2019.

Getting Out of One’s Comfort Zone

I was getting a massage from a Chinese bodyworker recently. She was working on my back and I asked her to go deeper. She did, and boy, did it hurt. But I knew that the pain comes from breaking up muscle adhesions. I learned this in reading the book Rolfing by Ida Rolf some years ago. When you’re injured, the body forms scar tissue, which links the myofascia (membranes) of one muscle to another. Rolfers break this up, and it hurts. But it gets the job done. Andy Crow, a Rolfer in the traditional method, once told me, “That’s not pain you feel, it’s the release of pain.” Sure enough, when he’d go back into the same area, even deeper, there was a lot less pain. After the deep Chinese massage, my back felt way looser.

This relates to getting in cold water. I’ve started swimming at the Aquatic Park cove in San Francisco again. The water yesterday was 53 degrees. Unlike most cove swimmers, I wimp out by wearing a thin (½-mil) O’Neill neoprene shirt and a hat. It’s painful when you first get in, but within a few minutes I feel OK, then start enjoying the swim. Right now I stay in 15 minutes max. I feel really good afterwards (helped out by an, ahem, Irish coffee across the street at The Buena Vista Café).

I think one of the clues to staying active as you get older is to push the comfort zone. It always pays off. The phrase “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” (Nietzsche) is kinda true. Not literally, but the idea is that you can push yourself into an uncomfortable zone, and your body will react by getting stronger. I used to notice, in finishing the Dipsea race, that I‘d feel like I was dying and then, in 5 minutes, I’d feel great.

It’s the principle of overloading the muscles in weight training. They get stronger, expecting the next challenge.


Holy shit! How did I get to be 84? From this vantage point (space in time), my 50s and 60s were golden years.

While my 70s were the years of getting joints repaired (2 shoulders, 2 knees, 1 wrist), the 80s have turned out to be a whole new octave. In a way, cool — to just be walking around. SU, or “still upright.” But strength, flexibility, cardiovascular functions are on the wane. A lot of the success at this age is dealing with this diminishment. But hey, no complaints. My mom, when she was in her 90s, would say, “Lloyd, I’ve never felt better in my life!”

These days, I’m hiking, paddling when I can, starting to swim in San Francisco. I haven’t completely given up on surfing, but getting from prone to standing up is a problem.

I’m Giving Up Skateboarding

OK, OK, I’m hanging up my wheels — the advice of practically everyone for years now. I don’t want to get hurt again (fractured arm 2 years ago).

I had a great encounter with a young local skater when I broke my arm. He pointed at my cast and said, “Respect.” It thrilled me.

I started skating at age 65 and did so for almost 20 years. So fun! I’m still kinda obsessed — every time I see a downhill with smooth pavement, I want to jump out and get rolling. But since I got hurt, my skating has gotten way more conservative, more tentative; it doesn’t feel fluid any more. If I worked at it, I could probably get my mojo back, but the 2-fold risk would still be there: pavement and cars.

I reluctantly took all the skateboards (well, almost all of them), and safety gear out of my car.

Am I mature or what?

Trip to Baja California Sur

Here’s a link to what I posted on my blog about this trip:

Photo I shot in NYC in September 1965. (I was on a vision quest; when I returned home, I quit my job as an insurance broker and went to work as a carpenter.) The entire city was out for the anti-Vietnam war parade — pro and con. This is part of a book I’m working on about the ’60s.

Over and out,

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:

16 Responses to Gimme Shelter Newsletter – Shelter’s 50th Anniversary – Jan. 2020

  1. Hi Lloyd,

    Really looking forward to getting a copy of The Half-Acre Homestead. I have all of your other books and am awaitng this one with eager anticipation. Will it be availiable in the UK or will I need to order it from the States? I have to say I have been a little remiss regarding Stretching. I started off with the best of intentions but let it wane after a while, I must start up again. I am 61 now, have had a cervical radiculopathy (pinched nerve in thoracic spine) and am currently having physio for a shoulder impingement. Might have avoided both with proper stretching exercises. Oh well. I can only hope to be as fit and agile as you when I reach your age. You are a remarkable person in so many ways.

    Your blog has been a daily go-to for me for years now. I look forward to checking out your latest posts and have learnt a lot along the way too. I hope to be reading it for many years to come.

    Best wishes,

    Russell Webb.

  2. Hello Lloyd,

    Me and my husband are religiously admiring your work and can’t wait to get your new book!
    Happy Shelter Anniversary!

    Zuzana & Alan Cerny
    Berne, NY

  3. Thank you for all of the publications you have put out into the world. I am please to see the updates to Stretching. The stretches for tech neck are awesome! Where can I find your back of phone printout? Thanks, Jane T

  4. Rebecca, yes the code for the 2-or-more-books discount on is shelter30. (Makes books cheaper thanAmazon, with free shipping.)

  5. Thanx for your reply. I couldn’t find a code posted anywhere.
    It didn’t work for me for ordering 2 books—error message saying not enough copies to qualify.

  6. Hi Lloyd!
    Just to let you know that I tried pre-ordering your new book (Half Acre Homestead) on your Shelter Publications website but was unable to. It would not allow me to add my ‘United Kingdom’ address. I was trying to order two copies, one for myself and one for my father, as I have done with all your wonderful publications. I thought you should know as I wish your books every success and want them read far and wide.

    My Dad lives near Guildford in Surrey, England, in one of the few remaining ‘Plotlander’ houses that he tries to keep going against all the odds (here’s a link if you do not know about these wonderful interwar guerrilla houses: It was he that introduced me to the first Shelter book. This and all your subsequent ones have become treasured possessions in our household. In fact you have become a verb in our vocabulary. When planning our small end of the garden off grid project we talk about how ‘it’s time for a bit of Lloyd Kahn’ing’!!

    It’s my Dad’s 73rd birthday on 29th February (he’s a leap year bunny) and I’m going to gift him your new book. Which he’ll love. Do not worry about my ordering difficulty. I can wait until it’s available over here (though I don’t suppose a signed copy to him would be possible would it? I assume not).
    Keep up all the good work. It has inspired and will continue to inspire a better way of living to many the world over. Your books are just the very best and will never leave me no matter what.
    All the best
    p.s. I tried emailing you via the Shelter email address but unfortunately my message kept bouncing back as spam ):

  7. Chris,
    Sorry for the problem. One thing that might be causing this is that the discount only applies to books shipped in the USA. Shipping costs to the UK are prohibitive, often as much as the cost of the book.
    It will be available there in the near future, distributed to bookstores by Publishers Group UK.
    And thanks for the feedback!
    I could sign a book for your dad, but there would be the high cost of shipping — sorry about that.
    Best way to contact me is

  8. Hi Lloyd. Thanks for the reply. Unfortunately whatever address I try and email you from and to the message bounces back as ‘blocked 550’, which I believe is a spam filter response. I don’t get this bounce back elsewhere. Replying on this blog has been the only way I can get through! It would mean a lot for my father to have his birthday copy of ‘Half-Acre’ signed by you. Would be worth the extra postage. But not being able to message you will make that difficult. If you have the time you could try emailing myself at to see if I could reply to that message. Alternatively Evan messaged me through your Facebook page so we could perhaps go that way? Sorry for the faffing about, modern technology…zzzz.

    1. Hi, Chris,

      I’ve checked the network spam blocking database, and I’m not finding that address listed. So I don’t know what would be causing your email to be blocked.

      –Rick from Shelter Publications

  9. Hi Rick. It’s very curious. I don’t have this problem with any other email addresses other than when attempting to email any of the ‘shelter’ addresses. The message is blocked with this response: ‘The response from the remote server was: 550 we do not accept mail from this address.’ What a shame. I hope others from overseas do not have the same problem when trying to contact you in this way.

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