GIMME SHELTER – October 2021

To anyone receiving this for the first time, I send these newsletters out every few months. They’re different from social media — old school in a way — in that they go to a select audience (over 5,000 people now), rather than blasting out into the internetosphere.

If you’re not signed up on the list to receive it, you can sign up for email delivery of the Gimme Shelter newsletter here.

This is my first newsletter in 6 months, no less. Boy, how time has flown. So I’m afraid it’s gonna be a long one.

Rolling Homes

Rick and I have been working on this book for maybe 4 months. Our modus operandi: I write (or edit) text, print out photos, use a color copy machine (a workhorse Brother MFC-371DCW) to resize photos, then paste down text and photos with removable Scotch Tape. These then go to Rick, who uses Photoshop and InDesign to prepare files for printers. As we go along, he makes PDFs so I can print out pages to see how they look. An analog/digital process. We’ve got about 150 (out of 256) pages done.

I never know what a book will be like until we are well underway in production. We start with a theme — here, homes on wheels — and put it together 2 pages at a time, and the book reveals itself as we proceed.

And this one — good golly Miss Molly! — is turning out to be amazing. I’m sure you’re aware of the explosion of nomadic vehicles in recent years. Our book is composed of primarily do-it-yourselfers — the theme running through all our building books — and the designs, ingenuity, and craftsmanship are stunning.

One thing I just realized: there are a lot of surfers in this book — female and male. Below is Yasha Hetzel, who went 120,000 miles in Australia in a Citroën Berlingo van, here surfing at South Point:

BTW, we don’t seem to have any of the so-called “vanlife” rigs here — the young attractive couples with photos of sunsets and the minutiae of their daily lives. It wasn’t a conscious decision; it’s just is turning out that our rigs and people are more real, more hands-on than the “influencers.”

Shelter Books Exhibited at the Biennale Architettura in Venice

This is the big news around here right now. According to Wikipedia, the Biennale Architettura is “…an International exhibition held every other year in Venice, Italy, in which architecture from nations around the world is presented.”

The two architects responsible for the exhibit, Leopold Banchini and Lukas Feireiss, visited here last year, interviewed me, shot photos, and in conjunction with the exhibit, produced a book titled Shelter Cookbook. They have arranged for my flights to and from Venice, and a place to stay there, and after three flight cancellations and rescheduling and Covid preparations, I’m set to leave here on October 6th. I am excited!

The Shelter part of the exhibit consists of three of our books: Domebook One, Domebook 2, and Shelter, which are on display, as well as stick models of buildings shown in these books.

Stick models of buildings in Shelter and Domebook 2. A lot of work went into making these!

The exhibit is in the Arsenale di Venezia, a huge complex of shipyards and buildings built in the 1100s and used for building Venice’s ships.

I’ll be in Venice October 9–11; and on the 13th, I’ll be doing a slide presentation called “60 Years of Natural Building” at the Accademia di Architettura di Mendrisio, a school of architecture in Italian-speaking Switzerland. Then to Florence, then (maybe train ride) to Sicily where I’ll spend a week exploring (and swimming). Back home and back to book production end of October.

I’m really excited to be going back to Italy (and seeing Venice and Sicily for the first time). I love the people, the sea, the countryside, the food, the gardens — the Italian way of life — my cup of tea — er, espresso.

I’m going as lightweight as possible this trip, with a Cotopaxi Allpa 35 travel pack with compression bags (fits easily into overhead bin) and my regular daily Dakine backpack for MacBook Air, glasses, pens, etc. Trying something new this trip: the only camera — my iPhone 11 Pro Max. Not taking my Olympus OM-D EM-1 camera and lenses saves a lot of weight, and the iPhone is pretty darn capable.

Swamped With “Content”

It’s overflowing (especially here in the studio). I look for something and pull out intriguing stuff I’ve forgotten about. I’m pretty active on Instagram — now 16,000 followers, and trying to do a blog post most days. No rhyme or reason, these are just avenues of communication supplemental to publishing books. I’m a compulsive communicator.

And I’ve decided something in the last year — I’m not going to decide on what to publish based on how it will sell.

Books in Our Future

1. Live From California

I’ve been working on a book on the ’60s off and on for a few years, mainly because as a San Francisco native who went to high school in the Haight Ashbury district, I saw a very different thing take place than is described in the plethora of books about the ’60s.

As I worked on the book, I felt I needed to throw in stuff about growing up in San Francisco, hanging out in the farming town Colusa as a teenager, going to Lowell High School, then Stanford, surfing in Santa Cruz, lifeguarding, teaching swimming, working as an insurance broker until I smoked weed and quit in the ’60s to join up with a younger generation … hitchhiking across the country in 1965 … building big timber houses, then my own home in Big Sur, building geodesic domes at a hippy high school in the Santa Cruz mountains, small-scale farming and homesteading in the ’70s…

Photo of me in 1965 in Providence, RI, shot with my Nikon by Linda Connor (then a student at RISD before becoming a famous photographer). I was on a 30-day cross-country hitchhiking trip — a “vision quest.” When I got home, I quit my job as an insurance broker and went to work as a carpenter.

So the book started to veer away from just the ’60s into a sort of autobiography.

When I get Rolling Homes finished, I’m gonna put this book together. It’ll be my life up until about 1974; the first 39 years. It’ll include my take on the ’60s, but in the context of the rest of my life. 1974 onward is covered in The Half-Acre Homestead, the story of our life here over the last 46 years.

“The ’60s Happened in the ’70s”:
Partially true. The ’60s happened in the ’60s and the ’70s.

You can see first (rough) drafts of some early chapters here:

2. Deep in the Heart of Baja

The other day I looked at the pile of photos and notes I have for a book on Baja California. Twelve years of 4-wheeling it on beaches and to remote abandoned missions, multiple avventuras con mi buen amigo Chilón, a total solar eclipse on the beach in 1991, surfing, taco stands, exploring arroyos with waterfalls, ancient remote missions, hanging out at ranchos, producing a bilingual photo journal (El Correcaminos).

I had a great balanced perspective from my three very different Mexican friends: Chilón, a chilango (native of Mexico City) transplanted to Los Cabos, who had a popular radio show for children; Fino, a Josefino (native of San José del Cabo), surfer and adventurer, and Yuca, my landlord, a pocho, (50/50 border guy, speaking English and Spanish interchangeably, and dealing in cars, refrigerators, and anything he scared up ).

I don’t know if a book on Baja will sell, but I had incredible adventures there. I got deep into what Chilón calls “The Real Baja,” and this is for real Baja people.

My “pre-runner,” used back in the day to scout out the Baja 1000 race prior to the actual event. (I bought it from one of the racers.) Fiberglass fenders and hood, 15-gallon gas tank behind rear seat, shocks that came up and tied into (inside) roll bars. I had a flea market tarp (8′ by 12′ of shade) inside the Rocket Box. Solar panel charged an extra battery. We would let the air out of tires, to 5–10 lbs. and it could go on soft sand almost as good as a 4×4. Went camping in it. Unfortunately in the big flood of November 4, 1993, it ended up completely under water, and I never could get it running properly again.

3. Barns

I’ve been meaning to do a book on barns for years. In addition to my love affair with (and photos of) barns over the years, I have about 50 books on barns. The architecture of necessity.


In the ’70s, there were maybe 30 people building their own homes in and around our small town. Hard to believe now, but in the ’60s to ’70s, a lot of people decided to create their own shelter.

It was a movement of young people who rejected ’50s-style consumerism and — in many ways — looked to the past for tips on creative self-sufficiency. But it was a movement that hasn’t continued. (Organic farming and gardening are another concept of the ’60s-’70s that has thrived over the years.

What happened to building?

  1. Bureaucrats closed in. My building permit in 1971 was $200. These days it would be over $50,000, along with misc. fees. (Bureaucrats beget ever more bureaucracy + expense.)
  2. Planning and building code regulations are forcing high costs in many ways.
  3. Septic systems. There’s coordination between regulators and engineers to mandate expensive systems in contrast to gravity-fed systems. Don’t get me started on this enormous nationwide scam. (There are 25 million septic systems in the USA.) See article I wrote in The Mother Earth News in 2008:

I look around now, 50 years later, and I see practically no one building his/her own house. Things are too expensive in sought-after areas.

BUT in recent years, a lot of 20-to-30-year-olds seem to be discovering our building books. It’s a new generation, certainly not mainstream, maybe a minor movement. Sometimes I think that our tribe of DIY people are like the book lovers in Fahrenheit 451 — on the fringes of society. Like the ’60s reaction to the homogeneity of the ’50s, maybe this is a reaction to the burgeoning tech world.

Your computer is not going to build (or remodel) your home. You still need a hammer and saw and human hands. Just think — old-school skills still relevant in the tech age. (These days remodeling a small, run-down home in a city or town may make more sense than building from scratch on a piece of land.)

The Millennials

I’ve had such wonderful contacts with 20-to-30-year-olds recently. They want to figure out how to create at least some of their own shelter and food. They like what we were doing in the ’60s and ’70s. They’ve discovered The Whole Earth Catalog and Shelter — 50 years later. I’ve been waiting for you guys!

(Not to mention 3-year-old Maggie of San Francisco, whose favorite book for the last year has been one of our mini copies of Tiny Homes. Her mom says she’s read it over and over and keeps it next to her bed.)

Bozos to Mars

The two richest men in the world fantasize about colonizing space, going to Mars: a lifeless, colorless, sterile, toxic planet, where low gravity would deteriorate bones, weaken muscles, and cause human hearts to change shape. Not to mention a slew of other problems.

What is wrong with these clueless twerps? They’re not in tune with the beauty and exceptionalism of this planet. Disconnected from the rhythms of the earth. Same as it was in the ’70s, with the space colonization fantasy — a hare-brained nerd scheme.

Flammarion, wood engraving, 1888

When we got to the moon in the ’60s, a barren, desolate landscape, what did we see when we looked back at the earth? A vision of beauty, a cloud-wreathed planet with oceans and mountains, valleys and rivers, topsoil, and life.

The Marvel of It All

I stepped outside the other night to toss the night’s dishwater in the garden. It was a quarter moon, Venus was shining and there was a red glow at sunset. I was awed by the beauty of it all — the planet was still functioning, with all the forces now seeming to conspire against it. Covid, drought, fires, floods, migration, political toxicity, Trump festering on the outskirts…

The moon, stars, waterfalls, hummingbirds, waves are still here, places to turn for solace in these heavily troubled times. Hey billionaire rocket-riders, take a walk on the beach!

Shelter T-Shirts

Mari and Evan talked me into doing some T-shirts and lo and behold, we sold out twice. Now back in stock. They’re nice quality 100% off-white cotton grown on American farms and made in the USA. Available at:

There’s a 30% discount on 2 or more of our books, with free shipping. See our building books (plus the new edition of Stretching, with posture stretches for smartphone users.)

Skateboarding Again

Breaking my arm (compound fracture) two years ago traumatized me (first broken bone in 84 yrs.). I gave up skating, but in about two weeks thought: fuck it, I’m not giving up.

Started skating after I was healed, but it was as if I’d aged 20 years. I felt awkward, tentative. I hoped no one was watching. Once I’m rolling, I feel OK, but it’s the pumping then jumping on the board transition where I feel nervous.

But I’m easing back into it, poco a poco. Not pushing it any more. Just gentle slopes where I can carve.

On my way back from Louie’s last week, I found a gentle down slope and a couple of guys filmed me from their truck.

What you gain in skating, as opposed to surfing, is the wave to yourself; no crowd problem. What you lose is a soft place to land.

And yes, Mom, I’m wearing safety gear.

Over and out and off to Italia, watch for Instagram and blog posts starting October 7th–8th.

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:

3 Responses to GIMME SHELTER – October 2021

  1. In the words of the Grateful Dead-Keep On Truckin!.
    LOve the f*** it I’m not giving up!
    Oh also glad to hear that you’re not the only one feeling like I feel about septic systems. I feel like it’s a total scam and it’s something that really gets me peed off. So to speak.

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