GIMME SHELTER – February, 2024

For those of you getting this for the first time:

Over the years, the list has grown — I’ve added anyone I thought might be interested — and there are now about 6,500 people getting these infrequent emails.

If you’re not signed up on the list to receive (that is, if you are reading this on Instagram or my blog), you can sign up for email delivery of the Gimme Shelter newsletter here.

I like getting back to emails. Completely different from social media. These come in to you; you don’t have to open anything up. Old school, in a way.

When I send these out, some older people say “I got your blog,” They’re not going to my real blog, and I can reach them this way.

Like a lot of technical advances, we all rush in, and then step back and figure out what’s missing with the new technology. And then try to figure out how to incorporate some of the old stuff (that’s missing) in the mix. Like recording music — the limitations of digital recording vs. vinyl or tape.

It’s a chance for me to tell people what’s going on in my world, in a direct and more personal way than Instagram or my blog.

Sorry for the length of this. (The last one of these was over a year ago.) As I’ve said many times before, paraphrasing Blasé Pascal (1647): “I’d have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have enough time.”

A Sad Year

I’m not big on broadcasting my personal life, but events of the past year have had such an impact on what I’m doing — now and in the future — that I thought I’d explain a bit here. I’m writing this for people who follow me in one way or another, so you’ll know where I’ll be “…coming from.”

In 2023, I lost my wife Lesley, my brother, and my two best friends, so I’m heading into new territory.

I’m coping — it’s a gradual process and I’m OK, but — without going into details — things are definitely different in my life.

Coincidentally with all this, I had decided I was weary of running a publishing business and was looking for someone to buy Shelter Publications — and this has just happened:

AdventureKEEN Takes Over Shelter Publications

Richard Hunt and Molly Merkle of AdventureKEEN in the Shelter studio.
Photo by Elise Cannon

As of January 1st, 2024, AdventureKEEN is taking over the operation of Shelter Publications, which I have been running for 53 years. Another big change in my life.

They will keep everything functioning and I’ll be able to step away from the (ever-increasing) business and technical details of running a publishing company, and go into a new phase of communicating. AdventureKEEN will be the publisher, and distribution will still be by my beloved Publishers Group West book lovers.

AdventureKEEN is a great fit for Shelter. Some of their other publishers are Wilderness Press, Adventure Publications, and Nature Study Guides. Hiking, canoeing, cooking, gardening, backpacking, animals, tracking — all stuff I’m into: adventure. I feel very sympatico with everyone at AdventureKEEN.

And a big tip of the Hatlo hat to PGW’s Kevin Votel for shepherding this deal along.

A New Way to Communicate

When I finally disentangle myself from all the responsibilities of running a business and being an employer, I plan to start posting on Substack, doing better Instagram posts, and making videos for my YouTube channel — reporting on tools, how to do stuff, the beaches, the hills, skateboarding, cool people, and all the amazing things going on in cities.

I’m excited to be shifting gears. Like when I switched from insurance broker to carpenter in 1965. Or when I gave up after building domes for five years and discovered real building in the ’70s. A fresh outlook on work and life.

For some reason, disengaging myself from the business of running a company made me think of the ropes of entanglement in this drawing (by J.J. Grandville) in Gulliver’s Travels (1756). Cutting the ropes and bounding into a new phase of life.

On Substack, I can write, and as well post images larger than Instagram’s 3 by 4 inches. (I want my photos on a bigger screen.) Substack is for writers, and is kind of a combination email and blog. And that I can er, ahem, hopefully get paid for (by subscriptions).

I’ve been a communicator since the age of 3. “Hey Mom, look at this butterfly.” I’m a reporter at heart — have been since my high school journalism class, and then running a newspaper for two years on an Air Force Base in Germany (1958–60). I shoot photos constantly and everywhere.

I find the world — in spite of all the darkness nowadays — fascinating. People doing great (and often unnoticed and unheralded) things, plus homes, tools, vehicles, art, signs, etc. that I’ll record. I want to take you along with me — riding shotgun — seeing what I see.

In the ’80s, I loved journalist Charles Kuralt’s TV program “On the Road,” his 12‑year motorhome adventures traveling the back roads of America and filming people and places. I’m gonna get out in the world and report on what I run across.

I’ll be going into full journalistic mode, not just the intermittent reporting I’ve been doing in recent years.

Thanks to Christopher Ryan, writer extraordinaire (Sex at Dawn, Civilized to Death), prolific podcaster, and more recently Substacker ( for turning me onto Substack.

“I’m a man who likes to talk to a man who likes to talk.”

-Sidney Greenstreet to Humphrey Bogart in The Maltese Falcon

I figure to be rolling in these new modes by March–April, 2024. And I’ll try to do these newsletters at least every few months.

I figure I’ve got a year or so to see if this is gonna work.

The Real Baja

I’m heading to Baja Sur in my 2003 Tacoma 4×4 (5-speed, 2.4 L, 4‑cylinder engine), with tent on top and foldable tarp for beach camping. Taking my old ten-foot Doug Haut Surftek three-fin surfboard and I’m gonna try to start getting back up on the board. Once I’m up, I’m OK. Looking forward to warm water. Also taking boogie board and fins. I’m gonna ride waves one way or another. Plus work on my crawl stroke, and some diving.

This will be my first road trip to Baja in 20 years. Los Cabos (the southern tip of Baja) has grown exponentially, but I plan to — as in the past — get outside the very narrow regions of heavy tourism — into the real Baja. Camping on remote beaches and in water-filled arroyos, visiting old mission sites, hot springs, remote ranchos.

For about a dozen years, I went to Baja whenever I got the chance, hanging out with my Mexican friends, and I came to love the people and the tropical desert of the Los Cabos area.

“It is impossible to account for the charm of this country or its fascination, but those who are familiar with the land of Baja California are either afraid of it or they love it, and if they love it they are brought back by an irresistible fascination time and time again.”

–Erle Stanley Gardner

I’ll be posting on Instagram as I travel. (I left on January 30.)

Our Two Latest Books

Rolling Homes

Photo of Nell by Zach Klein

From a $300 camper shell to a $500K Earthroamer and everything in between. Vans, pickup trucks with camper shells, house trucks, house buses, trailers, and cycles. State of the art 2023–24 homes on wheels. “Vital Statistics” on each vehicle: motor, suspension, refrigeration, awnings, solar generators, etc.

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

–J.R.R. Tolkien

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

This was published a few years before we knew Lesley was ill. A homestead is much like a ship, and she was the captain. Gardening, cooking, weaving, quilting, interior design, homemaking. Growing fruit and vegetables, raising chickens, tending goats and bees, cooking from scratch, all in a handbuilt home of recycled materials. Plus raising two strong and good-hearted sons. The book, in retrospect, turned out to be a love letter to Lesley.

Our Books Are Bought by Active People

For example, Mollusk Surf Shop in San Francisco: surfboards, comfortable clothing, and books.

Our books have been selling well in small non-bookstore shops like this.

My Next Book (when I’ll be an author, not publisher)


Learning to Build; Starting from Scratch

Me at age 39, while working on the shelter section of the Whole Earth Epilog in 1974.
Photo by Stewart Brand

My 63 years of building, starting as a novice — building four homes, building domes for five years, studying the art of building while producing about a dozen books on do-it-yourself home construction. From the standpoint of a novice builder — learning as you go.

My governing principle then (and it applies to books as well as building homes): If you don’t know what to do — start. The momentum will carry you along and you’ll learn as you go.

Lots of photos.


Deep in the Heart of Baja

My 1978 Toyota with rooftop tent and shade tarp, camping on a remote beach in the ’90s

My twelve years exploring mostly the Los Cabos area, mostly with Mexican friends. Beaches, arroyos, waterfalls, surfing, camping, the culture, the history, the native people (the Pericúes), pirates and Spanish galleons, cave paintings, hot springs, remote missions, secluded ranchos. Chubascos (tropical storms), the subtle beauty of the tropical desert; roadrunners, scorpions, and rattlesnakes. Lots of photos.

Any thoughts?

Native Son

Me, about age 7 in my dishtowel Superman cape in San Francisco

I’ve also been fooling around with a book about growing up in California and the ’60s, provisionally titled Live From California: 1935–1973.

Here’s the chapter on growing up in San Francisco in the ’40s, when the city was a working port:

Growing Up in San Francisco

For now, this book is on the back burner.

Dealing with the Blues

A friend who lost his wife 17 years ago told me “Grieving can be a bottomless pit.”

And it’s true, but I’m not letting grief take over my life.

I’ve found one cure for depression: doing something physical — walking, hiking, cycling, swimming, paddling…

It works. Out of the depths of depression, I get into a positive mood and start getting stuff done.

Also, the key is to have fun while getting exercise. Hiking, swimming, paddling, kayaking, cycling, skateboarding, getting under waterfalls (did so yesterday, and was energized for hours), getting in cold water, digging clams, exploring new territory.

Exploring, having adventures.

(Truth be told, I need to kick into action gear more often.)

“One measure of success is the ability to go from
one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.”

–Winston Churchill


In a little over a year, I’ll be 90. The tenth decade. The last lap.

I’m doing better than most people my age, but it’s a pretty low bar.

Activity and diet are the keys.

I was lucky to work on books with athletes like Bob Anderson (stretching), Jeff Galloway (running), and Bill Pearl (bodybuilding) in the ’80s, and I’ve never stopped being active.

I try to combine working out with adventure and/or purpose (like mushroom hunting), rather than jogging on the same routes over and over, or using an exercycle. B-o-r-i-n-g.

Here’s a way to liven up working out:

Working Out to the Beat – (Lloyd’s Blog)

RIP SunRay Kelley, 1952–2023

A genius who was able to bring his visions into stunning reality. His works are documented in 20 pages of Builders of the Pacific Coast (my favorite of our building books).

SunRay Kelley’s Latest Treehouse – (Lloyd’s Blog)

Fun Stuff

I’ve been doing Instagram posts fairly regularly, but always in a hurry. And it’s been frustrating not to have time to do more blog posts.

I like the speed and (actually) family-feeling of my Instagram followers (21,000), but find the small screen and unsuitability for meaningful writing frustrating.

Here are some recent Instagram (and blog) posts:

It’s Just a Shot Away

My theme song; it still holds up 50+ years later.

“Now is the time. If not, soon.”

–Jack Fulton


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:

14 Responses to GIMME SHELTER – February, 2024

  1. Lloyd, sorry, I posted this comment in wrong spot.

    Re Leslie, my deepest condolences….A long life together has created memories, tributes to each the other and lasting care. Will live on in your and the boys hearts….to be shared with next generation.

    Maybe sometime you would consider (please) doing an extensive post, or even a book, on Lesley’s favorite works (besides you and your sons !). Lynn

    February 7, 2024 at 5:04 pm
    Lloyd, just got your newsletter. I have not kept up on every post on this blog, so was
    sad to hear of Lesley’s passing. My condolences on your loss. So many years shared…My
    thoughts are with you. Lynn

  2. Sorry to hear about your losses but it sounds like you are on a good path. I am only 73 but my friends ,my age, can’t get their legs under them and pop up on their boards fast enough to make those quick take offs.This has caused them to give up surfing. A few years ago when it started to happen to me I found an exercise that has me popping up like the kids again. I call them pop-ups. 1 the goal is to grab something sturdy. 2 Lower yourself into an asian squat[feet flat and all the way down].3 Push up with your legs until your up straight and your feet come off the ground an inch or two.4 repeat.I have worked up to 15 reps but the first one was difficult. Flexibility is as big a part of it as strength. When I started the squat was 2/3 down and my heals came off the floor. It takes years to lengthen the muscles but you will notice improvement in your take offs in a month or so. The best part is getting better with age.
    We have enjoyed all your books, blogs stories, advice and insperation over many decades. Thanks Again, Doug and Karen Kirk

  3. Wow! May you live forever!!! I always enjoy your posts and publications and look forward to hearing about your trip to Baja! I am so sad to hear about the loss of your loved family and friends. May they rise in power, as a good friend Cedar Monroe always says.

  4. Hello Lloyd, so sad to read about your losses.

    I am very impressed about your way of looking at life, stay active, and cope with personal lossses. I know of very littlle people having such a mental resilience. Enjoy life and make the most of it no matter the circumstances. In that sense, you remind me a bit of Ricky Gervais. He once said something like he had everything to live for, since he does not believe in some afterlife. (Yes, I utterly butchered his message, but I cannot recall his exact words).

    You are such an inspiration to at least me.

    Take care, Klaas.

  5. So sorry to hear about the loss of your dear ones. I lost a father and his wife in 2023. So many transitions. You are modeling a great way of moving forward. Thanks for sharing your adventures. I almost purchased a mango farm in Pescadero in BCS in 2021 but chickened out (Mexican land ownership felt too complex).

  6. Lloyd it has been way too long that Xi have been away from your blog. I am so very sorry to hear of all of your losses. I am so very grateful that we still get to see the world through your eyes. Thank You for your BE ing!

  7. Whatever the format, your posts are so packed with energy and lust for life — thank you so much for sharing! Thank you for the inspiration for adventure and for living so fully. I’ll be following along, and grateful for the knowledge and experiences you share. Looking forward to the next book, and especially Native Son.

  8. Hi Lloyd, I’ve followed your work since I discovered “Shelter” at a Santa Cruz bookstore way back in the 1970s. Thank you for keep on keeping on. And I’d be most grateful if you could add me to your email mailing list. Many thanks, Andrew

  9. such news. My “aloha” to you with reading of Leslie going onto the Spirit world. I do know from experiences that our loved ones come and visit us and we are reminded of our wonderful times with them in just little things. And that for me has brought many smiles to my heart. I wish the same for you. and YES, I want to be on your email list. I still find that has been the best way to communicate. I sometimes have to text folks to let them know I’ve sent them an email, so check it.

    Aloha, Irene Tukuafu

Leave a Reply