Bulgarian Vardo by Cennydd Hywel Rees

I apologize for the paucity of posts, but working on our next book, Rolling Homes, has been taking all my time.

I’ve avoided posting any of the material from the book because it won’t be available until June or July, but here’s an exception.

Serendipity materializes at the last moment!

We’ve been working on this book for about a year and half now and were down to one remaining page to fill.

Flash back to 2016 when someone (anonymously) sent us a photograph of this perfect little vardo — one of those rare little structures where everything is perfect. It’s a delight. Like the creations of Lloyd House or Louie Frazier, all the elements are working, and I’ll say to myself, “Oh yeah!”

I posted it on my blog, asking if anyone knew where it was or who built it. No response.

Two days ago (six years later), I get an email from Bulgaria and Cen tells me that he is a mystery builder. Voila!

Here are the details from my new friend and kindred spirit in Bulgaria.


Originally built as a play space for my daughter and as a guest house, my camping karutsa design has a long heritage and has taken both me and my family on a wonderful journey.

Karutsas, pulled by horses or donkeys, were part of a way of life now disappearing in Bulgaria.

This one was built from recycled materials, and sleeps 1-3 people with comfort and style. A twist on its larger gypsy cousins, its distilled and refined design is a pure joy to be in. Once you enter, you don’t want to leave.

Insulated and weather proof, you can relax comfortably inside, you can view nature, read a book, or just be.

Deceptive from the outside, the inside space is light and airy. The step-up, step-in, sit-down porch, shelves, hooks, and storage compartment provide a nautical style living system. The outside kitchen and bathroom with tarp increase its overall usability.

This prototype has been just that. Its latest incarnation is evolving into what I hope will become a true relative of its Bulgarian cousins. A true modern hybrid, yet sympathetic to its origins and ethos.

They say form follows function — these wagons are like the Canadian canoe: just about impossible to improve upon, yet the design can be tweaked.

As we move into this new sustainable era, I hope to see my new lightweight designs again traveling the Balkans. A rolling, tiny home, fit for purpose, fit for use.

I owe a great deal to you, your work, and passions, Lloyd, and may it long continue — your books now give just as much pleasure to my children as they still do to me. I can’t count the number of people I have lent them to here in Bulgaria — a constant volley of wow and wowwwwww every time.

Thanks again, Lloyd — the biggest hugs from us all in Bulgaria. You are welcome here any time.


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Mr. Sharkey’s Fat-Tire Electric Bike in the Oregon Sand Dunes

Particulars on my fat-tire e-bike:

It’s a custom build, consisting of:

  • Soma “Sandworm” chrome-moly steel frame
  • Single-speed chain drive (no derailleur to need adjustment or break on the trail)
  • Bafang BBSHD mid-drive motor
  • Luna Cycle 1,000-watt controller and display, with the controller software reprogrammed to 30 amperes of current at 52 volts (1,500 watts, or 2 horsepower)
  • Luna Cycle 4p14s 52-volt, 12 ampere-hour lithium battery
  • Relatively inexpensive after market hydraulic front forks
  • 26 × 4.40 sand tires, running ~5 PSI (pressure depends on sand conditions)
  • Salsa “Bend” 23-degree swept-back handlebars (for arthritic thumb comfort)
  • More than I can remember at one sitting

Basically, this bike was custom assembled for riding on sand dunes. It’s also comfortable on the beach, and I even use it around the farm to get from place to place instead of walking sometimes.

The Luna controller integrates nicely with the Bafang motor and allows nine levels of pedal assist, which comes in handy for a variety of sand conditions and terrain slopes. The hand throttle is always available for use when desired.

Much of the riding I’ve been doing lately is going out on isolated dunes and seeking out wind-swept contours to surf, climbing to heights and carving the curves and troughs on the downhill run. Sometimes it’s possible to find formations that mimic a road course with banked turns, deep drops into depressions with easy exit slopes, or moguls, small jumps and the sort for some light trick riding. There’s also a fair amount of coastal forest trails connecting various dunes, which provides to opportunity for obstacle course practice and collision avoidance. Crashes are not uncommon, but the sand is pretty forgiving to the falling rider. Bruises are temporary, but good times live forever!
Read More …

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Biking in the Woods

Phew! Getting to bottom of a pretty steep (for me) trail through the woods last week. My Specialized Turbo Levo full suspension carbon fibre bike with 29″ wheels, one of the best tools I’ve ever bought (among which I include my 2003 Tacoma 4×4 and my iPhone).

Photos by Chris Deam

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Solar-Powered Thatched Hut

Photo by Jon Kalish

Handmade living structure built from invasive grass by Daren Rabinovitch on the Aptos, California homestead known as Trout Gulch, created by members of the animation company Encyclopedia Pictura.

Note: Sean Hellfritsch, who lived at Trout Farm for a while, commented that they could not keep the woodrats out of the building. (Makes sense, it looks like a giant woodrat nest.)

Link to the NPR story Jon did about the place:

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More on Greg Ryan’s Trusses

The 20-by-30-foot truss structure at the Turtle Island Children’s Center in Montpelier. Photo courtesy of Turtle Island Children’s Center

Nine outdoor classrooms designed specifically for the pandemic have been installed at schools in central Vermont, thanks to a Rochester family.

Dubbed the RyanTruss, each structure is basically a series of wooden trusses topped with a corrugated fiberglass roof. Trusses are the frames traditionally employed to support a roof.

After hearing about the need for outdoor classrooms from a teacher at the Stockbridge Central School, Greg Ryan designed a structure that would be relatively cheap and easy to assemble. Ryan, who is currently riding out the winter in New Mexico, has built tiny houses and unconventional buildings.

“I have been intrigued by how strong something could be while still being incredibly light,” said the 52-year-old builder and musician.…

This article sent us by Jon Kalish.

See earlier post on the Ryan Truss here: lloydkahn.com/lightweight-inexpensive-quick-to-build-structures

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