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GIMME SHELTER – October, 2020

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 (about 4000 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.


In these days of tweets and Instagram, this is insanely long. But what gets lost in this social media era of haiku-length communications is writing. It’s why I keep doing (minimal) blog posts, and continue to publish books, and so I just let it rip with these newsletters. Blah blah blah…

Apocalypse Now

We were under an evacuation alert for about a week. Suitcases packed, about 200,000 negatives and scrapbooks stored in my brother’s garage, mattress set up for sleeping in back of pickup truck. Luckily, the fire got put out, but it sure made me think. What if we lose it all? Have to basically start over again?

We’ve been here almost 50 years, and have got this small homestead crafted for our lives — all without a bank mortgage. If a fire sweeps through here, there’s only so much stuff we could save.

I talked to some people who lost everything in the Santa Rosa fire a few years ago; and they said they looked out the window to see the fire sweeping into their yard and they only had time to grab the kids and the dog and vamoose.

Fishing boats at night after air cleared

Fishing boats at night after air cleared

We Californians not only have Covid to deal with, but the geographical threats of earthquake and fire. The dark side of sunny California.

There was no escaping the smoke. A nightmarish week. It looked like an apocalyptic movie. Finally, western winds cleared the air. One morning, I woke up and fog had cleared the air and I could breathe. The fresh air was like nectar.

Stuff

Many people are getting rid of stuff these days. In our books, Tiny Homes, Tiny Homes on the Move, and Small Homes, we document people opting for less stuff, smaller homes, and simpler lives.

Funny, lately and conversely, I’ve been grateful for all the stuff around here. I’ve got tools to fix just about anything (with the exception of welding). We’ve got a few thousand books, a multitude of kitchen/cooking tools, I’ve got a surfboard, paddle board and kayak. Lesley’s got two looms, a spinning wheel — it goes on forever.

Living in California now, one has to just accept the reality that all material possessions accumulated over a lifetime might be gone in a flash. Rather than quaking in my boots and stressing, I’ve played it out in my mind: if we lose it all, we’ll start over. It’ll be a challenge, but maybe in some ways exciting. I think of Siddhartha, the wealthy Indian Brahmin, who in Herman Hesse’s novel, leaves behind all his (many) worldly possessions and sets out on a life of spiritual discovery with just a robe and begging bowl.

Here’s a post on my blog about Covid-19 and previous pandemics in history: www.lloydkahn.com/2020/07/hello-darkness-my-old-friend

Our Next Book: Rolling Homes

The idea of a sequel to our book Tiny Homes on the Move has been kicking around here for a while. There are some really good books on nomadics out there now, such as Van Life, by Foster Huntington (who coined the term/hashtag #vanlife), Van Life Diaries by Morton, Dustow and Melrose, and Hit the Road by Robert Klanten and Maximilian Funk.

But after talking to Foster, who encouraged me to go ahead, and starting to gather material, I’m excited. We’ve discovered a lot of different and new rigs; this book will be different. The Sprinter vans are super, true, but there are a lot more lower-cost and/or homemade options to the +100K van.

Not that there will be a lot of old VW vans in the book, but I did think back to the 1960 VW van I had in the mid-60s with a very simple plywood setup for driving, sleeping, and cooking. Here’s a photo of a spiffier bus, but the same vintage, with the same setup. Mine had a 40 hp air-cooled motor, and we drove it 3000 miles to NYC in winter,1965 (wrapped in sleeping bags to keep warm), and also down into Puerto Vallarta before the bridge, where we had to forge the river with a guide walking in front of the car. Plus I carried tons of lumber on the roof and building materials inside it in building a house in Big Sur in the ’60s. A simple and noble beast.

Please contact us if you have or know of any interesting homes on wheels: lloyd@shelterpub.com

Things People Say

When people say to you, “With all due respect…”, you know they’re gonna follow that up by saying something mean….

Someone recently used the phrase, in referring to a county bureaucrat, “…promoted to a level of incompetence” … (That was in answer to me saying that bureaucrats beget more bureaucracy.)

Winston Churchill: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” … Which reminds me of a response, possibly by WC, to a journalist who criticized him for a dangling preposition: “That is an impertinence up with which I will not put.”

Dale Carnegie: “Remember, today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.”

Neil Dickman on his music program, Bringing It On Home on KWMR, Aug 21, 2020: “I’m always certain, but often wrong.”

(In the weekly newsletter Recommendo, Kevin Kelly recently suggested Quote Investigator, which turns out to be a valuable checkpoint for, among other things, the authors of various quotations.)

In Praise of the Smartphone

I’ve preached about turning phones off, getting untethered, the need to get away from the small screen and read a book, or meditate, to be unavailable to the world once in a while. “A still mind is fertile ground for creative thoughts,” etc. BUT — once in a while, I’m freshly astounded by the power residing in my iPhone, what it’s capable of, how exceedingly useful it is.

No one ever told me I’d be carrying around a computer, camera, compass, music, dictionary, GPS, ride-hailer, the Google world, maps, podcasts, weather — an infinity of uses — in a device smaller than a deck of cards. So yeah, it’s good to disconnect at times, but — what a miraculous tool!

Posture

Ears above shoulders, shoulders above hips…

In Galloway’s Book on Running, Jeff Galloway describes legendary New Zealand coach Arthur Lydiard’s technique for better posture: imagine you have a pulley attached to a harness around your chest. The other end of the pulley is attached to 3-story building a block away. As you run (walk), lift your chest up and forward.

Note: The 3rd edition of Galloway’s Book on Running will be published early next year; it will include Jeff’s revolutionary run walk run® method of training. It is, I kid you not, the best book ever written on running. It’s sold over 600,000 copies, and been translated into eight foreign languages. It’s not a book by a writer about running; it’s a book about running by a world-class* runner (who can write).

*In 1973, Jeff set the American record for the 10-mile (47:49), and at age 35, ran the Houston-Tenneco Marathon in 2:16.

Stretching

The long-awaited 40th anniversary edition of Stretching, by Bob and Jean Anderson, has just arrived in bookstores. It really looks good! There’s a new section on stretches and tips (posture-posture-posture) for smartphone users. I’m going to send out a press release to people on this mailing list in a few days.

Octogenarianism

Out of maybe 3,500 people on this mailing list, I’ll bet there are fewer than a dozen over age 80. But for all of you youngsters, who will be here some day, and since I am constantly forced to reflect on this new world of ancient age, I’ll continue posting observations.

  • Physicality: From 80-on, it’s a different ball game. Nature is starting to subtract physical functions. Things I used to lift easily are now a strain (a 94-pound sack of cement — forget it!) Distances seem longer. I’m less flexible, like less range of motion in my neck when turning around to back up a car. (Yeah, I should stretch more!)
  • Memorabilia: I’m really forgetting stuff these days. Us old people, our memory banks are overloaded. Only so much room in there. So if I forget your name or birthday, it’s all part of the aging process. (Someone told me this week that if you know you’re forgetting things, it’s not dementia.) Now where was I?
  • Happening more frequently: I’ll go into the house from the studio to get something, forget what I was looking for, and have to walk back to the studio to remember.
  • “What, I told you that before?” Happening more and more frequently. Seems I’m repeating stories multiple times. No sympathy from friends: “Yeah, you already told me that.” Brutal.

Working Out

I’m riding my Turbo Levo pedal-assist bike regularly now, discovering roads and trails in the hills. The bike is so much fun, I look forward to heading out. A few days ago, went for a hike with Doug (shown here) and Tomás; we are so lucky to have both this magic mountain and the ocean to explore in these parts. I try to do something physical every day. Plato recommended training in both music and gymnastic for development of the soul. Too many people leave out the gymnastic part as they get older. My long-time friend Bob Anderson says, “You never hear anyone say, ‘I’m sorry I worked out.’”

Keeping On Keeping On

“If you don’t know the exact moment when the lights will go out, you might as well read until they do.”

–Latest Readings, by Clive James, 2015

Curved Roof

My latest building, 10′ by 10’. Curved roof plus windows at eye level are design bits I learned from master builder Lloyd House (Builders of the Pacific Coast), which give you a feeling of spaciousness. Same principle with gypsy wagons (vardos). A lot of help from Billy Cummings in building this.

Shameless Commerce Department

Check out our books at www.shelterpub.com.

30% off with free shipping on 2 or more books.

Review copies of any books sent free, if you designate where you would be submitting review.

Forgotten Books from Shelter

In each newsletter I’m going to show one of our less well-known books.

Wonderful Houses Around the World, by Yoshio Komatsu, is a children’s book showing ten homes in different countries. Yoshio is in my mind the best photographer in the world of homes. With each photo of these homes, there is a watercolor drawing of life inside the home, with an emphasis on what the children are doing.

It has been used in Waldorf schools, and a company that supplies home schoolers buys 1,000 copies each year. It’s $12.95 at www.shelterpub.com/building/wonderful-houses

Method of This Madness

You know, it’s really fun to do these. It’s like having a chance to chat with friends, rather than addressing the world via blog, Instagram, (or books, for that matter). I wish I had more time to do these. I piece these together over a week or so and send the rough version to Rick Gordon, who transforms them into this nicely designed newsletter.

Música del Día



The Manhattan Brothers: Their Greatest Hits (1948-1959)

Over and out, (and please VOTE!)…

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GIMME SHELTER In These Troubled Times – April 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.


To those of you receiving this for the first time, this is an intermittent and infrequent newsletter that describes what’s going on with our publishing operation and daily lives. The last one was two months ago. I’m sorry these are so interminably long, but (yes, I’ve said this before):

“I have made this [letter] longer than usual because I have not had time to make it shorter.”

–Blaise Pascal, 17th century French mathematician and philosopher

So much of what I write these days has to be short (tweets, Instagram, etc.) that it feels good to just let it rip once in a while.

Cover of the Rolling Stone

The big news around here these days (other than the end of the world as we knew it) is (was) the article on Lesley and me in the New York Times on March, 11, 2020. Journalist/writer Penelope Green and I have corresponded a bit over the years, but not in any depth. To my surprise, she emailed me after getting my January GIMME SHELTER newsletter, proposing she do a story on us in conjunction with the publishing of The Half-Acre Homestead.

Interesting, I thought, a sophisticated New York journalist picking up on our do-it-yourself California homestead.

When doing the book, there was always the issue of how much of our private lives we wanted to include. Getting covered in one of the biggest (and best) newspapers in the world was even riskier. How would we come across? A lot of it had to do with journalism. After emails and talking on the phone with Penelope, I felt comfortable with her.

She flew out on a Wednesday, came out here for about four hours, including lunch, on Thursday, and went back to New York on Friday. She got it. She liked what we were doing, what we’d done, loved Lesley’s weavings, got the history right. I was happy with the article.

It caused an explosion of emails, phone calls, and book orders. Things are just starting to settle down now.

Here it is: www.nytimes.com/2020/03/11/style/diy-lloyd-kahn-handmade-homes.html

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

Dining table made of 3″ by 10″ used Douglas fir floor joists from industrial building

A lot of people are saying that this is a perfect book for these troubled times. That using your hands to create food and/or shelter is not only still relevant in this digital age, but especially applicable now, when people have to stay at home. Bake some bread, fix that leaky faucet, build a table, knit a hat, plant a vegetable garden.

We got a long handwritten letter today from a 29-year-old woman who said, “Every time I open the book, it makes me excited for a future when I can build a beautiful life with a loved one…”

If you want to review the book for any type of media, send us your address and we’ll send you a free copy. To buy a copy, contact your favorite independent bookstore, or go to our website (we have free shipping + a 30% discount on two or more books): www.shelterpub.com/building/halfacrehomestead

Note: You can get a sneak preview of the book by going to: shltr.net/homesteadflipbook. It gives you about one-third of the book.

Kids

Brother and sister planning their first homes with one of our mini copies of Tiny Homes

I gave one of our Tiny Homes mini books to a 10-year-old working as an apprentice at the Proof Lab Surf Shop in Mill Valley. He flipped through the pages excitedly and then said, “This is what I want to do. … This is so sick!”

Biennale Architettura 2020

This architectural exposition scheduled for this summer in Venice was to have an exhibit of “…the content and influence of three iconic counterculture publications on organic architecture published half a century ago by now 85-year-old publisher and builder Lloyd Kahn — Domebook One (1970), Domebook 2 (1971), and Shelter (1973) — on contemporary architecture practices.” They sent me a round-trip ticket and three nights lodging, and, as you might guess, it’s been called off. I’m hoping that sometime in the future I can finally see Venice. And boy, to be recognized by architects — that’s something new.

Stretching: 40th Anniversary Edition

By having to stick around here, I got the layout done a lot sooner than if I’d been running over the hill every week. Publication date is October, 2020. Here are two of the new pages:

Working on it has made me think about posture. Hold your phone up at eye level. Stop bending over to look at it. Pull your shoulders back and relax them. Try a few of the above stretches if you’re at a computer reading this.

Sheltering In Place

Our life isn’t all that much different. Lesley doesn’t have her friends over for tea these days, I don’t meet my running pals on Tuesday nights, but we have a lot to do in our daily lives around here that’s pretty much unchanged. The cooking, gardening, fixing stuff, weaving, getting firewood, dealing with critters such as mice, ants, skunks, and gophers — running the publishing business — it’s not like were cooped up; it’s pretty much business as usual.

And there are the good things amidst all the gloom, throughout the state. LA has some of the “cleanest air of any major city in the world.” The tourists, which have become onerous out here in recent years, are not clogging the roads on weekends. People are cooperating and helping each other out, neighbors helping neighbors, masks (Lesley’s made about 30 of them for friends) and gloves and distance now part of daily life just about everywhere.

I like it at home! By staying home, I’m more in tune with the weather, the tides, and the rhythms of the surrounding land. I’m doing more foraging, hunting, and fishing. I’ve been making nettle tea every morning; it tastes good and has a lot of healthy ingredients (steep leaves 3 minutes in boiling water, add small amount of honey). Also collecting and eating miners’ lettuce, watercress, a few mushrooms, wild onions.

“The true secret of happiness lies in taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.”

–William Morris, 1834–1896

A few weeks ago I took a 3-mile round-trip kayak paddle and got clams, mussels, and seaweed (the latter to dry and grind into powder to put on just about all foods). I’m making an annual calendar with harvesting times for various wild plants, Like like early summer for cattail pollen, later summer for cattail shoots, early fall for Manzanita berries and huckleberries … there’s a lot of wild food everywhere. Now there’s more time to get it.

I’m certainly not the first to say it, but things are seriously out of whack on the planet — all being made worse by our loathsome president and his greedy, vicious cohorts. It’s as if the planet is conscious (the Gaia hypothesis), and taking steps to stop planetary abuse and untrammeled consumption. One can only hope that when it’s over, the world economies will do a reset. The problem is, the most vulnerable are suffering the worst.

Making Do

I’ve come to realize lately that there are a ton of used things in my life that I’m nursing along, and that I get a lot of satisfaction from making do instead of buying new. A few examples:

  • Replaced damaged plastic knob on teakettle with piece of madrone
  • My 20-year-old Mercedes E-320, bought for $4000, a fantastic car
  • My 10-year-old Smartwool merino wool jersey, with patches and holes
    (my blankie)
  • Coffee roaster top held together with high-temperature silver tape
  • 70-year-old (family heirloom) wooden pruning ladder, still working fine
  • Stool re-covered with piece of old Persian rug
  • 25-year-old Evinrude 15 hp outboard, motor rebuilt twice

The Aging Body

One of the things I learned working on fitness books in the ’80s and ’90s, was that it’s not so much age that makes you lose strength and agility, as it is disuse. People stop using their muscles and they deteriorate. I read about a 35-year-old doctor who broke his leg skiing. When the cast came off, his leg was shriveled, “…like the leg of an old man,” he said. It’s the “use it or lose it” principle. If you stop using your muscles, they’ll shrink, and you’ll get weaker. It’s not that aging doesn’t take its toll, but steady exercise — if possible — is key to staying healthy and fit.

Bob Anderson, author of Stretching, my frequent running partner through the years, told me once: “You never hear anybody say, ‘I’m sorry I worked out.’” So true. Every time I hike, walk, paddle, ride a bike, or lift a few weights, I feel much better. Especially paddling; something about being in the (cold) water and getting an upper body workout leaves me feeling energized and happy.

My New eBike

I started competitive running at around age 50, did it for 20+ years, and quit racing 10 years ago due to knee problems (I wanted to be able to walk for the remaining years of my life).

I started skateboarding at age 65, and kept at it for maybe 20 years until I broke my arm pretty badly a few years ago. I didn’t give it up right away, but the trauma made me tentative, my skating awkward, and I lost my confidence. Sigh!

My latest activity, at age 85, is with my new Specialized Turbo Levo Fattie pedal-assist e-bike, Is it exciting! I know that hard-core mountain bikers don’t exactly love bikes with motors, but there are three reasons I finally made the jump. First, you get a break when you’re over 80. Second, our good family friend Bryce, a professional bike guy, had bought this bike for his wife, and she decided not to keep it. It was the perfect size, the perfect bike, and I got it for a healthy discount. The third reason, which I discovered on my first ride out into the hills, was that it was fun. Really fun!

It’s changed my life, in spite of the fact that I was crossing a big puddle on a fire road yesterday and the wheel sunk down, and I went over into the water on my side, along with the bike. That’s why my leg and arm are covered with mud here. No real harm, just embarrassing. I squirted the bike and me off when I got home, and I’m going out again today to pick nettles and mushrooms. After a lifetime of riding a bike, this is like having superpowers. You’re going up a steep hill and you kick in the motor and it’s like someone is pushing you from behind. And this bike is beautifully designed, it not only has power, but it’s a kick-ass trail bike.

Lesley has had a Rad eBike for about 6 months now, that she uses to pick up groceries downtown and to visit friends (once that’s possible again).

The State of Shelter Publications

The coronavirus has closed bookstores, and much of our income is cut off. This isn’t exactly unchartered territory for us, because we’ve been in the red for about two years now, and could well be out of business in the next year. We’ve applied for a Payroll Protection Program loan, as well as an Economic Disaster Loan, but the processes are confusing and disorganized. We’re looking into getting a grant, or an angel that would help us keep us rolling (paying printing bills of about $40,000) until we get some income from the new version of Stretching. At that point we hope we’ll be self-sufficient enough to do another 5 or 6 books and keep our communications hub operating for another 5 years. We’ll see.

In any event, it’s been a great 50 years, and a privilege to have been in such a wonderful business, and to have followed our hearts in whatever we’ve done.

In the meantime, we’re going to, as the Scots say, och wheesht and get oan wae it.

On My Blog


My Instagram account (8400 followers): www.instagram.com/lloyd.kahn

Shelter’s Instagram account (13,000 followers): www.instagram.com/shelterpub

Música del día

Springsteen, Sam Moore, E Street band live at 25th anniversary of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, “Hold On, I’m Comin’”



““Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”

–High school football coach Eric Taylor, Amazon Prime series “Friday Night Lights”

Over and out…

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Wonderful Houses Around the World

Yesterday I read in the paper that sales of children’s books are booming, due to schools being closed. This brought to mind our one and only children’s book, Wonderful Houses Around the World, by photographer Yoshio Komatsu and artist Akira Nishiyama.

There are 10 photographs by Yoshio of homes in different parts of the world. All the homes are built of natural materials — earth, wood, thatch, sod, bamboo, and stone.

Each photo is followed by a watercolor drawing of the inside of that home, showing the children and their parents going about their everyday activities: food gathering and processing, cooking, sleeping, working and playing.

The book is timely in this day and age: it shows what people do in their homes. Timely also because it’s great educational material for kids being home-schooled: look at what what kids your age are doing in other parts of the planet.

Yoshio is my favorite photographer of homes in the world. Not only are the homes invariably soulful, but his composition and lighting are perfect — and he has a knack for making people feel comfortable, so that the homeowners look natural, often laughing.

The book is $12.95 and you can order it through your independent bookstore, or from:

Note: We have a money-back guarantee on all of our books (no matter where you buy them). If for any reason you are dissatisfied, call us and we’ll return the full purchase price plus shipping. No need to return the book.

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Conversation with a Three-Year-Old This Morning

I was having a latte and a corn muffin and working on my homestead book at Andytown Coffee Roasters this morning when a woman came in with a tiny girl in a pink hoodie. The little girl was sort of fidgeting, so I handed her one of our Tiny Homes mini books. (Her mom said she was 3 years old.)  She opened it up and spotted a photo of me, held the book up pointing to the photo, and said “You.” Yes, I said.

Then she proceeded to go through every page in the book, pointing to each house and asking, “Your house?” No. “Your house?” No.

“Where you live?” Across the bridge. “Far away?” Yes, far away.

Then she pointed to a house in the street and said. “Your house!” No, I said and she hooted with laughter. She was teasing me.

“Where your car?”

That silver car with the box on top, I said. We could see it through the window.  “Oh.”

“What your name?” Lloyd; what’s your name? “Maggie.”

I just got interviewed by a 3-year old!

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One of Our Youngest Fans

Ayla Rose, 16 months, reading the mini book of Small Homes yesterday at the Mother Earth News Faire. She kept turning pages, and then followed me over to the stage where I was about to do a presentation on the book. (She even had the book right side up, i.e., not upside down.)

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French-Canadian Family’s Small Home in Quebec

Sophie and Marc’s home will be in our next book, Small Homes. Here is a letter from them, with a link to a film of their family and home:

Dear Lloyd,

Marc and I were on tv radio-canada last night.

Our family philosophy, construction and lifestyle close to nature—10 min.

https://ici.radio-canada.ca/tele/remue-menage/2016/segments/reportage/8060/vivre-autrement-nature-simplicite?isAutoPlay=1

Have fun watching

Love to you

the quebec family

Sophie Belisle and Marc Boutin

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