gimme shelter (11)

GIMME SHELTER – Summer 2022

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.


Homestead in Spring 2022. See our recent book,
The Half-Acre Homestead: 46 Years of Building and Gardening

Rolling Homes Is Done!

Back cover

Title spread

After a year and a half, dealing with maybe a hundred contributors, thousands (I kid you not!) of emails, many thousands of photos, the book has pieced itself together, as has been the fashion with our building books. The material provided the content, and the book organized itself as it was put together.

I just received (via expensive air mail from China) the first five copies of Rolling Homes: Shelter on Wheels. 7,000 copies of the book are now en route to the U.S.A. and we expect it to be available in mid-July.

Holding it in my hands, I’m seeing it for the first time. And yes, I am prone to over-enthusiasm, and yes, this is my baby — but I think this is our best building book in years. There’s energy, there’s joy, there’s cleverness and craftsmanship and the spirit of adventure. There’s solid information — and fun. The people shine through.

There are time-tested components recommended by these builders, sometimes in great detail. And there’s inspiration — to create, to build, to get out there, to do something different.

But best … check it out in this 50-page flipbook: shelterpub.com/rolling-homes-sample-flipbook

Attention, reviewers:

Want the full book in flipbook form for review? Write rollinghomes@shelterpub.com, telling us where your review might appear, and we’ll send a link (and send us your address if you’d like us to mail you a copy of the book once printed).

Seeking blurbs:

Can you help us publicize the book? We will send you the flipbook version and if you like it, could you give us a few lines we could use for publicity purposes?


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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.
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GIMME SHELTER – February, 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 (about 4,400 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.


“I would have written a shorter newsletter,
but I didn’t have enough time.”

–Iteration on a statement by Blaise Pascal, 1657

(And yes, I’ve said it before in these newsletters.)

I’ve been swamped with work for months now, and just getting rolling in the last few days, so this is a long newsletter. A dearth of soundbites.

The State of Shelter’s State

With new versions of Stretching, the Stretching Pocket Book – 40th Anniversary Edition (available in early June), and Galloway’s Book on Running, our sales are up over last year. And — ta-da — we’re just about to start on Rolling Homes.

We’re working on search engine optimization (SEO) for selling our books; we’re way behind in this area, and we’ve got an immense amount of content. Suggestions welcome.

I want us to keep operating for another 10 years — I ain’t retiring! For one thing, I’ve got 3–4 books waiting in the wings. Plus we’re running a hub for like-minded people. Sometimes I think of us as a tribe similar to the book lovers in Fahrenheit 451. Not mainstream, but committed to a certain lifestyle — we want to make stuff for ourselves, we want to be as independent, as self-sufficient as possible, we want our homes to be colorful and warm and inviting and handmade.

Rolling Homes

Drawing by Al Ortiz, Jr.

This will be unlike some of our books, such as Tiny Homes, where we came out with a publication at the onset of a movement. Nowadays, there’s a plethora of information about homes on the road. A number of pretty good books, plus on Instagram, hundreds of accounts of 21st century nomads. To see what I mean, do a search on Instagram for van.

When I first considered this book, it looked like there was a saturation of information. But as I studied the books, Instagram accounts, YouTube videos, and websites, I found a lot of sameness. There’s no end to Instagram posts featuring Mercedes Sprinter vans with young, attractive couples living idyllic lives; a lot of shots of them lying on the bed, looking out the rear view window at a beach or other photogenic background. They are, of course, linked in via satellite with iPhones and MacBook Airs, and some cases, monetizing the lifestyle.

Nothing wrong with that, but there is another, much larger group of people without the resources for brand new kitted-out vans. (And a lot of people these days are forced into mobile living.) Almost all of our contributors are do-it-yourselfers. We’re going to cover it all, from $400,000 Earth Roamers (not owner-built, but boy what rig!) to a $300 aerodynamic pickup camper shell — with everything in between.

We have so much material (it’s pouring in!) that I’m thinking of doing a series. We’re thinking about being a hub, an ongoing source of communication on the subject — not only with books, but also on our social media platforms and with YouTube videos. Handbuilt Rolling Homes, brought to you by Shelter Publications.

From our 50 years of publishing building books, we’ve got a robust network of people who like to work with their hands, and when we put the word out, we get lots of input (photos and stories).

Contribute to Rolling Homes

If you have or know of any road rigs, please contact: lloyd@shelterpub.com.

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

–J.R.R. Tolkien

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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 – August, 2020

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.


Our Brothers and Sisters in France

Our friend Paula, who lives in a houseboat in Amsterdam, once said to us that France was “the California of Europe.” There do seem to be many French people who share the concepts in our books (which I believe reflect the California lifestyle) in building, gardening, and the spectrum of DIY. The French translation of our book Home Work sold over 10,000 copies.

Our French friend and carpenter Yogan and his creations have appeared in a number of our books. He was hiking in the Pyrenees recently and came across this beautiful little home. He recognized it from Home Work, where it was featured in a section on countercultural builders in France, and shot this photo. It was built by Jeanne-Marie; she based the design on the old stone barns of the region, but used wood rather than stone. It’s one of my favorite little homes.

Epiphyllum Oxipetalum, Brahma Kamalam night-blooming flower(Home Work, published in 2004, is the sequel to Shelter. Many of the homes in Home Work were inspired by the builders and buildings in Shelter.)

Epiphyllum Oxipetalum, Queen of the Night Cactus

The flowers bloom only at night. This one is in our greenhouse. Lesley has been checking it every night and last night, voila! In India, it’s called Brahma Kamalam, named after the Hindu god of creation. In Japan, it is called “Beauty under the Moon.” It is very fragrant, may bloom once a year. And then — in exquisite restraint — for only one night.

truck camper

On the Road

We’re starting to gather material for another book on rolling homes. A lot has happened since 2014, when our book Tiny Homes on the Move was published. For one thing, there’s been an explosive interest in vans, as evidenced by Foster Huntington’s Van Life: Your Home on the Road, which has sold 75,000 copies. People are taking off for vacations in vans, and as well, some people who have been laid off and can’t pay their rent due to the coronavirus, are looking at nomadic living as an option.

We’re looking for the new generation of road homes, circa 2020 and beyond — different from the vehicles (or trailers) shown in present books. What’s new out there?

If you know of any unique units, please contact me:
Send Submission Email
.

Charlie Winton, Musician

Those of you who know Charlie from the publishing world (founder of Publishers Group West, the Avalon Publishing Group, and Counterpoint LLC); well, surprise! When he retired from publishing, he picked up his guitar and started writing songs. He’s just come out with his first album — Hold On Tight — and it’s great — rock and roll!

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Gimme Shelter: July 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.


Even More True Today

“We must realize that the world as it is, isn’t worth saving; it must be made over.”

–John Rice, founder of Black Mountain College, 1933

The Half-Acre Homestead

It was, of course, completely unplanned, but we came out with this book about doing stuff at home at precisely the time that people had to start staying at home. There are dozens of things you can do en la casa, besides staring at screens of various sizes. Here are a few pages from the book:

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Pages 38-39 from Half-Acre Homestead, by Lloyd Kahn and Lesley Creed

Get something done.  Bake bread, plant (more) vegetables.  Sprout some alfalfa seeds.  Start a small flock of chickens.  Make a table.  Knit a hat.  Fix that leaky faucet.  Straighten up that messy desk/workplace/shop.

One time, years ago, I was seriously depressed. I went out and spent several hours cleaning up my shop, and it really lifted my spirits. I often think about that — making lemonade…

I was scheduled to do two presentations at the Mother Earth News Faire in Nashville on May 16th, then flying to Italy to attend the La Biennale di Venezia, a bi-annual architectural exhibition in Venice opening May 23, where our book Shelter was being featured as having had an influence on architecture. Sigh.

“Hoping that endlessly won’t be for long.”

–Townes Van Zandt

Stretching – 40th Anniversary Edition

Drawings of right and wrong way to use a smartphoneIn 1979, I discovered a homemade book for athletes called Stretching. I was working as a carpenter and gardener, and the book helped me fix my back problem. I wasn’t actively publishing then, but I contacted the authors, who were living in Southern California. I called Bob Anderson and said, “What about stretches for carpenters, or truck drivers or waitresses?” (By then, they had sold 35,000 copies out of a garage at Bob’s folks’ house.)

Long and short of it: Bob and Jean moved to Bolinas, and over the course of 3 months, we added many more stretching routines, and Jean did all new drawings. We printed 50,000 copies on the first run, Random House was our distributor, and boom! It took off and never stopped, now at 3¾ million copies in 23 languages.

The big deal about this edition is the new section on smartphone problems, mainly bad posture, but also stiffness or pain. There are some simple suggestions for improving your posture, as well as new stretching programs for smartphone users.

Pub date: October, 2020

Note to our friends in other countries: We will be negotiating contracts for this edition in all languages.

My eBike

Specialized Turbo LevoA life changer. A Specialized Turbo Levo, with carbon fiber frame. After 25 years of competitive sports, I’ve grown tired of running the same trails, bored with lifting weights, dealing with the constant injuries. These days I want adventure when exercising, and the bike provides that. It’s not only got a brain, but it calls me to get out there. I can go so much further.

Plus it’s “pedal-assist,” meaning you’ve got to pedal. I’m going for 2-3-hour rides. I keep the level of exertion reasonable, and get to see a lot of the countryside while getting exercise. When I first got it, I was maxing out with “turbo” assistance, now I’m scaling back so I have to pedal harder and get a better workout.

Hidden bikeI’ve been riding out in the woods. When I get to a spot where I have to go on foot, I find a spot off the trail, lock the bike with a cable, disconnect the power, and cover it with foliage. Then I’ll put markers on the trail so I’ll know where it is upon return.

El Problema de Café

My friend Bruno Atkey told me that yerba mate tea has as much caffeine as coffee, without some of coffee’s side effects and, by golly, he’s right. I’ve started making it in our espresso machine, and it does have a stimulating kick. Only thing is, I enjoy the ritual of roasting and grinding beans, then trying to get espresso in crema form, then foamed milk for a latte — and zoom!

Author Michael Pollan experimented with giving up coffee, with interesting results: www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2020/02/10/803394030/michael-pollan-explains-caffeine-cravings-and-why-you-dont-have-to-quit

Foxes and Skunks and Spiders, Oh My!

In our book we show garden visitors: foxes, skunks, hawks, great blue herons, dozens of other bird species, butterflies, honeybees, spiders. Over the years I’ve come to realize that we’re only here temporarily, that the other forces of biological life, including termites, ants, and woodrats, are always chipping away at our self-made kingdom, and that eventually, they’ll take back over.

Pages 130-131 from Half-Acre Homestead, by Lloyd Kahn and Lesley Creed

Shameless Commerce

“Shameless Commerce” is what the Car Talk brothers called their commercials, and I’ve always felt ambivalent about sales pitches in these newsletters or on my blog. But nowadays, we need to survive, so:

All our books are for sale at www.shelterpub.com.
There is a 30% discount for 2 or more books, with free shipping in the USA.
Fawns in field

A couple of little beauties patrolling the vacant spaces with their ma yesterday. Notice how deer always angle their ears at you like radar antennas.

Opium poppy Opium poppy Opium poppy

Papaver somniferum in the garden this week

On My Blog

“Take it easy (and) if you can’t take it easy, take it as easy as you can.”

–Shaggy Man, on the Yellow Brick Road to Emerald City

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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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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. www.shelterpub.com/building/halfacrehomestead

Here’s a link to how I did the book (this was in the previous GIMME SHELTER newsletter). www.lloydkahn.com/2019/11/the-half-acre-homestead-book-is-finished

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? shltr.net/stretch

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. Read More …

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Gimme Shelter Newsletter, May, 2019

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.


Handmade: The Half-Acre Homestead

I never know what a book will be like until I start putting it together. I don’t do an outline or have much of an idea how things will turn out. I just start, two pages at a time, and let it organize itself. This one, covering almost 50 years of building, gardening, cooking, foraging, fishing, crafts, and other aspects of our lives, is maybe two thirds finished now, and I’m stoked. Due to the way publishing wheels turn, it won’t be available until March, 2020.

Being 84

How did I ever get so old so fast? I’m a little stunned, to tell the truth. Some observations:

  1. Considering physical fitness, and factoring in age, my golden years were mid-50s. It helped that I was doing a series of fitness books then, and hanging out with runners and bodybuilders and running races, doing triathlons, and still surfing.
  2. Getting to 70 was a big change. A lifetime of sports and training with accumulated injuries and just plain wear and tear and I had 2 knee operations, 2 shoulder operations, and a carpal tunnel wrist operation. Sigh.
  3. Turning 80 was kind of a shock. Jesus! How did I get here? I meet with my friends from Lowell High School (San Francisco — class of 1952) for lunch twice a year. Even though I started smoking pot, then peeled off from the business world, and jumped feet first into the counterculture in 1965, these guys are still my friends. Bill Floyd and I were in kindergarten together, so I’ve known him for 79 years.

My 20-Year-Old Luxury Car

I never thought I’d be driving a Mercedes; I’ve always been a truck guy. But I’m currently driving a 20-year-old Mercedes E320. 170,000 miles on it. I got it for $3500, put about $2k into it, and it’s a revelation. My first ever automatic shift, and surprisingly I love it. I’ve read about some E320s getting a million miles on the motors. It gets 22-23 mpg. It’s got so many well-thought-out features and is so comfortable, I am not worthy of this car.

Bird Brain

This scrub jay and I have known each other for a couple of years now. I’ve trained him to take peanuts out of my hand. When he was younger, he would come to the office door and make a racket. Now, he hops inside, perches on a rafter and waits for me to come outside with a peanut. He flies down from the apple tree and in one move, lands on my hand, grabs the peanut, and takes off.

Jays are members of the corvid family, which includes crows, ravens, and magpies. They are remarkably intelligent; their brain-to-body ratio is just slightly lower than humans.

Cutting Back on the iPhone

It seems like all of a sudden, people are backing off of 24/7 phone availability and social media usage. It’s all gone too far, n’est-ce pas? It snuck up on all of us. A NYT writer recently spent a weekend in the woods sans phone and felt regenerated. There seem to be articles appearing every week. People rediscovering real life.

I’ve cut way back on checking Instagram. I’ve never used Facebook, although all my Instagram posts get put automatically on Facebook and Twitter. I don’t carry my phone a lot of the time these days.

Two Great Books (from England) on the Natural World

  • Wildwood: A Journey Through Trees by Roger Deakin

    A “…remarkable celebration of the transforming nature of trees, exploring the ‘fifth element’ of wood as it exists in nature, in our souls, in our culture and our lives.”

  • How to Catch a Mole: Wisdom from a Life Lived in Nature by Marc Hamer

    The second part of the title is key here. Marc has lived a rich life in the natural world, and the book is full of his observations, as well as poetry and lovely woodcut-like drawings. I have an advance copy and find myself going back and rereading sections. Pub date October 1, 2019.

Another Good Book from England

  • Idiot Wind: A Memoir by Peter Kaldheim

    The publisher gave me an advance copy (pub date August 1, 2019) and I read it straight through. A true story that reads like a novel, Kaldheim went from editor in NYC to drug dealing to prison time to fleeing the city to escape violence and bumming across America, living in flop houses, eating at storefront shelters — to finally turning his life around. It’s as authentic and gripping as On the Road.

Música del Día

Listening to this just now, I got a chill. Ray Charles doing “Am I Blue” live in Tokyo in 1976, along with Johnny Coles on flugelhorn.

Palabra del Día

Ikigai (生き甲斐) is a Japanese concept that means “a reason for being.” The word ikigai is usually used to indicate the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile. The word translated to English roughly means “thing that you live for” or “the reason for which you wake up in the morning.…”   –Wikipedia

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Gimme Shelter Newsletter, Early Spring, 2019

Backing Away from “Social Media”

I spent a lot of time blogging 10-15 years ago. For example, here’s a post from 2005: 2400 words, 10 photos — how did I find the time?

These days, right now — spring, 2019 — my relationships with blogging and especially Instagram, are weakening. Instagram, a brilliant idea, is now being run by Zuckerberg and Sheryl. Does anyone trust these two? The ads are increasingly frequent and intrusive. The book Zucked by Roger McNamee is good. How “…a noted tech venture capitalist, an early mentor to Mark Zuckerberg and investor in his company, woke up to the serious damage Facebook was doing to our society…”

You know the expression, “The old is new again?” Well, I think it’s more that the old is being reexamined in light of a couple of decades of digitalia. Email newsletters? Well, yeah. I’m back into doing them. I promise not to overdo it, maximum once a month.

You can sign up for email delivery of the Gimme Shelter newsletter here:

Handmade: The Half-Acre Homestead

I’m rolling along with layout. The book really feels good. Looking back at what we’ve done on this piece of land over the last 45+ years, digging up photos, and getting a fresh perspective on it all. Working with hands.

The book varies from the aesthetics: flowers, quilts, landscaping, to the practical: housebuilding, gardening, raising chickens, to delight: butterflies, spiderwebs, visiting foxes.

The chicken coop

In 1971, our land was $6500, the building permit $200. I was my own architect and engineer. No mortgage, no rent — ever — what a difference that has made in our lives.

Could you do anything like this now? Stay tuned.

A Day in Santa Cruz

I was a Santa Cruz beach lifeguard in the ’50s, so visiting there is like going home again. I did a slide show on Driftwood Shacks at Bookshop Santa Cruz, visited friends, watched surfers, shot photos:

Mia Mickey and her 4×4 diesel bus/home. She’s a registered nurse, works three months, then takes six months off to travel. She’ll be featured in our forthcoming book, Hit the Road, Jack: Adventure Vehicles. Contact us if you know of any cool homes on wheels.

Alan Quinn AKA “The Mighty Quinn” and his rolling home. The license plate at top, center, says “MAKE MY DAY.”

The ultimate Baja bug

Starting to Run Again

After a 10-year layoff, I’m starting to run, encouraged by Jeff Galloway’s run-walk-run methodology. Rediscovering Mt. Tamalpais, a holy mountain even though only 2500 feet tall. Hundreds of miles of trails, streams, creeks, waterfalls, meadows, hand-crafted and rustic steps and bridges, manzanita bushes and mushrooms, deer and bobcats.

If the book you want isn’t here, then you’re in the:

Support your local bookstores!

Over and out on a sunny day after rain and rain. It’s gonna be a spectacular Spring!

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