vardo (8)

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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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.

–LK


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.

–Cen

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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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SunRay Kelley’s Solar Electric Diesel Hybrid

249790

18 solar panels charge a Leaf battery bank that powers the electric motor. When battery runs low, a diesel generator kicks in to power the motor and extend the range.

It has a 1937 Willy’s front end and custom-made doors and grill.

Will be featured in our next book, Rolling Homes.

It’s for sale: SunRay@SunRay Kelley.com.

If you know of any unique road rigs, contact me at: lloyd@shelterpub.com

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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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Tiny House

Tiny (10 by 10) building — my latest. Curved roof like gypsy wagon (vardo or Basque shepherd’s wagon) plus windows at eye level give tiny rooms a feeling of spaciousness. This is the first autumn for this building.

Billy Cummings did a lot of the work here. Construction details (including making the curved rafters) and interior photos in The Half-Acre Homestead.

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Gypsy Wagon on Truck by Yogan and Menthé

Two years ago, French carpenters Yogan and Menthé flew to California, carrying a few basic tools, and hitchhiked up the coast from San Francisco to Washington, exchanging their building skills for room and board. It’s poetry with wood.

(There’s no motor in the truck; It’s built so as to be towed around.)

Are these guys FUN!

More on these extraordinary carpenters:

L-R, yogan, Menthe, stopping by Shelter’s world headquarters on their way home from their productive trip.

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