building (404)

Bill Castle's Log Lodge in Alleghany Mountains

Going through all my digital photos of the past 17 years, pulling out photos for my book in progress, The Half-Acre Homestead, I’m running across forgotten gems, like this. Bill and family created Pollywogg Holler, an inn in southeast New York state — featured in Home Work — entirely from trees growing on their land. Bill passed away a few years back, but Polywogg Holler lives on. It’s now an eco-resort:

www.pollywoggholler.com/

Post a comment

Handmade/Homemade: The Half-Acre Homestead

When I start working on a book, it’s like setting out on an ocean voyage without a map. I get a theme, an idea, some kind of coherence on a subject, then start.

When I built my first house in Mill Valley in the early ’60s, my friend Bob Whiteley and I laid out the foundation lines in chalk on the ground. “What do we do now, Bob,” I asked.

Bob said “This,” and took pick and shovel and started digging the foundation trench.

It’s been my M.O. all my life. When I don’t know what to do, I start. Things (usually) sort themselves out in the process. (I know, I know, I’ve said all this before…)

This book is about the tools and techniques Lesley and I have evolved in building a home and growing food (and creating a bunch of things) on a small piece of land over a 40+-year period.

I started by writing it in chapters: The House / The Kitchen / Kitchen Tools / The Garden / Garden Tools / Chickens / Food / Foraging / Fishing / The Shop / Shop Tools / Roadkill / Critters … What we’ve learned; what’s worked, what hasn’t…
Read More …

Post a comment (7 comments)

Canyon Pool in Big Sur

I’m going through all my 85,000 or so digital photos in preparation for my book The Half-Acre Homestead, picking out those on the garden, home, kitchen, and tooIs, etc, and running across some long-forgotten shots, like this one.

I built a house in Big Sur in 1967, on land owned by Boris and Filippa Veren, who ran the Craft & Hobby Book Service. I was their caretaker and they let me build my house on their 40 acres. This was their pool in the canyon, Burns Creek, about two miles north of Esalen. Creek water flowed from a pipe into the pool so no need for chlorine.

I built the house out of mostly used lumber and shakes I got from old redwood stumps or short pieces left by loggers in the woods.

Each night after I finished work in the spring and summer, I’d go down to swim. I’d bow to the nearby family of redwoods, then bow in each of the four directions before jumping in.

Post a comment

The English Cottage

This exquisite painting is from one of my treasured books, Old English Country Cottages, edited by Charles Holme, published in 1906. It’s a paean to the English cottage, with wonderful pen and ink drawings by Sidney R. Jones, as well as 14 paintings (such as this one) interspersed throughout the 168 pages. I picked up a tattered copy in London in the early ’70s. It’s apparently been recently reprinted, but it looks as if there are copies of the original available from Abe Books for about $30-$40 (from the UK).

Right now, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” by Otis came on Sirius radio, such a lovely song. It’s 50 years old.

Post a comment (2 comments)

Photos on the Road

Reconstructed chapel at Fort Ross, Russian fur trapping post in the 1800s

Straight-line eaves on old barns indicate solid foundations. This one on road from Navarro to Boonville.

Post a comment

Fort Point, Under the Golden Gate Bridge

Note: Click on this image to get a much larger pic.
I often go under the bridge to check the waves. On Friday, they were hitting the seawall, with spray flying. I started talking to a park ranger, and he  told me to go inside the fort, and up to the top (four stories, cast iron staircases).
I grew up in San Francisco, I’ve been down there dozens of times, and I never knew you could go inside the fort. It’s an amazing building, built in 1853-1861. It’s open Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and well worth a visit. I’ll post more photos in coming days. This was a thrill.

From Wikipedia:

“…Following the United States’ victory in 1848, California was annexed by the U.S. and became a state in 1850. The gold rush of 1849 had caused rapid settlement of the area, which was recognized as commercially and strategically valuable to the United States. Military officials soon recommended a series of fortifications to secure San Francisco Bay. Coastal defenses were built at Alcatraz Island, Fort Mason, and Fort Point.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began work on Fort Point in 1853. Plans specified that the lowest tier of artillery be as close as possible to water level so cannonballs could ricochet across the water’s surface to hit enemy ships at the water-line.[4] Workers blasted the 90-foot (27 m) cliff down to 15 feet (4.6 m) above sea level. The structure featured seven-foot-thick walls and multi-tiered casemated construction typical of Third System forts. It was sited to defend the maximum amount of harbor area. While there were more than 30 such forts on the East Coast, Fort Point was the only one on the West Coast. In 1854 Inspector General Joseph K. Mansfield declared “this point as the key to the whole Pacific Coast…and it should receive untiring exertions”.
A crew of 200, many unemployed miners, labored for eight years on the fort. In 1861, with war looming, the army mounted the fort’s first cannon. Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston, commander of the Department of the Pacific, prepared Bay Area defenses and ordered in the first troops to the fort. Kentucky-born Johnston then resigned his commission to join the Confederate Army; he was killed at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862.…”
Post a comment (1 comment)