homes (165)

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…
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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.

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Monday Morning Fish Fry*

Right now I’m working on:

1. Redesign of my blog. Rick, who doesn’t think much of templates, is writing code to achieve our new look. For one thing, I’ll be able to go wide screen with good photos (a la https://cabinporn.com/) and have more control over layout than I do now in Blogger.

2. My book on the ’60s will be on the new blog in its own category (a blog within a blog). Here, I don’t feel the need to adhere to the linear necessity of a print book. I can post things out of sequence, and people can chime in.

3. We’re going to the Rebuild Green Expo in Santa Rosa on Friday, February 23rd. We’ll have a table and be passing out my “Open letter to Californians Building New Homes After Recent Fires, and selling copies of Shelter II (which contains a manual on stud-frame building) at a 50% discount. The idea is that we can do things better this time around. It’s at Santa Rosa Veterans’ Hall, 1351 Maple Avenue, Santa Rosa. Come see us if you’re in Sonoma County. I’ll be there along with Evan and Em-J.

4. We continue making videos — a couple a month. We’re working on one on me skateboarding last week, and going to do one on office workout equipment.

5. We just completed my latest book, Driftwood Shacks: Anonymous Architecture Along the Northern California Coast (82 pages, 8″ by 8″). It’s the first in a series of short-run digitally-printed small books. This is a way for me to publish some not-ready-for-prime-time books, ones that we may just sell via mail order.

We’re using Ingram’s Lightning Source, and for a variety of reasons, I’d recommend them over Amazon’s CreateSpace.

I’ll post details on the new book within a week.

The next book in this series will be Pop’s Diner — America Is Still Out There, Folks, a 48 page hand-lettered scrapbook with color photos that I put together after a 2-week trip to the southwest, April 1-15, 1989. Hot springs, barns, canyon backpacking, 4-wheel drive, Log cabins, Valley of the Gods…

6. I continue roaming beaches. Yesterday it was spooky warm for this time of year.

7. I gave up on making chairs with a tenon cutter. I’m now going to try making chairs out of driftwood, using grabbers for connections.

*San Francisco columnist Herb Caen used to have the occasional “Friday Fish Fry” column, using 3-dot journalism to write a bunch of unrelated short bits.

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Two Great Home/Garden Catalogs

Two great catalogs just arrived. https://www.lehmans.com and https://www.mcmurrayhatchery.com The former: do-it-yrslf tools for home, kitchen, garden; the latter for chicks by mail — which we’ve been doing for over 30 years.We’ve got about 25 baby chicks coming in March. It’s great: we get a call from the post office: “We’ve got a box for you that’s chirping!” We pick them up and put them under an infrared light until they feather out. This year mostly Rhode Island Reds and Auracanas.

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Advice to Californians Building New Homes After The Fires

I’d like to get this out to as many people as possible. Please send it to anyone you think might appreciate it.
       -LK

Poster from 1885, designed to encourage people to move westward

I would like to offer some suggestions to people whose homes were destroyed by the California fires of 2017. I have built three homes of my own and, as well, been publishing books on building for some 45 years now. From this experience I’ve come to some conclusions about practical, sensible building.

Much of the emphasis in our books has been on owner-building, and if you will be doing design and construction yourself, these are things for you to consider. If not, these are ideas you can discuss with architects and/or builders you may be working with — the principles are the same. 
Much has been learned about building homes in the last two or three decades. You may be able to take advantage of building materials and techniques that weren’t available when these homes were built. Here is a chance to do things better, to learn from experience, to create a home built from sustainable materials that will save energy, that will be better for you and the planet.
Please note: These are just random ideas for your consideration. This isn’t a check list, where you try to incorporate each suggestion in your plans. The purpose here is to stimulate thinking. Maybe you’ll find two or three ideas that will work for you.
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