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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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Gambrel Roof Home, Corvallis, Oregon

This was in a large field, maybe 2 acres. It looks like it could be fixed up for living. I always look to see if the eaves are sagging in old buildings; if not, it probably means the foundation is OK. There wasn’t a “for sale” sign, but if I lived up there, I’d track it down. It could be a great home, with a lot of land for gardening, chickens, a few farm animals.

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Sophie and Marc's Homestead of Recycled Materials in Quebec

I just got this email from Sophie and Marc, whose home is covered on pages 116-119 of Small Homes — after we sent them 2 books:

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Hey Lloyd,
thanks from my heart
I brought Small Homes to the video store in small town in Quebec.
what a hit!
Might be orders flying in from QC Cool
Wish to meet you some day.

Hugs from Val Morin
If you have the book, you can check out this lively and joyous family in this video made last year (in French, but you hardly need to know the language to get what’s going on with them). 

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Steven's House Box on Wheels in San Francisco Bay Area

Dear Lloyd,

My name is Vera, from San Francisco. Last night I attended your presentation at Mollusk surf shop. I want to thank you for a wonderful evening. On my way home I thought about a very special home that I think you may be interested in.

About a month ago I was biking home and I passed an incredible structure on wheels on the side of the street. I saw a man on the sidewalk doing some woodwork next to it. I was so curious about this beautifully made structure, so I decided to return and talk to the man. His name is Steven, he’s been homeless on and off his whole life. Although, I’m not quite sure you could call him homeless anymore because now he has his box (that’s what he likes to call it). Steven’s box is set on wheels. It is made entirely from materials he has sourced around the city.

I ended up talking with Steven for three hours. Well, I mostly just listened to him. I have a few photos of his box that I’m attaching here, but they really don’t do it justice. He is incredibly innovative, he built his own heater/stovetop and has figured out a way to get clean running water (although the fire chief made him get rid of the stove after complementing his ingenuity). He stained the wood on the exterior a beautiful color using a mixture of steel wool and vinegar. He even has a number and planter box at his front door. Maybe someday you’d like to meet him yourself. He’s helping build boxes for some of his friends now too.

Have a wonderful day, thanks again for your inspiring work.

p.s. Unfortunately I did not take a photo from the other side of the box which has the stained boards of wood that look similar to the sliding front door.

Best,

Vera

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Heritage Salvage TV Show Pilot Airs Sunday April 9th, 2017, at 8PM PST

This is a pilot for a series of shows on DIY TV by Michael “Bug” Deakin and his crew of recyclers from Heritage Salvage in Petaluma, California.

Bug says: “All across America, century-old structures are falling down and forgotten — but I believe these buildings deserve a second chance.”

Here’s a 40-second sneak preview of the pilot, which airs this Sunday:

Also, if you’re ever in Petaluma, stop by Heritage at 1473 Petaluma Blvd.. They have 300,000 board feet of used lumber, a ton of table-top slabs cut from large trees, some beautiful wide t&g flooring milled from windfall Maple trees, etc. Check their stock out at: https://heritagesalvage.com

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SMALL HOMES Now Available

Our new book Small Homes: The Right Size is now available at independent bookstores, and Amazon — as well as from us: www.shelterpub.com/building/small-homes

Shameless Commerce Dept. This is, I think, the best building book we’ve ever done. (Yes, I’m sure I’ve said this before, but it keeps reoccurring to me.)  Shelter is everyone’s favorite; it captured the times, it inspired thousands of homes. Builders of the Pacific Coast is in some ways, my best book. It’s an odyssey of discovery where the reader rides shotgun with me over a 2-year period. Cohesive and focused.

BUT Small Homes is so useful to so many people in this era of astronomical home prices and rents, that I think it’s hugely important. It offers alternatives to people looking for rentals on Craigslist or homes on Zillow. Here are 65 very different homes, of different materials, in different parts of the world. The idea, as with all our building books is to use your hands to create your own shelter.

Two things I’ve discovered about this book (after seeing the finished product):

  1. There are a lot of homes out in middle America – Minnesota, Indiana, Missouri, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina, more so than in any of our other books.
  2. It sparkles. Largely due to Rick’s considerable Photoshop skills, a motley assortment of photos from contributors have been rendered in colorful detail. I was stunned when I saw the first book off the press. The photos draw you in.
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