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Triple play birthday

I had 3 great things happen on my birthday yesterday:

1. Lew found a stunning treehouse for the tiny houses book. We're doing a full-bleed, 2-page spread of the interior, and it's so far the best two pages in the book.

2. I went skateboard-sailing with my umbrella. Tried various streets and directions and found a 2-block stretch along the ocean where the wind pulled me along rather smartly. Fun! Made me think of rigging up a lightweight junk sail that I can unfurl.

3. We watched Der Blaue Engle (The Blue Angel), the original German version. Oh what a movie! Marlene Dietrich is stunning, a luminous presence. I couldn't help but think of all the special effects krap movies of today by comparison. The power of black and white…

Shop door illuminated by sunset last night

Cow skull on left from Canyon San Bernardo, near the town of Miraflores in Baja California Sur, 1988; 16" horns. The skull at right is from a horse I found near Diana's Punch Bowl hot springs, which is south of Austin and Highway 50 in Nevada. On the shelf in front of the shop window is my growing collection of skulls. The latest two are a bobcat and a fox. I've learned how render the skulls (if fresh), then bleach them in hydrogen peroxide. Each one is so beautifully constructed, with unbelievable joinery of skull plates on top, and each one is so different from those of other species.

On beach early this morning

Hand-crafted chicken coop with living roof

Lesley on the roof earlier this morning. She picked up plants yesterday. That's Billy below, and his dog Sarah, who parks herself right in the busiest spot on any work site.

For the first time in like, 4 decades, we decided to build a tight and proper chicken coop, one that even the wiliest rat cannot slither into. Nor can groung-burrowing carnivores invade from beneath due to a concrete floor.

I've probably built 5 or so chicken coops and it was always fun to just grab what was lying around, and improvise. Yet I've learned that funk has its place, and functional is the key word in some homestead pursuits, like raising chickens.

Billy Cummings built this with studs (a lot of them recycled) and plywood. We covered the front by using up old short 1-by lumber I had lying around. There's a little adjacent mini-coop on the left where we'll raise chicks (under a light). All rat-proof and critter-proof. Billy built the doors, gate, sliding wall-door to close chickens in at night.

We used a pond liner under the soil on the roof. Billy ripped 4x4's on the diagonal for an angled curb around the perimeter. Got some old carpet from a neighbor, on top of pond liner. Then a few inches of lightweight crushed lava rock (red stuff), then 3-4 inches of top soil hoisted up in buckets by Marco and Carlo. Billy figured out a good flashing detail, and installed a drain at the lower right end of the buildings. Pond liner is one piece and wraps around bumper and fascia is flashed over. I couldn't really find any details on how to set up a living roof, so I don't know how drainage will work. We'll probably learn some things we'd do different the next time.

It's going to look pretty great in a few months. It's the view out from the kitchen sink.

If you compare living roofs with conventional roof, they're rillly expensive. However, you're not comparing apples and apples. On the one hand, you can have a waterproof roof with asphalt shingles, but with a living roof, you get much more: great insulation, more garden space, beauty…

Exhibit at MOMA on Whole Earth Catalog

 Stewart Brand just sent this out to a bunch of us who worked on the Whole Earth Catalog:

"Dear all...

The Museum of Modern Art Library has an exhibit titled "Access to Tools: Publications from the Whole Earth Catalog" open till July 26.  It was curated by David Senior and may be seen on the mezzanine of the Bartos Educational Wing next to the main Museum on 53rd Street.

The online version is here:

John Brockman shot a short video of the exhibit, here:

Congratulations on making the Catalog a work of modern art.

Beach scenes Sunday

There are about 4 waterfalls on the stretch of beach I've been walking on these days. The rain was just stopping Sunday when I got started, and water was heading out to sea via every arroyo and crevice. Wind came up, sun came out, the ocean was choppy but with a nice swell.

Negative ionized, energy-generating air…

Here was an engine block, had to be off a ship because there's no way a car could get within miles of the cliffs.  Ocean life creeping over it, looks like fossilized ghost.

About a 3½ hour roundtrip. I got to a rocky point, took off my backpack and just looked out at the reef and waves. I felt an overwhelming sense of love for the ocean, Jesus, it's so beautiful and rich and wonderful, an everyday miracle in our lives. And it's just there.

Today it's a Spring sunny morning, mmm-mmm! To boot, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith is singing Muddy Waters' song, "World Is In An Uproar." Ain't it?

Cookie-cutter condos in Pleasanton

Last week I went out to Pleasanton to pick up a used table saw (a Delta, American-made, solid, works beautifully, $190 -- to replace a 2-year old Bosch 4100 that burned out) AND saw this almost surrealistic pile of apartments/condos that stretched for at least a mile. It could have been worse, but it could have been a lot better. Sigh…

Craftsman-style house in Birmingham for $169,000

From New York Times:

"WHAT: A three-bedroom, one-bath Craftsman-style house on just under two acres

HOW MUCH: $169,000

SIZE: About 1,300 square feet


SETTING: The house is in a neighborhood called Roebuck Springs, which is about 10 minutes northeast of downtown Birmingham. A planned suburb developed in the early 1900s, the neighborhood has curved roads that, for the most part, do not have sidewalks. Grocery stores and other shops are nearby, and bars and restaurants can be found in the southern section of downtown Birmingham, in the area known as Southside.

INSIDE: The house was built in 1929 and renovated over the past 10 years. The interior woodwork — including floors and molding — is original and has been refinished. The living room has a fireplace, built-in bookcases and picture molding. Its French doors lead to the dining room, which has another fireplace, and sconces and a chandelier purchased at an architectural salvage shop. A wall in the kitchen was removed to incorporate what was once a back porch. There is a built-in hutch, and the red marble countertops were recycled from a nearby high school. One of the three bedrooms has a window seat and a fireplace; another is used as an office.

OUTDOOR SPACE: The house is set on almost two acres, about one-third yard and the rest wooded.

TAXES: $587.31 annually"

Photo by Meg McKinney