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Foggy night on the coast

It rained bigtime Tuesday. 1½" here, real late and unusual for this time of year in California. After running along the coast a ways Tuesday night (solo these days), then splashing along in the surf on the beach, running back to the inn and jumping in all the puddles on the way hee-hee), I ducked underwater in the creek, then had a Guinness on tap with the boys, a Gemütlichkeit night in the pub, celtic music playing softly. The rain had stopped and on the way home north along the coast, the fog was so thick it was like crawling through a tunnel. Having grown up in San Francisco, the fog is a friend.

Lawson's Landing under threat by regulators

Update, December 11, 2011: Thanks largely to the Environmental Action Committee, a well-funded "environmental" group, all trailers have to be gone from Lawson's in 5 years. Score a win for trust fund activists (anyone check the income level and sources thereof of the activists?), a loss for Californians of moderate means.

I consider myself an environmentalist. And for this reason I'm alarmed by a new and very strong movement among people who call themselves "environmentalists." If I may generalize, these are people who do not hunt or fish or make their living from the land. They often have not grown up in the areas where they are active. They want everything to return to an imaginary pristine state. They tend to be from families of wealth, have college degrees, can raise money for their non-profit groups, and know their way around in the political and media worlds.

This something I wrote on behalf of a gem of a local community that is now being persecuted. It's for people of Marin County, and for Californians in general.


In-laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats: Your Guide to Turning One House into Two Homes

I'm about to write a review of this great new book by Mike Litchfield. In the interim, check out Mike's website Cozy Digz for photos from the book: 

Also click on "Cool Stuff" in the left hand column for small house appliances. fixtures, and hardware.

Mike is a former editor of Fine Homebuilding, and author of the best-selling encyclopedic Taunton book, Renovation.

Rainy day in Oakland yesterday

Seashells from the seashore

Every day I walk on the beach I pick up shells. I arrange them in a basket when I get home, leave them for a week or two, as tableaux of days on the beach…

Silver Seabright bantam chickens

The boss boy and two girls in the afternoon sun:

Tiny Edens on urban rooftops

Article by Penelope Green in June 22 2011 New York Times, photos (slide show) by Tony Cenicola:

"Despite its leafy cover, the temperature here at midday can top 110 degrees, as it did on a recent scorcher. This garden may not win any beauty contests, but it is nonetheless a champion, one of many scrappy green spaces still blooming on roofs all over New York City, despite decades of fierce challenges by buffeting winds, searing heat, covetous landlords and evolving civic policies.

These doughty survivors tell stories of a time when “green roof” wasn’t a buzz term or a reason for a tax credit, when Brooklyn hipsters weren’t farming acres of kale on tops of warehouses and when the owners of multimillion-dollar SoHo penthouses weren’t laying in multimillion-dollar “instant” gardens, as one longtime SoHo renter and roof gardener put it. Herewith, four urban pastorals.…"


Builders of Pacific Coast in Korean

We just received 3 copies of the Korean translation of Builders of the Pacific Coast by Dosol Publishing company, who did a Korean translation of Home Work: Handbuilt Shelter a few years ago.

With both books, they didn't just substitute Korean for English, they completely re-designed each book, and it's great to see their interpretation. These people on the other side of the world appreciating the carpenters of British Columbia…Small world indeed.

(Our book Stretching is in 23 languages.)

GoPro HD Hero camera: 2010 Post Office Bike Jam

Trying to figure out how to mount my super little HD helmet hero on my Skateboard helmet this morning, ran across this amazing footage of bike riders doing the loop-de-loop mambo:

The Tom Rigney Band: Cajun, Zydeco, blues, boogie-woogie

These summer noon-time concerts at the Oakland City Center are great. I love Oakland, it's like the younger, not-as-beautiful sister of hottie San Francisco. They have to try harder. The concerts are free, the area is surrounded by food and drink shops. Good vibes.

I've been following Tom Rigney for years. He plays a blazing electric violin. His website says: "Flambeau specializes in blazing Cajun and zydeco two-steps, low-down blues, funky New Orleans grooves, Boogie Woogie piano, and heartbreakingly beautiful ballads and waltzes. Most of the repertoire is composed by Rigney, but they also mix in a few classics from the Cajun/zydeco/New Orleans songbook.…" Caroline Dahl, the boogie-woogie keyboardist, rocks.
Above, Tom with a group of music students after the concert

I play the violin a bit, and when I get the urge, I play along with some of the slow tracks on his CDs. I do this in secret (with nobody listening) and pretend I'm playing with the band. Shhh!

Cajun music in Oakland with Sherman

Wednesday I took my friend Sherman Welpton to a noon-time concert of the Tom Rigney Band at the Oakland city Center. Sherman is in a wheelchair with a spinal disconnect and Parkinson's; these days he's pretty much totally incapacitated. Physically, that is.

Mentally, inside the physical shell that's not working, he's the same funny, perceptive, and playful guy that he always was. Several years ago, I wrote something about him for our fraternity brothers (Stanford, class of '56). To see it, click here.

Over the years Sherm and I have gone to a bunch of musical events. He's the one who turned me onto Fats Domino (Yes it's me and I'm in love again) when we were teenagers, and thereby changed my life. We've gone to Ashkenaz, the Berkeley world-music club that has good wheelchair access, a bunch of times.

Even though he can't talk, or even move these days, there's  something about him, some kind of aura that people often pick up on. Once we went to a biker bar in Hayward to see a blues band. When the bikers saw us, they cleared their Harleys away so I could park the van, and helped me get Sherm in. One night we went to see Merle Haggard at the Warfield in Oakland; at the intermission I wandered around taking pictures and when I came back, Sherm was holding hands with a girl in the next row. Dude!

Sherm is always game. These days one of his caregivers always goes with us. There are four women who care for him at his home in Oakland. They all love him to pieces. The other day I said to him. Sherm, you fucker,  you've got four women looking after you, plus your wife Ruthie. His eyes twinkled.

Proposed pit mines in Alaska threaten wild salmon

Fishing boats in Bristol Bay c.1950, Ward Wells, Anchorage Museum. Click here.

Sent us by Bob Massengale, Project  Development, Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association, who writes that in Bristol Bay, "… where I've fished for two summers now. It's one of the world's last wild salmon fisheries, and it has been a commercial fishery (in westernized form) for 127 years (and supported cultures and families for 1000s of years before that). Bristol is a huge political issue up here because these huge international mining conglomerates want to open up an enormous pit to mine in and send out to Japan and anywhere but Dillingham. The mine poses a huge threat to the tributaries of the Bay's salmon waters, and could drastically alter habitat in what is now a pristine and undeveloped environment."

Kids skateboarding in Kabul


Skateboarding (carving) in the 21st century

I knew Loaded Boards was working on some new skateboards and contacted the owner Don Tashman recently. They'd just completed testing of the Bhangra board, a 41" laminated bamboo "dancing freestyle" cruiser. Don said he'd give me a demo model if I sent him some photos of me riding it. My first sponsor!

I'm so thrilled with this board that I'm skating more now. It allows me to carve more deeply, so I can skate steeper hills. I can't wait to get rolling.

When I'm out skating, guys in their 40s-50s, ex-skaters, check me out. They've quit skating -- family, job, responsibility, etc. What they don't know about is the revolution in skate gear lately. Any time I get one of them to try the board, it's, "Whoa!"

I think the skateboard companies should reach out to the 40-50-yr old skater. You've got the moves, dude (muscle memory), and even if you've given up the aerial manuevers of bowl skating, you can carve the downhills. And if you can slide, you can do steep downhills. A whole new game for your, er, mature years.

Photo shot yesterday by Lew Lewandowski

Mike Litchfield on turn-key tiny homes

Mike Litchfield, one of the founding editors of Fine Homebuilding magazine recently published the book In-laws, Outlaws, and Granny Flats: Your Guide to Turning One House into Two Homes. It's a useful, informative and clear depiction of well-designed small homes. Watch for a review of it here. In the interim, here's a posting I just noticed on Mike's Fine Homebuilding blog, on a builder in the San Francisco area offering turn-key tiny homes:

"Kevin Casey's New Avenue Homes offers homeowners a turn-key ADU package that includes private financing, design, permit approval and construction. What’s more, he seems to be making a go of it, with a first backyard cottage garnering a lot of praise, and six more units in the pipeline. Now he’s looking for builders in other regions to partner with.…"

Agaricus Augustus mushrooms

Lew found these beauties a few days ago under a Bishop pine. Lucky for us, he doesn't eat wild mushrooms. Also called The Prince, they have a nutty, almond-like flavor.

The potato monster

These potatoes were in a dark place in the pantry. They seem to be sending out a message.

Shelter of ancestors

There have been some great comments to my 2 recent posts on the nature of "shelter." See the comment by Christine on her love affair with a tiny cottage in France: "…It's not far from the seashore. The rent is derisory and the nature all around, full of birds, foxes, badgers, roe deers, weasels, dragonflies, salamanders, snakes and toads. We enjoy their kindly company and spend hours watching them." http://lloydkahn-ongoing.blogspot.com/2011/06/feeling-of-shelter.html#links

What she writes about the cottage reminded me of an experience I had in England in the early '70s, on a trip shooting photos for the book Shelter. My son Peter (12) and I were driving a rental Mini when I spotted this abandoned cottage. It pulled at me like a magnet.  I walked through the field and spent about an hour shooting pictures and enjoying the quite incredible ambience. Photo and text from Shelter:

Driving down a small country lane in Norfolk, this building in the middle of a distant field. A peaceful presence, at rest with its surroundings.
  After hundreds of years, abandoned, sinking gracefully back into the landscape its materials originally came from.
  Vines climbing up the walls, in through the windows. Soon it will fold in the middle, kneel, in time become a mound in the field. Cycle completed.
  Inside it's cheerful and light, unlike many other dank abandoned houses where death lingers.
  Generations of shelter, births and deaths, sons and daughters. Countless fires built, meals cooked, needs tended.
  What will the houses we are building now look like in 300 years?

Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer and Build

This new book, by Peter Goodfellow, is reviewed by Henry Fountain in today's New York Times.

Fountain writes: "…These are where birds’ engineering skills shine. The song thrush, for example, a common European bird, begins building her (in many species, the female does the work) cup nest with a foundation of sturdy twigs, then adds moss and dried grass to form a crude cup, which is lined with wood pulp and mud and decorated on the outside with moss and leaves for camouflage.…"


From mountain spirit to ocean spirit

It's been a HUGE thing for me to quit running (competitively, that is). If my knees hadn't sent up distress signals, I'd probably still be out on the trails. But, having once given up competition, and the need to keep up with my running mates, a whole new world has opened up.

Week after week, year after year, I wanted to stay in good enough shape to run a decent 10K, and in recent years, I trained for (or obsessed over, as is the wont of true Dipsea racers) the Dipsea Race. But once I realized I couldn't do that any more, once that obligation was lifted, I found a ton of things to do -- and locally -- that I'd been neglecting -- beach combing, paddleboarding, surfing, fishing, clamming, harvesting seaweed. Back to the beach, which was my main focus for some 30 years, before I got into running. Coastal adventures.

Just going out on my old Montare bike last night, and walking on the beach -- no aerobic training necessary. I can run on the beach, but not RUN. Running for the joy of it, no need to get a training effect. Way different.

I've rediscovered the ocean. From mountain spirit back to ocean spirit as my main focus in nature. Life is pretty darn rich.

We should stop chasing economic "progress"

What’s the Big Idea?

Whether or not they consider themselves politically “progressive,” many Americans reflexively expect their country to make robust progress along economic lines. Buoyed by decades of material growth, we expect GDP to rise and standards of living to improve indefinitely. If these trends stagnate—as they’ve begun to during the current recession—pundits on all sides point fingers, assuming that something has gone terribly wrong.

But according to John Dillon, former classics professor at Trinity College, Dublin, classical thinkers would have found this assumption misguided. “This concept of progress,” Dillon explains to Big Think, “is so deeply ingrained in our psyches that it is hard for modern man to comprehend a culture in which no such concept is present….[But] among Greek and Roman intellectuals, it was fully recognized that nations and societies had their ups and down, that empires rose and fell….It was universally accepted that change in the physical world was cyclical: some new inventions were made from time to time, predominantly in the area of warfare, populations might increase locally, and cities, such as Alexandria, Rome, or Constantinople, grow to great size…but all this would be balanced by a decline somewhere else.”

paddle race yesterday

The 4th annual Shore-to-Shore paddle race, sponsored by Live Water Surf Shop of Stinson Beach, was here Saturday. Two courses: 2.8 miles, and 7-1/2 miles. There's a bigger turnout every year. Paddling is catching on in Northern California. It's huge in Southern California and more recently, Santa Cruz. New technology (as in skateboarding) has revolutionized the sport in the last ten or so years. I've always loved paddling, and a few years ago, I got a 12' Joe Bark Surftech racing paddleboard. It weighs 32 lbs and skims across the water like a water skeeter. If I paddle in the lagoon going with an incoming tide, I'm flying, with a v-shaped wake off the bow. Fun!

What I love about these events (there's a very large kayak/outrigger race in Sausalito in October) is seeing not just the various types of paddleboards, but the kayaks and especially the outrigger canoes. I have to admit to lusting after one of these outriggers since my friend Tom Mebi, who lives on a beach in Hawaii, told me about his outrigger. 20' long, weighing 23 lbs. Man!

These ones yesterday were real beauties. Featherlight (and expensive -- $3-5000). I'm trying to find one I can try out in these waters, and if it performs well in the ocean, I'll look out for a used one.

I did the short course. Ocean was choppy, weather foggy, but I love being in the water (prone paddleboard). I was tired, but not wiped out. A good vibes event, great lunch in the park afterwords. Great to see my old beachbum/lifeguard friends. We all love the ocean.

Outrigger canoes: http://occonnection.ipower.com/ , http://www.huki.com/

The feeling of shelter…

In the '70s, Lesley and I went to England, where she was born. I had friends, 3 brothers from Southern California, who had rented an old brick house in Mapledurham, a small village along the Thames, near Redding. One night my friend Michael took us over to a visit a small family in a nearby house. It was a cold night.

It turned out to be a thatched cottage, not your picture-perfect variety (like this one here), but still something authentic. The doorway was low -- a 6-footer would have to duck to get in. Inside, there was a fire burning in the fireplace, which was just part of the floor, casting orange shadows on the walls. The ceiling was really low, with whitewashed horizontal beams holding up the loft above.

I felt a hit, as if I'd stepped back into a past life. The warmth, the coziness, the feeling of protection -- the same qualities that I believe our ancestors created and treasured -- it felt familiar. (My mom's family is from Wales.)

I'll have feelings once in a while in different homes.when everything feels right, everything is working in unison: what you see, what you smell, what you touch, what you feel…

And if you'll pardon the whoo-whoo factor here, I think that we have memories in our genes, and that once in a while -- via meditation, or enhanced consciousness, or just the right mood -- we tap into these cellular memories. We get a feeling that doesn't come from conscious memories. Hey, I've been here before…

Mountain hut on highest mountain in Norway: Galdhøpiggen

This website is in Norwegian, and this is titled: "Knut Voles hytte - mountain hut on Galdhøpiggen," Norway. Apparently, Galdhopiggen is the highest mountain in Northern Europe (8100 ft.). I assume they've got some kind of heavy-duty waterproofing membrane or roofing system under the rocks on the roof. There are some great accompanying photos of mountain vistas.


From Lew Lewandowski

Clamming at Lawson's landing yesterday morning

Last year I saw an article on clamming in our local West Marin Citizen. It showed a guy named Eloy Garcia and his clam gun, an ingenious device for getting horseneck clams. I've been digging clams off and on since the early '60s. (Back in "the day," we used to get Pismo clams by dragging garden forks in the sand at Rio del Mar, south of Santa Cruz.)

In this (sic) neck of the woods, there are horsenecks. There's no shortage of them because they're tough to get: you've got to shovel a lot of poundage of mud to get deep enough to where these critters hang out. The clam gun, however was like a surgical tool, pumping down through a 4" hole to get the clams.

I tracked Eloy down (the stars were surely lined up because "Eloy" is "Lloyd" in Spanish), and called him up. He was really friendly and ended up sending me a spare clam gun in exchange for some of our building books. I talked to him several times about technique, but just couldn't get it working right. Why don't you meet us up at Lawson's Landing, he said. They'd be clamming all this week.

I went up there Wednesday night and met Eloy, his wife Nancy, and two other couples and some grandkids, all camping out. You know how you meet someone, and you're just on the same page? Well Eloy radiates good will. He laughs a lot. We all sat around his homemade (out of a 50-gallon drum) fireplace, drinking beer as the full moon came up in the east.

I slept in the back of my truck and yesterday we went out clamming early in the morning. I was pretty slow in picking up the technique, which involves crawling around in 3" deep water, locating the clam holes under the waving eel grass, then pumping out the mud to get down to the clams. then reaching down with your hand (up to armpit) to get the clams. Eloy and his buddy Ron each had their limits of 10 clams, and I had one. They started helping me and I think I've got the hang of it. More or less.

Note: I'm going to publish photos of this wonderful little seaside community of funky trailers and campgrounds that is currently under fire by a group of environmental zealots. See: http://www.savelawsonslanding.com/

Heart and Soil blog: Yew longbow, from Elementdetailing.com

Hi Lloyd,

Yesterday I only had time to view two blogs during a rapid lunch hour, one was yours (lets face it I am a daily visitor!) the other was Heart and Soil. After looking at the magazine images you showed yesterday, the item in Heart and Soil was completely different and something I thought you might enjoy. It is a traditional english longbow, made from yew from the North Downs and the nocks and arrow plate are from deer antlers, shed near to the owners home (a yurt on Exmoor). The bow itself is a fine thing indeed, knotty rustic and completely individual. Even the leather for the hand grip was salvaged from a ship wreck.

It has been made by the owners partner and a local craftsman (who he is learning his skills from). Hope you have chance to have a look and get some enjoyment out of it, also hope all is well with you and yours over the pond.

Best regards


Alan Whittle

Old Chum: Another great blog

Statistics showed my blog getting a bunch of hits from this one, so I took a look. It's full of images I really like; click here and scroll down: http://www.old-chum.com/

Alt. Build Blog: An Exploration of Alternative Building Techniques and Design Ideas

"This artistic and colorful fence is in the arts district in Silver City, New Mexico. Part of the fence appears to be from an old stamped metal ceiling.…"

This is a great blog. I love the stuff shown in this series of posts: http://altbuildblog.blogspot.com/2011/05/more-on-fences.html#more

Jamie Rivers wins 101st annual Dipsea Race

That's Jamie Rivers, who won her second Dipsea race yesterday. On the right is Jerry Hauke, who was for many years, the race director. Jamie's club, the Pelican Inn Track Club, won the team trophy -- breaking a 34-year streak for the Tamalpa Runners club.

The Dipsea is the oldest cross-country race in America. Details here.

It was with a certain amount of sadness that I watched the race yesterday. I've been running it for about 20 years, and last year was my last. As I explained to my friends, I want to able to walk when I'm 95. After having both knees operated on, I've recovered well, but more years of too-fast downhill running (to make up for slow uphills) promised continued loss of knee cartilage. I don't want artificial knees. I want to be able to walk as long as I live.

I got up as usual at 6, had tea, and drove over the hill to Mill Valley. I didn't jump in the cold creek under the waterfall, my former pre-race ritual -- tuning into the mountain spirits. I didn't have the butterflies-in-stomach pre-race jitters, or have to endure the pain of anaerobic distress, or worry about which shortcuts to take -- but gosh darnit, I missed it. As everyone milled around at Stinson Beach after the race, I missed the burning in the quads, the muscle soreness, the feeling of accomplishment\ of being part of a great tradition.

Ah well, onwards and outwards. And congratulations to the red hot runners of the Pelican Inn Track Club.

Soulless shelter magazines

I take the word "shelter" seriously. Well, duh! So I was interested in this headline in the NY Times last week: "The Thriving (Online) Shelter Magazine Industry."

Click on this link to see the latest issue of the online magazine Lonny. Is this what people aspire to? A stuffed peacock on a non-functioning fireplace? A 4-foot high photo of a cigarette smoker on the wall? Lily-white upholstered furniture on the beach? Check out the other same-o online mags in the article.

The "shelter" publications of the major media continue to confound me with soulless and tasteless decor.

And to piss off even more people, I'll throw in Architectural Design (tasteless) and Dwell mag (soulless).

Sometimes I feel that me, my friends, and like-minded people are like the book lovers in Fahrenheit 451, off in the woods memorizing books. We're a band of, I guess, not-mainstream people who love richness and color and life in our dwellings. Not this type of horseshit. You couldn't pay me to live in places like this.

Blue heron visits our pond

This guy visits every once in a while, usually to search for fish in our pond. He sometimes perches on the roof of the tower, then swoops down to the pond. He's very wary. I shot this yesterday from our living room.

Stretching translated into Chinese

W just got the latest Chinese translation of Stretching. This is the complex Chinese version. Stretching is in 23 or so languages.

Japanese magazine Huge visits Shelter

About a month ago, three people from Huge magazine in Japan came to visit. They were doing an issue called "Bolt for Freedom," and spent a few hours here wandering around, having tea, and looking at our home and office setup. It was a delightful visit; they really liked what we were doing. They appreciated our work and life from a different perspective. The photographer had a place in the country and was fascinated with handsplit shakes, so I got them from out of my shop and showed him how it was done.

Below is the 2-page collage they ended up doing:

"Huge Magazine is a Japanese fashion magazine designed for men. The magazine, featuring a wide array of different styles of street fashion is well known in Japan for its coverage of the varying styles that permeate street culture, as well as the overlay of European style in the Japanese fashion industry. Combining the various aspects of an eclectic sense of style, the magazine speaks to an increasingly wide audience.

Huge magazine was launched by Kodansha in 2004 as an alternative for men in their twenties in Japan to the many fashion magazines that were currently on the market. The publication releases monthly and has enjoyed a slowly growing readership, currently holding a circulation of about 75,000. The goal of Huge is to provide a mixture of street wear and high fashion for a collage view of the modern Japanese male’s fashion options.

What makes Huge magazine different than many other men’s fashion magazines is that it focuses intently on all aspects of culture and how fashion integrates into those aspects. While features will often be on the newest lines from popular designers and shopping guides for popular Tokyo districts, most issues will alternately feature stories on popular artists, musicians, and cultural influences that may be of interest to young males."

Shed of the Year 2011 finalists

From Boing Boing, posted by Cory Doctorow:

"Uncle Wilco from the ShedBlog writes in with news of this year's Shed of the Year: 'The public voting has ended and the short list is announced. Some great sheds entered this year - the 1950's diner featured on Boing Boing previously made it though along with a great Welsh TARDIS shed, a shed where musicians perform and then go on YouTube, a not so typical Pub Shed alongside a Eco ARC shaped shed with a green roof to mention a few. The winner will be announced during Shed Week (4th July 2011)'"

5 Hour Energy drink

I got a free sample bottle of this at the Maker Faire last month. Boy! I've never had a jolt like this (that was legal). It probably differs for everyone, but it works for me. In fact I had a bottle of it + a latte one afternoon in NYC and couldn't sleep at all that night.

Ingredients: Vitamin B6, Vitamin B12, (mega-amounts of the latter two vitamins); Niacin (Vitamin B3); Folic Acid (Vitamin B9)

Citicoline; Tyrosine; Phenylalanine; Taurine; Malic Acid; Glucuronolactone; Caffeine (oh yeah!)

It costs $3.50 a bottle in stores, but is considerably cheaper at Costco or via Amazon.


Caveat: I haven't used it enough to know if it's OK in the long run. And my long experience with boosters, enhancers, and ahem, drugs, is that there's no such thing as a free lunch.

Sheep mowing grass

Sheep on a Northern California hillside. A good move in what's going to be a high fire-danger year due to all the rainfall. (Collage of 12 photos.)