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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Tiny House in Davis

Hi, Lloyd,

I can’t thank you enough for your continuing work; your vision is inspirational.

I wanted to send along a shot of the granny unit that we finished last year in Old Davis, where my kids go to school. I know it looks a little glossy, but the windows, doors, siding, flooring, and appliances are all recycled. 15½ feet by 25 feet, I think that still qualifies as tiny, although the ten-foot-high walls (for a loft) give it a larger feeling.

I still have my original Shelter mag, plus all your more recently published material, and every time I tune in to your blog, I get a recharge.

–Fred

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Sustainable Community Thriving After 10 Years

Almost 15 years since the sustainable community of Serenbe built its first home, the modern-day green utopia is still thriving. Located just southwest of Atlanta, Serenbe is an experimental green community designed by architect Dr. Phill Tabb, who lives on site in a net-zero home. The progressive neighborhood, hidden amid 1,000 acres of natural forest landscape, was created with four main pillars in mind: arts, agriculture, health, and education.

In 2001, architect Dr. Phill Tabb designed the masterplan for Serenbe Community — a sustainable neighborhood set in a natural landscape, but with connections to the typical urban amenities. One of the core pillars of the community’s plan was land preservation. Accordingly, the homes were built into strategic locations throughout the hilly landscape that would minimize the impact on the surrounding environment and give residents easy access to nature…

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New Small Homes in Chico, CA

It may be the wall color or the slant of the roof that catches your eye from Humboldt Road, but two new small homes could be a trend for the Chico rental market.

Laurie Norton and his wife, Ingrid Norlie, are the builders behind the two homes, with a third rental house on the way. They are tiny — just 576 square feet for a one-bedroom, one-bath house. But they have struck a chord. Two are rented weeks before they’re finished — at 1902 Humboldt Road, just west of Overseer Court — and the third that’s waiting to be built already has had inquiries.

Named after a small, one-story home, the “Bun-ga-lows” is what British-born Norton calls the rental project, which the couple plan to own and maintain.

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Custom Sauna by Travis Skinner and Marc Goodson

The Steam Roller is a custom collaboration project with Marc Goodson of Engaging Environments. Marc is a very talented carpenter and welder and he visited me in Olympia to see the Snail Shell Sauna. We decided to collaborate on another sauna that was his main design in his shop in Portland, Oregon. Over the past few months we have met for a few days at a time and chipped away on all the details. After a lot of on and off work we spent Easter weekend jacking up the sauna and getting it on to a trailer and out of Marc’s shop!

What to do with this beautiful sauna? We are not entirely sure. It has been a terrific project and we hope to use it to showcase our work and potentially find a buyer. I think Marc is a bit attached to this sauna, but for the right price he could be convinced to let it go. For now it will live outside of his shop in Tyler Smith’s yard, but if you have any interest in seeing this building or taking a sweat, don’t hesitate to contact either Marc or me.

–Travis Skinner

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Small Home Made from Hemp



This beautiful small family home has a very special story to tell. Designed by architect Michael Leung and his wife Tiffany for their young family, the 60m2 (646 sq. ft.) house is actually constructed from hemp. The couple chose to use hempcrete for their home after searching for healthy, non-toxic building materials.

Hemp is an incredibly versatile plant, that unfortunately has been unfairly demonized over recent years. Essentially hemp is a low-THC version of the Cannabis sativa plant, now colloquially referred to as marijuana. This amazingly versatile plant has many uses, including medicine, food, clothing, and much more. One of the many uses of the plant, which is now being explored more in depth, is for building.

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Two Great Home/Garden Catalogs

Two great catalogs just arrived. Lehmans and McMurray Hatchery. The former: do-it-yourself 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 this month. 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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More Driftwood Shacks

After breakfast in Boonville, Louie and I drove through the giant redwoods back to the coast and went out to Navarro Beach, a driftwood mecca. Here’s the inside and outside of one of the shacks.

(I’m thinking of taking a two-week trip up the coast in May, including a three-day backpacking trip along the Lost Coast beaches, photographing shacks — and doing a larger driftwood book.)

Louie collected select pieces of driftwood to make a chair while I ran around shooting photos. Before we left I jumped into the Navarro River for a moment. The rivers up here are beautiful right now, plenty of water, and emerald green in between the rains…

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Rose's Small Farmhouse in North Carolina

My small house is a labor of love. It belonged to my mother’s parents who bought it in 1969, when I was 4 years old. My dad was renovating it when he passed away in 2006. I inherited it in 2012 and my journey began. I spent the first few years cleaning up the yard, mowing grass and dreaming about living in this little old house. It is 864 square feet, was built in the 1930s and sits on five acres of farmland in Castle Hayne, North Carolina…

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Tiny House Made from Old Horse Trough and Recycled Skateboards

When it comes to DIY, sometimes just one simple tool can make all of the difference. Nick Orso spent two years researching, planning, and building an eco-friendly tiny cabin on wheels. Using a simple Excel spreadsheet, he created the final design to scale for the “Tiny Cabin That Excels.” Built with reclaimed materials such as old skateboards and a salvaged horse trough repurposed as a water basin, his beautiful timber cabin — which also includes a composting toilet and tankless water heater — may be compact, but it comes with a lot of character.

Nick Orso’s mobile cabin is located in a picturesque lot near a historic estate just out of Center City, Philadelphia. With large french doors and plenty of windows, it makes a perfect woodsy retreat. That said, since it’s built on a standard flatbed trailer, the mobile tiny home can be installed just about anywhere…

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