Posts by Lloyd Kahn (292)

On the Road Again — The Lost Coast

First driftwood photo of trip, near Mattole river yesterday

I took off at 8AM Sunday, driving through Petaluma to get on Hwy 101. The Nicasio lake is full to the brim, the hills a verdant green — both from late rains. The fog of the beach gradually gave way to the sun of inland. Orange splashes of poppies amidst the green … Roadkill — during the day: two skunks (neither smelling), a fox, a raccoon, two deer, today two squirrels; must be spring fever … giant piles of redwood logs in Cloverdale lumberyard … Hwy 101 narrows down to two lanes north of Willits. It’s relaxed, very little traffic, you can make a U-turn in middle of road … it clears the head to get out of the Bay Area where everything by comparison seems congested, every inch spoken for and/or ridiculously high-priced … south fork of the Eel River is turquoise … getting into crackpot roadside territory with rock shops, bears-carved-out-of-chainsaws shops, kind of like the reptile farms that used to be along Hwy 66…

Ended up camping at the Mattole rivermouth, then drove through back roads today to Shelter Cove … tomorrow 8AM, I’m getting a ride back to Mattole, will then backpack along beach 30 miles back to Black Sands Beach near Shelter Cove, hoping to find driftwood beach shacks to photograph … have decided to expand and reprint the driftwood shack book … just had great fish and chips down at Shelter Cove boat ramp…

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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…
Read More …

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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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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. This document is available in downloadable/printable form at shltr.net/afterfire.  –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 checklist, 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.

  • Consider putting a tiny home on the site for a temporary place to live. You can get one ready-made, and I recommend the ones built by Ward Hensill in Bodega: www.bodegaportablebuildings.com

    OR get a Tuff Shed: You prepare the foundation/floor, and they erect the building in one day. You then finish the interior: www.tuffshed.com

    OR for a local (Petaluma) manufacturer of small (not tiny) homes: Stephen Marshall at www.littlehouseonthetrailer.com

  • If you build a tiny (or small) house first, it can later be a guest house, studio, or “granny flat.”
  • Consider some sort of pre-fab starting point to get the house framed up quickly and ready for services and finishing.

    For example, some friends in Carpinteria had the shell of their house steel-framed by local barn builders. They carried on and completed the finishing themselves, but the fire-resistant shell went up in a few days.

  • Consider the orientation of your property. Windows facing south will allow for solar heating. Deciduous trees can be planted so there is shade in the summer, sun in the winter (when trees are bare.) What direction do the winds/storms come from? Where does the sun rise and set at various times of the year?
  • Consider having a large enough section of the roof sloping and facing direct south for maximization of solar panels (which can be added years later).
  • Have the home built in two stages. Get the kitchen/bathroom/living/sleeping areas done first, with plans to add on later, so you can live there ASAP.
  • Even if you hire a builder, do some of the work yourself. I built most of a house in the ’60s by working on weekends, after work, and holidays. You can save a lot of money by doing some of the simple stuff.
  • Stud frame construction. Straw bale, cob, timber frame, and other natural materials each have their benefits, but the stud wall system, with insulation, wiring, and plumbing within the walls is by far the quickest way to build.
  • Rectangular design. Stick with rectangles. If you get into building curves or polygons (e.g., hexagonal, octagonal) you’ll end up spending a lot more time and money.
  • Use Class A roofing materials, which are “effective against severe fire test exposures.”
  • Consider Hardie board fiber cement siding for exterior walls. It’s a cement fiber product that looks like wood, but will not rot, and is fire-resistant, insect-resistant, impact-resistant, and moisture-resistant.
  • Use some kind of non-toxic insulation (not available when I built). Wool, denim, cellulose made from recycled paper products. Research it. “Roxul” is a very good non-toxic, non-water absorbing, non-rodent and non-insect supporting type of batt insulation.
  • Have a central core, including kitchen/bathroom back-to-back (for plumbing simplicity).
  • Locate the hot water heater in a central core area, including a wood (or gas) stove for space heating, with a coil for heating water in winter, plus a solar-heated water panel on the roof for summer hot water.
  • Consider a small 5-gallon hot water heater under the kitchen sink. We have one, and it provides almost instant hot water, with no waiting, and doesn’t use much electricity.
  • Consider facing your kitchen south. I’d get the kitchen floor as low as possible (concrete slab with stringers, plywood, then linoleum). (Don’t have wooden floor in kitchen if you really cook; linoleum is easy to clean.) The reason for the low floor is so that you easily step out to:

    a) An outdoor cooking/eating area with a roof (maybe double-wall polycarbonate), right outside the kitchen. Weber barbecue, table, sink. This is cheap square footage, and you can do a lot of cooking, eating, and socializing outdoors in warmer weather.

    b) A vegetable garden easily accessible to the kitchen

  • Don’t install a kitchen-sink garbage disposal unit. It’s a bad practice to grind up food, especially if it’s going to a septic tank. Rather, compost kitchen scraps using a composting tumbler (which is varmint-proof).
  • Consider washing dishes by hand; don’t install a dishwasher. Here’s a video of my technique:

  • Have a window at the kitchen sink, so you can look outside while doing dishes.
  • Install a Blue Star range (made in America) if you are serious about cooking. The one we have has no digital controls. It cost $3100 and is one of the best things we’ve ever bought.
  • Consider getting a tank to collect rain water off the roof.
  • Set up valves to divert greywater for wash basin, bath, and shower.
  • If you are interested in gardening, in providing some of your own food, consider where a vegetable garden might best be located.
  • Plant some fruit and/or shade trees. (If I was starting over again, I’d plant half a dozen olive trees.)
  • Avoid architectural cleverness. Watch out for architects trying to make a statement. Quite often, tried and true designs produce economical, practical homes. The wheel needn’t be reinvented.
  • Wire your house for Internet access.
  • Set up the Cloud to automatically back up your computer, smartphone, iPad, or other digital devices. Also, back up all photos on the Cloud; you can set up your smartphone to automatically back up all photos you shoot. This way, all your data will be saved even if the devices are destroyed in a fire (or stolen or lost).

Note: Here is a link to reprinted pages with a lot of design recommendations from our book Shelter II: www.dropbox.com/…

Copies of Shelter II can be purchased here.

This document is available in downloadable/printable form at shltr.net/afterfire.

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Driftwood Shacks: Anonymous Architecture Along the Northern California Coast Is Available

We just completed my latest book, Driftwood Shacks: Anonymous Architecture Along the Northern California Coast (82 pages, 8½″× 8½″). 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.

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Garden Furniture with Tenon Cutter

I’ve had this tenon cutter attachment for years, just started using it. I just cut down an old wild plum tree and am going to make a garden chair out of plum wood. Fun! I got this from Lee Valley, a great source of carpentry tools.

I recently got the Makita drill — not battery driven, but with cord — from Jackson’s Hardware in San Rafael. It would have been cheaper from Amazon, but at Jackson’s, I get expert human advice. I use Amazon a lot, but also skirt them often. There are other factors to consider when buying stuff other than what’s cheapest.

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Master Carpentry in Poland

Hi, Lloyd,

I spent Christmas with my family in Dąbrowa Białostocka, northeastern Poland.

Yesterday evening Santa had the good idea to bring me one of your books, Small Homes, great idea, impossible to spend a better Christmas.

I’m a fan of your books that I discovered about fifteen years ago. It always makes me dream of a better world.

Thank you for everything. If you go to Europe, it would be a great pleasure to meet you and to welcome you to Poland.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and lots of new adventures in 2018.

–Julien Croisier
www.justwoodit.com

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