outdoors the ancient past


Handmade Houses - bed and dome

This photo is from an excellent 70s photo book called Handmade Houses. I bought it after I read this inspiring little piece on Inhabitat, and it has got me thinking about getting back to basics. In this economy, basics may be all there are.

In the winter and spring of 1997, I helped my friend Steve make a house by hand on the California coast. At first, it was like Robinson Crusoe. No possessions to speak of, other than my hammer, some books, the sun and ocean, fresh air and work. We worked all day, doing what felt like good, wholesome labor in the sun, banging, sawing, sizing things up.

Slide Ranch - blue trailer - 1996
This is where I lived for a while.

Then El Nino arrived. After a few weeks, the whole thing had become more like Lord of the Flies. Days and days of rain, mudslides on Highway 1, crazy-making isolation. In between squalls, we framed the house, affixed the plywood sheathing, put on the deck and roof, and ran the wiring. At some point, I came down with a cold, which eventually became pneumonia.

In the spring, I retreated to the warmth of Doug and Ted’s house in Berkeley to recuperate, a few weeks later I’d taken a job at a museum, and that was the end of simplicity. For the time being, anyway.

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