Category Archives: Housing

Fixing the Hole Where the Rain Gets In, Part III

Owner-built homes

My house for six years, shown below, was built by a pregnant woman and a teenager with recycled wood, as a barn with a kitchen and bedroom on the second floor. A one- story workshop was added later using new materials and more experienced labor.


Below, the same house many years later, greatly improved.

Goat Shed later


Below, two owner-built homes under construction.




Below, a yurt with plastic sheeting for windows. This picture was taken during a break from moving in. I rented it for several months from my woman friend who built it herself to live in while she built her big house. It was located in the middle of a meadow in which horses grazed. The horses would come and lay their heads on the deck, where my kitten would arch her back and hiss at them and I would go and pet their heads while I fed them apples. The idyll ended when the rains came and the steep road became impassable to my Dodge van and I gave up and moved into a rotting apartment in Garberville.

yurt w Scotia iph

Below, a worker builds the mold for the continuous concrete foundation of the house my ex and I and our builder, Al Ibanez, built. In the background is the tent we lived in while the basement was being built. When the basement was finished, we moved out of the tent into the basement, where we spent are really miserable El Nino winter with the framework of the house and the first floor over us. The floor was covered with black plastic sheets with the edges tucked in between the studs. This created a vast 2″ swimming pool, which we periodically went out into the rain to empty by pulling up the sheets so the water could run over the edge of the floor. The basement leaked unbearably, we lived in only one room comprising one third of the basement, with a plywood temporary wall sealing off the other two thirds. That portion became the habitat of some of the most incredible mushrooms you’ve ever seen. We did manage to keep the children and the musical instruments dry, using the tent and a vintage 1950s 10 foot trailer. It was possibly the most miserable winter I ever spent and there are no circumstances under which I would recommend that procedure to anyone.

China Crk hse foundation iph

Below, long view of owner-built home.

Utah's house iph

Solar power

Early on, a “solar fair” was held in the parking lot of what was then Fireman’s Hall in Garberville.


One of the items at the solar fair. I can’t remember exactly what it is.


Below, a truck advertises solar water heating systems. I believe the truck is parked in a prominent parking lot in Redway.


“Temporary Housing”

Many people live in tents, trailers, vans, RVs, sheds, former chicken coops or under pieces of sheet plastic draped over tree limbs while building or wishing they could build owner-built homes. Below, three of the items listed are visible on one communal site, in addition to the house under construction.


Below, road neighbors co-operated i building a shelter at the bottom of their road for children to wait on the school bus out of the rain. It is used, in fact, by anyone waiting in the rain for a ride up the road or into town or to Beginnings in Briceland.



Below, detail of the interior of a home built by an artist, using skinned poles.





Fixing the Hole Where the Rain Gets In, Part I

One of the most striking features of the culture of both Shummians and mainstream local residents is the degree to which both are predicated on owner-built homes, including owner-built shacks. Both groups have been politically active in opposing the efforts of the county Planning Department in stifling this impulse to build. That argument is still going on. Meanwhile, a few examples of Shummian owner-built or conglomerated homes. . .

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My box house

Fixing the Hole Where the Rain Gets In, Part II

One of the most unique aspects of the culture of Shum, one that expresses and incorporates its values in concrete form is its approach to shelter. While the importance of the owner-built home has received much press over the years, the tenacity, motivation and creativity of the original back-to-the-landers in managing to survive the cold, rainy winters with whatever was at hand has not received, in my view, its proper recognition.

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