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Coder’s 96-sq-ft, handbuilt zen microhome from the ’70s

When Loren Amelang bought some land in the California back country in the 1970s, he had intended to use as a weekend place, but a decade later- tired of the corporate world- he left his Silicon Valley job (he’s a pioneer in C++ programming) and moved onto the property full-time.

The old cabin on the land was “hopelessly open to wind, rain, and rodents, no place you’d want to put a computer, much less your food”. So Amelang decided to seek shelter inside the old sheep barn, leftover from when the property was homesteaded a century ago, and build a small shack under its roof.

Using both new and used plywood, he constructed an 8-by-12-foot shed which became his home for the next few years. Amelang removed part of the barn roof to let in more light, though the cabin has just one window, plus a tiny slot window just a few inches wide for peeking out at the sliver of sunset that slides between the two roof layers of the barn.

Inside his 96-square-foot shelter, it was tiny, but very comfortable. A small cast iron stove heated the place in a very short time with very little firewood (chopped tiny to fit the appliance, of course).

All of his possessions- books, dishes, condiments, and electronics- were within arms reach. There was no telephone, nor electricity, but he had “a monster VHF radio phone that could talk directly to Ukiah (the nearest large town) hence the microphone clipped to the center post by the bed. And my Tandy Model 100 – the first notebook computer.”

A table saw became the kitchen counter. A sapote plant was his indoor garden. And lots of recycled jam and juice jars stacked on shelves served as the pantry (many were filled with beans since Amelang is mostly vegetarian).

“I was very happy here,” explains Amelang. Though he did go on to build a much bigger home right outside the barn, but only because he needed somewhere to put all his solar panels (the property is still off-grid).