About Mike Oehler
Mole Publishing founder and writer Mike Oehler, a proud back-to-the-land hippy and pioneer of underground housing and earth-sheltered greenhouses, passed away Feb. 2, 2016, at age 78, of natural causes at his home in northern Idaho.
Mike was born in Chicago and grew up nearby. After graduating from high school, he dropped out of college to pursue his writing career. He served in the U.S. Army before making his way to the West Coast where he worked as a crew member on fishing boats, worked in the Alaska goldmines, hired on with the U.S. Forest Service, cruised Mexico, and finally ended up in San Francisco where he embraced the hippy movement and lifestyle.
From there, he bought 46 acres in northern Idaho, around 1970, where he started experimenting with underground and earth-sheltered housing plus learned organic gardening, permaculture and off-the-grid living.
At the same time, he continued with his writings, earning international attention with his books, “The $50 & Up Underground House Book” and “The Earth-Sheltered Solar Greenhouse Book.” He lectured or conducted workshops in Canada, England, Scotland, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and 26 American states, frequently under the sponsorship of university architecture departments. He was the veteran of more than 100 radio and television interviews, including HGTV and the BBC.
Mike had just finished his latest book “How to Make a Hippy,” due for release later this year. He was also the author of “The Hippy Survival Guide to Y2K” and “One Mexican Sunday” and creator of the videos “The Low-Cost Underground House Workshop and Survival Shelter Seminar Video Set” and “The Battle of Seattle.”
His family continues to operate Mole Publishing to make Mike's knowledge, writings and videos available to his many followers and fans.
The Pioneer of Underground housing and “Tiny Underground Homes”, Mike self -published The $50 & Up Underground House Book in 1978 (Mole Publishing Co), and had tripled the size of his home/ underground office complex from 120 square feet to a palatial 370 sq. ft., including built-in root cellar and wall-to-wall carpeting. Though totally underground the home/office has 25 windows, sunlight and good views. The original house went from a cost of $50 to $500 and then to $2,000 a few years later with the addition of a really good $500 wood stove and a modest $1,000 solar electric system. Here’s the rest of Mike’s story:
In the winters of '72-'74, he hitchhiked around the States with his dog Bummer doing free-lance lectures at colleges and high schools on both underground housing, sponsored by architecture departments, and the back-to-the-land movement, sponsored by student environmental groups.
The AP did an article which ran nationwide in 1977, and in succeeding years HGTV came to shoot a segment on his houses as have TV crews from the Netherlands, Greece and the BBC (twice). In 1983 a Dutch alternative magazine sponsored a lecture/workshop tour of Holland, Belgium, Germany, England and Scotland.
Later in the '80s, Mike spent a couple of winters touring the U.S. by car conducting workshops on the design and construction of underground houses, shelters and greenhouses. But those were the Reagan years and all alternative lifestyles were falling out of favor. Even so, he did numerous TV and radio interviews along the way. In '92, Mike hired a videographer to shoot both his completed structures and of Mike giving a workshop with scale models of the "Thirteen Approved Methods of Design" for getting light air and views - windows -- into houses, which are totally underground. He'd make the attendees, or viewers, design five U houses of two to five rooms each on north, south, east and west slopes, and one on flatland; and make them design so that each and every room in those houses had windows from all four sides, with the idea that when they designed their own houses later, they had the tools get windows in from at least two sides in every room that matters. Each room would thereby have the highly sought after "corner office" effect. This is part of his 3-DVD set available for sale.
During his 47 years on his Idaho homestead, Mike also pioneered a radically new greenhouse design. It takes tomatoes into the second week in December year after year, and hardies like kale and cabbage clear through the winter. True, they're not still growing in January, but they're still alive and edible and this is achieved without any other heat source than sun and that stored in the earth. It is also achieved in an area in which there is little winter sun and which is at 2,000-foot elevation on the Canadian border. Thus he wrote about this in The Earth-Sheltered Solar Greenhouse Book, which that titanic publishing empire, Mole Publishing Company, brought out in 2007. This book is a Nautilus Book Award Winner and well worth reading.Many radical ideas are met with resistance at first, often not gaining acceptance until after the death of the innovator, but the world and its inhabitants are in such a mess now, we believe underground housing, with the 23 advantages it has over conventional structures will be the housing of the future---if not before the earth cleansing cataclysms, then certainly after.
Mole Publishing Co. PO Box 6003 Missoula, MT 59806 406-493-9540