Grassroots — Mike Oehler, 1938-2016

A Legend

Grassroots — Mike Oehler, 1938-2016

David Michael Oehler, a writer, back-to-the-land hippy, and a pioneer of underground housing and earth-sheltered greenhouses, died Tuesday, Feb. 2, 2016, at age 78, of natural causes at his home near Bonners Ferry, Idaho.

Mike was born January 2, 1938, in Chicago to Chet and Pauline Oehler. He grew up in Wilmette, Illinois, along with his three sisters, Patricia, Gretchen and Sioux. After graduating from New Trier 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 gold mines, 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. Mike always accepted volunteers who helped with his building projects, where they learned organic gardening, permaculture and off-the-grid living. Mike was close to finishing his one-of-a-kind, earth-integrated home he called the “Ridge House” at the time of his death.

At the same time, he continued with his writing, 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 is 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 the creator of the videos, “The Low-Cost Underground House Workshop and Survival Shelter Seminar Video Set,” and “The Battle of Seattle.”

More information about his life’s work can be found at

grassroots oehler

Mike was preceded in death by his father, Chet; his mother, Polly; and his sister, Gretchen. He is survived by his sisters, Pat (Tony) Tiverios and Sioux (Jerry) McLane; his niece, Alex Clemow; his nephews, Mike (Eva) Tiverios and Peter (Lisa) Tiverios; and several great nieces and nephews.

Memorial donations may be made to charities of the donor’s choice.

Condolences and memories of Mike may be forwarded to Alex Clemow, P.O. Box 6003, Missoula, MT 59806 or sent by email to e-mail

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