Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Building a Debris Hut

Sunday's weather was very different from Saturday, the wind was blowing harder, and it was cold. Bill and Steve were joining me for a class on making a debris hut at Earth Village Education. just down the road from my house in Marshall, I pulled on 4 layers of clothing and boots and slung my G15 round my neck.
Earth Village Education is a non profit education center that teaches people primitive skills, They've only really just got going and this particular event was a free workshop. We met with the organizers along with 11 other attendees.
Kevin making hot apple cider for us all to enjoy later when we'd take a break.
Tom, our instructor, was very informative and after we'd learned about the school itself we got straight down to getting our shelter built, with some help from his wonderful woofer, Cora.
He told us that clothing was the first line of shelter and I was certainly glad of my 4 layers. Layering allows the body to regulate its temperature by removing and adding layers as needed. Sweating isn't wanted as it cools the body down. He told us wool is the best material, being quiet and non-reflective, unlike today's many man made materials, and it's durable, plus able to still keep you warm when wet. He then proceeded to pack his jacket full of leaves, adding yet another layer, but one, I thought, which would be very noisy!
Tom even told us that if we ever broke down in a car to never leave it. It's the first line of shelter and can even be packed with leaves to help maintain warmth. Plus car seats can be cut open and the foam inside used as insulation..
For our debris hut we picked a spot that was high and dry. Not too high where winds would be invasive, or too low where we could get flooded. We also looked up around for 'widow maker' dead branches in the trees above us.
The first branch we needed was a 'ridge line' Tom found this and cut it to size, using me for measuring the length needed and as the guinea pig for whom the hut would be made.
After using two more branches with 'V's to support it, but only at crotch height as the higher the hut, the more body heat would be needed to warm it, we were sent off to find branches for the sides.
We placed these along both sides and then heaped leaves on top, often stuffing them into the branches. A good arm's depth is required. Then we placed more sticks on top to weight down the leaves and stop them blowing away. Pine needles can also be used instead if available as can bark if there's a lot of poplar trees about. We then stuffed the inside of the hut with leaves, as much as could be pushed in, and then I had to burrow in, feet first.
I had to get in as far as I could and then pack down the leaves. Once out, more leaves were stuffed in and I had to go back inside and resume packing down. It was cozy and toasty in there. I would've loved to have laid down and snoozed while they finished the class. As well as leaves inside, thin cedar branches make a great base for bedding as they repel insects. And pine needles add warmth although Bill told Steve and I later that these often housed chiggers.
Once I had reluctantly pulled myself out, we stopped for a break.
They supplied us with wonderfully spiced hot cider, along with apple donuts from Linden, but the best was their homemade apple crisp. It was heavenly. We sat and chatted for a while and then it was back to finish off the shelter.
The last step was adding a front porch and doorway. So we got more sticks and leaves and set to our task. A guy called Cyrus, who's a bounty hunter, came up from NC for the class, and spends most of his time in jeans and a t-shirt with no shoes or jacket. Apparently it's all about self discipline, he attends and gives spiritual workshops, but I didn't get it. He must have been frozen.
The last thing we needed to know regarding our shelter was how to block the doorway so precious heat wouldn't be lost. This could be done by weaving sticks to make a door, or the idea I liked best, stuffing a t-shirt with leaves and using that to block the entrance. Pulling in lots more leaves after you helps to keep your tiny abode nice and warm, and Tom assured us that even though you couldn't walk or drive a truck over it, the hut was pretty sturdy and even mostly waterproof, thanks to so many layers of leaves.
And then we were done. Bill said he had hoped I'd have to climb in once more so they could close me in completely but it wasn't to be. We all gathered again around the fireplace to finish off the afternoon with a chat and more of that delicious apple crisp.
They told us that 2016 would hold many more classes and after looking at their schedule, I'm looking forward to it. Some of their previous workshops had been too expensive for me, over $150, but they have said there will be less expensive classes, even pot luck dinners and hikes. And on my doorstep! How awesome! This is their website, I'll be keeping a close eye on developments!

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