I live in a little Co-Housing on a farm just outside a small town in Switzerland. In Spring 2017, I sold my the little caravan that I was living in and started sleeping at the edge of the forest 200 yards from the farm, under some huge beech trees. By the end of Summer, I was feeling really at home there and decided I would make myself a home, so I could stay there in Winter.
I could already see the place for my shelter, hugging in between a small ash tree and an overgrown pile of dirt. So I started digging, using only a knife, a folding saw, and my bare hands. My inspiration was the debris hut, a shelter i know from the wilderness school.
The main structure is made of bent hazel branches, which looks like a huge streamlined basket. This a covered with jute bags, than a thick layer of pressed straw and a thick plastic lining normally used for ponds. All this is covered with dirt.
The entrance is formed by two well-chosen bent branches and around it, I closed the gap with adobe and some embedded glass bottles for light. The door was then closed by a few layers of woolen blankets.
Heat is provided by two small burners using denatured alcohol. It was warm and cosy this first winter. And even without heating, temperatures inside never fell below 7°C (44°F) inside, with -10° (14°F) outside, the warmth from the ground keeping the interior warmer.
In 2018, I added three layers of mud plastering to the inside walls. I dug the floor deeper and added a clay layer with gravel on top, covered by an earthen floor, sealed with linseed oil and wax. A small rocket mass heater now provides heating. With all the thermal mass from the mud, it now takes a little longer to heat up, but then keeps the warmth for more than a day.
The newest addition is a double-glassed door with a wooden frame perfectly fitted to the door shape, providing a lot more light inside when I use the space during the day.
All in all, the experience of building my own shelter, with not much more than my bare hands and what materials I could find in the vicinity alone was worth the effort. I think it is one of the most basic instincts of all living beings to make their own shelter, and we humans are no exception.
Article in Swiss newspaper (You may need to use an incognito window to get past the web block.)