natural world (132)

My Little Hut in the Woods

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.

–Martin Fuchs

Article in Swiss newspaper (You may need to use an incognito window to get past the web block.)

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Fox Meets Coyote

Coyote alongside Highway One. I’ve seen him several times. He seems curious about humans. The trickster. I hope people aren’t feeding him.

Fox was the only living man. There was no earth. The water was everywhere.

“What shall I do,” Fox asked himself. He began to sing in order to find out.

“I would like to meet somebody,” he sang to the sky.

Then he met Coyote.

“I thought I was going to meet someone,” Fox said.

“Where are you going?” Coyote asked.

“I been wandering all over trying to find someone.

I was worried there for a while.”

“Well, it’s better for two people to go together … That’s what they always say.”

“Okay. But what will we do?”

“I don’t know.”

“I got it! Let’s try to make the world.”

“And how are we going to do that?” Coyote asked.

“Sing!” said Fox.

–Jaime de Angulo, Indian Tales
(From the first page of Shelter)

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Ohlone Indians of Santa Cruz

Last week I took my two grandsons (ages 5 & 7) to the Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History, which they loved. On the wall was this lovely painting depicting what life was like for California Indians before the Europeans arrived. If you are ever in Santa Cruz I highly recommend visiting this unique little museum, which is at 1305 East Cliff Dr.

“Ohlone people were hunters and gatherers who followed this seasonal cycles of the natural world around them — the salmon runs, the maturing of acorns, the ripening of berries and bulbs, the migrations of waterfowl. The abundance of food in this region created a relatively stable society. Some village sites were occupied continuously for thousands of years.”

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