Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ian's yurt - chapter two

I've been getting on with the yurt between the downpours and gales. I made a box to steam the wood for the roof slats so it's soft enough to bend into a nice curve.

The box has room for nine slats, steam supplied by an Argos wallpaper stripper (thanks for the suggestion Mark!) Two or three hours in there and they are well cooked. I suppose the box will also be handy if I ever grow any of those giant carrots you see.

Anyway, out of the box and swiftly into blocks laid out in a curve on the bench...

It takes twenty nerve-racking seconds or so to bend the wood into shape with firm steady pressure, pushing it into the blocks as I go...

...and that's it!
I let them cool down for half an hour or so. Once they're out of the blocks they spring back a bit but keep a good curve; I cracked a couple of them but there's still plenty to do the roof.

I've made the door and it's frame so the next job is making the circular crown for the top of the roof and cutting the joints in it. After that it's time for sewing a lot of canvas - which I've never done in my life, never mind ... live and learn.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Grafting course

If you buy a fruit tree it will probably be the product of a graft onto a rootstock. I used to think it was a really difficult thing to do but it just takes a bit of care and a very sharp knife.

Brighton Permaculture Trust run a one day Fruit Tree Grafting course which tells you all about it and gives plenty of practical experience. You cut a growth bud on a little chip of wood from the tree you want to propagate. Then you cut a matching chip into your rootstock and pop your chip into it holding it into place with tape.

Here's an apple tree I grafted on the course and got to take home - you can just see the graft held on by the tape just under the first leaves:

Once the graft has taken properly you trim off the rootstock above the union - and that's it!

I didn't realise that lots of ornamental trees are propagated in this way too, eg ash and maple. Also, it's cheap: whereas a fruit tree might cost £20 the rootstock would just be a £1 or so and your budding supply could be free. I like it! It's tempting to do a bit of guerilla gardening and start popping some fruit trees into wasteland here and there...

Ian's yurt - chapter one

I've had a book on yurts for years and always loved the shape and graceful patterns of these circular tents from Asia. Finally I decided to make one - partly because we will make good use of the space but also just because it feels like a good idea. If you do a bit of research you will soon see how clever they are. The design has been going for thousands of years because it works. Yurt inhabitants survive in temperatures of -50 degrees and through violent storms inside a few layers of felt held up with some bits of wood, all tied together with rope. The whole thing is quick to take apart and to put up and it all fits onto the back of a yak or two.

In the photo above, a group of yurts sits alongside houses near Ulan Bator. (I found it on Google Earth - a great place to find pictures taken in out of the way places).

Yurts are mostly made one at a time so they express their makers' skills, tastes and traditions and show what materials they had at hand. They can be made from sawn hardwood timber or wiggley coppiced poles. Not yet having access to woodland, I got some nice ash from a sawmill near Midhurst just down the road from here. All the wood for my 12 foot diameter yurt fitted inside my corsa. Well, only just...

I have had to get a few tools together and make a workbench but have now finished both the folding side wall sections - with some welcome help from my chum Jeremy. Here he is tying the last of the 1,700 or so knots. The next bit is the steaming of the roof poles. I have bent wood for the sides of guitars but that is just 2.5 mm thick whereas the poles are 1" thick - ah well, should be interesting ... more soon ...

Wales again...

Debi and I had long weekend down in Wales together including a rainy visit to the Centre for Alternative Technology. That's Debi posing inside the hub of a wind turbine - it's not every day you get to do that.

Below we have a bizarre building, I thought it was a giant hedgehog for a moment but in fact it's a roof studded with empty bottles. I wonder if the idea will ever catch on in the suburbs though...
(and it might be difficult in a block of flats?)

...but you do get a lovely light inside...

This exhibit "The treadmill of happiness" appealed to me a lot and it's just what I was trying to say in my "Tirade No 1 - MONEY and Stuff". We're always chasing our tails aren't we? (And wrecking the planet in the process.)

Recognition at last...

Up in the Welsh hills with Steve

Just a few photos from a beautiful walk that Steve took us on up around a waterfall not far from Chickenshack.

I was just waiting for a couple of elves or a dragon to jump out from the trees...magic!