Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The Continuing Saga of Ian's Yurt

Extra big thanks to Matt of Future Roots (and Yurtopia) for an amazing few days at Stanmer Park learning more about yurt making - and a whole lot of other stuff too. It felt like being in an Icelandic saga with tools and equipment from the Middle Ages everywhere (and also because my own yurt seems to be taking such a long time to make...)

Matt's yurt nestling in the glade.

Matt's woodland workshop MK II - sadly MK I was vandalised in July this year and burned to the ground.

I would have laughed at the idea of using one of these medieval shaving horses a few days ago but not anymore - they are so useful! They hold awkwardly shaped wood really tight and its quick and easy to turn your workpiece about. They are ideal for doing any shaping on the greenwood poles that Matt uses for his yurts and for loads of other jobs as well.

A selection of drawknives, they can be used to take off big chunks of wood or for fine shaving, simple and versatile.

This is a FROE, something I've never even heard of before, a sort of cross between an axe and a chisel. Again, these simple tools are all really versatile. We talked a lot about a general decline in skill with hand tools - maybe one day when power is not so cheap these things will come into their own again. Matt told a nice story about some yurt makers who had been brought over from Mongolia by one of the English manufactures. They needed a large fret saw so they just made one out of an old bicycle wheel. I guess they don't just pop down to B&Q when they need something in Ulan Bator. I love all that ingenuity and adaptability.

Once more, nice and simple, a forked tree holds a roof pole while it is de-knotted and de-barked. If you see one of Matt's yurts you will notice he gets a lovely finish on these wiggley poles; it's a different look altogether to my sawn timber style.

This is the jungle version of my suburban steamer, an old beer keg...

... sitting over a roaring fire inside an oil drum.

The steam goes from there into a section of gas mains pipe - lovely!

Once they have been thoroughly steamed, Matt bends the roof poles over a gas cylinder sitting in an old staircase...

...while the wall poles are bent between some scaffolding poles. It's all great, simple, ingenious stuff and making what you need out of what you have at hand.

This is my own wheel, third attempt now, built up from two half-inch layers of oak and glued up on a metal former. Next, we drilled it with holes for the roof poles.

But the roof poles have a square end ... time for the best bit of ingenuity of all, the sawn-off pick-axe head.

It gets heated red hot in the barbeque...

...then simply burns the round holes into squares ... Brilliant!

And here is my latest wheel homeward bound.

COMING SOON: the next volume of the Saga of Ian's Yurt, The Erection of the Frame, Part Two.

Thanks again Matt, it was great meeting you and having all those sorting-out-life-and-everything-else conversations. I found out lots about Yurt Making but also a whole lot I wasn't expecting about a simpler way of working with wood and working with greenwood too. Good luck with all your enterprises!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Anyone for fish? Oops! Sorry, too late...

(also in today's Guardian)

"...As we goggle at the fluttering financial figures, a different set of numbers passes us by. On Friday, Pavan Sukhdev, the Deutsche Bank economist leading a European study on ecosystems, reported that we are losing natural capital worth between $2 trillion and $5 trillion every year, as a result of deforestation alone(1). The losses incurred so far by the financial sector amount to between $1 trillion and $1.5 trillion. Sukhdev arrived at his figure by estimating the value of the services - such as locking up carbon and providing freshwater - that forests perform, and calculating the cost of either replacing them or living without them. The credit crunch is petty when compared to the nature crunch... "

See the whole article at Monbiot.com .....Tell it like it is George!

It's funny isn't it, the Icelanders are talking about doing a bit more fishing to sort out their economy...well, they'd better be quick. And they might have to steam a long, long way - we've already pretty much fished out everything around here.

Isn't it great that the Bank of England is lending money to Iceland to help them honour deposits made by UK councils etc? Then if the Bank of England collapses she can just get a wee bailout from Iceland no doubt....or some fish??

Monday, October 06, 2008

Some Permaculture courses coming up:

If you can get to one of these courses it will probably be some of the most useful time you will spend in your life! A chance to study with Steve: see my earlier posts about his work and link to Chickenshack, the co-operative small holding he set up. It's all part of a possible future.

!! ALSO !! ... if you can venture further afield, Steve and Caryn have a Permaculture course coming up at Quinta Cabe├ža do Mato in the beautiful backwoods of Portugal, another wonderful opportunity to live and learn.

Wales - Tir Penrhos Isaf

I'm not long back from a few days with Chris and Lyn Dixon on their permaculture holding at Tir Penrhos Isaf in the forests of the Snowdonia National Park - huge heartfelt thanks to them both for all their friendly hospitality and inspiration. The visit has given me lots to think about and helped me make some very unexpected connections.

I was hoping to help them with their barn conversion but the weather had other ideas - I think I can say I've experienced real Welsh rain now and its WET even by Scottish standards.

...we did get a wee bit done in between the torrents though...

During the torrents, we had fascinating chats about their work and how they have nurtured their 7.2 acre plot back from its grass covered, sheep-grazed desert state in 1985 to today's glorious fully-fledged permacultural diversity. It's a tale of patient observation and a gentle, Taoist approach to life and work.

The Healing Power of Horses
Horses? I never thought I'd write about horses!
We also talked a lot about Lyn's work which was a real eye-opener for me. Lyn describes her work as "Horse Listening". Riders come to her with horses with whom they are having problems. The fascinating thing is that it's almost never the horse that has the problem. For a start their saddles etc may be fitted badly or their diet may be wrong for them. Also, the horses will sometimes reflect their riders' own structural problems, eg back or hip restrictions, but above all it's the riders' attitude of having to be in control and using bits, spurs and whips to force their will on the horse that is self-defeating. Learning to meet the horses in their emotional/empathetic world can be a deeply healing experience for the riders.
Chris and Lyn's work with land and horses resonates deeply with my own experience of treating people: a gentle listening approach is the most effective. (Maybe the rider is a bit like your mind and the horse is a bit like your body?) If these ideas can help the land's regeneration as well as riders' problems what else might they achieve?

The Precipice Walk - just a few miles above Chris and Lyn's place.