Archive for the ‘alternative housing’ Category

The concrete house is an interesting, and in my mind, likable design for any survival homestead. The safety and security features provided by its non-flammable and destruction resistance construction far outweighs the aesthetics of a conventional wood frame structure. In most cases these buildings can be much easier to build, and less costly provided you can live without the advantages a standard stick built provides for. Interior layouts are not dependent upon structural beams for support of the inside walls, and can therefore be laid out in ways that better suits the preparedness mindset. However, as they are not conventional, they do take some getting used to. I have picked out a few free Google e-books on the subject that you may wish to read over, and perhaps you will come to see these structures in the same light as I do. Simply click the title links to go to the book mentioned.

The first is The concrete house: an explanatory treatise
by G. W. Hilton, an English architect from 1919. This man built a concrete home to his liking during the wartime years.

The second is Concrete houses, how they were built…
by a Harvey Whipple. This one is a collection of essays relating to concrete home construction.

The third is Concrete houses & cottages… by the Atlas Portland Cement Company. This one is a plan book published by a concrete supplier and gives photographic images as well as line drawing of many different designs and layouts of different concrete homes, both solid and block construction. It starts out with a few grand and lofty mansion designs, but there are a good many more homes as well that will more than suffice for the average homeowners needs.

the next book is Concrete for house, farm, & estate…

By Fred Ballard. It is a short book describing many of the features of various buildings and other concrete structures of value on a farm or rural property where agricultural pursuits may be followed.

And finally, we have Small farm buildings of concrete
by the Universal Portland Cement Company. This one is a veritable textbook on concrete construction for the farm, and well worth your time to read it if you are interested in concrete construction.

So, why do I like concrete so much? Because the benefits outweigh all other factors. For one, concrete is fireproof, so your insurance costs can be substantially lower. It is a much more secure building against wind and storm damage. Repair and upkeep to the structure is minimal. It retains heat in the winter and repels heat in the summer, thus lowering your heating and cooling bills. There are more benefits, but you get the idea.

Perhaps the greatest argument against concrete homes regards the appearance they have. In an unfinished, or simply a sealed and painted surface, the home looks more like a commercial structure. This can be overcome by adding vinyl or aluminum siding to give it an appearance of having regular clapboards applied to it. Another solution is to layer stucco over a secure mesh lathing to the walls. Or you can even apply a fieldstone to the outside walls to give it a look of having been built by actual fieldstone.

No matter how you finish the project, a concrete home can be just the solution for most prepper and survivalist needs in housing and keeping your family safe. And you can incorporate a fallout or survival shelter into the building with ease.

If you haven’t purchased or built a home yet, I would suggest you at least investigate the possibilities provided by concrete construction. You may be pleasantly surprised by your thorough analysis of this type of construction. I will be having more discussion on concrete homes in an upcoming episode of Survival Homesteading, which you may find at my Blogtalk page here.

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Beaver Mat Shelters by DAN BEARD

The Outing magazine, 1904

Ever since our aboreal ancestors with prehensile toes scampered among the branches of the pre-glacial forests men have built brush shelters for camps or temporary refuge, and I make no claim to inventing this time-honored style of forest home. The truth is that no contrivance of any description is ever invented at once in its entirety, but everything is evolved from something else, everything grows. Not only is this true of plants, animals and men, but it also holds good with men’s clothes, tools and houses, all are products of evolution.

Our birds never invented their wonderful nests, they have but modified and improved the cruder nests of their more undeveloped ancestors.

So the brush huts here given are evolved from the shacks and camps familiar to everyone who visits our north woods, but the application of the beaver-mat and the mat itself is new.

These camps are shingled with birch bark, spruce bark or covered with brush. Even a novice can cut birch bark, but might fail to get the same results from the spruce tree. Let the beginner hunt through the wood for a comparatively smooth spruce tree, and when a suitable one is found, cut a ring around the bottom and another about five feet above the first; then cut a perpendicular slit connecting the two rings; it is now a simple matter to peel off the section of bark by the careful use of the hatchet and the help of a comrade to hold on to the edge of the bark.

In this way enough pieces can soon be secured to roof the shack, but it is to be supposed that you know all this and also how to lay the bark, beginning at the bottom and working up, so that each layer overlaps the lower one and breaks joints with the ones below it; also, it is to be supposed that you know how to weight down the bark with poles laid from the ground at intervals so that their top ends protrude over the open front of the camp. Loose brush is used in the old-time camp to set up against and inclose the two ends of the shack, leaving the broad front open. This is the well-known Adirondack camp of former days, now generally superseded by structures of similar form built of logs, but unless logs are used a much neater, more durable and a better protection from the rain and weather can be obtained by building

A camp of beaver mats similar in form to the one shown by Figrs. 1, 2 and 3. The roof, by the way, should be much steeper than Fig. 1 and more like that shown in the profile view of Fig. 3. After you have erected the framework or skeleton of the camp, shown in the above diagrams, make four triangles to correspond with ABC (Fig. 3); do this by fastening the ends of three poles together, Fig. 5.

Next nail some branches from side to side of the triangle, as shown by Fig. 6, then, with the triangle flat on the ground, cover the frame with selected brush, being careful that it is placed in an orderly manner, with the tips pointing down and, overhanging the stick, AC, as is shown at D, Fig. 7. Over this lay another layer of brush in the same manner (E, Fig. 7), and, over the second layer put a third (F, Fig. 7), as one would shingle a house. Continue in this manner until you have a triangular mat a foot or more thick.

Next make a duplicate frame (Fig. 6), but with the cross sticks placed up and down in place of horizontal, as in Fig. 6. Fit the second triangle over the first, Fig. 8, and lash the corners together, using sufficient pressure to make the mattings between the two frames hard and compact. One side of your camp is now ready to set in place, but another beaver mat must be made for the opposite side, and then both can be set up against the ends of the camp, where they were intended to fit. The roof may be made of a beaver mat of rectangular form constructed with diagonal braces, like those shown by G H F E L M K J, or D C B A of Fig. 10.

After the mats are in place the whole thing should be thatched by inserting the end of a layer of small flat brush near the bottom of the mat, then one above overlapping the first and so on until the top is reached. A carefully built beaver mat lean-to, with thatch of palm leaves, if in the South, or pine, spruce, hemlock, or sweet-smelling balsam thatch, if in the North, can shield you from a hard shower of rain, and in cold weather offer a wind shield which will be appreciated by the tired hunter.

It does not take long to make beaver mats, but it does require care to make good ones; however, one who loves woodcraft will love to work with the twigs of evergreen, and one who loves his task may be trusted to do good work. If the reader is indolent he had better keep out of the woods altogether, or travel with a valet and a bunch of guides, being careful to sleep only in the well-built houses paradoxically called camps. But this sort of man will probably not read this sort of an article, and I can assume that the reader loves the woods for their own sake, loves the hardships and exertion of travel and making camp, loves the glow of the campfire and the nights under a birch-bark roof, or even with no shelter but the trees overhead, where he can watch through the interlacing branches the twinkling of the distant campfires of heaven.

But even the true-hearted woodsman and seasoned camper may wish to make a more artistic abode than that offered by a brush lean-to. He may expect to receive ladies at camp, his mother and sisters, for instance,
possibly accompanied by some other fellow’s sister, in which case he can exercise his artistic ability by constructing a beaver mat cottage for the ladies, which will be certain to find favor and win the feminine approval of the woods for a vacation. Fig. 4 shows a very plain and simple beaver mat hut, but one which can be embellished with quaint little hooded windows, a comfortable veranda, and as many other improvements as the time and inclination of the builder will allow.

The Wicks Frame shown by Fig. 9 is suitable for a detached open dining-room, a general camp assembly-room, or it may be made of smaller dimensions and used as a camp cottage.

The rafters (F) may be cut off just below the eaves (G), and the frame covered with beaver mats, or the sides may be used for the front and rear ends of a hut, in which case the two uprights on one side may be made tall, for the front, and the two rear ones cut short for the rear, which will give the colonial type of roof (Fig. 4), such as the old Dutchmen of New York used on their quaint dwellings, and such as may still be found on ancient houses both in New England and on Long Island.

To make the beaver mats very large is not a very practicable idea. Rather make them smaller and build your house as a child does a house of blocks. Fig. 10 shows a wall of four mats with a window opening. Fig. 11 shows a bow stick, pointed at both ends, to be used for a window hood. Fig. 12 shows the frame work of the hood, and Fig. 13 the hooded window when finished.

The window hood sticks are held in place simply by forcing their ends into the compact mass of the beaver mats, the hood is then thatched by forcing the ends of branches in above the window, so that the twigs rest on the hoops as the plain sticks do in Fig. 12. Over these first row of branches a shorter lot is laid with their ends thrust into the beaver mats like the first, and over these a still shorter lot until the hood is covered with a thick, green thatch.

We’re all aware of the latest natural disaster to wreak havoc upon this nation, via this past week’s slew of tornados throughout some of the southern states. A still unfolding tragedy, this period of nature’s fury caused over three hundred deaths, according to news reports. There seems to be no end of sites offering terrifying video clips of one tornado after another ripping through one community after another. Peoples lives, and their livelihoods wiped out in a matter of seconds, and all we can do is sit and stare at a screen, oohing and aahing over the destruction that no Hollywood film could recreate.

Tornados are a way of life, or rather a part of life, for many people in this country. Moreover, tornados occur in other nations as well, so it is not as if Alabama has been singled out for this particular form of judgment. We even have them up here in Maine, so they can, and do occur at any time, and in any place, and with little to no warning. Remember that in your preparedness planning.

My general advice is “why do you live in a place where you know you have a large probability of being slammed?” The answer is of course that there is usually little to no option. So you do the best you can to ride out the storm, and hope that the damage is never greater than you can bear. Unfortunately, all too often that happens to be the outcome.

What are some of the things you should be doing as a prepper to prepare for a tornado? If you live in a conventional home, you should, as a first step, consider building a safe room in your home. FEMA says this about safe rooms;

Preparing a Safe Room
Extreme windstorms in many parts of the country pose a serious threat to buildings and their occupants. Your residence may be built “to code,” but that does not mean it can withstand winds from extreme events such as tornadoes and major hurricanes. The purpose of a safe room or a wind shelter is to provide a space where you and your family can seek refuge that provides a high level of protection. You can build a safe room in one of several places in your home.

  • Your basement.
  • Atop a concrete slab-on-grade foundation or garage floor.
  • An interior room on the first floor.

Safe rooms built below ground level provide the greatest protection, but a safe room built in a first-floor interior room also can provide the necessary protection. Below-ground safe rooms must be designed to avoid accumulating water during the heavy rains that often accompany severe windstorms.

  • To protect its occupants, a safe room must be built to withstand high winds and flying debris, even if the rest of the residence is severely damaged or destroyed. Consider the following when building a safe room:
  • The safe room must be adequately anchored to resist overturning and uplift.
  • The walls, ceiling, and door of the shelter must withstand wind pressure and resist penetration by windborne objects and falling debris.
  • The connections between all parts of the safe room must be strong enough to resist the wind.
  • Sections of either interior or exterior residence walls that are used as walls of the safe room, must be separated from the structure of the residence so that damage to the residence will not cause damage to the safe room.

Farming communities of old utilized root cellars when a severe storm approached, and if possible you should look into that potential source of protection as well. However, many current zoning laws in the larger population centers prohibit this sort of a shelter for many reasons.

If you are in a position to build a new home, concrete dome homes are said to be more than worthy of withstanding virtually any tornado or wind storm, even hurricanes. Building your home below ground can also eliminate much of the destruction caused by tornados. Any type of construction that eliminates the possibility of wind catching, or buffeting a structure will lessen its impact.

It is funny that many people refer to mobile home parks as disaster magnets, and the news outlets show clip after clip of the destruction seen in these types of settlements after a tornado hits, but we still fail to see why the destruction seems to be so much greater than it is elsewhere. Part of the reason lies in the construction and installation of these homes, and part lies simply in their location.

Mobile homes are poorly made to begin with, in spite of the advancement in quality over the years. Built like a box of Saltine crackers, they have absolutely zero tolerance for wind of any sort. Coupled with the fact that they are simply placed upon a concrete pad, with an air space underneath, you have a prime example of a piece of litter waiting to be blown across the parking lot in the breeze. I’m sure you’ve seen a box, bottle or bag being blown about before. Just picture a mobile home in the same place and you can see why they become prime targets for wind damage.

Not only that, mobile home parks are usually built on no longer used farmland, which means that the wind has no natural break to lessen its impact when it reached these cleared out patches of land, and also allows an unfettered opportunity for wind to increase its power.

If you must live in a tornado prone area, please make sure you plan accordingly, and try to live in a shelter that has been specifically built to eliminate wind damage.

And after the fact, make sure you keep on keeping on, learning from the experience. FEMA has a 12-page brochure called Recovering from Disaster that you can download here.

In traveling through the history of this nation I have come upon a wondrous array of home styles, each to its own and perfect for the environment they were built in. This piece, by Daniel Beard of scouting fame in Shelters, Shacks and Shanties (©1914) describes a rather ornate shelter for survival purposes, but if you have a mind to create your survival homestead for permanent living out of logs, it will be quite the conversation piece.

One of the things we need to bear in mind when developing our preparedness plans is the aspect of shelter. When we build a permanent structure we have to look at how economy of materials as well as quality of structure relate to our needs and capabilities. Building a log home can be the answer to many shelter problems, provided you proceed with care. A temporary cabin can be built quickly with the bark on the logs, but decay and rot will set in. For permanence you need to peel the logs and dry them, as well as taking other steps to make sure you build a quality and safe survival homestead.

To conserve space I haven’t included allof the illustrations here that Beard refers to, but you can easily find the book for reference at many of the free  e-book sites such as Google Books. I suggest you download this book and save it for your survival homesteading library, even if you don’t have plans to build your home as a log cabin. And by the way, I especiallylike the idea Beard gives to build a little scale model out of sticks of your cabin. It will help you to decide how and what to build before expending a great deal of effort in building a real shelter, and then finding out it wasn’t exactly what you wanted.

~~~

HOW TO MAKE A UNIQUE BUT THOROUGHLY AMERICAN TOTEM LOG HOUSE

American Totem Log House

But if you really want something unique, build a log house on the general plan shown by Figs. 251 and 252; then carve the ends of all the extending logs to represent the heads of reptiles, beasts, or birds; also carve the posts which support the end logs on the front gallery, porch, or veranda in the form of totem-poles. You may add further to the quaint effect by placing small totem-posts where your steps begin on the walk (Fig. 253) and adding a tall totem-pole for your family totem or the totem of your clan. Fig. 252 shows how to arrange and cut your logs for the pens. The dining-room is supposed to be behind the half partition next to the kitchen; the other half of this room being open, with the front room, it makes a large living-room. The stairs lead up to the sleeping rooms overhead; the latter are made by dividing the space with partitions to suit your convenience.

Before Building

Take your jack-knife and a number of little sticks to represent the logs of your cabin; call an inch a foot or a half inch a foot as will suit your convenience and measure all the sticks on this scale, using inches or parts of inches for feet. Then sit down on the ground or on the floor and experiment in building a toy house or miniature model until you make one which is satisfactory. Next glue the little logs of the pen together; but make the roof so that it may be taken off and put on like the lid to a box; keep your model to use in place of an architect’s drawing; the backwoods workmen will understand it better than they will a set of plans and sections on paper. Fig. 251 is a very simple plan and only put here as a suggestion. You can put the kitchen at the back of the house instead of on one side of it or make any changes which suit your fancy; the pen of the house may be ten by twelve or twenty by thirty feet, a camp or a dwelling; the main point is to finish your house up with totems as shown by Fig. 253, and then tell the other fellows where you got the idea.

Peeled Logs

For any structure which is intended to be permanent never use the logs with bark on them; use peeled logs. When your house is finished it may look very fresh and new without bark, but one season of exposure to the weather will tone it down so that it will be sufficiently rustic to please your fancy, but if you leave the bark on the logs, a few seasons will rot your house down, making it too rustic to suit any one’s fancy.

Lay up the pen of this house as already described and illustrated by Figs. 229, 233, etc., and when the sides and front walls have reached the desired height, frame your roof after the manner shown by Fig. 49 or any of the other methods described which may suit your fancy or convenience, but in this case we use the Susitna form for the end plates, which are made by first severing the root of a tree and leaving an elbow or bend at the end of the trunk (Fig. 264). This is flattened by scoring and hewing as is described and illustrated under the heading of the Susitna house. The elbows at the terminals of the end plate are carved to represent grotesque heads (Fig. 253). The house when built is something like the Wyoming olebo (Fig. 236), but with the difference which will appear after careful inspection of the diagram. The Wyoming olebo is a one-story house; this is a two-story house. The Wyoming olebo has a roof built upon a modified plan of a Kanuck; this roof is built on the American log-cabin plan, with the logs continued up to the top of the gable, as are those in the Olympic (Fig. 240). But the present house is supposed to be very carefully built; to be sure, it is made of rude material but handled in a very neat and workmanlike manner. Great care must be used in notching and joining the logs, and only the straightest logs which can be had should be used for the walls of the house. The piazza may need some additional supports if there is a wide front to the house, but with a narrow front half, log puncheons will be sufficiently stiff to support themselves.

One of the drawbacks a preparedness plan can encounter is the necessity for bugging out against your wishes. You may have to leave your survival homestead and head for the hills with little more than your bug out bag to support you. You’ll need shelter beyond a lightweight nylon tent if you plan on staying anyplace for more than a couple of weeks, but what kind of shelter do you build? The obvious answer in a woodland situation is a log or bark shanty. The log shanty can be enclosed on four sides if needed and used year round as a permanent camp. And these shanty type huts really aren’t hard to build for a couple of people, or even just one if need be.

I pulled this piece from W.H. Gibson’s Camp Life in the Woods, first printed in 1881. It’s too bad that so many people have lost the simple ways and tend to make big projects out of simple ones, wasting time and energy that could be better spent in more productive pursuits. Camps like this were commonly erected throughout the vast stretches of woods that once graced our countryside. A couple of days work would build a luxurious woodland home, and shanties like this could be built in just a day by those who knew how to hone their skills and tools. Keep these instructions in your preparedness binder, you just may find them useful someday.

THE TRAPPER’S SHELTER.

The life of the professional trapper is a life of hardship and severe exposure, and a man not only requires considerable courage, but also great bodily vigor, in order to combat successfully the dangers of such a wild, adventuresome existence.

The cold and the storm not only imperil his life, but he is often exposed to the attacks of wild beasts. A shelter, therefore, in one form or another, becomes a necessity while it is always a decided comfort, in comparison to a campaign without it.

The reader will find below descriptions of the various shelters alluded to in other parts of this work, and used by trappers throughout the land.

The most substantial of these is the log shanty, commonly known among trappers as the “home shanty,” on account of its being constructed as the only permanent shelter on the trapping line.

It is used as a “home,” a place of rendezvous, and a storehouse for provisions, furs, and other necessities and valuables. Other temporary shelters, known as bark shanties, are also constructed along the trapping lines at intervals of five or ten miles, as resting places. These we describe under the proper title.

Although, to the amateur trapper, the log shanty is not likely to become a necessity, we will nevertheless describe its mode of construction, in order to satisfy our more earnest and adventurous readers, who aspire to a full taste of wild life.

Our illustration gives a very clear idea of such a shanty.

It may be constructed of any size, but one of about twelve by ten feet will be found large enough for ordinary purposes. Select straight logs, about eight inches in diameter. The whole number required will be thirty-six. Of these one-half should be twelve feet in length and the other ten. These should now be built up in the square form, on a level piece of ground, laying the ends of the logs over each other, and securing them by notches at the corners, so deep as to allow the edges of the logs to meet.

Lay two short logs first, and continue building until all the thirty-six logs are used, and we will now have four symmetrical sides about six feet in height. The place for the door should now be selected. The uppermost log should form its upper outline, and the two sides should be cleanly and straightly cut with a crosscut saw. The window openings, one or more, may next be cut, commencing beneath the second log from the top, and taking in three beneath it. Replace the logs above, and on the ends of those thus cut, both in windows and doors, proceed to spike a heavy plank, driving two nails into each log, about five inches apart, one above the other. This will hold them firmly in place, and offer a close-fitting jam for the door, and neat receptacle for the window sashes, which latter may now be put in after the ordinary manner.

The gable ends should next be built upon the smaller sides of the hut. Commence by laying a long log (notched as before) across the top of the frame work, and about two feet inside the edge. This should of course be done on both sides of the hut, after which they should be overlapped at the corners with logs eight feet in length. Next lay two more long logs, parallel with the first two, and about a foot inside them, notching as before. The ends of these should be spanned with beams eight feet in length.

Two more long logs are next in order—let them be one foot inside the last two. Overlap these with beams five feet and a half in length, and in the exact centre of these last pieces chop notches for a heavy log for a ridge pole. The gable outline, direct from the ridge pole to the eaves, should now be cut off by the aid of a sharp axe. This may be done either while the pieces are in position, or the line may be marked with a piece of chalk, and the logs taken down in order to accomplish it.

The roof is now required. This should consist either of strips of bark or the rounded sides of logs split off and hollowed into troughs. The latter method is preferable, on account of its greater strength and durability, but the bark will answer the purpose very well, and is much more easily obtained. The manner of adjusting the roof pieces is clearly shown in our illustration. The first row is laid on with the hollow side up securing them at top and bottom by nails driven through each into the ridge pole and eaves-log, care being taken that one of these pieces projects well over the gable, on both ends of the hut.

These pieces are now overlapped by the second row, and with the addition of the large piece which covers them all at the ridge pole, the roof is complete, and will stand a heavy rain with little or no leaking. The crevices should now be stopped with moss, dried grass or clay, after which the log cabin is complete. When the bark roof is made, additional poles may be inserted beneath as props. They should be three or four inches in diameter, and run parallel with the ridge pole, at intervals on the slope, notches being cut to secure them.

Our engraving represents a chimney, which may be constructed if desired, but the necessity of this may be done away with by using a small camp stove, and making a small opening in the gable end of the hut for the passage of the pipe. If a stove should not be at hand, and our amateur should decide to “rough it” to the full extent, he may build his fire-place and chimney as follows: It will be necessary to cut away an opening in the logs at the gable end, as was done for the door and windows. This should be about three feet square, and the fire place should be built of stone and clay, or cement, to fill the opening, and project inside the hut.

The chimney may then be built up outside in the same manner, sufficiently high to overtop the gables.

Inside the hut overhead will be found abundant room for the hanging of the skins, and any number of cross-poles may be rested across the beams. There are facilities for the swinging of a hammock, if desired, and, in fact, a hut constructed like the foregoing is a perfect one in its way. There are other methods of building a log cabin, but we will content ourselves with what we consider the best way of all, and pass on to the-

BARK SHANTY.

This is made by first driving into the ground two forked poles seven or eight feet in height and stout enough to sustain a ridge pole of moderate size. Against this ridge pole other poles should be rested at intervals of two feet, and sloping to the angle of forty-five degrees. The frame-work thus formed should now be covered with bark, commencing at the ground and allowing the edge of each piece to overlap the one beneath after the manner of shingles, in order to shed the rain in case of storm. Spruce or birch bark are excellent for this purpose and the pieces may be secured with nails, and kept flat by the weight of another series of poles rested against them. The sides of the shelter should be treated similarly, the front being usually left open to face the fire, which the trapper generally builds a few feet distant. In constructing a bark shanty, it is well to select some spot protected from the wind, close to the foot of a mountain or in the midst of trees, always letting the open side face the direction most sheltered.

If desired, the front can be enclosed after the manner of the sides and top, but this is not required where the fire is used.

This style of shelter is represented here, and certainly looks very comfortable.