When I was in my 20’s I was very much interested in primitive living skills and my partner Adam and I decided to build a home out of sticks and leaves and try living more closely to the cycles of the earth.
We started building a little late in the season and it wasn’t until new years eve that we spend the first night in our home.
It was quite the learning experience living there for a year. In the end it was what stressed our relationship until it broke. But after many years apart we have maintained a friendship.
During the building process we had access to some modern machinery such as steel tools and chainsaws. We even had access to a 4x4 all terrain four wheeler.
We started by selecting a suitable site for building that was close to a water source and had adequate drainage.
We dug into the hillside and made a drainage ditch around the foundation and filled it with rocks. The hut would be circular in design and insulated with leaves. The support structures were medium size sections of tree trunks about 10 inches in diameter. We erected several on the outer edges of the circular wall. Then several on the inner wall.
Next we wove saplings through each vertical post as though we were weaving a large basket.
The center support for the roof we called the quadrapod and consisted of 4 posts. Below the quadrapod would be where the central fire would sit and would ventilate out through the top.
once we had woven the inner and outer walls we were ready to stuff it full of leaves for insulation. The incredible amount of leaves necessary to fill the walls was quite the undertaking in gathering. What we decided to do was to go around all the local neighborhoods and take their leaves that the had cleared from their yards. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
The roof had smaller trees laid from the outer post to rest centrally on the quadrapod, and was insulated with about 20 inches worth of leaves. We did purchase a canvas material to keep leaves and bugs from dropping down on us where we lay.
For the chimney we found a partially hollowed out log in our wanderings on the property and sawed it in half to excavate it fully.
The floor was lined with paper bags but eventually we milled pieces of timber from the property with the alaskan chainsaw mill that we purchased.
With some of the open fire trials we found that smoke inhalation was going to pose a serious health risk, not to mention a fire hazard when sleeping in a highly flammable home. So we purchased a wood stove.
Again, we moved in on new years eve. Adam’s parents, also primitive skills enthusiasts stayed the first night with us and we celebrated this incredible accomplishment.
Through out the building process I struggled emotionally, physically, and spiritually with the process. The conditions were like nothing I had ever experienced. Adam was a hearty strong man. With the build of a brawny Neanderthal he was able to work long hard days. And he needed me to be strong with him. We were foreman, crew, clean up, cooks, community, and lovers. We both found that we couldn’t be everything for each other. To imagine that we could do this was foolish, in retrospect.
Nearly a year had passed beneath the leafy roof, and I needed more from my community. We were so isolated. We split up. I left.
In the end the hut burned down one evening years after our break up when Adam and his friends were sleeping inside, Everyone survived with out injury, but the event was horrifying. A blazing inferno.
It's so interesting to look back at this experience from the position that I am in now. For the last 11 years I have lived as more of a domestic person while back then I was a woodland creature. I would walk barefoot everywhere I went. Cover my body in mud for camouflage. Process buckskin, hunt, carve wood. And I was intensely satisfied by these activities. I am grateful for all that I learned from primitive living skills practice. It has enriched my abilities as a problem solver, and I feel I have an understanding of the "magic" that moves in the natural world. Sometimes I long desperately for that deep connection again. Like when I am sitting with a group of friends who will not leave their smart phones off.
Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed my story and pictures. Most of them were taken on a disposable camera so pardon the quality.