by Rom Publius
Something I've been thinking a lot about is to build a gher or yurt and cover it with inexpensive canvas painter's drop cloths like the ones you can buy in Home Depot, Lowe's, or some such place. I like "native" methods of building these like the one I , rather than the designs made usually by Americans using construction lumber and steel cable.
For a more primitive design, I figure I can find all the wood I would need in a typical alder thicket. In New England there are black alders which is in the pea family and grows down in boggy soil near brooks. Typically, it only gets about 12 foot tall or so and grows in a dense stand of clumps. I figure on using a draw knife to peel them and remove branches and to thin an area near the base for bending. If cut and trimmed right on the spot and then bent and tied
with cord to hold the bend until it dries a bit, this would give me the needed roof members in a few weeks or less, depending on how hard I work. The side latice work pieces are even simpler--just use smaller pieces that are not long enough for roof pieces.
I figure if I bought land, I could set up a tent and, while summering in that tent, make a gher or yurt in this way with materials found right on that site. No real purchase necessary for the framing and the canvas would cost about $100 or so using dropcloths. Ghers typically have regular wood burning stoves in them and the steppes of Central Asia are very windy and often hit -40 F. or less so I'm sure these are sturdy, and snug. I think perhaps I would keep the size smaller--no more than the size of a 2 car garage. Then the original tent, as well as tarp structures, could be used for storage purposes. I'll have the contents of two houses to store when Ileigha and I buy land.
I doubt if the comfort level in winter would be equal to that of most American homes in this design however due to the lack of insulation but air space is an effective insulator and Native American tepees had an onan or some such which typically was a tent within a tent. This gave the occupants two comfort zones. In the onan was very cozy and outside that but inside the tepee was where one would typically cook etc. or do things that one does when up and dressed.
I figure an inner zone of comfort could easily be set up similarly and a steady source of heat for the whole structure could even be provided by using a vented kerosene heater or an oil stove. That way it wouldn't freeze up before one got home from work or some such. I used to heat with wood and it was good but I was tied down to having to build 2 fires a day and I had 6 inches of insulation in the walls and floor and 12 in the ceiling.