Building my House


Just the process of how I built my house. Now, I’m not a very good carpenter and had no clue what I was doing, and I did use allot of materials like glass windows and plywood, and I did use a chainsaw for most of the cutting (I used a crosscut saw too…but back then I didn’t know how to properly sharpen it so it took a lot longer than it should have I realise now, haha), so it’s not entirely coherent with our beliefs. But like everything it’s a step closer and a work in progress.


Almost all cedar, cut 12 and 14 foot lengths. The interior of the cabin is 10 by 12.


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Maine Aug - Sept 2011 005


This is what I was living in through the Summer while I was building my house. The actual cabin itself only took 14 days altogether to build, but they were spread across the whole Summer.

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I didn’t do the roof in any way I’ve seen it done before, but it seemed like the most intuitive way to do it to me. It’s very strong and has held up well in any case. There’s a little loft two-thirds of the way across the inside that you can’t see in any of these pictures.


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Some of the cedar shakes I was making. I tried so hard to make enough to cover the roof, but I was running out of time before Winter and really needed a roof, so I went with some plywood a neighbour had left over from a project of theirs they never ended up using and gave me. Between how twisted the cedar was (they logged all the best wood off the property before I got it) and how bad I am with a froe, they didn’t turn out too well. I still have the pile, I split it into kindling and use them for plates to eat off of and such. Ah well, I’ll count it as practice for next time.

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And the inside. It still doesn’t look too much different from that in there, asside from the massive pile of books. I ended up building it for next to nothing compared to how much it usually costs to build a house except the cost of chainsaw gas, most of the materials that didn’t come from my land I got for free from other people. The windows came from the dump, all the 2×4’s I used in building it were excess from building my goat barn on the old property I lived at before this one, the stovepipe and a couple rolls of tarpaper came from a shed a friend of mine was tearing down, and my father had the fitting for the pipe to go through the roof. I did buy the plywood for the floor and the screws, though.

Next one I build will be ALL the right way, with nothing but an axe and materials all straight from the land. I’m away working to pay off my land right now, but when I get back I hope to finish building a wigwam I was working on and move in there instead.

Very often I come across people who ask me how they can be self sufficient, but they either don’t want to go all out and live entirely off the land, or they want to gradually adjust to doing precisely that. I’m far from an expert, but in either case the usual advice I give to people is to break it down into as many small steps as possible, and then set a pace to do them. All a person really needs is just food, water, shelter, and clothing, right? Sooner or later if you keep changing one of your habits at a time you’ll find you’re already doing everything you need to do. After all, how many tasks do you actually do in the day? So this is just a list of easy habits you can change, say one a week. It might not seem like much, but at the end of the year it amounts to allot. And even though a year is along time, how many years have you spent wishing to be more self sufficient, and where are you now?

-Making your own toothpaste. Personally, I prefer to brush my teeth with just baking soda, but you can make more complex ones by adding hydrogen peroxide and mint or cinnamin to the baking soda to turn it into a paste like store bought toothpastes. It’s an awful lot cheaper (plus you know and can control exactly what goes in it), but you still would have to make the baking soda and hydrogen peroxide to be truely self sufficient. But atleast baking soda and hydrogen peroxide have allot more uses than toothpaste so it’s considerably more adaptable to stock up on them than to stock up on toothpaste. Same thing with baking powder- it’s just a mix of baking soda and cream of tartar. Why keep baking powder around seperate? If you leave it sit the ingredients slowly react together and lose their effectiveness.

-Dry your clothes on a line or rack. Dryers are one of the least sustainable appliances, they’re expensive, hard to make, and use up allot of electricity. And it’s so easy to dry your own clothes I don’t know why anyone bothers with them. Set up a clothesline or buy or build a drying rack. Once you have it and get into the habit of using it it’s easy to keep the habit going just like anything else on this list.

-Knit something. It only takes a couple hours to knit a hat or mittens or socks or boxers or a storage sack or a dishcloth, and every item that you use that you replace with something you made is a substantial step. Learning to knit is a big thing to do, but once you learn you’ve got it, it’s not something you need to learn again. Making larger projects like pants or shirts or blankets take a much longer time, but for them I recommend setting aside 15 minutes a day just to work on larger projects. Even on a large blanket you can probably knit two rows in 20 minutes, once you’ve got a feel for knitting, and on size 15 needles you would be done now if you’d started three months ago just 20 minutes a day! It’s not that demanding of attention either, so you can do it while reading a book or sitting around talking or at school or watching TV or whathaveyou.

-Make your silverware and dishes. Pretty much everyone knows how to whittle a spoon. I generally just go cut a pair of chopsticks whenever I need a new pair instead of keeping around any dedicated silverware, but I suppose most Westerners are probably more comfortable with forks and such. If you don’t have constant access to the woods, then stock up on materials when you’re out there so you can replace anything on the spot should you need to. The same with bowls. You can burn or carve them out of wood or collect clay and fire some terra cotta. Or forge some if you have access to a forge. If you’re in the city and can’t burn out a bowl or fire pottery in your back yard bring what you make to a kiln. Allot of them let you fire things you made on your own there, for a small fee. Plates are just a slab of wood or slate. It doesn’t need to look good to function perfectly, and you can always go out and grab another stone or piece of bark as yo need it easy enough.

-Wash your clothes by hand. Ok, this one might be a bit harder to swallow for some of you. It’s easy enough though, and doesn’t cost anything or take any longer than using a machine. I’m sure everyone already knows how, but I’ll go over it anyways cause it I feel funny leaving just one blank here. Just fill a sink or bucket with hot soapy water and rub your clothes violently in it until the dirt’s gone, then either empty and refill the bucket or sink clean water or stick them into a seperate rinse sink or bucket. If you’re doing allot of clothes you may have to refresh the water a couple times. Then you wring the clothes out to get rid of as much water as possible, and hang them to dry.

Start a kitchen garden. Just put a couple plant pots up in the window growing herbs. Grow things you already use and you’ll be much more likely to stick with it. Mints, thyme, basil, and oregano are all exceptionally easy to grow. A long rectangular pot can grow radishes or carrots in a window. You can also put trellises up on the sides of your house for things like grapes, squash, gourds, and cucumbers if you don’t have allot of space. Speaking of which, this farm is amazing:

Grow your own mushrooms. You can buy premade kits for growing mushrooms on the internet for about 25 dollars. It’s little more than a bag of straw and nutrients innoculated with mushroom spores, and you don’t really have to do anything to get them to produce brilliantly. Just stick it in a cabinet or closet when you get it and wait till it starts producing. It’s so foolishly simple I have no idea why everyone’s not doing it, but then again I think that about allot of things, like keeping chickens and making soap.

Raise chickens. Chickens are so easy to raise it’s crazy. Just set them outside and go collect the eggs, then butcher them in Fall. That assumes you have a porch or shed they can roose and get out of the rain under and enough land that they can roam around on without ending up on someone else’s property, and a stream or puddle or someplace they can get water. They’ll be able to find all the bugs they need to eat, so no need to feed them. If you don’t have ideal conditions then you can fence them in or build a chicken coop. Once you’ve set one up you’re all set though. They eat just about anything, kitchen scraps and leftovers, potato mash, oats. A big bag of cracked corn will last a very long time if you mix in some more nutritious stuff like leftovers and is cheap. Allot of times you can find people giving away chickens pretty easy too.

Raise rabbits. Rabbits are an amazing source of food, one doe from a meat breed like californians can produce 300 pounds of meat in one year, and they can live on pretty little. I once read that a 20 by 20 foot garden could supply enough food to raise one buck and three does for a whole year.

Compost. It’s pretty easy to keep an extra bucket next to your trash to throw decomposable odds and ends in. Vegetable ends, uneaten or old food, paper scrap, all sorts of things. Why not go get a bucket and stick it there now? Empty it in a pile outside, flip the pile over next to itself a couple times a year to let it aerate, and when it’s black soil it’s ready to stick on your garden or in pots.

Vermiculture. Both for your own food, and as a form of compost. If you want to eat them you have to set them in little wet cornmeal overnight so their system cleans out, then boil the mucus off their skin. Then you can cut them up and use them in any recipe that calls for very lean meat, since that’s all they are. They really do taste good, don’t take my word for it, go try some! You can grind them up and add a little tallow or lard to keep the burger together and do anything with it you’d do with burger if you don’t care for the sight of them whole on your plate. The liquid you pour off the worm colony periodically is also excellent nutritients for plants, so you can water your container plants with it whenever you get it.

Raise insects. A couple 2 gallon glass jars and you can raise a mealworms to eat. Take a look here for a good guide: Crickets are just as easy, but really hard to prevent escaping. I like to dry them and grind them into flour, adds an excellent flavour to breads and buscuits. Sorta like sardines or roasted pine nuts. Very very good.

Brush your teeth with a stick. I really have no idea why this is so unheard of in the U.S.. This is historically the most common method of cleaning teeth, and is still used in parts of the world. It’s no less effective than a toothbrush, either. My guess it it’s a marketing thing rather than any actual benefit of modern toothbrushes. Just chop off a stick and chew on the end for a while, it’ll eventually break up into fibers like a brush. Pretty near any tree will work, but there’s some trees they sell specifically because in addition to turning into small fibers they also have chemicals in them good for the teeth. I don’t know if any of the local varieties have the same chemicals or not, but they still work. If you don’t have steady access to the woods, just take a big handful of sticks home next time you find some good trees.

Bake bread once a week. The actual working parts involved don’t take all that long. I’d say 20 to 30 minutes at most, combining the ingredients, kneading the dough, putting it on a pan and into the oven, and then taking it out of the oven. The vast majourity of it is just waiting for the bread to rise and then for it to bake. Besides, the more often you do it, the better you’ll be at making good bread and the quicker you’ll be. And flat breads or bisquits can be made even quicker because they don’t need to take the time to rise.

Start using candles or oil lamps for light. Candles are very cheap and easy to come by, and oil for oil lamps isn’t very cheap 3but it still works out to cheaper than electric lights. It can take a bit of adjusting, since you can’t just sit down anywhere in the room and expect to be able to read a book at night, but once you get used to it you don’t even notice. And with different reflectors oil lamps and candle lamps can be really quite bright in a limited area.

Keep bees. I’ve never kept bees myself, and there’s already allot of very good comprehensive guides out there on it. Startup is expensive, from what I gather if you were to buy everything and make none of the equipment yourself, it would cost nearly 700$ to get initially set up completely for two hives, the tools and outfit, and the starting bee colonies. But once you have it going, you have them going. You could get away with never having to put any money into it again if you do it right. The great thing about bees is you don’t need hardly any land to raise them, you could keep them on a balcony or a rooftop if you wanted. The other great thing is they make your garden produce so much better. And the greatest thing is all the honey! And you can get bee pollen, royal jelly, wax, you can collect bee venom for it’s medicinal uses (or just use the bees), and you can eat the larvae. It’s pretty win-win. Then again I feel the same about almost everything on this list.

Raise your own sugar. If you live in an area with sugar maples you probably already know how to do this. If not, you can always raise sugar beets. This blog: says a 5 foot square patch of garden can grow 5-10 pounds of sugar with sugar beets. I’ve never succeeded in this myself (I can’t get them to grow right in my swamp…I need to make some raised beds for next year) but it’s supposed to be fairly easy, just boilig shredded root until you have syrup, and crystalising it the same way you would maple syrup.

Raise your own flour. Wheat is the all around most versatile grain in my opinion. It grows in the widest range of conditions and has enough gluten in it to make anything wihout mixing it with other flours.

A couple good documentaries

An iron age reenacted village for a year;

40 years of isolation in Patagonia;

Wilderness village in the Ural mountains

Dick Proenik’s Alone in the Wild

Canadian documentary from 1953 on the Inuit;

The most remote family in Alaska;

The Zo’é tribe of Brazil;–1AEHcLmuk

Recent knitting projects

Baby boots for my friends’ recent babies.
Two halves of a pair of knitted underpants. The short wide section at the bottom is the part which wraps around the leg, the top long part is the sewn to the other half and goes on the torso. Extend the short wide section down a couple feet long and you’d have pants. They’re really surprisingly comfortable.
Just a little pouch I’d knit. Only took a couple minutes.
A baby blanket. The yellow is cattail pollen I accidentally spilled on it.
A tunic. I love these giant tunics, they’re wicked comfortable, and go down mid-thigh. I was really needing another shirt, I only had three and the one I’d knit out of cotton yarn kept breaking strands and running stitches up from the edges.

I did all of these in the past two weeks.

Also, the blanket all of these except the last picture are on is only half finish, I am knitting that right now. On my list of projects next I’ve got a hiking pack, a couple small cloths for sundrying fruits, some socks, a pair a pants for a friend, a hat for a friend, a pair of felt pants, a tunic for a friend, a couple little pouches and two large sacks for storage, a blanket, three gigantic pullovers, and that’s all I can think off off the top of my head but there’s probably more. Should take me till about the end of the year to finish all that. As of now the only pieces of clothing I wear that aren’t handmade are my boots (although I usually forgo shoes in the Summer entirely), some socks, and one pair of pants. If only I could figure out how to weave straw boots like the Chinese used to do.


I just got back from a course on canoeing at a local survival school. It was wicked fun, and I learned an awful lot, but it was so expensive there’s no way I’ll be able to go back any time soon. Poling canoes is real fun, I’m going to be doing allot of that on my own to get to some of the more remote gathering spots. The teacher also was willing to teach about survival skills not directly related to the course, like flintknapping. I found out there’s a source of chert nearby, too. There’s also a source of greenstone, which the local indians used to use to grind axe heads. Being able to make my own greenstone axe and chert knife will go a long ways towards being entirely self-sufficient. My most immediate project is to get a big bunch of birch bark though. That way I’ll be able to cover the wigwam I’m living in this Summer with that instead of the tarp I’m currently using. I had been using balsam fir boughs thatched over the roof, but they leaked in heavy rains, and recently the needles started falling out so I took them down and switched to the tarp.

After I went back home yesterday I went to go visit some friends and we decided to eat some junebugs, it was pretty delicious, but not nearly enough meat on them to make it worth it. May have been the way we cooked them though, since they sort of collapsed when we fried them. They tasted a bit like sardines.


Homebuilding: A report on various structures

There are several different ways in which shelters can be constructed.  Most importantly, of these various types each can be created from whatever resources on finds on hand in the environment.  Creating the shelter that best suits the needs of the owner and is constructed in such a manner that is both sustainable, as in it conserves as much resources as possible, and two is durable enough to withstand a high degree of wear and some degree of severe weather.  When considering such a design it is useful to reflect upon the housing that various indigenous peoples and that of certain roving nomadic bands. Of these types it can be divided further into at least 4 major types.

Temporary structures

These are one off shelters of any kind, designed for temporary use, but sometimes can be modified from longer term usage. These usually require the least amount of energy and resources to construct and destruct. Examples:

    1. Lean to
    2. Modern two man tent
    3. Quinzhee(snow shelter)

      Inside a quinzhee shelter

      Inside a quinzhee shelter

Semi permanent structures

These can be quite durable however they tend to be able to be either portable or perhaps are unable to withstand (or be habitable during) bouts of poor weather or other environmental factors. These can require a large amount of effort to construct but typically are created with materials found on site and are designed for minimal maintenance. Examples:

    1. Yurt (portable)
    2. Wigwam
    3. Adirondack or three faced shelters

      An three faced shelter

      A three faced shelter

Short term permanent structures

The major difference here from semi permanent structures being these structures are designed for repeated use however are not intended for year round habitation. These structures may be seasonal or even only used during certain parts of a trans human cycle. These can require resources from off site in order to increase durability and sometimes require annual maintenance to upkeep. Examples:

    1. Yurt (Non portable)
    2. Igloo (In nomadic or trans-human settlements
    3. Mountain Huts

      A yurt made of modern plastic.

      A yurt made of modern plastic.

Long term permanent structures

These are typically the most resource heavy and can require the most materials and expertise to create . These however are used for long term settlement style dwellings. Long term structures are usually designed to stand up to the highest degree of locale environmental challenges. Examples:

    1. Cabin
    2. Stilt house
    3. Long house


      A recreation of a native longhouse

Each of these structure types has certain benefits associated with it. There may be benefits in terms of the speed and ease of construction or in regards to the resources required in order to construct such a structure. These, benefits must be analyzed before construction should commence. If for instance, one lives in a climate that is constantly below freezing then constructing a shelter that is made of ice such as an igloo could become a regular long term permanent structure. However, if part of the year it is too warm or if part of the year it becomes to harsh to live in cold conditions and migration is needed, then such a shelter may become a short term or even constructed to be temporary. There is an implicit assumption made in these lists and that is that the knowledge, tools, and resources are at the disposal of the individual or group that is constructing such a structure. These like with food are part of an intricate network and if built upon to tenuous of a foundation of knowledge or skill may become difficult to reproduce, maintain, or even construct in the first place.

Aside from the resources and expertise required there are other considerations to ponder.  Is this home going to create more work via maintanance, is a good starting question. Also, one must also consider whether the effort in building and maintaining will in some ways keep the person tied down and attached to a certain spot.  This may cause unneeded attachment to a set of circumstances, land, or even a structure.  If a strucutre is impermanent than it may cause less psychological attachment to the structure and way of life that it enables and in some cases requires.  Modern cities are an example of how this can get out of hand.  These are particularly long term settlements that are sometimes built without accessing the long term environmental effects.  This sometimes leads to large scale human decay, waste, and suffering.  This does not always have to be the case with human settlements or structures but becomes the case when a certain mandate or preference to lifestyle is considered before other important factors in structure building.

As always comment and ask questions and more posts of this sort will certainly be in order.

See also

The Problem of Problem Solving blog post and check out this link for more information about this sort of thing.



What is a luddite doing on the internet?

     People often ask me, “if you’re a luddite, then why do you have a computer and a truck?” Certainly, if I had the option to live in the wild without any of that I would gladly take it. But it’s nearly impossible nowadays. It is possible for an individual to go and do that, in fact I have known several who have. And I’m sure that if I found a sufficiently remote piece of land I could aswell. But there’s a big difference between a person living in the woods and a couple dozen or a couple hundred living in the woods. So atleast for now, I’m stuck buying land and paying land tax. Which means I need a means to make money, so I sell stuff on the internet and do odd jobs in town. Picking wild plants to sell to restaurants, trimming the occassional horse’s hooves, washing dishes, some construction, or helping on a farm. I’m getting by right now, and I produce as much of what I use myself as possible. This is what we call ‘semi-intergration’ – practicing as honourably as one can, adapted into outside circumstances.Every one of us is semi-intergrated at the moment.

But there also is why I am against technology. I don’t find anything wrong with the internet, it’s just a communication tool, and as long as I have to have it I see nothing wrong with looking up documentaries, or watching My Little Pony (hey, it’s a fun show!), or playing Go on the internet. What I do have a problem with is being dependant on anything in order to survive. Needing other people to make my clothing, or heat my house, or being required to use money. If there is anything I have that, were it destroyed, I couldn’t survive without (without depending on other people), then I’m doing something wrong. This is why I try to make everything I use myself, so I am dependant on as little as possible.

Technology has gotten to the point in much of the world that it is impossible to recreate it from scratch. To fabricate a drill for a machine shop you need a drill to make its parts. It is an artificially maintained level of technology, a floating level of technology dependant on the tools we make to make those tools themselves. It isn’t the technology that’s unacceptable, but being dependant upon it. If there were a Ryup who could make an electric tractor from raw resources and a water wheel to general power for it, then that would certainly be within Ryup principles. I would question the nessecity for it, though.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a hypocrite, but I’m working on fixing those things. But, if one couldn’t hold ideals they weren’t reaching themselves, then how would anything ever get accomplished?