In the 1920s and 1930s, housing and land was expense and out of reach of most working folks. Prior to the modern loan system, real estate was bought with all or most of the capital up-front. Lower expectations about utilities and amenities made shanty boat living an inviting prospect, especially in river towns with decent weather much of the year. All that was needed was a secure and safe place to moor your boat.
Winter is here. For some of you it is here with real gusto. Growing up in Missouri and being sent out to ‘play’ no matter what the weather or who was around I learned a lot about how to entertain myself. Snowfall in the Mississippi valley could be heavy and wet throughout the winter and was a great medium for construction snowmen, fortresses, and quinzhees. Of course, we didn’t know such an exotic word at the time but we did learn good tricks and techniques for safety later in the Boy Scouts.
I’m certain there are no photos of the sometimes elaborate, and often not so elaborate, snow shelters my friends and I built as kids (I don’t think parents played outside with kids in my era). I was reminded that we had our own photos of one built with my daughter several years back. We were staying with a friend in the Sangre de Cristo mountains for the holiday at about 8,000 ft AMSL (ca. 2,500 meters). The snow was perfect and wet so we couldn’t pass up the chance for a little shelter building. “Teachable moments” surround us every day. It’s up to us to take advantage of them.
The snow wasn’t deep and we weren’t intending to spend the night inside so it was kept pretty small for ease of construction.
It was a chance to talk about safety, collapse, and fresh air exchange. Valuable information for later in life. Ours faced south.
It was definitely kid-sized but an adult could squeeze in more-or-less comfortably for a while. The dog was not enamored with the confining space.
It was just another fun day, experimenting with the gifts that nature provided, and passing on knowledge to the next generation of wilderness lovers.
A tent has been invented by Major H. H. Sibley, of the army, which is known as the “Sibley tent.” It is somewhat similar to the Comanche lodge, but in place of the conical frame-work of poles it has but one upright standard, resting upon an iron tripod in the centre. The tripod can be used to suspend cooking utensils over the fire, and, when folded up, admits the wooden standard between the legs, thereby reducing the length one half, and making it more convenient for packing and traveling.
This tent constituted the entire shelter of the army in Utah during the winter of 1857-8, and, notwithstanding the severity of the climate in the elevated locality of Camp Scott, the troops were quite comfortable, and pleased with the tent.
In permanent camps the Sibley tent may be so pitched as to give more room by erecting a tripod upon the outside with three poles high and stout enough to admit of the tent’s being suspended by ropes attached to the apex. This method dispenses with the necessity of the central upright standard.
When the weather is very cold, the tent may be made warmer by excavating a basement about three feet deep, which also gives a wall to the tent, making it more roomy.
The tent used in the army will shelter comfortably twelve men.
Captain G. Rhodes, of the English army, in his recent work upon tents and tent-life, has given a description of most of the tents used in the different armies in Europe, but, in my judgment, none of them, in point of convenience, comfort, and economy, will compare with the Sibley tent for campaigning in cold weather. One of its most important features, that of admitting of a fire within it and of causing a draught by the disposition of the wings, is not, that I am aware, possessed by any other tent. Moreover, it is exempt from the objections that are urged against some other tents on account of insalubrity from want of top ventilation to carry off the impure air during the night.
Randolph Barnes Marcy, The Prairie Traveler: A Handbook for Overland Expeditions, with Maps, Illustrations, and Itineraries of the Principal Routes between the Mississippi and the Pacific, 1859.
I received an advance copy of Tiny Homes: Simple Shelter when I went to my post office box today. I have been thumbing through it all all evening, looking at the photos and pondering the meaning of Shelter.
Maybe the tides of change are subtle in the beginning. But I never thought I would be part of a movement when I began to sketch out plans for a tiny, mobile shelter for myself almost ten years ago. I am honored to be included amongst these great constructions in Lloyd Khan’s newest book about Tiny Homes. I am awed and inspired by so many great approaches to scaling back from the obnoxious sprawling but soulless houses of the last few decades.
The photos are beautiful and the layout is very well thought out. Like all the Shelter Publications, it will become an important and classic work to those of us outside the mainstream. Tiny Houses my be the flavor of the month to the media at the moment but will always be important to real people in need of real shelter.
And to keep up-to-date on interesting architecture, skateboarding, good music, and a host of other interesting topics, check in to Lloyd’s Blog from time-to-time.