Friday, September 9, 2016

How to Keep Your Yurt from Blowing Away, Part 2

The information in this post comes from Peter Andrews' book Nomadic Tents of the Middle East. See previous post for a review of that book.
The nature of tents is that they are sufficiently light so they can be transported by whatever means are available.  That used to be pack animals, but now among the remaining nomads it could be a truck as well. But the light weight of a tent makes it vulnerable to wind.  If the tent is not sufficiently staked down, it may well be blown away.  In the case of my twelve foot yurt, I put stakes into the ground around the perimeter of the yurt and tied lines to them that ran up to the edge of the roof.
In the case of the Iranian nomads in Andrews' book they drive a stake into the ground in the center of their tent and run lines from the perimeter of the crown down to the stake.  While this arrangement helps to keep the tent anchored in a storm, it also has structural functions.
Perspective drawing of Iranian yurt. The stake to which the crown is anchored is visible just above the center of the door. 
Unlike the more familiar Mongolian yurts with their trellis walls and conical roofs, the frame of this yurt is made up of arched poles whose upper ends are set into mortises in the crown giving this tent a dome shape.  Bands wrapped around the arched poles keep their spacing consistent.  Once the frame is erected, lines are run around the crown and are then pulled down and anchored to the stake in the center of the tent.  The tension of the anchor rope flattens the roof and puts the frame under compression, making it stiffer and making the upper ends of the poles come into the crown from the side in the horizontal plane.  The stake is probably used primarily to force the tent into its proper shape.  Nevertheless, the anchor rope must also help to keep the tent in place in a storm.
Photo of the anchor rope running from the crown down to the center stake. The stake is driven into the ground to a depth of about 3 feet.

Details of stake, mallet and alternative method of anchoring the crown.
In places where the ground is too hard to drive a stake into, the anchor rope is run around a pile of rocks that act as the anchor.
This scheme of anchoring a yurt would probably not work as well for a yurt with trellis walls because the trellis sits on the ground and unlike the poles of this Iranian tent are not pushed into the ground which is what keeps them from shifting sideways.  In any case, the central anchor is probably something to consider for the would-be yurt builder.
By the way, these illustrations show the degree of detail Andrews' book contains.  For this particular tent, Andrews has several more pages of detail on everything from crown construction, to cover tailoring to tools used in the construction of the frame.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Nomadic Tent Types in the Middle East, a Book Review

I bought this book thinking that it might be about Black Tents. It isn't.  It's mostly about Yurts. Was I disappointed? Yes, at first.  Am I still disappointed? No.  Did this book cost a lot of money? Yes, something like $160 on Amazon. Is it worth the price? Yes.
But let's move on beyond my initial disappointment and the high cost. Let's examine mundane particulars.
The book is not one book but two physical objects which the author has named volumes.
Volume 1 is Text, all text, no pictures.
Volume 2 is pictures mostly, photos and illustrations with some small amount of text.
The choice of separating pictures from the text seemed odd to me. Imagine a magazine or newspaper that came in parts, one part with all the text and the other with all the photos.  See what I mean? Hard to imagine.  But Professor Andrews must have had his reasons for proceeding in this manner.
And here's a picture of the spines of the two volumes back to back. No scale provided, but they add up to a stack of paper just a tad over 1-5/8 inches thick.
If you have just a casual interest in the tents of nomads, you probably wouldn't buy this book.  But if you have an interest in actually building yurts, you might want to buy this book because this book is about as detailed an account of yurts as you are likely to find anywhere.  The author, an academic who started out as an architect describes and illustrates each of the yurt types in sufficient detail that someone with some handy skills could reproduce any of the tents covered in the two volumes.  For each yurt, this author describes pretty much all of what you would want to know about it, dimensions of the whole thing and all its parts, setup and teardown procedures, weight, how many camels it takes to carry, arrangement of furniture, tools used to make the parts and where they used to be used.
There are cheaper books on how to build yurts, but if you want to build an exact replica of a particular yurt type, there is probably no better place to go than this.
Some more notes about confusion.  These two volumes of Nomad Tent Types are part 1 of a two part series.  Part 1 which this is, is framed tents, roughly, yurts.  Part 2, I think will be black tents, which had a target publication date of 1999 but as far as I know, is still in the works.  It was part 2 which I had wanted to buy and part 1 is what I got.  But still a good resource.
If you want more reviews, go to Peter Andrews' website.  And this review I found particularly well written.  All in all, the book is a valuable work, given that nomads are getting urbanized and many have stopped making their traditional tents.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Thermal Improvisation

One of the problems when on the road is how to keep stuff warm or cold.  It's really not much different than keeping ourselves warm, that is by wrapping ourselves in insulating materials.
Keeping water hot by wrapping a water bottle in a towel.  

The before photo.

We just got done bringing our dinner to a boil, some mix of rice and lentils.  It is morning. We will be moving around all day but at night when we get back, we would like to spend a minimum amount of time cooking.

So we wrap our hot kettle with dinner inside in a towel.  By evening the contents will be close to done.  Maybe another few minutes of cooking at night will finish it off.
 What gave me the idea of wrapping pots of hot food in a towel is that my grandmother used to make sweet rice that way.  She would bring rice and milk and raisins to a boil in a pot, wrap the pot in a towel, then put the pot in a corner of the couch and pile pillows on top of it. An hour or so later, the rice would be done, all fluffed up and soft.
The key to how cooking works is maintaining temperature.  When we cook food on a stove top, most of the heat goes into the surroundings and little of it into the food.  What cooks food is exposure of food to high temperature for a given period of time.  Once food is up to temperature of boiling, it can be kept at that temperature or near it for some time just by surrounding it with insulation.
And coffee kept warm by wrapping glasses in socks.  

Saturday, September 3, 2016

How to Keep Your Yurt from Blowing Away

Different places have different weather conditions that your yurt has to deal with.  Rain and snow are not much of a problem in the desert, but wind is.  The yurt is strong enough to withstand most winds, but wind is sufficiently strong to shove a yurt sideways.  Hence stakes and tiedowns are advisable.  In some places, people used some sort of anchor to tie the crown of the yurt to the anchor driven into the ground in the center of the yurt.  A ten or twelve foot yurt isn't big enough to allow for an indoor anchor that wouldn't get in the way so all the anchoring was done on the outside.
The twelve foot yurt tied down to stakes driven into the sand every few feet.  We did this after almost getting blown away at our previous location.  But as it turned out, at this location, the wind never came up strong enough  to put these tiedowns to the test. Tiedowns went from the edge of the roof around the tension rope that circles the wall and down to stakes driven into the ground. Stakes were an assortment of one foot lengths of rebar and assorted stakes from other tents.

At this particular location in Death Valley, the ground was covered with a thick layer of crushed rock that was hard to drive any stakes through, so we did the next best thing and tied our anchor ropes around big rocks.  As in the picture above, the tiedowns didn't get a good test,