Book Review - Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties: And How to Build Them by D. C. Beard
My, how we've changed over the years. In the classic book Shelters, Shacks, and Shanties: And How to Build Them, D. C. Beard covers the wide array of possibilities for building your own dwelling out of nothing but materials provided by nature. This was originally published in 1914, and I think it's more interesting to observe the changes in culture than anything else.
Daniel Beard became fascinated with cabins and such in 1864 when he exhibited a saddleback cabin scaled down to size for him to carry to the fair. He sold it for $7.50, which was a major disappointment to him, as he thought it worth much more. That started him on his journey to sketch, document, and build just about any type of natural dwelling you can think of. He starts out with how to make a soft sleeping platform using pine boughs. From there, you have half-cave shelters, fallen tree shelters, and teepee-like structures. By the end of the book, we're dealing with full-scale houses, obviously beyond the skills of the boy scouts he tends to target in the first half of the book. But even then, the emphasis is on using logs and axes to accomplish most of the work.
Most of these skills are lost on 99% of Americans, and sending out a group of boys to build even the simplest of these structures would likely turn into a disaster. But back when this was written, it was pretty much assumed that most boys had basic scouting skills and would be able to build some of these shelters in just a matter of hours, or at most a couple of days. He even has them building hogan shelters built into the side of a hill and designed to last a considerable time. These days, we'd likely freak out because the kids had an axe or a shovel in their hands... And building a shelter covered by sod? But what if it collapses??? Needless to say, we wouldn't fare well if forced to rely on our own skills to survive without our comfortable houses.
If you're an outdoors-type person and you want to work on survival skills, this would be an interesting way to start out. Or if you're just looking for how much we've changed (or regressed) in the last 100 years, this'll point out many areas that fall into that category.