Friday 29 April 2011

East wind

It's in the nature of this place, up on its high ridge, that it lives in the wind blowing in off the grey Atlantic. Our winds are westerly or southwesterly 70% of the time. Being on the western side of the ridge, my croft takes the full force of them. That's the main reason why I'm designing my croft house to be earth covered, sunk into a natural declivity in the ground. But I don't yet have a croft house; I don't yet have planning permission. So I've built a temporary shelter, my summer palace, which is essentially just a platform in the trees with a crude tent over it. And because the prevailing wind is in the southwest, I've built it in the northeast corner of my wood.

All the time I've been planning and building the summer palace, the wind has been in the west, and the wood has given it good shelter. Today, it was virtually finished. Today, I moved the last of the furniture into it. Tonight I would have moved in completely, but that I have to go to Edinburgh at the weekend, and I didn't want to leave the cats alone in a place they weren't familiar with...

Tonight, according to the met office weather station four miles away, it's blowing force nine. From the East.

My roof is - was - made of two layers of thin polypropylene 'tarpaulin' stretched over a ridgepole which is twenty feet above the ground. It makes a wonderful sail. When I got up there at 19:30 this evening, it had already torn out several of its eyelets and was rapidly destroying itself. It had to come down. But I hadn't designed for it to be taken down easily in an emergency, which meant I had to go up to the ridge pole and untie it at both ends. And I had to do it myself because there was no-one whom I could ask for help who could get there before it was too dark to work.

The first end wasn't too bad but the second end, with four hundred square feet of tarpaulin flapping around in the wind, was bloody scary. However, I got it down, dragged all my furniture into the centre of the floor, covered it tightly with tarpaulin, and left, 'homeward, tae think again'.

This is, actually, a problem. I do have to be out of here, and living in the shelter, in a week. There isn't any slack in that. But the roof as I'd planned it will not survive an easterly gale. So I need to design a new roof, and build it, within a week - and, ideally, without using any additional materials I have to buy, because the money I spend on the summer palace is money I don't have to spend on my permanent house. Reinstating the original roof isn't a solution, because it clearly isn't strong enough.

There are fundamentally three options.

The first is to borrow someone's yurt or caravan. I actually could do this. I'd really rather not - I don't want to be too dependent on other people's help. But it isn't impossible.

The second is to build a bender on the existing summer palace platform. It's what a lot of sensible people have suggested. The trouble is that a bender is claustrophobic, and, in any case, I don't have any long bendy poles to spare (although I could get some from elsewhere).

The third is to make a framed gable roof with round spruce-pole rafters - which I have in quantity - and cover those rafters with carpet and then with tarpaulin. My thinking tonight is that that is what I'm going to have to do. I do have the materials I'd need, and the tools and skills to use them. I'll need to build a lot lower than I was planning, and consequently it's inevitably going to be a bit cramped, but that can't be helped.

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