Recipe: Betsy’s Touch of Grace Biscuits (with some variations)

I’m sorry to say, despite my best efforts to convey every detail and trick to concocting these absolutely perfect, rich, buttery, fluffy, moist biscuits, they will not taste as good as when Betsy makes them. Nor could I tell you specifically why they are better when she makes them. It could simply be years of experience throwing them together for every conceivable potluck, or because whenever she whipped up a batch for me I ended up needing them desperately due to driving my car off the road in the snow or getting my period on a class camping field trip. However, I sincerely believe it’s because she’s from Georgia and is the kind of person whom I’m convinced who’s insides are just made up of ripe peaches, spicy bourbon and crushed magnolia flowers.
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Yurt Bones: The Wood Materials

I’ve seen yurt walls made of bamboo, willow poles, steel, pvc pipe, and rigid insulation. A lot of yurt blogs show them using bamboo of 1 or 1.5 inch diameter, which can be great for lightness and speed since no sanding or really any varnishing is needed. The other favorite

Bamboo khana and uni (www.simplydifferent.org)

Bamboo khana and uni (www.simplydifferent.org)

option is hardwood canes, poles, or basically sanded, oiled sticks. This only works well with hardwoods (willow, hazel) which are strong enough to withstand the weight and do not rot as easily especially when taken care of, and will therefore last you a lifetime! To give it a try: Here are some instructions. With softwoods, aka conifers, you need to have nice straight poles with good varnish from sawn timber. Though most people would suggest cedar as a first choice since it has some of the best rot-resistance, but it can be brittle. Douglas-fir is pretty dang good for rot resistance and strength and flexibility. Last choice is pine. Which is, of course, what I ended up using since it’s cheapest.

firkhana

Douglas-fir Khana

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Willow Khana

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I bought 1″x 2″ (technically 1.5″x0.75″) 8ft long pine laths (referred to as furring strip) from bigbox derpstore for the wall (khana). It took me 4 hours of digging through what was available in the store to find good enough laths. Not only did I want straight, unwarped, clean boards, but ones as free of knots and faults as possible. At one store I went to they had let the wood get wet outside and it was covered in black mildew as soon as you opened up the packs. No one should hesitate to have someone cut open timber packs and tear up the pile to look for the best boards, they know they’re carrying crap and everyone does it. I just made sure to re-stack everything neatly once I was done and not be rude.

Wall poles! Heavier than they look, and giving me a good idea of what my roof rake can handle!

Wall poles! Heavier than they look, and giving me a good idea of what my roof rack can handle!

For the roof poles I bought 2″ x 3″ (1.5″ x 2.5″) 8ft long studs, which I eventually sent through the table saw to rip them in half. I could have most likely used something smaller, but I wanted something extra sturdy so I could use less roof poles than normal so I wouldn’t have extras when I switched from the 16ft from the 12ft yurt. Same thing with the sorting and picking the best ones with the least damage.

The door is 2x4s of 8 ft length, stud material though I did a grade higher than lowest simply because if the door snaps or breaks the walls will come down, and it was only 2 boards.

Finally, the crown is 1″ x 4″ boards, of which I did the nice, clear fir board instead of cheap pine or plywood. Since it’s the keystone these seemed worth it, but it was most likely overkill. I used bits of the ends from the pine lath for other pieces in the crown.

What is a Yurt, an Overview of Parts

Seat the poles by hanging from the wheel is actually recommended! (www.thedelmeryurt.blogspot.com)

Seriously strong! And it seats the poles- recommended! (www.thedelmeryurt.blogspot.com)

A yurt (Turkish) or a ger (Mongolian) is the basic catch-all phrase for a round-ish portable structure, traditionally used by the nomads of the Central Asian steppes, that has found modern popularity due to it’s simplicity and durability of design. For more on traditional yurts go to the resources page. It’s round, squat shape allows it to withstand strong winds and storms, while the central wheel and hyperboloid wall design distributes weight so effectively that the roof can usually support people walking on it (and snow loads).

The yurt I built was a modern riff on the traditional Mongolian style ger, which is a popular variety and most like the ones you’ll see for sale. There are a lot of varieties, but I’ll be covering the basics of the one I made for the sake of this blog. There is a blog post later about alternatives, unique ideas, and the upsides/downsides of each.

An exploded view of a yurt from www.simplydifferent.org

An exploded view of a yurt from http://www.simplydifferent.org

The wood frame “skeleton”:

First is the flat timber lattice wall (khana) made of lath, poles, etc. that are tied together in a diamond pattern which creates the ability to stretch out and condense the wall pieces like an accordian or those small dog/baby gates for doorways. When it is stretched out, a tension rope or band keeps it from stretching out any more and causing the yurt to collapse. The ends of these meet and are tied to the door frame (nars) which can be as simple as a square of 2x4s screwed together if you don’t plan on a proper door (khaalga).

Flat lattice wall section condensed (www.thedelmeryurt.blogspot.com)

And stretched out for walls, before tension rope is applied (www.thedelmeryurt.blogspot.com)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Roof poles meeting up with the wall, you can see the small rope loops holding the uni in place (www.simplydifferent.org)

Roof poles meeting up with the wall, you can see the small rope loops holding the uni in place (www.simplydifferent.org)

A traditional Mongolian painted and carved crown and poles.

A traditional Mongolian painted and carved crown and poles.

Second up, the roof is made of poles (uni) which can be straight or bent at the ends, sit at the top of each open cross of the wall and have a loop of rope to hook it in to the wall poles. The other end is inserted into the crown-wheel (toono or tono), which as a keystone to counterbalance all the roof poles. The toono is definitely the most important component and usually the trickiest to build. It can be as simply or as fancy as you are willing to make it. Over it will either go the crown cover (oerkh) which is just a square of canvas, or a skylight of plastic or some sort of material.

The cover:
The roof and wall covers are pretty much the same with outer covers that are usually some form of canvas, inner layers are insulating like wool felt, and sometimes there is also an inner cover, all of which can “breathe”. Of course, everyone plays with this design. You can have an inner cover layer of mosquito netting to roll up the sides of the tent without letting bugs in. An outer cover made of waterproof tarps. Inner layers of wool, hay, carpet, insulating material, or whatever else you can get your hands on to stay warm. It’s all been done before, and the flexibility of design makes it easy to augment your yurt for whatever you want for whatever purpose.

yurt-aglow_reise_snowyurt

Yurt Resources

(* = resources I predominantly used to create my yurt)

The best yurt building resource in the world:

*Simply Different: Yurt: Seriously, this site is amazing. Especially the yurt calculator, that calculates dimensions/costs/etc. based on your preferences and creates auto-displays. It was put together by a math geek and there are suggested angles/proportions/ etc. for maintaining structural worthiness within what dimensions you want. There are more handy calculators hidden away in sections, like for the constructing the tono, plus many suggestions. Only downside is it’s all in metric (alas), and missing anything really useful on flat lattice timber walls.

Books:

*Paul King “The Complete Yurt Book”: The long-running bible of yurt makers. A bit sparse on details or alternatives and focuses more on authenticity, but contains 7 or 8 different totally workable, flexible yurt plans. Mainly what I used since it was recommended to me by a friend.

Becky Kemery “Yurts: Living in the Round”: Read this, but didn’t use it. Lots of pretty pictures.

Dan Frank Kuehn “Mongolian Cloud Houses”

David Pearson “Circle Houses: Yurts, Tipis and Benders”

Blogs:

The Del Mer Yurt: Awesomely useful example of building a 12′ yurt in sections very similar to mine. Though a little skimpy on technical details, it makes up for it in really handy pictures!

For the Love of Yurts: Seems kind of abandoned, most recent blog  posts mainly focus on selling the book and workshops, but there is plenty of random good stuff on here.

Rocket Mass Heater Yurt: Not technically about building the yurt, but about building it around a rocket stove, and it’s awesome! They made quite a large one too. Inspired me to consider doing my own rocket stove.

Tiny House Blog: Some yurt-related stuff, plenty of great material on living in small dwellings and off the grid, leads to many other great resources.

Directions/Examples:

The Mongolian Yurt DIY

Burning Man “Yurt Without Steel”

Misc. Arcticles:

Mother Earth News “Everything you ever wanted to know about a yurt but were too afraid to ask” : nice little concise article about yurts in North America, many links to yurt companies

Gertee: A Yurt Made from Scraps! : sweet article about how seriously cheap you can get with your yurt making. AKA free.

Living in a Yurt in Alaska “Broadband, Yes. Toilet, No”: Couple sets up an expensive yurt in Alaska, interesting but mostly someone from the city going “oh I can’t even IMAGINE”

Materials:

Yurt: Ease, Planning, and the Time/Money/Quality Constant

Before I started this project I basically had one book on yurts, set one up once, and a handful of common sense. All the tools I rented or borrowed, and my workshop is a small one car garage in a government worker bunkhouse crammed full of junk and old furniture. I’ve some basic experience with power tools, enough to stay safe and not need supervision, but not enough to remember what that doo-hickey was called. Everything else I picked up through some quick research in blogs or a few forums, and, I have absolutely no knowledge of Mongolia, Turkey, nomads, or anything relating to the long, illustrious history of these nomadic shelters. Don’t get tricked by the fancy titles and commercial companies selling them for thousands and thousands, this shit is easy.

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But boy oh boy did I spent a ton of time planning! And drawing comics, but mostly planning!

Seriously, it’s been my experience so far that as long as you’re willing to put in the time to pick out decent materials and be consistent, the yurt structure itself is pretty frickin’ forgiving. On top of that, you can make this project as cheap or as expensive as you want. You just have to keep the “time+money=quality” constant in mind. Basically, if you want a certain level of quality, you’re either going to have to put more time or more money into the project. I’ve seen people haunt the “free” section of craigslist for months salvaging and scrapping enough materials of good or bad quality to put the project together. They’ve had to do a lot of running around and more work to get their materials ready than say someone who just goes down to the Home Depot to buy everything outright, but their costs are nil. I’ve seen people pay a thousand dollars to get the same amount of wood I get for a hundred dollars but they are buying nicer stuff that is probably knot-free, pre-sanded, and less likely to rot (hardwoods like oak, beech, etc.), while I’m buying the cheapest stuff possible (softwood pine strip) and having to take time to fill-in knots, varnish, and will probably need to replace parts after 5-10 years. It’s a balance. Since I’m saving up money, have long 3 day weekends, but a limit on how long before I have to move out, live in the boonies where there’s less easy salvage, and this is my first (less tears if I fuck it up), I went the cheapest route while still paying for all my materials outright.

So don’t get daunted! Just do all your planning in advance, which will be easy since there are tons of resources and materials to help you out without having to subscribe to “woodworkers usa” magazine or bury yourself in a pile of books on yurts, unless you want to. Did I mention I did a lot of planning? I did so SO much planning.

Anyways, good luck!

Building a Yurt (Finally!)

So, I’ve begun building a yurt. It’s been a mental pet project for a little under 2 years, and has resulted in much teasing from folks who’ve heard me gabble on about it. Which has been warranted, I’m very aware that I love the IDEA of something but often do not follow through on the more arduous end of it: creation. Several factors like time, money, and workspace did undermine me for awhile, but finally I found myself in the perfect combination of extra cash, 3-day weekends, tool availability, and a small garage with work surfaces for storage and building. Oh, and the fact that within a month or two I might not have a place to live or much income. That’s been a big factor!

It will look *something* like this.

SO it has begun! Honestly, it took about 3 weeks of calculations with suggestions from many resources to finally decide on exactly the dimensions of my yurt, with ongoing adjustments and fiddling. The end result however is that not only have I maximized the efficiency of lumber and maintained portability, but I should be able to turn my roomier 16ft yurt into a sportier 12~ish ft one with little effort. HAHA! Win.

I’ve been taking endless pictures and notes so far, so hopefully very soon I’ll update this with a true-blue idiots guide to making a cheap, sturdy yurt. Exciting!

This isn’t me, but I wish it was!

Thug Kitchen’s RCB Burrito (shameless content ripoff)

I’m sure you’ve heard of Thug Kitchen right? I mean, the home of hilarity such as:

Or…

Anyways, shockingly to me it turns out it’s actually a food blog as well as site of such helpful dick-cancer avoiding tips. So I gave it’s RCB Burrito recipe a try, and holy mother of fuck. Let me tell you, I haven’t liked anything I’ve made in 3 months and as soon as I popped this in the oven I was in ecstasy. Then I ate it and I can report with absolute certainty that I “grubbed like a fucking champ”. You can click the link for the original recipe, but I changed mine a bit to adjust for things like not liking quite so many chickpeas, cauliflower instead of brocolli, spices, and more burrito (I nearly doubled the original recipe).

THUG KITCHEN BURRITO

(makes about 8-10 burritos)

Filling:

1.5 cups of cooked chickpeas  (1-15 ounce cans, drained)

1.5 large yellow onions

2 red or yellow bell peppers

1 large crown of cauliflower

6-8 cloves of garlic

2 lime

Spice Blend:

1/3 c. olive oil

1/4 c. Tamari (or other soy sauce-like thing)

1 tbsp. chili powder

2.5 teaspoon ground cumin

2.5 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ground coriander (or more cumin)

Heavy pinch black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

Other Fillings (optional):

Ripe avocados

arugula

sour cream + salsa + sriracha to taste

whole wheat + corn tortillas (your preference)

cilantro, chopped

Heat the oven to 430 degrees. Chop up the onion, bell pepper, and cauliflower to about thumbnail size or a little larger. Finely chop garlic, but save it for later. Place all the chopped up veggies in a large bowl with the cooked chickpeas. Mix the spice blend all together (I whisked mine together), and pour over the veggies then mix until everything is coated.

Put all of that on two large rimmed baking sheets (you could possibly fit it on one, but I liked giving the veggies room to roast properly) greased with coconut oil if you have it and bake for 20 minutes. Then take it out, add garlic, mix and put it back in for another 15-20 minutes, keep a close eye at the end so you don’t end up with charred, rock hard chickpeas, everything else is meant to burn a bit. Squeeze the juice of a lime and a half over the pan and stir the roasted chickpeas and veggies. Squeeze the remaining half of lime with a pinch of salt over your sliced avocado right before constructing your burrito. Heat up tortillas lightly in the residual oven heat, then throw burrito together. Grub like a champ.

THROWBACK THURSDAY UP IN THIS BITCH. I was saving this recipe for my upcoming cookbook but you guys said FUCK THAT. So here is the most requested recipe, The Thug Kitchen RCB Burrito.</p><p>ROASTED CHICKPEA &amp; BROCCOLI BURRITO</p><p>3 cups of cooked chickpeas  (2-15 ounce cans, drained)</p><p>1 large yellow onion</p><p>1 red bell pepper</p><p>1 large crown of broccoli</p><p>4 cloves of garlic</p><p>1 lime</p><p>Spice Blend:</p><p>3 tablespoons olive oil</p><p>1-2 tablespoons soy sauce, tamari, or Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (You can usually find this old school hippie shit near the vinegars or soy sauces in the healthy eating section of most big grocery stores and on the internet)</p><p>2 teaspoons chili powder</p><p>1 teaspoon ground cumin</p><p>1 teaspoon smoked paprika</p><p>1/2 teaspoon ground coriander or more cumin if you don’t want to go to the store</p><p>black pepper or cayenne pepper to taste</p><p>Heat the oven to 425 degrees. Chop up the onion, bell pepper, and broccoli so that all the pieces about the size of a chickpea. Chop up the garlic real small but save that shit until later. Place all the chopped up veggies in a large bowl with the cooked chickpeas. Pour in the oil and soy sauce, stir, and then throw all the spices in there. Mix until all the vegetables and shit are covered. </p><p>Put all of that on a large rimmed baking sheet (like what you would put cookies on but with an edge) and bake for 20 minutes. Take it out of the oven, don’t fucking burn yourself, add the garlic, and bake for another 15 minutes. The broccoli will look a little burnt at this point but that is the plan so chill the fuck out and take it out of the oven. Squeeze the juice of half of the lime over the pan and stir the roasted chickpeas and veggies all around. Taste some and see if it needs more spices or anything. Now make a fucking burrito. I like mine with spinach, avocado, cilantro, and some fire roasted salsa but you do your thing.</p><p>makes 6-8 burritos