Economics 101, a Novel, ch_28 -- Planning the Hut

(The story starts here:
The previous chapter is here:

[I had to rewrite a bunch of stuff. Backup of the original is here:, JMR20160423.]

For us, their second Tuesday already seems like a busy day, but they are not paying attention to the time. It's still late afternoon, and Karel is very interested in the problem of building a hut.

Karel drew in the sand and said, "If we could drill one inch holes in the big four inch bamboo stems ..." 

"... we could insert the one-inch stems in them and get a grillwork something like this:"

And Bobbie said, "That's nice. What's it for?"

"Well, floor, walls, roof, ..."

"Looks to me more like a ladder or the window of a jail. But, I guess, if that's the floor, walls, and roof, the hut will be well ventilated."

"Okay, make fun of my ideas."


"I'm thinking we could weave banana leaves into it or something."

"How do you weave banana leaves into something like that?"

"I'm shooting in the dark, was hoping you'd know."

"Sorry. No lo sé. How do we drill the holes?"

"I didn't know you spoke Spanish."

"I don't."

"Oh. I don't speak Spanish, either. I was thinking we could use one of the harder one-inch stems for it."

"I don't see how."

"Lay the four inch stem out flat, stand the one inch stem on it with a weight on top, and rotate the standing stem."

"How long would it take?"

"I don't know. We could probably speed it up with sand, though."


"Grit. Spread wet sand on the large stem, drill a bit, then spread more sand on it and drill some more."

"It sounds to me like we're going to get a lot of blisters in our hands a long time before we get the hut built."

"Oh." Karel had to think about that.

"Okay. So maybe it's not such a good idea. The banana leaves aren't necessarily going to be much good in a storm, either."

"Not unless we sew them down, I'd think. What else can we do?"

"Well, ... it would take even more of the small stems, but we can just lay them across larger stems and line them up side by side, like this:"

and then lash the stems together. There'll still be gaps, but the gaps will be smaller and we can fill them with clay or something. Or, we could lash banana leaves over them. With the smaller gaps, they'd be less likely to be blown off."

"Clay? Do we have clay?"

"There was some clay near the artesian lake. There's probably more clay of a better kind around the upper lake, but there's also probably mosquitoes, spiders, and maybe even snakes because of the standing water."

"You think that's why we didn't feel good about going there?"

"That's kind of what I'm guessing."

"Making all that rope is going to be hard on my hands, too. Oh, well. I guess I don't have to worry any more about what my date will think of my hands."

"Sorry about that." Karel took Bobbie's hands and kissed them. "But this date will always think the world of your hands."

"I guess I'll survive," she said with a half-pleased, half embarrassed laugh. "Now give me my hands back. The floor's just going to be kind of bumpy, isn't it?"

"The bedrolls will help, but if we need to, we can fill the cracks in the floor with clay or maybe hemp leaves or something. More banana leaves, maybe?"

"Okay, until and unless we get a saw to cut real boards, that's probably as good as it gets. What about where the walls and the floor meet?"

"We'll lay a medium sized stem across the floor stems where they poke out, and tie the wall stems inside that, standing up vertically, to better support the roof." And after a bit of drawing, and some ideas from Bobbie, he had something that looked like this as an overhead view of the floor:

After a bit more drawing, they had a side view with sections of the big bamboo set in triangulation for the standoffs, so that the floor would be off the ground for better circulation and to let the rain wash under the hut.

And they had a basic idea of how to make the roof in two panels set in a peak, with plenty of overhang for shade. And they figured out how to frame the windows with medium sized stems for roof support, and how to construct window covers to keep the storm out. And I hope you don't mind if I refrain from drawing those and the rest of the diagrams they came up with.

Then they started worrying about a question of economy and ecology.

"How many bamboo stems is this going to take? Do we have enough? Will it kill off that stand of bamboo?"

"Hmm. Eight feet across is 96 inches, so it's going to take about a hundred stems for the floor, for each wall, and for each half of the roof. Seven hundred one inch stems."

At which point, they got up and hiked the five minutes to the stand of small bamboo, to count them and check the size. They measured out a square about two paces by two paces and counted seventy-four stems. Then they counted three more such samples, and got an average of about twenty stems per squared pace.

They paced off the stand and found it to be about thirty by seventy paces, which adds up to about forty-two thousand stems.

"I think we'll have enough for one hut, without damaging the ecology."

"Karel, why do you call them stems, instead of culms or posts?"

"Would you rather I call them culms?"

"Yeah. ... No. ... Never mind. It's getting dark, and we don't have any supper cooking."

So they went back to camp and got started with cooking some breadfruit and squash, not going to the sea for animal protein because it was so late.

After they ate, they said their prayers. Then they rolled out their bedrolls with the tent between them.

"I forgot to read any scriptures today." Karel said from his side of the tent.

"Same here."

"Should we get out a candle?"

"That would be romantic, but how're you going to light it?"

"The coals are properly put out, flint won't work on a candle. Should we waste a match?"

"Oh." She started thinking about verses she had memorized. "How about, We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost."

"Okay, that works for scripture. We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam's transgressions."

And they took turns reciting the Articles of Faith.



"Do we have anything to do with the gathering of Israel out here?"

"I have no idea. Maybe God will do something along those lines with us eventually."

(The link to the next chapter will be here when it's ready is here:

(The chapter index is here:

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