Last night, in addition to a heck of a lunar eclipse, was the beginning of the Jewish holiday Sukkot. The goal of the holiday is to construct a temporary outdoor shelter, or sukkah, and spend as much time as possible inside it over the next eight days. For a carpenter and outdoor enthusiast, it’s basically the coolest holiday ever. I finally have a yard of my own this year and I jumped at the chance to build something.

For the corner posts of my 6-foot-by-6-foot sukkah, Jas lent me four tree trunks he’d cut to use as fence posts. I stabilized the posts and framed the open ceiling using an oft-overlooked construction material: cross-country skis. They’re slender, stiff, and super strong in flexure. I lashed the skis to the posts with rope, following the method I learned in Scouting: wrap thrice, frap twice.

The only thing I purchased for the project was a package of zip ties, which I used to secure tarps to the corner posts and ceiling frame on three sides. At ground level I weighed the tarps down with rocks and a tent stake. They’re not completely taut, so when the wind blows my walls move in and out, as if the sukkah is breathing.

The tarps keep direct sun and wind out, and the roof is great for stargazing!
The tarps keep direct sun and wind out, and the roof is great for stargazing!

The roof needs to be partially, but not entirely, covered with a material that was once alive. I collected about 20 sticks of appropriate length from the woods and laid them across the ceiling frame, then tied them down with a couple more ropes. It’s a delightful spot. I aim to eat my meals here for the duration of the holiday, sleep here at least once (Vermont fall means lots of frosty nights but I’ll watch the weather), and work from the sukkah as much as I can. Including this blog entry!

The finished sukkah and surroundings.
The finished sukkah and surroundings.


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