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Footnote 1- for the MODEL (Dutch Flat section).
A handy material for such a model is the 3/4 inch blue Styrofoam insulationg board used in house construction. Three layers can be easily cut to make the base and double pit. Once the post and beams are in place, cover the top with waxed paper and drape sheets of paper towel dampened with water and white glue over the waxed paper to create the gentle dome shape of the earth cover. (The waxed paper allows the cover to release from the wooden beams after it dries.) While the paper is sticky, cover it with sawdust for texture and color with diluted green food color or highly dilute acrylic color. I was told by a Native American woman that it is not enough to make the lodge itself circular. The outline of the model base should be rounded off as well.

Footnote 2- for THE PLACE (Dutch Flat section).
Be sure, however, that the rise is not created by rock. We started to dig for a lodge on a rise near Big Basin Park (in 1972) which turned out to be a stone ridge covered by a couple of feet of earth. Our mistake was to dig an open hole the size of the upper pit, removing about a ton of earth before we hit rock. (See other MISTAKE notes about digging in Dutch Flat section.)

Dig narrow test hole where the center post will be (you are trying to avoid water or rocks).   Don't start a wide hole (you might remove a ton of soil before you discover that your site will not work).

We should have dug a center post hole first to check for water at floor level (the level of the fire) and to check for rock at the base of the center post hole. Even if the pit is dry the center post needs a nice deep hole to stabilize it. [This may not be strictly true. A structural engineer might tell you that the center post hardly needs any hole at all, due to the stabililizing function of the roof weight itself. Could be, but I'm not qualified to say so. There is an esthetic and social argument for digging a good hole: It was good for our group to see the center post standing strong before the ridge pole was placed. See the movie of the Dutch Flat work: the shot of Matt Skinner standing up on the center post after it was set. It was a distinct moment in the process which would be lost if the center post had to stand with temporary bracing before the beams went up. Since the purpose of the trip was to enhance the sense of community in the group, efficiency of construction took a lesser priority.]

Another point about digging: You can think of the dirt that comes out of the double pit as a central plug of earth that goes down two layers, surrounded by a ring of earth that goes down one layer. It may help with planning to know that the ring is roughly equal to the plug in volume. This was tested by making two foam models to scale: a plug shape for the center pit and a ring for the ledge pit. The ring looked smaller than the plug, but because of its larger circumference, the ring displaced the same amount of water as the plug.

Footnote 3- for The Place (Dutch Flat section).
I started a small earth lodge once in a level back yard in Berkeley (on Haste, near Telegraph) and hit solid water- not just moist earth- in less than two feet.

Footnote 4- for NO LEAKS (Dutch Flat section).
The tipi has two walls on either side of the poles. The cover is stretched around the outside of the poles and the liner (the inner wall) is fitted and draped around the poles on the inside.
The inner wall is fitted to reach the ground but the outer wall is not. The opening under the outer wall scoops air in to ventilate and insulate. Rain is allowed to run in down the tipi poles and behind the inner wall till it reaches the trench at the base of the poles. See "The Indian Tipi" by Reginald and Gladys Laubin in the chapter on living in the tipi.

Footnote 5- for Authenticity (Dutch Flat section).
I recently saw documentary coverage (on "Discover-Science", narrated by Robert Graves) of an archaeologist studying the stone work at Machu Pichu in Peru. His approach was to learn their techniques by trying to shape stones himself with their tools. He went to the quarry, studied the stones that were left there in different levels of completion and tried to duplicate the results. He found round glacial stones lying around the quarry. They had clearly been brought there from the lowlands and their presence puzzled him at first. He eventually learned that they were the main tools used to work the stone, employed with a bouncing motion to wear down rock surfaces.

Final Note: for another tradition of underground houses, see The Cow On The House photograph:


"Indian Tales by Jaime de Angulo, Noonday Press, New York.  

  "Ishi in Two Worlds" by Theodora Kroeber. University of California Press, Berkeley, California.  

  "Data Pertaining To Various Indian Ceremonial Houses In Northeren California" (Chapter or point 86), by C. Hart Merriam- a section of a larger work, title unknown. It looks typed- probably a manuscript, available at the Phoebe Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley, California.  

  "The Indian Tipi" by Reginald and Gladys Laubin. University of Oklahoma Press.  

The informatin in this web page was compiled over a thirty year period, so there are pencilled notes and drawings from 1971, text and drawings prepared on the original, "stand-up", Macintosh in the 1980's and new work prepared with the computer tools of 2002.
To some extent the technical stages have been left in their time, so you see some bit-mapped drawings and text from a dot-matrix printer. (The new Mac and the Apple Imagwiter printer of the mid 80's wwere a huge step up at the time.) And text could be taken to Kinko's for clean laser printing.

Nowadays the whole thing can be done- with the photos- right in the house.
(All they need to do now is make ink-jet inks archival and waterproof!)

Caution about ink jet printouts:
This booklet is kept in a plastic pocket because the ink used on these sheets is extremely water soluable. It doesn't just blur- it dissolves. Make a photocopy of the pages for a waterproof copy. Shooting copies through the plastic sleeves works very well.

Notes on "home movies":
New people must see the old home movies as incredibly crude. Certainly the little earth lodge movie is an example. (I shot it.)

8 Millimeter and Super 8:
A still-viable chemical film format is 16 millimeter. The first effort to make home movie film was to simply split 16mm for 8mm film, but the sprocket holes intended for 16 were unnecessarily large for use in the little wind-up home cameras. Then came Super 8- the same film with smaller sprocket holes- which allowed the tiny image frames to be abit larger.

There were many restrictions that are not a factor with videotape: Home movies were silent , which is why the early video cameras were called "camcorders". A roll of film lasted three minutes, so people didn't get the emperical shooting experience they get with videotape. The camera was a wind-up; you could shoot for a few seconds. And every time you pressed the shoot button you were spending money. You had to take the roll in to be processed so you got no immediate feedback on your camera work. It could be days before you got to see it.

There were no LCD window displays, which give feedback on the steadyness of the shot, because the frame is stable and the image moves, just as it will when shown later. Home movie cameras had viewfinders only. A viewfinder doesn't help you see when you are jiggling the camera because the view of the image through the viewfinder is stable even when the frame is moving around it. It's easy to miss that when you're focused on the action. So camera work in home movies tended to be pretty bad.

None-the-less you often see home movie footage used in Hollywood films- such as "Paris Texas"- for evocative effect. Even the "click-click" sound of the projector is used. And though a music track is usually added, the lack of sound from the scene helps to produce the evocative feeling. Just as there is something arresting about the slightly abstracted view of black and white photography, so the absence of sound in the old home moves is both a loss and an asset.

Matt Skinner's black and white photographs are taken with a traditional 35mm camera, shooting chemical film. The other black and white photos are Polaroids.
Finally, all photos and stills were worked up and optimized for the web in Photoshop Elements by Adobe.

Site Creation:
The web design for this site was created using frame sets with Visual Page, which is presently unsupported software by Symantec.

For a map that indicates the area of California where earth lodges were used, see: If it is accurate that there were no earth lodges in the high north of california it raises questions (rain?) about whether they would work in Oregon or Washington.

Question to the reader: Does anyone know if the weather in the high north of California is more like Oregon's? Contact author at Two people have told me that the coastal regions of the high north of California are notably wetter; maybe not the inland areas. There is a friend in Oregon who wants to set up a homeless project involving earth lodges. We need to know if it is out of the question up there.

[authors note: add later- source links for the Hearst Museum, Jaime de Angulo and Ishi.]

For another incarnation of underground living, see the famous "Cow on the Roof" photo at:

Permission is given to lodge builders to download material, but- on the remote chance that this ever goes to book form, the material has to be protected from commercial capture. So...

Copyright statements regarding the Dutch Flat Earth Lodge event cover the text and the original form and computer-edited form of images:

Black and white photographs copyright 1971, 2002 by Matt Skinner.

Text and drawings, black and white Polaroids, movie, movie stills and slides copyright 1987, 2002 by Don Cochrane.

In 1971, crew member Matt Skinner provided most of the black and white photos and, recently, has given helpful support to identify and locate crew members and has allowed the use of his photos in the website. He suggests this whimsical site:

Thanks to Stacey Falls of Santa Cruz, who's enthusiasm for the subject inspired the author to finish the documentation of the Dutch Flat Earth Lodge. She likes these links: and

Thanks to the owner and crew of Coffeetopia, Mission Branch, in Santa Cruz. It was here that the author collaborated with Randall Reetz to assemble the website under ideal working conditions:

Web site design: Randall Reetz web site:

Copyright 2002, Don Cochrane

Copyright 2002, Don Cochrane