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Houses in the North - Culture
Written By: Elizabeth Barrette (Writer), Ellen Million (Editor)
Northern houses provide communal living space.
 
 

Northern houses are built to withstand intense weather, staying warm in winter and cool in summer. The prevailing style at this time uses concrete and timber to create a large round house partially sunken into the ground with a central hearth and smoke column. The pit goes about 12 feet down to reach the stable schist layer. Air pockets may be created in the concrete with pumice, coral, seashells, tiny sealed jars, or other materials for weight reduction and improved insulation. The roofs are further protected with a layer of sod. Overall, the house has a dome or conical shape with a round footprint. Some are cast as double-circles or ovals for added space.

Construction methods other than concrete are used, however, especially in Itadesh and Itakith. These usually use timber, or a combination of timber and local stone. People have also experimented with rammed earth, cordwood, and sod. Cordwood construction is especially favored for sauna buildings because the exposed log ends help maintain correct moisture levels as well as providing great insulation. Ground-level, square or rectangular buildings are usually older ones, often built as temporary shelters, which tend to get re-purposed for storage or meeting space rather than living space.

With a standard living house, people enter at ground level through a door or hide curtain, and climb down a set of stairs to a short below-ground corridor. This entryway has space for storing boots, coats, and other outerwear. A second doorway leads up a few steps to a large, circular shared space. Inside, bunks line the walls in stacks of three. The upper bunks are the largest, fitting 2-3 people; the lower bunks are smaller, only fitting 1-2 people. Each bunk has a privacy curtain which can be pulled across it, though it is better if they remain open during the day to avoid trapping musty smells. Typical houses comfortably hold 2-4 dozen people each. Storage space includes shelves and niches shaped into the concrete, as well as wooden shelves, cabinets, chests, etc. built later. In some houses, nets and hammocks may be used for storage and/or sleeping. The central post is a very thick, hollow concrete fire stack, which will retain its heat for hours after a fire goes out (a rare event). They burn both wood and dried peat, and the whole house is very thoroughly insulated and generally kept at a short-sleeves and shorts temperature.

Living houses are loosely segregated by the occupation of the residents, so there are some houses that are mostly rangers, some that are mostly elders, and some that are mostly domestics, sometimes further divided by specialty. A ranger house may have one or two domestics to take care of household chores that the rangers aren't good at doing. A mother-house includes pregnant women and mother-tenders, and is set up to accommodate special pregnancy and childbirth needs. A healing-house is reserved for healers and their patients, as well as particularly elderly individuals who may need more care and quiet than other living houses provide. Infants are required to live in an infant-house and children in a child-house; adults may choose where to live (including with babies in an infant-house or in the mother-house with a pregnant partner), and are not required to remain in the same place indefinitely. Trading and sharing bunks is common, and does not necessarily indicate a sexual relationship.

Each living house is set up to be self-sustaining for several days in a pinch, providing shelter, cooking and crafting space, as well as basic communal stores of food, clothing and tools. Although there are other gathering houses for specific tasks, people can do weaving, food preparation, etc. (anything short of very stinky or hazardous work) in the shared sunken area by the central fire. Big pots are kept on the hearths where they stay perpetually warm, but not too hot. Eternal soups simmer in these at most times, usually made with dried fish or game and handfuls of dried greens. Everyone is responsible for seeing that they don't boil dry or get too thin, although a house may have a designated cook who typically does this.

Each village has a water-house, as well, though this isn't technically an enclosed house, but a large, open covered space for wet tasks during the summer months. A system of simple open pipes brings water from a higher elevation water source through troughs where it can be used for laundry and other washing jobs and a network of open pipes also takes the water other places; to the fields to water the snowies, and to periodic wash stations further into the village. A pump driven by snowies gives the water some additional head when needed, and the waste-water travels through an open concrete channel downstream far enough that it doesn't contaminate their source. Clotheslines are strung up under this roof for drying clothing and crafts, as well.

Other buildings in the village include several saunas, large lean-tos for sheltering injured snow-unicorns, and storage and craft houses. A stink-house is a building for dying, brewing, tanning, fish curing, and other smelly or messy chores, and is found at the outskirts of the village in the direction usually downwind. The cook-house is a house constructed like a living house, but dedicated to curing and drying game and other stores of grain, nuts, berries and vegetables, as well as baking, and it has special ovens and many worktables for this purpose. The craft-house is similar in layout, with worktables and large looms set up for big projects as well as larger, specialized equipment. Each village also has at least one meeting-house, which is used by the elders to hold meetings, as a gathering place for special ceremonies, and as a social place for dancing and music at any time it is not otherwise in use.

Itadesh customarily names its houses after animals, Itakith after plants, and Itrelir after birds. See each specific village for current lists of house names and occupants.

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