date: 2022-02-20
title: Goat Snow Fort

Goat Snow Fort - 2022-02-20 - Entry 33 - TOGoS's Project Log

My LinkedIn profile currently indicates that I am a 'goat snowfort architect'. In this post I will provide some evidence to support that claim.

Oliver enjoying a mouthful of hay that he found inside the snow tunnel
Video evidence

Long story: The goats needed a shelter of some sort, as it gets very cold up in northern Wisconsin. The first attempt at a shelter was just some straw piled around for them to nest in, but it was clearly insufficient, so we then constructed an approximate cube (resting on 4 flakes of straw) out of 4 pallets, connecting them together with small 'connector boards' (3"x6" to 4.5"x9" pieces cut from screppier pallets) and deck screws, and then tying several flakes of straw to the sides so that it would be cozy.

This is obviously a very imprecise and non-modular construction technique, unlike what I usually like to do with gridbeam etc., but I figure it's good practice to sometimes build things by throwing a bunch of scraps together, since it is about 1000x faster than dreaming up and manufacturing a bunch of gridbeam-compatible components.

After the first snow things got melty enough to pack, and I rolled a few large snowballs from the snow in the goat enclosure and set them next to the cube. We then had some warm days which melted everything else, but the snowballs remained, icier and more structurally sound than ever. These would become the center of the snow pile.

Over the months between setting up that original cube and making the above video, I would spend some time each day, sometimes several hours, shoveling more snow onto it, with occasional layers of straw, and taking chunks of ice from the cows' water trough and carefully stacking them and gluing them together by pouring dirty duck water over them (birds are extremely good at turning clean water into filth). Once the first snow pile was large enough, I threw another pallet over the top (for extra ceiling supprt) and tunneled through it. Once the wall of ice chunks was high enough (and we were blessed with another thick layer of snow) I expanded the pile to enclose the 'great hall', built up the walls, covered the top, and started the second tunnel which would become the back room.

Some thoughts:

Given that we are already about 2/3 through February I plan to let that be the peak of effort towards building up this year's goat fort, though I will probably still throw some snow on it until everything gets all melty. But this has given me ideas about preparing for next year's goat fort. I'm thinking it would be cool to build a bunch of unsafe wooden structures out of pallets that then get buried in snow and become secret rooms. And they can have a bunch of French cleats on the walls and built-in cat nooks and places for secret fridges etc. so that once everything's buried all I have to do is tunnel between them.

We have a steady stream of pallets that would otherwise be burned. They make a decent rickety cube. Everything becomes much more sturdy once buried in snow so you don't need to build things especially awesomely. Just needs to hold its shape until it's buried.

Goat forts are like the anti-gridbeam because nothing is precise.

I want a word for this type of construction, where everything's glued together and carved away at as you go and nothing's modular except where you attach an adapter. Not just non-modular, which is like the default for most construction (all your drywall is cut to fit that specific place on the wall), but like, even more amorphous and cavelike.

I think the interface between modular stuff and non-modular stuff is really interesting. Which is why I stuck French cleats in the goat fort. And also probably why I'm trying to invent SynthGen.

—Me to SynthGen Slack

This subject is making me feel surprisingly good inside, I don't even know.

—Fizz, in response to the above messages about different construction philosophies (I think)