Tuesday, September 30

jellyfish and tacos

Today was not really a bonafide work day. Erin worked about three hours on stairs in the morning while I attended to other work, and when we broke for lunch, the day took a different turn.

The ocean was flat. Like this __________. It was clear as glass. The air was warm, and there was just enough breeze blowing to instill confidence in us for a sail from Van Damme State Park to Russian Gulch State Park. On a normal day, we'd be going the other direction, but the wind was blowing from the south today (meaning unsettled weather patterns are approaching). We drove around collecting our sailboat, life jackets & paddles and made it on the water by about 3:30. The air was depressingly still, but we launched anyway. We had to paddle out of Van Damme bay, but once we made it out there we got a little more push.

It didn't take long for us to spot some dolphins, and sea lions came next. With such mild swell and ZERO surface disturbance, it was easy to spot sea life.

Speaking of sea life, have you ever seen so many jellyfish?

You might think that those white spots are just dots of ocean spray on the camera lens. But no, they are jellyfish. Hundreds and hundreds (perhaps thousands?) of them. It seemed as though were we to step off the side of the boat we could just walk across them. This is an interesting video of our jellyfish encounter. You have to click on the link and visit youtube because I don't like putting videos on the blurt.

This scene went on for the better part of an hour as we sailed north. Weird. As we continued on, the talk turned to food. "I wish," Erin mused, "that there was a superfood that was always good. Here are the criteria: it has to be small; it has to have everything in it - nutrients, protein, energy, vitamins, everything- ; it has to taste good at all times."

"Yeah," I say, "something you don't have to think about whether or not its what you're in the mood for."

"I think I know what it is," Erin says. "Tacos."


We pulled into port just as the sun was setting, and were really glad we went.

Tomorrow we're going to finish off the decking completely. We'll need to trek up to ROSSIs for more composite decking screws. We've also got to complete the north set of stairs, and shim up one of the perimeter boards.

Hasta manana ~

Sunday, September 28

Circular ambitions realized

The circle has been cut.

It was a whirlwind of a morning, as we rose at 7:30 and were up working at the prop just after 8. We had only three hours to complete the task before I had to be at the other job, and were moving like lightning. After screwing down just one tiny little corner with a decking board, we then mounted the router contraption to the center pivot of the circle. I'm posting lots of photos here, and leaving little to the imagination.

note proper eye, respiratory, and knee protection

The 2x4 was not quite stiff enough and sagged a little in the
middle. Erin rigged up a 4x8 scrap as a counterweight and
we were in business, the rest of the board hovering perfectly
in space over the joists (see the router at the other end?).

Radius of the circle = 15' for the yurt + 3/4" space for the bender board + 1" space for the canvas

It took three passes with the router to actually cut
through the decking... just about 1/4" each pass.

Fallen boards

If you're wondering what I was doing this whole time, the answer is:
  • preceding Erin around the circle with the drill and screwing down any overhanging boards that were higher or looser, and could have caused potential problems with the router and;
  • following Erin around the circle with a small pick and removing packed sawdust from the deepening channel he created so his next pass would go off without a hitch.
It was tough going. And hot. And dusty. The whole contraption and idea worked like a charm - the router didn't chew up any boards, nor did it burn/melt them. Our greatest circular ambitions were realized.

We barely finished by 11, and quickly packed up and went home so I could shower the thick layer of dust off me and try and look presentable for work. Erin will be celebrating his Happy Day tomorrow, so we'll see if we give him the day off. There's an apple baseball/portable disc golf party planned in celebration later this week, with lots of guacamole and Cerveza Crema.

Friday, September 26

done decking

With our best foot forward, we began working at 9 am on beloved deck. I started out with a small can of wood stain, and the intention to stain the front face of the stair stringers, which are exposed pressure-treated wood. The stain went on a little dark for my tastes, so I held off finishing that job, and moved on to 20' planks of decking - trimming the edges to an exact 90 degrees and hoisting them into place on the deck. I also puzzle-pieced the last of our decking scraps into place and located the best pattern for our scarf-cut seams.

Meanwhile, Erin was occupied with a 20 ft. 2x4, metal straps, Bill's router and some moleskin. I'll try and get a snap of this invention tomorrow, but the jist of it is the router screwed on to the very end of the 2x4 using metal straps, and all the sharp edges swaddled in a soft, felty covering of moleskin. We place to screw the 2x4 to the center of the yurt circle and make two passes with the router to cut the decking down to a perfect circle. This is, by the way, an ingenious (and yet untried) idea and we're all looking forward to being present when the router makes its orbits.

Now, with so much decking going on these days, it's easy to forget about the yurting. We were reminded this afternoon, as FedEx came rumbling down the driveway in a huge semi with a sizeable pile of yurt rafters. This particular shipment of yurt parts had already made an accidental trip to the East Coast from Colorado, and was just making its way back to California - let me tell you, it was looking pretty sad. Much to Fed-Ex-driver Evan's chagrin, we refused the delivery, citing damaged goods, and sent him packing with a still-full truck. We couldn't, in good conscience, accept such scrappy and ratty looking roofing, expecially since the rafters will be visible from the inside of the yurt. Bummer. We did, however, receive both doors, the lattice, the plexiglass bubble and some canvas(?) a week ago which I forgot to mention.

damaged rafters

"come back when you have a decent looking delivery!"

doors. to tide you over

At this point, we were still waiting for the last of our deck boards from ROSSI's, so we started on and completed the last of the deck-board support blocking/joisting. I was in charge of this last lumber order, and started to get a little anxious, hoping I'd ordered enough boards for us to finish.

And just as our stomachs were beginning to rumble, and another apple just wouldn't do the trick, Mom showed up with a satchel full of piping hot blue corn and green chili tamales with chipotle sauce and a delicious home grown tomato. We chowed down and ate espresso bunt cake and strawberries for dessert. It was back to work soon thereafter, and within a short time, ROSSI's arrived!

a "close-up" of the forklift tricycle

We put our noses to the grindstones, and finished up the last board just as the sun was setting and we were getting quite cold. We've obviously decided to do the perimeter boards before the interior boards - and we're not so sure we'd do it this way again. It necessitates a perfect fit when it comes down to the last board, with zero room for error. We measured, measured and measured again, hoping to ensure that our last board would slide into place with ease, but it was a really tight fit. A little rearranging allowed us to complete the deck with a perfect fit, and we happily packed up shop and made our way home. Maia was ecstatic to see us quitting for the day, as it was way past her dinner time. She'd already consumed 4 pears and 1 apple as hors'd'oeuvre, and was ready for some real chow.

And if you're wondering what we got up to on our highly anticipated day-off, the answer is: not much. It was really fun.

The week is only too short, and alas, it's back to the other job for a few days. Hasta entonces...

Wednesday, September 24

Disappearing spaces

Wednesday. Yet another lumber list was our first order of business, and we got on it right away. Mom's other decking order was purposefully short, as she had hoped to avoid the 25% restocking fee on returning surplus. So we calculated our anticipated extra decking and I drove back down the hill to call in our order to ROSSIs while Erin touched-up the stair stringers with a little construction adhesive, threw Maia in the pond, and started one of two special custom decking pieces, as seen below. These pieces are necessary because, as you can see, our boards don't always end flush with the corners, but 'wrap' around the edge. Our two custom pieces required cutting and routering on one edge, along with precision fitting.

When I returned to the prop, we continued on with laying out and screwing down the next set of boards - mostly 8 to 10 footers. We didn't really break for lunch, but kept right on trucking through the next set of boards - 16 footers - until we'd exhausted our lumber pile. Many boards have ended up with more than 10 inches hanging off the end of a joist; therefore, we have inserted additional blocking and joisting, but we do this as it comes.

The Fiberon fake-wood decking is an interesting animal. When we arrive in the morning, those purposeful 1/8" and 3/16" spaces between boards are well and good. As the day progresses, and the sun beats down on our weary heads, the gaps are nowhere to be found. Well, you say, this is exactly the purpose of the spaces! Well, retort, it is causing some problems. Imagine starting your construction day working with cold, contracted boards, and progressing on working with hot, expanded boards. How on earth are your precise little 1/8" spaces going to be consistent with this variable? The boards change length, my friends, in a matter of a few hours. The overall effect is hardly noticeable (unless you're an asshole), but we like things to be perfect and and we cannot limit our productivity to only early mornings!

On another note, we'd like to introduce you to our decking tabs, of which we will probably use 1000 by the end of this project. We have had to betray our love affair with the star drive and switch to the more-easily-stripped square drive, as the included hardware includes squares. So about 95% of our decking has no visible screws in it, which is awesome.

note: delicious apple in the background

sighting down the line

almost all the way 'round!

Our extra decking will not arrive till Friday, thus tomorrow marks the occasion of our first full day off together since the project began. I personally have not had even one day off between yurting and the other job, since the project began. We had hoped to go kiteboarding, but alas, the tides at our super-secret kiting location aren't predicted to rise sufficiently. We will count on a field trip nonetheless, and report on our adventures on Friday.

Tuesday, September 23

Six eyes; and deck boards begin

Two eyeballs on-top-of eyeglasses on-top-of sunglasses = six eyes, according to Erin. That was me today: contacts are on hiatus for the week, until my eyes can recover. But it didn't stop us from working a full sunny day on decking boards. Twelve long rows of 20 footers, cut exactly to length with scarf cuts, and many more rows of correspondingly shorter boards.

Continuing on my streak of blog-worthy shenanigans, I ran into the deck, which hit me at the shins and knocked me onto my face. I was attempting to deliver the tape measure to Erin doubletime! and didn't quite jump high enough. It was an event that all present wished had been captured on video for posterity.

We got this far today and it looks really good.

And we have this far to go tomorrow.

Obviously, we will abstain from placing decking on the yurt footprint, and will cut a large and perfect circle using a router with a carbide tip and multiple passes, making a hole for the yurt. Bill dropped by with his router, which we'll be borrowing, and we discussed what is known as "the asshole factor". This is simply: anyone that gets their eyes down within a micron of the decking and critiques or criticizes a hand-built piece of art (like ours) is .... an asshole. We hope to get far enough to use said router tomorrow, but we can't be too optimistic.


inspecting the decking

Monday, September 22

Minor injuries

Today I write from the other job, sitting inside at a desk while the sun shines outside and the breeze blows down the coast. Injury is on my mind, as I'm wrestling with an eye issue these past few days. I'll keep you updated later, but to recap last Thursday:

I began the day waking up to the sound of a dog yawn. Maia is, I think, the loudest yawner in the world. Dog or human. Or other mammal. It starts out really low pitched - growl-like - and gradually climbs up the scale until her mouth is wide open, her strangely long tongue is sticking all the way out, and the sound moves beyond my ability to mimic her. And if one isn't enough to wake me up, she'll embark on a series of yawns that eventually rouses me. On my way to the front door on this particular morn, I ran into the door jamb, the electric heater, and my scooter. One of those klutzy sort of days. It was only the beginning.

Later, at the prop, I casually brushed aside a little something off my back, and ended up with a wasp sting on my finger. Thanks to the Extractor Pump, which Erin always carries along with an Epi-pen, I was pain- & swelling-free in a matter of 10 minutes! Wahoo. Later, I screwed a hole in my finger with the coveted star drive, and then ran into the corner of a stair stringer & bashed up my shin. These episodes are hardly worth mentioning individually, but the fact that they occurred all in one day deserves a post, I think.

The Extractor Pump


From what I understand, Erin and Maia have been working on decking all day long. We'll have photos to prove it tomorrow.

Sunday, September 21

Felt is cool (warm)


Our yurt has Astro-Foil:

Mongolian yurts have felt:


This is an absolutely beautiful clip of Mongolians making felt for their yurts. I highly recommend watching all 2 minutes and 30 seconds of it (it does have music, so if you're clandestinely reading this at work, best to wait till you get home). Chris McKee produced and filmed this clip as part of his movie, Mujaan, which is all about Mongolian yurt construction. I haven't seen it, but would love to! Click HERE for more info.


From Colorado Yurt's Website:
The R-Value of Astro-Foil insulation is based on the direction of the heat flow. Downward (from the sun) R15; Horizontally (the walls) R7.31; and upward (the roof), R5.4). R-Value does not fully measure the comfort level achieved in an insulated yurt.
This got me thinking about comfort levels. I remember reading somewhere that the nomad's family heritage is measured by smoke stains around the wooden ring at the top of the yurt structure (where our Plexiglas bubble sits, the Mongol gur has a hole to let smoke through that can be covered with more felt). Between sometimes-cold weather, a 24-hour fire pit, felt insulation and a canvas cover, there's not a lot of air-flow. These homes must be hot and odorous (the only word I can think of to describe smoke, human, & meat smells). I would love to visit one sometime.

Saturday, September 20

More Rain

On Friday, we actually got rain. Not drizzle, not mist; Rain.

It was a depressing day that started with a frantic scramble to all the hardware stores up and down the coast looking for more of those dang stainless steel composite decking screws. We were unsuccessful, but spent some time at the "weird-metal-pieces" section of ROSSI's trying to invent new ways to attach the yurt to the flooring. Our dilemma is this: the Yurt comes with many many L brackets which are used to attach the lattice directly to the platform floor.

But we do not want L brackets screwed into our nice bamboo flooring, right? Erin's brain has been working overtime trying to figure out a new and structurally sound way to attach the yurt lattice to the platform - hence, our time spent at the wall of "weird-metal-pieces".

By this time, it was windshield-wiper-rainy out, and we had to go home to get our rain jackets if we were going to get anything done. We finished up the perimeter of the decking, and got started on the actually deck boards, when it just got so wet we had to call it a day. The tools were in jeopardy and the workplace was no longer safe (or fun).

All in all, we only put in about 5 hours of work and then retreated home for an excellent dinner of leftovers and a great Giants game.

We can only hope that Monday and Tuesday don bright & sunny, and that we are in good health & good spirits. Because we have a lot of work to do.

Thursday, September 18

2 days in one post! - involving picnics, forklifts and love notes

Yesterday, we arrived home at the end of the day completely exhausted. That's why I didn't post. It was all we could do just to make dinner and lie on the couch until bedtime. In review:

Awaiting the ROSSI's delivery took us till 12:30 in the afternoon, which allowed for some much needed sleep and french toast. The delivery truck would be loaded with 2x4s, concrete, extra 2x12s, decking, fascia, plywood, 2" rigid foam insulation, and a partridge in an apple tree. Our little old driver even brought a tricycle-forklift to unload it all.

Our goals for the day were to finish the stairs, which turned out to be a joke, and to start on the decking, which was another good one. We got as far as we could on the first set of stairs, and then scrambled over to the second set, where I (perhaps?) dug my very last hole and mixed my last bags of concrete. We set a 2x8 flat in this landing pad, instead of a 2x4. We also made it flush with the top of the concrete pad, which made our lives much easier. When we wrapped up for the day it was this dark:

...and......... the fog cleared! We saw the remains of real sunshine for the first time since September 6.

As late as our start was yesterday, we made up for it with an early start today, and were working by 9 am for our first sunny start in a long time. We jumped on the first set of stairs, and finished it up with much frustration. Thanks to Erin's excellent stair-stringer-cutting learning curve, our stringers were abominably close to perfect. Our stair-friendly mood then allowed us to complete the second set with much more ease. All in all, the first set of stairs took us 2 days. The second set took us 20 minutes. Dur.

testing out las escaleras nuevas

Our first surprise visitors stopped by at this time - my favorite family in Mendocino - Derek, Shannon and Dylan (Haley was sorely missed, but who can skip 2nd grade for yurting?). We had a chat, discussed recycled decking materials and the age-old trees vs. shrubs debate, picked some apples and had a grand old time. As they pulled away, we were just about ready for decking. We sent mom back down to town for decking screws and lunch, and got started plotting out our decking perimeter.

For a better understanding of how this decking works, go to this website and poke around. We have grooved deck boards, which have tiny grooves on both edges, and are secured to the deck using metal fastener tabs; and regular perimeter deck boards with no grooves, which we will also use on the stairs. The perimeter boards will just be screwed down sans metal tabs. After reading through the decking manual this morning, we realized we are going to need a lot more support - who would've thought? - so we're just going to use the many many board scraps we've got laying around the job site. Great idea.

extra blocking

And just in time, mom pulled up in her big diesel monster, toting a delicious smorgasbord of stainless steel composite deck screws, breads, cheese, veggies, salty chips, pickles, chocolate, and...Erin's favorite...
mmmmmm ... this is the only beer that Erin will drink without complaining.

Needless to say, it was a delicious feast.

Afterwards, we continued on around the perimeter with our boards, cutting each corner to a wonderfully aesthetic 45 degrees, and each joint to a 22 degree scarf cut. Lots of precision involved here. We have to pre-drill each hole in this step, and back up our holes with additional blocking.

...and for all you critical eyes: due to the thermal coefficient of expansion, this fake-wood decking needs 1/8" gap wherever two boards meet. So, yes - we did it on purpose.

After work, Maia decided to take the new decking for a test run, and Erin decided to take me on a spin around the pond in the lawn mower wagon. It was quite fun, and very scenic.

Pretty scattered couple of days, but we're making progress. It's been slow going, but tomorrow we'll be in more of a groove.

i couldn't resist

Tuesday, September 16

Various things

  1. correction to previous post
  2. cold and wet
  3. stringers
  4. concrete pads
  5. miscellaneous
  1. In the post entitled "Saturday, Halfday" I incorrectly referred to the friendly neighbor dog as Bess. This information was based upon distant (and frantic) calls from the dog's owner that we interpreted as 'Bess'. Well, on Sunday, crazy dog's owner came from afar and wandered through the bushes looking for her. It was then that we heard loud and clear: "GOOSE!!" Sorry Goose.
  2. The last two days have been cold, foggy, wet, drizzly, cold, frustrating, slow and cold. Here is an example: Maia's typical daily property routine consists of running to and fro, chasing grasshoppers, particles of dust and everything else that moves. She then cools off by rolling in some pond scum, and proceeds to charge into the forest, spends 15 minutes doing who-knows-what, and then tears back out and completes 1 to 2 laps around the three acre field at full speed. Next, she'll add something weird to her pile of stuff - pears, apples, wood, branches, trash, pond scum. She repeats this pattern for several hours, then sits facing Goose's house, completely alert and still, unmoving until we leave. Yesterday and today, things were completely different. After sifting through her horde-pile, Maia hunkered down for the rest of the day.
  3. Erin, Maia and mom made a trip to ROSSI's yesterday morning to purchase 2x12"s for stair stringers and to look at fake-decking fascia. When they got back Erin went straight to work and completed a scale drawing of the stringers for the first set of stairs, which are pretty normal as far as stairs go. As Bill eerily predicted, the first stringer was messed up (but not by much) and so now we're one 6' stringer short. Never fear, however: ROSSI's is sending a delivery tomorrow. Today Erin finished up the rest of the stringer material using the skillsaw and these nifty little doodads you clamp down on your carpenter's square. Only 5 more to go.
  4. I may have stated in a previous post that I "dug one last hole, and mixed one last bag of concrete". This statement is partly true, and partly false. But more false than true. I did mix that bag of concrete and I did dig that hole; however, it was definitely not my last. See how I keep thinking we're getting to the end of something and it comes back to bite me in the ass? Anyway, Erin had to dig a hole yesterday, and mix three bags of concrete today. And we'll have to repeat it again tomorrow! These mini-foundations are not for piers or posts, but for the stair stringers to rest on.
  5. We also tacked up the last piece of rim joist before our lips finally turned blue and we packed up shop and went home for a hot toddy (not really). We also spent an hour completing the list of lumber we'll have delivered - plywood, foam insulation, 2x4s and some more 2x12s.
Please pray to your personal deity for sunshine tomorrow.

Sunday, September 14



Erin has conveniently drawn a toilet in the center of the yurt for scale

Finally, I'm posting a photo of our plans so you can see, underneath all the coffee stains and wrinkles, what we're aiming for. And although this plan has joists at 24" (and you avid readers will know ours are at 16"), we have yet to draft an updated set of plans because (1) it's hard work, and (2) I'm evidently math-savy enough to do all the extra calculations without visual example.

Work resumes tomorrow/Monday for Erin, who will trek up to ROSSI's with mom to look at fake-wood decking and fascia, purchase 2x12s for stair stringers, several additional bags of concrete for the cement pad under the stairs, and then get his butt to the property (or prop, as I'm now calling it). I'll be at the other job working an 11 hour shift.

Also... we watched another yurt flick last night called Khadak. I didn't really get it, as it was really metaphorical and artistic and didn't have much dialog. I admit, I am a very literal thinker, and this one went right over my head. Mostly about the plight of Mongolian nomads. If you ask me, it should have had more yurt in it.

Saturday, September 13

tying up loose ends

There are loose ends at the end of every phase of this project. Yesterday, the loose ends of the joisting phase were, for the most part, neatly tied into pretty little bows.

We snapped chalk lines along the sticky-outy parts of the joists, which enables us to cut their ends equidistant from the girder. We did this around the entire perimeter of the deck - then Erin breezed through with the Skillsaw and whacked off all the unnecessary ends. Then we lugged 20' 2x8s around and screwed them to these neatly shaven ends, thereby wrapping the perimeter in 2x8 rim joists. Yes, it is as sturdy as it looks.

photos are darker today because it was foggy and, well... darker

And because we couldn't help ourselves, we scribed the yurt floor - just to see how giant the 30' yurt will look on the deck. We rigged up a super system of a 20 footer screwed into the exact center of the proposed yurt, and Erin walked in a 15' radius scribing joists and girders; I followed with orange spray paint. This phase is definitely the funnest because the deck starts to actually look like a deck, and to resemble the deck on our plans.

Also completed was the addition of 2 out of 4 bolts drilled into the sideways girder (long story), blocking and screwing between the sideways joists, and cutting off their ends to resemble a circular deck (see below). We didn't add the rim joists to this circular part because crooked & twisted though they may be, the 2x8 joists just won't wrap around this diameter of a circle. We'll cross that bridge later, I suppose.

Yet another loose end was squarely tied when I spent an hour digging one last hole, & setting and leveling one last pier in concrete. This was done between and underneath our joists, which I remind you are set at 16" apart. I discovered, much to my surprise, that my beloved hips are joist-friendly, but my shoulders, alas, are not. As the water well was nonfunctional, pond water was used to mix concrete (sick) and wash the wheelbarrow and tools post-job.

And finally, to exhaust the list of loose ends, Erin marked and cut back the ends of the girders as shown.


See you on Tuesday.
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