Monday, October 27

((((rain on the brain))))

So, after all the hullabaloo about using only 24 sheets of plywood, I accidently got turned around and cut up the 25th sheet. Dang! We actually ended up using it in the end, but still ... I like to live up to my word.

Yesterday, Mom and Erin worked on laying the flooring all morning. Erin installed while Mom transferred pieces up to the deck and helped with the layout. They got about 8 rows into it and had to stop for the day (Sunday is disc golf day and the tourney starts promptly at 2:30!). This past spring, Erin installed a cherry hardwood floor for mom in her back room. It is a floating floor, which I think means it just snaps together with the tongue&groove - no staples or nails necessary. He did the installation all by himself (save for a trip to the Emergency room with his Dad when he sliced off the top of his finger with a razor knife), so this bamboo flooring should be familiar to him even though it uses staples. I wish I could be helping with this stage, but alas...

Today is Monday, and Mom & Erin sat around eating coffee cake and delicious sweet potato frittata until 11 am. They were waiting for the plastic-covered platform to dry - it was soaked from the fog and mist of last night, and without sun in the forecast for today it is shaping up to be a damp one. We are getting ever-more wary of the impending weather system. From Wunderground:

Thursday Night through Sunday: Mostly cloudy. 50% chance of rain.

Dang. But what can we expect? The weather goddess has bestowed upon us the ninth warmest September since 1880! And a dang nice October to boot. As we round the corner of fall and slide into November (can you tell I've been watching the World Series?) the rain may tag us out.

Tomorrow I travel to Santa Rosa to collect sister number 2 from the airport, so that she may partake of some yurt. YAY.

Saturday, October 25

plywood DONE!

This is a photo of Maia from yesterday. She was so hot, she couldn't move or even open her eyes. She didn't get up to chase bugs, or swim in the pond. What a lazy bum. Today is equally beautiful and hot, but I wouldn't really know first-hand, as I'm working inside for the afternoon.

This morning we were able to get started by 8:30 am, after a quick stop at Mendosa's for 2" screws and four more tubes of construction adhesive (will it even be enough??). We were very thankful for the huge piece of plastic we'd used to cover the plywood. I think we used a roll of 4mil plastic that came in a huge 10'x100' sheet. We cut it down and taped it all together and it covers the platform with room to spare. This morning it was soaked, and with much care we peeled it back and laid it out to dry. Our intention was to finish the plywood in two hours (at which time I transfer to my other job), but we fell far short of our intended goal. All of a sudden, it was 10:30 and we had to mosey back down to town. These sort of mornings makes us wish we could always get such an early start to beat the heat!

In the afternoon, Erin & Maia finished up laying the rest of the plywood and cut down all the excess to only 1" overhang. This will make his final circular 15'-compass cut much smoother, and will also make the whole thing easier to cover with our plastic cover.

So, yet again, Erin manages to finish up a phase of the project in record time. We will always wonder how he manages without me.

Friday, October 24

Maia's new pug boyfriend

You know what happens when we try and get an early start? The platform is wet and we can't do anything.

Today was bust-a-move-and-get-the-platform-done day, so as soon as we were able the chalk lines were snapped and the first sheet went on. A bead of construction adhesive was laid down on the joists and the plywood set on top of it. Then the whole board is screwed down to the joists and we're on to the next one. Here's how far we got before our mandatory union break:

The long edges of the plywood are tongue-&-groove, so we're snapping it all together too.

And lo, David and Yoda came walking down the driveway. David is our disc golf buddy, and his pug puppy Yoda waddled, snorted and oinked behind him. Maia and Yoda have previously established a love/hate relationship, but it was all love today. Erin talked David into a quick game of safari-discgolf and they made their way around the prop throwing to imaginary baskets and loosing a few discs in the redwood forest.

This was, by far, the hottest part of the day. According to Erin, the hottest day of the job thus far. I think it was because we were standing around the reflective foil insulation all day ~ it plum wore us out. As the sun was sinking below the trees, we blessed the goddess of shade and continued on with renewed energy. However ! this also meant our available daylight was quickly disintegrating. We were also running out of adhesive and screws. Because our plan was very carefully orchestrated to maximize the use of our plywood sheets, we used the jigsaw to cut off the overhang and use it elsewhere. So by the end of the day we didn't have all our plywood screwed down, but we had all the cuts made and we're ready for an early start tomorrow.

This is our final progress for today, and we finished up by covering the whole circle in a 30'x30' sheet of clear plastic that we fashioned. Yahoo.

Thursday, October 23

where's the plan?

Today was another tough one. It started out well-intentioned, but went downhill quickly. We were able to rendezvous with Bill early on, and zipped down to Albion to collect his air compressor and table saw. After this, breakfast was in order, as was a running start on the plywood.

Trip. We fell flat on our faces when we realized the carefully orchestrated plywood-graph-paper layout we'd spent an evening laboring over was nowhere to be found. I jumped in the car and went back home to search hi and lo, but alas...

Meanwhile, ROSSIs had shown up at the prop with our single solitary 16 foot 2x4" we'd ordered to complete the scaffolding. They also picked up the rest of our unused 2x8"s and the Fiberon Fascia which mom has decided not to use (good decision mom - it was ugly) for a return.

So it was with much 'bummer' that I returned to the prop empty-handed. Erin feebily tried to re-draw the circular yurt without a compass while I did some general job clean-up. Then, just as Erin's head was about to explode, Mickey showed up toting flooring nailer, compressor, and a much needed diversion. He's a really nice guy, and I discovered he mostly does refinishing jobs on floors, so these particular tools don't get much use from him. He was happy to lend them to us for a few days. We did a few trial shots with the nailing gun and a piece of our flooring until we got it just right.

Erin & Mickey

flooring nailer

flooring nailed (stapled)

Mom and David showed up at this time, and picked a bushel full of apples apiece. I guess this means we have three more trees that have gone wild with apples, one of them green apples (yum & good for pie!).

As Mickey, Mom & David pulled away, we reassessed our situation and decided to get as much done as we possibly could without our plywood plan. We decided to rip our two pressure-treated plywood pieces into our future benderboard, which will measure 8'x7.5" each. We tested one by wrapping it around the perimeter of the platform and decided it will work out quite well.

future benderboards

Then Erin scaled the scaffolding again to complete the adjustable part at the top that will actually hold the compression ceiling ring.

It didn't take him very long, and at this, we did some more cleanup and packed our bags to head home. Between the two of us, we re-drew our plywood layout at home and will use only 24 sheets (as opposed to our previous plan of 25) so loosing the original was a mixed bag, baby.

See you tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 22

Dia del sol


Yesterday, we went on a yurt-related field trip. Our travels took us over the hill to Hopland, where we visited the Solar Living Institute. It's hard to miss this place as you're driving north on highway 101 ~ you can see the yurts, solar panels, trees growing out of old cars & Biodiesel fueling station as you pass it from the highway. Apparently, this 12 acre solar-land used to be a dumping site for CALTRANS, but you'd never know it today! The place is beautifully restored with food gardens and intelligent landscaping. There are several ponds and water features demonstrating the sustainable use of fountains, misters and waterfalls for cooling off in the summer. There are also HUGE solar panels flanking the southern edge of the compound.

Our first stop was the eye-catching windmill. Though barely a breath of wind puffed through the 80-degree air, the blades were lazily, and very occasionally, turning in circles. This particular windmill was directly hooked up to a pump and well, and water was overflowing a big steel horse trough with each turn. Lightbulbs went on in all our heads as we watched this awesome demonstration of free power. The windmill turns out to be fashioned in Cloverdale, just down the road, by Rock Ridge Windmills, all in the old-fashioned style. Here's a picture from their website:
The owner of the company recently acquired a bundle of old windmills and parts from a windmill collector, and we're seriously considering visiting his bargain bin.

We then went inside the SLI workshop yurt. They use this 30-ft yurt as a classroom for the many awesome workshops they do, and we were able to enter during the break of a photovoltaic installation class (and lo, it's a Colorado Yurt too boot!). We were mostly interested in checking out the L brackets, and to see just how big 30 feet of yurt actually feels.

It feels juuuust right.

Then it was on to the Real Goods store, in which we all agreed, had we more time, it would be very easy to spend thousands of dollars on amazing books, toys and composters. If you're interested, use this site to shop your head off. As it was, we had time only for composting toilets, the main reason for our trip. Unfortunately, they did not have any set up for trial use, but we were able to get the idea from the store models. Mom's first and most important question for the sales dude was "Will it stink?" A very excellent question, mom. Composting toilets do not stink. The composting of human waste has been refined over many years, and is as simple as throwing in a handful of sawdust once a day, and hooking the whole thing up to a small electric fan that's as noisy as a laptop computer. We saw several models, three of which I have poached photos from their respective websites and listed below in order from most to least scary.

So you can see it's not so bad. The actual composter of this last model from Sunterra Green will be under the deck. No water (or electricity, really) required!

We then traveled to Ukiah for lunch and Boonville for disc golf with yurts and composting on our brains. It was a great day, and we highly recommend a visit to the Solar Living Institute if you ever have time.


Sucked. We were both tired, and the scene that greeted us upon arriving at the prop didn't help our spirits.

Apparently, despite our best efforts to make our insulation look inpalatable, a small critter decided to feast on a few select pieces. Luckily the holes aren't too big or worrisome, and we believe we can patch them with some foam and tape.

After this depressing discovery, we made a run to the dump to recycle a truckful of cardboard flooring boxes, and then made our way up to ROSSIs. On our lists was flooring staples, visqueen plastic and 3/4" CDX tongue-&-groove plywood. We went three for three and decided to take a very hot and very patient Maia to the beach to wrap up our day.

Tomorrow we start the plywood.

Friday, October 17

visual update

Days of rest have been hard to come by these past two months, but we've had three this week! We had some time for kiteboarding, golf, biking, badminton, and lots of disc golf. It's been nice to have some non-yurt time (gasp!).

The following photos are, as promised:

Giant ring of shiny insulation

Here we can appreciate the height of the scaffolding

a great watchtower/fort/watertower/? ~ perhaps we'll keep it after its intended use.

Bamboo flooring neatly stacked

Well packaged rafters!

Beautiful day at the prop

Wednesday, October 15

way high

After so much hard work, it seems as though we have only the fun stuff left. The insulation has been cut and laid, the joisting and blocking is mostly done, the digging and concrete-pouring is past; all that lays ahead is yurt.

And the floor, of course, which we received today. Mom went to Anderson's Alternatives and picked up 34 six-foot long boxes of flooring planks. We unpacked and unloaded it into the horse trailer, which will be home for the bamboo for a while. Common practice is to allow new flooring boards to acclimatize for a week or two before installation, so the trailer is a perfect place - dry and protected, but fairly open to the humidity levels of our area. This obviously puts us back at least a week, but no matter. We have decided to wait for Manda's upcoming visit to erect the yurt anyway!

In the meantime, we're trying to tie up lots of loose ends (we love to tie up ends) so we'll be ready to throw up the yurt in just a couple of days. Today Erin and I started and completed the scaffolding that will be used in the erection of the yurt. We put many 2x4 scraps to good use, and used the rest of the long boards as well. The height is actually 13 feet, but the plan calls for adjustable beams on the top which we will clamp to the existing corner posts.

Bill & Erin climbed the scaffold -
they scaled up opposite sides simultaneously while
mom and I held our breath and looked away.
Unfortunately, all I had was the cell phone camera,
so this photo is tiny. Erin says it felt really high up. It is!

So all told, the scaffolding will be about 14 feet high, and will hold the center ceiling ring up in the air above the yurt floor while we attach the rafters to it. Speaking of rafters.....

Well done Colorado Yurt Company! We received 4 beautifully packaged cartons of yurt rafters from our good FedEx buddy Evan this afternoon. I wish I had photos (again) because words cannot describe how different this shipment was from the last one. It was with sheer delight that mom signed her name on the line, and Erin and Evan unloaded the gigantic boxes from the delivery truck. Yahoo!

More loose ends to tie before our three-day erection party:
  • order 25 - 3/4 inch plywood sheets (much debate has gone into whether to use 1/2" or 3/4". we've ultimately decided on 3/4" because the bamboo flooring isn't quite as stiff as we'd imagined it)
  • install our plywood sheets over the insulation and joists using screws and construction adhesive
  • design a plan & install bamboo flooring using a compression flooring nailer (borrowed from Mickey, Erin's surfing/glider-flying buddy who installs hardwood floors for a living)
  • re-create our custom 15' router-compass and cut another perfect circle through the plywood and bamboo layers
  • measure, make and paint our bender board, which will encircle the plywood and bamboo flooring & provide a backdrop for the lattice and brackets
I'm sure I've forgotten many, many things, but this will obviously keep us busy till Manda gets here. My goal for tomorrow is to remember the camera!

Sunday, October 12

Wonderfully compelling yurt photo-journey

What do I do when I'm not working on the yurt? Why, I research yurts of course; attempting to help my readers become better informed about all things yurt, and to better appreciate these awesome structures.

While sifting through my latest yurt search, I discovered a beautiful photographic journal of the real deal: European and Asian yurts. The first page provides a very interesting history of the yurt, which I highly recommend everyone read through. Then click through the photos and be prepared! Gorgeous.

Click here for the wonderfully compelling yurt photo-journey

The online journal from which this photo-article came is called Polar Inertia. I clicked around a little bit and found some more great photos, and a quick summary of how yurts relate to church signs, L.A. karaoke bars, and abandoned shopping carts. You can check out their archives HERE.

Hopefully this will keep you occupied until we have some more interesting progress to report on our psuedo-traditional nouveau-yurt.

Friday, October 10

Windy day

Super-productive day. Although we broke our promise of Wednesday and indulged in coffee and danish again with Dad, we still made it up to the prop at a decent hour, face masks and eye goggles in tow. We set up the table saw and began ripping the rest of the insulation - and however dusty and gross you can imagine it, it was. We attempted to duct-tape a plastic bag over the exhaust hole on the saw, but it was a joke. With super high wind gusts, it was an interesting day.

We made it about half way through the pile of insulation sheets, simply ripping them into two 22.5" wide pieces. This left us a three inch x 8 foot long strip of waste. I hate waste, but these pieces made excellent jousting material for the times when Erin was out of line. Our task then turned to blocking. We decided to place 2x4 scrap flat-ways on the sub joists to help us space the insulation properly.

2" thick insulation + 1.5" thick 2x4s = 3.5" 2x4s. This brings us to an interesting topic that has plagued me throughout this project.
Why, when deciding upon the dimensions of a 2x4, did the lumber people think that 1.5" by 3.5" would be better than just making it 2x4? Every piece of lumber is like this. 2x8s are, in actuality, 1.5x7.5. 4x8s are 3.5x7.5. A 20 foot long piece of lumber is really 20'.5". And so on, and so forth.
Blocking is a major part of construction. It seems that every phase of this project has required additional blocking or bracing. But nevermind - I'm becoming quite handy with the impact driver and my 5 quart bucket of star drive screws. I also ended up having to cut down at least 3 additional 2x4s to create enough blocking for each row of insulation.

So, you can obviously see that the top of the insulation is going to be flush with the tops of the 2x4s, and with the bottom of the plywood subfloor. This is so there are no pockets of air that could potentially collect condensation and rot. Erin followed me with the big sheets and fit them perfectly in, scoring from underneath and then cutting to fit with the handsaw. We did a great job, and finished the whole floor in just under 6 hours.

That is some serious custom fitting

Ambient air temperature when standing next
to the foil insulation was about 15 degrees warmer

At one point, the wind picked up so quickly and strongly, it launched 4 or 5 huge pieces of rigid insulation off the deck, and they went flying across the jobsite. Luckily each piece only weighs about 5 pounds, but it wouldn't take much to snap one in half, I suppose. I regret I do not have a photo of the entire floor covered in this highly reflective foil insulation. It looked pretty cool, but we had it covered up with two gigantic tarps for the night before I remembered to get out the camera.

We are learning that there are many different opinions floating around out there as to what's "right" in construction. Factors such as soil, temperature, moisture, rain, snow, earthquakes, personal experience, personal opinion, etc. all play a roll in what each builder deems appropriate for each job. It's been trying at times, but also fun to realize that there's nothing "wrong" with different ideas or suggestions - it's a melting pot of individual decisions and we end up with a finished project!

And..... The rafters are on their way!!! I just got a call from FedEx saying they'll be ready for delivery on Wednesday. So that will give us just the right amount of time to put down the plywood subfloor, and hopefully, the bamboo flooring we've ordered from Anderson's Alternatives. Today, we rest.

Wednesday, October 8

old pistachios

So ... been a while since I've posted anything - the internet has been down for over 24 hours, limiting my ability to show-n-tell.

This is a photo of Erin trying to work while he was sick. Yes, his eyes are half-closed.

Erin made a good recovery, and a very good start on the 2x4" floor joists on Monday, getting about 2/3 of the way across the circle. On Tuesday, we continued (and finished) this task. The floor joists are 24" on center all the way across, which will hopefully make it easy for us to lay the 4x8' sheets of plywood down on top.

We also began blocking with the 2x4"s around the edge of the circle, which will give the floor a lot more support in general. You can see the blocking taking shape, and really giving the impression that we will, indeed, have a circular floor.

A note about drawing circles:
So far, we've tried many different methods for drawing a 15' radius circle on our joists, but by far the easiest has been the tape measure, which was employed yesterday for the first time. The tape has a small horizontal slit on the little metal tab, which wraps perfectly around the head of a nail, and swivels with ease. Thus, we've been using this method to swipe around the decking, holding the pencil alongside the 15' mark. Tape measure's don't stretch, sag or warp. Yahoo.
Today was a day for wrapping up a lot of loose ends again. We completed the blocking, which required an awful lot of cuts at lots of different angles. I found this to be particularly fun, marking, measuring, protractor-ing, and finally cutting, fitting and screwing. We then took the planer to the joists, making sure all surfaces will be level for the plywood. Erin got the electric planer, I, the manual. We also had to go around the circle and cut all the 2x4s off that stuck out past 15 feet using the skill saw to start the cut, and finishing it up with the sawsall.

At this point, we got hungry, and scrounged around the trailer for something to eat. A week or two ago, Mom cleaned out her bottomless snack drawer. She brought up a paper bag full of old soy jerkey, wal-mart pistachios (best before 10/2003), Salt&Pepper potato chips, and really old chocolate money pieces. Feeling desperate, and not wanting to delay our progress with another trip down town for lunch, we dug in. Then it was time for insulation.

Insulation. Yuck. I remember visiting my parents' job sites growing up we were forbidden to touch insulation. The fluffy pink piles laying around on the ground and poofing out of walls took on a poisonous sort of aura, and I still feel that way about the rigid foam insulation we're using here. Regardless of the actual toxicity, we decided to continue the rest of the insulation tomorrow once we have accquired proper eye, respiratory and skin protection, as well as a filter bag for the dust. After ripping through one 4x8' sheet of the stuff, Erin was covered in a fine glittery dusting of insulation powder and his skin was starting to itch. Besides, it was getting cold and the sun was going down!

Bill lent us his table saw to rip the insulation in to 22.5"x8' sheets.
These sheets will be custom fit between the floor joists.

This side of the deck needed a lot of work today. We'd been neglecting it -
mostly because it's the round side. But it's all caught up and looks great.

These are the flooring joists all trimmed up, planed down,
and ready to be stuffed full of insulation.

We got a bit of a late start today, which was fine because we were having delicious danishes and coffee with Dad downtown. We promise to skip the danishes tomorrow, and get straight to work!

Monday, October 6


This post has lots of links. Please click on them all.

Last week was our first real "pause". Between rain and sickness, little (zero) work has been done on the project since Wednesday. This is (1) unfortunate, because working at the prop is so dang fun and, (2) fine, because it looks like it'll be a while until we are are able to start the yurt-erection.

In review of a workless week:

Colorado Yurt said we'll hear from them very soon about replacement rafters. Hopefully by the end of this week. It was such a shame to have to send them all back to Colorado, but perhaps they can be refinished and used in another (smaller?) yurt. So while we wait, Erin is getting started on the 2x4 joists for the yurt platform. He and Maia are up there as I write with driver and screw, figuring out the best layout. As I understand it, once our floor joists are set, we'll block them and start on our rigid foam insulation, cutting it to fit between the joists and securing it with some construction adhesive.

At this point we will have to pause and see where we stand in the replacement-rafter line. If we're on schedule for a delivery in the next week or two, we'll try and time the next two steps to coincide with yurt-erection. We'll be securing the sub-floor (26 sheets of 1/2" plywood) to the joists, and then laying tongue-and-groove bamboo flooring. These steps are critical because we want to have dry sub-floor, and very dry bamboo floor - therefore the yurt must go up within a day of the flooring. It seems possible, but if worse comes to worse we'll purchase 700 square feet of visqueen plastic and wrap it all up.

And if you're wondering where we got our bamboo flooring, wonder no longer! Nathan Anderson, Erin's disc golf buddy, runs Anderson's Alternatives and had a rockin' sale last weekend. This is his cool logo:

I gather that the majority of his business is reclaiming/recycling giant old-growth redwood from the bays and rivers along the coast, but he also sells other sustainable lumber (and just our luck: bamboo!). Definitely take a look through his site and see all his cool photos. He's a great guy with brand new retail space downtown, and we were really happy to give him some business!

And lastly, Dad (no relation to Mom (anymore)), is coming into town today. Dad is a superb contractor, and has been for the last 30 years in my beloved hometown, Jackson Hole Wyoming. This town, although it has some sweet yurts (Rock Springs Yurt, Rendezvous Backcountry Tours), is becoming more and more famous for its multi-million dollar second homes and large, garishly western downtown buildings. However! - I look forward to showing Dad our handiwork, and quite possibly, giving him the opportunity to lift a hammer for the first time in decades. Ha!

coming soon...... photographs of award winning apple pie!

Friday, October 3


Wednesday and Thursday were days to be forgotten. Though we did work on Wednesday, it was only for a few hours as our heads became thick and heavy and our bodies tired and listless. Yes, we were getting sick, and as the power tools crossed paths with our snot-induced stupors, we decided to call it a day.

In the few short hours of work Erin finished the orchard stair case, and I finished pre-drilling the rest of the perimeter deck boards. We shimmed up that one perimeter board and screwed everything down. We had honestly hoped to start the 2x4s for the yurt platform, but alas...

Also impending was ... rain. Serious one-inch rain. Mom and Bill spared us a second trip up to the prop and returned with another tarp to cover all the yurt parts (door, lattice, canvas, bubble, insulation) and string to rig up a system to cover the horse trailer where our tools are stored.

Yesterday we awoke to the sound of that serious rain falling and thoroughly enjoyed an almost full day lounging at home and resting. I put the last of a large basket of property apples to use in a delicious german-apple-pancake, which reminds me; I need to post a photo of my rockin' birthday apple pie! An afternoon bought of cabin fever inspried us to trek up to the prop and do a wetness check. Tools and yurt parts seemed to be holding up well. Interestingly enough, we noticed thousands of weird flying ants ("Those are termites Lindsey, Duh!", says Erin) covering everything. I decided to take a closer look and realized many were wingless; and they were scurrying around mambo line -style in twos and threes. I was fascinated - never seen bugs act so weird. If anyone has an explaination, please comment. The pond was also full of jumping fish, obviously delighted at termite-lunch. Could this be the second plague? Jellyfish, termites... what's next? At this, we tied a few additional knots and refolded some tarps and came home to watch the vice presidential debates. I don't think termites will enjoy Fiberon decking, or pressure treated 2x8s, but you never know.

Today is also cold, wet and rainy. In an effort to not let the week pass by with only 6 hours of work we are going to sit down with some graph paper and pencils and figure out the best layout of 2x4s. The rain is very much needed and appreciated, and the timing of our sickness seems to be appropriate.
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