Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Sunrise, Sunset

One of many beautiful sunrises (or sunsets?)
I likely would not have seen this if it wasn't for
living in a yurt.
From the beginning, I always knew there would be an ending.  It's just the way of the world, right? 
So I have been in Hawaii and built a yurt.  A success story.  It has been a great adventure, with many "ups" and a only few "downs".
I have spent important time with my brother.  I have made new friends and renewed older friendships.
I have exceed my expectations.
Yet there is more to come. 
The yurt is just in its infancy.  It needs utilities and furnishings to make it more comfortable.  Hopefully, these improvements will happen on succeeding visits. 
Until then I can continue to dream and possibly scheme. :)
And I am in my infancy as well, in regards to learning about Hawaii and how this phases of my life will unfold. 
For now, I need to think and let meaning reveal itself.
Three months has gone by quickly.  I have photos, poems and writings, and this blog to help me remember and reflect.  Perhaps it has interested some of you as well?
I appreciate beyond words all the help, generosity, advice, and encouragement that has been given.
What would I have done without you?
Don't forget to ring the bell when
you  come to visit.
So it is time to start buttoning-up the yurt and packing my bags.  A bit sad to be leaving so much behind, but gods willing, I will return.
Until then,

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hello, I Must Be Going

With due respect to Groucho Marx, my time grows short. 
Much has happened, but it always seems to come down to a few precious days.
I have spent the past week getting my small PV power system working, cleaning up construction debris, planting a few flowers (sunflowers and impatiens) and thinking about what I will be doing in the yurt the next time I am here:  Upgrading the solar, furnishings, maybe a composting toilet, maybe cooking/kitchen facilities, water, shower etc. make the list. There is much to do.  Fortunately I do not need to rush into any of these; I still have the facilities at the main house.  But I would like to explore making the yurt more independent, more self-sustainable, more "green".
I am not certain of my schedule in the next months.  I definitely want to see friends and family back on the mainland.  I have a teaching assignment in the fall that I am looking forward to.
But it makes me a little crazy to have built a new home and then leave it for any extended period of time.
Like all of the past months, I will give the whole process a bit of mental space and see how it unfolds.
As a friend has recently said, "make plans but don't become too attached to the outcome..."
So for now, I need to think about how to carefully store away my Hawaiian things, and how to leave the yurt in self-sustaining mode.  My brother will look in on it, for sure.  I appreciate his care.
My heart flutters even now, thinking of leaving.
Doors close, doors open.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Number 61

Hanging loose with Melissa
by the front door.
 I had a nice visit with Melissa Fletcher of Yurts of Hawaii recently.  She has been my go to person since day one, helping me with the ordering, shipping, and all aspects of assembly.
We checked out my yurt and I got her seal of approval, as you can see from the photo.  As it turns out my yurt is # 61 she has sold and/or helped install.
If you are interested in yurts I bet she'd be glad to chat.  Check out their blog and website:
Melissa has just finished organizing and coordinating a big yurt manufactures conference here on the Big Island.  Congrats Melissa! 
Among things new in the world of yurts is the potential for yurt insurance, and with that can bank financing be far behind?
Thanks for your efforts in making yurts more recognizable and legitimate in the alternative housing field.  I know it sometimes is a struggle.
And, hang loose!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Night Moves

The last vestiges of night yield
to the energy of the dawn
I am learning to listen to the night, and in a yurt there are a concert hall of sounds:  Some of them subtle and nuanced, others uncompromisingly percussive, while still other might just knock you right out of bed.
First and foremost, the nights are wonderful.  I feel safe and secure.  But there are sounds, some new and perhaps a little strange, and in the immediacy and the intimacy of a yurt they are different when contrasted to the more traditional house or apartment. 
Take the tapping at the window behind my bed.  What might be rapping at my chamber plastic?  Searching a bit with my flashlight reveals a loose strap end fluttering in the night’s breeze off Mauna Kea.  Knock-knock.  Come in...
Or perhaps it is the drum solo that brings the crowd to its feet when the soft patter of rain is interrupted by a tropical deluge.  Thunder and lightning replace cymbal crashes!
A view from the crow's nest, aka the dome.  I needed to
re-adjust the dome slightly after the earthquake.
And perhaps most exciting to date, for a guy from the heartland, the rumble of the earth itself, teaching the Zen of change in a universe constantly in motion.  Even my beautiful bronze dome shifted an inch or so at that moment.  (Not to worry, there are strong safety straps attached.)
But I live in a yurt, because I want to hear real sounds.  I desire this contact, this re-connection.  Somewhere in my gut and yours too I bet, there is a desire for the sounds of water, air, and all other forms of elemental matter. 
Very primal, very real.
They are not to be feared but rather revered.
Funny how the night moves…

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


I am in the yurt, at least for writing, resting, sleeping, and hanging out.  I have slept "here" for the past three nights.  It is very comfortable and comforting.  I keep a candle going until late, so I can see my way around.  Not much ambient light.  Stars, and the coming of the moon.
I have an inflatable bed, a couple chairs, my computer and a few storage bins.  Electricity comes from a battery charged by the sun.  The bathroom is outside for the moment, shower and kitchen are back at my brothers house.  These things will change, but for now I am in no hurry.
Wabi-sabi is a Japanese philosophy, finding beauty and function in simple objects, clean and uncluttered.  I hope to adhere to that approach in furnishing and decorating this round house/home.
For now I will enjoy it.
Let's see what comes next.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Yurt Interiors

Hurricane Iniki devastated nearby Kauai with
winds up to 140 mph a few years back.  Adding
the high wind package seemed smart.

The floor required two runs of sanding;
A coarse grit and then a finer one.  Smooth.

Polyurethane adds  layers of protection
to the pine, and a nice finished look.

Shinin' pine!

Working on the floor, sanding, sweeping, painting, etc. for a couple days
raised a few blisters and led to sore knees.

But what price beauty?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Closed-up and ready for business, almost

Green plants reduce the amount of carbon as
they process it during photosynthesis.  Hey hibiscus
thanks for the oxygen!
Despite the current drought, it does rain here.  I understand that it can rain a lot!  We caught a break during the weeks of construction.  It barely rained at all.
Now that the yurt has a tight roof and walls, it can rain, permission granted.  And the past few days it has rained, some. 
If you are a believer in climate change, like me, you can tell by the conversations of long time locals;  the weather (climate) is changing.  So try to minimize your carbon output.  Plant a flower!
A glimpse of the waning moon.
Yurts are beautiful.  There is just something compelling about them, form and function.  So if you are a photographer, you may find yourself using them as a focal point, so to speak.
I am currently looking for the moment when the brilliant dawn lights up the dome. 
Yurts, another good reason to get out of bed in the morning!
Morning yurt

 I am fortunate to have a very sweet location.  The sunrises down the way, across a large swath of the Pacific filling the sky with some new eye candy every day.  Today was cotton candy.
Looking out and looking in.

People are especially impressed with the doors on the Colorado Yurt.  The wood is beautifully grained, sanded and finished. 
They also make a good mirror, which enables a moment of "self-reflection".

Jeremy and Scot easing an
insulation panel into place.

Even  though there were rain showers we were able to install the wall insulation. Most of the work was done from the inside.  Interesting material; a combination of plastic "bubble wrap" and reflective foil.  Almost immediately the yurt became cooler.  The insulation is lined with white fabric which brightens the interior.

I am happy with the quality and workmanship this company provides.  And as a bonus here on The Big Island, Yurts of Hawaii is nearby
If you're ever in Montrose

 providing sales support if needed.  Melissa Fletcher has been quick to return phone calls and emails.  I still wonder the caution NOT to attempt assembly on a windy day.  So, how windy is windy?

Things are growing and changing here rapidly.  I am looking forward to see how things grow up, around, and in my yurt of the next weeks and months. 
Next on the list, and almost last before I move in, finish the floors. 

-PS, short for polyurethane and sanding

Sunday, February 27, 2011


 In some parts, when you finish a construction
Scot and Trevor working above with the liner.
project there is a topping-off ceremony, a celebration of work well done, and at least vertically complete.
This day we topped-off the yurt.  Yeah!
The roof required three steps:  A cloth liner, a layer of insulation, and the durable fabric roof that will shed the weather for the next 15 years or so.
The liner rolled out easily.

A tricky moment getting the two parts
of the roof insulation taped together.
 The roof insulation came in two pieces.  It is very lightweight and prone to lifting in even the gentlest breeze.  They should make kites out of this stuff.
Insulation in Hawaii keeps the heat out, via a reflective barrier.  The roof and walls are white and light gray, also to reflect the heat of the sun.  The roof dome has a bronze tint as well.
After the roof is in place the rest of the lattice
is screwed to the deck with "L" brackets.
 The roof fabric was a challenge to maneuver because it was so heavy.  It starts at the top through the opening.  It took five people to coax it into place.  At one point I thought most of the weigh was balanced on my head as we pushed it up the ladder.  Skillfully, it slowly rolled into place with only a little bit of adjusting.
Trevor on the scaffolding crocheting
the wall and roof together.
 The roof connects to the upper wall with a series of cord loops and grommets. One connects to the next in a crocheting like process.
Because the yurt is on a slope, much of the wall installation required ladders and scaffolding.
Watch your step.  (No humans were harmed in  the building of this yurt).
Sarah's homemade peanut butter cookies!  Yummy.
 As part of the topping-off festivities, Sarah made peanut butter cookies.  They were still warm from the oven.  I think this should be a yurt raising tradition.
We toasted with cool cans of ice tea.
OK, back to work!
Not the Pantheon, but the yurt too has an oculus,
a big eye towards the heavens.  I am looking forward
to sleeping under the moon and stars.

 Before the rains came we buttoned-up the roof by putting the dome in place.  Tossing it like a Frisbee was discussed but then we relented and gently pulled it up with a rope.  A few clips and it was in place.  I got the dome-lifter, which raises the bubble about 8 inches, allowing air to move via convection through the windows and doors and out the top, again keeping the inside cooler.
Scot and I standing in the front door.  It has been an important event for the both of us, a brotherly reunion in the making.  Hopefully now with the yurt in place, we will be spending more time together.

A beautiful end to a great day.
Red sky at night yurters delight!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Snow on the mountain, yurts down below.

Puddles from the Pacific
 Well it did rain last night, with some spectacular thunder and lightning.  There is a significant amount of snow up on the mountains. 
Down below we got over an inch of water.  Not record setting for these parts, but enough to make a good puddle on the tarp and water the drought stricken fields and forests.  So far only a couple of inches this month, and this is a rain forest!
So the first order of the day was to mop and sop.  Eventually I got it dry; not too much damage to the deck.  The lattice and the door wood are treated, so they seem fine too.

And now, in the center ring...
Here Jeremy helps Scot adjust the top of the scaffolding.  The compression ring, where the rafters attach and the dome-skylight sits, rests up here temporarily during assembly.

Ya, I know beam me up...
The first couple of rafter are bolted into place at the top.  The other end of the rafters hook over the cable strung across the top of the lattice.
It becomes stronger very quickly.

OK, the instruction manual says...
After the first 17 or so rafters, the scaffolding is lowered at the top and the roof is self-supporting for the first time.  Hold your breath...
OK! It works.
The crew made quick work of this phase.
Jeremy hands Scot one of the final rafters.  Watch the glass in the door behind you!  Montrose Colorado is a long way to go to get replacement.
The arty shot
Scot working up high amidst rays of wood and wonder.

Looking good and level at the top.
Pretty much a  completed skeleton of a yurt:  Deck, bender boards, doors, lattice walls, rafters, and compression ring. 
The weather forecast was for more rain, so the roof and wall fabric will happen tomorrow, hopefully.
It started to rain about 30 minutes after we cleaned up and covered up.
Timing is everything!
Imagine a moonlit night...
The yurt framework looks good from down the path.  A shining star, that's what you are.
The long and winding road...

The hard working crew breaks for lunch,  Gypsy's favorite part of the day.
Roof and wall fabric tomorrow.
Living in the round, soon.


Lattice Begin to Assemble

Trevor inspects the lattice wall as
 Scot supports the door.  As a unit, doors,
lattice, and deck form a strong base. The bender boards
are seen running around the edge of the deck.
They hold the lattice in place.
  This day began with several tasks.  First we cut and installed the bender boards.  The material we chose originally didn't work well, so we went to Home Depot and bought 1/2" plywood, which worked perfectly.  Trevor (in floppy hat) showed up to help finish installing the benders.  He and I built the scaffolding (on the deck, centered).  This will be used to stand upon to attach the rafter beams to the center compression ring and later the roofing fabrics.
I'm home.
I was the first one to cross the threshold.  The door are well built and nicely finished.
Scot is adjusting the angle brackets which secure the lattice to the deck floor.
Things are rounding into shape.
Pictured here are the lattice walls and the doors completed. 
It seemed a good place to stop for the day and have a beer.  The sky was clouding and a bit of thunder sounded in the distance. 
Many thanks to crew members Scot, Trevor, Paul H. and Jeremy.
Tomorrow the compression ring and the rafters.
Up it goes!

Monday, February 21, 2011


One of my first visitors.
One of the things about a yurt in Hawaii is the immediacy it creates with nature. The sky, the mountains, the ocean are all so close.       And being surrounded by trees and fields, it was not unusual to find this praying mantis sitting on the deck while we worked.  We took a few minutes to enjoy its company.

There is something special about this shape.
Perhaps as you can see, the deck structure is rounding into good shape!  We are close to done; the bender boards will go on tomorrow in final preparation for yurt assembly!

Front and center.
I am standing in the middle of the deck, reflecting on the process and imagining the next steps. Much has happened in the past few weeks.

The last board laid in place.

Putting down the last T & G boards near where the back door will lead out to the lanai.  I am looking forward to having my morning coffee there. You should join me!                                                      

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Sunrise, February 17th.
 There are reasons for getting out of bed in the morning, having very little to do with what you pursue, what your dreams are, or what you are building.  They are reasons without words that nonetheless speak so loudly, so clearly. 
This morning when I peeked my eyes open I saw that the sky was pink and multi-textured.  It was a clarion call.  I jumped up, grabbed some clothes and my camera.
The sky was brilliant, as far as the eye could see.  And the sky is big here.  I couldn't decide what to do, rub my eyes in amazement, or snap photos, so I did a little of each. 
We live on an amazing planet.
So please, remember to celebrate each new day.
It seems a jumble of planks and beams doesn't it?
Can you see the basic deck in the background?

The yurt project is coming along, slowly.  Wood needs to be massaged into its appropriate place.  We are hand-crafting a deck.  Each cut tells a story:  A warped board, a dull saw, a steady hand, a tired back.  It is all there for the cautious eye to behold.  It is happening, but slowly.  It is happening, but surely.  Each day is a new challenge.  Each afternoon at quiting time, a new victory. 
I am somewhere between jubilation and frustration.
There are reasons to celebrate.
 Hey, I'm building a yurt!  Not so simple, but eminently elegant. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Three things in the past few days.

One, the deck is well supported.  We put in a lot of cross bracing and angle bracing.  I've perfected driving in nails while almost standing on my head!
Cross bracing  and angle bracing.
It will be strong!
Two, we scribed the circle, a 12 foot radius, and attempted to cut to shape the parts of the beams that were too long.
Destroying a chainsaw in the process.  Dulling several other saws.  And finally cutting using a hand saw.  Oh my aching arms.
Today I hauled 300+ board feet of pine tongue and groove decking.  It will look sweet when it's laid down.

Three, I've been studying the yurt assembly booklet. 
 I think I'm almost ready.
It was a good day to haul lumber and work on my tan.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Beam Me Up, Scotty

Nailing the posts to the Simpson piers.
  A physicist might tell you that nothing is as solid or permanent as it seems.  Solid stuff, like wood, cement and the like are mostly moving atomic particles with a lot of space in between. 
A carpenter would tell you the same.  Building a structure, like the deck in these photos, is working with basic materials: metal, wood, cement, stone, dirt, etc.  It's done with amazingly simple tools: hammers, circular saws, string, a level, a square, and a pencil.
Using these tools to make a sturdy structure takes skill, experience, and the eye of an artist.

These are the 3 main beams each 24 feet long.
 Thank goodness I have my brother Scot to help with this process.  He patiently levels, measures, plumbs and squares these materials. 
And it seems like they are always in motion! 
A matrix of movement.  Just when one section is set and in place, something shifts, bows, or moves a bit, making the whole enterprise interact and shift slightly out of kilter. 

Almost done with the 4 x 8 beams.  Just
a little nudge here, a little push there,
maybe a cross brace...
  Eventually, with a bit of re-shifting, prying, pushing, hammering, cursing, and head scratching, it comes together.  Straight and true.
All within a quarter of an inch or so, converting thousands of pounds of material, 24 feet in diameter, over uneven ground into a first class deck.

Admiring our handy work.
So many thanks to Scot for his time and efforts.
My jobs at this phase is go-fer, tool-hander, beam toter, nailer, photographer, and blogger. 
Oh yes, and learner.
In a day or so, it will be a done deck, yurt ready.
And although I am enjoying the process...
I can't wait!