Saturday, January 29, 2011

A hole, a pole, a deck, a yurt

I am the dump truck,
you are the eggplant.
One step at a time...

This is a somewhat low tech construction project.
Because the ground is soft, it is difficult to get heavy machinery to places where it would be useful. Like the yurt site.
So, I am the dump truck. (Sounds Beatle-esque?)  
And I don't really mind. There is something rewarding to be found in sweat-of-the-brow labor.  I know how many shovels full to a wheel barrow load and how far each trip is.  I know where the path is smooth and where the pigs of the past have rooted the soil forming bumps and holes.  Little pillows and cradles in the soil.  The wheel barrow does move as well in these areas, so an extra grunt is required. 
The whole process makes me more physically aware and so then more in tune with my body and the environment surrounding me.

Yesterday by the gate I saw a very large bumblebee.  I was closing the gate, which on a farm is an important courtesy.  It is much easier to close a gate than catch run-away sheep! 
The bee was completely covered with yellow pollen, and as it flew a few scant inches under my nose, I smelled the most delicious fragrance. 
Very tropical, floral, and enchanting. 

A truly unique Hawaiian moment.

Thank you bee.

Sheep bleat, sibblings argue, and stone will not haul itself.

Sheep help keep the pastures open.

Well it has been a little bumpy here the past week.  While the weather in Paradise has been great, my brother and I discovered we have differing visions of the yurt project.  This is his farm. Rambling, with sheep and chickens and wild pigs. I am an invited guest.  But we aren't mirror images: we differ in many ways.  It came to some heated words. 
And I must say I don't do confrontation well.  I try to avoid it.  So the conflict came in 3 phases:
1.  We had a heated argument (details unimportant to you).  Just know that it was unpleasant.

2.  We took a couple days off then talked more civilly and "made-up".

3.  Then we talked again and we got the issues ironed out, for the most part, and now it's back underway.  (A truck load of stone arrives tomorrow AM)

A day at the beach.
In the process, I learned a few things, but perhaps those will appear in my writing blog...ah siblings!

News!  I have finished digging holes, at least for the yurt.  19 in all.
More good news, the stone  arrived on time.  The bad news, it needs to be wheel-barrowed 700 ft, all 4 tons.

A gift from Pele; 4 tons of rock.
Here's a drawing of the deck plan.  The small circles represent where the holes were dug for the piers.
One view of the deck plan.  24' in diameter.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

What's Going on, Down-under...and Above Too

Demonstrating the use of a simple machine.
You can learn somethings digging a hole.  The soil here is an amazing micro-system.  The dirt itself is a clay-silt like mixture, mostly rock-free, which is sticky but very slick when wet.  Kind of like pottery clay.  The grasses and ferns have sent out copious networks of roots ans rhizomes, forming a dense mat of vegetation equaling the foliage above in biomass.  Lot's of earthworms busily making soil can be found, and of course all the fungi and other microbe, invisibly making it all possible.

Roots and stubble.
And its hard to dig through using shovel, boot, and back.  Fortunately, it comes to an end about 12 inches deep, so with some persistence and conviction, it can be dug through.  The soil here is a miracle of time, erosion, weathering, and the indomitable nature of life to caring on its imperative; grow and reproduce, carry on and survive, even upon the mother rock that was recently molten rock.
A hole for the foundation pier.  Need 22 of these...wanna help?

Digging requires an occasional break.  Fortunately near the holes above is a large pile of recently cut hay, aromatic and soft.  Perfect to sit down, lean back, and look up.
Meteorologists would love this
You can learn a lot looking up.  The weather here is a fast-paced parade of blues skies, sun, wind, mist, clouds, and rain, ranging from a gentle warm shower to icy torrents, falling at the rate of several inches per hour, or more. People here with common sense are seen carrying umbrellas.  The weather moving over the mountains is sliced and lifted, changing the energy dynamics of the moisture and heat.  Often the sky is clear at night, brilliant with stars.  As the morning progresses the skies alter from partly cloudy to mostly cloudy to rain as the day wears on.  The sky is sometimes clear over the mountains but cloudy over the ocean.  And vice-versa.  Clouds can be seen at several layers: cumulus, stratus, and cirrus simultaneously. 
What a show!
Pouring rain 5 minutes later. alas, no rainbow.

Next: Pigs and sheep and chickens, oh my!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Whack job, Pt 2

Working with "manly tools."  Note the barn boots,,
They are all the rage in these parts.
 It has been another busy day.  The weed whacking we did recently to clear the brush got a buzz-cut, attempting to nub it down to the mineral earth.  Easier said than done.  Anywhere the grass has been matted down by the pigs, it is tough, literally and figuratively, to cut. They also make rooting holes in the dirt. Watch yer step!  By the way, there is a very sharp spinning blade at the end of the whacker shaft.  Tricky business.  I might just have arms like Popeye by the time this is done.
 Scot and I went to Home Depot and priced wood.  Since most commodities come to Hawaii by ship, things are expensive, and big heavy things, like 4"x8" beams, whoa Nellie.  But it's only money, some say.
We will be staking out the placement for the footers for the deck soon.  Here's how that will go: Dig a hole (where are those pigs when you need them?) then fill with gravel, and finally the precast footers.  They each weight 160 lbs. and there will be twenty-some of them.  Anyone got a 4-wheel drive truck?  Hoping for a little help via the aloha spirit.  As always, we shall see.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Yurt in a Box/Wackin'Weeds

Hey from Hawaii.
 Just got hooked up online with a 3G wireless.  Thank you Verison.
The yurt is sitting in a pile of boxes just down the path from Scot's cabin.  Someone suggested a puzzle in a box.  It's fun checking the contents: roof, walls, doors, dome, etc;  I've been studying the assembly manual.
Went to meditation group to mellow out on Sunday.  It is good to get centered and gain the appropriate perspective.  Nice people.  We chatted a bit after on a lecture by Ram Das.
Today we repaired equipment and I did some weed whacking.  That's tough work.  The fields, including the yurt site are covered with a dense mat of ferns and tough grasses.  The yurt site is clear, so now we can start to put in the foundation piers upon which to build the deck. (pictures tomorrow)
 It was nice to make some progress after waiting for a neighbor to mow, which wasn't happening. 
Yurts in a box are good.  Yurts up are better.
Not everything is rainbows here; we caught a rat yesterday.  This is a farm but the cats don't seem to scare them away.
It's been sunny but we are trying to hustle before the winter rains.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Getting Acclimatized and Going Hog Wild

Today is Friday. Time does seem to slip away.   I finally arrived in Ninole, my ultimate destination late Tuesday.  Several things have taken up my attention:  Hanging out and catching up with my brother, and trying to get into the local sleep cycle, which is 5 hours different from home in Salem, CT.  It seems a slow process.  I am ready for bed about 6 PM and have been waking at about 4 AM.  Somewhat screwy.
I’ve also been busy talking to several nice people about my bag, which went one way when I went the other, somewhere between Chicago and Honolulu.  It eventually arrived yesterday, so it required a trip into Hilo to retrieve it.  Hilo is nice, and worth a look, but for now just a nuisance, although we did have a nice lunch at a local spot called Kuhio Grille.  I recommend the pork and tofu stir-fry, and of course the Mac and cheese, an island standard.
(My doorbell and the ocean beyond from the yurt site)
 Among others thing, the bag had my camera.  Nice to see it again.  They airline folk were impressed with the yellow ribbon I tied onto the handle for identification. J  I have taken some video with my Flip camera, which I hope to post up soon.  From it you might be able to tell a little bit about what the land looks like here and where the yurt will go.  Currently the yurt is sitting in a big stack of boxes and bundles under a tarp.  Later today or tomorrow a friend will mow the yurt site so we can start putting in the foundation, a deck like structure which the yurt will ultimately sit upon.  It will be in a prime spot with views of both snow topped Mona Kea and in the opposite direction, a swath of the blue-gray Pacific.  How cool is that?
Wednesday evening we walked down the mowed trail to the yurt site.  I hung my doorbell (a gift from Melissa) on a nearby tree, took some video, and headed back.  Scot’s dog Gypsy was working the underbrush, nosing about, and flushed a wild pig out which ran right past me, perhaps 3 feet away.  I’m not sure who was more surprised.  I did let out a loud “Whoa!!” The pig, black haired maybe 120 lbs ducked into the woods nearby.  They are feral, and generally regarded as tasty nuisances, rooting up the ground everywhere they roam.
Ok, going to try and find some internet link to download this. 
PS  How are you all enjoying the snow?  It has rained some, but it is sunny and 80 degrees here today.  (Sorry for the gloat!)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


Hello friends.  I am at the Honolulu airport, 76 degrees and a purple-red sunset streaking the skies.  I'm off to Hilo, my destination in an hour.  Meanwhile here's a poem I wrote in transit. Stand by...

Crossing the Pacific, the plane briefly sighs.
On the way, on my way
Leaving the security and/or familiarity of
Cold and snow, Connecticut deep
Friends and family, love and sure things
(CT, the land of steady habits)
Crossing first through Chicago, with its broad shoulders
And mid-west sensibility,
Where kind strangers, doing their jobs, but with a song
Help book me straight through
On this time/place machine
And seated me in an exit seat too
No charge, leg room, a little luxury
(Good on ya mate, as my brother would text)
And I have no remorse, few regrets,
That may follow, though I doubt so.
I am gone long, but not likely forever
I am gone far, but not completely forgotten
I am gone deep, but still in their dreams gently,
So it seems.
And I know, when I land in Hawaii that it will inch me
Nudge me, osmotically
Move me a little closer to some other way
Maybe more carefree
Maybe more easy of spirit
Maybe I will dream and sleep
Listening to the rain
Feeling the sun on the tops of my feet.
I am willing to be enchanted.

Monday, January 10, 2011


Drat!  A little snow on North Carolina and the whole house of cards collapses!  Try as he may my ticket agent Wayne T. at U.S.Airways couldn't get me onto a flight today.  So instead I am off tomorrow, different airline, different itinerary (Chicago...Denver, ya never snows there!) but same destination. 

Time to spare, go by air!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Departures and Arrivals

Airports are interesting places. It still amazes me that I can get on an airplane and be in a different part of the world in just a few hours.  Time machines do exist.
I leave early tomorrow and hopefully arrive Monday evening Hawaiian time.  It will be more than a few hours, and hopefully, because there is snow predicted at an airport where I change planes.  Cross your fingers.
Good news!  The yurt is scheduled to be delivered on Tuesday, so I will be there when it arrives.  How cool is that?  Couldn't have planned it that way.
OK, I have to go and pretend to sleep.
Next:  From the Big Island.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

We Are All from Somewhere Else

As some of you know, I’m not from Hawaii, although like many others I am drawn there; I love the islands, the climate, and the people there.  I grew up in rural Ohio, flat and glaciated.  For the past 40 years I have lived in suburban Connecticut, rocky and glaciated.  These are the places that I come from.
I’m guessing that almost everything in Hawaii comes from somewhere else.  Somewhere back in recent geologic time, the islands were an oozing mass of hot and recently cooled magma, coming from the depths of the earth.  This is still the case on the Big Island where tons of igneous rock still forms new land daily.  In Hawaii, you can stand on rock that is younger than you.  I’ve done that! 
Check it out at Volcano National Park:
Lava flows like a river out of a hardened crust. NPS photo by Katja Chudoba.
At some point in more recent human time, Polynesians in small boat set out from somewhere else and found the islands. These people were intrepid.   When they arrived they found the land and nearby seas already teaming with a unique assortment of flora and fauna, blown-in, carried-in by birds, or floated-in on the ocean currents. Later came western explorers (Cook et al) and easterners, brought largely to work.   Along with this potpourri of people and their cultures a came crazy quilt of invasive plants (fire tree, fountain grass) and animals (feral pigs, mongoose, rats, mosquitoes etc), and other blessings of the first world.  Oh my!
Today, we live in the up swell of a consumer economy. We all need stuff, a lot of it, and much of that comes from somewhere else too. Especially in far flung places like Hawaii.  Gas, food, Christmas trees, cars, lumber, and much more are imported from far away.
Even I am coming from somewhere else!
Yurts come from somewhere else as well.  Mine specifically from Montrose, Colorado, manufactured there by the good people at The Colorado Yurt Company.  They are movers and shakers amongst modern yurt manufacturers, recently staring their 35th year creating these unique habitations.  They cobble a good yurt.  I have two of them.
Title #0
So my 24 foot “Hawaiian” yurt has had its own travel adventure during the past two months.  It did not even exist until the beginning of November.  It was then I placed my order, and it was then that I suspect the measuring and sawing, the cutting sewing got started.   Sometime during the first week of December  a fork lift loaded bundles of beams and crates of canvas, doors and domes into the back of an 18-wheeler, soon heading west on I-70 to Los Angeles, San Francisco or other deep water ports.  Later riding in a shipping container stacked on the deck or in the hold of a giant freighter, it made its way across the Pacific, and onto the docks in rainy Hilo.    In the next day or so (circa January 5th), a local teamster will truck it the last 20 miles from Hilo to Ninole.  Amazing isn’t it?  Yes, yes, it is.  And pricey too, isn’t it?  Yes, yes it is.  The cost of shipping alone is reaching nearly $2700.  One thing certainly is going $omewhere else…
All of this process, from early shopping to trans-Pacific shipping has been facilitated by the good people at Yurts of Hawaii, mainly Melissa.  She has helped walk me through the process, step by step, advising me on what to order/add on, color, shipping, etc.  She is always there, quick to pick up the phone or shoot off an email.  Check out their website or on Facebook. 
It is fun to think that in a few days we (Melissa, my brother Scot, the yurt, and I) will all be in the same place. 
Amazing isn’t it?
Next:  hello, I must be going.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

I Am a Rich Man

I may be one of the few individuals in the world who owns TWO yurts.  Perhaps a bit of hyperbole here, but in fact, I do own two.  One is in my basement and the other is crossing the Pacific on its way to Hilo, Hawaii even as I write.  Yes, I am a rich man.
As for the ocean going yurt, it is the one that I will be building in Ninole, Hawaii over the next months.  There will likely be a number of blog entries, photos, and videos documenting this whole process.  More on that to come.
(Breaking news!  The yurt is in Hawaii and will be picked up and delivered in the coming week, thanks to my brother Scot and other generous Hawaiians.  It will be there when I arrive on January 10Th.  Yeah!!!)
The yurt in my basement is another tale.
Cruising the Internet a few years back, I found a used 30’ yurt for sale on a yurt website.  It was only slightly used and available at half the original price.  Mustering a bit of gumption I made a deal with the owners, sent a check FedEx, and it was mine!  Only a couple problems.  First, it was in Ohio, and I was in Connecticut.  Hmmm.  Fortunately and generously, friends of mine Pat and Gordon have a box truck that was perfect for carting a yurt.  So off to Ohio!  Picking up the yurt with the help of my brother Mark was easy.  Driving 1200 miles in three days was easy.  Storing it temporarily in my basement was easy.    Finding a place to put it permanently, not so easy. 
I searched for several years for a suitable location, but there were (and are) obstacles.  Land is not cheap.  Building codes are not yurt-friendly. Most building officials are unfamiliar with yurts, to say the least.   Is it a “membrane structure”?  Is it fire proof, is it strong enough, does it need a septic system?  All problems.  Many east coast locations appeared to raise two problems.  Cost and code.  I looked in upstate New York and central Pennsylvania. Some possibilities there, but ultimately they were too far from friends, family, and potential.  So long story short, the yurt remains to this day, in my basement.  Its potential un-realized.
The whole process of dealing with location, building and zoning codes, etc., voided the basic idea that I have held dear regarding yurts.  They are simple and elegant.  I wanted my first yurt experience to be just that, simple and elegant.  I don’t mind working, if fact this work will be enjoyable.  I don’t mind the cost, to the limit of my budget, or the time.  I just want the whole event and the processes leading up to it to be positive.
And it wasn’t.
So my yurt is stored in my basement, waiting for the right moment.
Next time:  I turn my eyes west, or yurts in Hawaii.