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!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Just in case...

We have had a good stretch of fair weather the past week or so, and it has helped move the yurt project along.
Good weather is not always the case here, especially in the winter months.  I am told that there can be extended periods of rainy, stormy weather.  It is not unusual for it to rain 200 inches annually, this compared to 40-50 back home in Connecticut.
So after stringing more than 500 feet of extension cord to run the chop saw and other tools needed to build a deck, we thought that it would be prudent to build some shelter, both for the equipment and for the workers.  Electricity and water don't always work well together.
The work can continue if the weather is showery, but it helps to keep the wood dry as well.
So I bought a 20' x 30' tarp and we lashed some guava saplings together and covered them with the tarp.  It reminded me of making tents out of old army blankets when we were kids.  Sort of seat of the pants shelter building, making due with whatever materials are available. 
So far the tarp and structure has stood up to some steady and gusty winds coming in from the south. 
Fingers crossed.

Check out the photos below.
Various tie-downs are employed.


After building the shelter we began doing the fine tuning
of the piers, getting them straight and square, a task compounded
by working on sloping and uneven ground.  Some
head scratching was required.

Gypsy testing out the shade
provided by the tarp during a break from
her pig patrol duties.
 Well, I think we are just about ready to make some sawdust,
remembering to measure twice and cut once of course.


Grunt Work

Scot moving pier blocks
across the bumpy terrain.
 Sometimes in construction work there is no easy way to accomplish a task, except basic down and dirty grunt work.  Placing the piers in the holes newly filled with stone is a fine example.  Straining backs, bustled knuckles, sweat, and grime are the price you pay to get the job done.
Having some brute strength helps.  My brother Scot has this going for him.  But it is not easy.  Old football injuries to the knees and shoulders and other accidents have lessened his strength, but he can still on occasion dig deep and make things happen.

Making progress.  Can you see the
semi-circle forming the outline
of the yurt?
 His strength was certainly useful in setting the pier blocks in place.  We worked as a team, jockeying the blocks onto a hand truck and then pushing and shoving and nudging them into place.  But the truth be known, it was his muscle power that ultimately accomplish placing them where they will sit, supporting the decking above.
I couldn't imagine doing that work alone. 

All in place.  Monuments to a brotherly teamwork.

Money vs Kindness

Carrying 24' long beams the
easier way.

Sometimes money is the solution to logistical problems.  There are times when one can either buy or rent the solution to a problematic task, such as in my case moving heavy and/or awkward objects, like lumber.  Rental business know this. 
At other times the kindness of friends helps, tremendously. 
Moving lumber to the yurt site was accomplished by the latter, specifically with the help of Hawaiian friend Trevor and his truck.  A ton or more of boards and beams bounced their way across the field in a shot couple of hours.  What a gift!  A bit of teamwork lifting and four-wheeled drive did the job.  It was especially appreciated since Trevor was working off the effects of a nasty cold, which he probably caught working as a substitute teacher.

Stopping to load the last 4 concrete piers.

Scot and Trevor taking a break
after unloading the truck.

In this part of the world, help like this is a part of a general friendliness and giving attitude, referred to as "the Aloha Spirit".  And although favors are often returned, it is not generally expected. 
But in this case, it is greatly appreciated.
Mahalo, Trevor.

PS  Maybe this is what they call the short run?  :)

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thanks, Psalm

It was a nervous morning and I felt like a kid on Christmas eve.  Waiting, and not sure what to do with myself, I swept the kitchen and lanai floors. 
Finally a large truck rumble up to the gate, brimming with deck building supplies.  Scot and I met Psalm the driver (cool name, yes?) and we were immediately impressed with his can do attitude and friendly confidence.  He assured us that at least some of the load could be taken by forklift all the way to the site. 
Phew!  Immediately he became my new best friend!
Psalm negotiating the spongy
path through the meadow to the yurt site.

With the skill of a slalom skier he picked his way through the spongy ground to the yurt site, placing more than 2880 lbs of cement pier posts within 50 feet of where they will permanently rest, supporting the deck, which will support the yurt. 
The weight of these loads and the forklift machine itself eventually made the path too rutted for more complete loads.  I for one was impressed with what was accomplished.
Psalm is a calm, gentle giant of a man.  He stopped twice during his work to take a phone call from his daughter in the Army, who is in the process of deployment to Afghanistan. 
You would never have known from his quiet way the stress he must have been feeling.  A son is currently serving in Iraq as well. 
Peace to you my friend.
About a ton and a half of pier block
set perfectly close to the site.
 The lumber was unloaded much neared the driveway.  Psalm dodged his way along the driveway, through tight spaces, avoiding trees and other obstacles.  Watching him balance the load high overhead  was like watching a high wire act, without the net!
At any moment I expected the load to tumble.  Instead it was placed with aplomb, gently on the ground, its temporary home.  Tomorrow friend Trevor and his 4-wheel drive truck will attempt to assist hauling most of the lumber. 
We shall see.
The rest of the wood for decking and flooring
gracefully moved to a safe location.
 It's fun seeing the family name.
The seal of approval:  Sanderson on the beam!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Long Haul

Ever wonder where phrases like "in it for the long haul" come from?  I sometimes do, I like word-smithing, etymology, etc.  But sometimes the truer meaning pops up in unlikely ways.
Like just today while driving my blue wheel barrow.

As the yurt project moves forward and closer to the two main building events, the deck structure and then the yurt itself, it has become clear to me that there has been and likely will be much more hauling.  The yurt site, at the edge of a beautiful field overhanging a ravine, with gorgeous views of the ocean and the mountains, is 700 feet away from the 2 tons of yurt parts.  A truck with large  4 x 8" x 24' beams, flooring lumber, nineteen 160 lbs cement piers and more will arrive on Thursday. 
The last section of the pathway
leading from the driveway gate to
the yurt site.
The question is, how do we lift and move these items?  Already I have moved almost 4 tons of stone using a wheel barrow.  It has been a physical challenge. 
The path through the field is spongy, most previously a sugar cane field, until succession returned it to a wild field, filled with dense mats of wiry grasses, tangle fern, sensitive plant and more.
Can a truck or heavy fork lift carry the goods? 
Who's willing to try? 
If none of these are possible, am I in it for, well, the long haul??

One other thought.  Most of the people who are involved or who are willing to help are older, generally in the 50-60+ age range. Wise and cagey, yes we are.  Young and strong of back and brawn, no not at all.  So I will share my new adage to all, who will in their kindness and generosity volunteer to help: 

We don't want no broken backs,
We don't want no heart-attacks.

Cross you fingers that the haul is short.