Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Round House Kick! (Ow! That Yurts!)

Alternate Entry Titles:
Yurt So Good (C'mon Baby Make a Yurt So Good)
Yurt Time Is Gonna Come

Hey everyone!

I was going to wait until it was all done before I posted any pics, but so many people have asked about the yurt and requested yurt photos that I've decided to break down and put something up now.

As many of you know, Skye and I are building a yurt for me to live in while I'm working here on the farm. If you don't know what a yurt is, you will soon. I was pretty excited about the idea from the start, and I think that when it's all finished it's going to be a great place to

When I arrived here, Skye had already set the foundation posts and started the framing.

After finishing the framing, we added plywood panels as the sub floor.

Once the floor was done, we put up the lattice walls and the doors. This proved to be the easy part.

Then it was time to put up the rafters. The rafters run from a tension cable along the top of the lattice walls to a center ring that is supported only by the rafters, and the rafters are supported by it. The center ring is about five feet in diameter, and the rafters (there are 50 of them) are about seventeen feet long. The trick to this is that you set two of the rafters in place along the tension wire, and then lift up the edge of the center ring (still on the ground) so that the rafters sit flush. Then you're supposed to lift the ring as high as you can, take two other rafters and insert them into the center ring. Then using the rafters, continue lifting the ring up and the seat the rafters in the tension cable above the walls, thus holding the ring in place.

Easier said than done.

Skye and I tried it once by ourselves, and failed miserably. Very very luckily for us, that was the weekend that Kaleo was in town, and she came over to help out. With her help we were able to get the center ring lifted, and the remainder of the rafters set into place. We never could have done it without her.

Also during the rafter installation, we encountered a few other issues. For that, I suppose you need a little bit of back story. Skye acquired this yurt in trade for editing a video project for some folks on the other side of the island. That was a good deal. The tricky part is that these folks had not properly installed the yurt when they were using it, and a strong wind blew it down. Skye already knew this, because he had to order two new walls and a new center ring. What we didn't know is there were other parts that were slightly damaged from the previous structural failure that required our attention. Nine of the rafters, for example. After one totally split and fell (that was scary) we started looking at the others and had to do some mending. But, we eventually got them fixed and all sat in place nicely.

Then it was time for the roof. Ugh. The roof is a single piece heavy-duty tarp of sorts. It probably weighs around 250 pounds. Add in the water that the rain had added to it over time, and I'm guessing it was over 300 at time of lifting. The way you install it is to lift it through the center ring, and then unfold it on top of the rafters. At this point, we made the best decision we've made since I've been here, and we rented some scaffolding from Home Depot. Using some rope and the piping of the scaffolding as a sort of makeshift pulley, we were able to lift that stupid roof, four inches at a time, up to the center ring.

After all of that, everything else was pretty easy. We put up the walls and wall insulation, we leveled the doors, added the skylight dome, and tied everything down. And with that, technically the yurt itself was done.

But of course we decided to do more. We decided that the best thing to do would be to build a loft above part of the floor so I could sleep up there, creating more useful room on the floor. The way it worked out, we're going to enclose the room under the loft for use as a guest room (with exterior access) and as a soundproofed control room for recording. Skye even had a few sliding glass doors in the yard he bough from a hotel that was remodeling or something, and we've turned one on it's side to create a 5'x8' window from the control room to the main room. AND the neighbors, Puggy and Linda, happen to have a old Hawai'ian Tel phone booth (complete with bi-fold privacy doors) in their yard they're going to let us have to convert into a vocal isolation booth!

It's going to be sweet.

I know you'd think that once the yurt was done that the interior work would be easy and go quickly, since we're inside and out of the rain. But noooooo........ the rain wouldn't let us off of the hook that easily. It turns out that when it rains enough, the road to the yurt becomes impassable. Not even the farm equipment can get up that road when it's muddy (and it is really muddy). So all of the lumber had to be hauled up that hill by hand. And today all of the scaffolding (due back at Home Depot) had to be hauled down by hand. Slippery messy work. But once summer comes around and the road dries out completely, we're going to spread some rock on it, and that should solve the problem in the future.

But for now, we've just about got the interior framing done, and then we'll be putting up the paneling for the walls and the floor of the loft. At that point, I'm moving in.

We've decided to try an epoxy flooring, and see how that goes. It should be durable, easy to clean, and cheaper than vinyl. That way, if Skye and Kaleo ever decide to move the yurt, they're not wasting any flooring. Then I'll go get some area rugs or some carpet remnants or something, and throw them down.

Once the flooring's all done, then we're going to address the issue of electricity. Right now, the house on the property is powered by solar panels. In the case of long rainy days, there is a gas generator to help recharge the system. It's a good system, and completely off of the grid, but the weather really plays a role in how much power you have on hand at any time, and you've got to be very conscious of your power consumption and battery usage. So we've decided that we're going with hydro power for the yurt. We're going to start with a small system that pulls water out of one of the on-site streams and runs it through a small turbine which will generate power, much like a water wheel. We think (depending on line loss due to resistance) that we should be able to power the yurt completely as well as supplement the existing house's power supply all off of that one small turbine. If it works as well as we think it will, we'll start looking at installing a larger system using the other two creeks on the property to create enough power to run a small wood shop as well as any lighting and other equipment necessary to use for farming (green houses, garages, etc.) It's all pretty exciting.

Hawai'ian Word of the Day: "Kelekele" - mud or muddy


  1. Wow. Those pics are great. Looks like you guys are getting in together nicely. I can't wait to come out there and lay down some drum tracks in that studio. Sweeeeeeeeeeeet.

  2. That is one awesome yurt. It's down right fancy compared to the sod hut I was imagining! I think it's funny: recording studio = top priority. Top priority.

  3. What a cool yurt! I like how you get a lot of natural light with the white tarp-top. And, a sound studio? That threw me for a loop... (get my pun?) I look forward to more pictures! More and soon.

    Hey, by the way - I did not put this together before you left, but... Okay, here's some background: Eric loves UFC and all that it entails. In fact, he and Julian have made me into an avid watcher to some degree. So, you live in a small town where one of the big contenders lives - BJ Penn. Have you met him? Do you think Hilo is small enough to meet most people that live there? How big is Hilo? If you meet BJ Penn, will you tell him about Eric? :)

  4. Oh! one more thing. I love the vocabulary installments with each post - BUT would you also include the phonetic spelling? I have no idea how to say these new words! Help me out! Thanks.

  5. Jeez. I'm a mess on your blog. I'm used to being able to edit my posts... Anyway - I love the Chuck Norris title to the post.

    You live in a yurt on a hill. I just think that sounds like something out of a Dr. Seuss book... I may elaborate on this another day.