Notes from Windward: #66

Finishing the Yurt's Interior

time for lots of attention to detail

  July 10:

     Emily did a great job cutting the two inch thick slabs of foam insulation to fit between the 2x6s that make up the walls and roof, but given flat slabs and a curving space, it wasn't a reasonable use of her time to attempt to get each sheet to fit perfectly. Better to get it close, and then use self-expanding urethane foam to seal the gaps.

urethane foam filling a gap between the sheet insulation and the 2x6 framing


     The concern here is to insure that the transition from the cold, dry air outside to the warm, moist air inside happens at a point in the wall where there's no air. That way there's no moisture to condense on a cold surface and create a moisture problem down the road. It's time consuming to go through and eliminate every space where moist internal air can get to the outer wall, but it has to be done before the fiberglass and sheetrock can go up.


  July 16:

     This week the yurt's been waiting on the arrival of more canisters of squirtable urethane foam needed to finish sealing the gaps in the foam in the walls. Instead we've been working on finishing up the new entrance to Vermadise where we've been busy installing the door, work benches and shelves. We've also been busy taring the north side of the dining hall, moving dirt in to earth shelter that side, and hauling the rocks in the back-fill dirt up to the water tank where we're using them to create a foundation for our underground winter water tank.

     Still, I'm pleased to report that the foam work is complete, and now we're ready to start installing the fiberglass insulation that will fill the remaining four inches of space in the wall. It's true that this much attention to insulation is arguably going beyond what's absolutely necessary, but when it's cold outside this winter, that extra insulation will make sure that the yurt is cozy even when the snow is falling. Which is a good thing since we're getting applications for internships during the winter months too.


  July 19:

     Now that the slab foam is in place, and the gaps have been filled with urethane foam, it's time to fill up the rest of the wall's inner space with standard fiberglass insulation.

Jacki installing fiberglass batts


     It's hot, itchy work, but eventually the last batt is stapled in place.

stapling down the last batt



  July 21:

     Before starting on the task of cutting and installing sheet rock on the inside of the yurt, we're taking time to apply the board part of the "board and batten" siding to the outside of the yurt. This is wood that we cut on our sawmill and given the unseasonably warm weather we're having, it's best to get it set in place and sealed straight away.

Jacki giving the siding a quick coat of sealer


     It's going to take a couple of evenings to get all the siding on, but we're very pleased with the look of the on-site milled boards -- our little "Acorn" is starting to look very much like a part of its forest setting.


  July 27:

     Work on the yurt has been derailed this week by news that the track-hoe is coming. We're back enough into the woods that it's no trivial matter to get access to heavy or specialized equipment with the result that it's not uncommon to be charged a couple of hundred dollars in travel time before the machine even breaks ground.

     Over the years we've developed relationships with various equipment operators such that they let us kow when they're going to be working in the area. That way they can waive the travel fee and just charge us for actual work done. In this case, a track-hoe is a special built digging machine mounted on tracks like a tank. It's built for one purpose, to dig ditches, and it does that really well.

     Even without the cost of travel time, it's still an expensive piece of equipment to have on site, and so we've been scrambling to get ready to take maximum advantage of its capacity. We have at least four projects that we'll want to put it to use on so there was a good deal of work that needed doing before the machine arrived and the billing clock started ticking.

     One key project involves digging up the seventy-five feet of pipeline that brings propane to the dining hall and replacing it with the special plastic line that the county has decided they want people to use from here on. The black pipe we installed would be good for a long time to come, but eventually it would corrode and have to be replaced, whereas the new plastic type of delivery system will last for decades. The track-hoe with its delicate touch will be able to quickly uncover the existing pipe, and once we've installed the new line, fill in the trench.

the north side of dining hall sealed and ready for the backhoe


     With that done, we'll have the track-hoe finish backfilling the northside of the dining hall, a task that requires a delicate touch, and also required us to finish waterproofing the concrete retaining wall that forms the norths side of the dining hall. We're exciting about this advance since with the pipeline replaced, we'll be able to plant the edible landscaping that we have planed for that area.

     And there are a number of other similar projects that needed work before they'd be ready for the track-hoe, but now that they're done, we're looking forward to getting back to milling the remainder of the yurt's siding tomorrow.


  July 29:

     This past week, Tristan cut down some dead trees located inside the sheep's new loafing pen. The lower part of the trees were cut to length to yield more siding for the yurt, and the rest was cut into firewood lengths. This afternoon Virgil, Tristan and I used the backhoe to snake the sawable logs to the fence, and from there to lift the logs over the fence and stack them in the alley. At that point it was easy enough to chain them to the front bucket of the backhoe and truck them down to the sawmill.

Virgil cutting more siding for the yurt


     Virgil took over cutting the logs into more siding for the yurt while Tristan, Jacki and Sarah hauled the firewood lengths up to the woodshed to be split and stacked.

Jacki, Tristan and Sarah splitting and stacking the rest of the tree for firewood


     We're planning on going on a bike ride along the Klickitat tomorrow morning checking out the wild blackberries to see when they'll be ripe. Then after lunch and a nap, we plan to spend Sunday afternoon putting up more siding. At least that's the plan for now :-)


  July 30:

     The bike ride down by the Klickitat was great. The weather was cool, there was enough wind to stir things up, and the blackberries were just coming in.

stopping to pick (and eat) wild blackberries


     It's eight miles up the Klickitat to the place where the old logging road was washed out in '96, which makes for a good run, and a good place to rest before heading back.

taking a break before heading back


     After lunch, and a Sunday afternoon nap, Virgil and Jillian cranked up the saw and milled up the last of the yurt's siding boards, and even got a start on the battens.
Jillian and Virgil cutting battens for the yurt


     While Tristan and Sarah got another load of wood for the woodshed, Jacki and I finished mounting the siding boards. Next step will be to add the battens, but they'll need to be cut to length and sealed first. Step by step, the yurt gets a little closer to done.
the yurt with a full circle of siding



  July 31:

     This morning saw the crew heading in different directions; I went to Hood River to pick up another ton and a half of pea gravel for the aquaponics beds, while the 'terns headed back down to the river to do some serious berry picking. The cobbler made from yesterday's berries was too good to be a one-time treat.

loading pea gravel into the work truck


     Come the afternoon, I cut the first half of the battens to length, and Jillian and Virgil took on the task of sealing them. Brooks pointed out last year that it was a lot easier to seal the battens before they're screwed in place, a lesson well remembered.

Jillian and Virgil giving the battens a coat of sealer


     While that was going on, Jacki, Nicki and Emily tackled the task of putting a coat of sealer on the solar woodshed. This is the perfect time of year to do this since the wood is so dry that it really soaks up the sealer.

Emily, Nicki and Jacki apply a coat of sealer to the solar woodshed


     And on another front, Sarah and Tristan fetched, split and stacked another load of firewood in the solar woodshed. Even in the summer's heat, it's very comforting to see the woodshed filling up with another winter's warmth.

Sarah and Tristan proudly pose with their
much appreciated stack of firewood



  August 1:

     Our first group project for the day was to unload the ton and a half of gravel from the back of the work truck into one of the two round grow beds that will be part of our mini-aquaponics system. Combined, the two tanks will provide a hundred square feet of intensive production, so we're looking forward to bringing that resource on line this fall.

unloading the pea gravel into the grow bed


     Once that task was accomplished, Virgil and Jillian finished cutting the rest of the battens, Tristan and Sarah headed off for another load of firewood, and Jacki and I got started installing the battens that were cut and sealed yesterday. We only had enough to do half the yurt, but you can get an idea of how it's going to look when complete.

the first battens are added to the yurt's siding



  August 2:

     Well, it was hot, and Virgil decided to head into town for more brewing supplies, at which point the other 'terns decided that it was time to declare an impromptu field trip, ride in with Virgil and go see "The Inconvenient Truth."

     The upshot being that work on the yurt got postponed. Did make for an interesting discussion around the evening fire, though :-)


  August 3:

     Once the afternoon heat started to ease, and after the crew had gathered in the kitchen to enjoy another of Tristan's homebaked apple pies, Jacki attended to putting a second coat of sealer on the yurt.
Jacki puts a second coat of sealer on the siding


     Catherina, Jillian and Virgil finished installing the remaining battens. Fairly routine by now; the only tricky part involved installing the trim around the windows.

Catherina installing window trim
as Virgil screws another batten in place


     And while that was going on, Tristan and Sarah took on the task of getting our "log sofa"set up in the center of our ring of apple trees. Tristan even added a nifty foot rail to make the seat an even more pleasant place to sit and watch evening fall across the river.

Sarah and Tristan enjoying our "log sofa"


     Well, dear blog reader, there won't be any updates for the next few days since your correspondent is on his way out of town for a long weekend at the Washington Renaissance Fair just outside Tacoma, Wa. I'll look forward to updating you on our progress when I return Monday.


  August 6:

     The 'terns took Saturday to run Sarah in to catch her plane to Georgia, and then made a field trip to visit the Portland Saturday Market to check out the income generating opportunities there. No matter how sustainable we are able to make our work here at Windward, we're still going to want to be able to generate income by offering Windward-made products to others, and PSM is the largest regional venue for doing that.

starting the process of sheet-rocking the yurt


     Getting back to work on the yurt, the next step involves fitting sheet-rock panels to go from stud to stud around the inside of the yurt. Given the radius of the arc, it's not feasible to bend the sheetrock to form curved walls, so we're going with a series of two-foot wide "facets" to create the interior walls. Faceted walls, instead of curved walls, will also make it easier to furnish the yurt.


  August 7:

     Another hot, dusty August day, and the first concern was to make sure that the animals and gardens had sufficient water to cope with the heat. Once the heat of the day started to slack off, we gathered at the yurt to continue working on finishing the walls. Tristan hauled more sheet rock up to the yurt while Jackie checked for any areas where the siding needed a bit more sealer.

Jacki touching up sections of the siding
that needed a bit more sealer


     The usual way we approach learning opportunities is to start with the most straight-forward parts, gain some experience, and then tackle the more complicated parts. In this case that meant cutting and installing sheet rock on the wall sections that did not have any "features" such as windows. That was about half of the sections, and that part was already done, so today Jillian and Katie got on with the task of cutting and installing the more complicated panels.

Katie and Jillian screwing more sheetrock into place


     As more sections were installed, Tristan noted that the wall was "looking" more and more round, and indeed it's true that the eye sees the wall as being more round than as being a series of facets. I expect that by the time it's taped and finished, you'll have to look carefully to see the faceted nature of the yurt's interior wall.


  August 8:

     Thunderstorm last night, so today was cooler -- a perfect day to get lots done, and indeed we did since with the track hoe on site, half-a-dozen projects got to take a great leap forward.

Jillian cuts out a hole for the window as Katie and Jacki assist.


     While Tristan, Virgil and I kept busy making sure that the track hoe was able to dig, dig, dig, Jillian, Katie and Jacki finished up the last remaining facets of sheet rock for the yurt, so I'm pleased to report that the interior of the yurt's walls are finished -- except, of course, for the considerable amount of work that will be needed to tape and finish the seams, a task which will wait for the yurt's ceiling to be installed so that all the seams can be done at the same time.

Tristan screws the last sheet into place


     The challenge of adapting flat materials like sheet rock to a round structure appeared again in that we found that we needed to double up the sheet rock where it connected to the window since the windows followed the yurt's curve, while the sheetrock went straight across. Naturally, there were plenty of sheetrock scraps handy, and in short order the window openenings were screwed down and secure.

detail shot of the double sheetrock around the window


     Now that the 'terns have tackled the challenge of installing and sheetrocking the walls, it's time to take on the more difficult challenge of doing the same thing for the ceiling.


  August 9:

     This afternoon, we started the task of finishing the insulation and sheetrocking the yurt's ceiling. It's best to tackle both tasks pretty much simultaneously since the insulation tends to fall out of the ceiling if it's not held in place by the sheetrock. Also it's a lot easier to cut sheetrock to fit the trapazoidal shape needed while you can still see the roof joists.

     Before that got underway, there were two tasks that needed to be done: seal any gaps between the rafters and the solid insulation, and seal off the space over the wall section.

Katie using urethane foam to seal any gaps
in the solid foam insulation


     If you look closely at the above picture, you'll notice that wedge shaped lengths of foam have been cut and inserted between the top of the wall. These foam wedges will close off any chance that moist interior air could come in contact with the cold roof surface at that location. When that happens, you get condensation which causes moisture problems within the wall.

     You'll also see Katie carefully squirting urethane foam into any spaces left between the solid foam panels and the roof joists, again going that extra step to insure that the moist, interior air is prevented from coming into contact with the outside of the yurt.

Jacki cutting fiberglass insulation to fit the ceiling


     While that was going on, Jacki undertook to cut panels of fiberglass insulation to fit in the wedges formed by the intersection of the sloped roof and the walls. It's carefull detailed work, but it's important that all the space in the ceiling be filled with insulation of one sort or another.

     Once the fiberglass is in place, Jillian cut sheetrock panels to fit, and with the help of Tristan and Virgil, they were screwed into place.

Tristan and Jillian hold up a ceiling panel while Vergil screws it into place


     It's exacting and awkward work, but when the time came to quit for the eveing, fully a third of the ceiling was foamed, insulated and sheetrocked.

     Well done, 'terns :-)


  August 10:

     For the most part work on the yurt was held up today awaiting the arrival of more urethane foam needed to finish sealing any and all gaps in the solid foam. No matter, since there's always other projects in need of attention.

     Once the walls and ceiling are done, all that will be left before the yurt's ready for its first intern will be to install the floor and the door. Since the ceiling had to wait, we turned our attention to finishing the door jam.

the completed door jam


     Since we've gone with a round top door, the door jam has to have a round topped as well, a task we accomplished by cutting arcs out of a stack of sheets of plywood that had been glued together. The job required cutting two arches, one with a radius 3/4" less than the other in order to create the lip that the door will close up against.

     That was already in place; what needed doing today was the building up of the flat part of the door frame to match the curved part. First a wide sheet of 1/2" plywood was glued and stapled in place, and then a second more narrow sheet of 3/4" plywood was glued and stapled on top of that. Repeat again for the other side of the door jam, and we're one step closer to being done.


  August 11:

     Well, dear blog reader, your intrepid reporter is about to head out for the second of the three weekends that I'm obligated to be at the Renaissance Fair just east of Tacoma, Wa., so I won't be able to report on what the 'terns accomplish over the weekend until I return on Monday. But, before I head out, I can fill you in on some of the work done yesterday while they were waiting for more spray foam to arrive.

     Since Jacki will be heading back to school on Monday, she took the time to teach the fine art of pole drilling to Katie. We're very pleased with the way that the through-pole fence concept is working out, and each new leg of the fence means more improved space for the sheep to hang out in.

Katie drills a fence post while Jacki
watches to make sure the drill is parallel to the ground


     Jannel and Jacki worked out the proceedure for drilling the posts using two different types of drills, each with a different type of drill bit, and a templet to insure that the holes match from pole to pole. Also there's the part about learning how to use a portable, gasoline powered generator, which is part of the pattern of how folks learn things at Windward since each project expands a person's range of experience with a variety of tools.

     While they were doing that, Virgil and Jillian were getting the next two fence posts ready to cement into the ground. At the lower end of Leg 4 of the loafing fence there's not enough top soil to allow us to dig down the usual thirty inches in order to secure the posts. And so, in such a situation we use the back hoe to rip out enough of a hole in the rocks to that we can get down at least eighteen inches, and pour a concrete base around the bottom of the post. That way, the dirt packed back in on top of the concrete will help hold the post securely in place.

     We cut holes in the bottom of 5 gallon plastic buckets and use them as concrete forms. Mix a quick batch of our standard Windward concrete [5 gal. rock, 3 gal. sand, 1 1/2 gal. portland cement, enough water to suit the application] and we're ready to do two poles.

Virgil holds the wheelbarrow while
Katie scrapes concrete into a bucket


     We're careful to get as much "mileage" out of the concrete as we can by adding two to three inch diameter rocks as the concrete goes into the form. The extra rock becomes part of the block of concrete, adding more weight at no extra cost.

Jacki adding rocks to the concrete
to increase its mass



  August 14:

     There and back again, and time to update the blog on the good work that went forward over the weekend.

     A couple more cans of urethane foam and the last of the gaps were sealed and secure from moisture, so work soon turned back to installing the remaining fiberglas insulation and the remaining sheet rock -- not a lot of excitement, but this is the part of the work where attention to detail really starts to show.

with the remaining sheetrock in place, it's time to start applying the "mud"


     After that milestone was passed, the 'terns took a break from finishing to move more of the earthworms into vermadise. As readers know, the way we study systems is by starting small and working our way up to larger systems, learning as we go. In the case of the earthworms, we started out growing them in various containers made from plastic barrels and water pressure tanks cut in half, but now that Vermadise is on-line, it made sense to consolidate those worms in another couple of Vermadise's six 30" wide by 120" long worm boxes.

Jillian, Jacki and Virgil get ready to transfer
earthworms to the full size bed


     It's very exciting to see Vermadise's various components come together in their fully functional form. In this case this particular worm bed will have a head start since the material they're adding contains the complete range of adult earthworms, little baby earthworms and lots of egg cases ready to hatch. With more food and more space to grow into, there'll be a rapid increase in the weight of mature worms in this bed in a few week's time.

Jacki and Katie mix in the transfered worms
while Tristan wets everything down


     In the pic above, you can see the grates that fit over the beds shielding the worms from the sun, and supporting a wealth of plants grown in containers over the worms. That way the worms have the shade and moisture they need to thrive, and any nutrients that leach out of the containerized plants are captured in the bedding below and eventually returned to the garden.

     A key aspect of sustainable systems is that the outflow from one system forms the input of the next system in the life cycle, and this is a good example of that principle in action. Another key aspect is passive design, embodied in this case by the way that gravity insures that moisture and nutrients move from one part of the system (the containerized plants) to the next (the organic materials being processed by the earthworms). The great thing about gravity is that it's a force you can count on to work every time no charge :-)

Virgil starts on the first of the yurt's many wall seams


     With the additional worms safely tucked into their new home, it was time to get started on finishing the yurt's sheetrock. Taping and mudding sheetrock isn't a lot of fun under ordinary circumstances, but especially so when you're dealing with non-linear walls--lots of joints to fill and sand.

Jillian trims the sheetrock flush with the window frame


     Details such as the windows take special attention as edges have to be made flush, and corner beading has to be cut and fit into place to make the edges strong enough to stand up to ordinary wear.

Jillian trims the sheetrock flush with the window frame


     The 'terns made good progress over the weekend, so today they've taken the day off to accompany Jacki as she heads into Portland to catch the train home--as each of the undergrads finish up their summer internship and heat back to school, or hearts and our thanks go with them.

     Finishing up the sheetrock is a necessary task, but not a fun one, so breaking up the work is the way to go since once a task stops being fun, it's not sustainable. By breaking up the work into managable chunks, and by breaking up the routine as developments warrant, we make sure that even the work doesn't feel like work so much as it feels like a necessary step on our journey.


  August 15:

     Jillian and Virgil got back on the task of taping and mudding--there's going to be a lot of that before the yurt's ready to paint--and by the end of the day all of the wall seams had their initial coats, and so too did most of the ceiling joints. The next step will involve taping the seam between wall and ceiling.

Jillian and Virgil spreading more compound


     While they were doing that, Katie and Tristan spent the afternoon work time splitting and stacking another pickup truck load of firewood for the kitchen. When you heat with wood, there's nothing quite as "heart warming" as a full woodshed.

Tristan hauling and stacking while Katie runs the splitter


Jillian and Virgil got back on the task of taping and mudding--there's going to be a lot of that before the yurt's ready to paint--and by the end of the day all of the wall seams had their initial coats, and so too did most of the ceiling joints.


  August 16:

     Today saw the remaining ceiling seams get their initial coat of "mud" as well as the first of the horizontal joints between wall and ceiling. It's awkward work that requires one to hold their arms over their shoulders, so it gets tedious before long--which is why we only do this sort of work a couple of hours at a time, and then go tend to some other project.

Katie and Jillian survey another afternoon's work on the yurt


     In addition to mudding seams, we're also using a high-speed curing type of plaster to fill in major gaps and to sculpt transitions such as the transition between the end of the sheet rock and the wood ring that forms the center of the yurt's roof.

     As the yurt keeps coming together, one thing we've noticed is that it has some remarkable acoustic qualities that make an ordinary boombox sound really good. We're looking forward to hearing what a quality sound system will be able to do.

cleaning up the tools


     The last order of the day, every day, is washing up the tools so that they'll be clean and ready to go tomorrow. It doesn't take long to do while the sheetrock compound is still green, but if left over night, it's much more difficult.


  August 17:

     Today's afternoon work session was dedicated to getting all the seams sanded and ready for the second coat of "mud." We're actually three different types of mud--the correct term is "finishing compound"--on the ceiling; a quick setting plaster that's used to fill in holes, gaps and transitional areas, a course compound that's used to do the initial seam filling, and a finer, finishing compound that's used when you're going for the final finish.

all the seams are covered and had their initial sanding


     Another day of touch up, and the inside of the yurt should be ready for texturing, a technique which covers up a some of the imperfections (which makes for less work) and is fun to do--you can't ask more than that.


  August 18:

     I'm about to head out for the last my weekends at the Renaissance faire, so I won't be able to update you on the 'terns progress until Monday, but "The Plan" is to continue sanding and recoating the seams so that the 'terns are ready to start texturing the walls come Monday.

installing the crib rails


     Work is also going foward on finishing that fourth leg of the sheep's loafing pen. Since the southeastern most fence corner is in an area where the bedrock comes close to the surface, we had to create a crib that could be filled with rocks so that it was strong enough to resist the tension of the fence in two directions.

     Now that the crib is in, the next task will be to take the backhoe and go on a rock collection tour of Windward until we get enough rocks to fill it up to the top of the rails. Given the number of rocks around here, that won't be a problem :-)

Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 66


  August 21:

     Third time was the charm, as they say, and I'm back from the fair to stay--at least for another year. While I was away, the 'terns focused on doing more sanding work on the inside of the yurt, and got the seams to the point where some would say that they need one more coat before painting, while others would say, "close enough." As for what I'd say, well, I'd say that it's the Intern's Yurt, and so it's their call :-)

the smoother the seams,
the more round the interior looks


     After sanding the sheetrock, they turned their attention to filling up more of the woodshed and digging the last holes on Leg Four of the Loafing Pen, after which they piled in Virgil's car and headed for Mount Adams. One of the great things about this area is that you can go from the mediterranean climate of the Columbia river to the alpine slopes of Mt. Adams in less than an hour.

     As you can imagine, they had a series of adventures on their trip, but I'll leave them to tell those stories elsewhere in these Notes.

the woodshed's filling up nicely


     This page is taking so long to load that I'm going to switch to a new heading as the detail work on the yurt progresses--Detailing the Yurt

. See you there :-)