Notes from Windward: #66

Detailing the Yurt

now for the fun part

  August 22:

     I'm switching to a new header because the previous blog list was taking a long time to load, and also because we're pretty much finished the basic work of building the yurt, and from here on we're going to experimenting with various ways to fulfill its potential to be as innovative as it is functional.

     For example, now that the basic plaster work is done on the seams, we're taking the time to explore various options that will enable us to create unusual effects. Instead of just going with flat, smooth walls, or using a machine to blow flocking at the walls, we took a day to play around with various ways to create texture on the walls by practicing on some of the sheetrock scraps we had laying around.

testing out various texture patterns on scrap sheetrock


     This was also a good time to start the process of plastering the oculous (the round ring in the center of the yurt's ceiling). This has to be done is a series of steps since plaster applied too thickly will crack, so it's a matter of filling in the deep spots, letting it dry and putting more on later. But even the modest amount of plaster already applied is notable increasing the amount of light reflected down in to the room.

the oculous gets its first coat of plaster


     Once Katie and Kerry were satisfied with the back dappled effect they were going for, the process of transferring that design to the inside of the yurt got underway in earnest, but after they'd got the first few panels dappled, they decided to add another refinement, that of a diagonal finishing stroke. Now that may not sound like much of change, but in practice it really adds an impressive touch in that it goes a long way towards breaking up the regularity of the faceted structure, making the building look just that much more round.

Kerry and Katie having fun applying texture to the yurt's walls


  August 24:

     The process of texturizing the interior of the yurt is progressing slowly, but that's okay since this sort of detail work can't be rushed if you want to end up with a novel, but pleasing, finish, and given the amount of time and heart we've put into this structure, we're having a good time tinkering with the aesthetic details.

     In the meantime, there's lots of other stuff getting done such as getting a start on preparing the area north of the dining hall to become an edible landscape garden. As always, the first step is to gather up the rocks that were exposed during the backfill process.

Jillian, Virgil, Kerry and Katie pose with the
first load of rocks raked out of the backfill behind the dining hall


     The hallmark of sustainable systems is that the output of one activity provides the input for another, and that even applies to gathering up rocks; in this case, the rocks were transported down to the fence crib, and used to create the mass that will anchor the ends of legs 4 and 5 of the loafing pen.

Virgil and Tristan rake the rocks out of
the bucket and into the crib


  August 25:

     I've described this part of the process as the fun part because we're getting to indulge a sense of whimsy as we approach the finishing details. Another example being the stone that we're going to use as a porch for the yurt. Each morning most of the folks on site gather at 9 AM and go for a walk around Windward, and at one point in our passage there was a slab of stone about four feet by four feet about a foot thick. It didn't take too much imagination to see that slab set down in front of the yurt in keeping with our desire to make it appear that the yurt sort of crew in that location organically.

Walt rigs a set of chains to create a transport cradle


     Once we had the slab of stone safely suspended for transport, it was a matter of very slowly driving the backhoe up the hill to the yurt.

ready for transport


     It took a while, but in due time the massive stone was delivered to the front of the yurt and set down on rollers so that it could be maneuvered into place once the appropriate amount of dirt is excavated
Jillian gives a bit of scale to the yurt's stone porch


     The artistic committee finally settled on a splatt design that incorporated a diagonal swipe which goes a long way towards breaking up the faceted effect--every step towards round, even the impressionistic ones, is good.
the walls are prepped and ready for a coat of primer


  August 26:

     Jillian and I took a run into town today to pick up paint for the yurt, and settled on an off white with a very light tint of red, but before that goes on the walls, the first step is to lay down a coat of white primer.

the textured wall with a coat of primer


  August 27:

Kerry picking blackberries along the Klickitat


     Sunday morning, and since neither Katie nor Kerry had been for a long ride along the wild portion of the Klickitat, we loaded up the old red truck and headed down the hill for a 16 mile long bike ride along the river. It was a hot August day, but the breeze was just right, and when we got hot we stopped to pick our fill of sweet blackberries and cool our feet in the icy snow-melt of the river.

Katie enjoying the sands of "Blackberry Beach"


     After lunch and a nap, Katie got back on applying texture to the ceiling of the yurt. It's slow, careful work, but we're to the point where we're enjoying taking the time needed to get the finishing just the way we want it.

Part of the ceiling textured and ready for primer


     Meanwhile, Kerry and Jillian were getting started on converting Echo trailer into Kerry's sewing room complete with two commercial Singer sewing machines, one standard and one double-needle. Since our quest is to demonstrate that we can feed, fuel and cloth twenty people on a hundred acres, and do it in style, we're excited bringing the clothing dimension of the project on line.

Kerry and Jillian working on the new sewing center


     Another project that we're looking to wrap up before winter comes involves the addition of our winter water tank. Our main three thousand gallon tank is above ground, and is vulnerable to freezing (and therefore bursting) if we were to get into a serious patch of cold winter. We haven't seen that sort of cold since the first winter we were here, but what's happened before can happen again, so we're installing a smaller back-up tank that will be partially buried. That way, if there's a killer cold front headed our way, we can drain the main tank and use the smaller, semi-underground tank until the weather warms up.

the 1,200 gallon winter water tank in place
and ready for plumbing into the system


     For most of the year, we'll use the main 3,000 gallon tank for our daily supply, and have the 1,200 gallon backup tank rigged to take the overflow from the main tank and supply that to the summer showers. As Windward grows, our water system has to grow too; this will give us one more option that will help insure that we have the water we need when we need it.

  August 28:

the yurt's ceiling gets a coat of primer


     This afternoon, Katie and Kerry gave the yurt ceiling a coat of primer, and we were all quite impressed with how the texturing helped make the ceiling look ever more round by breaking up the straight seams--instead of seeing eighteen facets, the eye sees a round vault. I don't know how well that's coming across in these pics, but in person it's very nice.

A close up to show the diagonal wall texturing


     While that was going on, Jillian saw to the unloading of a ton and a half of three/quarter minus foundation rock into the pit dug under where the propagation greenhouse is going to go. The rock was raked around until a level floor was created. Once full, the holding tank will weigh more than six tons, so dirt fill wouldn't have been able to take the weight.

Jillian leveling the crushed rock base for the holding tank


     Once that was done, we turned our attention to plumbing in the winter water tank. In addition to connecting the 1,200 gallon tank to the system, we also included a stand pipe that will allow us to connect our 1,800 gallon tanker truck into the system. Between the three, that raises our holding capacity at that location to 5,000 gallons, and add in the non-potable tank and that will make for 6,500 gallons of water on hand. The work with the 'terns this summer brought home the point that we need to expand our holding capacity considerably, and this is a good first step.

the winter tank plumbed up and ready for burial


  August 29:

Jillian and Katie apply a color coat to the yurt's interior


     While Kerry and I drove into The Dalles to pick up our latest arrival, Andrew from Texas, Jillian and Kerry handled the task of applying a color coat to the interior of the yurt. It's a white with a touch of red which should help the yurt feel more cozy.

Jillian with roller and Katie with brush


     With Jillian wielding the roller, and Katie using a brush to insure coverage in the tight places, the work zipped right along. There's still some detail work to attend to with the windows and the oculus, but for the most part the interior of the yurt is painted.

Todd welcoming Andrew to Windward


  August 30:

Katie, Kerry and Andrew hauling sand into the yurt


     Today was one of those days when a lot of focus was brought to one project, with a lot of progress to show for it. With the color coat on the walls, it was time to turn our attention to the floor. The first step was to add a layer of clean sand to create a bed for the floating floor.

     With about an inch of sand in place, the next step was to lay down two layers of 6 mil thick black plastic as a moisture barrier.

spreading the moisture barrier on top of the sand


     Next step was to put down a layer of high-density foam insulation to keep the floor warm. Since the room was wider than eight feet, it was necessary to emplace a treated board to secure the floor seam.

the foam layer set in place along with a treated seam board


     The next step was to remove each four foot section of foam and use it as a patter for cutting the 3/4" tongue and grove underflooring.
Katie and Walt sliding the tongue and grove flooring together


     Once the flooring was in place, screws were inserted to join the seams to the underboard so that the floor would all float as a unit.

Jillian slips the last piece of flooring into place


     With the flooring in place, it was time to bring the ladders back in and mount the lighting fixtures.

Kerry and Katie offer advice as Jillian assembles
one of the compact florescent lights


     With both of the lights installed and shining, it was time to take a minute and savor all that the 'terns have accomplished with the yurt.
As the day ends, Jillian and Kerry take pride in what they've accomplished


  August 31:

the yurt's porch slab ready to swing into position


     The first step in the process of installing the huge slab of rock that we're using for the yurt's porch step was to excavate a space large enough to set it in. Since this is August, and the ground's hard and dry, that was a bit of work but the sort of thing we're used to coping with.

Walt reviews the back-hoe controls with Jillian


     Once the hole was the right shape and depth, it was time to bring the back-hoe around to lift the stone and swing it into place. Fortunately, the 'terns had about filled the back-hoe's front bucket with rocks collected from the newly earth-sheltered north side of the dining hall since the rock is heavy enough that it would otherwise lift the front end of the back-hoe off the ground.

almost there


     It was very tricky work maneuvering the slab so close to the yurt--one mistake with the controls could have put a huge dent into yurt's side--but Jillian handled the controls very well and eased the stone into position as close as could be done by chain sling.

almost there


     The next step was to strip the stone of it's chain cradle. Once that was done, the back-hoe started the process of nudging the slab into its final position in front of the yurt's door.

nudging it home


     After a bit of jostling, and moving the back-hoe to get a better push angle, the aesthetic committee declared the stone to be properly positioned. A humongous crow bar (one that's actually made for removing spikes from trail road ties) was used to lift the low side of the stone so that dirt could be shoveled under it to lift and stabilize the stone.

in place at last


     This is the sort of work in which Windward's four criteria really come into play--the standards by which we judge the success or failure of a project.

     The four criteria we use are:
  1. No one gets hurt!
  2. We don't break anything we can't fix.
  3. We meet the objectives we undertook to achieve.
  4. We had fun and took lots of pictures.

     By that criteria, this was an especially satisfying success.

Jillian tests the stability of the stone and finds it sound


Notes From Windward - Index - Vol. 66