Thursday, May 31, 2012

Building a Yurt Floor, Part Six

Sorry to be taking six parts to get this floor finished. At the pace I'm setting, there are still a few more parts to go before I can complete this! Yesterday I expected to be a big day - we had the vapour barrier and second edging installed, and I figured that it wouldn't take nearly as long or be nearly as challenging to install the upper floor as it had been to install the plywood under the joists - under the joists, we had to contend with one yurt being divided into two sections, and the other divided into four - up on top, we could just start at an edge, and work our way across, without regard for any division other than between the two yurts.

I was wrong.

As regular readers may recall, we chose tongue and groove OSB for our flooring material.

I am guessing that the fact that it was tongue and groove was our first strike against us - it meant that all the pieces had to be oriented in the same direction. We couldn't spin a piece and then reset it, as it would prevent a tongue or groove from aligning with its complimentary partner. Strike two was that we were also trying to keep the same side up, as the OSB clearly had two different sides. This meant that we couldn't just mirror image a scrap piece if required. Finally, strike three was likely just that we were really working hard to avoid having multiple small pieces in a patchwork anywhere on the surface, something that wasn't as critical on the bottom of the joists where it wouldn't see the light of day.

So we worked our way carefully across the large floor surface first, things going rather well. The OSB, like most plywood type products, is very susceptible to chipping when drilled through, especially around the edges, so I tried to cut down on this issue by pre-drilling a very wide, shallow indentation wherever I intended to place a screw. This seemed to help quite a bit, but there were still a few spots where some shavings came up. We'll just have to paint thick there :).

One thing we made sure of, was to arrange our boards so that the locations of perceived higher traffic (the doorways) would get full sheets, rather than partial sheets. We then worked out from them.

Donna and Kenny attended a playgroup in the morning, but it was really, really nice to have them come out after lunch to help. Kenny did a huge amount of landscaping with his bulldozer - it was working so hard, it threw a track more than once and required an extra hand to get it back up and running.

Donna set about making sure that the boards were clean and ready for primer. Shortly after starting, she noticed an obvious error in the installation that neither Grandpa nor I had realized. Can anyone see what it is and describe it in the comments? I'll assume that no comments means that I'm just as smart as my average reader.

After we cut a vital sheet short AND backwards, Grandpa decided that was enough for him, and we didn't see him again until he called us in for supper with Mummu.

Meanwhile, Donna helped me to mix and match our off-cuts to maximum efficiency. In spite of this, it became clear that we needed more OSB than we had.

Anyway, at least we had come in with one bag of insulation extra that we hadn't needed. Same with Tuck Tape - the original directions called for one roll for the smaller yurt, and two for the larger. I assume that that was if Tyvek was used as a wrap for the bottom of the floor. We only used up perhaps half of one roll on both our yurts - it only took two lines to finish the smaller yurt, and maybe twice as many to finish the larger yurt, where we did have to seam more of the vapour barrier than I expected, but we did have enough.

After supper, Donna and Mummu were awesome enough to take over dishwashing duties, so I loaded up the truck and headed BACK to the big city. I guess those drives give me time to think or listen to my podcasts, otherwise, they aren't so thrilling.

My exchange of insulation for another sheet of OSB went uneventfully, but I was surprised to see that some of the other stores in Thunder Bay had closed up at 6pm. Even some chain franchises that normally are open much later in the south. Oh well, live here and learn...

I posted our cheque to the local services board (essentially a roads tax) on the way home - it is due tomorrow, and we only finally received it yesterday after it was delivered to Kitchener. I guess I have a few more businesses and organizations to contact with our new address here.

As I finish typing this, the sun is just now rising, so I best be off to see what progress we can make today.


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Building a Yurt Floor, Part Five

The weather reports yesterday and today were not very favourable towards getting much work done.The rain was drizzling and cold most of the day yesterday, so I took the Yanmar up to the front entrance and used it and lots of shoveling to make short work of the pile of gravel that was waiting there for me. It was nice, I called my gravel guy, and told him to deliver another load this morning.

We worked until just after lunch to get it all done, and then headed to the local garden centre so that Mummu and Donna could buy some seeds and seedlings, while Kenny and I visited the farm "zoo" and then played in the children's play area.

Today dawned with all weather reports calling for rain every hour of the day. It wasn't promising, but Grandpa noted that it wasn't raining where we were, and the sky was only partly cloudy.

We decided to go up to the yurts and brainstorm how we were going to flip the larger yurt floors completely over. It appeared that the logistics were to flip one half of the large floor, onto the other floor, and then slide it over onto the smaller yurt floor. Flip the second half of the large floor into final position, and then slide the floor from off the smaller yurt, into its own final position.

It sounds easy describing it that way. In reality, we were in the bush, trying to flip an 8 1/2' by 13 1/2" floor that was already balanced up on two 5 by 5 beams.

We opted to get one edge of one floor onto the surface of the other, then use a winch attached to a nearby tree to flip it up and raise it until it was balanced on that edge. We then moved that winch around, and used it to lower the floor down slowly.

Of course, when the floor got close to horizontal, that sideways forces overcame the friction and it suddenly slammed down. Luckily this was more dramatic than anything else. We disconnected, and slid the large floor section onto the already flipped and finished smaller floor.

Suddenly we could hear the sound of a large diesel engine revving at the entrance - our latest gravel had arrived!

The fellow managed to get back a few feet further than the previous time, and dumped his load right up against the parked tractor.

As I paid him, he was in a talkative mood, and wondered aloud if I would be interested in letting him finish building the driveway for me. We walked together along the length of driveway I would need, and he was impressed with my sawmill and the work we had already done. Aside from materials, which I would have to pay anyway, he roughly estimated $400 in labour to finish building my driveway with his own equipment, as compared to me, who would likely spend much of the rest of the summer completing the job. I also imagine that what I spend in his labour, I would save in not pushing gravel into the wrong places.

In any case, I'm pretty sure I'm going to green light his suggestion, it makes sense on basically every level.

Anyway, after he left, it was back to working on the floor...

The second floor section proved to be more challenging. With the first one, we had raised it and placed its edge onto this second floor section - that provided lots of support and friction. Now we could only try to provide lots of scrap lumber across the beams to support the edge of the floor as it rose up. Unfortunately, before it could rise any appreciable degree, the sideways forces began to tip over our support beams!

We ended up raising this section entirely by hand, with Donna rushing in at intervals to brace it so we could adjust our grip. I then tied the beams together with more lumber and my ratchet straps. We began to winch down the floor section, and, as with the first one, when it got close to the end, it suddenly slammed down. Great for effect, but it didn't really affect the structure of anything else.

Amazingly, the rain held off, and so we clamped and screwed it together completely. I grabbed a bit of expanding foam and used it to seal up all the seams in the plywood. We covered up, and took a lunch break.

After lunch, in spite of the ongoing weather reports calling for rain, Grandpa and I loaded up the MTD with insulation, and headed back.

It began to drizzle pretty heavily, and I was feeling pessimistic, but we assembled everything we needed, and then waited a few minutes to see if the rain let up.

It did, and we rushed to install the insulation on the smaller yurt. Cutting to get things to fit into the corners wasn't that difficult, and we managed to get it completely covered with just two of the three suggested batts.

The rain was still holding off, so we got the vapour barrier installed too! What a day! I grabbed some more of my thin-sliced pine and was able to wrap the entire edge, sealing off the vapour barrier and finishing the edge of the floor of the smaller yurt nicely. I didn't have enough expanding foam to seal up the seams on the larger yurt floor, so we called it a day, which was timely, as it began to rain shortly after we covered everything in tarps again.

I grudgingly took this chance to go to town to the Arthur Street Canadian Tire and get more foam. I also picked up eighteen feet of threaded rod to anchor the yurts down when we get to installing them. Then I headed to Safeway to get some petrol. Donna had somehow earned a nickel per litre discount, so I decided to top up the Echo, and fill up my gas can as well.

Back in time to barbeque up some sausages for supper, and then out to the sauna - what a great, productive day!


Oh, and just to reassure you, while we were affected by the flooding, you can see that we have managed to adapt...

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Building a Yurt Floor, Part Four

I wanted to post another update yesterday, but a new-found quirk of the iPad and our internet situation prevented me from really being able to do so. We currently access the internet via a 3G connection that provides the ability to surf and check email, via proxy, and it seems that the proxy does limit other traffic that we try to initiate. There are three things that it blocks that we do notice:

  • push alerts, which allow applications to notify us if things change that are related to their functions.
  • instant messaging, which would allow us to use any sort of chat programme or VoIP.
  • application downloads, including updates to existing applications.
So, what ended up happening is early last evening, I noticed that there was an update available for my Blogsy application - which is what I use to create and maintain this blog. I initiated the update, which then failed because we are on the aforementioned 3G. This meant the Blogsy software was stuck on "trying to update" - and after some research, I discovered that you cannot abort the update! So I essentially cannot use any programmes which have begun updating, until they complete the update.

Today was constant rain though, so we headed to town as a family, where we stopped at McDonald's, and I used their free wifi hotspot to update all my applications and solve the problem. Lesson learned - I won't initiate any updates until I am logged into a wifi signal and know that they can complete.

We picked up some expanding foam, paint, children's rubber boots (we can't find Kenny's, and generally, the only way to find something here is to buy a replacement for it - then it turns up in less than a day.).

So, getting back to building the floor...

Grandpa hooked up my new trailer to his MTD, and we used it to transport all the 1/4" plywood to the work site in just two trips. The trailer worked great!

After a huge amount of head scratching, we worked out what we felt was the optimal use of our resources. It is definitely a puzzler, trying to fit 4x8 sheets of plywood to a 13' and 17' diameter pair of circles. We did very well though, and ended up using 12 of the 13 sheets I purchased. I anticipate that for the upper flooring we should be able to be even more economical as we don't have to worry about the seams that exist right now to facilitate turning the floor over.

We spend the remainder of the day cutting the plywood to size, mostly using a combination of my cordless reciprocating and circular saws. After a shameful performance on the original joists, they shone when confronted with only 1/4" thick lumber :).

Kenny and Donna came out to help and document, and it was especially nice when Mummu showed up to have everyone there.

With some grunting and groaning, Grandpa and I were able to flip over the 13' yurt floor, and then with the help of some bar clamps, we screwed it together and positioned it on the beams in its final resting place.

That's when I realized that I still needed to add to the edge of both it and the 17' yurt, so I slid it about a foot away from the larger yurt floor, until they were both finished and could be pushed together in anticipation of the yurts and coupler.

The real challenge is going to be finding a way to flip over the larger sections of the 17' yurt floor. It's very heavy, and not a little unwieldy. I'm very open to suggestions! At this point, I keep picturing comealongs, winches, tractors, beams and all sorts of block and tackle type options. I know I have in my belongings a book describing possible methods employed by the builders of stonehenge - maybe I should try to find it and see if it has any notions to offer me?

We knew that the forecast was calling for rain, so we covered up both yurts with the new tarps that I had purchased. We piled stones around the edges, and followed that up with a rope tied around the perimeter. Grandpa also had the inspired idea to place some beams in the centre of each floor space, to make a peak which would hopefully better shed water.

Now it's just a game of watching the weather reports, and hoping to find a few solid hours to take our next action.


Friday, May 25, 2012

Building a Yurt Floor, Part Three

Yesterday was a big day for trips to town. I woke up early, and was able to get on the road before Donna and Kenny were even awake yet.

I managed to get back to Home Depot and loaded up with the remainder of the insulation, as well as the plywood to go on the bottom of the yurt floors to prevent insects and rodents from entering. It was nice that the rain held off.

I checked out the options for flooring on top of the joists, and returned to Mummu and Grandpa's with the knowledge that OSB was $13 a sheet, tongue and groove plywood was $23 a sheet, and good one side plywood was $45 a sheet.

Donna quickly researched OSB, as the price definitely put it into the front running. After determining that it would suit, I headed back to town to lighten my wallet even further.

I took the chance to stop in at some of the woodstove shops in town as well, and was pretty chagrined to learn the prices and involvement in setting up a woodstove now. It was much more involved than I expected, and the prices that I was quoted were truly sobering.

I next stopped at ToolTown, which is Thunder Bay's answer to KW Surplus.

It was timely, they had on sale tarps, of which I needed three. One to cover the tent (it had a number of small holes in the roof), and two to cover the yurt floors as we constructed them. It's been a very wet week, and there doesn't seem to be much relief in sight.

They also had on sale their utility trailers. Again, timely, as I had already decided to purchase one to use on the homestead behind the tractor. I purchased the larger one, after having observed just how much we had stressed Grandpa's smaller trailer.

Next I hit up Home Depot to get the OSB. 13 sheets of very heavy 4 by 8 sheets. It took me quite some time to get served there, and then to find someone to help me load it. Luckily I had bought the tarps first, as the rain began to pour down just as I began loading the wood. I tried to cover it in tarps as best I could, and then strapped it down as best I could, and took off for home at a conservative pace.

I knew that we were having roast beef for supper, and was in the mood to have horseradish on it, so I stopped at Arby's on the way home to score some of their packets. I didn't feel comfortable going through the drive through, and wanted to take the opportunity of stopping to check the load anyway. I was very weirded out as I walked to the front entrance - the restaurant was nearly full, and everyone, and I mean everyone, turned and watched as I walked to the entrance, entered, and walked to the cashier to order. I suppose they had a very exclusive, very regular clientele that didn't see strangers very often. Then again, perhaps I still feel like a bit of a stranger in a new city.

The rain let up a bit when I got back, and Grandpa was kind enough to help me unload the OSB. Once that was done, we began to work together to assemble the trailer.

The rain returned, and I installed a reinforcing bar upside down. Upon realizing my mistake, Grandpa took that chance to head to the house. I stayed out, and Donna was kind enough to bring me a warm tea and stay with me to keep me company while I tried to assemble as much as possible in what had by now become a downpour.

I managed to get much of the trailer assembled, except for the rear panel, before the supper bell rang. That was enough for me for one day.

This morning I again tried to be up in good time, and headed back down to finish the trailer. I moved one group of bolts for the third time, cursing the assembly instructions which were actually just a parts list. In the meantime, Grandpa was off checking to see the condition of his driveway, and picking out a tree to fell to use as edging on the yurt floor.

The official Yurta instructions called for plywood to be ripped and curved around the outside edge of the yurt floor. I had noticed that my green lumber, when sliced thin, was terrifically flexible yet strong. I decided to improvise and use my own lumber, rather than purchase more plywood, for this purpose.

Grandpa felled another Jackpine quite close to the sawmill, and he used the tractor to get it up onto the skidway.

The butt of the log supplied enough slabs to completely enclose the circumference of the larger yurt - so I quit sawing right then.

I had marked out the large yurt to cut off the excess on the ends, and was disturbed to find that some of my stringers were too close to the end, and had to be removed and replaced further from the circumference. I'd suggest that one could use a tape measure and pencil and mark out the circumference before putting in the stringers, to ensure that they were far enough back that they wouldn't get cut.

After moving the stringers, first tried my circular saw to cut the ends. I know that a hard core carpenter could likely have done the job with a handsaw, but my skills just aren't up to that yet. I couldn't get the circular saw to do more than score the ends of the joists anyway, and so I resorted to an elegant solution - I fired up my brand new Stihl MS170, and put the job behind me in just a few moments. I'm definitely going to keep in mind the chainsaw in applications like this in the future - it worked a right charm!

Once the ends were bevelled correctly, Kenny and I grabbed my cordless drill and driver, as well as my cordless circular saw, and made quick work of cladding the ends with a 3/8" thick band of pine. This provided really surprising structural support - serving to level off the ends of joists to a remarkable degree. Once finished, it looked totally awesome!

I disconnected the four sections, and then realized that my count of cladding for the ends was woefully short - I forgot that I had to put on two layers of the cladding! I returned to the sawmill, and was able to slice up about 16 more slabs within an hour.

It's really remarkable how you can just picture what you need, and, with the sawmill, have it ready to go in such a short time.

Kenny and Donna and I managed to slide the large yurt floor about a foot off of its beams, making room to flip over half of the smaller yurt floor, and I arranged it on its own beams. I screwed the two halves together temporarily, and again, with Kenny's help, managed to mark out most of the circumference of the circle. First thing tomorrow morning, I get to fire up the Stihl again, and trim things.

Grandpa is ready to hook up my new trailer and use it to begin transporting the plywood to the yurt site.

We'll have to see what exactly the weather permits us to accomplish.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Building a Yurt Floor, Part Two

Today was a day for early starts in the Garstin clan. I first woke up around 3:15, and then slept fitfully for an hour or two after that. Kenny woke and called out to Mama around 6:00, so after she went to tend to him, I got up myself. After a big bowl of shreddies, I was ready to go, and, for the first time, I beat Grandpa to the work site! I was a man on a mission - to try to cut and assemble the large yurt floor joists in enough time to be able to head to town to pick up some of the other materials needed, and still be home in time for supper. I was very diligent on making certain that my off-cuts were carefully measured and judged for suitability in other areas, and I wound up with four spare boards!

I was also very proud of how I was able to construct the smaller floor sections without a flat area to construct them on. I simply placed two small boards on edge on top of a beam, then lay the long board across them like a small table, and nailed directly from above into the smaller boards. Then I worked back and forth, putting in larger and larger boards until I had completed the smaller floor section. I suppose my description does nothing to explain what I actually did, but trust me, I was proud of myself for making it so easy. Just the stringers were a difficulty - it's simply tiring to hammer sideways and bent over for half the time.

The Yurta directions so far have been really excellent. My only suggestion is that on the diagrams I was given, there were places where some of the measurements were ambiguous as to whether they were centre measurements, or measurements of the space between the joists. Added to the confusion was again the fact that my self-milled beams were a full 2" thick, rather than the more common 1 1/2".

As I plugged away at cutting and nailing the sections, Grandpa worked on the bush trail, transforming it dramatically from a two-rut trail, to a real driveway! He made trip after trip to our private gravel pit, filling his small wagon with gravel and loam, only to spread it a few feet further down the drive. He worked until lunch, when I sent him on ahead, as I only had to add the stringers before I was finished the joists.

He returned quickly, but his MTD ran into trouble on a rougher patch of the trail that hadn't been cleaned up yet. Some roots got caught up in the belt under his tractor. He began to clean them out as I headed into town in the truck.

I purchased a new Stihl MS170 chainsaw at my first stop, then headed to Home Depot where I picked up the insulation, vapour barrier, tape, and screws for the floors.

I popped over to Canadian Tire to grab a new gas can for the new chainsaw (gas/oil mix of course). And then finished up at Safeway. Safeway is currently my number one wifi spot for downloading updates and apps for the iPad. Sadly and strangely, I can't download those two things via my 3G connection. Perhaps someone can explain why (not)?

I was home in good time for a delicious chicken, potatoes and salad supper prepared by Mummu and Donna. It really hit the spot after a long trip to town.

Oh yeah, while I was pumping petrol into the gas can, I saw a large and dramatic lightning strike on the far side of town. On the drive home, the radio reported this story about the strike hitting an old, tall landmark of the city.

While I was gone, Donna and Kenny checked out the latest load of gravel at the front of the property - it looks pretty formidable to get my tractor into that! Wish me luck!


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Building a Yurt Floor, Part One

Today I was up early for some reason. I guess I had lots on my mind (and perhaps a little in my bladder too, truth be told).I was up before anyone else in the house, so I slipped into Donna's robe, put on my sneakers, and moseyed down to the paper box to see if the newspaper had arrived.It hadn't, so I headed back to the house, checked my email, and then began assembling the yurt floor directions. It still jived with the joists I had already cut, so that was exciting. Soon Grandpa and Mummu came into the kitchen and then things really started moving. Toast and coffee were soon prepared (I opted for a cuppa myself - I'm a tea drinker, no coffee for me thanks) and Grandpa agreed that today was the day to try to get a good start on the floors of the yurts.

He brought over the MTD, and while on his trek, I put the generator into our wagon, and transported it to the yurt site from our tent site. I then strung up our largest tarp between four nearby trees to help create a sheltered area where the power tools could be ran and stored.Grandpa pointed out that a circular floor was beyond his ken, and opted instead to work on smoothing out the trail and creating a driveway for Donna that led right up to the yurts.After having washed his hands of responsibilities for errors and omissions with the floor, I knew the pressure was on. I fired up the genny and got down to business. It wasn't too bad, as the instructions from Yurta were really well done and accurate. There was a bit of head scratching to do in a few spots where things weren't totally clear, and of course, the boards I had cut were 2 x 5 1/2, not the typical 1 1/2 x 5 1/2. I think I did a pretty bang up job though.

Shortly into the morning, my gravel guy showed up, and dumped a new load for us to pick away at. It was about 6 feet further along than the last time - hopefully not an ongoing trend!By lunch I had managed to cut all the joists and stringers for the small yurt, and had nailed a quarter of it together.

After lunch, Donna and Kenny came out to help, and I have to say, Kenny did awesome! He was hammering away at every nail in sight - and he didn't bend over ANY! That's more than his father can generally say!In any case, I think they turned out looking okay. I had to slightly modify the final stringers, again likely because joists were all a half inch wider than called for in the specs.Then came the real crunch time - I wanted to make room to build the larger floor tomorrow, but the half floor of the smaller yurt was really heavy! I ended up managing to get it onto its long edge, and then "walking" it over to the other half, and slowly laying it down right on top.

Everything went very well. We spent our lunch hour discussing how to properly clad the top and bottom of the floor and how and when and where to obtain the materials.The weather today was really cold and wet, but clearly we didn't let that slow us down overly. Grandpa accomplished some really impressive results on the bush trail and driveway up to the yurts.The remainder of the week also looks pretty wet and dreary.

Tomorrow I will try to get a good showing done on the larger floor - at least I have the general concept now. Maybe tomorrow night I will go to town to pick up materials, and then return on Thursday for more materials. I think it will take a few trips just to get the items needed to complete the yurts, let alone my other shopping list!Well, it's sauna night tonight. I'm off to pack my robe and razor.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Pike and Beams

Grandpa's fishing trip was successful! He returned after just a couple of hours, sporting two great sized pike. Kenny was intrigued with them. I suspect that if they were stacked end for end, they would have been longer than Kenny is tall, but he wasn't game to find out. He felt brave enough to try touching them though.I suppose touching the pike in the morning is what loosened him up enough to try holding a toad later in the day.

It was a dreary, cold, rainy day - perfect for fishing I suppose, but hard for getting work done with enthusiasm. It's funny how the day before, it was so hot and humid that I was dreaming of ice cold lemonade, and then the very next day, It was so cold and wet that I was dreaming of steaming hot tea. I think a thermos should be on my shopping list, it would cover both eventualities.

Late in the afternoon, Grandpa and I headed back into the bush and cut down a really large jack pine near the abandoned "stable" on our property. (There actually are the remains of an old homestead on our property - a really, really dilapidated cabin, and a slightly less decrepit stable - you can still see the beams interlocked skillfully in some of the corners.) It was leaning the wrong way, so Grandpa had me winching it towards where we wanted it to fall, while he was cutting. I was re-assured that as I first tightened the winch, he was kind enough to point out a spot where the brush was less thick, saying - "there's your escape route." There is something counterintuitive about trying to force a tree to fall directly at you.

In the end, it fell at least 30 degrees away from where I was standing. This wasn't too bad. I was able to trot out my customized winch cable, and use the tractor to drag the tree through my gravel pit and to my main bush trail. Grandpa decided enough was enough (it was a really biting drizzle at this point), so we abandoned the log and returned the tractor to the tent for the night.

The pike must have made a big impression on Kenny, he constructed a lovely centrepiece for the table, using his Lego - it was a tribute to Grandpa in his canoe with his fishing pole. Donna was kind enough to provide a backdrop of one of the fillets.

This morning we retrieved the previously abandoned log, brought it to the skidway, and I rendered it into the last of the floor joists for the yurts. We made really good progress today I think. We finished the cutting of the floor joists, then I continued to saw up the pile of slabs into 1" boards. That still was completed by lunch, so in the afternoon, Grandpa and I spent our time levelling ALL the beams at the yurt site. We now have the beams in place, and have begun transporting the joists to the actual construction area.

After Grandpa called it a day, I stayed on to oil and fuel my generator, and started it up for the first time. I plugged in my table saw and mitre saw, and was able to use them both to clean up my 1" boards. That's another item that is nice to have working. Now we have hydro if we need it.

Tonight Donna and I moved a few more items to the tent using our own little wagon. We spilled it twice, but nothing serious. Then we discussed a few more possibilities regarding where to locate outbuildings. It's always nice to connect like that - it prevents us from getting too disparate of ideas that would need to be reconciled later.

It's also been really gratifying to hear back so much feedback from my dojo. My sensei posted a link to my posting about the tent, and I heard from a number of my friends back at Golden Triangle Aikido. I really miss them, and am happy to count them as my friends.

This week is suppose to be pretty rainy, that's not so nice to hear - but we take it as it comes. If it rains, I have a number of items to pick up in town, so I'll just make use of that time. As well, I ordered gravel, and that's likely something I can push around, rain or shine.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Tent, Part Two

Success! We have the tent up, and have already put her to use! What a useful, thoughtful, and wonderful gift from my dojo!

After a good night's sleep, we arrive back on site, with the last joists already having been cut the day before. That was a challenge - we still haven't unpacked the generator, so we were using bow saws normally reserved for cutting up logs and trimming trees - accurate only in the hands of someone as skilled as Grandpa. My cutting using a bow saw was really, really bad. So bad that when Grandpa saw one of my cuts, he even had to call over Mummu to show her just how crooked it was :). At least I set the bar low, and can only achieve much better success in the future!

Grandpa used the MTD to haul over a stack of pallets that we had obtained for free from the Habitat for Humanity ReStore here in Thunder Bay. With Kenny's help, we assembled them around the perimeter, and, yesterday Donna began prioritizing which bins needed to be assessed and moved to the tent. It's large enough for our bins, and, right now, I am able to park the tractor completely inside.

It was fortunate that yesterday I did so at the end of the day, and found myself with an extra few minutes, so I cleaned up everything around the sawmill and stored it all inside the tent. Last night, we were awakened by a thunderstorm and loads of rain! I'm confident that the tent held up a champ, but I haven't yet checked, so we'll see.

Today Grandpa is planning on taking time to go catch a pike for supper. I haven't found (or updated) my Outdoors Card yet, so I'll likely stay back and work around the yurt site. I can remove the stacked rocks, and dig more holes for the other beam supports.

The driveway is pretty leveled out, so I also can call for another load of gravel. We are all really hopeful that the dump truck will be able to travel further down our driveway before emptying his load. It will be truly nice to be past the brush and courderoy road altogether, and onto rock/peat/loam/soil, where the gravel will be able to go much, much further! Of course, I could likely be using my own gravel pile at that point, to be working my way along from the property side of things. Already Grandpa and I have been using my gravel pile to try to level out the sawmill site a bit more. It's looking better, safer and more stable all the time. I've even begun thinking about switching around the sawmill a bit when I have more time.

It will also be nice to be able to cut my logs in winter and allow them some drying time before I need to mill them. Even the smallest logs are very heavy when still full of sap - I was getting winded just stacking 7' 2x6's yesterday!

Sadly though, my Poulan chainsaw died out yesterday. It was already very old, and I had recently had its' fuel system replaced, so I'm a bit at a loss as to what I should do. Grandpa thinks that we can use his new, small saw to finish cutting down enough trees to make the floor for the yurts, after which we aren't as compelled to cut down trees with a power saw. I'm eyeing an entry-level Stihl saw that I know is on sale right now, but I'll perhaps also call the Husky dealer in town and see what they have that is comparable. I'm really mindful of making large ticket purchases, but I suppose I also have to remind myself that "I'm too poor to be cheap" and should be willing to pay for quality items that I will use for a long time.

That's about all to report for now. The spring peepers sang me to sleep last night, and woke me up again this morning. Much like my schedule having a certain order to things, I suppose it is their time to peep. Everything here has its time. They are still going like gangbusters up here. It's nice to know that the population here is so healthy. St. Andrew must be so happy.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Tent, Part One

Today, Grandpa and I were determined to get a good start on the tent. We both entertained dreams of having it completed and up by tonight.

I carefully read over the instructions, ensuring that while we were building our framework to our own specs, it would still fit the original directions. We used our level and protractor to ensure everything was per the original, and had gotten up two out of the three main rafters by lunch.

While we were plugging away at this, Donna took the time to unwrap and lay out all the canvas. This proved invaluable, and, in hindsight, I would tell everyone to do the same. As we broke for lunch, I found it hard to reconcile the angles I saw on the canvas on the ground with the structure we had constructed. I suggested that the first thing we do when we return should be to compare the canvas to the structure before we went any further.

How disappointing - we were off by two feet in width, and at least one foot in height. We had to remove the rafters we had constructed, reconfigure them, and then move the walls two feet in from where they were located. Grandpa and I were a bit perturbed. I suppose though, it was better to find out when we did, rather than when we had put up much more structure. We plugged away until we ran out of our very small supply of nails. We headed in for supper. We have the main structure up, and it fits the canvas, now we just need to reinforce it with an extra pair of rafters and some slabs to help with snow load. Tomorrow looks to be rainy in the morning, so Grandpa and I plan on heading to town to buy more nails, pick up some pallets to lay down in the tent (to get our bins up off the ground), visit the reserve to get petrol, and a few other errands. Perhaps if the afternoon clears up, we will be able to make some more progress?


Tonight, after supper and dishes, Donna and I headed down to the drive to see if we could also get a bit done there. The latest load of gravel wasn't really dumped any further along than the first load, as the truck's rear wheels had begun to sink on my new gravel. Using shovels and sisu, we managed to dig a trail around the pile wide enough for the tractor to power through, and then it was just a matter of picking up loads of gravel and depositing them around the drive we had already done. We essentially were trying to double the thickness of gravel on the drive, if possible. We managed to pick away at around half the pile before it got to be bedtime for Kenny (who was back at Mummu's house), so we knocked off for the day. I'm hopeful that we can get something done tomorrow.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Laying out Beams

Well, yesterday we decided to try to actually lay out the beams for under the yurts. Not all of them, but to at least get a start at knowing where they were going to be positioned.

First we marked out very generally the edges and centres of the two yurts, using my tomato stakes.

Then, based on those positions, we set out the beams that we had already cut.

Originally we had planned on building a large deck, and then resting the two yurt floors on the deck. We planned on it being thirty-two feet long, so we cut up sixteen foot beams that we were going to butt together to get thirty-two feet. After rethinking the deck, we've decided to put the yurts directly on the beams, and then just construct a deck in front of the door to the size that we want. That will save lots on lumber and work. With the large yurt being seventeen feet at its' widest point, we will be putting the beams on either side of centre, rather than having a beam under the centre of the yurt. I don't see how this could be an issue.

I cut down two of our other sixteen foot beams into eight foot beams, and we'll locate them as chords on the perimeter of the yurts. They should also provide much more than enough support.

We dug down to rock under the ends of the beams, and stacked up the rock that we had gathered. Some of them were rather precarious, but we did manage to level them, after lots and lots of work.

This morning Grandpa came up with the much better idea of positioning only one loose rock against the bottom of our hole, and then placing a log on top of that. We can much more easily cut the log to size to help us to level off the beams above.

In the meantime, we've adjusted our priority list to get the tent up. So today we cut up a bunch of two by fours for the walls. We're going to go off-manual for the tent assembly. Grandpa is more familiar with traditional construction techniques, so we'll just construct a normal wall and ceiling assembly, and drape the canvas over that. I can't see any issue with that.

We didn't have any nails though, so unfortunately, in spite of great weather, I had to drive to town in the afternoon to pick up nails. (I also picked up 8" boots - my steel toed shoes were okay, but after getting my ankles bashed a few times, and realizing how vulnerable they were to the chainsaw, I relented on this purchase). Actually, I also bought a few other odds and ends, grabbed yet MORE cash (Grandpa agreed that cash is a very useful thing to have around).

I also received another load of gravel today - it covered the whole width of our road, so I had to pick away at it with the tractor from the opposite side. Hopefully I can find a way to dig through the centre so that I can turn around and begin to push it onto the bough road. That should be much faster and easier. I accidentally short changed the gravel man, but I phoned as soon as I realized it, and he was very understanding and said I could make up for it on the next load.

Tonight, Donna, Kenny and I returned to the yurt area to clean up some swamp weed, and then discuss some of the layouts. We also discussed briefly some of our thoughts on an eventual cabin. I'm beginning to think that four by four beams may be the best option. Of course, it's still early, and we haven't learned everything about anything.

That was about it for today. I'll likely cut up a few more two by fours tomorrow to help finish up the tent. It sure will be nice to have that finished!

Monday, May 14, 2012


So now we flipped back and forth between our two main projects - building the driveway in, and getting a base made for the yurts.

First off, we had to move the beams from the sawmill site to the yurt site. Grandpa has really been stress-testing his MTD. We loaded up these beams, three at a time, which required me to both hold them down (so they didn't lift the rear tires of the MTD), but also to push them forward, as the terrain didn't offer enough traction.

Grandpa had noted that some construction vehicles had been dumping some dynamited rock on a nearby back road, so we toured down there after a dump run, and loaded up his truck with any good sized rubble that was flat on top and bottom.

On returning, the MTD was pressed back into service to haul this rubble (I mean, piers) to our building site. We're trying to save on funds, so this will help us to avoid having to purchase some cinder blocks, although I'm sure we still will need a few.

Grandpa had been planning on getting down to his camp to rake the lawn there for some time now, and this morning was his morning. He was kind enough to drive the tractor from the mill site, across his corduroy road, across his brush pile road, and right up to our gravel pile.

After he left, I had a bowl of Shreddies, and then jumped back in the saddle of the Yanmar myself. It went much better than I expected. I managed to chip away at probably 80% of the pile, throwing it down on the brush pile, flattening it, and then heading back to try to scoop up more. It was a really, really good education. I learned to feel more comfortable on the Yanmar, and even a few times I lifted one of the rear tires while trying to dig in and lift too much gravel. I was able to calmly lower the bucket and back out, without feeling like I had lost control of the situation.

Donna and Kenny came out, and while Kenny was a bit off-put that he couldn't play too close to the tractor, we were able to (with effort), keep him engaged and out there with us. I made a small pile for him to use his bulldozer to smooth out. It was good that they were wearing their bug shirts - the blackflies have arrived! They were swarming like crazy, but I was able to work through it.

Grandpa arrived close to lunch, and I turned over my seat to him, and grabbed a shovel instead. Grandpa added more gravel from the remainder of the pile to the driveway, as he was certain that although I had coverage, it would settle quickly over time.

We did a late lunch, where we re-evaluated the yurt floor planning, and came up with a different idea, that will save us on having to cut quite a bit of lumber, while allowing us to use what we've already prepared. It did mean that we needed a few fourteen footers. So we found a likely candidate, and I felled it. I think I did better than the last one, where I dropped the tree directly onto my chainsaw case. This time I was within about 15 to 20 degrees of where Grandpa had asked it to drop. It was fine, we cut it up and dragged it to the sawmill.

Grandpa wasn't sure why, but that log was heavy, like, really, really heavy! He totally lifted both rear wheels trying to lift the log, and even he had to relent that it wasn't realistic to try to pick that up, and then maneuver a narrow U turn on uneven ground, before lifting it onto the skidway. We ended up just pushing it to the skidway, and then just lifting it straight up and on.

We really need to level out the area around the sawmill in order to make future work easier.







Four logs later, Grandpa declared it a day. I took this opportunity to check on Donna and Kenny before supper.

As for the floor joists, I didn't cut them up today, so, tomorrow, weather permitting, I'll likely saw them up into some 2 by 6s.

In case you're curious, this is how the other end of the corduroy road is looking. It will be interesting to see how many loads of gravel it will take before we get to it.