Phase Two and Potting Soil

by jericho | February 19, 2012 at 10:38 AM | categories: vermont, maine, garden | View Comments

On Friday, February 10th we headed to Maine with an extremely full van. I had to be careful to avoid bumps, or at least drive over them very slowly so as not to break an axle or anything. we definitely put the shocks to the test. But we made it! I thought I would include a few pictures of the inside of my cabin in Vermont (by request) and then move on to some pictures of our new home (Phase Two) in Dover-Foxcroft.

Here's the VT cabin:

















And here is the Dover-Foxcroft cabin:


















The cabin in Dover-Foxcroft was built by Nick and Lori Calderone (JP's parents) about 30 years ago. It is a lovely little two-floor building and they did much of the work with a chainsaw which makes it even more impressive!

You may notice that the pantry looks a bit like the inside of a shower stall. That's because it is the inside of a shower stall. At one point Lori did have running water hooked up, but now we haul our water from the hand pump just outside so I decided to re-purpose the shower. Every bit of space counts!

In the midst of getting settled in and learning the ropes of living without power and running water (which is wonderful, but takes a lot more time and planning than the alternative), our potting soil from Vermont Compost arrived!

I had figured that we would be using a little over one yard of potting soil for our garden this year. However, when I looked around at purchasing options it was actually going to be cheaper to buy two yards in bulk from Vermont Compost than to try buying individual bags of potting soil elsewhere. I knew that this would be quite a lot of potting soil, but assumed it would come on a big dump-type truck which would be tricky if the roads were muddy, but shouldn't have a problem getting down the driveway. Instead, it came on a tractor trailer!! Luckily, they hadn't posted the roads yet (they are posted now).




We spent some time at the end of the driveway discussing the possibilities with the truck driver because we weren't sure he could even fit in the driveway. But he was willing to give it a try and sure enough, with some seriously precise driving he made it! Now we have a giant marshmallow of potting soil waiting for ou very first seeds. It is a little hard to believe, but those seeds are actually scheduled to be planted this weekend. Giant Kohlrabi I believe. And then onions next week. So it begins...

Happy planting everyone!

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How Lovely To Be A Chicken...

by jericho | February 16, 2012 at 11:36 AM | categories: vermont, chickens | View Comments

With yurt construction wrapped up, Jean-Paul and I were ready to pack up the van (again) and head east to begin Phase Two of our big adventure. Before heading out though, we helped Dad slaughter a few chickens to pare down the flock a bit. I think that there were about 13 hens and 1 rooster, but we were only getting 4-6 eggs per day so obviously a few of the ladies weren't pulling their weight and had to go. But how to know which hens were laying and which weren't?!?!

Well, Dad found an article from Backyard Poultry (a magazine to which he subscribes) which explained how to tell if your hen is laying eggs. Here are the signs according to them: somewhat less yellow legs than hens that are not laying; a bright red, waxy comb; a moist vent with supple skin; and something about the pubic bones that I can't remember. The first hen that we pulled out seemed to exhibit all of these signs, but Dad said "well, I'd like to get rid of this one anyway." so on to the chopping block she went.

My favorite part of this slaughtering endeavor was the method for heating water that you can see in the picture above. Yes, that is a flame weeder pointed at a trash can full of water. Brilliant...and terrifying.

The only step we didn't get a picture of here is the plucking, which is too bad because that is really where the magic happens: when you turn a fully feathered chicken into something that looks like what is in your freezer. It is also very messy and the feathers stick to you fingers which makes it very difficult to take pictures.







We found quite a few partially formed eggs (and one fully formed!) during evisceration indicating that the Backyard Poultry methods worked! oh..wait...

As it turned out, the oldest hens (and thus the best candidates for slaughter) seemed to all still be laying, but perhaps now that they are out of the picture, the newer hens will step up to the plate. Only time will tell.

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A Teacher, a Carpenter, and a Programmer Walk into a Yurt

by jean-paul | February 06, 2012 at 07:48 PM | categories: yurt, building, vermont | View Comments

Wherein our adventures perform some more living-arrangement related construction. However, I know better than to bury the lead. Hence, first, the conclusion:

Over the weekend, I finished preparing the rafters and Jericho did some more sewing for the wall canvas.

The last sewing for the roof canvas can't be done until we fit that piece of canvas to our actual roof and measure the position of the final seam. This requires setting up the yurt.

So, first we set up and leveled the platform.

Then we expanded the wall pieces (khana) and lashed them together and set them on the platform.

With all four wall pieces up, we made room for a door.

And then the really wicked part, Jim held up the roof ring (toono) while we stuck rafters into it.

Those loops you saw in the first picture go over the ends of the khana and the tension cable (1/4" steel, rated to 1400 pounds) holds the wall and the rafters in place.

And so on, forty-some more times.

This ends up creating a pretty strong structure, apparently.

Unfortunately, once the rafters were all in place, a space monster warped in and ate Jericho.

After that, we could fit the canvas to the roof, which took some fiddling, and a poorly timed gust of wind didn't help. We managed it, though (you did see the first picture, right?).

There's some more sewing to do and a few remaining details to sort out for the door and the toono. Those things will probably get sorted out this week or when we set the yurt up in Maine.

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Back From California

by jean-paul | February 03, 2012 at 08:02 PM | categories: yurt, building, vermont | View Comments

While Jericho wrestled with that mountain of canvas, I had a great week in California. I finally managed to find some redwoods to look at. I also met a lot of great people, got some good work done, and (implausibly) met up with a couple friends from Boston.

San Francisco is a lot of fun, but I don't love everything about it.

It was really great to get back to Vermont and back to work on the yurt. Before I left, we had just finished preliminary assembly of the walls (khana). These four wood lattices are each made up of 34 one by twos varying in length from two feet to nine and a half feet. The lattice pieces are secured to each other with a piece of rope at most of the intersections. We first laid out the pieces to ensure they fit.

And then tied them together at each end.

This was more cold finger work, since the expanded lattice doesn't fit indoors. Fortunately, with rope at all the ends, the lattice can be collapsed.

In this more compact form, we brought them into Jim's workshop and got to work tying rope at the remaining (approximately) four hundred intersections. Joan lent us a hand here and finished off one entire khana. Jericho and I finished the remaining three pieces today.

I've certainly never before tied so many knots at once. My fingers are ready for a break. But we're not done yet. Tomorrow I need to finish the rafters and Jericho needs to finish the canvas for the walls, so that on Monday we can set it all up and fit the canvas for the roof. More about that later, though.

Good night from the NEK!

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Mountains of Canvas

by jericho | February 01, 2012 at 11:36 AM | categories: yurt, building, vermont | View Comments

It's been quite a busy week up here in the NEK. Actually I guess it has been more like a week and a half since I last posted. Oops! It's hard to keep up with it when there is so much yurt building to do!

Jean-Paul is in CA for work this week, so I decided to try tackling the canvas since that is something that is mostly a one person job. I spent a long time on the phone and the internet a few weeks back trying to figure out the best type of canvas to get and also to find a source for that canvas. The book that we have recommends 12oz waterproofed, mildew resistant, fire retardant cotton canvas, but says that 10 or 15oz would work as well. However, a friend who lived in a yurt for a while recommended straight up untreated cotton canvas for better breathability. She said that when the untreated canvas gets wet for the first time the fibers will swell and the fabric will be naturally waterproofed. After calling around and finally getting in touch with the people who treat most of the cotton canvas that is on the market I found out that the waterproofing is a mix of paraffin and a flourocarbon; the fire retardant is "phosphorous based"; and the mildew resistance is something that is not a heavy metal (I was assured that they no longer use mercury.What a relief.). Jean-Paul then did a little research and found out that flourocarbons tend to cause cancer and we decided that perhaps we would try our luck with untreated canvas after all. So...

I ordered a 100 yard roll of 10oz army duck canvas from Top Value Fabrics. We only need about 50 yards (because this fabric is 60 inches wide), but our options were 100 yards for $330 or 50 yards for $250 so it seemed to make more sense to buy the 100 and then have extra for a replacement cover, patches, etc. The roll is ridiculously heavy though. Dad and I managed to hang it up in the garage as you can see below, but I thought we might be in the running for a Darwin award: "Father and daughter squashed by giant roll of canvas".

I initially thought that I would be using my great grandmother's sewing machine for this project since it is an old Singer (so beautiful!) and has done some heavy duty work in the past. Sadly, the thread that I got (V-92 bonded polyester) is too thick for the machine and the bobbin wouldn't work right. Before panicking I decided to try out my own modern machine and it worked!! Phew.

Working with all of this canvas is quite a challenge. The name of this post doesn't even begin to describe it. Last night, I finished all of the sewing that I can do on the roof until we have the frame up and I can fit it exactly. It felt a little strange though because I finished it, but there isn't enough room in the house to spread it out and look at it so I just have to hope that I put together all of the pieces properly and my seams are facing the right direction. Considering the amount of time that I thought about each pieces before I sewed it (my brain seriously hurt), I am fairly confident that it will be fine, but I am looking forward to trying it out next week!

While I've been busy sewing, Dad has also been hard at work on the crown or Tono. This is the circle at the top of the yurt that all of the roof poles attach to and where light shines down in a lovely fashion which is part of what makes a yurt so awesome. Also, it is where a chimney will come out if we end up spending a winter in there. The pictures below show Dad drilling holes at a 32 degree angle for the roof poles using a wooden jig that he made and the top part of the crown that will attach to the piece he is drilling. Spacing the holes was a bit tricky so we ended up with one more than we should have, but no worries! We'll just add another rafter. Yurts are so forgiving.

In the name of full disclosure I feel that I have to add a note stating that I have not spent every minute of my time working on the yurt (oh, the guilt!). I also spent a day at my aunt Robin's and she taught my aunt Wendy and I the art of Japanese braiding called Kumihimo. Now I am super excited for the Japanese-Mongolian fusion that will be our yurt decorated with beautiful braids!! Not to mention all of the great gift possibilities...

And, Mom also took the time on Tuesday to teach me how to make a ruffly nuno felt scarf. Not sure I can really link this to the yurt except to say that I will be a very stylishly dressed occupant of a yurt.

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