Thursday, October 3, 2013

On Dismantling a Yurt....

Yurts are known as portable houses.  I wouldn't care to take down and put one up every year, but it could be done.
One of the main tasks of our work weekend at Peterson Bay was to dismantle a yurt that was on a rotten platform that needed to be rebuilt.  No one that was there had any experience with yurt building or dismantling.  All we had was a brief 8 or so steps written by someone who also had never dismantled a yurt but guessed how it might be done.  I was a bit doubtful about it all, but I wasn't the one responsible so was wiling to give it a try.
Denver heads down the trail with a bunkbed mattress

The first thing we had to do was take down all the bunkbeds inside the yurt.  That actually ended up being a time-consuming and challenging task as they hadn't been taken apart in years and they were solidly built with heavy wood so hauling them down to the storage shed was reserved for the strongest among us (the teenage boys).  Even they had to take breaks along the 50 foot trail, and that was with the beds dismantled!

I wanted nothing to do with bed dismantling so I started taking off the yurt walls.  To start with part of the doorframe had to be unscrewed as the wall was tucked into it, holding it up.  A string is laced through the holes at the top of the wall where the ceiling comes down, all the way around, so once the string was untied and unlaced and a few reinforcing zipties clipped, the wall just fell down.

Dismantling the bunkbeds took a long time!

To make it a little more manageable, Denver unlaced the wall just ahead of me as I rolled it up.  The wall can be taken apart in 6 or 8 foot widths, but I kept 2 sections together and only unzipped and unvelcroed them in two spots, leaving me 3 hunks of wall.  The rolled up walls we clunky to handle and had been there so long they had moss growing on them.  We took them down to the main building and unrolled them over the deck railing to dry out and clean off.

The walls are off

There was also insulation all around the inside of the walls, held up by zipties.  Once those zipties were snipped, the insulation fell down.  That was a simple matter to roll up as it was in manageable-sized pieces and was lightweight.

Taking off the skylight
Next the directions told us to take off the roof.  Well, the skylight had to be removed first.  We discovered that the skylight was only tied on by 2 cords.  Once those were untied, one person from the inside eased it down the outside roof of the yurt to someone standing on a ladder who grabbed it and handed it to a person standing on the ground.  The skylight was pretty light and easily managed with 2 people (a little big and awkward for one) carrying it down the trail.

The roof is off
After the skylight we had to get the roof off.  I wasn't sure how this was going to happen.  It was on there really tight, and I couldn't get it off by myself.  Part of the problem was the yurt platform didn't have enough space all the way around it so it was hard to reach the top, but once the others got the beds taken down and out of there they were able to help me and we were able to ease the lip of the roof canvas off the tight fitting and the whole thing (it is one solid piece) slid right off.  It was more difficult trying to wrap up this very large hunk of canvas amid the devil's club and brush.

The ceiling insulation slid right off and was in pieces so that was an easy enough task to roll up.

Holding the door until we got the tools to get the doorframe off the door so we could actually move it
We were instructed to take the door out next, which made me a bit nervous, but we did it and the whole thing didn't fall down so we were fine.  The door was stunningly heavy.  We had to take the door frame off of the door in order to carry them separately, and even then they were crazy heavy and challenging for our strong guys to carry.

Next we had to support the center circle with a couple boards, release the tension of the cable that goes around the top of the walls (this is what is key to holding the whole thing up), and take out the wooden ceiling dowels.  For all that wood we had around, we couldn't find any that was the right length to support the ceiling, so we put 2 guys on ladders holding the middle support up while someone released the cable tension and the dowels began dropping off.

You can see the cable still running along the top of the yurt as the dowels come down
Denver ran in as the dowels dropped, grabbed them and handed them to me, stationed just outside the door, who passed them on to someone else who stacked them outside.

Soon all that was left was the top, supported by a couple guys rather than the dowels.
After that it was a simple matter of lifting the cable off the top of the wall and wrapping it up, and then folding up the walls in a nice, neat accordion, albeit a heavy one!

Amazing how compactly the walls fold down!
All that remained now was to dismantle the rotting platform.  That proved to be too much for the tools we had (one pulaski and a bunch of hammers) as the circular platform was not rotting, and as we couldn't get it off of the rotten platform

The not-rotten circular platform on top of the rotten platform--in need of a sawz-all
This all comes across as so nice and neat now that I write about it, but it was a messy process as we tried to figure out how to do each step and not muck things up.  Considering we didn't have any experience, we got that yurt down in 2 hours, and much of that was taking apart the bunkbeds inside the yurt!  We only needed simple, basic tools, and only a few of those.  The platform is a crucial part of the yurt package so it is important it is done well and with treated wood.

I have to admit, I wouldn't want to put up a yurt without better directions or someone experienced.  The director jokingly suggested that next spring the Boy Scouts can put the yurts up.  In that case, Denver has a heads up on what to expect!!


Swapsun said...

Hello Michelle,
I have been following your blog on and off about life in Homer and love the writeups that you create. Please keep up the great work.. I had a related question.. What would you know about the condition of the Caribou Lakes Trail - is it passable in late Summer early Fall (or is it a muddy mess)? I did hear that they were planning some trail work to harden it and was curious...
Thanks again

swapsun at gmail dot com

Michelle Waclawski said...

I heard about the condition of the trail just a few days ago at a Boy Scout meeting when I suggested camping out there. They said the trail is a muddy mess right now and no way would they take the kids out there. When the ground freezes (usually any time now but it has been a warm fall....probably by November) then the mud freezes and it is walkable. Of course when the snow flies snowmachining is the way to go. They do have more boardwalks built (an ongoing project) but that's only part of it...

Audrey Welborn said...

I have a question about your greenhouse planter boxes, they look like a great idea. I have a greenhouse here in Virginia, can grow all winter with heat. I would like to try one side of my greenhouse in the planter boxes you have. About how tall is the overall structure including the supports, and how deep in the planter box. Also what type of wood did you use, did you put rocks in the bottom before the dirt and did you drill drainage holes in the bottom of the planter box area. Sorry for so many questions. I know you have been successful, so I wanted to make sure of the details. Thanks so much for your blog, I always enjoy it,

Michelle Waclawski said...

Hi Audrey,

Sorry it took me so long to get back with you....had to find a measuring tape and slog through the muck (it has been raining like crazy this week!) to the greenhouse.

Anyways, the planters are 3 feet tall at the top--a nice height and then you can store stuff underneath or even have another planter underneath for low-growing things. The planter is 1 foot deep, which I think is a tad shallow perhaps for plants whose roots go deep. I would add another 6" in depth. It is 28" wide which is about as wide as you want it for reaching things and watering in the back.

I don't know what type of wood it is....we didn't build it. It looks like raw untreated wood... The entire thing is lined in plastic (which doesn't get exposed to direct sunlight and doesn't disintegrate the way plastic usually does) which is wrapped around the top lip and stapled to keep it secure while filling it up with dirt.
I have encountered nary a rock so I don't think there are any, but there are a few drainage holes that are connected to hoses that outlet to the outside of the greenhouse. My gut sense is that rocks in the bottom could be a good thing.
My biggest suggestion is to make sure that the soil you put in is really good quality. We inherited one with poor soil and while my ambition was to take it all out and replace it with good soil, that would be a gigantic undertaking that I haven't gotten around to so year by year I bring in a little more good soil and take out the bad stuff (truly bad--I did a soil test on it and it had virtually NO nutrients in it at all!).
Good luck! Hope the project goes well!

Audrey Welborn said...

Thank you for your response, I appreciate your time very much. I will let you know after I am able to get my husband to build it, then I will plant and maintain it, and let you know how it works here in Virginia this winter.

There are so many shows on now about life in Alaska: (1) Buying Alaska (which features many homes and cabins near Homer. (2) Life Below Zero - features four different people living off the grid. (3) A new Railroad show from Alaska. (3) Alaska State Troopers.(4) Living Alaska and (5) My favorite: Alaska - The Last Frontier, which seems to be filmed to the right of Homer, about several generations of families that live off the grid. Do you watch any of them. It seems obviously, many people are fascinated by Alaska, I guess we all need to winter there to really understand what it is like. What do you think of these shows?

Thanks again for all your help.

Audrey Welborn

Michelle Waclawski said...

Good luck with the greenhouse!

We don't own a TV--have only seen one episode of the Last Frontier and it has ruined Discovery Channel for my whole family. It is so dramatized and unrealistic (to me) to life here that I cringe. I say that knowing the folks on that show.