As promised, here is a Life On The Farm / In The Yurt story, about a woodchuck who had some Regrets.
It begins as a vignette into life with my family. See, my father, with the help of my mother, is engaged in a years-long project to re-side the front of my sister’s house. It’s a historic house, built in 1825; Mom has already researched enough and is going to sit down and write a book detailing the biographies of every individual who ever lived in it. Anyway, it’s got the original siding on it, and the last coat of paint it ever had applied to it was sometime between 1930 and 1940. There’s been extensive consultation via the county historical society as to what kind of work should be done to preserve the house, etc. My sister and her husband have no say in it and have accepted this. They’re too busy with the farm anyway; they’d slap a coat of paint on it to try to keep it from falling down, maybe, but– no. Dad’s re-siding it, properly, and bringing to bear every bit of his notorious, lifelong perfectionism and attention to detail. It is going to be perfect.
Trust me, I’m getting to the part about the yurt and the woodchuck.
Anyway. They started that last Saturday. They bought the siding itself ages ago (in case you were wondering, The Most Authentic siding is thousands of dollars, of course), and in the spring, loaded it all up into the attic of the closest outbuilding to the house (the granary), and have been priming every board, front and back, for weeks and weeks and weeks. Hours of work, up in that attic, and now they’re finally starting to actually put it onto the house. And it’s amazing– they haven’t found a modern nail yet, every board on there is original, it hasn’t been touched, it was so well-built that it has endured beautifully for all these years. It’s just a beautiful house, really well-made, inspiringly well-crafted.
But. The front of the house faces south, and there are no trees, no shade. Perfect for the perennial garden my sister has put in, but. It’s brutally hot now, on sunny days, and my father is 72. He overdid it a little bit on Monday, he felt; he’s trying to be careful with himself, because he’s calculated that he has so much to do that he has to live to 101 like his grandfather, so he’s figuring he’s got to start pacing himself now. So, yesterday was his day to babysit, but he had no real plans for today, and figured he’d take it easy.
So he puttered around, ran some errands, brought over a stepladder for the project, and went and stood out in front of the house for a minute, and then came inside. “Nope,” he said, “too hot.” I had just reached the same conclusion and come inside from harvesting flowers, trying to avoid sun hives. (I didn’t quite succeed, because of the later outdoor activity that transpired below– yes, by the yurt– but they’re not too bad.)
I had mentioned at some point that I wanted to fix the door frame of my yurt (see! we’re getting there, be patient)– we’d expanded the lattice to make the wall higher, but the door frame that ties it all together was still at the original wall height of 48″. Not ideal. So I said, really I just need four 1x3s that are a little longer than the ones I have, and then we can reuse all the hardware from the existing door frame. And so he said, on this fine, brutally humid, hot July Wednesday, Let’s just go measure and see what size lumber we need, and maybe I’ll wander over to the hardware store later, that’s a good errand for a hot day. So we did. 60″, we decided, would do nicely.
So he went on about his business, and I went on about mine.
Some hours later he turned up again, to my surprise. “Well,” he said, “I got the lumber, and then I thought of a couple of projects I could do here that wouldn’t be too intensive, and I thought, well, I’ll bring the lumber over. If you’re free, we’ll fix your doorframe, if not, I have half a dozen other things I could work on.”
Well, I had just finished the little project my sister and I had needed to get done right then, and so it happened I was free, so we went out to the yurt.
Now. The doorframe is a lovely, intricate bit of woodworking. But the actual door of the yurt is a flap of canvas. The guy who made my yurt is not into sewing. He’s great at the wood parts, but the canvas parts are sort of… well, utilitarian. And the door flap is not really very… effective. I’ve supplemented it with a shower curtain and a vinyl tablecloth, and I leave it all closed up most of the time. But today, there was an actual 0% chance of precipitation, and so, very unusually, I’d left all that open, and so the only thing blocking my doorway was the gauze curtain I use as a screen door. It hangs just fine and does a great job keeping bugs out. It just is useless against rain, so.
Anyway. I pick all that apart, all the shit I have tied and clipped and clamped on there to try to make this thing watertight, and I take everything off the doorframe. The problem is that the doorframe is what literally all of the wall’s supports are tied to, and the roof is supported on the walls. It’s all an interlocking series of opposing forces– the roof’s rafters push the lattice wall outward, the ropes/cords/bands tied to the doorframe at top and middle (there are actually a minimum of four bands and each one has a different beautiful name in Mongolian and I don’t know their names, also properly it’s a ger not a yurt by the way) push inward on the lattice, all is beautifully sound and windproof, and it works really really well. But if you remove the doorframe… Well, I carefully tied the belly band to itself across the open space, and we did what we could with the other bands, and it seemed to be holding up okayish. There are three rafters that sit on the top of the doorframe as well, and removing those made the roof ring tilt a little, but it didn’t fall, so I gingerly left it, and we went to work dismantling the door frame.
It’s a great design; my yurt guy camps in his, so he’d worked out a way to make it all completely able to be disassembled, and he’d marked all the corners to make that easy to do. But I’d never done so, and so we had to really work to get it apart, especially since it was damp in a couple places so the wood was swollen and getting the carriage bolts out was just a hassle. Much hammering and thwacking and prying etc ensued, and we got it all done after much longer than we’d expected– probably an hour and a half, all told, to bang this thing into shape.
So now we have to tie all the supports back into it, and it’s tricky; it doesn’t really want to fit, and we have to do a lot of wiggling.
Well, doesn’t the damn roof ring tilt too much, and the rafters pop out, and the thing falls, right on top of all my stuff. Ugh, I don’t think anything’s broken– and the funniest thing is, there right in the middle is my nightstand, with the cup of water I keep next to the bed, poking up through the open roof ring, and the cup’s not even spilled. I had a good laugh at that, but then we had to figure out how to fix it.
We rolled the canvas partway off the roof, and Dad got in there, and I got in there, and between the two of us we wriggled the roof ring back up into position. The rafters get locked in during the assembly process by having a lace threaded through a hole in the end of each one, so it’s incredibly difficult to pop one back into the roof ring, let alone all twenty-seven or whatever I’ve got. But after much struggle, we manage to get most of the rafters back in, and the roof ring’s supported again, and the thing’s up. Phew.
I kneel on my bed to reach the last three rafters, which had fallen onto the bed.
There’s suddenly a frantic scrambling sound– hang on, let me explain the layout inside the yurt. It’s tiny, so my bed is basically half the space. I have it against the back wall, opposite the door. One long edge of the bed is up against the wall on that side, and the other long edge is along the middle of the yurt, so that the center hole is above as little of it as possible. (It leaks a lot. I hate rain on my bed.) So my dad is standing in the center of the yurt, directly beside the bed. Right in front of him is my bedside table, centered under the center roof hole.
There’s a mad scrambling noise, and a whole-ass live adult groundhog shoots out from under the bed, directly past my dad, sprinting like its ass is on fire, and goes straight out the open door. We both stare in shock after it.
I go and check under the bed– has it gnawed its way in through the wall? has it chewed up through the plywood platform floor? I should mention the yurt’s on a platform at least 12″ off the ground, here, it’s on a platform framed by 2x6s supported up on cinder blocks.
There’s no sign of anything. This little woodchuck clearly just waltzed its happy ass straight into the yurt– up a step, I might add– through a door– it must have been exploring, and then Dad and I showed up and blocked the doorway and started making a ruckus, and the thing’s been cowering under the damn bed for like an hour and a half including having the roof fall in on it and has not made a damn sound this whole time. But me kneeling up on that bed was just too much.
I gotta say, I’m really thankful that did not happen at night, because I would have pissed myself. (Actually, just now, a deer just went by, or like, fell down the hill, I really couldn’t tell, it was loud, and that’s unnerving enough.)
But I bet that thing will think twice before it goes exploring like that again.
At least it didn’t shit in here.
Next project, though: A door that latches.