Regular readers will know that, as well as being co-creator of the écovallée family yurt camp, an extreme gardener, parent, ethical copywriter, small(and-getting-smaller-all-the-time)holder and other things, I am the keyboard player in a wedding band called “SouthWest”.

In the last band practice, we shot some film, including interviews and bits of songs, which I’ve spent some time turning into this:

When you’ve got a spare 10 minutes, have a watch and let me know what you think. Some readers are industry professionals, and they might want to contact me privately to tell me exactly where my transitions could be smoother and my edits made tighter – all of which I will note and apply to the next video.

If you haven’t done this kind of thing, I highly recommend it. It’s given me a huge respect for people who work in TV. It’s hard but creative, and you could tweak the film forever, although at some point you’ve just got to stop and call it finished. A bit like coppicing – there’s always another tree you can cut. Just one more before lunch.

This time five years ago, we needed to know how to put a stove pipe through our yurt roof. We couldn’t find anything useful online. So we just did what made sense and hoped for the best.

Since then, we’ve put three more stove pipes through yurt roof wheels – and I thought I’d learnt enough to write that missing blog post. I was originally going to call this: “The easy way to put a stove pipe through a yurt roof” or “How to put a stove pipe through a yurt roof in XX easy steps”. But as we discovered today, even when you’ve done it a few times before – differently each time – there are no easy ways to put stove pipes through yurt roofs. Let me explain.

Here’s the top part of the silicon flashing we used today, freshly cleaned after it came off the old roof wheel cover.

yurt stove pipe 5

This is the part that goes on the outside of the yurt cover. On the inside is a smaller circle of aluminium (US: aluminum) with pre-drilled holes that match the upper part. For clarity, I’m going to call this inner circle the Lower Side of Your Silicon Flashing Sandwich (LSYSFS). This professionally made flashing kit came with a stove we bought from Windy Smithy in the UK and is incredibly useful. Our first flashing kit (can’t remember where it came from) just had the top half and some self-tapping screws. We had to invent an LSYSFS using some aluminium sheeting from the local DIY place, which left us with a lot of very sharp waste.

It’s still in use and, this evening, looks like this (also pre-used).

yurt stove pipe

Right. That’s enough of an introduction. Here’s the post I wish I’d found in 2009, which comes with the accurate-but-not-very-snappy headline:

How to put a stove pipe through a yurt roof in 12 (or 13) steps, some of which are (fairly) easy

Step 1: 

yurt stove pipe 1

Put the LSYSFS (see intro above for explanation) in position and fix with exterior sealant.

Step 2 (You will want to skip this Step):

Using very sharp scissors, poke a couple of holes through the canvas in preparation for cutting out the canvas circle. Then decide it would be even easier to leave the sealant to dry and…

Step 3:

yurt stove pipe 2

Hold the LSYSFS in place with a couple of bits of scrap wood.

Step 4 (If you chose not to skip Step 2):

Fill the little holes you made with some more sealant and wait for several days for it to stop raining.

Step 5:

yurt stove pipe 3

With those small, very sharp scissors, poke holes through the pre-drilled holes of the LSYSFS from below.

Step 6 (A nice easy one):

yurt stove pipe 4

Cut the canvas out of the middle of the LSYSFS, rendering your beautiful and expensive new yurt cover pretty much useless and definitely worth less.

Step 7:

yurt stove pipe 6

Check you’ve got everything (maybe this should be at the beginning). I used a socket wrench, spanner, those sharp scissors again, clear exterior sealant, the nuts, bolts and washers that came with the flashing kit and a ladder. Ignore that screwdriver – I don’t know why it’s there. Also, the tool belt’s not much use, although I did need something to keep the nuts and bolts safe after Step 10. You won’t be needing the hammer or the spade.

Step 8 (not shown):

Undo the side of the yurt and roll the roof up so if will stay in place while you are working. We could do this fairly easily because these days we use Velcro instead of rope to keep the roof and walls together. (We use something cheaper than Velcro, but that’s so you know what I’m writing about.) You’ll have noticed by now that we are not using a star on the yurt any more. This is also one of Her Outdoors’ new design improvements.

Step 9:

yurt stove pipe 7

Construct an unsafe-looking ladder that will get you high enough to reach all the way round the stove pipe from above the yurt. Place the lower part of the stove pipe in the stove for guidance.

Step 10 (not shown):

Climb the ladder and ease the top section of the stove pipe through the hole in the roof wheel from above. You have already (i) slipped the silicon flashing over the pipe (sorry for forgetting to take a photograph – I was busy at the time) and (ii) secured the witch’s hat (choose your own expression for this if you like – pretty sure it’s not called a witch’s hat).

Step 11:

yurt stove pipe 8

Spread sealant all around the hole where it will be sandwiched by the LSYSFS. At this point, I realised I had made my Enormous Mistake of the Day. So I asked Her Outdoors to get another ladder. First, she took a photograph.

Step 12:

yurt stove pipe 9

With your partner gently but firmly holding your nuts, tighten all the bolts on the flashing kit and spread some more sealant around for good measure.

Step 13:

yurt stove pipe 10

Secure the roof to the wall again and light the fire. Wait for the rain to see if your work is weatherproof – and hope for the best.

I probably shouldn’t show you these photos. You don’t really need to look at them. But they’ll be good for me and Her Outdoors to look back on with the kind of head-shaking disbelief you are about to experience.

You see, when I say (as I do at the end of Part One of my book) that we became poor within months of moving to France, I wasn’t kidding. We continued to be poor for many years, while pouring our energy – and every available penny (or centime) – into creating a beautiful and successful yurt camp down on our land.

This means we’ve had to make do with living conditions few people in the developed world would bear.

old yurt cover

This is our old yurt cover. Made with cotton canvas in 2007, it was long past its use-by date last winter. And we’ve only been able to continue living in it by covering it with plastic sheets.

leaky yurt cover

Tied and clipped to the roof wheel.

yurt cover holes

With other bits of plastic tucked in where the rain showed us they should be.

yurt cover patches

Patches in some places.

yurt cover leaking

Silicon sealant in others.

yurt cover patch

And bits of canvas over big holes where the cotton canvas shrank unexpectedly (I’ve covered our disappointment with canvas in another post – we won’t be using it again – ever).

yurt cover ripped

Some holes we left over the summer (this was patched with kitchen foil on the inside last year).

yurt cover rotting

Others were fully revealed when we dug away the hillside behind the yurt.

trench round yurt

Which was done with pick, spade and buckets, to create more air flow.

yurt frame dusting

On the coldest day of the autumn so far, we took this cover off. Which gave us a good chance to dust it properly.

new yurt cover

And put the gorgeous new cover on.

It’s made from Sunbrella, which has only just been made available in this country, and should last for a very long time. One moment of tension came when we had to put the new stovepipe through the roof, just as school pick-up time was approaching, with a parents’ evening to follow and rain due in the morning. But this kind of thing has happened so often, it wasn’t particularly remarkable.

So there we have it – from shanty town embarrassment to fancy yurt splendour in one day. In other words: Just another Thursday in écovallée.

Welcoming guests to écovallée this year has been a bit embarrassing. Because, while we’ve spent the last many years making everything look beautiful down in the guest field, we’ve been sorely neglecting ourselves.

Now, that’s fine – and I’m sure it’s perfectly normal among glampsite owners. But unfortunately, the only way to the guest field this year has been past our unfinished Shack and the yurts we live in. What’s not fine about this – at all – is that our yurt covers have been well past their last possible use-by date. They’ve been rotting, full of holes and covered in plastic.

This is not the glamorous introduction to écovallée our guests probably expect. But, fortunately, they have all been so lovely that it hasn’t been a problem – at least, not for them.

So it is with a huge sense of relief and delight that I can show you the spectacular new yurt cover that Her Outdoors made in the last few days:

new yurt cover

It went on yesterday, and was rain tested this morning, and we’re as impressed with Sunbrella (the fabric) as everyone else.

rain drops on yurt cover

I’ll go into detail on features of the new yurt cover design in another post. It includes some radical improvements that make life dryer, snugger and – to me – particularly beautiful.

Before écovallée opened this year, Her Outdoors spent about two weeks scrubbing and re-proofing the covers for the guest yurts. Although good for general fitness, she didn’t feel like repeating the experience (like, EVER), so we’ve decided to take the yurts down and store them inside during future winters.

Which has presented us with a terrifying new problem: mice.

In the past, people have suggested shipping containers as a storage solution. Although ugly, they could be easy to mouse proof. (We looked into it and they’re far too expensive for our lack of budget.) Friend Laura suggested an old Bedford van we could just tow into the field. (Also expensive.) So I priced up cladding the inside of the tractor shed, which could be done for about €800. (Most of which we don’t have.)

In a moment of clarity, I realised the only thing that really needed protecting were the covers – so I just spent a couple of afternoons making a mouse-proof box.

Box 1

I bought some air flow vents and reinforced the puny plastic mesh with metal.

Box 2

Made the hole for the vents by chain drilling and using this handy saw.

Box 3

And screwed it all together. Total spend, around €100.

Mouse proof box

I’ve been inside it and checked for light and I’m pretty sure we’re OK. I’m going to nail some edging strips along the bottom and screw the lid closed just to be sure.

puppet 2

puppet 1

This is what Her Outdoors has been working on, for a lovely sketch she’s written about a picnic. The clay for the head’s been bought in, otherwise it’s been made from scraps – and a pair of baby shoes. Crafty, eh?

food processing

Life’s pretty good at the moment. Her Outdoors is processing the fruits (and vegetables) of her labours, stitching, writing stories, puppet making, and a whole lot more.

I’m mainly learning songs for my solo piano set list, adding some Yann Tiersen, Supertramp, Pink Floyd and whatever I feel like. (As soon as I start working on one song, I think of another one that I should have learnt years ago.) I’m also catching up on some reading and lying in a hammock. Not feeling too guilty about this, as I’ve worn out my strimmer (and a pair of work boots) which is in for nearly €300 in repairs.

Last week, the new website I wrote for the Quay Arts Centre went live. (Not all of the words are mine – and I hope you will be able to tell the difference.) I loved working on this project and welcome similar jobs now the winter’s coming. Over the next few months, I’ll be recording an album with the band, writing Part Two of my book (finally), co-writing a stage play with Her Outdoors, co-writing some songs in English, French and Spanish with a friend, completing the road through the woods, remaking the tractor shed for yurt storage, and focusing on our immediate living environment. (The lean-to needs remaking, a few tons of clay need relocating, wood needs chopping, and cetera.) All on budgets that are either tight or non-existent.

I’ll be writing the odd blog post now and again, too. (This was the now.)


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