Thursday, March 31, 2011

Yomeless in Seattle

The tag line states it clearly. We are documenting the misadventures of our blind leap into sustainable living.

Yes, it's official. Despite our persistence and research, and even with one of the leading authorities on yurts going toe-to-toe with our own county code official for us, we have been told that we can't live in our yome. Not even on weekends. Under threat of a $545 a day fine.

I want to give a special thanks to Becky Kemery of for going way out of her way to educate our local officials in all things yurt. Also, thanks to all of you who expressed your support and/or outrage. I also want to let you know that there are people currently questioning the legal barriers making sustainable living difficult, if not impossible. Here's another recent example of a good-intentioned, ecologically-minded person being harassed for doing a good thing! One website with a whole ton of information is Legalize Sustainability, from Oasis Design. There's plenty to be outraged about....

We're not going to let this get us down, though! Plans B, C and D are currently on the table. I won't go into detail about those until we get some questions answered this weekend, but they're each on par with our expected level of absurdity. You won't be disappointed.

The most immediate repercussion of this ruling, however, is the fact that we need to change the name of this blog! While catchy, Yome Sweet Yome will just remind us (twice!) of our first major bureaucratic defeat, and that just won't do. The obvious choice is to go with "Mellish Fields West Blog", but it lacks some pizzazz. We now call upon you, our treasured followers, to assist us in our rebranding. Announcing:


Seriously. You're a creative group of people, right? What's that? A prize? Seriously? You expect a prize just for helping out a lovable couple who just recently became yomeless? That's cold, blog follower. Ok, fine! Prize! I'll think of one...

All suggestions will be taken very, very seriously.

Before I leave, I want to apologize for all of the Yome-based puns that you will never get to read. Blame it on the man. Here's a few I've been saving:

Yome Improvement
Yome Yome on the Range
When in Yome
Yome Depot
Jai Guru Deva Yome
There's not place like Yome
Yome is where the heart is


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Better Yome and Gardens

First of all... A HUGE thanks to Joseph Sheedy ( Galactic Rock Star Climate Scientist) , Anne Blackburn, James Green, Berry Wenzel, and Sebastian Clark for coming out and helping with the massive task that was fence building! You guys totally rock and turned a week long job out in a day and a half. Wow. We were able to get all of the posts cemented in the ground along with chicken wire running the entire perimeter, dug down 1 ft ( to protect the garden from burrowing animals). And as a bonus everyone had a great time, made new freinds, ate some burgers and drank some beers. It was pretty awesome. Thank you thank you thankyouthankyouthankyouthankyou!

Now onto the legal drama that has been unfolding before us. John has spent a good amount of this week amassing an army of support and information. A huge asset has been Becky Kemery, Author of "YURTS: Living in the Round" . She has been emailing with us and bouncing some ideas about how to enter this negotiation and ways that the Yome could be classified, being that it exists in a grey area. Her website has a section titled Yurts and Codes which has also been very helpful. So, without further adieu, here are some of the issues we are encountering:
First off, We get the vibe that Mr. Rice ( code compliance official) actually has no problem with what we're doing personally, and he sounded a little apologetic about having to enforce the codes. He also admitted that this is a grey area, and seemed a little unsure about the codes.

The Letter cites Title 14 ( please read with a deep doom filled voice)

Title 14: He considers the Yome more than a temporary structure because it takes 5 hours to erect, and we don't take it down when we're not sleeping in it. He couldn't tell us specifically where that line gets drawn, though. He said a deluxe tent would be fine because it could be easily taken down. He referenced a subtitle 105.5, but I haven't managed to find that anywhere. He also mentioned title 17, but that's pretty open ended. We were always under the understanding that the Yome did not need all these fancy titles because it is a small tent. Evidently it is not a tent, but it is interesting to note that they would allow us to freeze our butts off in a tent year-round, but take a step up and you get hit with Codes.

The Yome SHOULD be considered a Membrane Covered Frame Structure , not a residential dwelling adhering to stick frame requirements. To his knowledge (he seemed uncertain) this applied to agricultural buildings or storage buildings and not livable space. This is our main argument. We want them to classify this as a temporary structure, but allowing the insulation factor to be variable due to the fact that it is a "membrane covered frame structure"

Temperate Space: This is a term he used a few times to describe a livable space that can maintain a constant temperature to inhibit mold and mildew growth. A Yome obviously can't maintain a temperature unless the wood stove is constantly going. This is where we again stress the TEMPORARY-NESS of the Yome. We will be on the land to maintain a temperature with the wood-stove, while we are building a house, and oh, by the way, have you seen these ready-for-permit plans?

As far as other red flag issues that have come up as concerns, we've done a our due diligence making sure that our systems are up to code. We hope they take these things into consideraton.

1) We have an SunMar Excel composting toilet in it's own privy, which is on the state approved list.

2) There is no kitchen aside from the wood stove and an outdoor grill. No bathing or shower facilities either, since we haven't been living there.

3) Our drinking water comes from a spigot in our garden, there's no plumbing in the yome.

4) It's heated with a new, up-to-code Vermont Castings Aspen wood stove. It's on a hearth pad and we've mounted a cement board-and-tile wall behind it. It's more than two feet from the canvas wall. Insulated piping exits the yome through it's fiberglass flashing and rises nine feet, high enough and far enough from the top of the roof to be up to code. We also have a fire extinguisher mounted inside.

So, if you are still reading all of this ( bless your heart), our next step is to meet with Mr. Rice and lay out all we have found about codes and precedent, show him our house plans, and beg him to give us a variance, also known as "see it our way". We will keep you posted.
Thanks to everyone who offered ideas and websites and to those who called to give support. We appreciate it!

P.S. To end on a high note, here's the latest picture of our chicken coop!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011



RE: Title 14 of the 2009 International Residential Building Code
Property Located at: 23949 Newellhurst Pl NE
Tax Parcel #: 012602-2-030-2003

Dear Mr. (Delp) & Ms. Penney

During our telephone conversation on March 14, 2011, I advised you that I would research the Yome that you had purchased to verify if it could be permitted according to Kitsap County Code. Unfortunately, it does not comply with the International Residential Building Code as adopted by Kitsap County.

This letter serves notice that the Yome must be removed and not used as a weekend residence. We ask that you resolve the above noted conditions by March 31, 2011, and confirm this by contacting me by this date. However, if you are unable to meet this timeline due to extenuating circumstances, or have made significant progress, but need more time, an extension may be granted.

How ever please be advised that these conditions constitute a violation of Kitsap County Code and could result in the issuance of civil infractions in the amount of $524.00 per violation/per day.

If you feel you have received this notice in error or need assistance with the permit process, please contact me on Tuesdays or Thursdays, between the hours of 8:00 am and 4:30 pm which are my office hours. I am in the field all day on Mondays and Wednesdays. The Kitsap County Code can be located on the County website at

Jason Rice
Code Compliance

Stay tuned....

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sunshine (Caber-Tossing) Fence Party!

It's back ON! Yep, we were forced to cancel due to rain, but Cliff Mass is calling for a lovely weekend! That means we are ready to have people out to the land. BBQ and gardening, fencing erection, and a caber tossing contest.


Yeah, We're dorks, but you have large poles and open land... what would you do?

Also a point of interest, the Supermoon is this Saturday night so this is another good reason to get out of town, bring your tent, and see the Supermoon from Kingston.

We are headed out Saturday morning and will be happy to bring people in the truck, we will be happy to pick people up at the Kingston ferry dock, and we would be happy to connect all of our wonderful friends who want to carpool.

We are going to be putting the fence posts up, installing our garden doors, playing with our new chainsaw ( I bought safety equipment today), and celebrating spring.

Hope to see you there!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Tools for Fools

We've really been making the most out of this wet weekend, and a lot of that progress is thanks to craigslist. For one, we've managed to give away a few of the larger bits of clutter around the Georgetown house, kicking the transition from Seattle to MFW into second gear. Also, we bought a new toy:

Meet the Stihl AV 028 Super, the newest addition to the Mellish Fields West Arsenal of Slightly Terrifying Tools. Don't be nervous, it doesn't bite... No, actually it does bite. Be very nervous. I kind of am. I'm hoping to get a cello player whom I used to perform with and is now an arborist, to come out to the land and give Christy and me some pointers on using this beast. It's going to be an extremely useful tool though, as the back 40 is festered with precariously leaning alders and some huge felled Doug Firs that I can't wait to get curing! Feel free to drop any tips on us if you have experience with these things, because all I know at this point is that it's loud, heavy and I love it.

As for the rest of our weekend, we've been having a lot of fun building doors for the entrance way to the garden and the human entrance to the chicken run. It's been nice having small projects that we can be creative with and have the gratification of finishing them the same day. That being said, they're not entirely done. I'm going to use branches to finish the bottom of the garden doors, and then build the frame and trellis out of 4X4s. The bike wheels were scavenged from our junk bike and the friendly bike shop down the street, and the pressure treated 2X4s were a score from Second Use, where I also bought all the hardware we'll need to hang everything. We had a good laugh cobbling the run door together out of various bits of junk from our garage today. Another project using all recycled materials!

Looks like next weekend might be nice enough to get this fence and run up! Just sayin....

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Rural Work Party Rain Check

Ok, I should know better than to let my springtime optimism, er, cloud my judgement. While the worst of the cold is supposedly behind us, the weather in this corner of the country is still pretty erratic and, currently, soaking wet. We're talking east-coast style rain right now, and the forecast is predicting that it will stick around through the week. Not the best time to be digging holes in the dirt and waiting for cement to cure. Thanks to those of you who were ready to get all dirty and sweaty with us, but we're going to have to wait for some sun. In the meantime, I'll be building away in the shelter of our georgetown garage!

P.S. I'm designing and building the entranceway to our garden. Got any cool ideas or pictures of gates and trellises you like? Shoot them over!

P.P.S. Joseph Sheedy will henceforth be referred to as the Galactic Rock Star Climate Scientist, or GRSCS for short. Sorry for any confusion.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Rural Work Party!

Ok, I'm just going to call it: We're having a work party next weekend, March 12th and 13th.
We haven't had any work parties for a bit because the weather has been unreliable and we didn't want anyone's first impression of MFW to be wet and cold. However, our local rock star climate scientist, (no, not Joseph Sheedy) Cliff Mass, has made the call that we are now entering northwest spring. I can't make any promises, but it's been pretty nice.

What's on the agenda?

Well, we just bought all the materials necessary to fence in the entire garden and chicken run. The process is going to involve cementing big wooden posts in the ground, trenching in some chicken wire, building a trellis and couple doors, having a good time, sweating a bit and barbecuing.

We can work out some carpooling situations and pick people up from the ferry. May even be a nice day for a bike ride? We can offer a few people sleeping accommodations in the chicken coop, the airstream, or our tent. Who's in?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Giant Metal Twinkie Boat

Ok, this is fun! We bought an airstream! No, we haven't given up on the whole building-a-house thing and we're not abandoning the Yome, this is going to serve some other purposes for us:

1. The airstream is currently gutted, just a frame and a floor. For now, we're going to use it to store all of our stuff that we're saving, but don't have room for in our temporary glorified-tent-home. This option is better than renting a storage space because our stuff will be easily accessible, and since everyone loves these shining embodiments of mobile americana, they hold their value. We spent $2000 on it, and could easily sell it for more when/if the time comes, whereas renting storage space would be money down the drain.

2. Since most of what we have to store is furniture we're not willing to part with, a kick ass coffee table, queen sized mattress, bookshelf, desk, ect., our storage unit will de facto become a cozy guest house! NOW you want to come visit, don't you?

3. Come on, it's awesome.

I've had an attraction to Airstreams ever since I saw a group of them parked in a semi-circle across from a beach in Nova Scotia. The negative space between them was criss-crossed with christmas lights and served as a communal front yard. An aluminum gypsy caravan. I have a dream of turning this thing into a separate living room / guest cottage once the house is built where you can read a book in the rain, take a nap or let someone live in it for a week or two. Kind of a deluxe version of the Person Coop.

It looks nice and cozy on the land. This model, a 1973, 24' Tradewind is really roomy and bright, with some awesome ceiling windows. Given the retro-appeal of this goofy silver submarine with wheels, if doesn't give off the redneck vibe that we would risk by putting any other trailer on the land. Our neighbors don't see it as an eyesore (I checked beforehand), they just want to come look inside it! Face it, you do too.....

The two newest members of the Aluminati