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My quest for yurt love  RSS feed

 
r ranson
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I can't remember why I decided to build a yurt, it just sort of creeped up on me one day. It's very much a comfort thing: that no matter how shitty things get in the future, at least I'll have a roof over my head. If I find a permanent place to settle down with my sheep and chickens, then I can use the yurt frame for constructing a wattle and daub style building. Besides, if I never use it as a house, I can always use it as a studio for teaching fibre arts and other homesteading skills. Or maybe I could use it as a display for our local fibershed, where people can come and see the amazing abilities of local textile artisans who use local materials to make beautiful clothing. Fibreshed in a fibreyurt

When I look at it this way, there is no reason why I shouldn't have a yurt.

Except... maybe the fact that I can't afford one.

I definitely can't afford to buy one, but if I could it would be the 4 wall or 5 wall yurt from Groovy Yurts. This company is a huge source of inspiration for me. They import Mongolian yurts that come from Mongolia and are built by people who live in Mongolia. For the most part, the yurts are made using traditional materials and designs. These materials and designs also seem to have the low eco-impact.

So if I want a yurt, and I do, then my only option is to make one myself.

Sounds like fun.

My yurt must be amazing!
My yurt will be modeled after the Mongolian design.
My yurt will be made with natural materials, sourced as low-impact as possible.
My yurt will be built on a shoestring (very tight budget).
My yurt will have a TARDIS blue door.
My yurt will be about 16' across, which makes a floor area of roughly 200 square feet.
My yurt will be coated in felt that I make with wool from local sheep.
My yurt would love to have a cotton canvas cover on top of the felt if funding allows.


I'm posting this here because I would love some inspiration and perhaps suggestions on where to find materials for my yurt building adventure. Also, I'm looking for ways to get the cost down, or to fundraise money. To build a yurt, I calculated it would cost $2,500+ to buy the materials new, at the moment my yurt funds are $50... Canadian, which is like $20 in US funds these days.

Maybe when I get my act together I can do a crowdfunding thing? I've grown GIANT mongolian sunflowers this year, some well over 15 feet tall, and plan to save the seeds for sale. I can also make little felted yurts from some wool. Is that the sort of thing that people are interested in?

Any thoughts or words or encouragement?


Edit to add: I wasn't really sure which section to put this post under. Mods, feel free to move it to where you think best.
 
Cristo Balete
Posts: 428
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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Be sure to find out how to keep pack rats from chewing through the walls, because they can go through wood (if they can catch a hole or an edge and work on it) and plastic. Fabric is a joke to them.

Is it the multi-sided design that appeals to you? That can be done in wood, with walls sized to accept off-the-shelf windows and woodstoves that need quite a bit of clearance from a wall, and would be a much better investment that would improve the property it's on.

The frustrations I've heard about yurts and round-style houses is that nothing off the shelf fits in them, it all has to be custom, because everything that is ready made is meant to fit in a square, so it ends up being expensive. Doing your own repairs might seem like what would happen in a rural situation, but if it's an ongoing thing, and it involves the roof over your head it gets exhausting and discouraging.

If you buy something from a company like this, you are completely relying on them for spare parts, be sure they will be around for you in 15 years.
 
r ranson
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Location: Left Coast Canada
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All good points, especially about the rats. Rats will get through anything, including 1/8 inch steel if they sense food they want. I'm very glad I don't have pack rats, the ones here are bad enough. Proper food storage, in temporary housing and permanent ones, is such an important topic, well worth discussing in another thread.


Life is unpredictable, and I want to be sure I have a roof over my head no matter where I end up.

For me, what makes a yurt so desirable is that it is semi-permanent, or better put, semi-nomadic. I could put it up or take it down in half a day, or less if I had help, but would be happy staying in one place for a whole year if possible. Unlike a tent - not something I would like to live year 'round in.

The only thing that comes close to a yurt, that I can discover, is a camper or small house built on a trailer. The main reason I haven't gone this route is because I have an extreme sensitivity to petroleum and soy based products. To be in the same room with something like a laptop, I have to have excellent air flow. In a camper or tiny house, that usually means a draft, but in a traditional yurt with walls that breath, it can be achieved without feeling uncomfortable.

(do I need to say 'traditional yurt' to distinguish it from 'permanent yurt-shaped structure' everytime I say yurt?)

Also with a camper or something built on a trailer, it would mean a lot more maintenance than I can do myself. The guys that licence vehicles (and trailers), have really strict rules as to who can work on what part of what thing and bla bla bla... it was long and complex and in the end I decided against it. A trailer needs a tow vehicle, a yurt is more flexible.


Since I can foresee moving in the next few years, and that's if things go well. If things go shitstorm, then it's going to be a lot of years of nomadic existence. Having a house I can bring with me, really expands what I can do with my life. So, though a wooden dwelling is a great idea, it not practical.


Shelving and furniture is another interesting area. I've borrowed yurts that had shelving that hung from the lattice on the walls, and it worked really well. A nomadic existence, I wouldn't have much furniture. A chair, a bed/storage/sitting place, a table or Kotatsu, and a small storage cupboard, a chest or two for storage and of course my spinning wheel(s), loom(s), and other textile tools. I would want a rug or two, but these can be made to fit the space - on a loom, or felted.

Doing your own repairs might seem like what would happen in a rural situation, but if it's an ongoing thing, and it involves the roof over your head it gets exhausting and discouraging.


All housing requires maintenance. A yurt will probably need new felt every 6 to 20 years, depending on weather and use, as well as new sticks. But thankfully if I built a yurt myself I can repair it easily. I'm good with maintaining a house, but much happier about it if I don't have to get a specialist in to do the work.


If you buy something from a company like this, you are completely relying on them for spare parts, be sure they will be around for you in 15 years.


Like I said, I'm not financially able to buy a yurt, from them or anyone else. Although, groovy yurts has been around for a while and still going strong. The nice thing about groovyyurts is that they use materials that are available where I live - wood, wool, &c.



So basically, me building a yurt is going to happen. It is decided. I've started on the door because that's the materials I have on hand. What I would really like from you guys is inspiration on how to sources the rest of the materials, and maybe some hints on building techniques?

For example, what options do I have for the laths for the wall lattice other than big box store? I am thinking about 100 8foot 1x2s, should give me plenty for the walls and leftover bits for extra things. But where to source them? Local mills are 3 times the price of box store, and a bit heavy on the 'oh wow, a girl wants to buy wood - I got some hardwood for you babe', or worse 'this is lumber, this is a 2 by 4, this is called a scroll saw'... like I've never been to a lumber yard before, besides I already built a scroll saw out of two old sewing machines and a paper clip (no really I did, wanna see the picture? Actually it's for sale if you like, I rebuilt a bigger one since with larger clearance.). Nothing at the local lumber mill to inspire me. Reclaimed wood? Where would I find it? Where is there 8 foot lengths of it? Will old nail holes in the wood seriously reduce the strength of my wall laths? How do I discover if the history of the wood involves toxic substances like asbestos or fire suppressant? I adore the idea of reclaimed wood - but don't know enough yet to find or use it...yet. Maybe you guys could include some thoughts on that?
 
Cristo Balete
Posts: 428
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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So if you look into reclaimed wood, you'll need a platform in addition to the lattice work.

At this link they say, "But first, you've got to have a deck or some other type of flooring. Everyone who's ever built a yurt will tell you that's the most time-consuming part."

http://www.backwoodshome.com/articles2/wolfe76.html

For lattice you are talking pretty thin wood, so the integrity of it is crucial. If it's old and hasn't been cared for, has been in the sun, it will have cracks that makes it weak, like an old shovel handle that's dried out and hasn't been oiled. Yes, nail holes, knots, improper curing that leaves cracks, warped pieces (you have to eye them down the length of both top and side for straightness). It could be moldy. Even if it's dry, if it gets damp again the mold could become active. If you've got sensitivities you might want fresh wood.

Here's an interesting story:

http://www.motherearthnews.com/homesteading-and-livestock/self-reliance/build-a-yurt-zmaz10jjzraw.aspx

Let us know how it goes.

 
Cristo Balete
Posts: 428
Location: In the woods, West Coast USA
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Let me add something here. Anything any of us builds has to be able to withstand the weather, so it has to stay attached to the ground and take wind gusts upwards of 70 MPH at times, even in the trees, amazingly enough. I had a small cabin once that had a woodstove and a loft. It was on a compacted pile of gravel, not attached to the ground. It was 12 feet at the peak of the roof, so not all that high. A bad storm came along and shook that thing like you wouldn't believe. I started counting the pounds of weight in it that were the only thing holding it down. If the woodstove went over, the burning embers would surely destroy it all. And how to get out if that happened? Rain was crashing sideways and I had hiked into it, the truck was about 1/2 mile away.

That was one harrowing night. So don't ever underestimate Mother Nature.

 
r ranson
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Location: Left Coast Canada
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I've given a lot of thought and research to this before setting out on my yurt adventure. I borrowed yurts, stayed in yurts, talked to people who have lived in yurts for two winters, talked to people who have built yurts, read about yurts, researched, expanded my skills, and did a lot of self evaluating. A decade has gone into this decision and I can confidently say that a yurt is in my future. It's simply a matter of acquiring or building one that meets my needs.

I've often thought about a deck, but is not very portable, so if I build one, it would be at a much later date and depending on the site. A deck would raise the yut up and depending on how the deck was built, allow the wind to lift the yurt, which means the deck AND the yurt need a much stronger tie down and/or foundation then they would with no deck at all. So deck = future consideration if I find somewhere to settle down.

Most of my yurt experience is directly on the ground, usually without a ground cover. It's quite comfortable.

Yurts are traditionally not attached to the ground. Especially in mongolia they don't like to wound the earth by stabbing things in it. The shape of the yurt, a TRADITIONAL yurt of the kind they have used and perfected for centuries, is of a shape that the air moves around it, rather than resisting the wind like the buildings we are use to. Did I mention I borrowed a yurt and lived in it for a week. It was just a canvas cover, but it weathered some impressive wind just fine without being tied down.

My thoughts for the strength of the yurt is to take the worst weather we've had her in the last 150 years, all extremes and double it. Mother nature can be impressive, and it's always a good reminder to take into account her strength.

For that, my wall laths are probably going to be 1x2s, and the roof 2x2s or 2x3s. I'll be keeping the angle and the height of the roof as close to traditional Mongolian style as I can.


But anyway, back to the actual yurt construction.

I'm not new to woodwork (I built a loom this evening, it took 20 minutes start to finish) and I'm confident that I can evaluate and use wood. It's just how to find an alternative to box-store lumber yards that is eco-friendly and economical?

Reclaimed has the romantic appeal, but usually when I work with deconstruction wood, it's been drying in a house so long that it's rock hard and breaks my blades. Not all demolishers bother to take out the nails either, so the sudden surprise of saw on metal is not so nice. Then again, I've seen other projects made with reclaimed wood that turned out marvelous - maybe there is something out there for me, but how to find it?

Or failing that, thoughts on funding the yurt. The wood for the walls alone, if bought at box store, will be four times my current savings for this project. Is there something I can make to sell that will 1) bring yurt awareness to people 2) bring awareness that handmade textiles can be of high quality and luxurious, and 3) raise money for my yurt project?


 
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