Winter has been non-existent here on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. A couple of cool days, a couple of cold nights. That was it. It sounds wonderful…if you live in snow country. In reality, I enjoy the cool-to-cold weather far more than I do warm, muggy weather. I also despise biting insects, and the warm winter has meant few days have been without the dreaded gnats and mosquitoes.
That sends me to thinking of relocation…in a big way, not a little one. But for now, relocating or even changing quarters is just out of the question. The money doesn’t exist, and therefore, doing anything but exploring options and dreaming isn’t happening.
So…dreams can be wild, can be big…or they can be small. I’m now dreaming of a yurt. There is something about the idea of a round, portable, but pleasant house that appeals. Maybe it was watching “The Saltmen of Tibet” that got me too. Either way, yurts are now the focus of my online research and dreaming.
Of course, my other half just rolls his eyes. He has had a lot of practice at it, and maybe that’s why he’s so utterly patient with my wild ideas, even when they lead us to living in a travel trailer in a friend’s back yard.
Essentially, a yurt is constructed of a diagonal patterned wood “mesh” formed into a circle, topped with poles that are fixed to a center circle with holes drilled to accept them, then covered with a liner, wrapped in felt, and then topped with a water resistant cover. They aren’t “ultra light” by anyone’s standards, and were moved by ox cart or yaks across the steppes of Asia and used to house the nomads that lived there. In their original form, they were heated by a small fire in the center of the ger, and the hole in the center of the roof allowed the smoke to escape.
Okay, so I don’t want a fire in the middle of my house on the dirt floor. But, like everything else, yurts or gers have gotten a bit more sophisticated over time. With the idea imported to America, it’s also gotten much more complicated yet. Kits are also available, making it much easier to set up than starting from scratch. They can also be quite expensive.
Most of them range from 11 feet to 30 feet in diameter, apparently, a center pole is necessary if the diameter is more than 30 feet. So, it gives you an open, round space which you can then divide as you see fit. Theoretically, this house is portable but it can also be a permanent structure, and is best built on a platform, usually with round portion that is raised above the surrounding area that also forms the floor inside of the yurt.
While they are “soft” in terms of the fabrics used to enclose them, they also have features such as doors and windows. They can be insulated well enough to withstand temperatures that are in the double digits below zero…Farenheit. The central hole is typically covered with a clear plexiglass dome rather than the square of canvas used in the original, and even in those heated by a wood stove, it is now modernized to have a chimney and stove rathr than the open fire. Electricity, heat, air conditioning, and even plumbing can also be added. Yurts can also be set up to be off grid. Awnings are frequently used over the doors and windows for weather protection.
For families that want more space, or more clearly divided spaces, there are other options too. Multiple yurts can be connected, either by snugging them up against each other or by a connecting structure. Large ones can be built with higher walls that allow the addition of lofts, which also have to be constructed to be free standing, as obviously the walls cannot support structures of that nature.
Bathrooms can have all of the features commonly expected in a modern home with a traditional flush toilet, sink, and shower…or they can be created with a greener goal in mind, utilizing composting toilets and solar water heaters.
Some of the more elaborate ones were substantial enough that it requires multiple days to just construct the basic structure, a far cry from the home of the nomads that they started out being. All of that had me somewhat dumbfounded, and wondering…is it possible to create one that is actually portable by modern standards? One that we could transport easily in a mini-van, set up in an hour or two with just the two of us, and then comfortably stay in it for a couple of weeks (national forests typically have a fourteen day limit) before packing it up and moving on?
I found one company in the USA that offered such a yurt: GoYurt Shelters. Unfortunately, it’s a small company, and currently not accepting orders as the owner works on developing his farm.
I’m not sure we are up to creating one of our own yet, as it isn’t an easy project, but…part of me says that this idea deserves more thought, both as a portable housing structure and as a semi-permanent house. I like the idea of living in the round, it has a primal feel to it, but I am also not ready to commit to such an open floor plan and unconventional structure. How would the county react to it? Would there be problems with getting the appropriate permits? Would it meet standards for hurricane resistance? Would we have trouble getting insurance?
I don’t know those answers yet, but it’s certainly been interesting. You can start your own search just by typing in “yurt” in the search engine. YouTube also has numerous videos on the topic, and I’ve not begun to see them all yet.