The Yurt Life

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Yurt in the Winter

yurt |yoŏrt; yərt|
noun
a circular tent of felt or skins on a collapsible framework, used by nomads in Mongolia, Siberia, and Turkey

Mike and I have been discussing the possibility of building a yurt for about a year. Our intention is to build as much of it ourselves as we can, set it up before next winter, and live off-grid for a while. As you can imagine, we have received a very mixed bag of reactions from our friends and family. When we mention that we plan to live in a yurt, some people light up excitedly and express sincere happiness for us while others suddenly transform into broody teenagers who disagree with anything abnormal and hit us with “the look”. You know the look: think back to high school and imagine that one guy or girl who refused to accept anyone or anything new – the judgemental stare down that you received from them as a teen when you tried to do something out of the box is the same look we have received from a few of our friends. Thankfully, the most common reaction is not “the look” but is both well-intentioned and humourous: an awkward, high-pitched, if not flustered “Oh…that’s interesting.” This is perhaps the best reaction one could give because it is painfully obvious to us that this person can imagine nothing worse than living in a yurt, yet they still try to encourage us in our endeavours. Regardless of the reaction, people have a lot of questions that I have tried to answer the best I can.

Yurta Interior

What will you do in the winter?
The yurt will be very well insulated (well insulated for a tent, at least) with layers of wool felt and canvas. It will protect us from the elements while [hopefully] keeping the heat in. We bought a Rayburn wood stove a while ago that we will use as our cooking stove, hot water heater and boiler (for radiators). Evidently, when the fire has not been stoked for a while the yurt will feel like a round ice box, so wool sweaters and socks will abound, but we should be able to live comfortably the rest of the time.

What about electricity?
We are looking into a few options – solar panels, stationary bikes, and using our truck to charge deep-cycle batteries and we have a few oil lamps that will provide us with light sans electricity. We will have to cut back on our electricity usage – a lot – in order to live in the yurt, but this feels like an adventure so it seems fun. We have a gramophone and a pile of records, so even on the days when we have absolutely no power stored up, we can listen to music. My laptop can be charged at work or the library, and our cell phone can be charged in the car.

What will you do about a bathroom?
This has been one of my questions as well, and is perhaps the most difficult to answer because I only know theoretically what we plan to do – Mike is the mastermind and has a plan. He intends to build a cistern or water tank to hold rain water that will be heated by the Rayburn; this water will be used for dishes and showers. A composting toilet seems is the favoured option, as far as toilets go, as it uses no water, is practical in a yurt, and apparently does not smell. The bathroom is the part that most people will get hung up on, and that is completely understandable.

Yurt Interior

What will you do for potable water?
Eventually, it would be nice to filter our own rain water, however, for the time being, we will fill up jugs of water in town.

Obviously, the yurt life is not for everyone. Maybe it isn’t even for us. We might get into our yurt and decide after a year that we don’t like the lifestyle. For now, however, the benefits of a nomadic, off-grid home far outweigh the disadvantages and we are really excited about the whole process.

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11 responses »

  1. I would personally never do it but I think it’s cool that you guys plan to. It is very much you guys and it makes me smile. We will most definitely visit you in the yurt though.

  2. Building a Yurt was one of the biggest highlights of my life, I now am living full time in the second one I built myself, it’s quite challenging, but such an amazing experience, and so very true to self, and living sustainably is the only way to live!!!

    If you have any questions please feel free to ask away! I would love to help with any advice or suggestions!!

    Check out my blog for my Yurt adventures!

    Mattimus

  3. I’m super interested in this!! I think it’s incredibly awesome & super interesting!! Where is your Yurt going to be? I would love to try this/see it when it’s completed!

    I’m excited to hear how you guys enjoy it …. pros & cons !! I think it’s amazing!

  4. After hearing about the Yurt from Mike and looking at all the cool pictures in the catalogue and online, I think it is a fabulous idea. I know that you and Mike can and will a make it work for you and the environment! What is life without adventures and trying new things? I look forward to my visit to the Loomis Yurt; no matter where or what you live in it always feels like home. Is there anything from this home that would be of use in the Yurt? Don’t worry about what others think, do what makes you happy! Love you both. xo

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  7. DO it!
    I know from experience that compostable toilets do not stink. At all. I’ve used one for years. As long as you follow the care-instructions it will not smell and work well. I lived in a tent for 10 weeks once, no electricity, no running water, no wood stove even – just a fire outside and a a propane stove. It’s doable and a crazy awesome experience. I had to tote water from down the road to cook with and do laundry with (by hand), and I charged my phone, i-pod, computer in town. It’s, yes, a strange thing to do, but it totally chilled me out and was awesome. (Minus the times that it snowed and I was really cold.:D)

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