yurt |yoŏrt; yərt|
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.
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.
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.