Yurt Stories

Guest posts from real yurt owners.

Guest Post: It Takes A Village To Build A Yurt

Today’s post comes from my new friend and new yurt dweller, Steven, who built the first yurt in his county with a building permit! Steven found out that he couldn’t get his yurt off the ground alone – he had a great support team. Here’s his story.

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I am sitting in my Rainier Yurt, a fire blazing in the stove. It is clear and cold out tonight, and the stars are shining brightly through the dome. My yurt is not completely finished, but I am enjoying a bit of rest now.

My journey to get here involved many twists and turns, but it was worth it. My yurt is the first yurt in Box Elder County, Utah to be built with a building permit. It seemed impossible to get a building permit, but the key is patience, willingness to learn the requirements, and “pleasant perseverance.”

The key to my success was to build a relationship with the building inspection department that allowed them to see my situation and desires, while I understood their situation and needs, too. I wanted the building inspection department involved at every step of the way and made sure they were comfortable with the direction I was going.

In the county where I live, a stick built home requires R30 insulation in the walls and R45 in the ceilings. I originally planned to build a log cabin. To meet these requirements, there had to be dual log walls. This put the cost out of reach for me. I started looking into a modular home, but they only had R30 ceilings and walls. I asked them about R45 in the ceilings, and they said they could engineer it for me, for a fee and additional cost at the factory.

I went back to the county building inspection department and said that the modular homes only have R30 ceilings and asked how they were meeting the requirement. The answer was the key that unlocked the door for me.

He said, “modular homes are controlled by the Federal Government, not us.”

pic1-e1387402068210Meaning that different types of structures have different code requirements. This led me to the yurt and the membrane covered frame construction building and the code requirements that govern them.

I gave the building inspectors a copy of Becky Kemery’s book Yurts, Living in the Round. I think this helped the building inspectors see that this is something happening all over the world. People love living in their yurts. They are a practical way to live economically. For slightly over $40,000, I am living in a new house, with new appliances, and all that anyone could really need.

Dana “The Yurt Girl” was another member of my team. She became my confidante and I could share with her my frustrations and setbacks. She was always positive and encouraged me to seek solutions and made helpful suggestions. This customer/suppler relationship is something that enabled my yurt to come into being. When you are searching for a supplier, look for that relationship.

Another member of my team was David Kirkhhof. He is a brilliant person who helps others build their yurts. When you need advice or help, his experience and knowledge is there for you. He even came and helped me erect my yurt in three days. It could have been done in two days if I had brought in some additional help. I had a crew of four, including me. I had poured the concrete piers and built the beams that attached to the platform before the yurt arrived.

pic2The first day of construction, we installed the SIPS (Structural Insulated Panel) floor system, which I bought from Rainier. We assembled it to the beams and put in the perimeter blocking, a 2×6 that we bent around the perimeter of the platform (when you know what you are doing, like David and the folks at Rainier, it is not as difficult as it sounds!).

The second day we put up the lattice walls, the rafters, and the compression ring. This went quite smoothly, once again, with the help of David. Rainier makes a “story strip,” which is really cool and makes putting up your yurt so straightforward. It is basically a label that your wrap around the perimeter of your platform that tells you exactly where everything should go. It’s as easy as putting together Legos!

pic3-e1387402089129The third day, we put on the liner, the insulation and the outer coverings. Once again the story strip, the organization, and the excellent design made this easy to do. It helps to have many hands to grapple with the cover and hope you have a calm day. The insulation is easily blown around in a breeze, particularly when you have a swirling breeze like we had!

As we finished up, the sun broke through the clouds and gave us a sign of approval with a bright sunset that lasted about a minute. Here the yurt from the street at the end of day 3.

pic4Working in the round is challenging sometimes, but there’s always a way around problems. For example, according to the plan, the walls and everything would be parallel with the beams. It was great on paper until we laid out the story strip and saw that the back door lined up perfectly with the clean-out for the septic system. Ooops! I rotated the whole design 55 inches and everything went as planned. The total delay was only 15-20 minutes.

For the interior, I put all the plumbing for the kitchen and bathroom in one 12 foot long wall. I built it out of 2×6’s so all the plumbing and electrical could get around each other. On the outside of the other wall of the bathroom, I put the washer/dryer and hot water heater, along with the electrical panel.

Another challenge was the cold winters here in northern Utah. I didn’t want the drain P-trap for the tub to freeze, so I built the tub on a 10 inch platform and kept the P-trap above the floor. Now I have a nice step up to get into the tub.

I have survived a week of below zero cold now (-20 degrees F), and I’ve learned many things already. One is that the temperature varies more in a yurt than a stick built home. You are closer to the natural cycle of cooler nights and warmer days. In the below zero weather, the temperature in the yurt gets down into the 50’s at night. I leave a load of wood burning in the woodstove and add a log or two during the night. In the morning, I build a fire in the stove again and it heats right up. During the days, the temperature inside is in the mid-70’s while the outside temperature is in the high teens or low twenties — I am working in my T-shirt!

I am totally comfortable. The feeling of spaciousness and the light from the dome make yurt living very pleasant. I love being self-reliant and living a more simple life.

Thank you, Rainier!

Yurt Survives Wildfire!

I received a call from a concerned yurt owner yesterday.

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This Rainier Eagle Yurt customer had to vacate his yurt home due to a raging wildfire in the Utah wilderness! Unsure what to expect when he returned after the “all-clear”, he came home to his yurt standing – unharmed.  A dirt road  separates his yurt from the burned vegetation that was his backyard.   His call was primarily to find out what I recommended for removing the fire retardants that the helicopters had dropped that resulted in a residue on his roof.

The Rainier yurt proved to be flame retardant and while the brush 20 feet away and for acres around will be evidence of the traumatic episode for years to come, his home is still stands proud as his beloved project and sanctuary.

I was fascinated by his story so I asked him to take pictures and write for our Yurt Blog. He graciously agreed to the challenge and I am pleased to share his story with you…

Appropriately titled: MY RAINIER YURT

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It is located in Wanship, Utah, about ten miles northeast of Park City.  My original objective was to get myself a yurt home that would be debt-free (and that has happened), but early on in the project I became more and more intrigued with doing something totally off-grid.  There is a water system in the area but I am not connected to it (it’s a long story).  Electricity lines run to most houses, but since the nearest one to me is nearly a half mile away I decided it would be better to not seek a connection.

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The yurt is in a development called Lake Rockport Estates where the original concept was for summer cabins on one-acre lots.  In recent years the escalating cost of housing in Park City has caused a shift in orientation so that now the area is mostly seeing new structures that are intended for year-round living.  This in turn has encouraged the home owners association to more rigorously oversee each new development.

When I started the yurt project I just read the CC&R’s and then began to do my thing in such a way as to not violate them.  In other words, I went to work without getting the blessing of the home owners association.  I wanted to put the yurt on a deck, so I went to the county and obtained a permit.  They asked me if I was going to have electricity and I told them that it was too far away for me to connect.  They asked about plumbing and I said that I had no plans.  In other words, I finessed both questions.  They ended up giving me a permit to build the deck and telling me that no permit would be needed for the yurt itself.

My lot is quite steeply pitched, with a perfect southern exposure, and the access road runs along its uphill border.  The first summer I built a railroad tie retaining wall to create parking space off the access road and then built the deck (which is 42’ square).  The deck is sloped very slightly so that snow melt and rainwater can run off its southern edge.  The long term plan is to use this for a significant part of my water needs.

The second summer I built the 30’ circular platform offset towards a back corner of the deck.  Then you folks sent me the yurt and in September a friend and I erected it in two days.

The third summer, I framed out a room underneath the southwest corner of the deck.  Late in the summer, representatives from the home owners association showed up and began to express some “concerns.”  Since then, our relationship has been a struggle – but I just keep doing what I think is in conformance with the CC&R’s and contending to them that I do not violate them.

The fourth summer, I finished off the downstairs room and also built two other below-deck enclosures: an insulated room in which two 550 gallon water tanks are installed and a small storage room.

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The fifth summer I built out the interior of the yurt and finished off the stairway connection between the yurt and the downstairs room.  The stairs were a problem because there was not enough room for anything standard and because the downstairs room is located under that part of the deck where the yurt is not located.  I dealt with the issue by building a ship’s ladder which has alternating steps for the left and right feet.  Each stair tread is twelve inches broad and each step up or down is about seven inches (close to the standard for normal stairs), but each of the alternating steps overlaps 50% with its immediate neighbors.  This makes it possible to walk up or down stairs in a normal fashion and yet fit the entire stair system into half as much space.  Then at the end of the summer I also built two more enclosures under the deck: a small electrical room and a shop.

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So this is now my sixth summer.  But the project is so far along now that I did not feel motivated to work very much.  Instead I have spent my time enjoying the space.  I have done projects around the place, but my week-to-week productivity has been very small in comparison with previous summers.

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Because of my age (I’ll be 70 on Saturday) and the lack of wood in the immediate area, I decided to heat the yurt using propane.  In addition to the propane heating stove, I have a propane cooktop and a propane refrigerator.  This means that my need for electricity is very small.  At present, I have a small Honda generator, an inverter, and four Trojan 6-volt batteries.  The generator can recharge the batteries in about 3 hours and when they are fully charged they can keep me in electricity (without the generator running) for about a day.  This summer I built a platform for solar panels, but I won’t buy them and hook them up to the inverter until next summer.  Once they are operative, I think I will rarely need to use the generator.

beautiful-bathroom12It is hard to describe the floor plan for the yurt, but maybe you can get some idea from the photos.  The yurt itself is mostly a “great room” in which I have organized a living room space, an office space, a dining room space, and a kitchen.  One S-shaped wall partitions off about a fifth of the yurt space for a bathroom and a pantry.  The pantry is open, but because of the S-shaped wall is only visible from the kitchen counter area.  The back of the pantry is a short, straight wall running from the yurt wall to the S-shaped wall, and this also acts as one wall for the bathroom which has the curved yurt wall and the S-shaped wall to form the other sides.

The downstairs area is on two levels.  The larger, lower level is a study and beside it – two steps up and separated only by a low wall so that light can flow through the space – is a bedroom.

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The bed sits beside a picture window and the top of the bed is at window sill height.  This means I can look out at the night view while lying in bed … nobody, but nobody, lives out there!

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#wow! Thank you Spike for sharing your photos and the love you have for your yurt life.  If any of you have a yurt tale you would like to share – give me a call!

My direct line is (425)981-1203

Blessings abound!

~Dana

~Dana

Guest Post: Massage Sanctuary in a Rainier Yurt

Today we have a guest post from Jennifer Rosendale, who uses a Rainier Yurt to house her massage practice, Avalon Yurt Sanctuary, and a meditation group. Her clients love the relaxing energy of the yurt, and Jennifer is truly enthusiastic about the space. Here’s her story.

Avalon Massage Studio

Avalon Massage Studio


The Magic of a Circle

I am often asked, “Why a yurt?”

I wasn’t quite sure how to answer that question when we began to pursue the idea of a yurt. Our intention was to create a space appropriate for healing through massage, yoga, and meditation, which called for something very Zen.

The answer today simply unfolds itself to me effortlessly: It’s just the magic of a circle.

A circle is sacred and complete in and of itself. The space inside the yurt is pure, and reflective of bringing oneself back to a state of completion. The practices that an individual pursues in their personal healing have as much to do with their state of being as it does with the space they hold around them.

A Rainier Yurt holds the potential for sacredness with its beautifully crafted wood lattice walls and peaked ceilings.

Whether my client is lying on their back gazing at the clouds through the dome, or in deep meditation listening to the sound of nature outside, I know that my massage clients are truly being nurtured by the space that holds them so closely to the earth.

Inside the peaceful massage studio

Inside the peaceful massage studio

In the yurt, we are not severed from nature by thick walls, electrical conduit, concrete, and sheetrock.

Building a yurt does not compromise the integrity of the land that it is placed upon. It’s simple, affordable, and has minimal maintenance in comparison to a house. The space flows with the natural beauty around it.

I’m not sure if there are any Dr. Who fans out there, but for those who are, our mediation group has begun to refer to the yurt as “The Yurdis,” after the Tardis on the show. The Tardis is a time machine that looks from the outside like a small phone booth, but inside is an incredibly huge ship. The Yurdis shares that same illusion, and has become the place where we transcend time and space.

Throughout our indigenous history, gatherings have always converged in a circle where everyone is equal and all ideas are shared. It seems to me that the circle is a worthy space for finding connection, completion, and wholeness.

Jennifer Rosendale, Licenced Massage Practicioner
Avalon Yurt Sanctuary
http://avalonyurtsanctuary.com/

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Yoga Instructor Seane Corn’s Yurt Retreat Featured on Oprah Winfrey Network

OWN recently published a great video showcasing Seane Corn’s yurt retreat on the Pacific Coast. Check out the video below for a glimpse into the Sacred Space she’s created in Southern California.

(And keep an eye out around the one minute mark for original Rainier footage from one of our own yurt raisings!)

From oprah.com:

Sacred Spaces: Yoga Teacher Seane Corn’s Pacific Coast Retreat

Yoga expert Seane Corn travels 250 days a year teaching. When she’s home, she finds peace nestled in nature on 14 acres of land in Southern California. But she doesn’t find it in a huge home. Instead, she finds it in a tiny yurt. Take a tour of her sacred space!

see original post >>

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GUEST POST: There’s No Place Like Home

I am often asked if I live in a yurt. And to be honest – it feels like I do! I spend so much time in our model yurts in our Yurt Village being “yurty.” I clean them, I decorate them, I have a garden around the yurts, I host visitors every day of the week and… I spend all day on the phone talking to you about them.

But truth be told – I don’t actually live in one. That is why I am very excited about our guest blog this week. Please meet Erin who has a wonderful way of sharing her experiences of yurt living.

Enjoy!

- Dana

“Wow, this is cool!”

That is the comment we hear most about our 30 ft yurt, usually expressed in a tone of shock.

We’ve heard it from local redneck hunters, known for being just a little close minded about new things, that openly acknowledged they’d choose a yurt for their next home, to yurt guests who were worried about “sleeping in a tent” and left saying it felt like a luxury spa vacation.

yurt7Our parents thought we were crazy to buy a glorified circus tent for full time living, and now? They beg us to leave town, so they can come yurt-sit for us. A business client in NJ is always asking about our most recent yurt update, and another talks us up to HIS clients because he’s now an avid yurt advocate, and loves educating people about “living in the round”.

What this says to me is that yurts are experiencing a huge resurgence, not just among hippies, state parks and back-to-the-landers, but also people that don’t want to jump into a huge mortgage, people that are looking for a lower impact or smaller square foot existence, people that want something different. And, they are finding their answer in yurts.

yurt3Quick to raise and amazingly flexible in usage, yurts are a great answer for a huge number of people. We operate our web design business, and live full time in our yurt with three cats, and a cute hound dog. We never feel cramped for space, or regret our decision to live in a yurt. I can’t imagine ever not having a yurt in my life, it’s so much more comfortable than most homes with the high ceiling, open floor plan and sense of peace.

Oh? You have a family, and think a yurt can only work for a couple? Not true. We have good friends that are erecting a triple decker yurt with a full basement, another level with bedrooms and bathroom, and then the top level is their yurt, which will include living space and kitchen. They have two young kids, and the whole family can’t wait for their new home to be completed!

OK, that’s all well and good, you say, but you like entertaining and throwing dinner parties? So do we!

We’ve hosted parties with 15 people, which is usually a claustrophobic experience in the 100 year old farm houses that proliferate in our area of the Blue Ridge mountains of Virginia.

In a yurt? There is plenty of space for three or four groups to form and still interact with one another, rather than being forced off into the kitchen, living room and backyard. Obviously, this is dependent on your floor plan. We chose a very open plan, with the only enclosed space being our bathroom. And, rather than thinking it’s odd, people LOVE hanging out in the yurt and are always impressed by its stability, “feel” and comfort.

In fact, at one party, we had an unexpected hail storm. The golf ball sized hail was falling so thick, you couldn’t see out the door and the sound in the yurt was almost deafening.

Every single guest said it was an amazing experience, and they were beyond impressed at the yurt’s resilience. Adding to that, our neighbors had thousands of dollars of damage to their shingle roofs, we had zip, zero, nada damage. Same story for several extreme wind storms. At first, our neighbors would visit after a storm, worried we had blown away. Now? They don’t even bother, since they assume the yurt fared better than their home! Yep, our yurt is pretty famous around these parts.

yurt6Since we spend a large amount of our time in our yurt, we chose to build an internal walled bathroom that houses a full size shower, toilet and sink; plus, our full size stacking washer and dryer, and our chest freezer. You might assume that means our bathroom is uncomfortably crowded.

Nope. It’s another thing that people are shocked by. It’s spacious and comfortable inside, and from the outside, it doesn’t feel like it’s taking up the whole yurt.

Our kitchen shares the “wet” wall of the bathroom (where the plumbing for the washer/dryer and shower are), and we have a full size propane gas stove, oversized sink and full size dishwasher along that wall. We love to cook, so our kitchen takes up a quarter of our yurt floor space, and I have never enjoyed cooking in a kitchen more. We’re still working on our storage options, but there is no rush, since it’s our home that we’ll live in for years to come. It’s a good feeling after renting for years.

Speaking of, when you rent… you can’t put up a rock climbing wall in your home, now can you? Too bad, it’s pretty fun. Just another benefit of owning your own home, which is something we couldn’t have afforded for years without a break-your-back mortgage. Our yurt, with all of the interior work, beautiful deck and appliances, came in at $56K total. We were able to pay for it with cash, and a few small family loans, that are almost paid off in the first year.

Nice, right?

And, that price could have been significantly reduced if you’re not in a hurry, if you can do your own electric/plumbing, if you don’t want internal walls, if you already have your appliances or enjoy hunting for deals, etc.

We were in a rush, so we bought full price new appliances, and paid contractors for all of the work. The deck was also a significant cost, so you can always avoid that entirely with just a yurt platform.

yurt2So, thanks to our choice to live in a yurt, we now live on 22 rural acres, with a flock of free range chickens clucking around outside, and the best sleep we have ever had. It’s a common quote that you’ll never sleep so well as in a yurt. It’s true.

OK. I’ve talked about all of the positives, maybe you want to hear the negatives that we’ve experienced? There are only two.

One: In our experience, yurts are easier to heat than cool. We live in a mountain climate, with cooler, sunny summers and icy cold, windy winters. Our wood stove kept us toasty warm in our insulated yurt (walls and roof) last winter, but in the hot summer sun, our fully exposed yurt did heat up. In retrospect, we should have chosen a slightly shaded spot, but we’re planning on adding an arbor around the sunniest side for next year. Lemons into lemonade, right?

Two: We live in one of the windiest areas of the US, with frequent gusts up to 40-50 mph, and it can get loud in here. But, with that said, our neighbor’s thick walled log cabin isn’t exactly silent either. It’s just that windy here. And, I STILL love my yurt, so that should speak volumes.

Now that I’ve gotten you hyped up about living in a yurt (or using one as a studio, guest house, store front, etc etc), where should you go for more information? Lucky for you, there are a number of great yurt companies sprinkled throughout the US. Due to proximity, we chose a yurt company in our backyard; however, I highly recommend Rainier Yurts based on both their reputation, and my own personal experience with their staff.

When you’re buying your new home, and raising it yourself, you want great customer service. Rainier has that. They are polite, friendly and have an impressive drive to create the best customer experience possible, from start to finish. Give them a call at (800) 869-7162 or check out their website for more information – HERE

If you’re interested in learning more about my experience buying and building a yurt, please check out the eBook I wrote, called “So, You Want to Live in a Yurt?” which is available on Amazon – HERE

Guest Post: Hoomi Overtone Harmonic Throat-Singing in Yurts

Today we have a guest author writing for us: HEIDI from Temecula, CA. Heidi is a yurt enthusiast and today she’s writing about how throat-singers throughout history (and around the world) have used yurts to create “unparalleled acoustics in which to practice [...] musical sound therapies.”

Sound interesting? We thought so too.

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I am a yurt customer and the daughter of two singers.  In my extensive research of yurts, I have discovered the astonishing history of yurt-dwelling Central Asian nomads and how they practice the ancient art of Hoomi overtone harmonic throat-singing.

This is a little known throat-singing technique that allows the singer to vocalize  2 to 6 SIMULTANEOUS notes within a  5 octave range. Impossible? I thought so too. However,  my quest for the truth led me to find an archived 1996 Washington Post article by David Brown:  Tuvan-throat Singers Perform Feats of Harmonic Acrobatics.

Authentic-style-yurtMedical doctors and a vocal scientist inserted fiber optic cameras  into the throats of visiting Tuvan singers to determine how exactly their anatomy was able to create these surreal notes.  The results they found proved that the singing is accomplished using more than the regular vocal chords.

Tuvan throat singing is highlighted in the July 2012 issue of the National Geographic.   The small country of TUVA is still dotted with mongolian style yurts along the countryside.

The modern version of yurts with the double insulation creates unparalleled acoustics in which to practice Hoomi singing or any number of musical sound therapies. Because of the unique sound resonance,  people are eager to purchase a yurt to serve as a music recording studio or performance chamber.

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Nestor Kornblum of globalsoundhealing.net offers an online example of overtone singing (see below Youtube video, “Amazing Grace with Overtone chant”).  What you hear is real.  The amplified volume is naturally created  due to the  ROUND domed structure it was recorded in.  Domes and Yurts are are known to take sound and music to an ethereal magical level.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis ethereal magic is even demonstrated in the movie Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. Remember the beginning of the movie when Gandalf  emits an otherworldly whistle to call his horse? I never realized until my research that the whistling flute like sounds can be created in real life through overtone harmonics.

Jonathan Goldman  has written “Healing Sounds, The Power of Harmonics”.   He specifically points out that Hoomi singing creates those flute like whistle tones.

And to think all of this was invented thousands of years ago by those innovative Yurt dwellers of Asia!

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