The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Decline and fall of the yurt

Old yurt

The sad day finally came --- yurt removal time.  My brother Joey bought the yurt in 2008 when he was living in the city and pondering purchasing land.  He figured he could use it as a retreat on our property whenever he wanted, then move it to his new land.  Mark and I loved having a visitor who was willing to retreat to his own personal space once our socializing powers ran out, so we were thrilled when Joey added a wood stove to made yurt camping fun even in cold weather.

Yurt roof

After a couple of years of joyous yurt visits, though, Joey started renting an underground house way out in the country, which fulfilled his yearnings and left the yurt vacant.  We still managed to tempt him over to visit with homegrown meals, but he returned to his cozy woodland dwelling for the nights.

Mouse damage

Meanwhile, weather (and mice) were taking their toll on the yurt.  This summer, the natural canvas fabric making up the roof developed some pretty big leaks, and the rodents began gnawing at the wooden supports.  Joey figured it was time to take the yurt down while it was still useable (which hopefully it will be if the roof is replaced).

Wood stove in yurt

I asked Joey if he'd go the yurt route again, and he said "Definitely!"  Although the structure wasn't cheap, we put it up in an afternoon and it served him well for quite a few years.

Taking apart a yurt

Although I'm sad to see the yurt go, I have to admit that it didn't make the perfect guest cottage I'd hoped for.  After tromping through the mud to get to our trailer, I never was able to talk a single guest (except Joey) into walking another city block through the woods (no mud, though!) to enjoy our yurt accomodations.  Instead, our nearby intentional community seems to be the perfect spot to house visitors, complete with modern conveniences.

Farewell, sweet yurt!  May you rise again elsewhere soon.

If all else fails, I can envision the woodwork forming the base for the round chicken coop Mark keeps dreaming of.  If so, we'll be sure to keep it clean and dry with one of our POOP-free chicken waterers.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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A roof that is starting to fail after only four years doesn't sound very good.

Maybe it would have lasted longer with more maintenance?

Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Dec 17 12:11:16 2012
Roland --- Yeah, I think they went for totally natural fibers so that it could be composted, but that had the tradeoff of very low longevity. Quite possibly some type of waterproofing would have made it last longer (with the side effect of making it less compostable).
Comment by anna Mon Dec 17 12:44:49 2012
i have lived for 5 years in a 16' yurt that i built. our climate is drier than yours, but natural canvas exteriors will deteriorate in almost any environment, and we had trouble with our first canvas for that reason. if you, or someone else, decides to set the yurt up again, two things will give it much greater longevity: building a deck underneath it, so the kanas have no direct contact with the ground, and making or buying a vinyl cover for it. I got mine at Colorado Yurt Company, but a friend of mine recently found that if you can get ahold of old billboard canvas and a strong sewing machine, you can make your own custom yurt cover for almost no money.
Comment by yarrow Mon Dec 17 14:42:16 2012

Hmm, I would expect a real canvas (i.e. hemp) fabric to last longer. Therefore I suspect this is cotton.

You might try coating the cotton material with a drying oil (e.g. linseed oil) to make it more water-resistant. But from the moss growing on the walls I'd suspect that you'd also need a kind of biocide to keep it from rotting. Maybe adding a fine copper podwer to the linseed oil would be a reasonable alternative. The linseed oil wound bind the copper and prevent it from washing out.

But for long-term use in a relatively wet environment, I'd guess that a good quality Dacron sailcloth would much last longer, especially when properly coated to protect it against UV radiation. Look into the materials for aircraft fabric covering if you're interested.

Comment by Roland_Smith Mon Dec 17 22:01:57 2012

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