After months of dreaming and preparing, a group of friends joined us in building a 25 foot yurt for our off-grid homestead!
It must have been about 6 years since we met Ken von Two girls farm and yurts. We lived in Missouri at the time and had no plans to live in a yurt or move across the country. Even so, his craft and business were still registered in my brain as exciting, like one of those moments when the universe tells you to make up your mind for future considerations.
When we moved to Vermont, we met people who lived in one of the beautiful yurts owned by Ken and his wife Adriane, and the idea of commissioning one for our homestead began to take root.
All year round, Ken and Adriane make yurts in New England that live from sustainably harvested round wood seedlings, giving the yurt a unique, rustic, elegant interior. They are truly creations of beauty and the fact that they are made from local materials by real people we met made supporting this small business a breeze.
(In this article, for the sake of ease and clarity, I’ll use the term “yurt building” – it’s better than writing about a yurt erection! – but I want to make it clear that Ken and Adriane and the rest of the team at Two Girls Yurts did the job building the yurt. We (mainly my builder husband Brian) built the yurt platform, floor, deck, window and door posts and harvested some rafters. The yurt itself was shipped to us in pieces. Ready to be built increase.)
Why did we decide to build a yurt?
The short answer is that it is incredibly difficult to make real construction progress when you live off-site. (We currently live about 25 minutes from the land we buy in Central Vermont.) The yurt construction will allow us to move into the country as soon as possible to free up time to work on our home, outbuildings, and gardens spend.
We assume we’ll live in the yurt for at least a year, but more likely two.
I spent a winter in a yurt in Oregon so I have an idea of what we’re getting into. After living as a family of four in a tiny 350 square meter house for 6 years, I’m grateful for the nearly 500 square meters this yurt will offer !!
Why did we build a yurt instead of a small hut?
Our decision to build a yurt instead of a small hut (or a basement apartment, garage apartment, etc.) was a more nuanced decision.
Many argue that a yurt is more expensive than building a stick frame cabin / apartment, and we disagree. However, the work that is put into building such a structure is significant. Having already built a small house off the grid, we are aware of the builder fatigue that kicks in. We plan to build a modestly sized, hand built house on this lot and want to save a lot of energy and voltage for the actual house.
Here are some additional factors that were decisive in purchasing a yurt:
1) As the builder, we also had to take opportunity costs into account. That said, every hour my husband and I spend building a building is an hour wasted doing a paid job.
The advantage of the yurt is that we were able to set it up (with a crew of volunteers) in a day, which minimized the time it took us to get started from paid work.
2) Because the yurt rose so quickly, we can move out of our rent much earlier. In just over a year without rent, this yurt paid for itself.
3) Once we’ve built our house, we can either keep the yurt and use it as a guest room, teenage hangout, AirBnB, homesteading retreat center, yoga studio, etc., or sell the yurt. In this area, yurts have a high resale value. So if we decided to sell the yurt, we would get part of our investment back.
Construction of the yurt platform
We bought the largest yurt Two Girls Yurts has – 25 feet in diameter with 6 feet of walls (their standard is 5 feet). We added the insulation package but decided to install glass / screen windows and provide our own door.
To prepare for lifting the yurt, we had to build the window and door posts and build a platform exactly 25 feet in diameter with stairs leading to the platform. We added an 8’x10 ‘cedar deck.
After consulting with Ken, we decided to use locally milled (green) hemlock for the yurt platform and locally milled, dry 2 × 6 inch tongue and groove hemlock for the bottom.
We didn’t put any insulation under the floor or use a sub-floor. The tongue and groove sat directly on the floor joist. This, in turn, was after consulting with Ken, who pointed out that if the yurt is cold it is likely not because you don’t have adequate floor insulation, but rather because your fire has gone out.
The yurt rearing day!
We made our deposit back in March, so we had plenty of time to dream (and worry!) About the day of the raise. We have emailed dozens of friends and community members and were so happy to have an extremely knowledgeable, enthusiastic crew of around 15 helpers. We are so grateful for your help!
Two Girls Yurts does an excellent job of preparing the yurt pieces so that they come together easily and with minimal tooling. For example, they use bolts, hook and loop fasteners, snaps, and studs to secure different parts of the yurt. Adriane is the epitome of a grounded, calm and confident leader, and she has made the crew work efficiently, but without the feeling of rush. Even so, the process was much faster than I had imagined; We started at 8:30 am and finished before 2pm!
The process began by stretching the lattice walls into place and securing them into the door and window posts and yurt skirt. The grille was assembled in an accordion style in three parts to accommodate our two hard windows and a door. A cable was laid along the mesh walls on which the rafters sit.
The rafters were inserted into a circular ring and then attached to the cable. The rafters went into position twice by two until we had a complete frame!
Here you can see the round wooden sapling rafters and the yurt lattice of the yurt. A really fun bonus of this construction is that we can practice our tree identification skills! (So far we know that we have beech, cherry, hop hornbeam and some sugar maple lattice.)
Once the yurt frame was assembled it was time to add the various layers of fabric, insulation, and heavy-duty yurt cover. These were attached with Velcro, snaps, staples and / or studs.
One benefit of having such a large crew was that we could split up into groups to handle different tasks and that everyone could find something that suited their interests and skills. Our children were able to participate in many aspects of yurt rearing as only striking tools and screw guns were used.
The work that lies ahead of us is to finish some details – window and door trim, sanding and finishing of the floors – and then designing and installing the interior details. We plan to use lofts for the children’s sleeping and play areas. I can imagine that we will have a good head start on construction before our move-in date, but will likely have to adjust the yurt interior further while we live there.
If you live in the New England area and are interested in yurts, I highly recommend looking around Two girls yurts. And if you have any questions, leave them in the comments or DM me on Instagram @homestead_honey.
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