The Mission

The house we’re renting is being sold by it’s owners, so it seems an excellent time to move to our lovely ecovillage homestead. The only problem is, our “homestead” is currently just a paddock. So, we’re instituting a crash program to get our household shifted from a three bedroom suburban house (with heating, water, electricity, all those wonderful modern things), to a patch of bare grass with no services.

To start with, we carefully budgeted out the costs for what we saw as the minimum requirements for living in a paddock. Electricity connection, composting toilet, solar hot water heater, wood stove, and some sort of comfy roof over our head. The cheapest option would probably be a prefabricated metal shed, but I can’t justify that in my personal carbon budget. Also, our preferred option, of a nice big yurt, and perhaps a second smaller one for the bathroom, is fairly similar in price. So, with the budget drawn up, we stared at it, and looked at our bank balance, looked at our estimations of the next few months, and stared back at the plan again. It wasn’t going to work, we simple couldn’t save enough money to buy all the things we need to move, and we really don’t have any credit available for this.

So, plan B. Plan B involves buying less, and making the yurts ourselves. I’m aware that if I work evenings and weekends for the next couple of months in front of my computer, we could afford to buy the yurts and not make them. We’ve found however that in practice I can’t keep that up for more than a couple of weeks, and even then I need a break afterwards. The only way I can do more work, over and above my normal work week, is if it’s off the computer, and ideally physical.

This means, that for the next couple of months we’re going to be scurrying around like mad making all these things during evenings and weekends. We’ll be blogging the yurt construction here. Lets start out with a bit of an overview of what we hope to achieve. First up, for those of you who aren’t terribly familiar with yurts, they describe a range of different traditional wooden framed tents from various peoples in eastern europe, russia and mongolia. In particular, I’m really talking about the traditional Mongolian house, called a Ger. Here’s an example:

A Mongolian Ger

Here’s a more modern example, built by our excellent local yurt and tipi manufacturer, Jaia Tipis.

Jaia Yurt

Inside Jaia Yurt

As you can see from the inside shot, gers have vertical walls of wooden lattice. This is contained by some sort of tension band. We’re going to over-engineer ours, and use steel cable for this. I figure that will ensure that the thing wont fall down, even if I don’t get the dimensions of the wood quite right. The weight of the roof and it’s wooden rafters bears down on this tension band, trying to spread it outward. The cover will be a waterproofed canvas, and we’ll put an insulation layer (probably wool) inside the canvas.

Before we can start, we need to decide on the height of the walls, and since we’d like that to match up to the width of the canvas that we can get, first we need to find a source for our canvas. So, we’ll go away and research that, and hopefully by next post we’ll have some rough sizes for our design, and a rough idea of cost.

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5 responses

  1. Let me know if you could use a hand sourcing the wood. For the moment my portable mill is in Chch but will soon have it in Murchison and I have pine and beech on my forest section. I’d be happy to let you take what you need. Also we have a couple of yurt dwellers in town here. I can help arrange a visit to get firsthand experience and tips.

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