"Build a Yurt"- that was the simple title of the book. I liked it. Emphatic. Imperative. Not "How to", but "Build ...". I wanted to build myself a small cabin in which to live in the woods, but most of the books on cabin building at the library included huge, complicated, even fold out, PLANS. I was not a structural engineer or an architect; I was a bird house builder. This book had simply drawn figures, and funny anecdotes. I believed it was written by a hippy: "Man, you just cross this board here, hammer a nail through, and then bend the nail. And then you enjoy a beer with your neighbor".
Yurts were not actually designed and built by hippies. They were used for centuries by nomads on the steppes of Mongolia. Genghis Khan conquered half the globe with his horse riding warriors. And behind some of the horses were dragged the portable yurts. The Mongolian yurts were covered with felt, which contrary to the cloth in the home furnishings section at Wall Mart, is made of animal hair which has been pounded by a mallet into a mat- a sort of flat hair ball.
So I began:
|Fig. Y-1. This is NOT how I really began, but I wanted to jump ahead and catch your interest. This is the skeleton of the yurt made up of 1x2 inch slats before the covering for walls and roof were put on. It looks sort of like a big cup cake.|
|First, I had to purchase the land. Sixteen acres, half wooded, with a spring and creek running through the middle. The seller had a small dairy operation and this view shows the holding barn and cinderblock milking shed. The land had a well as well as a spring. I had to write that. To the far left is front of my red VW bus- my sleeping quarters while I worked on the yurt.|
|The walls can be described as like one of those baby gates that parents often stretch across a staircase. For the walls, rough cut 1x2's, 6 ft long, are woven together and nailed to a 3/16 inch steel cable. The entire wall is layed out and constructed on the ground.|
|Since the 1x2's were rough cut, I had to trim all 130 wall board peices and 130 roof peices by hand- REAL homesteaders don't use electricity. As practice, I built the picnic table on left to build up my courage. It was great- for giants. The table crumbled into the forest floor after 5 years. The yurt is still standing 18 years later. Ha!|
|With help of some neighbors, we picked up the wall (the baby gate) and walked it around the floor platform. Then I clamped the two ends of the top cable together. That took about 15 minutes. Another neighbor lent me an old iron tractor wheel to serve as a platform to hold the roof boards up until they formed a natural tension ring at the top|
|The roof joists go up one pair at a time, and are woven together. Believe me, I wasn't sure whether the natural tension ring idea would work, but it did. It's no wonder the Khan conquered the world.|
|"Sacred geometry" as it was described in the "Build a Yurt" book. I could not have said it better. It was truly magical. I dreamed of waking up each morning; looking up from under my down comforter; and seeing the sun glistening on the tree leaves through the skylight of MY yurt that I had built MYself. I almost hated to cover any part of the roof. But, sooner or later the rain would come.|