Why live in a yurt?
Since October of 2016, my dog and I have been living in a four-wall Groovy Yurt.
Over the years, I have built a woodshed, an outdoor kitchen and installed a 100watt solar panel for a bit of electricity. I use wood to heat and cook with, and I carry everything in and out of my homestead as it can’t be accessed by car.
I answer like this: I love living close to nature. I’m excited by the sound of owls, coyotes and sandhill cranes. I enjoy being able to grow my own beans and I love having the freedom to sing as loud as I want.
Plus, I wanted an opportunity to get out of the hamster wheel and live an economically affordable life. I value being able to choose the type and amount of paid work that I do, based on my desires. I want to live for and with the things that bring me joy. On a practical level, I chose a yurt as a dwelling because it’s transportable and I can take my home with me if/when I move.
Before getting my yurt, I had never tended a wood stove, used a power tool or built anything. Needless to say, a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into learning how to maintain a homestead.
I believe that anything is possible when one has a positive attitude and perseverance. I have learned many lessons –some the hard way- and would like to share some of the insights I’ve gained.
Living Close to Wildlife: Encounters with Bears and Rodents
After building an outdoor kitchen a couple of summers ago, the yurt’s amount of rodent activity has dropped dramatically.
That said, I still find mouse droppings occasionally when I’ve forgotten about some food in a pocket or bag. Here are a few simple methods I have learned to deter rodents from coming into the kitchen and leaving scat behind:
- Be diligent about cleaning up right away and discarding dishwater to remove food smells.
- Have a secure box or barrel for storage of surplus food/ items that are not easily put into jars/ enticing foods (sunflower seeds, granola, nuts). Amazingly squirrels seem to be able to smell what’s inside a mason jar and knock it off a shelf to get what’s inside. Further, they can chew through the corners of plywood, so I had to reinforce my food box with wire.
- Have a covering for your clean dishes so if they are walking around in the kitchen, at least they won’t leave droppings on your drying dishes. Rewashing dishes is especially problematic if you have limited water!
There are bears where I live, but I rarely see them because my dog keeps them away (homesteading with dogs for the win!). That said, last summer, one did pull a board off of the outside of my kitchen. Like rodents, bears are most attracted to food smells.
In short, having a consistent human (and canine) presence around your yurt and keeping food particles/ smells to a minimum is key to keeping wildlife out!
Managing Moisture: Avoiding Mould
One of the many benefits of insulating with wool is that it’s mould resistant!
Even though my yurt has been subject to a lot of moisture (my first platform wasn’t exactly the right size, so water pooled), the wool insulation never got mouldy. However, the walls did get a bit of mould on the bottom, where the water pooled. I cleaned them once with a bit of diluted bleach, which cleaned off and stopped the mould from spreading.
Having a lot of airflow through the yurt helps prevent mould too, so designing storage that allows for airflow is key. Finally, I LOVE having a bay window opposite my door to allow for a cross breeze in the summer!
Maintenance: How much time goes into caring for a yurt?
As long as everything is set up correctly, maintaining the yurt itself does not take much time.
Once a week I check the ropes’ tension attached to the urgh (canvas covering half of the toono) to ensure it’s secure and won’t shift in the wind. I also check the tension ropes to ensure they are tight enough.
One of the Groovy Staff recommended that I take down and re-assemble my yurt once a year to adjust the structure’s outer layers. Taking down and putting up a yurt is only a 1-day undertaking once you get the hang of it.
Durability: How Much Wear Occurs from Living in a Yurt for 4.5 Years?
Overall my yurt has held up well, but there are a couple of areas where wear is apparent.
- In some places, the insulation became damaged from pooled water (this could have been avoided with the right size platform), and there are a couple of small (~6 inch) patches where the insulation has deteriorated.
- Brezent (outer canvas cover). After nearly five years my brezent is ready to be replaced. Some damage is from my chimney’s sparks, which could have been prevented with a better design (I told you I’m learning all of this on the fly, right?). Additionally, the brezent has become weak in spots and ripped the last time I took the yurt down. I believe this is from exposure to the elements and could have potentially been avoided by setting up in a shadier spot and applying a weatherproof coat.
All in all, however, I am extremely satisfied with my Groovy Yurt.
Closing Thoughts: Would I Recommend “Yurt Life?”
Overall, living in a yurt for the past several years has been very rewarding.
Homesteading leaves me feeling strong, empowered and humbled. I’ve gained skills that I had never heard of before living off-grid (need an electrical wire spliced anyone?!) while realizing that building confidence with a skill takes time, patience and dedication.
Living in a yurt has allowed me to spend less time working for money and more time volunteering in my community, learning how to grow food, play music, practice yoga, and enjoy life.
So YES, I wholeheartedly recommend yurt life to anyone interested in an alternative lifestyle, living close to nature and having more agency over their life.