Our Yurt Raising, Unpacked.

Well that was one crazy weekend. My knuckles are swollen, I wake up nightly to myself unconsciously scratching the mosquito bites on my legs, and I’ve got a handful of cuts and bruises that will last me a few weeks. But at the end of the day, you know what? We have a yurt! (See our progress as it happened on my Instagram account, here.)

I will say the whole experience was, for the most part, smooth. It was hard — yes. It was time consuming. But it was fun! And SO AMAZING that we had friends come out and help with various parts of the raising. Mikey, Dad, Brandon, Andrew and Louise, Chris… we could not have done it without you. Diaun, the homemade mojitos and jalapeño poppers might have been our saving grace on Saturday afternoon. To Sonny, your generosity is so appreciated, letting us borrow your tools and trailer… Ron, your circular saw helped us right when we needed it. Beth—your responses to our frantic text messages (what screws do we use on this part?!) were critical. All the kindness from our support network here in Montana is slightly overwhelming… we can’t wait to return those favors.

I have a few observations about this weekend that got me thinking about how I can adapt to yurt life.

First — and foremost, planning ahead. We ran into this a few times concerning the need for electricity for the chop saw and the circular saw… imagine, you have to drive from our house all the way up to the yurt (about a 5 minute drive, depending on how slow you go with the trailer) and back down every time you need electricity. After making that trip twice because you forgot something at the house, you start thinking ahead and planning things out. Plus, we try to be conscious that even that small drive, back and forth with our Durango sucks gasoline. We may have a Greasecar, but our little VW Golf doesn’t pull a heavy trailer/hold walls and tools and lumber as well as our Durango (which is an automatic gas guzzler) can.

Another thing — yurts are totally beginner friendly. With a little common sense and again, planning ahead, I really think anyone can do it. OK, I feel that we had a bit of an advantage… not because we bought a used yurt that had everything cut to exact proportions for us already (I actually think in some ways that made it harder to force the puzzle pieces together). Our advantage came from first disassembling the yurt from Beth’s property, and then being able to build it within a month of that time. The pieces were still fresh in our minds. But even if we hadn’t done that, we would still have been fine.

Initially, we called Hayes, the owner of Shelter Designs in Missoula, and asked him if we could hire him for the yurt raising. There are a lot of moving parts, and Hayes is a great crowd organizer… he knows what needs to get done (obviously, he does this for a living). When Sean asked him, Hayes basically said (paraphrasing here), “I’m pretty busy this summer, but I think you guys can handle it. I’ll send you a DVD.”

I thought… A DVD. Really? What are we doing here, baking a cake or raising a yurt? But when we actually watched the DVD, we knew Hayes was right. It explained everything from start to finish, with super detailed instructions… exactly the things Hayes would have been telling us had he been here. So we would do a few steps on the yurt, and then watch some DVD on a laptop… go back to yurt stuff, have lunch, and watch a little more DVD. That got us through it. That DVD was the key to building our yurt. Welcome to the YouTube generation, people.

I’ll post a few photos here that I didn’t post on Instagram this weekend.

Mikey, placing the cable through the tops of the lattice walls:

The cable is made to fit our 30-foot yurt EXACTLY. Thus, it takes a bit of time to wiggle it through the lattice walls perfectly enough for this hook to actually lock.

Brandon, Sean and Mikey, prepping to lift that ring (at their feet) above their heads and start placing the beams, which connect to the outter lattice walls. This is the most dangerous part of a yurt raising… those beams are heavy!

A nervous smile from me on the ground. My job was to run around the yurt like a crazy woman, handing the guys one end of a beam, and placing the other end of the beam on the cable in the precise spot. Luckily, we only had a few tense moments, one of which involved a beam nailing me in the arm. I’ve got a massive bruise to show for that one.

Until the first five (maybe six) beams are up, it’s super tense because someone always has to be holding that ring up (which weighs a ton). It was a lot of arms-over-the-head action for those guys.

Remember what I said about things being difficult when everything is already trimmed for you with a used yurt? Yeah… things get a bit dicey when you’re trying to fit the last pieces of the puzzle into the mix. We used a pulley system (thanks, Brandon!) to pull the center ring westward so that we had room on the east side to ease the last few beams into place. After all was said and done, IT WAS LEVEL!

Once the beams are in, it’s fun to put on the white lining (1st layer) and the insulation (2nd layer). Although, we were pretty lucky the sun was behind a cloud during this part… that insulation is like one big sun screen!

Here was the HARDEST part of the day. Even harder than putting in the beams. That crescent roll up there is the outer canvas of the yurt and it weighs a million pounds. Maybe not a million, but it sure seemed like it. It took 4 of us to hoist it up to the scaffolding, and then a lot of grunting and groaning to get it out of the center ring and onto the roof. I won’t even go into the madness involved with trying to spread that thing out around the yurt. Again, if you’re building a NEW yurt, your canvas comes nice and folded — presumably ready for you to flop it out on top. With ours? It was a bit of a jumble to get it looking good. It took us HOURS. Just on this part.

And after getting the top on, we had to then put on the side insulation panels and the side canvas panels. They were heavy, but nowhere near as heavy as the top. This part was also difficult because our yurt is so high off the ground, and we had to use lean-to ladders (as opposed to the A-frame ladders) to get as high as the top.

Then there was a dome, being pulled up the outside to the top:

And then, behold the yurt in all her glory. Still a few things to be done on the exterior like trim, etc. (and we’re adding the skirting asap this week), but on the whole she’s looking good.

Daisy is looking forward to the day the yurt has either carpeting or a soft bed for her to lay in. Other than that, she enjoyed her weekend. (Thanks Louise for the great photo!)



3 replies
  1. Angie Menssen says:

    Hello fellow whitefishian! We too become yurt dwellers next summer on Karrow! Found your pinterest page. Cheers, Angie


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