Those in the know are aware that we have desired to live over at the site ever since starting our garden project. It would make everything easier - from watering, to scaring deer away, to getting little things done here and there at odd moments throughout the day. All things that a distance of a half a mile makes either more difficult or impossible. Many were the suggestions: Get a cheap old trailer. Fix up the house or the block garage. Use a tent. And all were good ideas, but we didn't have the energy to make them happen for one reason or another.
Then we thought about our friends Brian and Luann (aka Yurtfolk), who have a beautiful and inspiring home in northern Indiana. It's a 30' diameter yurt. We figured a yurt would fit into our lifestyle well as a seasonal home; we could put it up over at the garden, move in around April or May when the garden really starts picking up, then move back to the house in October or so when the weather turns cold.
Dovetailing well into our plans, craigslist.org listed a place selling three used yurts in our area just days after we decided to actively search for one. We took it as a sign, and followed up.
The sellers had bought their yurts from Spirit Mountain Yurts a couple of years before, and they had all collapsed in a freak windstorm. The company is not a good one, and if I had done a bit more research on SMY before buying ours second-hand I would have either talked the sellers way down or passed altogether. We would have saved a lot of trouble that way, but it is likely that we've ended up with a passable yurt at a good price despite all the teeth-gnashing and replacing of parts I've had to do.
The bottom line is this: the sellers sold us one of their 20' yurts, and were not exactly honest about the damage or the inventory of parts. The lattice wall was broken in two, and the two pieces of wall didn't match up to make an entire 20' diameter. It was missing 11 of the 30 rafters, the dome was seriously cracked, and there were holes in the roof vinyl. Bedsides these points, the sellers did not pass us the packet of instructions on assembly, or answer any subsequent emails or phone calls.
Spirit Mountain Yurts was not only unhelpful, but completely non-communicative. I found out (by testing a hunch) that they only respond to emails expressing interest in buying a yurt. They have a very bad reputation across the board, it turns out.
In spite of this I did attack the project with gusto, at least initially. I decided to set up our new yurt inside one of our barns, so that weather would be no issue, and so that I could hang a pulley from a beam to help raise the yurt's roof. I repaired the lattice wall, then secured it with the door in place. When it came to lifting the compression ring in place, though, I found that one person with a pulley wasn't enough. After a few attempts and some damaged materials (and morale), I threw in the towel for about ten months.
Eventually Margo suggested that more hands might make it easier, and a party might make it more fun. So I held a gathering of men from the Dayton Mennonite Fellowship that we attend, and victory was achieved. It turned out that putting up the roof, manufacturing the remaining 11 rafters, and pulling out and checking the canvas wall and vinyl roof was a simple and light-hearted task for 12 people. There was a great deal of joking around the image of me trying to do it all myself.
I was finally convinced that this yurt might be a good idea after all, so we went ahead and planned a date for the yurt-raising. In the few days prior to that we would build a platform for it to sit on and patch the roof as well as we could.
It is at this point that I'd like to plug a company with an appropriately stellar reputation. Pacific Yurts designs and builds exceptionally strong, durable, and versatile structures. What's more, they have plenty of helpful information on their website, and they answer phone calls and emails. And, to top it off, they give detailed specifications and instructions on building platforms for yurts of various dimensions, which was especially helpful. A stark contrast to Spirit Mountain Yurts.
After gathering the materials Margo's dad and I went through the excruciating process of leveling the 16 concrete piers, put up and leveled the beams, and then screwed down the deck. The platform took two days, and overlapped with what was supposed to be the actual yurt-raising. Our friend Knoll came over to help finish the decking and drip-edge that Saturday, and by the time we called it quits that night the three of us had put up the lattice wall, the door, and the rafters and compression ring.
Knoll came back over the following Monday to help me muddle through the installation of the canvas wall, vinyl roof, and dome. This was one step that filled me with trepidation, because I had no idea how it would all fit together. The grommets on the wall canvas looked nothing like the descriptions any other yurt companies gave in their own assembly instructions, and Spirit Mountain Yurts remained, of course, eerily silent. But we succeeded against all odds, and the first rain showed it to be mostly water-proof (my roof patching was not quite thorough enough).
So now we are yurt dwellers! At least, we will be when we move in next week. We have already spent a good deal of daytime in it between garden tasks, and Alten can vouch for its excellent nappability.
There is a long list of people who made this yurt possible - Chris W., Zach, Ben, Brian, Jeff, Kevin, Kevin's dad, Tim, Mike, Jason, Dave, and Will all lent a hand in the barn putting up rafters and giving me a strong dose of optimism and creativity. Chris R. helped out caulking the drip-edge plywood and persuading it into place. And without Rex and Knoll, to whom I give endless thanks, the platform and raising would have taken three weeks instead of three days. That is no exaggeration. Margo gets credit for keeping the thing on track, and Alten gets credit for looking cute all the time.