Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Yurts: Living in the Round by Becky Kemery

I know I said I would do reviews on Sundays, but this book became a part of my personal recovery, so I thought I would include it here.

Dan only checked the mail once while Daniel was in the hospital, even though he came back to town to go to work several days. In the stack of mail when we got home was this book for me to review.

My first thought was, "How silly, as if I want to read a yurt book right now." I hadn't read anything while in the hospital, except a few Reader's Digest funny pages, which were really read to me by my husband. I stared at books, open in front of me several times, but I wasn't reading anything.

I somehow started reading this. This book about yurts became an escape. It pulled me out of my sorrows, showed me my goals and got me dreaming again.

The book weaved through the history and modern applications of yurts, or round tent-like homes. Yurts have been used in many parts of Asia for millennia and the author even gave yurts credit for much of Genghis Kahn's conquests. Now, in America, they are popping up as anything between a portable dwelling, as they were in Asia, made of modern materials, to an inspiration for modern architecture.

This book got me thinking about a lot of things. As someone interested in portable housing, yurts have an appeal to me. Modern fabric yurts can be built in a day, and taken down to be moved in a day. They can have all of the amenities of a modern home and can be heated more efficiently than a house with corners.

One thing I was most interested in was how round living impacted one's social life. The book told about how, for many people, being in a round space allows a group to have a closeness, opening up to one another. The book took it in a spiritual direction about being in touch with the earth that didn't suit me, but everything that it said about group gatherings in yurts seemed most applicable to my life and seemed like a setting that would be desirable to our family.

The book was well written and sucked me in an unexpected way. Most books about architectural structures don't have you dreaming about warriors one minute and sleeping under the stars the next. The pictures were phenomenal as well.

I would recommend this book for people that are interested in energy-efficient housing, small homes (although yurt-homes can be made to be quite large), portable housing and affordable housing. This book has a lot of info and resources to look into. Even though I'm not sure we'll go the yurt route, there was a lot of info that has inspired some new ideas in me.

TIP: If you are a blogger interested in reviewing a book, contact the publisher. Politely tell them that you blog, how many visitors you get, and that you'd be willing to do a review for your blog if they sent you the book you are interested in. I also committed to putting my review on Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com as well. This is a reader tip that works.

36 comments:

Scottish Twins said...

I've always thought yurts were cool, but way too impractical for cold weather living. I don't think they're too energy efficient. I don't think you could live in one in Maine. Did the book talk about heating and energy efficiency?

Here in Ohio we have tornadoes to worry about, so a yurt wouldn't work.

Patty said...

Art and architecture do seem to have a way to get the dreaming going. My husband is a fan of dome homes which connects with the round and efficient you've mentioned from the yurts. Domes are also said to be good for withstanding our hurricane winds. We are quite settled where we are now but perhaps a future endeavor. Its always good to get inspiration to think differently about where we are and where we are going.

Emily said...

Scottish Twins, yurts are amazingly energy efficient with heating. They are actually popular in Alaska. You can build them of wood, making them less portable, but fabric ones have optional extra insulation that makes them great in cold climates. You can heat them all sort of ways, but wood stoves and radiant heat (in flooring) seemed to work best for yurts.

Our Family Is His said...

Very neat. We wouldn't really want a Yurt, though the simplicity is intriguing. We are all about simplifying our lives. I have a friend that lives in Alaska. While she doesn't live in a Yurt style home, she does have a VERY simply built home, and from pictures of her at friends home in her area, it's not uncommon. It seems it's more about function than fashion.

Tree Huggin Momma said...

Couldn't do the yurt thing. I need rooms. I need my own personal space when I just want to be alone (I suppose I could go for a walk into the wilderness - but I figure I might run into people) being able to retreat to my office to be left alone is a key in my sanity ;).

liveoncejuicy said...

I read an article somewhere recently that talked about people living in NYC without any heat. One of the examples was a group of early 20-somethings who all lived together in a warehouse with ceilings so high they couldn't afford to heat it (but it had a full-sized stage so they wanted it anyway. Actors I guess?) So they built a Yurt inside their place to stay warm! It made me think of you Emily :) I thought it was very innovative.

Life More Simply said...

We've dreamed of living in a tree yurt! How crazy is that! :-)

Devon said...

I think I would love living in a yurt if I had no kids, or if I could afford to do multiple smaller yurts for rooms and one large main yurt. The designs are amazing!

Diana @ frontyardfoodie said...

I have always liked the idea of yurts. They're the center of the permaculture idea....taking from nature and giving to nature without producing anymore waste than any other animal. It's a lovely idea that most of the world has forgotten.

K said...

What is the concept behind the increased closeness in a yurt vs. a house with corners?

K said...

Oh do they have no rooms?

Simple in France said...

As I consider moving AGAIN, I begin to think that living in a home that could be moved would be ideal. Sigh. I've always been fascinated by life in Mongolia also . . .so yurts are of interest to me. There are even some places in France where you can go and try out living in a yurt.

And thanks for the tip on asking publishers for books to review--I like it!

Melissa said...

Just a quick question... Is there any way to put up portable "walls" or something to block off a space for a small bedroom for the kids? That would be my only objection to living in a yurt. I would want atleast one bedroom for the kids. I have a 9 yr old and a 1yr old. The baby would not care about a bedroom but I know my big guy would! (=

God Bless,
Melissa

Sondra Rose said...

I love the feeling of yurts! I've been in a few here and they seem to work best for meeting spaces or for young families who don't need as much privacy. Once the kids get older, though, the families often choose to add on another yurt (or move to a house!) The biggest challenge for most of them here in the Pacific NW is moisture build-up, so the bathrooms and sometimes kitchens are often in a separate building. Maine may not have this problem--it depends on the relative humidity. I imagine that Mongolia is pretty dry.

Daisy said...

We know people who use a yurt as their summer cottage. They have a piece of land on Georgian Bay and in early May they put it up (they say they can do it in a few hours) and it comes down at the end of October. Beyond that they function as if they are camping....propane stove, walk to get water from a camp-base pump, outhouse etc. I have been inside it and it is neat.

I personally wouldn't want to live in one. It wouldn't meet our family's needs. But the I will admit I like the summer "residence" idea. Living in the snowbelt of Ontario, Canada, I don't think I would want to winter in one!

Dreams can be fun! Even if they just remain dreams!

Danu said...

Yurts always fascinated me as well. I have seen the inside of them & they are bigger inside than what they look on the outside. I would LOVE to live in one. The thought of being one with nature like that is awesome!! I think that you could live in one with kids. No problem. JMHO. :)

Elizabeth said...

Emily-
This is off topic but I know you are interested in going "No Poo" and I wrote about it over at my blog today!
www.trenchesofmommyhood.blogspot.com

Happily Frugal Mama said...

I love yurts!

Personally, I think this would be a much more practical housing solution for a large family than other "mobile" living options. You can create rooms or privacy divisions with canvas walls or screens.

Emily said...

You can have rooms, and even a loft in fabric yurts, the most portable yurts. Younhave to build a round platform under the yurt and you would build any room divisions or loft off of the platform. You can also build wooden, permanent houses in the style of a yurt.

K, I think closeness is because there is generally one large open living space, as oposed to a bunch of small rooms. That is something we would want to incorporate into any home.

Emily said...

Life More Simply, I love the idea of a tree yurt! With little kids, it might be tricky, but with a spiral staircase going up the trunk, I think it could work! (:

Simple In France, the book mentioned a few yurt companies in France, and one that even did the Mongolian traditional yurts. I didn't understand most of this website, but the pics were cool, if you wanted to dream a little.
http://www.yourtes.fr

Susan said...

Oregon State Parks have yurts available for campers. They are so popular you have to book well in advance. My daughter and her family absolutely love them! She finds them more comforable than tents.
I have known people who lived in yurts about 30 years ago. It's just like living in a log house, either you love it or not.

becky kemery said...

Emily, thank you, what a lovely, lovely review. I'm so glad to have been a part of your recovery and renewed visioning.

May I add my two cents to all your great comments? You pointed out the communal character of yurts, which I believe derives from their circular shape--i.e., yurts bring people together into a circle (whether for meetings, gatherings or family living) thereby promoting equality, sharing and a sense of togetherness.

You mentioned yurts in Alaska. As you know, there are also quite a few in Maine, Minnesota and across Canada. (Most people don't realize that yurts are actually easier to heat than to keep cool in a hot climate.)

Privacy is certainly important. As you say, it's possible to create rooms in a yurt, or to use a multiple-yurt system for privacy (the only way to go with teenagers, I think).

Finally, one of my favorite advantages of yurt living, especially following your theme of "under $1000 per month," is that you can start very simply (e.g., with a platform, wood stove & sawdust toilet) and build in the amenities you desire (outbuildings, plumbing, solar panels, high speed internet) as time and money become available. It makes owning one's own shelter doable while still allowing for the creation--over time--of comfort, convenience and aesthetics.

Again, Emily, thanks for such a beautiful, heart-felt review and your wonderful blog. I just started a new "Yurtlady" facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/yurtlady/229566641642?ref=ts and would love to have you and your readers join us.

I wish you well with your blogging and all your dreams,

becky kemery
Author of "YURTS: Living in the Round"
www.yurtinfo.org

Blessed said...

I just saw a photo of a traditional fabric yurt in Mongolia the other day, and the coolest thing about it, in my opinion, is how you can roll up whole sides in nice weather--talk about bridging between inside and out, which is one of the cool trends in home architecture these days. I imagine that would be fantastic in areas that are cold in the winter and hot in the summer.

I know a woman here in CA who lives in a yurt, and another who attached a woodent yurt (permanent structure) to her house as an art studio--amazing light, with no dark corners.

For anyone interested in some other amazing books to get you thinking about houses and lifestyles, I very highly recommend Susan Susanka's "Not So Big House" book, "The Treehouse Book" by Peter and Judy Nelson, and "Material World: A Global Family Portrait," by Peter Menzel.

suzin said...

Here in Nebraska is a really nice "yurt" or a good sized round house,it is made of fibreglass or plastic...has separate rooms...has a skylight in the center with a raised garden area under it.. the skylight could be closed with a garage type door...has everything you would want...a very, very, nice home.....I would love to live in a round home like that....

Emily said...

becky, wow, thanks for commenting, I just became a fan of your facebook page. I really do love that book!

Blessed, Thanks for the book suggestions.

CappuccinoLife said...

I love yurts. :) That sounds like a really neat book.

Anonymous said...

So about these yurts, how well do they hold up in a tornado? Because we have lots of tornadoes here. I'd hate for my yurt to get hurled across the prairie...

Lisa said...

Hi! Yuirts are for severe cold weather living. They originated in the coldest parts of the world. I have a couple boks about them. I'll have to look them up & give you the names & also addresses of where to order or make your own. They are great here in Ohio, actually the state parks some have them.

eccentricterri said...

I love love love love yurts. The ones that are sold on various sites seem to be around $14k. It is something that we might do if we move to an area with no restrictions. I would really hate to deal with any city zoning codes.

Have you checked out Librarythings.com? They have a section for monthly reviewers. I have received 2 actual books and 4 ebooks to review. You are asked to review on their site and other book related sites. I am strangeknit over there if you sign up!

I mentioned in the past about thermal cooking or retained heat cooking so I will give you the link to a blog about it @ http://thermalcooker.wordpress.com/2010/01/28/348/ There is a section on thermal cookers with better set ups to be made. I think you might enjoy this method since you like crockpots so well.

Emily said...

Anon, it's hard to say definitively, but I found this link where the author told about a tornado in Japan that damaged the permanent structures, but left the yurt basically untouched. The idea is that corners of a conventional home catch the wind in storms, where the yurt allows the wind to go right around it without resistance. But with a tornado your also dealing with flying objects at high winds which could damage the fabric of a fabric yurt (which is repairable). Any damage done would be repairable, and I think it would be more affordable to repair a yurt than a house. I would think you would want to build an underground basement or shelter, just like with a house. http://www.greenhomebuilding.com/QandA/manufactured/yurt.htm

terri, that vidoe makes it so simple, I feel stupid for not having done it before. I think I'm going to embed that one into a blog post in the near future. And I just signed up at librarything.com. Thanks!

Ria said...

I've been contacting a few publishers lately and asking for review copies of books. I have a book review blog that I post reviews on (it's small but it's growing as I do more advertising for it), and it also helps me get a more referrals for Amazon Associates. I hope that I can get a few more bites from publishing companies soon, since I'm always on the lookout for new interesting books to read!

JBloodthorn said...

I like the yurts, but I think geodesic domes are so much more awesome. They take the essence of a yurt, and expand on it. The domes are more permanent and even better with heating than yurts. And you can buy them in kits and build them on your own without hiring a contractor.

Joanie.S said...

Emily, you strike me as being very bright, very intelligent, super creative, as well as being quite down-to-earth, but yet you say somthing like this:

"The book took it in a spiritual direction about being in touch with the earth that didn't suit me"

Why does being in touch with earth not suit your spirituality sense? I find that to be very curious.

becky kemery said...

Hi Anonymous, I agree with Emily that the only real protection with a tornado is something underground. If a stick frame building can't withstand a tornado, a fabric yurt isn't going to fare well either.

A round building (preferably a sturdier, permanent yurt) is a great idea in hurricane country because there are no corners on the yurt to catch the wind-- but tornados are another matter altogether.

It reminds me of the polar bear question. A yurt maker was asked about using yurts in polar bear country. The questioner explained that as a rule, humans have something like 6 or 60 seconds of grace before an interested polar bear can break into a log cabin. Well, if a log cabin won't stand up to a polar bear, I certainly don't want to be in a fabric yurt in polar bear country!

So I'd nix the yurt in tornado country unless you've got a great basement to hang out in while the yurt is flying off with the cows and cars and whatever was in the way...

For those considering making their own yurts, please visit the "Build a Yurt" section at www.yurtinfo.org for information on both plans and workshops.

Emily, loved your post today on quality of life. How true! Thanks again for your good work, good life, good thoughts.

(((((HUGS))))) sandi said...

I've always loved the idea of building a cob house~NOT my darling's vision~LOL! I think a yurt would be neat as well, but again... Still, it would be FUN to read this~THANKS for the review!!! (((((HUGS))))) sandi

Anonymous said...

found this over at Tiny house blog... http://tinyhouseblog.com/yurts/yurt-living-in-upstate-new-york/#more-10846
(can't remember if you said you read this blog or not.) article answers some of the questions that were asked here plus it is an awesome looking yurt!
~mommyboots

Post a Comment