View Full Version : Yurts

09-18-2007, 08:37 AM
I've inherited a lovely property. 270 feet on Lake Huron with a three season camp. It's got me thinking what to do next.

As I drove back from seeing brother Bill off a fantasy, imagination, was really strong. Five canvas covered yurts, four for residence and a fifth in the center for chats. A sauna, boats to row and paddle, bikes to ride.

I can't afford to keep the place unless it pays its way. Any experience with yurts?

09-18-2007, 08:44 AM
.. and , no doubt , a little cat yurt to boot ..

09-18-2007, 08:46 AM
So what are you thinking? Guest cottages?

Just put in septic and some pads and do the RV thang.

jack grebe
09-18-2007, 08:56 AM
Just put in septic and some pads and do the RV thang.
I like that idea......seeings how I'm gonna be firing up the MH soon

Greg P H
09-18-2007, 09:03 AM
Yep... built my own from scratch, lived in it for a year...;)

09-18-2007, 09:09 AM
you know what i would build , is a garage on a slab , with a studio over , or a little one bedroom and pantry jobby

a nice stone firepit outside and you're good to go

Ron Carter
09-18-2007, 09:12 AM
Before you get too far check and see if there is any zoning on that property. If so you may find you are limited on what can be done. You'd be surprised where zoning restrictions pop up in Michigan. Start with the township office.

09-18-2007, 09:20 AM
http://www.robinsonplans.com/Assets/CottageImages/SERIEGA4.JPGww plans (http://www.robinsonplans.com/WW/Plans.htm)

09-18-2007, 09:24 AM
These are nice:


Sorry. Not yurts. There's yurts and then there's yurts, but aren't they too easy to break in to?

Michael s/v Sannyasin
09-18-2007, 09:29 AM
a couple of things. Yurts are great, I think it is a nice idea.

First, check with the area where the land sits to find out if their building codes allow them. I have a friend with property in upstate New York that wanted to build a Yurt, but the building codes won't allow it.

Some other friends live in Mass and work at an "Corporate Retreat". Basically, it is one of those team building places with a rope course, meant to challenge people, get them to trust each other. They have some Yurts where everyone sings Kumbya at the end of the day.

Something like that could work, or maybe an "Eco-tourism" camp. Problem is, who are you going to have manage it?

Greg P H
09-18-2007, 10:01 AM
Depends on the yurt.. in NY state, a traditional yurt is considered a non permanent structure, unless it was staked to the ground. I'm ot sure about the wooden panel designs, bolted to a slab, though...

How about a Vardo?




Ron Williamson
09-18-2007, 11:37 AM
Three season?Which three?
The provincial parks around here have insulated them for winter use.
Quite pleasant from all accounts.

09-18-2007, 11:54 AM
No reason to restrict yourself to yurts if you're thinking about non-traditional housing. There are also geodomes, adoble/cob/rammed earth houses, etc. etc.

But if you actually want to rent them out, small traditional wooden cottages would probably be better.


09-18-2007, 11:58 AM
i had an old three bedroom teepee with a fireplace

but i sold it and i bought a two story, er , wigwam , lotsa hardwood and nice countertops

09-18-2007, 12:03 PM
But a yurt is perfect for when you feel the need to pack up your belongings onto the back of your family yak, round up the sheep flock, and move out across the steppe to greener pastures.

09-18-2007, 12:09 PM
back in my college days i had an igloo basement apartment

09-18-2007, 12:12 PM
Yeah? Did you sub-let it in the summer when classes were out?

09-18-2007, 01:03 PM
Man, can't a yurt get any respect around here?

09-18-2007, 01:31 PM
I've got a friend who's lived in a yurt in Brooklin for five years. Five cold, cramped, crowded years in a 24' yurt. With wife and child and pets. I really hope they get a house built this fall.

Jim Ledger
09-18-2007, 01:45 PM
I've got a friend who's lived in a yurt in Brooklin for five years. Five cold, cramped, crowded years in a 24' yurt. With wife and child and pets. I really hope they get a house built this fall.

He'd better get a move on, then.

09-18-2007, 01:52 PM
I've got a friend who's lived in a yurt in Brooklin for five years. Five cold, cramped, crowded years in a 24' yurt. With wife and child and pets. I really hope they get a house built this fall.

He can just get rid of the goat. It'll drastically improve his quality of life :D


Jim Ledger
09-18-2007, 02:06 PM
He can just get rid of the goat. It'll drastically improve his quality of life :D


Make a nice goat testicle soup, a Mongolian favorite.

Mmmmm mmm.

Leon m
09-18-2007, 02:09 PM
I can't afford to keep the place unless it pays its way. Any experience with yurts?

I don't have any experience personally, but I know they rent the heck out of them on Crystal Lake, and they've been adding more every year.

09-18-2007, 03:48 PM
I saw a show on PBS a couple weeks ago on out of the way resorts. One was a day pack train ride into the mountains and the "rooms" were canvas wall tents, nicely furnished. Good, wholesome food, horseback riding and hiking, along with a beautiful setting in the mountains, were the main attractions.

That's the sort of thing I have in mind for this place, just replace the horses with boats and mountain bikes and throw in a dollop of sweat lodge. It wouldn't have to be with yurts, but something non-permanent to skirt any zoning issues. I've always liked yurts, not as a full-time residence but as a place to stay for a bit. Round feels very different than square.

This a beautiful place, and out of the way. It's a 40 minute ferry ride, or an airplane trip to get there. Hard by Lake Huron. Isolated and quiet. It would be a great place to have a livery of small oar, paddle and sail boats as well as a meditation retreat. A great place for writers or visual artists. May through September and bring your bug dope in May, the black flies are as wicked there as they are here in Maine. LOL.

I'm just imagining ways to keep the place, and that idea stuck with me the whole way home.

09-18-2007, 06:50 PM
Sounds nice, altough a single, larger house might pull in as much revenue wtih far less hassle managing the entire thing. If you have a colony of yurts, you'll become or need to hire a full-time manager for the thing.

There's a campground at Put-in-Bay, Ohio, that has some yurts. I took a look at one and was impressed, but it wasn't traditional. They built a wooden deck and short walls, all of the ground on posts, and the top half of the walls and roof are canvas. But they even got plumbing in it. Very cosy and inviting, and lots of light filtered through the white canvas.

How about this: http://microcompacthome.com/
Little houses you just drop into place.

There's lots of ways to go -- are you looking for a retreat for yourself that pays for itself, or a second job?
We gave up an inherited property on the Maine coast over these kinds of considerations. Maybe a mistake, but I didn't want to be a landlord, either.

Vince Brennan
09-18-2007, 07:13 PM
Meerkat turned me onto this forum/website for teeny homes... some as small as 200 sq. ft. He designed at least one cottage I know of for someone on that forum... might be a good place to look.




09-18-2007, 07:28 PM
Jack, I think I'd go to that place before weather turns cold and spend a week camping on the place.
Look around and get a feel for it. Likely, some good ideas will come to you. Best wishes.

Nicholas Carey
09-18-2007, 08:19 PM
Katrina cottages:


These are small (often 300-500 square feet) cottages that came out of a couple of charrettes to come up with ideas for post-Katrina reconstruction. They were originally thought of as buildings that were a "dignified alternative to FEMA trailers" and that could be built for less than what a FEMA trailer cost ($70,000).

You can buy a booklet of study plans and/or blueprints at Lowes: http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=pg&p=2006_landing/Katrina_Cottage/KatrinaCottage.html

Here's an example of one Katrina cottage at 308 square feet.

As built:


As designed:


Tom M.
09-18-2007, 09:01 PM
I have experience with portable yurts and wall tents. I have a good friend who lives in a 24 foot yurt, and I had a wall tent "vacation home" for about a year. Wall tents are cheaper by far and more portable. Yurts take a crew of 3 to erect but are a stronger structure, and they feel better inside. I'd go with yurts on a platform on pier blocks.

What utilities are available if any? Think about a composting toilet and solar power. I've got experience with those too.

09-19-2007, 05:46 AM
The zoning and codes there have traditionally been rather "wild west", though they have started to come on with stricter rules. The camp has a Biolet, that Bill never quite figured out, and a French drain for gray water. I'd have to put in a septic tank or a a mound system, or some damn thing to make the idea work. A small shower and toilet house with maybe four showers and two toilets hooked up? The septic could maybe take on the waste from the camp, too. We're starting to talk some cash at that point, but something like that would be the way to go, methinks

Just imagining at this point. I've got the winter to thunk on it. Because of the probate it won't be mine until May next year. Thanks for all the input, keep it coming!

P.S. Thanks for the small cottage info. A part of me wants to make it more unique. How many times have you stayed in a round house?

Cheers, dear fellows.

09-19-2007, 06:44 AM
Untended cottages have a nasty tendancy of being broken into and trashed. I would go for a solid wood structure with strong shutters which could be secured. Even bears could get into a Yurt!
By the way- that 4th season is a wonderful time to spend up north, especially if your cottage is directly on the open waters of the big lake. The everchanging patterns of the ice is awesome :-)

09-19-2007, 07:05 AM
He can just get rid of the goat. It'll drastically improve his quality of life :D


They have significantly reduced the herd, and they're still trying to sell off what's left, but it's a slow year for selling livestock.

And no goat testicle soup. They sold the buck already. (A really nice guy, as bucks go, when he wasn't getting off by peeing on his own face, but that's another story...)

Nicholas Scheuer
09-19-2007, 07:16 AM
I've got a favorite daydream of just that very thing! Only I imagine TWO of these structures, one in the northern Midwest, the other in sunnier climes.

Heating costs would be low, because I wuldn't be at the colder one in Winter. AC costs would be almost as low, as I would be at the warmer one in Summer.

Oh, yes, forgot to stipulate that Both of these garage/cottages would be located on water, where I could spend LOTS of time cruising.

Moby Nick

Brian Palmer
09-19-2007, 08:39 AM

Rent this movie. A great story about a Mongolian family and their life in a yurt. Includes a scene of them dismantling and packing up their yurt to move on to greener pastures, literally.


Bradley Stemen
09-20-2007, 10:59 PM
Look up Bill Copperthwaite, from up around East Machias , Maine. The authority on yurts, traditional and modern, has a number of them on his place 16' to 32' and multi-story. Visited with him back in 1986 when I was at the Rockport Apprenticeshop, we were getting ready to build a 16' yurt to expand the housing for apprentices and needed guidance. A real character that Mr. Copperthwaite.

09-21-2007, 06:04 AM
"Look up Bill Copperthwaite, from up around East Machias , Maine."

Didn't he write a book about how to make a yurt? Maybe it was someone else, but I used to have a book about making a small yurt, and I think it was his.

Yurts have kinda gotten a gloss of hippy dippy, but they're an elegant little structure. Trying to make them a full time western residence, with cabinetry etc, doesn't work all that well, but as a tent, a place with a bed, a woodstove, a washbowl, for a week's stay in northern Michigan paradise, seems eminently doable.

George Ray
09-21-2007, 07:12 AM
Bill Copperthwaite
The Yurt Foundation
Dickinson Reach
Machiasport, ME, 04655

Your about 90 miles from one of the worlds foremost experts on yurts.

( http://www.chelseagreen.com/authors/WilliamCoperthwaite )

Chelsea Green Author William Coperthwaite
William Coperthwaite William Coperthwaite is a native of Maine who has traveled the world in search of folk-art techniques and subsistence skills. Impressed by the beauty and intelligence of the traditional central Asian nomadic tents called "yurts," Coperthwaite adapted and introduced to North America yurt design and construction. In the past four decades he has participated in building more than three hundred yurts for family homes, schools, camps, and outbuildings. Awarded a doctorate from Harvard University's School of Education for his work with Eskimo villagers, Coperthwaite has taught in a variety of innovative educational settings. His organization, the Yurt Foundation, now serves to promote sensible and economical self-reliance through workshops, lectures, and publications.

His Book: ( http://www.chelseagreen.com/2007/items/handmadelifepb )

A Handmade Life
In Search of Simplicity
William Coperthwaite is a teacher, builder, designer, and writer who for many years has explored the possibilities of true simplicity on a homestead on the north coast of Maine. In the spirit of Henry David Thoreau, Emily Dickinson, and Helen and Scott Nearing, Coperthwaite has fashioned a livelihood of integrity and completeness—buying almost nothing, providing for his own needs, and serving as a guide and companion to hundreds of apprentices drawn to his unique way of being.

A Handmade Life carries Coperthwaite's ongoing experiments with hand tools, hand-grown and gathered food, and handmade shelter, clothing, and furnishings out into the world to challenge and inspire. His writing is both philosophical and practical, exploring themes of beauty, work, education, and design while giving instruction on the hand-crafting of the necessities of life: house, tools, clothing, and furniture. Richly illustrated with luminous color photographs by Peter Forbes, the book is a moving and inspirational testament to an new/old way of life.

"I want to live in a society where people are intoxicated with the joy of making things."

—William Coperthwaite, from A Handmade Life

I've got pictures of the complex of yurts at 'The Yurt Foundation' and some of him helping to build a small house yurt a couple years ago in the Machias area. If I could ever figure out where on the internet to post pictures since imagestation is going away I might get them up for you to see.
He travels a lot helping in design and organization of yurt projects. While he is very 'hands on' he does not usually contract to do construction, rather he is the brains of the project with a tool in his hand.