My jurta

December 24, 2011

This article was written around 2003.  I’ve had my jurta for 13 years now.  I’ve replaced the door a couple of times, the roof ring once and last year we redid the leather ties that bind the wall together for the first time. For a look at how my  jurta looks now, go here.

Being inside a yurt for the first time was a life altering experience for me. Previously, my husband and I had an A-frame which I hated and he loved. The fact that you had to be in the middle of the tent to do anything really bugged me, as did all that wasted space on the edges. Not to mention the huge fights we used to get in when putting it up.

The outside of my jurta.

Then, at a Coronation event, I was invited into a yurt for the first time. It was big. It was roomy. It had enough space for everyone to hang out, visit, work on projects and be dry. (I mentioned that I lived in An Tir, right?) I was in love.

I made plans to own one right away. It took about six months of work on the husband before he finally caved. Ha! I was about to have some yurty goodness of my very own.

Right side of door

About the yurt

In the spring of 2000, I purchased a yurt kit from Master Sunjan of An Tir.

Even though I was expecting a dissembled yurt, I don’t think I figured on it looking quite so much like a bonfire waiting to happen. It was basically a big pile of wood, but on closer inspection I found that I had enough cut, drilled and sanded pieces to complete the khana (the “baby-gate” part), the roof poles, and the door frame. Also included was the roof ring and the tension ring, and leather ties (for the khana).


What do you do when you have a dissembled 18 foot yurt in your driveway? Hold a party, of course!Beer! Pizza! Oh, yeah, and we’re going to be *mumble* *mumble* tying a khana together. *mumble* *mumble*.

My friends were not fooled, but they came anyway. Six back-breaking hours and many blisters later, I had a completed khana. Whoo!

Yurt facts

  • The yurt is eighteen feet in diameter.
  • The walls are 5 feet high.
  • There are 57 roof poles.
  • 120 pieces of wood were used in the khana.
  • Over 1200 knots were tied when putting the khana together.
  • The roof poles are 8 feet long.
  • 50 yards of sun forger canvas was used on the cover and walls.
  • I bonk my head on the door frame every time I go inside.
  • There’s a big hole in the roof. Oddly, it’s supposed to be there.
  • At the beginning of the camping season, it takes my husband and I about 1 hour and a half to put the yurt together. (30 minutes of that is arguing about whatever we have forgotten to bring.) By the end of the season, 45 minutes tops, in the dark, without the flashlight.
  • I’ve had three different doors. (Large flat object on roof rack + high winds + freeway speed = large flat object flying through the air and Khalja has no more door.)


Putting up the yurt for the first time.

The roof poles are painted in a geometric design in the colors of red, black and yellow. They took me two weeks to paint as the design had to be measured, marked off, and painted in each color allowing them to dry. The khana poles were stained in two days with a poly-urethane and an electric paint sprayer. This is a bad plan. Do not do this. The poly-urethane stain dries too quickly and it drips, plus it clogs the sprayer.

Advice on yurt ownership

Canvas, even pre-treated canvas, shrinks after a couple of good rains. (An Tir. I mentioned it, right?) Well, my cover may have needed a couple of extensions, but on the plus side, it doesn’t leak. Which leads me to my most important piece of advice – Don’t Skimp On Canvas. You will regret it. Trust me.

Bubble blowing - an important step in putting together the yurt.

You’ve heard about the flooding at Estrella in 2003? Me? Dry as a bone. I slept through the main storm. My cover is made of heat-resistant, mildew-resistant, water-repellant marine treated sunforger canvas. Yeah, baby.

Leather ties on the khana are not just a good idea, they’re period too. Some yurt manufacturers put them together with nuts and bolts or airplane rivets. Bad plan. Metal doesn’t flex. Wood doesn’t much either or it will split. Leather ties can take a lot of abuse. It was three years before the first leather tie broke on my khana and it was in a high stress point by the door.

Sew loops onto the inside of your roof canvas that you can use to tie down your roof to the khana. That 360 square foot roof canvas is nothing but a big sail. I know.

The Yurt Tour

left side of yurt interior.

If you, like me, can’t live without a yurt, be prepared to do a lot of explaining. Everyone is curious about yurts. Unless I’m setting up at 2am at a camping event, I’m going to be doing the yurt tour. This can be a plus, because it usually means free labor.
right side of yurt interior

The yurt tour consists of giving them the names of all the parts, explaining how it goes together, putting them to work for a bit, sending them on their way with an invitation to come back later for a visit and, finally, fixing the stuff they did wrong.


My yurt functions as a big social center. It is dry when it rains, it is shady and cool when it’s hot. What does air do when it’s hot? It rises, right? Well, a yurt has a big smoke hole for all that hot air to go out of. If you lift the walls of the tent, the yurt will create it’s own breeze. No kidding. It’s this weird air-conditioning vortex effect. The downside is the sudden appearance of stinky fighter-types wanting to enjoy themselves in this oasis-like atmosphere.

The air-conditioned yurt

So that’s my home away from home. Fun, huh?

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