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Yurt / Ger Diary

written by Rene K. Mueller, Copyright (c) 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, last updated Sat, January 3, 2015


As I proceed I will update the diary. Most up-to-date entry at top, first and oldest entry at the bottom respectively last page.

05. 05. 2010: Leaving

After a half year I moved back to Switzerland, as I didn't fit into that french eco-village project. It was a very nice place and enjoyed the nature there immensly. Later that year I sold the yurts to a friend who lives a few hours away were I resided in France.

23. 10. 2009 - 18. 12. 2009: Moved to France, Pitched the Yurt Again

Well, April 2008 I took my yurt down, traveled with my recumbent , and came back to Switzerland, and looking for a suitable place to continue my passion with the yurt - but this turned out not very successful: either the places were expensive, or tiny, restricted or otherwise not suitable (I've got a bit picky, why aim for less).

In May 2009 I attended the Yurt Builder Conference where I made contact with an eco-village project in southern France, and I traveled with my recumbent in France again and paid them a visit. After getting to know the group a bit and the eco-village project at its startup phase I decided to provisoral join it. In September 2009 I returned from my recumbent travelings to Switzerland, and roughly a month later, October 23 I moved with a truck and about 2000kg material to south of France about 1100km long trip.

Surprise, there is a legal way to live in a yurt, and it's rather simple solution.

What does it mean? In Germany, Switzerland and Austria yurts essentially aren't permitted to be lived in, either you ignore the law and get along with the local authorities, or make a touristic hotel like setup with yurts, it might work. In France you are allowed to pitch a tent, a caravan or a yurt or some sort of temporary building for at least 2 years after you have been given permission to build your own house. To get permission to build your own house is a multistep procedure - so, I was given permission to pitch the yurt before I even filed the details of a house building; but also that the parcel I'm on will be used for a future yurt camping facility - either way it seems a legal way to live in a yurt for a "limited time". With all the feedback of the recent years it seems the easiest way to live in a yurt is when a "legal" house is nearby.

So, it took a while to get everything setup legally, as being part of an eco-village project I had to wait 2-3 weeks until the permission was granted. And then of course you can only work as fast and make head when the weather allows it, which slowed down preparing and putting the yurt up further.

2009/11/04 15:48
2009/11/11 11:28
2009/11/11 14:39
2009/11/12 17:34
2009/11/13 17:24
2009/11/15 16:39
2009/11/16 10:46
2009/11/16 15:38
2009/11/16 17:58
2009/11/18 11:09
2009/11/21 17:59
2009/12/10 13:58
2009/12/11 11:57
2009/12/11 12:17
2009/12/11 14:54
2009/12/12 12:50
2009/12/13 11:56
2009/12/13 12:44
2009/12/13 13:35
2009/12/13 14:22
2009/12/13 14:55
2009/12/13 16:22
2009/12/16 15:31
2009/12/16 17:36
2009/12/18 11:06

What's different from Switzerland?

First of all unusual winds: in western Europe most "weather" comes from the west, but in south of France the winds come from south where as the clouds come from the west. The south winds are warm and stormy, up to 70km/h where I am - which make working on the yurt impossible, only with calm or no wind you can put up or take down the roof covers properly.

Also, in Switzerland it was very humid, lot of rain, and then cold in November and first snow. In southern France, Midi Pyrenees to be specific, it also rains, but the ground and earth is dry from the summer, the earth hardly gets damp even after days of rain. This ideal for a yurt setup, the humidity is rather low, but it also means not much water.

So, back to my place, I arrived to a spot:

  • without (direct) access to water, 20min walk to a small water source; solution: rain water collecting and filtering, use water wisely
  • without (direct) electricity; solution: solar panels
  • without waste water connnection; solution: dry/compost toilette

I have choosen a shady place a slope facing east, open area from North, East and South, and in the back (West) a small forest, supposed to slow down storms from the atlantic. In the summer I get shadow around 11:00 until rest of the day, this will lower the UV impact to the cover I have. Summers are rather hot, 35-38C, and very dry. No rain for weeks, and rain only briefly.

The eco-village project owns about 55ha of land, about 140 acres - and some is located in a narrow valley, with at summers is nice to be, at winter only brief sunlight and rather cold. I have chosen a spot at the plateau, exposed more to the winds, and in summer time to the heat - that's why the shady spot. I positioned the yurt between two or three trees, at winter they loose the leafs and sunlight reaches me until 15:00 or a bit more, in summer, with all the leafs I have shadow, as mentioned, around 11:00.

It's a slight slope, about 30cm or 1 feet to dig away at 6.50m diameter, the yurt has a diameter of 6.40 or 19'. We displaced the earth from one side to another and many stones we discovered just a bit under the the surface, and put them aside. Further, we used 2t of gravel to fine tune the surface.

I dropped the palettes, as the ground is dry, and put the polystyrol direct on the gravel, not even ditched a drainage. Then direct on top the wooden floor - very simple setup. I would not recommend this setup unless you are located on an alike dry site.

As next we pitched the yurt, and moved all my stuff from a nearby storage place into the yurt. It took me about a week to open and place all stuff, and clean up the items from the dust of one year storage and also the dusty place it was stored for 4 weeks here in France. I took with me the empty bags of my thermal insulation and refilled them with local straw, straw roles a 180kg each and € 15 each, harvested in spring of 2009.

What else to write? The eco-village project has attracted like-minded people, one of them is Nicolas Causse, who builds Helix Zomes , a variant of domes quite known here in southern France, e.g. check Zomes-Concept.com , the carpenter who build most of those "zomes" lives just nearby.

This also made me add two pages on zomes:

In a nutshell, I continue my endevour now in France . . .

26. 4. - 27. 4. 2008: Taking Down the Yurt

Here the photos of the take down; with these photos also my Yurt Diary ends.

2008/04/26 12:04
2008/04/26 12:32
2008/04/26 13:02
2008/04/26 13:13
2008/04/26 13:50
2008/04/26 14:08
2008/04/26 14:14
2008/04/26 14:14
2008/04/26 14:14
2008/04/26 14:14
2008/04/26 14:14
2008/04/26 15:01
2008/04/26 15:52
2008/04/26 15:53
2008/04/26 15:53
2008/04/26 16:22
2008/04/26 16:22
2008/04/26 16:22
2008/04/26 16:23
2008/04/26 16:23
2008/04/26 16:23
Mice nested within this segment of straw insulation, won't be reused
2008/04/26 16:23
2008/04/26 16:23
2008/04/27 12:12
2008/04/27 14:25
2008/04/27 15:07
2008/04/27 15:07
2008/04/27 18:33
And starting my traveling with my recumbent . . .
2008/04/27 18:54

20. 4. 2008: Last Days, Total Wood Usage & Larger Skylights

Sunset of 19th April 2008
The last couple of days at the current site, Thursday 24. 4. or a day later I will take the down the yurt as it looks, as said, I will make photos but I'm not sure if I get the opportunity to actually upload it here before I leave for my traveling.

Total Wood Usage

It has been warmer and I didn't fire the stove anymore the last week - so I can conclude now the last winter season 2007/2008 total wood usage of 27 boxes = 1.58 ster or m3 loose wood, hard and soft wood mixed (50%/50% apprx). I fired the stove from November 2007 until 3rd week of April 2008, total 23 weeks.


Here a few photos of the skylights I made during the last few days:

195cm crown-wheel/toono with skylight 12 willow bows
2008/04/20 15:41
195cm crown-wheel/toono & skylight (closeup)
2008/04/20 15:41
195cm crown-wheel/toono & skylight (closeup)
2008/04/20 15:41
195cm skylight, 12 segments, 12 double willow bows, and fine grided with 5mm thick bamboo
2008/04/20 15:42
195cm skylight, 12 segments (closeup)
2008/04/20 15:42
195cm skylight, 12 segments (closeup)
2008/04/20 15:42
2x 195cm skylights, 2x 122cm skylights
2008/04/20 15:54
3 skylights: 195cm (12 segments), 122cm (8 segments), 90cm (8 segments)
2008/04/20 15:50

Details for the 190cm skylights:

  • I used 12x apprx. 50cm long segments, 2.5cm thick, and 10-12cm wide, glued and use wooden dowels (8mm thick, 4-5cm long, precut)
  • I will use a tension band around the 12 segment skylights to stabilize it when used as skylight with a cover
  • I used two methods with skinned willow bows:
    • single willow bow, but as you can see on the 2nd photo the 12 layers bows make it quite unregular, and I won't do this again
    • double willow bows, it's much flatter as the double bows are put aside and create less uneven center hub, this is why I fine-grided that option further with 5mm thick 90cm bamboo
  • I used cable-tie/zip-ties again extensively - so far so good

Crown-wheels/toono & skylights (for my own inventory):

  • 1.90m diameter 3x12 segment multi-layer (without holes, likely 94 holes later) with fine grided skylight (part of a future 8-9.5m diameter yurt)
  • 1.90m diameter 12 segment (without holes, likely 94 holes later) with skylight (part of a future 8-9.5m diameter yurt)
  • 1.22m diameter 8 segment (without holes), with fine grided skylight (part of a future 6-7m diameter yurt)
  • 1.22m diameter 8 segment (without holes), with fine grided skylight (part of a future 6-7m diameter yurt)
  • 1.22m diameter 8 segment, with skylight (to be fine grided), (part of my current 6.4m yurt I live in)
  • 0.80m diameter 8 segment 40 holes, with fine grided skylight (part of 4m diameter yurt)

so total 6 crown-wheels for 6 yurts (4m - 9.5m diameter), something like 1x 4m, 3x 6.4m, 1x 8m, 1x 9.5m.

15. 4. 2008: Rain, Sunshine, Snow

Sunset of 13th April 2008
The weather has been very different the last week, with rain, then sunshine with up to 18°C, and then the following days again around 1°C with some snowfall. Most of the days I didn't fire the stove, only briefly in the morning and the heat lasted until late evening - today it rain/snow mixture around 1°C.

In about a week I plan to take down the yurt and put all my stuff in storage and start with a longer bicycle ride through Europe.

I still work on larger skylights (195cm in diameter) using the same technique I tested with the 122cm diameter skylights using willow rods - once I finished them, hopefully within this week (it's a bit too cold outside so the wood glue very slowly dries), I will show the results here.

7. 4. 2008. April Weather: No Snow, Snow, No Snow ...

Freezing morning of 7th April 2008
2008/04/07 09:11
Morning of 7th April 2008
2008/04/07 09:11
Afternoon of 7th April 2008
2008/04/07 17:04
Sunset of 7th April 2008
2008/04/07 19:27

Sunset of 7th April 2008
It snowed again tonight apprx. 10cm, freezing temperatures, frozen ground partially in the morning - and during the day it all melted away except the snow which slid from the roof.

I fired the stove in the morning 1-2 hours as it cooled significantly down due cold winds; in the afternoon the sun warmed up the yurt further almost to summer temperatures.

6. 4. 2008: April Weather: Snow, No Snow

Yurt in sunset of 5th April 2008
2008/04/05 18:59
Snow in the morning
2008/04/06 10:55
Snow gone in the evening
2008/04/06 18:01
Yesterday partially sunny, and afternoon and evening warm inside the yurt without fireing the stove - this morning apprx. 5-10cm snow, rather dry but nevertheless melted away with a bit rain during the day.

I used this last winter season now 26 boxes of wood (17 boxes = 1 ster or 1m3 chopped wood) which gives 1.52 ster/m3 wood (apprx. 0.75m3 compact wood), maybe another 2 boxes until temperatures are high enough so the stove is no longer required to heat the yurt.

5. 4. 2008: Skylight Refined

I finished the grids of the skylights I started earlier. At first I tried two different methods:

Skylight grid: single willow rods with bamboo rings

Skylight grid: dual willow rods with bamboo subspokes
  1. strong single willow bows with bamboo circles
  2. dual willow bows with bamboo subspokes

But I drop the second approach as you can see the spoked got lower and lower at the top, and it displeased me - so I dropped that option as such but combined both and changed the second option so they would not reach the center and stack up or stack down there.

The bamboo rings I made out of 90cm long 4mm thick bamboo split; and the inner most was one bamboo stick soaked in water for 2-3 hours in order to bent it; the other 3 rings were made out of 2x, 3x and 4x 90cm bamboo sticks, and bent respectively assembled dry with cable ties.

The additional subspokes I then aligned below the outermost ring, and above the three smaller rings and again fixated with cable ties.

Skylight grid: single willow rods with bamboo rings & shortened subspokes
2008/04/05 14:37
Skylight grid: single willow rods with bamboo rings & shortened subspokes (closeup)
2008/04/05 14:37
Skylight grid: single willow rods with bamboo rings & shortened subspokes (closeup)
2008/04/05 14:37

Skylight grid: dual willow rods with bamboo rings & shortened subspokes
2008/04/05 14:39
Skylight grid: dual willow rods with bamboo rings & shortened subspokes (closeup)
2008/04/05 14:39
Skylight grid: dual willow rods with bamboo rings & shortened subspokes (closeup)
2008/04/05 14:39

The polygonal frame didn't really interfere with the bamboo rings or the willow bows at all.

Skylight grid with rings and shortened subspokes

30. 3. 2008: Warm Days

Today the temperature reached 20°C outside with foehn, it was a sunny day - inside the yurt the temperature reached 21°C - which maybe was the first day after winter where the straw didn't keep the heat but cooled, otherwise the temperature inside would have gone much higher.

24. 3. 2008: Sunny & Chilly

Morning of 24th March 2008

Morning of 24th March 2008

More snow, temperatures below 0°C in the night, and next morning a clear sky and temperature slowly rising to 3-4°C - and so the snow & ice slides from the roof by itself. I'm using again more wood to heat the yurt, apprx. 2 boxes of wood per week.

22. 3. 2008: Willow Rod/Bow Based Skylight Grids

Willow Rod/Bows Options

Willow trunk (~40 years old)
Nearby the yurt is a ~40 years old willow trunk, which the farmer cuts every year - the last time he waited 1 1/2 years to cut the willow which result in nearly 5m long branches, almost 2.5cm / 1" thick. He throws the branches away, piles them up with other tree branches and let it dry for a half year when he burns the pile of wood - I took the chance to sort out 20-30 willow branches. Some thicker and longer branches (2.5-3m) I skinned and dry out for a couple of weeks to use for a large skylight, some thinner and shorter branches (1.5-1.8m) I used now to make two skylight grids.

Single Rod/Bow: the branch doesn't narrow too quickly, and is moderatly thick, at least 8mm at the narrow end. I noticed, the willow bow is easy to prebend in order to create a symmetric bow.

  • length: ~140cm
  • thickness: 0.9-1.5cm (variance 66%)

Double Rod/Bow Under-Aside-Over: two branches are arranged that one branch narrow end goes below the thicker end of the other, aside of each in the middle, and then again the thicker end over the narrow end.

  • length: ~140cm
  • thickness: 0.5-1.0cm (variance 100%)

The third example in the photo series below shows that I used bamboo stick connected in the mids of the segment of the octagon (8-sided frame), this was due the length of the bamboo stick as I would have prefered to attach the spoke in the junction frame segment like the other two skylights.

Skylight grid: single willow rod (diameter 122cm)
2008/03/22 13:48
Skylight grid: single willow rod, close up connection to frame
2008/03/22 13:48
Skylight grid: single willow rod, close up center
2008/03/22 13:48
Skylight grid: double willow rods under-aside-over (diameter 122cm)
2008/03/22 13:47
Skylight grid: double willow rods under-aside-over, close up connection to frame
2008/03/22 13:47
Skylight grid: double willow rods under-aside-over, close up center
2008/03/22 13:47
Skylight grid: bamboo sticks (4mm thick) (diameter 95cm)
2008/04/07 17:03
Skylight grid: bamboo sticks, close up connection to frame
2008/04/07 17:03
Skylight grid: bamboo sticks, close up center
2008/04/07 17:03

Detail Observation

Close up on skylight spoke to frame
I used to drill first horizontally into the frame segment junction and while drilling change the angle of the auger, this way you won't slide off. Then I measure the length of each bow, and made sure the order of spoke from (top to down) was working, e.g. if necessary cut off some length so it would match below the previous bow - then I cut the ends pointy; once all bows were fitted this way, I began to glue (with wood glue which is water resistant) all holes in the frame and reinserted the bows, and let it dry for 4-5 hours. As you noticed, I used cable-binders or cable-ties to fixate double branches, as well fixate the center that way.

I will refine the grid further, but I haven't decided of the procedure: either using concentric rings attached to all spokes, or use straight sticks and form an octagon again, both variants would then give support to further willow bow sub-division, but then using rather narrow branches. The final cover will be either some bubble-wrap or if I find a material which is a bit flexible then pull it over the skylight grid. The option I used previous with clear PVC formed cone as skylight worked well, except with heavy snow it happened a few times that it flipped inside - as remedy I used some unskinned willow branches to form a supporting grid.

Btw, the frame segments are glued and with a short strip of eyed sheet metal screwed over the junction on the side to reinforce the corner - I will enventually add further reinforcement by adding a thin layer wood covering the top and bottom of the junction - once I did this I will add more photos.

Skinned vs Unskinned Willow

Unskinned willow remains flexible and has better bending and overall stability. Fresh skinned willow is very flexible, and one can bent it and undue bows and make it straight, or bent it to a certain radius and let it dry while remaining in this form; once dried out is stiff, but has somewhat limited strength compared to bamboo. Skinned willow is almost white, and looks aesthetically.


Morning of 21st March 2008
The day before it snowed intensively in Switzerland, in particular central Switzerland got 80cm snow in 12 hours, which is exceptional - almost as much as two years ago in April 2006, when 50-60cm snow in 24 hours. At the place I reside we got 10-15cm snow, then later it rained into the snow which added more weight, and I was forced to clear the roof later in the evening as the next night the temperature fell below 0°C - anyway. Today we got a short period of time with direct sunlight, which is strong and began to melt the snow partially again.

20. 3. 2008: March Equinox

World Sunlight Map 20th March 2008

Yurt at March Equinox 2008

Today we have March Equinox ("Spring Equinox" would only apply to northern hemisphere). Last night it snowed 8cm apprx. but it's melting away during the morning. I have been using now 22 boxes of wood (17 boxes = 1 ster or 1m3 chopped wood) for this winter season. Several days in the last weeks I didn't have to fire the stove as the sun warmed up the yurt nicely, but the last few days with temperatures around 0°C fireing the stove was required.

Sunset of 15th March 2008
2008/03/15 17:53
Sunset of 15th March 2008
2008/03/15 17:55
Sunset of 18th March 2008
2008/03/18 18:20
Sunset of 18th March 2008
2008/03/18 18:20

My time at the current site is slowly expiring, about end of April I will take down the yurt - whether I dislocate to a new place or put it into storage and go on an extended recumbent tour - let's see. That's kind of the advantage having a temporary shelter which you can either pack up, move, store and unpack on-demand.

12. 3. 2008: Another Storm

World Sunlight Map 12th March 2008

Sunset of 14th March 2008
This morning another storm "Kirsten" has been approaching Switzerland including the region I reside - not as stormy as "Emma" at first of March - quite warm as well with 12°C, a few strong gusts, otherwise steady winds of up to 80km/h. Due the whirls behind the yurt, where the stove pipe leaves the yurt, some gusts actually pushed air back into the stove pipe, through the stove and pushing smoke inside the yurt, quite an annoyance. So I had to open the door, and let fresh air in, and hope the skylight lifts up slightly and pushes the smoke out again, which worked.

I rarely fire the stove at storms because of that - today I decided to fire the stove nevertheless. Once no smoke but just glowing wood was in the stove, the problem with pushing air backward is gone.

On the world sunlight map you also see nicely that we are approaching March Equinox, when day and night have the same length, when the shadow is equally cast over northern as well southern hemisphere.

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