Living (full time) in a Yurt. Have you done it? Should we?
April 21, 2008 2:17 PM   Subscribe

How can I convince my wife that living in a Yurt would be fun while I'm in medical school?

We're on the verge of selling a house and would clear enough to purchase a yurt. We'd still have to finance a piece of land to put it on, but that's entirely possible.

Other than spending a couple of nights in a yurt, what points are important to emphasize when trying to convince my wife that living in a yurt for a few years would be both adventuresome and cost effective?

She's a fantastic woman and, above all else, I want her to be happy with where we end up - but I know her well enough to know that not making a mortgage or rent payment every month would make her very, very happy.

We have no kids, 2 dogs, and will be moving to the Blacksburg, VA area.
posted by stuboo to Home & Garden (37 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Are you that sure it would be fun? Sounds like a real drag to me.

Your post title asks, "Should we?" I would vote "no".
posted by Class Goat at 2:25 PM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Not knowing your wife, I can't say for sure. But if I were her, promises of working indoor plumbing and consistent, reliable heat for the winter would convince me. Can you rig up plumbing in your yurt- even just a toilet and one spout for water? Can you heat it without burning it down?

The kicker would be if there would be an easy way to cook: not just a camp stove, but a real kitchen with refrigeration and electricity. I know some yurts are more luxurious than others, and some of this will depend on finding land on the grid with easy to hook up plumbing and electricity.
posted by ohio at 2:28 PM on April 21, 2008

Why do you want to live in a yurt? Start there.

adventuresome and cost effective

These are not, IMO, strong arguments for a 3-year living plan. What about electricity/plumbing/heat/security?
posted by mkultra at 2:31 PM on April 21, 2008

Either she wants to live in a yurt or she doesn't. I don't think there is any way to convince her. You already got your pick - you're going to the medical school of your choice. Now let her pick where to live. Don't push your luck.
posted by crazycanuck at 2:33 PM on April 21, 2008 [5 favorites]

I'm not the best person to answer, because I know too many people who disliked living in yurts. But I'll give it a shot.

First, an alternative possibility: if you make enough to purchase a yurt, you would probably come close to enough to one of those things where you buy house plans for $1000 and then build it yourself for $10-12,000 of materials. Would she be into that?

If you go the yurt route, you'll have to figure out how to deal with the fact that there are no corners. From what I hear, this is a surprisingly annoying feature of yurts. You can buy little rectangular add-ons for storage or for an entryway where you put your muddy boots and dripping rain gear, and those seem to help make yurt living work better. (They might be essential, depending on how big your dogs are.)

One person I know ended up hanging fabrics (eg, heavy rugs) all over the place to insulate the yurt, so in terms of convincing your wife, uh, is she into fabrics?

What's your theory on the plumbing and kitchen? Are you going to dig an outhouse and build a solar shower and outdoor kitchen? If so, it sounds to me like you're going to need to get her into the whole hippy living scene (I say as a fan). To do this, maybe take her to visit Earthaven Ecovillage (or The Farm?) or some other ecovillage. Maybe do a week-long permaculture course at Earthaven. You could check out some permaculture convergence (I had a great time at the one at Celo in 1999). Go with friends who won't roll their eyes at things like drumming and bonfires. :) There are also a lot of youtube videos on permaculture etc., so you might start with those.
posted by salvia at 2:34 PM on April 21, 2008

i lived in a yurt for years when i was younger. i still speak of my time in it fondly. it was certainly the best nomadic structure i have lived in. it was large enough to accommodate a wood stove and the sides were insulated (thinly at least).

that being said, i don't think i could have lived in there with another human being. the lack of personal space would be a deal breaker for me. even a larger yurt is no bigger than a studio apartment.

round walls are a pain in the ass. you end up with lots of wasted space and small crevices for things to fall into.

would you have access to electricity or running water? if not it would push mote vote even further into no territory.
posted by phil at 2:35 PM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sage over at lived in a yurt for a few years and kept a great online journal about it that always made me half want to try it myself, despite my general love of plumbing, electricity, and the absence of bugs. You might spend some time looking through her archives to get a feel for what the experience was like, and what aspects of it might appeal to your wife.

I took a very quick look through her archives, and it looks like the yurt years were something like 1998-2001, if that helps you narrow it down at all.
posted by Stacey at 2:37 PM on April 21, 2008

It's a tent. It's marginally more waterproof but you'll be living at the ambient outdoor temperature. There is no insulation. I have stayed in a yurt at Silent Lake Provincial Park several times. It's slightly more comfy than tenting it, but only because you're not sleeping on the ground. Even simple stuff like the overnight temperature drops were tough the one year when we went and it was very cold overnight. Unless you live in Arizona or Florida you'll be cold and if you do live there then you'll often be really hot.

Also, you typically can't get financing for bare land unless you know something that I don't. No house, no mortgage.
posted by GuyZero at 2:38 PM on April 21, 2008

If you'll be in medical school you may have access to subsidized housing options (e.g. a friend going to medical school in New York was rented an apartment below market.)

While you'll be in medical school don't you want to minimize complications of your life? It seems like living in a yurt would be more complicated than a more normal living situation.
posted by Jahaza at 2:48 PM on April 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

I realize it's nowhere near as hip as a yurt, but in my area you can buy a perfectly functional mobile home with all the amenities for less than a basic yurt. I bought a 30-year-old mobile home for $3k and lived in it for 7 years. It had heating, air conditioning, indoor plumbing, etc. I parked it on land that I owned. The main expense was the septic system; if you don't want that, you can always use a pit.
posted by PatoPata at 2:53 PM on April 21, 2008 [3 favorites]

She's agreeing to move with you to a new place. While you're in med school, she will be spending a lot of time without you, in a place where she doesn't have any ties, which may be a drag. Probably a lot of this time in the house, without you.

Were it me, spending time alone in a yurt, cold, with no personal space, taking care of the dogs, on the outskirts of a town where I don't know anybody, while my husband was busy with his new colleagues and intellectual challenges, would be a recipe for seething resentment. You're taking out loans for med school, right? Don't they allow you to put some of that money toward living expenses?
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:07 PM on April 21, 2008 [17 favorites]

(I guess my point is that this is true of whatever type of housing you choose - she will be spending a lot of time there alone. Be sure she is really, 100% on board with whatever your plan is.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:12 PM on April 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

The thing is, you're going to be in medical school. You are going to be working 80+ hour weeks and you're going to be exhausted and tired and pooped and wiped out (if you get my gist). So maybe a bit more space (albeit more expensive than a yurt) might be good for your sanity (and your wife's). Maybe you can keep the yurt for summer living. Three years seems like a long time for a med student and his wife to bang around a glorified tent (which does sound really cool, don't get me wrong) with no kitchen or flush toilet. I mean, it sounds badass, just not the three years part. And two people and two dogs.

Good luck! And let us know what you end up doing. You might inspire minimalist yurt-dwellers.
posted by cachondeo45 at 3:15 PM on April 21, 2008

Our twenty-foot yurt is very comfortable and as warm as you like when the wood stove is going, even when it's freezing outside. On a sunny California day it can get rather too hot inside (without the stove). We sleep in the yurt -- a wonderful, next-to-nature space where you hear crickets, birds and breezes -- but we don't live all day in it. I'd miss a bathroom with a proper shower.

LobsterMitten has probably fingered the problem -- the yurt would be fine for coming and going, but not really fine as a permanent residence (even though it isn't cold) for someone who'd be there all day.

If you want more info -- e.g. on putting a yurt up -- mail is my profile.
posted by anadem at 3:34 PM on April 21, 2008

She'll be the one living the yurt. For years! You'll be living in the hospital (with heat, electricity, and running water). Get a crappy student studio apartment that at least has a bathroom, for god sakes!

(My best friend/roommate was a med student. I hardly saw her for 4 years. I'm still going to be the maid of honour in her wedding, tho!)
posted by cgg at 3:36 PM on April 21, 2008

Why not get a very inexpensive house or a mobile home if you want to live an austere life.
posted by boots77 at 3:37 PM on April 21, 2008

You'd certainly want to get a yurt, if you got a yurt, that was well insulated. The winters in Blacksburg bring about very cold winds (though, not like farther north but uncomfortable). Likewise, being back into the mountains doesn't protect from the wonderfully hot and humid summers, either. I personally couldn't imagine living in a tent all year round in Blacksburg, but perhaps if its insulated and ventilated well enough it'd be survivable.

Basically, investigate the weather and the available land down in Blacksburg before deciding on what to live in. As suggested above, it might be more comfortable and easier to achieve your goals with a trailer.
posted by Atreides at 3:47 PM on April 21, 2008

Another vote for studio apartment. My fiancé would face The Wrath of Desjardins if he seriously proposed this, especially at a time where he's likely to be super-busy and super-stressed.
posted by desjardins at 4:13 PM on April 21, 2008

Dude. No. The missus needs community, contact with humans, a big ass internet pipe and access to Starbucks while you make her a med school widow.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:21 PM on April 21, 2008 [2 favorites]

Yeah, getting financing for land with no house is NOT EASY.
posted by konolia at 4:22 PM on April 21, 2008

i lived in b-burg for 11 years (let's just cal it "grad school").

i can tell you that the winters will NOT be pleasant in a heavy-tent. i've seen 3ft snows, 4 inch ice-storms, pretty severe winds, and even the residue of a hurricane that passed through.

a yurt might be an interesting option for a weekend adventure, but dood, you have to be a special kind of hippy to dig that year round.

if, for some reason, you continue to be interested in such a lifestyle, i can recommend Floydd county as a hotspot for hippies and active communes that might have more local info for you. groove on, man.
posted by garfy3 at 4:43 PM on April 21, 2008

As much as I love yurts, I just don't see "adventuresome" and "medical school" fitting in the same sentence, so my suggestion is don't do it.

Even with a relatively simple life -- and indoor plumbing, heat, etc -- rural/rustic life is a challenge, and not something to try and do while also doing something like med school. My wife and I are still adjusting to rural living and we are not living as rustically as in a yurt.

For more information, check out Bill Coperthwaite. He is a yurt champion and the author of "A Handmade Life".

Good luck with your decision and med school.
posted by terrapin at 4:49 PM on April 21, 2008

The idea of paying rent makes me very, very happy, but not happy enough to consider living in a yurt. Really. What about a Tumbleweed House? More expensive, but also better than a tent. If it were me, you could sweeten the deal by promising to let us have a beautiful home built once your schooling is done.
posted by christinetheslp at 4:54 PM on April 21, 2008

Did the OP just get busted by his wife here? Ha!
posted by GuyZero at 5:13 PM on April 21, 2008

Hmm, everyone seems to be assuming that 'the little missus' doesn't have a job or anything, and thus would be stuck in the yurt all day - but IS this the case? I don't see that detail in your original question, but it's entirely possible I've missed something along the way ... well, anyway, I just wanted to point out that some of the -more- dire warnings might not -fully- apply, I guess, if she's out doing her own thing all day long, too, and the yurt really IS just a place for you both to sleep (and of course, snuggle with the doogies) ...

Although then again, the fact that she sounds resistant to it might be more important regardless - after all you both ought to have a residence you actually look forward to retiring to when you do get off of work or out of school for the evening. What is it about her personality that makes you think she would be happy there - is there anything you think she'd like other than the lack of mortgage? Because if that honestly is the only thing you can come up with ... well, in that case I really would cast my vote for "don't do it" - three or more years sounds like a loooong time to be living in a yurt even if you WANTED to; I'm not sure the joy of no mortgage could carry you both through for the long haul ...

Well, regardless, it's certainly an interesting proposal; I hope you do follow up to let us know what you guys end up doing!
posted by zeph at 5:13 PM on April 21, 2008

Leaving your wife out of the equation entirely, I don't see how you would be able to study properly in this set-up. Studying is hard, med school is stressful. Why would you add a number of other stresses to your life at this time?
posted by AmbroseChapel at 5:27 PM on April 21, 2008

everyone seems to be assuming that 'the little missus' doesn't have a job or anything, and thus would be stuck in the yurt all day

Nah, I think everyone is assuming, quite reasonably, that the OP's medical school schedule will allow him zero hours per day at home on many many an occasion, and that his wife will have an ordinary amount of time spend at home. Assuming she's a 9-5er, that's still a heck of a lot of time spent with nothing but canvas between you and the weather, or between you and someone who wants to stir up trouble. It takes a special person to want to do that, much less succeed at doing it.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 5:33 PM on April 21, 2008

This is why I love asking mefites! It's only been a few hours and all these responses are great. I'll address a few of the questions/concerns/comments.

1. It's a long shot. If I was on the verge of actually plopping down the money to buy a yurt and move my wife and dogs, don't you think I'd be talking to my wife about this rather than you folks!? I thought it a fun quesiton, and I'd not yet posted this week, :) That said, I will continue to investigate it more.

2. Hot water, indoor plumbing, electricity, big fat data pipe - we BOTH will need all of these things. At 31 I'm old enough to not have any delusions about how physically, mentally, and emotionally draining medical school will be. I don't plan to be cold and smelly when I actually get to sleep at night.

3. Thanks for the comments about round walls, etc. These are the real jewels that we couldn't pick up without talking to someone with first hand experience.

4. My wife would love reading this. I just heard her pull up the driveway, so I'll show it to her soon. Which leads me to this...

"I just wanted to point out that some of the -more- dire warnings might not -fully- apply, I guess, if she's out doing her own thing all day long, too, and the yurt really IS just a place for you both to sleep."

Exactly...She's not going to be sitting at home, barefoot and pregnant, for three years. She will be working too.

Thanks to everyone for the replies. I look forward to seeing what else comes from the hive mind.
posted by stuboo at 5:38 PM on April 21, 2008

I think that you should get one of the dome homes instead. All of the offbeat quirkiness of a yurt AND indoor plumbing! And drywall!
posted by Ostara at 6:29 PM on April 21, 2008

This is from the "been there, done that" file.

At 31 I'm old enough to not have any delusions about how physically, mentally, and emotionally draining medical school will be. I don't plan to be cold and smelly when I actually get to sleep at night.

Saving that for residency, are you?

She's not going to be sitting at home, barefoot and pregnant, for three years. She will be working too.

You are going to have several years to grow apart from one another. Sucks, but it's true. You are going to have med school and residency which will reshape you into a physician. You expect this. She is going to have time - and lots of it - to fill on her own. You are going to grow along a predictable path. She is going to grow in ways no one can guess. Med school marriages have a poor prognosis. :(

So bringing it back to the yurt idea. Maybe it would be a fun adventure, but she is going to carry a disproportionate amount of the load. Don't saddle the poor woman with round walls. Get the most convenient, stable, maintenance free housing option you can find.

Good luck to you both!
posted by 26.2 at 7:08 PM on April 21, 2008

uh, that sounds like a terrible idea to me, and i'm an adventurous woman who would also love to not have to pay rent. here's the deal: she's moving so you can go to school. that's great. she has to uproot, find a new job, make new friends, and generally find a life to get involved in. my feeling is that the time and energy commitment to maintaining a livable camping lifestyle will totally get in the way of that. she'll want to get a job and go out with her new friends--she'll need electricity, an iron for her work clothes, and a decent shower.

get a cheap apartment, and deal. you'll both be happier.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:24 PM on April 21, 2008

It's tempting, I know. We're considering a similar move (minus med school thankfully), but I think it's something you have to be pretty committed to. Doesn't sound like med school would be the best time to make a big change like this....but hey, it can be done. Maybe it would be a good experiment after med school when you have all those loans to pay back----then you'll be living cheap and raking it in.
posted by hulahulagirl at 7:44 PM on April 21, 2008

This criticisms of domes pretty much turned me off of them as housing (not necessarily as shelter :).

I bring up the article not only to respond to Ostara, but because it made me step back and take a look at the whole alternative housing bug, which I'm predisposed to. I'm also pretty interested in living in a yurt, and I might even try to talk a spouse or SO into it at the right time in life.

I think adventure and the outdoor association may be only part of the attraction. I think it's possible some people have a stronger need than others to have some things inside of them expressed in their environment and in the housing choice in particular. Some people also respond more strongly to their environments than others. And with so much of the housing landscape looking cookie cutter these days, it's really easy to just want to opt out. And all of this is what drives some people to want yurts and dome homes and straw bale homes etc etc.

If you really specifically want a yurt for concrete reasons, this advice isn't much help. But if your yearnings fit this vague description, it may be that the important thing isn't the yurt per se, and you might find your needs met by a unique loft, a somewhat offbeat 1970 rambler, or something else that simply has a specific character that resonates with you.
posted by weston at 8:13 PM on April 21, 2008

Hot water, indoor plumbing, electricity, big fat data pipe - we BOTH will need all of these things. At 31 I'm old enough to not have any delusions about how physically, mentally, and emotionally draining medical school will be. I don't plan to be cold and smelly when I actually get to sleep at night.

A yurt with hot water, indoor plumbing, electricity and big fat data pipe is not a yurt. It's just a studio with round walls. Also, and this is coming from a married 31yo 2nd year medical student, dude, the closer you are to school, the fewer complications of any sort you have -- the better. Med school is an adventure all by itself, you don't need any more.
posted by c13 at 8:29 PM on April 21, 2008

Just for the record, I didn't intend to suggest that she will be doing nothing but sit at home twiddling her thumbs. Even so, you won't be home much so she will be spending a lot more time there than you, and it will be alone time and try-to-find-a-new-life-for-myself time. So the house better be a place she is happy about, because (even though she'll be working or whatever) any little grit of sand is going to have a lot of time to grow into a pearl of resentment, is what I'm saying.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:30 PM on April 21, 2008

Thanks to everyone. I suppose I should put my dreams of yurt living to rest until life calms down a bit. Maybe I can talk her into letting me have one as a "clubhouse" after we build the house we want to stay put in.

Also, weston: you hit the nail on the head. It's less about a yurt proper and more about doing something different. The thought of living in the sea of town homes (aka poltergeist) that is OakTree just makes my stomach turn.

My marriage definitely takes priority here. I want to be a physician, yes. But not as badly as I want to be married to my incredible wife. (As many of you pointed out, the fact that she's willing to uproot and go through this with me shows just how much ass she kicks.)
posted by stuboo at 5:33 AM on April 22, 2008

Living in any type of temporary housing is a lot of work. There's no thermostat - so if you don't keep the fire going, it's going to get COLD. Therefore, you need to make sure that you have enough wood - and that it's dry. Which means that you have to collect and store the wood. There's no "I'm too busy to deal with this," because the alternative is very unpleasant. There's also the issues of energy generation (and the maintenance of that), water storage and delivery, bugs, rodents, rain/snow...It's a LOT OF WORK! If you both are going to be busy working then I would heartily recommend not adding the additional burden of maintaining a year round camp.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 12:57 PM on April 22, 2008

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