Yurt Living – Our Story

yurt living

by Meryl and Bryan Freyberg

Picture two Minnesota teachers with summers off, one in grad school in Santa Fe, and both with yurt dreams. Given that, my husband Bryan and I spent our summer in simplicity, living in an 18-foot yurt at a state park for seven beautiful weeks.

After dreaming of yurt life for about six years, we finally got our chance and took it. In the winter of 2007 we visited Porcupine Mountains State Park in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and stayed in their yurts, cross country skiing around the park and in to the yurt. We fell in love with the area and the yurts and set our sights on not only staying in them in the park, but someday owning our own and putting it on Lake Superior’s shores in the area.

Last fall we went for it and put an offer on property on the big lake, but when the offer wasn’t accepted, we kept dreaming of yurt life. I wouldn’t have guessed at the time that grad school would somehow allow us to live in a yurt, but it did. I was accepted to Bread Loaf School of English, a masters in English program that allows you to choose from four different campuses. We chose Santa Fe, New Mexico for this summer and when we looked into renting housing, the price for our six-week visit was much more than we could afford. We decided to take the leap, buy a yurt, and live in it at a state park while I went to school.

yurt latice

By taking a chance, we fell into the perfect situation. We arrived at Hyde State Park, about 10 miles outside of Santa Fe and had our yurt shipped to us the next day. With the flexibility of the park rangers, who soon became our fast friends, we got settled at a perfect campsite, and set to work erecting our 18-foot Laurel Nest Yurt. After a few days, we became campground hosts, Bryan doing volunteer work alongside the rangers at the park to earn our keep and our extended stay (normally at New Mexico State Parks campers can only stay three weeks, so we had planned to move to a National Forest campground). We both fell in love not only with Hyde Park and Santa Fe, but most definitely with yurt living.

yurt ring

Our daily lives were full of simplicity, tranquility, and a few crickets for company. Our two standard poodles soaked up yurt life and didn’t complain about the long hikes, lack of bugs, and mountain air. Taking the yurt down was hard for us to do, hesitant as we both were to be done with our big adventure. Returning to our small home felt bittersweet; seven weeks without electricity, running water or flush toilets, and the only thing I missed was my mattress. Our 900 square foot home feels huge, and maybe just a little superfluous, but the dogs are glad to be back in their grass.

lounging inside the yurt

As my adventures in grad school continue next summer, we’ll set off for a Vermont campus, so we’ll be looking for campground host positions in the area. Hopefully we can wait that long to put up the yurt, or maybe our neighbors will get used to looking at it in our yard.

Meryl and Bryan Freyberg, Carlton, MN

yurt

yurt and landscape

talking inside yurt

outside yurt in the evening

yurt living in the evening

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Howie - August 21, 2012 Reply

Great pictures. Looks cozy.

Amy - August 21, 2012 Reply

Thanks for sharing. We just erected a 20 ft yurt on land we own outside of Taos. It isn’t quite as “romantic” with a family of four in such a small space as your pictures show, lol, but it certainly is simple and keeps our living costs down.

Kathy S. - August 21, 2012 Reply

Husband and I have been wondering how we’d manage a tiny house — even if just temporary/vacation living — with our big standard poodle. I guess this post answered that question! Your yurt looks lovely and the dogs look nice and comfy, too!

Basha Brownstein - August 22, 2012 Reply

Sounds like a wonderful adventure. I’ve always dreamed of living in a yurt myself. Something about getting rid of right angles seems very liberating. How did you become campground hosts?

    Meryl - August 22, 2012 Reply

    Basha, We became hosts because we fell in to the right park at the right time, but if you google campground hosts, there are websites that post jobs and/or you can contact the park you’d like to work for to see if they will need someone. That’s what we’ll be trying to secure a spot for next year’s adventure. Good luck! – Meryl

Jim - August 22, 2012 Reply

Do you plan on returning to Michigan? I’m a life-long resident and can’t say enough good things about the UP!

    Meryl - October 28, 2012 Reply

    Jim,
    Oh, yes, we still have plans to buy land in the Porcupine Mountains area someday to put the yurt up permanently. We are smitten with the Porkies and that state park in particular. The UP is great!

Mary M - August 22, 2012 Reply

My long term plan involves living in yurt full time so I always enjoy reading about people’s transitions to a yurting life. Doing it for a summer sounds like a great way to try it out.

Anthony R - August 22, 2012 Reply

I love your story, thank you for sharing. Where did you buy your yurt from?

Thanks 🙂

    Meryl - October 28, 2012 Reply

    Hi Anthony,
    I’m glad you liked the story! We bought our yurt from Laurel Nest Yurts.

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charlie greene - August 25, 2012 Reply

Great story! Living large in a round-a-bout…I worked for I.B.M. and for several years I lived in my castle on the mountain, 14 X 14……No water, electric or phone for the first two and then I had to go for the electric and phone…Cell phones were not available at the time……I found it a great way to find one self and be at peace with the rest of the world….There is a lot to be said about “Less is more”……Enjoy Vermont – it’s a great state to spend some time in……

Alexandra - August 25, 2012 Reply

How wonderful! Reminds me of time spent living in a tepee in western Washington state. People don’t realize how wonderful it is to live this simply and so close to nature. Good for both of you!

Lea Bayliss - August 25, 2012 Reply

We just erected a 21 footer attached to an 8 footer on our property, up here in northern Canada.I plan on moving in within a month or so – just in the process of installing a wood stove. Groovy Yurts proprietor Yve Ballenger and his friend delivered in June and helped to erect the yurts. They are beautiful – 2 layers of insullation and the wood stove should keep the main yurt warm and cozy. The 8 footer is connected by a small archway and will serve as an Arctic entry. Quin and Muir, my nonhuman animal companions love it too.I can harldy wait to view the northern lights through the toono at -40 while curled up by the wood stove.
Happy yurting!

    Em - August 27, 2012 Reply

    Hi Lea – would you have any photos of your connected yurts? I’ve always wondered just how you’d connect the yurts. Tnx – Em

labbie1 - August 25, 2012 Reply

I have been intrigued by yurts ever since I saw the first one on Gold Rush Bering Sea. We live in a 5th wheel but the yurts just look so wonderful! No corners, just movement! Like a geodesic dome home! Those are just so comfy! 🙂

Chandra in Texax - August 25, 2012 Reply

Amazing adventure. Enjoy this extra education. The one you can’t even put a price on.

Brianne Donaldson - August 25, 2012 Reply

Hi M and B,

Excellent!

Can you tell me what you used for the flooring? I couldn’t quite tell in the photo. How did you haul it back home with you?

Brianne

    Meryl - October 28, 2012 Reply

    Hi Brianne,
    Flooring was one of my major concerns with starting with a more portable yurt. Hal at Laurel Nest Yurts created a tub floor (so it is flat but then has a 5″ lip to it that tucks up under the walls) out of very strong tarp material. He sewed it for us and it held up pretty well. In heavy traffic places where we couldn’t quite clear all the rocks or sticks, it was worn at the end of our trip, but it is definitely not worn out. It stayed dry even in heavy rains. We’ll do wood floors once it is permanent someplace.

    To get it back home we bought a 5×8 trailer. We could have had it shipped or rented a trailer, but since we’ll be traveling with it again, we bought one. I hope that helps!

Shell - August 25, 2012 Reply

Wonderful story. Thanks for sharing it : )

LE - August 27, 2012 Reply

You couldn’t have lucked into a cooler spot to hang out for the summer than Hyde Memorial – I love that place. Such great hiking amid the beautiful aspens! While touring the Western U.S. a few years ago I found New Mexico camp hosts to be the kindest and coolest of them all. Thanks for sharing, and best of luck with your master’s program.

Em - August 27, 2012 Reply

How did you manage to erect a yurt in a State Park ? I didn’t think they allowed anything that was not on wheels ? Is this generally a State-by-state issue ?

Thanks, Em

    Meryl - October 28, 2012 Reply

    Hi Em,
    Our yurt is smaller in size than many RVs, so we just called it a tent and put it up. Maybe it was a bit of a gamble, but there were no restrictions or notes about what sort of “tents” you could erect.

    The rangers knew we were having our tent shipped there in a semi (and thought that was weird), let us move sites when we realized the first one was not wide enough for the yurt (and thought we must be crazy), and definitely saw us as we were erecting it. Other than utter amusement that we were actually erecting a yurt, they had no qualms about it. It was actually their idea to keep us on as hosts so my husband could volunteer. Plus, they were all wonderful people, so they thought it was great!

    I figure, if it is smaller than an RV, and can be removed without doing any damage whatsoever, why should they mind?

    We have been hired as campground hosts at another park for this summer and they know we are erecting a yurt too, so I guess it probably depends on the people running the park!

    I hope that helps!

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rbinhood - December 23, 2012 Reply

What was the roof made of? Were the walls made out of the same material, or something different? Looks like a lot of fun. Thanks.

Ben Gagne - February 11, 2014 Reply

Bryan, remember me from Marshall (the tech guy)? I didn’t know you were thinking of the yurts when you were here. I was on the same line of thinking too. Anyway, it is probably my last year here at Marshall and am going to be building a tiny earth bermed house, or maybe a yurt. Although Yurts may be harder to live in in the really cold climate up in Minnesota. How was it for heating the yurt in Michigan? Did you stay warm? Anyway, I already built a tiny house on wheels and had some land in Wisconsin. But the zoning requirements said it was illegal to live in a house so small. They require 900 sq ft. So anyway, I found out that a lot of counties in MN do not require a minimum sq ft so that is where I may be living in my tiny house or yurt. Hope everything is going well. Email me if you want.

MERYL - July 23, 2014 Reply

Hi Ben! This is not Bryan, but I’ll pass the message along to him. We have since moved to the UP and live in our 18 foot yurt while Bryan gets his phd. I plan to do a story for THB on it some time this summer. It will be a year in August. We had similar issues with building inspectors and thought we were going to be kicked off our own land for a bit. Check out our blog about living in a yurt year-round!!

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