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Here’s this year’s Peaseblossom frame up on the platform, before the cover went back on.

For new readers, it’s an 18-foot Kyrgyz-style coppiced chestnut yurt. Sleeps four very comfortably. The floor is locally sourced pine. Very comfortable on the foot. It gets furnished with comfy beds, duvets and all that stuff you don’t want to carry with you on holiday.

yurt up

It sits in mixed woodland of sweet chestnut, hawthorne, wild service, oak and hornbeam, and overlooks a grassy valley onto more woodland that has, for some reason, a fair amount of pine.

Just down the hill (as you can see in the previous posts) is the solar shower and compost toilet. Out of shot, to the right, is a canvas-covered kitchen and eating area shared with an identical yurt. There’s one other yurt way away to the left, with its own kitchen. That one’s a 12-footer perfect for two, or two and a bit. There’s also another 12-foot yurt off to the right and down the hill, but that’s just for playing in. Hence the sand pit and play area behind.

First guests of the season arrive tomorrow. And the écovallée summer begins…

The last of the noggings went in a few minutes ago.

yurt platform joists

The first of the floorboards will go on after this short break…

UPDATE: Do not do it like this. See that square with the triangular bits on? On the left, you’ll see two joists that span the full distance, then smaller joists at right angles to it. I was cheating a bit here, using joists I already had. When you do it (as I did on another 18-foot floor), use joists that go the full span like those two on the left. What happened with this was that the noggings pulled out of the full-span joist near the centre and the floor dropped. OK, this was also because I was using nails that weren’t long enough. Next time, I’ll go for one nail and one screw to keep it in place.

We hit our target: The 18-foot yurt is back up on the platform, but I don’t have a photo – you’ll just have to trust me on that one.

I do have the photos of the platform, though. I built the joist frame to the same design as the 12-foot platform last year, as shown in this post. When we put the tongue-and-groove floor back down, we found it was much bigger than it was supposed to be. (Don’t ask me how this happened.) It was just over 18 feet side to side, but over 20 feet front to back. Which meant some unexpected trimming had to happen.

Here are the bits I cut off:

yurt platform 2

Here are two 10 cm bits that didn’t even make it to the final shape:

yurt platform 3

And here’s the platform before the edge strips and yurt went back on it (check out the maths on those joist corners – very satisfying – and a huge relief):

yurt platform 1

Other adjustments I’ve made this time are: Using 1 cm ply edge strips, nailed into the floor. The 5 mm edge strips split a bit and the screws weren’t doing what I thought they would. Those keeping up with improvements will know that this is the Mark III 18-foot yurt platform for “Mustardseed”. (Or version 3.0 for younger readers.)

Back in November, in this post, I promised “an achingly beautiful 12-foot yurt with wooden floor, double bed and optional Moses basket, plus a baby-safe canvas-covered outdoor kitchen, featuring an off-grid fridge and grey water treatment”.

Here was the patch of land I started with:

patch of ground

And here it is today:

12-foot yurt 1

A little bit of (our) history

This yurt was originally going to be our family bathroom, way back at the start of the Big Green Idea. It’s the only yurt frame I actually helped to make, on a yurt building course with Matt and Mark in Stanmer Park (mentioned in more detail here). The frame is made from coppiced ash, much of which grew while we were living in Kemp Town a few miles away. It’s “achingly beautiful” as you can see…

12-foot yurt 10

…which fulfils part of that promise to you.

The canvas cover for the kitchen has also been with us from the beginning of this project. It was our groundsheet when we moved to France to live in a yurt just over six years ago. Although it didn’t appear in écovallée until June 2008 (I’ve never shown this shot before):

yurt groundsheet

Since then, it has covered Pepito’s hay for several Winters, and has been dragged from one end of the field to the other (and back), for various reasons, numerous times. Her Outdoors squared it up and added an edge, using the last of our canvas, so we could put up the kitchen for only the cost of the string that goes round it.

12-foot yurt 6

As with other structures around here, the uprights for the kitchen and yurt platform are acacia from écovallée, sourced within a draggable distance.

12-foot yurt 5

The uprights for the kitchen side are oak from a few metres away. The sink was given to us a few years ago. The table came from a former hotel in Mauzac, as did the yurt door (which was a shutter originally) and bed frame. We did buy a new kitchen side and gas hob, and plumbing bits and pieces, but we’ve made every effort to keep the impact of this structure to a minimum.

Promise-wise, here’s the room for “an optional Moses basket”:

12-foot yurt 8

I was originally going to have the door facing down towards Pepito’s field, but I thought new parents might want to keep several eyes on the baby while they’ve having dinner, relaxing on the hammock, enjoying a bit of peace and quiet – and quite a lot of space.

12-foot yurt 15

One more shot before I go (it’s gone beer o’clock and it’s been fearsomely hot again today). There’s always something to be especially pleased with, even on quite a big project like this one. Here’s the bit of shaped shelving that makes me happy (cut with a seriously old coping saw that’s as blunt as a spoon):

12-foot yurt 4

There are a few more photos on an album on our facebook page. And I’ll take some proper shots for the website gallery when I’ve got a moment or few. But the only way to appreciate this little beauty properly is to come and see it for yourself.

I think I’ve just come up with an elegant new joist plan for the next 12-foot yurt platform. It looks like this:

12 foot yurt platform

This plan uses larger joists than I normally do, in a square on four posts, with smaller joists between, strengthened by noggins.

Four extra posts will complete the “circle”, allowing my normal 23mm thick pine flooring to be secured close to the edge, which will carry the weight of the coppiced ash frame.

(The post in the middle isn’t necessary but I might include it to stop any bounce.)

Interestingly (to me, anyway), I tried three joist layouts on paper and all required 33 metres of joist. The other two needed 12 and 17 posts, though, which is why they didn’t win.

This is what I’ve been doing for the last few days, among other things:


You might recognise it as my standard joist layout for an 18-foot wooden floor. We’d have done this last year but we didn’t have the time or the money. This year, at least we have the time. (The woodyard has the money.)

It’s taken a bit longer than previously, because this week temperatures have been in the mid to high 30s. Centigrade. And 38C is a bit hot to do much sawing by hand – even in the woods. Yesterday, I actually had to go and sit in a lake up to my neck. Something everyone should do more often.

Took another break from the tree bog this week to take down a guest yurt, finish, sand and oil the frame, remake the roof wheel, and lay and oil a brand new wooden floor. (MASSIVE thanks here to Phil and Nadia who were here to help and did far too much of the work – I’ll be posting some of Phil’s photos later.)

Here is the result of our labour, in all its glory:



Now that I’ve made a raised wooden platform for the play yurt,


a beaten earth platform with dry-stone retaining wall for our 18-foot yurt,


an 18-foot beaten earth platform with woven chestnut retaining fence for our first guest yurt,


a wooden platform for our second 18-foot yurt,


and a second 18-foot earth platform on a slope for our second guest yurt,


I feel qualified to write a fairly definitive guide to how to build a yurt platform. I’ll be happy to answer questions if anything needs clarification, time permitting.

Before I started my latest platform, I bought:
o Thirty 2.5-metre lengths of rough 7.5 cm by 4 cm douglas fir from a nearby woodyard
o A six-litre tin of treatment against wood-boring insects
o 27 square metres of pine flooring, 23 mm thick, 10 cm wide and 2 m long
o A five-litre tin of protective treatment for the finished floor – oil with a white pigment
o A box of 200 screws 70 mm long, 5 mm wide
o A box of nails 40 mm long, 2 mm wide

On day one, I laid down and levelled the floor joists 61 cm apart, and screwed noggings between them to strengthen the frame.


I was lucky enough to have almost level ground to work on, and some old tiles and bits of wood lying around. Levelling an area like this takes a huge amount of work and is covered in other posts.


On day two, I joined the ends of the joists, trying to get these outside noggings as close to the finished edge as possible.


The weight of the yurt will be resting on this edge, which is why I put supports at the top, bottom and sides.


An important point here, in capital letters: THE FINISHED FLOOR FOR AN 18-FOOT COPPICED YURT IS 18 FEET 4 INCHES – the 18 feet is in the internal measurement. If you are using sawn timber, just add the wall width on both sides to your internal finished size.


On day three, I started laying the floor, aiming for as little wastage as possible, pre-drilling holes diagonally through the tongues wherever the boards crossed a joist.


This is what I can do in about 10 hours working alone.


On day four, I finished laying the floor while Her Outdoors applied the first layer of oil. Unfortunately, the oil had an eight to 12-hour drying time between coats, so this day ended up being quite long too. Rain had appeared on the forecast I use and we were now chasing the weather as so often happens.


On day five, I screwed 10 cm strips of 5 mm ply to the outside edge of the platform.


For some reason this doesn’t come up much in yurt books, or sites talking about yurt platforms, but we find it essential. The edge makes putting the frame up a breeze, doesn’t cost much, cuts down on draughts, holds in the insulation and even stops slugs coming in to eat the cat food.

If you have large items of furniture and small doors like us, you’ll want to move these onto the platform before putting your retaining edges on.

UPDATE

I’ve since discovered you don’t need to pre-drill those holes. Just make sure they are angled nicely into the wood. Saves a bit of time.

I left you with some joists and noggins. All that needed doing next was laying the floor. Which seemed to go OK…


Before putting the frame on (with the help of some redundant former work colleagues)…


And the cover on the frame…


Which looked a little tight at the bottom thanks to the marine-ply drip edge.

Tune in next time to see if I took the whole thing down and trimmed 1 cm off the platform all the way round – by hand.

(Is there any other way?)

Last year, we noticed the floor of “Mustardseed”, one of the two family yurts in écovallée, pulling apart. It didn’t seem to be going back together on its own, so we waited for a dry spell and decided to have a really good look.

This is what we found:

yurt joists 1

The two short joists by the door had been pivoting on their screws and lifting the floor, which explains why the door was catching on the boards at that point. It did seem strange.

yurt joists 2

Several of the screws had sheared off, and parts of the frame had moved several inches. Which explains why the floor was so gappy. I imagine this is because I was using green (freshly cut) wood (douglas fir), which tightened up and snapped the screws. (A carpenter might have a view on this.) This choice of wood was driven by necessity and habit – necessity because we didn’t have much money at the time and the wood was cheap, and habit because this is how I’d done it before. (I won’t be doing it like this again.)

yurt joists 3

The ground was very cracked – and this may have led to some of the movement and shearing.

yurt joists 4

Some of the frame wasn’t even attached any more. I used that crowbar to lift the floorboards, which all came up easily. I numbered them and stacked them nearby for re-laying.

yurt floor

Which shows just how portable a yurt camp can be (which could come in useful if we ever decide to relocate).

The weather’s holding, so I’ll be taking the joist frame apart and making a new one. Using shop-bought joists. Based on my 12-foot yurt joist frame. There’ll be a ramp this time and it will be even more beautiful than before. Which is one of the other benefits of doing something more than once – it gets better every time.