The Straw Bale Yurt Bible

The Straw Bale Yurt (nonagon – nine sided polygon)
The Straw Bale Yurt (nonagon – nine sided polygon)

“I worked for a couple years ‘til I got lucky on a 160 acre State of Alaska homestead parcel and took up residence there on the Gerstle River in interior Alaska, 47 miles by road from Delta Junction. I cleared the 25%, built a cabin and lived there two years and proved up, while raising my son. Been living on the ranch since about ’97 (starting out in a wall tent, again). Got tired of being cold, and built my own straw bale yurt in ’98. It’s now ’05. I’m still living in it and working on a bigger one complete with plumbing, etc.

Nice modern strawbale yurt at Lynx Basin Ranch.
Nice modern strawbale yurt at Lynx Basin Ranch.

I decided on the yurt design for practical reasons. Wind resistance, earthquake proof, extremely easy to heat (or keep cool), and damn cheap ($150 counting the four used windows for $50). The materials are gotten right here except for nails and glass. In my business, the less effort you gotta spend staying alive (it gets to -70 degrees) the more you can spend keeping your animals alive and, therefore, making payments. Simple, huh?”

The Straw Bale Yurt Bible by Roger “Seldom Seen” Smith
Wild Rose Ranch – “We ride, shoot straight and tell the truth (mostly).”
Nice modern strawbale yurt.
Young Wanderer’s Straw Bale Yurt (nice try but needs improved design)

Thanks to Angela for this tip. She’s getting ready to build something like this in Alaska. She couldn’t find scoria in bulk and so building with bales now seems like the best option in Alaska. I’m encouraging her to document her project and post the details on a free blog. Leave a comment if you’re interested or have suggestions. (Note: the scoria volcanoes are apparently inside parks and are not mined.)

11 thoughts on “The Straw Bale Yurt Bible”

  1. Hello,

    Any tips or pointers for building this on post and piers?? I have a yurt with a permanent post and pier foundation with concrete piers going 2 feet down and 1.5 feet wide. I want to take down the yurt and build a strawbale and since the floor is already round use the layout I have…Thanks for any direction as my husband and I will be doing this ourselves and inlisting our 16 year old son and any friends we can have come help.

    • This would be extremely easy to do since you have the piers and floor to raise the bales off the ground.

      Tips include: download Matt’s Myhrman’s free strawbale PDF Build it With Bales

      Ideally you would use one layer of gravel bags before stacking the bales to help protect the straw from moisture damage.

      Use tightly compacted bales, not loose bales.

      Build a ‘ladder bond beam’ on top of the bale wall. Attach the roof to the bond beam.

      Insulate the floor and ceiling well and you’ll have a near zero energy home.

    • Around a few hundred dollars. Prices for materials vary considerably so check local prices. Try to get good bales from the field right after harvest. Try to borrow a trailer, etc. and haul them yourself because shipping is usually expensive. Bales are easily water damaged, so ideally you’d build the straw bale yurt as soon as possible and get the roof on. You could get the main structure up in two weeks with 1-2 helpers if you’re in good health. Use gravel bags to raise the bales off of the ground. Please document everything and share with others.

  2. These are my favorite type of projects — super low cost, sustainable, energy efficient, practical, local materials, owner builder friendly (simple, fast and easy to build). Go to rural areas you’ll find thousands of innovative structures not unlike this one. Most are off the beaten track back in the boonies.


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