KEENE — Nestled on a forested slope, Jim Collin and Carol Blakeslee Collin’s modernized yurt is halfway around the world from the steppes of Asia, where nomads make their homes in the portable structures.
They had discovered the North Country in 1992.
“When we bought this 8-acre parcel in 1996, we wondered what we would do with it,” Carol said.
“We couldn’t afford putting a house here.”
Then they saw a yurt that friends had, she said, and “we said, ‘We can do this.’”
The couple, in their mid 60s, moved from Washington, D.C., to Keeseville in 2004. Carol, a semi-retired journalist, had been a producer for “NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” and “20/20”; she also freelanced with ABC News and the BBC.
Jim has been a software developer with the U.S. State Department.
The disassembled yurt was the largest package FedEx had delivered in the area, Carol said, and it cost about $1,000 to ship from the Pacific Yurt Co. in Oregon.
Traditionally, the structures are portable dwellings used in the steppes of Central Asia. They consist of a crown supported by roof ribs that are bent down at the end where they meet the lattice wall.
The structure is usually covered by layers of fabric and felted sheep’s wool to serve as insulation and protect it from the rain or snow. Depending on availability, the felt is additionally covered with canvas and/or other material. The frame is bound with ropes or cloth strips.
The modernized yurts, such as the one Carol and Jim erected, use high-tech materials and are engineered and built for extreme weather conditions.
In 1978, Pacific Yurts became the first firm to manufacture yurts using modern fabrics and structural engineering.
‘EVERY INCH COUNTS’
The cost of the couple’s basic yurt was around $15,000, though there were many other expenses involved in completing the project.
Among the most pricey were clearing the land for a view, leveling an area for the yurt base and providing a driveway off the local road.
“You have to think of the overall costs, not just the yurt,” Carol said. “I think we spent about $96,000 overall.”
She designed the interior, including where the windows would be placed.
“Every inch counts,” she said.
Their yurt has all the basic necessities, with a full kitchen, living room, bedroom and bathroom.
“We got insulation, which is smart, as it is just as valuable in the summer as in the winter.”
The couple also added a skylight in the center of the roof.
“It’s so open. It’s great in the rain and wind,” Carol said.
It took Scotty McClelland about a week to set up the 24-foot-diameter, 476-square-foot structure. He also constructed the deck, Carol said.
There is some upkeep. And the outer shell has about a 15-year life expectancy.
“You need a power washer to get the pine sap off. I used a lot of Mr. Clean,” Carol said, chuckling.
Though there are propane heaters, the couple and their dog, Kate, do not live there year-round, although they spend some time there during the winter months.
“It’s a great hide-away for us and a great place to sleep,” Carol said.
“You can hear the rain and wind on the evergreens.”
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