The Milkweed Diaries

Friday, September 26, 2008

Yome Sweet Yome...And Announcing the Request Line

Dianne asked about the structure in the background of one of the pesto-making shots, so I'm posting today about our yome (pictured above).

I've been meaning to write about the yome for a while, and Dianne's request has spurred me to create a *Request Line* !

So here you go, dear readers: make blog subject requests, and I will blog by request at least once a month.

In the interest of full disclosure, I'll tell y'all up front that I'm only going to take requests on subject matter that I have at least a shred of knowledge about and interest in. So don't even bother requesting posts on naval history, hot new hi-tech gadgets, or all-inclusive resort vacations. But alternative structures for simple living? Any day.

Which brings me to the yome.

What the heck is a yome?

A yome is a 5, 6, or 8-sided structure that is a cross between a yurt and a geodesic dome. Ours, the largest-sized model, is octagonal. Yomes were invented by Peter Belt (you'll see him in the photos below - he's the one with the grey beard), whose company Red Sky Shelters is the only manufacturer of yomes in the world. Fortunately for us, Red Sky is a locally-based company--their "factory" is just up the road a piece in the greater Woodfin area.

Here's how Peter describes yomes:

"From ancient principles to modern technology, our ultra stable triangular support framework combines the best of both yurts and domes. Like a yurt, the sides are nearly vertical, maximizing the usable space within. Inside, the tallest people can stand comfortably, even near the walls. The roof and walls are made of different materials; one of heavy-duty coated fabric to shed rain, the other specially-treated to be breathable, allowing excess moisture to escape. And both are fire, water and mildew-resistant.

The dome part of a Yome is based on the same principles pioneered by Buckminster Fuller in his famous Geodesic Dome. No fence-like latticework covers the walls and windows, as in a yurt. And the whole thing is portable, fitting easily into most vehicles and can be set up or taken down by two or three people in a matter of hours."

Buckminster Fuller actually began work on the geodesic dome right here in the Swannanoa Valley, during the time he spent at the legendary Black Mountain College just a few minutes away from the spot we call home. Because of the triangles (based on Fuller's design) that comprise the basic structure of the yome, the yome is actually much stronger and more stable than its cousin the yurt.

Building the platform

Christopher built the platform for our yome over about a month, mostly on weekends, with help from me and a few friends.

We used locust logs on flat concrete block for the foundation, with a frame made from sustainably- harvested lumber from our next-door neighbors on the Warren Wilson College Forestry Crew.

Above: the platform in progress; Lynn and Christopher celebrating levelness).

Christopher designed the platform with room for a foot-deep layer of blown-in cellulose (recycled newspaper) insulation (at left).

We used salvaged plywood for the underside of the platform, and storebought plywood for the topside. The new plywood was FSC certified, but still a compromise in terms of embodied energy and relative toxicity. The yome installed on a raised platform is a very low-impact structure in that it requires basically no disruption to the land.

Here's the finished platform (left) ready for the assembly of the yome itself.

The Yome Arrives!

One Spring day after the platform was built, Peter and Bruce came over from World Yome Headquarters to bring the yome frame, skin, and parts, and to help us set up our new home. Friends and family helped out and the structure went up easily in one afternoon.

First we put together the frame, then attached the roof, and then hung the walls.

From Basic to Posh

In the weeks after the basic setup was complete, we took our yome to the luxury level by adding a kitchen sink, cooktop, and lights. For heating, we bought a small, used woodstove for the bargain price of $50.

We lucked out and got free non-toxic carpet tiles from a local school that had bought more than they needed. These went down directly on top of the plywood floor.

As the summer heated up, we added a lining inside the roof, with reflective insulation in between the roof and ceiling (the "roof insulation package" purchased from Red Sky). Adding the insulation and fans in lowered the temperature in the yome by about 10 degrees.

Yome Living

We lived in the yome for about 7 months while we were building our house.

Christopher built shelves and we installed salvaged kitchen cabinets and still had room for a kitchen table, sofa, a queen-sized bed, and clothing storage.

Our cat, Frankie, never liked being inside the yome (although she does enjoy hanging out on the steps and hunting mice underneath), but we found it a cozy and comfortable living space.

Now the yome is our guest room, office, costume closet, and yoga space. It's been up for about 18 months, and we love it. It's snug and stable, and adds a whimsical, circus-like touch to our land.

The translucent walls let in tons of diffused light, making it feel like an airy, luminous treehouse. At night, it glows like a paper lantern, and you can see the stars through the roof hatch and hear frogs and crickets through the walls.

Total Pricetag

Setting up the whole yome, including platform, ended up costing about $4,500 for about 275 square feet of space.

The frame and platform will last virtually forever, and we can replace the roof and walls if they ever wear out, either with more fabric bought from Red Sky, or with something more substantial if we so choose at that point.

All in all, the yome was a great way to get out to our land quickly, simply, and relatively cheaply.

It's elegant, comfy, and fun!


Anonymous said...

i love it! thanks for taking requests. this is a great post - it has all the information i was looking for. thanks again!

Jordana said...

Ooooh! Ooooh! I have a request! I loved the combination of raspberry juice and kombucha that I had at the Pestivities! Andy Cline and I tried to do kombucha back during the WWC days but we were college students and quickly lost interest. I'd love to try my hand at making it again, especially after a taste of how yummy it can be!

Anonymous said...

i just searched your blog last weekend when i was thinking of buying one (but unexpectedly and delightedly found an airstream instead!). and then poof here it is. i told terra and sean about yalls yome as they are looking for land and considering yome or trailer for temp housing. love love love. lynn xo

Milkweed said...

Ok, Jordana, a kombucha post is in the works...I need to take some super-grody pics of The Mother to include! Thank you for calling the request line!

Anonymous said...

great blog, milkweed! Lynn sent us the link and we've really enjoyed it. We've committed to buying a used yome from a friend and I think we'll try to make our platform like yours, it looks like a great design.

Were you living out there in the winter?

How much did the platform cost?

I hope your new home is wonderful-:)

blessings, tara

Milkweed said...

Hi Tara,
There are lots of different ways to make platforms, of course. A friend of mine used salvaged pallets for his for a total of zero dollars!

Our platform cost was between $500 and $800, we estimate.

There are some important factors in terms of how the framing is done that will determine the structural integrity of the platform -- I would just make sure that someone who has building experience looks at the design of how the structural elements will fit together before you actually start building it...

We lived in it until the winter solstice, but we didn't have a woodstove inside at that point, just space heaters. I have heard that lots of people have lived in them in this climate year-round with a small woodstove. So make sure if you are buying a used one that it has the woodstove (fireproof) pipe outlet patch. It's not safe to use a woodstove without that feature.

Good luck! And be well...

reece coppolino said...

Hi there!
This is a great post about your beautiful yome and the process of building the platform + setting up the structure. I'm helping to gather some images of yomes (exterior and interior) to feature on Red Sky Shelters' new website (coming soon). Would you be open to sharing some of these photos on Red Sky's website? If so, please contact me at