Permaculturing in Portugal

One family's attempts to live in a more planet-friendly way

Yurt shading

Some friends who are seasoned yurt dwellers told me this last year and it’s been on my mind since: it’s not the rain that’s the main problem when it comes to living in yurts in this climate, it’s the sun. The sun rots the canvas covers, and under the full glare of the Portuguese summer sun, even a heavy 12oz canvas cover like this will only last 2-3 years. At over £500 a time to replace, it pays to take some measures to lengthen the life of the covers.

Not only that, but a yurt sitting in the full summer sun gets pretty hot inside. Too hot to be really comfortable, even with the roof open and the covers lifted around the base.

Fortunately the local agricultural cooperatives sell shade netting. Even more fortunately, they stock it in 6m widths. This yurt is 5.8m diameter.

Pine poles stripped and being cut to size

Back in April I cut some small pines up in the woods as part of necessary thinnings, stripped the bark and branches and cut them to a length that would give a more or less level height for the shade netting. I then screwed steel rings into the top of each.

Steel rings in top of posts

I bought 12m of the 6m shade netting, doubled it over, and sewed it together along the cut and folded edges with fishing line. I then brought the selvedges of the netting together by weaving some braided steel cable through each, making a loop with an eye and clamp at each corner and every 2m to hold a shackle.

Shackle fitted to loop in steel cable

I cut a circular hole the diameter of the crown wheel in the centre.

We then fitted the netting directly over the yurt, using the top of the 3 straps girdling the circumference of the yurt to strap it on and clipping the shackles onto the lower straps for added security. It’s been in this position through the winds and rain of the last 2 months, and has done a good job of keeping the sun off the yurt covers on the better days.

Shade netting strapped to yurt

Now with temperatures starting to climb again, it was time for the final part of the construction.

I preserved the bottom half meter of the now-seasoned pine poles with used engine oil and dug post holes either side of the yurt at 2m intervals. Large nails were hammered into the base of the poles roughly every 90° so that a good 80-100mm of nail protruded in each direction from the pole. The poles were sunk into the holes and backfilled with concrete to within 150mm of the surface, the nails buried in the concrete giving a firm fixing. The rest of the holes were filled with soil as I intend to grow beans up the poles.

Shade netting poles in place

The shackles on either side of the shade netting were then clipped into the rings at the top of each pole. The poles will also each be getting a coat of borax then linseed oil when we come to do the balcony wood up at the house.

Shade netting clipped to poles

So far the netting is performing very well. It keeps the sun off the yurt covers, as intended, and makes at least 5° of difference to the temperature inside. The structure isn’t designed to weather high winds or storms, so in these instances, the netting will be unclipped and tied down to the yurt as before.

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  1. sarah June 11, 2011


  2. Raquel June 16, 2011


    Maybe it sounds crazy for a yurd of this size but have you tried wool? You will have to felt it but you can get the wool for almost nothing and it is quite an isolating material.

    Great blog, great projects.


  3. Quinta do Vale June 16, 2011

    Raquel thanks! That’s not so crazy at all. Wool is a great insulator and is what’s been used in Mongolia for insulating yurts for centuries. But it’s not used as an outer cover, and it’s the outer cover I’m concerned with protecting by using the shade netting. There’s already a felt layer in the yurt underneath the canvas outer covers. It’s a wool and synthetic fibre mix because it

    • isn’t as bulky but is just as warm as 100% woollen felts
    • doesn’t go mouldy when damp
    • dries quicker than 100% woollen felts
    • doesn’t attract mice, moths, etc
    • doesn’t react with the canvas in an adverse way
    • has greater tensile strength than 100% wool felts

    (Yurt coverings detailed at the bottom of this page.)

  4. Rob Matthews January 9, 2012

    Thanks for these great ideas. I have two questions. Where can I buy the rings that screw into the pine poles and what material did you use. Oh and what thickness of steel wire.


  5. Quinta do Vale January 9, 2012

    Hi Rob. Agricultural cooperative for the 6m-wide shade netting. I used it doubled over so got 12m in total to make a 6m square canopy. Shade netting is a pretty crucial choice of material as it lets the wind through and although it wafts gently up and down on a breezy day, it doesn’t behave like a sail which cloth would.

    Hardware store for the wire, rings, shackles, eyes and fasteners. It might need to be a reasonable size hardware store to get a good enough range of sizes. I don’t know where you are, or even if you’re in Portugal, but I got them in Supermaco in Tábua. I couldn’t tell you what thickness of steel wire it was. I just eyeballed the available gauges and picked the one that looked right to me. Guessing something around the 3mm range.

  6. John Hinsley May 4, 2022

    Hi this is quite an old thread but maybe someone will still reply! Our yurt roof has also suffered in the Portuguese sun. Wondered where you found a replacement for only £500! I’ve just been quoted £1650 + vat + delivery (it’s a 5m yurt) by the UK company who sold it to me 10 years ago . Do you know of a Portuguese supplier of canvas – perhaps I could sew it myself – or better still, yurt parts?

  7. Wendy Howard May 19, 2022 — Post author

    Hi John. The £500 was the price of replacement covers at the time the post was written 11 years ago. Pre-Brexit, prior to the explosion in ‘glamping’ venues which pushed up the price of yurts beyond recognition (and out of many peoples’ budgets) and pre- the current insane price hikes in things like fuel and raw materials. Incidently, 12 years after I put it up, my yurt still has its original covers. The shade netting works!

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