Little yurt, big yurt

Life after the flurry of late summer and early fall is returning to normal, or to what I realize I’ve come to feel is normal… The wooden yurt is there, but feeling less like future home and more like giant art installation backdrop.

2014_NovDec 041

2014_OctNov 031

You should have seen it last night with the moonlight shining off all three roofs…

Why was I outside at night in late December?  Not pumping water, taking out graywater, or composting by headlamp…  This time it was to talk on the phone.  One of the quirks of our fabric yurt is that my cell phone does not always work through the reflective insulation.  But right outside on the front steps, perfectly clear…

Strange wireless signals are of course only one of the quirks of living in a 24′ fabric yurt.  But quirky or not, I still love it. Two years in and it has very much become home to me, to the point that I’m not aching to move into the wooden yurt like I very much expected.

Josh is not in my camp, and would move right into the wooden yurt as I write this if it was humanly possible to live in it unheated, unwindowed, unroofed through Maine winter…  Likely the giant box of felted wool I’ve dragged into our living space for holiday crafting is not helping his small space claustrophobia.  Nor is an eight year old with loud boy energy that can be entirely disproportionate to a tiny home.

When people hear that we live in 450 “square” feet, they understandably say something like “I bet you can’t wait to get out of there.”  I don’t know how to explain that most of the time that’s not the case.  To have everything I need within a few steps, to always feel very together as a family, to be able to keep “stuff” generally at bay because there just isn’t room for any more in our one room.

That’s not to say I don’t look forward to the move into the wooden yurt, whenever it might happen (even if my broom looks so very tiny in there compared to all of that floor).  It will be so wonderful to have larger gatherings again.  And I really am a bit tired of setting up a project at the sewing machine on the kitchen table, only to have to shuffle it around for every meal.

2014_NovDec 111

2014_Dec01 014

And well, sometimes the “office” gets a bit tight, especially when two new office mates show up and decide their “desks” will be right to either side of my chair…

2014_Dec01 024

But there’s something, especially at this time of year, that feels so right to me about the fabric yurt.  This little hut in the woods to tuck into as the days grew shorter. When pumpkins appear…

2014_NovDec 059

And then disappear…

2014_NovDec 061

When the garden is put to rest, and the last of the harvest is hung to dry above the wood stove, and then circled into one last reminder of summer…

2014_NovDec 115

2014_NovDec 116

When the weather is cool enough for our knitting elf to return again, knitting up warm creations that are finished and appear before the rest of us are awake…

2014_NovDec 087

2014_NovDec 089

One of the small elves very proudly finished knitting up his own hat to add to the collection his Dad has made.

2014_NovDec 184

2014_NovDec 185

2014_NovDec 189

But our big elf of course wears many hats, and sometimes it’s not a woolen creation but a wooden one that he’s discovering within what looks like a chunk of firewood…

2014_NovDec 102

2014_NovDec 103

2014_NovDec 199

2014_NovDec 220

2014_Dec01 038

While the children find endless play purposes for those wood chips, sometimes there are craft-space conflicts in this little yurt, with wood chips flying onto fabric being cut…

2014_Dec01 012

This space in front of the wood stove is still the prime winter hot spot for all of us.  Because of the firelight, the warmth, and the semi-open space that is even big enough for five of us to do yoga.

2014_NovDec 211

Okay, maybe not really big enough even if two of the five of you are lego people.  But usually just big enough for just about anything, even with that giant box of holiday felt also gathered in.

2014_Dec01 046

2014_Dec01 045

2014_Dec01 029

2014_NovDec 209

Even with two new yurt occupants taking prime fireside:

2014_Dec01 005

2014_NovDec 194

Meet Snow White and Rose Red.  Our twin gluten-free sourdough starters, born a month ago from a Taproot magazine recipe.  We have yet to make anything more than pancakes from them…

2014_Dec01 009

2014_NovDec 108

Now they should be ready enough to also try out sourdough pizza and bagels.

This time of year we’re also gathering in front of the fire in the morning to open the advent calendar windows.  This year this tradition has become one of my favorites.  This year, for the first time, I made that advent calendar.

2014_Dec01 034

Inspired by our friend Suzanne’s version, and also by my own children creating their own sweet and simple versions…

2014_Dec01 020

I stayed up one night and made our own based on a rough map of our land.  Maybe I have to actually explain what some of the pictures are (no that is not a green dancing monster, that is a frog), but we are all having a great time imagining that gnome among our tree stumps, a fairy in the woods, chickens laying eggs, raspberries and peach trees springing up…

2014_Dec01 018

It also fits with one of the many ways our perspectives have shifted because of our time with Bill Coperthwaite and many of our yurt building workshops participants.  They would look at something not with a how-can-I-use-that eye, but with a how-can-I-make-something-that-does-that eye, be it a chair, a cider press, an old hand egg-beater, a broom, etc.  Now I find I can’t look at a regular advent calendar and NOT think how I could make something like that (despite not exactly being artistic).

Like when Aria and I were in a store looking through a basket of felted wool creations and she found a Christmas tree she loved and so wanted for her own.  It wasn’t only the $18 price tag that had me saying no, it was seeing it for what it was and realizing I could say yes! in a different way that felt far more right.  We went home, got out some green felt, buttons, and embroidery floss, and Aria spent the morning making her very own version.  She was so proud of it, and even more proud to give it to her friend for Christmas who was traveling and would not have her own tree this year.

2014_Dec01 041

I don’t have pictures of the finished felted tree, it was made and wrapped and sent off so quickly.  But I do have some of our own little Christmas tree.

2014_NovDec 147

2014_NovDec 152

2014_NovDec 162 edit

2014_NovDec 164

2014_NovDec 181

2014_NovDec 206


Which yurt will we celebrate in next year?  I’m really not sure when we’ll start carrying water from the pump in a new direction each day.

2014_NovDec 224

But thankfully more water won’t be flowing AT the wooden yurt anymore, thanks to more very necessary excavator work to send the water running down the hill away from our foundation.

2014_NovDec 060

And a back door was put up, so at least bears won’t move themselves in before we get a chance.

2014_NovDec 112

2014_NovDec 225

Window sills for the second floor are being cut from birch that Josh milled and planed from our clearing.

2014_NovDec 232

2014_NovDec 233

One step at a time and we’ll eventually get there (right? right!)!  In the meantime, I’m just happy that our garlic is planted here this year.  After three years of nomadic planting on others’ land, our garlic is right with us again.  Which somehow makes me feel even more rooted, no matter which side of the garden we are sleeping in!

2014_NovDec 002

2014_NovDec 018

  2014_NovDec 011

2014_NovDec 008

2014_NovDec 003

Sending you wishes for a snug, warm, happy holiday, wherever (and whatever) your home may be!

4 thoughts on “Little yurt, big yurt

  1. Interesting as usual Mel and Josh. The new home looks good! But also I understand your feelings on the smaller Yurt… I read an article this summer on smaller living spaces and a smaller foot print, the couple that wrote the story talked about their 90 Square foot home. The smaller home has to be cheaper to heat in the winter months.

  2. Hi there! I just stumbled across your blog and have just bbegun perusing the contents. I have been investigating alternative home structures for about the past year. I learned about Yurts awhile ago but didn’t think they were the best option for my family. However, I am revisiting the idea and have just started digging in.

    My biggest reservation with yurts is the space-separation issue. I love open floor plans and being close to my family, but I’m wondering how realistic a yurt would be if we have three little kids. Do you think a bigger yurt can feasibly have at least 3 separate sleeping rooms?

    I was also hoping to get some insight on for real cost of a full time residence yurt. I have checked out Pacific Yurts etc. and know a base cost of 10K for the biggest yurt, but I have no idea how to realistically price how much it would cost to finish the inside. Also, we live in a cold climate, so I’d want to make sure it is outfitted for that. Anyway, any tips you can give about making sure we don’t bite off more financially than we can chew would be appreciated!

  3. Hi! I’m so confused!! Is this BIll’s Library yurt being restored?? Where’s this yurt? About 37 years ago, I spent a month on Mt. Desert Island building a triple concentric yurt with Bill at one of his workshops. Then spent a month at his library (in Machaisport at his foundation) raising his yurt – the library, so he could add a lower level. Is this at his place?

    • Hello! No, this one is a yurt Bill designed and was built on the Blue Hill peninsula. His library yurt is still going strong in Machiasport, including that workshop lower level. We’ve been to the MDI one, but it has since been dismantled (because the property sold) and last I knew there was a plan to reassemble it elsewhere.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s