Settling inside the circle – round 2

The move from little fabric yurt into big wooden yurt was far more of a transition than I expected.  I thought it’d be quite straightforward after 6 years of move planning, 4 years of living on the land, more than 2 years of watching that wooden yurt rise and imagining living within it.  But imagining isn’t living…

For one, it wasn’t a quick move from little yurt to big yurt, as close in proximity as they are.  For weeks there was the strange (too) expansiveness of living in both, with sleeping, cooking, eating, dressing dispersed along a slowly changing continuum between the two.  With a giant blank slate of a space in the wooden yurt, many of the items we moved in didn’t have a clear spot to go, and shifted around daily/hourly as we tried to figure out what felt right.  And many things didn’t have anywhere to go at all, waiting in semi-random clusters near the shelf or bench or cubby that would be built there later.

It was all a bit much for the littlest, the change, the unsettledness settling in her tummy for many long days.  One early morning we raced down the stairs, again.  I scooped her up in my arms to try to get us to the bathroom quicker, but too late.  We were suddenly suspended, skating along the newly appeared puddle of what she couldn’t stomach, both of us crashing to the wooden floor.  I thought of how the little yurt bathroom had been 3 steps from her bed and how this would never have happened in there, the only home she could remember.  I thought of our children’s friend who believed these slick wooden yurt floors were ideal for a skating rink…

Somewhere along the way things started to settle, we started to settle (bellies included), and that wooden yurt stopped feeling like an entity and started feeling like a home.

But let me go back to where I left off in November, to when a bit of electric was added, just in the first floor inner pantry ring.



Still, we weren’t quite ready to move in, as the first floor walls and floor needed to be sanded/stained.  When Josh headed off on a long-planned weekend trip, friends came.  Amazing what quality time it can be, working alongside each other with expansive time to talk.  And how quickly those walls were done!



Then there were vacation days taken for Josh and I to work on that very expansive floor.  Again, focused on carving out the time to get the work done, forgetting the bonus beauty of this kind of time together; quiet, meditative, space to talk and be.





Then we were waiting for the floor to dry.  Until finally, finally, there was nothing more to wait for.


We started with just beds on the second floor that first move in night.  Very quickly (that next morning even) a child construction crew set to work on “walls” to delineate room areas using bins and painting tape and blankets and such.


Slowly things moved from little yurt to big yurt, so interesting to see what we all deemed worthy to trickle in with.  The garlic basket placed within the “pantry” looked quite tiny.


The old soapstone sink was given a base, angling the usually front-facing slant to the back, fitting as if it were made to against those tapered walls.  Night dishes by headlamp.




Bathroom walls went up.


Ten new chickens were suddenly available to pick up and help settle in their new home here.

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A couch brought in, cushions left uncovered while covers received much needed mustiness cleaning after so many years of waiting.


It was interesting how difficult it was for us to bring this couch in.  Not because of its size or weight, but because of the weight of what it exemplified without realizing until it sat there inside of this home we’d built, this home that built us.  That couch was originally bought to sit in front of a new very large flat screen TV in the newly finished basement of our previous life (oh, how tiny those children once were).


Bringing it into the wooden yurt made us face that excess again, that time when we’d spent $4,000 on a couch without recognizing the trade-off we were making, unwittingly choosing more work, more passive living in exchange for less freedom, less of our own living.

The tiny fabric yurt kept things simple.   Perhaps some worry crept in that we would now start moving into another version of our previous half-asleep life, just rounded.  Would we forget what we’d learned these past few years?  But then again, how nice it was to have a couch to sit on together again.  And soon it was made into a fort more often than sat on.  And we remembered that it isn’t a couch, it isn’t a house, that ultimately shapes us.  It’s the intention we try to live with inside that home, daily, with or without an expensive comfy couch.

There will not be a television in front of that couch, just the windows to the forest, the sky, a growing cherry tree.  But very quickly behind it there was a much-anticipated (very, very heavy) free piano, a long ago hammock swing present finally hung, a sewing machine set up in a spot where it didn’t need to be put away each night to free up space.


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We’d spent a lot of time before moving in figuring out where the refrigerator might go. We thought we had it.  Until we moved in and it felt all wrong in that space.  After much deliberation it finally found a spot, right where we originally thought we’d access the pantry from the kitchen…  The pantry doorway was shuffled over one bay, and fridge was settled.


Wood started moving in, waiting to become counters, shelves, benches, etc.


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There were delays getting the gas range transferred over, meaning the fabric yurt was the kitchen yurt for some time.  But also providing the opportunity to experiment (with some charred outcomes) with the wood cookstove that was already steadily working away heating the wooden yurt.  And heating it quite well (phew!), some days too well when the sun also shines down on this southern slope.


I thought I’d feel settled when the kitchen table came over. But I think the day that finally made me start to feel at home was the day we stopped pushing to get set up, just for an afternoon, the day we just added beauty with no necessity.




It was quickly clear that the piles in the pantry were the most in need of organizational help.  A set of shelves were made to go behind the piano.




Phew.  Getting somewhere.

Then the gas range was in, adrift in the outer first floor ring.  It was finally time for the cherry that Josh milled so long ago with the intention of making kitchen counters.  The first one.






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Another pantry shelf was added to the right of the first, this one for resting spots for those piles of dishes.



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And we were feeling set up, enough.  Enough to pause for panoramic snowfall.  Enough to not feel too stressed that the “workshop” area was about to be out of commission to let winter set in (for a short spell anyway).



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Time to rest, to craft, to find letters and birds and faces in the wood knots and lines surrounding us.

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To celebrate the season, the solstice, darkness at its height, light about to flow more and more into each day again.

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This year there was a tree.  Not a sweet tiny tree in a garden pot that we’ve had the past few years.  But rather a trudge through our woods with a saw to find just the right slightly too tall one.

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Perhaps it is not surprising, given our previous living yule trees, that the youngest was not at all pleased when it was time to take the tree back out into the woods without replanting it.  Change.

The weather shifted, the sun defrosted the “workshop”, and soon it was on to the next project:  something to make these children’s rooms really start to feel their own.

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More to come when more wood is milled, but for now the outer “walls” are doubling nicely as banks and stores and DMVs and animal adoption centers.

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On to another project for behind the gas range.

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For cookbooks and herb books.  Or a doll nook, depending who you ask.

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Another yurtmate moved in.  One so loved by all that nobody questioned when he decide to take over the top yurt room.  But one who had us all yawning through our days while he trained us to his wild nocturnal ways, meowing through the night in this door-less, sound-carrying space.

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A bit more electricity was run last week, to bathroom and bedrooms.

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A desk, finished in time for a 40th birthday.  This age that is like bookends for us in this process, Josh’s happening during the first building workshop to start this wooden yurt rising, mine happening as we settle into it.

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This building that started with groups of people coming together seems to thrive and sing with any size gaggle gathered within.  I’m still trying to figure out the balance of having an extroverted home while being an introverted dweller here…  It seems meant to be filled with life and it usually fills me up to be in the midst of it all, introvert or not.

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Ten weeks now we’ve called this space home.  There is much to be done still, a lifetime worth of counters and benches and shelves and tables and light making and such.  They will come.  Or not.  For now there is the much needed beauty and rhythm of home, something to ground us in the ongoing ups and downs that is life with young children in an ever changing world.  There is enough for now.  More than enough.

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We’ve built gardens here on top of clay/rock, creating the soil layer by layer.  With soil still relatively shallow, I didn’t even attempt root vegetables until late last summer, on a whim, wanting carrots.  Seeds were sown and forgotten.  Then fluffy green tops where spied in the fall, roots quickly plucked and eaten by children, quick as bunnies.  How good it feels to finally, finally put roots in here.


21 thoughts on “Settling inside the circle – round 2

  1. It looks absolutely beautiful Josh and Melanie. Perhaps I can talk grandma into a ride this year. I know it’s hard sitting cramped up for hours but let’s pray. I can imagine that he transition could be overwhelming after living in the little yurt for so long. I for one, can’t wait to see the big yurt finally and speak with Josh on the endeavors of building this.

  2. Mel, your words inspire my imagination like nothing else can. You paint such a beautifully graphic story of a beautiful life, told by a beautiful heart and mind. Thank you for sharing your life with us mere mortals.

  3. Oooooooh ❤ Their bedrooms – the love, pride and freedom in those spaces just for them and a C A T. My goodness… My heart is full with joy for all that you have created. Thank you for sharing the journey with us all ❤

  4. Thank you, Melanie. Your regular sharings fill me with admiration and appreciation for the example you set for raising a family, and building a dream. You have a book indeed ahead of you that will inspire so many others (and maybe give Mike lots of work J)


    In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love. Mother Teresa

  5. Mel and Josh what a beautiful picture you make! I love the words and the pictures. It is amazing how much a picture you can make with your words…just beautiful! Miss you!! Love you all!

  6. The yurt looks beautiful – and can’t believe you’ve been “in” 10 weeks or more already! Whew – what a long way you’ve come. Love, love, love all the stories and photos (and the cat of course!) I figured the actual move would be quite a process, and I’m sure it will continue as you find what you need, and where you need it, but already it looks like a joyful place to be! Much love, xooxox alison

  7. Your home is coming along. I love the wood burning stove. It’s beautiful. Everyone is fitting into the groove of home. Very nice. Great blog. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful time in the process of building your life’s journey.

  8. OH WOW!!
    This is delightful.
    Such a joy to see you really and truly settling in.
    Thanks for writing and photographing Melanie!!
    Looking forward to visiting again (and I suppose we’ll be staying in the canvas yurt if we did?)
    also – Kenneth is looking forward to coming back to finish the cupolla and getting it in place!

    • The canvas yurt still looks like we frantically evacuated in the middle of the night… But it is one of the many spring projects, finishing clearing it out and up, and THEN it will hopefully be additional visitor quarters! We so look forward to you testing it out. And look forward to getting that cupola on at some point – amazing how the to do list seems to be far longer now than before “finishing” the main building… Enough to dos to last a lifetime!

  9. Hello
    I have been reading your blog for the last few hours now. I started with googling for cabin designs, stumbled on a picture of your wooden yurt, and been amazed by what I’ve been seeing ever since! I am not impressed by much in all honesty, but reading your thoughts on your journey from one lifestyle to another has truly touched something in me. Something I am trying to identify and plan to explore. My wife and I have been talking about how our kids are growing up and the “things” that they MUST have, their attitude, and lack of the connectivity to other people and everything around them. Your writings have been great in helping me to see/identify some of the issues I think I need to deal with in myself too. I don’t mean to say that I am going to follow the things you have done per se. But you have given me some insights I never noticed before. Which is nowhere near where I started several hours ago, looking for a cabin design for a getaway project with the family I am working on. I have now idea what to ask you about and yet I want to ask all of you how have you been able to make this change and all the things that go with that. You should really consider writing a book about that. I’m going to show this blog to my wife. I expect that we will be talking about this for quite some time. Thank you for your sharing your thoughts and life.

    • Thank you for the note, Dan. I appreciate your honesty and awareness. It’s hard to know exactly how change happened, and we’re certainly not completely isolated from the greater culture that creates that need for things, attitude, lack of personal connectivity. Nerf gun and lego requests come up regularly around here… But still, I recognize things are much different than if we had not made a lifestyle shift. If I had to pinpoint, I’d say finding like-minded community, people who were also striving for something different, has been a huge factor, and has made for deep personal connections for all of us. And mentors, people doing and being in ways we want to do and be (once we actually figured out what we wanted to do/be), for ourselves and our children. Not having a television certainly makes a big difference. And building/making/doing together, in whatever form “together” takes, things like that cabin project! Best of luck with your path ahead.

  10. My primary question is; Are you going to try to get off the grid if possible? I saw you have electric power up now, but I don’t think I read anything about trying to get off the grid.
    If so, have you looked into solar power? I recently saw The Smart Flower Plus by Solar Tech and it looked like it was made for just your situation.There are also hydroelectric systems and of course wind turbines as well. But I’m curious as to what you use in power for the new home and if it’s something you can generate with your own system.

    • That is a question we get often. We looked into solar originally, but the cost was prohibitive to build the system for our temporary home and then have it re-setup for our permanent home. We’ve also looked into hydro and wind, but again, the cost.
      Having employment that requires I work from home makes reliable electricity a necessity. It’s a trade-off, but it means we are able to do so much of what really calls to us, building the home, gardens, trails, simple living. The simple living is such a pull for us, with as few systems as possible. We still admire and appreciate this so much when being at Bill Coperthwaite’s truly off-grid, no power source homestead. If we have the resources, someday we might move to solar. But someday when the children are grown we might be just as likely to not have power at all!

  11. Hello again from Dan,
    I have some practical questions I’d like to ask. I’m still trying to decide what type of cabin I want to build, but I am fascinated with your yurt. When I was a kid, my grandfather built a cabin in North Carolina. My extended family of aunts, uncles, and cousins spent our summer vacations over 8 years there. First building it piece by piece, then using it for fun. That’s what I am doing now. And also using this to bring my family closer together without the “things” they must have. Okay, nerf guns and legos are going to be in there too. Obviously, you don’t have to answer and I’m not trying to pry into your personal lives. If any of these overstep any boundaries, I apologize. So onto the questions.
    1. This is such an unusual structure and I’m sure you had a plan to build from. In my experience, there’s always a few things that come up that changed the plan. What kind of things did you get surprised by?
    2. I like the windows. They bring in a lot of natural light. However, they tend to be a source of heat loss and in this case many different shapes and sizes it seems. Did you have to get something special made for both these issues? And also, what have you done for curtains for letting you sleep in without sunshine right in your eyes? That last one is from my wife.
    3. The door is very unique. I see how it’s made and fitted. Have you found any problems in the yurt settling that comprises the door? Or any other part of the house so far?
    4. Did you have any problems with building codes or inspection issues? Or was it more of an educational issue to the people who issued the permits?
    5. Seeing how open the spaces are, I appears that power lines (and plumbing?) are not run in in the walls, but through conduits. Is that right? And from my wife – you don’t have a furnace or a/c, how warm/cold are you during summer/winter? (I condensed her questions down)
    6. This is, to me, a much more practical question. I’m 6’5″. How tall is the “roofing” on each floor? I can’t quite tell in the pictures.
    I can go on asking questions for days, but I’m not. Suffice it to say, I’m genuinely curious about everything that has gone into this build and whatever advice you can give to someone in their own project. Also any thoughts about how to best live in this type of home. For my family, it won’t be full time living, but it will be lived in by family and friends a lot. Again, thank you for your sharing with everyone out here in the ethers and I wish you all the best of luck. Oh, have you seen Home Power Magazine? I think that that are only online nowadays but I used to get it often. Actually an uncle of mine told me about it. He even made his own wind turbine from spare parts and things he bought from hardware stores. His was more a hobby project, but they have a lot of good advice and recommendations for just about any system. It may be something you can use for your own situation. Just a thought.

    Thanks again and respectfully,

  12. Wow, almost a year since you posted, yet I keep coming back and reading this, and looking at the photos. Hope it’s been a good year, and you have settled in well. Rob and I still aren’t in our timber frame, but should make the move in 2018. I’ll miss our cabin in so many ways, but am looking forward to the next adventure. Much love !!! xoooxo alison and rob.

  13. Pingback: A year in a wooden yurt | Circle In

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