Changing the World with “The Yurt is Born”

This post comes from Sarah’s new england permaculture life blog. Sarah came up with the title and its bold! Most days I feel like my life makes little changes but really those “little changes” affect me greatly, my community and do ripple out and affect the whole – so its true we are all and always affecting the whole world.

Last year she talked to us about the yurt project. about the little changes that matter. and about the journey. awwwh, Thanks Sarah for asking your thoughtful questions🙂

Building a New England Homestead

This edition of changing the world comes from the blog “The Yurt is Born.”  Be sure to check out her blog!

I found you through your blog. What is your blog and/or project about?

“Jedidiah Wiebe and I (Sarah Lecouffe Axtell) started the Yurt is Born blog as a means of sharing the building process with those interested in making a beautiful, hand built yurt made from mostly pre-loved materials for just 4000$. The blog was also there so my mom could watch : )

While we learned a lot from others the blog is also about documenting and sharing a bit of the stuff we couldn’t find answer to. Such an answer we learned through experience was… how can we make affordable sheep’s wool insulation that is effective at (-20C/-4F)? Our blog answers that.”

I believe that you are someone who is helping to change the world…

View original post 670 more words

Low tech living, looking forward not backwards. Wear wool Socks!

To shower or not to shower. Well thats not the question for most folks unless you choose the “radical” option for reducing energy usage in bathing which is described in the LOW-TECH LIVING AS A ‘DEMAND-SIDE’ RESPONSE TO CLIMATE CHANGE AND PEAK OIL SIMPLICITY IS THE ULTIMATE SOPHISTICATION by Samuel Alexander and Paul Yacoumis Simplicity Institute Report 15d, 2015.

In case you were wondering what the other options were, the authors come up with just five ways to bath more simply:

P. 8 The reference scenario yielded a result of 21,199 litres of water and 851 kWh of energy consumed by our two-person household annually. Five alternative scenarios are described as follows:

• Moderate 1: Reducing shower time to 3 minutes with no use of a solar shower.

• Moderate 2: Using a solar shower, when possible, but showering regularly otherwise.

• Strong 1: Using a solar shower, when possible, and reducing shower time to 3 minutes otherwise.

• Strong 2: Using a solar shower, when possible, otherwise reducing shower time to 3 minutes, and reducing shower frequency by one-third (equivalent of showering around 4 times per week).

• Radical: Using a solar shower, when possible, otherwise reducing shower time to 3 minutes, and reducing shower frequency by two-thirds (equivalent of showering around 2 times per week).

And the results in reduction of energy usage are astounding! See page 8

Woo we’re Radical! That means that “Under the ‘radical’ scenario our two-person household is saving over 17,000 litres of water per year, and reducing shower-related energy consumption by nearly 90%.”(Alexander and Yacoumis, 9). But thats compared to conventional peoples showering habits. Like many days this summer we have been jumping in the cold creek – several times a day.  I shower 1-2x/week in the neighbours house. and in the winter probably 4 x/week. But enough about my excellent hiegene! The article caught my attention because it seeks to focus not on the  big bad problem side of the earths destruction – industry, governemnt etc – but it seeks to look at the demand side from a practical viewpoint.The authors don’t just examine homee water usage they look at heating, cooling, driving, toilets and more. The demand side is US! What would it actually look like to use simple low input technologies that are readily available to us  like the sun heating up our water! This is something which Jeds parents have done for the past 25 years  with a solar preheat tank – woooh.  But also what would that mean if this low-tech living practices/lifestyles were adopted widely?  I know you’re wondering… would it REALLY make a difference? Im interested. Im stocked to see that someone is crunching the numbers and what they find out is cool. Read on here…

For an overview of the article the abstract says it better than me:

 Energy is often called the ‘lifeblood’ of civilisation, yet the overconsumption of fossil energy lies at the heart of two of the greatest challenges facing humanity today: climate change and peak oil. While transitioning to renewable energy systems is an essential ‘supply side’ strategy in response to climate change and peak oil, the extent of the problems and the speed at which decarbonisation must occur means that there must also be a ‘demand side’ response. This means consuming much less energy not just ‘greening’ supply, at least in the most developed regions of the world. In that context, this paper provides an energy analysis of various ‘low tech’ options – such as solar shower bags, solar ovens, washing lines, and cycling – and considers the extent to which these types of ‘simple living’ practices could reduce energy consumption if widely embraced. We demonstrate that low-tech options provide a very promising means of significantly reducing energy (and water) consumption.

Are you practising moderate, strong or radical living? How do you do it? Do you like your lifestyle? What changes would/could you make and share with us?

And remember, you too can be radical just by wearing wool socks in the cold northern winters.

Making a Dome shade/screen

When it gets hot (30c+) you make a shade cover and when the mosquitos come in you make a screen. Put the two needs together and shazam! You’ve got a burlap sack thing.

yurt shade cover and mosquito net up close

We bought a 24′ by 3′ roll of burlap cloth which makes about a two layered 8′ by 8.5′ piece. We think it keeps the bugs out (some must get in through the door though) and the two layers sewn together (on a sewing machine woooh!) block some sun from entering the yurt.

Cooking on the outdoor kitchen or fire pit is also essential for keeping the yurt cool these days.

Since the dome opens and closes some 18'' we needed the material to be able to "stretch" but also not leave gaps where mosquitos could get in. Burlap is the way to go. When is deteriorates we can compost it!

Since the dome opens and closes some 18” we needed the material to be able to “stretch” but also not leave gaps where mosquitos could get in. Burlap is the way to go. When is deteriorates we can compost it!

A plant acting as a weight for one of the corners of the yurt shade cover/mosquito net

A plant acting as a weight for one of the corners of the yurt shade cover/mosquito net. In the photo above you can see a pink bottle (near the chair) hanging from another corner of the burlap cover.


platform cat hole and morel drying

platform cat hole and morel drying

The cat hole, which allows Duke to go in to catch mice is just big enough for him to fit through. Seems small? The other day we saw him hop through the fence. The fence openings are only 6”x4” so why make the platform cat hole any bigger. Im thinking of transplanting around the base some plants that mice and voles don’t like.

After a good couple days of rain last week, followed by some sunshine… followed by a message from Alex saying 40lbs pounds of morels were picked near her place we got out to the cut block yesterday. It was raining, but we had mushrooming hats on. It seemed like we weren’t going to find any at first but them we found huge patches of false morels or ‘brain’ mushrooms, which can be eaten with special precautions.

morels drying in the yurt

In the end we got a diners worth plus a few pounds to dry; hung up over the fire place…  And we had a lot of fun : )

morels drying over the yurt fireplace

Grass and lasagna

The yurt is surrounded by grass! Oh no!

The grass is good for mulching but even better at competing for space against other plants. We’ve started by layering cardboard to block the light on the grass. Some people call this the begining of lasagna mulching or layering mulching. Its just mulching. Some people say its not the best idea because it block the flow of air and gases in the earth. But how else would you smother out grass without using energy intensive machinery?

Then on top i’m adding all kinds of other mulch (wood chips, foraged peatmoss from people who dump it in garbage bags on cut blocks*, sand, compost, leaves, hay, poop, dumpstered lettuce etc). Eventually the whole area will be either woodchip paths – for mushroom growing or food/medicine. Its pretty intensive the amount of input this approach takes. However, unlike other composts… there is no turning, no heating or much maintenance required besides adding more layers of mulch when materials become available.

lasagna mulching around the yurt for perennial edible flower garden

Below in the  beginnings of the perennial edible flower garden that i planted directly into the mulch (rather than wait months for a traditional compost to decompose) we have motherwort, st-johns wort, feverfew, pansies, yarrow and soon to come up blue vervain, skullcap and spilanthes !



In the perennial edible flower garden we have motherwort, st-johns wort, feverfew, pansies, yarrow and soon to come up blue vervain, skullcap and spilanthes !


And on the north side of the yurt (where the chicken yard use to be) we have 10+ kinds of greens growing: kale, lettuce, mazuna, tatsoi, corn salad, spinach you name it!

yurt garden, growing greens