cobbing the stove, making the yurt even more cozy

Yes we still live in the yurt! Its technically late summer/early fall and we are not near lighting a fire but im reminiscing about winter since the turn of seasons can be gloomy here. Nevertheless we’re up and out of bed because fall harvest is upon us and we’re looking forward to our 4th winter in the yurt coming up. Life before cob…



People who live in conventional houses walk in the yurt in the summer… and often ask.. is it cold in the winter?

but those that come in the winter, dont ask that… they say wow its surprisingly soooo cozy!

its warm and cozy, come on over…

We keep a big pot of water on the stove to do dishes with. Before bed wed notice it was pipping hot. By morning though it was warm or cold.

Year two we experimented with a cob bench picture below:

(the sun star reminds us: “its always sunny above the clouds”)

Cob bench was warm to sit on or dry your socks. But with our friends all being into cob structures Jed thought… can we do more cob? can we make the yurt even more heat efficient? aka cozy.

So even though

  • winters can be -20 degrees Celcius (-4 F) for weeks of the season we’ve never gotten up in the night to stoke the fire – feeling blessed!
  • in the last 3 winters we’ve only burned just a few cords of wood – wow.
  • = this is surely due to our 6” of wall wool, 6” of floor insulation, and 6” of roof styrofoam.


So last fall using sand from the sand hill, clay donated to us by a lovely artist who stopped firing with #10 clay, and … straw to bind it all together (oli calls it rebar!) the stove got cobbed with the help and guidance of cob house building friends!

then painted with  yellow and red iron oxide, clay and flour and yes, cattail fluff (binder). More colour will be added one day. There are some large cracks that could not be filled, even though it tried several times. They occur where the flange meets the main body and thats where there is the most cold/hot contrast, hence the cracking from contracting. This could have been avoided if we’d made spacers and/or included metal mesh.


Post cob building.. when we light a small fire in the winter evenings it takes about 20 minutes longer to warm the room up but the heat it retained longer… the cob warms up and stay warm till morning.

The best part is this…. we get up  in the morning and rather than the water in the pot on the stove be cold… is still HOT ! very very cool.



Cob it up!


Fall blessings to you,









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…

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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






Cicada on the canvas

Cicada  on the canvas

After years of being underground this may be the first time this creature has seen the day light in over a decade! What a cicada? Jed knows more about these creatures life cycle but just to give you an idea of how fast the change happened… Late last night jed saw the cicada sitting on the outside of the yurt canvas wall. Then today at about 1pm it started to metamorphosis! in the past twenty minutes it has come out of its previous body and the wings puffed up. Amazing.


Cicada on yurt canvas

Cicada on yurt canvas