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,









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.

Winter: How much wood does it take to warm a yurt?

First question that people ask about yurt living:

– Are you keeping warm in the yurt?

First thing people say when they walk in the yurt:

– Wow its cozy in here (with a look of astonishment) do you burn a lot of wood?


I took this winter photo the other day for a drawing assignment. Once the picture is in black and white and printed I will paint on an imagined forest of food and medicines. We’re looking forward to spring!

Once we got the stove and stove pipe installed in October we’ve been keeping the yurt warm with just wood, body heat when we are in the yurt and any residual heat from the propane stove top or oven.

We live in the growing zone 5a. Winter temps range from -20C all the way up to the + degrees and its not windy here. This  year January and February have had a surprising (so I am told) amount of -20 nights.  Its been good for enjoying skating on the pond but for the most part its -10 at night and up to 0 degrees during the day.

I remember my folks burning a few cords a year in Quebec with electricity on low. When harvesting wood for the upcoming winter we wondered how much we would use… 1 cord (a stack of wood 4x4x8ft), or maybe 2 cords?

For us this year – not the case. Since October we have burned the stack below x2. It is nearing the end of February and we are currently working on our third stack.

Thank you energy forest for your life and warmth!

wood burning in the yurt

For scale, notice the splitter axe on the left? Pretty small pile eh? This will last several weeks!

It turns out the 6 inches of wool insulation in the walls, the 6 inches of mismatched recycle insulation in the floor and the six inches of styrofoam in the roof was a warm idea.

yurts and snow

Will the snow slide off the roof or will we need to shovel it?

Will the snow slide off the roof or will we need to shovel it?

We wondered about over wintering with the yurt.

How will the yurt support the weight of snow?

At what angle should we make the roof in order to facilitate snow removal?

My mom wondered if we needed an inside pole to support the crown wheel in case heavy snow accumulated.

Well its winter now and we know a few things.

A winter picture will follow soon.

And here is is…

yurt tarp roof, snow

December 2013, the snow slides off easily this yurt tarp roof

The snow slides off the roof tarp It dislodges and slides right off making a loud scratching avalanche sound from inside the yurt. So far we’ve removed snow once with a long shovel. Perhaps the 22 degree angle roof is steep enough.  We do not need a crown wheel support.

I wonder do other yurters with tarp roofs in snow bearing regions also experience this phenomena?


Webbing: Keeping the bugs out

Velvetey purple is our favourite colour so we picked it for the webbing colour. On a more practical note we decided on a ratchet system as seen below to secure the three layers (wool, building wrap, canvas) together at the base of the yurt platform.



Where the canvas ends you can see some white building wrap extending below. We will cut off the excess at some point and boat soup the exposed plywood platform.

Hopefully it keeps most of the bugs from crawling up.