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.

Wool walls, wool roof?

How are we going to insulate the space where the roof and wall insulation meet?


When in doubt, more wool.

We filled the floor circumference crack with wool, we stuffed wool (washed in borax) below the kitchen window and more wool around the crown wheel.

Since had a few (20+) wool stuffed pillows remaining from the wall wool quilting project it made sense to sausage them to fill the gap in,question. Looks pretty sweet eh?


Wool Insulation Panels

After preparing the wool its Quilting Time!

The wall height is 6′ (72”).

To make the fitted panels we used duvet/comforter covers from the thrift store that we cut and sowed to size (h=72”+4”).  The 4 extra inches are to compensate for the space taken up by the cover when it is full of wool. At the top of the duvet we sewed shoe laces and other sturdy materials which will be attached to a cable running along the top of the wall.

How did we go about quilting?

With dozens and dozens of freshly stuffed and sewn shut pillow cases of fluffed wool we had to figure out how to keep it all together and prevent them from sagging when vertical.

Unnecessarily complex Quilting

==================Attempt one================ Unnecessary ?


===================Yes===================== All you need to do is lay the cover on the floor. Then dive in to place the wool filled pillow cases.

Quilting with friends is the best

==========Quilting with friends is the best ===========

Sharlene showed us an effective technique for securing the pillows inside the cover.

1. We took a good length of 1/8” yarn and threaded it through a 3″ needle. We doubled over the yarn so that two pieces of string are dangling from the needle.

2. We entered through the top and exited on the bottom. We left one end of the string on the top – enough to tie with (+/- 3”) later.

3. Then we entered through the bottom 1” or 2” away from where we exited until we reached the  1st length of string we left on the top before.

4. Finally we pulled the two loose strings on top together till they were taught like this pillow…