Yurt + Fire

I think we finally completed the yurt. After putting the whole thing together a few weeks ago we still had to put all the finishing touches together. The biggest thing left to do was install the wood burning fireplace and chimney.

We actually bought the fireplace a couple months ago – before we’d even received the yurt. We knew we were getting a 15 foot diameter yurt. I measured it out on the ground and it seemed pretty small to me initially. Cozy, let’s say it seemed cozy to me. It came in at 177 square feet. We wanted to be able to go and hang out in the wintertime in it so we needed to have some type of heat source. An electric space heater is just not as quaint and ambient as a wood burning stove though.

Because the space was small, we needed an equally small fireplace. And so my hunt began for the world’s smallest fireplace (that didn’t cost a a small fortune).

We found some pretty cool fireplaces. One company from Sweden called Jotul (pronounced “Yo-tel”) we’d seen when we were in New York state this past spring. They make really beautiful cast iron heritage-type Scandinavian stoves. This one, the Jotul F602 was great – only 12.5”x19”.

That’s pretty tiny! But unfortunately the long side would be jutting out into the room all awkwardly. Plus the price came in at $1300 + tax. Sorry Jotul, maybe next time.

As the search continued, I found another Scandinavian fireplace company that I liked even more: Morso. This was an even cooler Scandinavian company with even nicer fireplaces than Jotul. This little guy, called the Morso 1410, was so sweet.



Plus it had a fancy little squirrel on the side! And you could boil tea on top! And, and it was only 15.5”x17.5”. I was really excited about this stove. We search their website and found that there was actually a dealer in Prince Albert, SK, of all places. We requested a quote… $2300. Frick. How could I justify spending that much on a fireplace for the yurt. The cost of the yurt was not that much more than the fireplace. Even still, the squirrel almost had me convinced.

I was starting to get a bit bummed out about the cost and options for small stoves. In my desperation, I started googling “world’s smallest stove”.  Wouldn’t you know that there’s a stove called “The Hobbit”.


It’s only 12”x12”! Sure it needs extra mini logs, but it had the “The Hobbit” in the same typeface as “The Hobbit Movie” scrawled on the top. I started composing an email to the company asking for a quote and shipping cost and how soon we could get and so on and so on.

Darcie, finally couldn’t take my insanity over finding a tiny stove. “What do people use for ice fishing shacks or campers? There has to be somewhere we can buy a small stove locally.” She’s always so logical.

“Yea, ok, whatever, I’m busy,” I replied as I composed my lengthy email to the Hobbit stove guys.

Meanwhile, she started searching Rona, Home Depot, and Canadian Tire. You know, boring places.

“What about this one?” She asked.”It’s only 19″ deep by 26″ wide. That might fit nice.”

Oh, um, that’s actually pretty nice. And it would totally fit given that the yurt is a circle the width didn’t matter as much as making sure it was not too deep.

Sure it didn’t have a squirrel embossed on the side and it wasn’t a super cool Scandinavian company. But it was only 800 bucks and there were two in stock just down the street at Canadian Tire. Good ol’ Canadian Tire. You can’t go wrong! 10 minutes later this affordable little non-Scandinavian stove was in the back of our truck.

Now I like fire. But putting together a chimney made me a bit nervous. As with everything else we’d been doing… I had no idea what I was doing.

I’d been sent instructions with the yurt on how to install a fireplace and chimney system. And the instructions with the fireplace were also quite thorough. I needed to get good quality double-walled stove and chimney pipe. I didn’t want to mess around buying something cheap.

I decided to go to a legit fireplace shop. They’d know what they’re doing, right?

Wrong. They’re idiots! I, at least, watched some YouTube videos on how to put together a chimney pipe. You would think these guys would at least be able to have an intelligent conversation about it. I went to the shop and asked the fellow if he could confirm the components I needed. “Uh, ya, I guess that’s it.” That wasn’t really the vote of confidence I was looking for.

I bought the stuff even so and set off to put it together. As I unpacked the boxes, I quickly realized that I was missing the pass through for the wall and support base and brackets for the chimney (I’d specifically asked for all of this). The next week I went back. “I’m pretty sure I need these support brackets,” I said. “No no, you’ve got all of the stuff you need,” he replied, making me out like I was the idiot. Not wanting to seem like an idiot (in case I was), I took the wall pass-through and left.

This time, I decided to try and put it together like this guy had suggested. Really there was no turning back at this point. I measured it out and cut a whole through the yurt wall. Well, I guess that’s the point of no return, I thought. I started putting the pieces together… frick. As I started to hoist the chimney pipe (about 8 feet tall and roughly 40 lbs), I realized, as I’d suspected, that there was absolutely no way this is going to be self-supporting. I’d watched YouTube for goodness sake! And YouTube said I needed support brackets. It also really did, there was no way this would hold. So I taped the hole shut and went back to town. Again. Third time.

Finally, last weekend we got the fireplace and chimney installed. It wasn’t easy. But nothing seems to be easy around here. Still, having that first fire in the yurt, all of the difficulty and the weeks of trying to figure it out, just melted away…




(Originally posted September 15, 2014)


Paint it Black

I love black. Black is the new black, I say. The white door on the yurt was just not flying. We debated about painting some kind of mosaic of fish and swords and skulls, but in the end decided that a black door would be best. You just can’t go wrong with black.



(Originally posted August 28, 2014)

Building the Yurt

We’d just come back from a super relaxing six days at Besnard Lake, SK. In fact we were so relaxed that we decided to come back a day early. Any more mellow and we were worried we’d lose the drive for putting up our yurt, which we were supposed to be picking up the day we got home. The following morning we drove to the local yurt delivery company (at least I think that is all they deliver). A man in a neon yellow jumpsuit questioned me, “do you know how big this thing is?” I had a pretty good idea – 8’x4’x7’ and about 1000 lbs. Bingo, he said. I’d brought my trusty rusty truck and trailer along to do the job. Getting the huge crate onto the trailer was a feat of engineering prowess and a bit of improvisation on the part of the young forklift operator. I was a bit worried when he started using the points of the forklift to jab and push the crate and also when the bottom support bracket snapped off send a metal strap flying into the air, but hey, he got the job done. We secured it in place and away we went. Ready to getting yurting…


We drove out to our shop and I got to work opening up this massive box.


As we started to dig through the box and lay stuff out on the floor I had an overwhelming sense of dread… I had no idea what I was doing. I don’t know how to build a yurt! What kind of fool am I to think I can just build a Mongolian house in 3 days… Who do I think I am? All these thoughts were running through my head and I felt in over my head. Again.

Oh well. Too late now!

The next day, my dad came out to help me finish the cursed foundation, which entailed laying the radiant insulation and installing the plywood subfloor. I know, it sounds like an easy job. But man, it takes forever. 5 hours later it was done.


Day 2, was the day that we asked (begged) some friends and family to come out to help us. We bribed them with beer and hotdogs, and you know what, seven people showed up! Ha! Suckers!

Darcie and I got up early to try and finish the flooring. We had bought some $1/sqft tile and laminate flooring from the left over stuff at one of the flooring places in town. People always buy too much flooring so if you need a small amount of tile or other flooring for a laundry or bathroom floor (or yurt, naturally) then ask these companies. They’re happy to get rid of it and there was a lot of good options. Anyways we had hoped to get the flooring done before everyone showed up, but by 1:00pm we were still working on it. Frick. How were we going to get this yurt up by tonight?

I had read the lengthy 25 step manual of installing the yurt twice through the day before and felt as prepared as I could be. But by early afternoon we were yet to start step #1. Finishing the floor was pretty much insane. John (Darcie’s dad) laid on the grass and used my jig saw to cut the laminate floor following the circular plywood I’d cut the day before. He then cut all of the tiles into a rounded edges by hand. We nicknamed him Popeye for obvious reasons. Darcie laid and mortared the tiles. Dad and I laid the laminate. And Scott and Ryan (our helpers) cut and fastened a skirting with 5/16” plywood around the perimeter of the base. Everyone had a job. Including my mom who documented and photographed this whole process. Finally Step #0 was done.



Step #1 involved installing the door frame to the base. Immediately everyone started saying how this should be done. Darcie and I were the only ones that had read the manual so we had to tell our parents to listen up… You know how parents are. The door went on square and level. Neat! Maybe this whole yurt thing won’t be that bad.

Step #2 was installing the lattice. This was pretty fun. It was all rolled up in a tight little bundle that we all wondered how to could possibly be stretched out to 45 feet. But with us pulling along its length, after bolting one side to the door frame, it stretched out beautifully. There. Walls. Done. Hell ya. Now onto the (not) fun part. Raising the rafters.


Step #3. The rafters are very pretty 2.5” round Douglas fir beams. There is a cut out on one side and a peg on the other. The peg was to theoretically insert into the centre ring and the cut out was to sit on the airplane wire that we’d strung around the top of the lattice. Ryan and Scott climbed a ladder each holding the sides of the ring with their arms outstretched above their heads. Meanwhile the rest of us idiots tried to maneuver the beams into the ring trying not to knock Scott and Ryan off the ladder or hit any of us in the face with the beams. Sounds chaotic? It was. There was also a lot yelling and swearing… “No put it here.” “No over here!” “No this one!” “Oh shit!” Look out!!” Let me remind you that Darcie and I was the only ones that read the instruction manual. However I would say that the manual was a little bit overly optimistic on the ease of putting these up. “The peg should slide easily in when you have the correct angle.” Well, I guess we’re morons because we never found the correct angle. We ended up having to hammer the ends of the posts in place. Fortunately we only had two posts fall. Neither of them hit anyone but both took a nice chip out of our freshly laid floor. By the time we got the last rafter in place it was 5:00pm and everyone was tired, sore and ready to head home. And now the the yurt was starting to look like a yurt at least.


Darcie and I, worried about a chance of overnight rain or that the humidity from the river would wreck our floor, decided to keep going. Who needs food and water and rest? Not us. We kept working. Turning on flood lights when the sun went down, we installed the inner posts for snow/wind protection (which you can see in the above photo), laid the inner liner on the roof and walls, insulated the roof and walls and lastly, hung the exterior liners. At around 11:00pm we put the door back on and threw a tarp over the dome opening of the roof. There. We were going to sleep in the yurt. We had been motivated all day to be able to sleep in the yurt that night and dammit we were going to do it.

We dragged our sleeping bags and air mattress from the tent and put it inside. Just then the wind started to come up, whipping the tarp against the roof and wall. Hmm maybe earplugs would help. I went back to the shop to find some… Two ear plugs. Ok well I sleep on my right side and Darcie sleeps on the left. We each got one. Needless to say our first sleep in the yurt wasn’t the best despite being incredibly tired. At 5:00am I got up and took the tarp off. The sun was already shining and birds were chirping. There was barely a wind but I guess it doesn’t take much for a 20×15 foot tarp to get blown around. I went back and laid down. I looked up through the centre ring to the sky above. Woah. It hit me. I’m laying in a mother trucking yurt! That we built! “Darcie look at this yurt!” We watched the sky through the centre opening. Not a moment later a passenger plane cruising at 30000ft peacefully passed across our view leaving a majestic stream of cloud behind it. Wow. What were the chances of that?! We waved to the plane from the comfort of our yurt.


Although we felt close to being done we still had 7 or 8 steps left. Fortunately my parents were coming back to help. This was all the finishing stuff now. We had to first lace the roof and walls together with the “nylon rope provided in your materials kits.” Ummm, where’s the rope? Ok, there’s no rope. Well, then let’s do the next step, “use the zip ties to secure the inner lining to the airplane wire.” Cool. Oh wait, where’s all the zip ties? Frick. I called my parents and asked them to stop and pick up these supplies in the meantime, Darcie and I went to work evening out the outer lining.

The outer lining is a beast. It’s a heavy canvas/vinyl material that’s 8’ tall and over 45’ long. You want it to be symmetrical all the way around so that the windows all line up nicely. Really there’s no easy way to do this. We measured it out and figured we needed about 13 inches of excess on either side. After three tries we got it evened out. Sweet, now it will be super easy for my dad and I to lace the roof and walls. Piece of cake. Ya, not so fast.

To be honest, I have no idea how this happened, but we effed it up big time. Once my parents arrived I explained what we had to do. Each of us lacing zig-zag style from the back to the front. My dad doing one half and me the other. This wasn’t easy work. But we made it around, stepped back and thought, Oh shit. It wasn’t even close! There was 19” of overlap on my dad’s side and 7” on my side. It looked terrible. One window was super far from the door and the other was ridiculously close.

“Nope, I’m not doing that again. No way. It looks fine,” my dad tried to convince me. Um, it looks horrible, I said. This is not acceptable. We have to get it right. I don’t mind a bit of the Wabi-Sabi look, but this was just crap. Ok, how were we going to fix this without pulling the liner completely off and redoing it totally. We decided to start at the door this time. We knew there needed to be a 13″ overhang of excess material on each side. So Darcie’s job was to hold the liner and make sure it stayed at 13″. Dad and I unlaced the liner sequentially, took up the slack and relaced, while my mom made sure everything laid evenly between the door and where we were relacing.


With our fingers crossed, we finished the lacing and measured it. 13.5” on one side and 12” on the other. Fuck it. Close enough.

The last big thing to do was to install the dome. This made me nervous. It was 5.5’ diameter and fairly delicate plexiglass. The way to do this was to stand on the ladder through the centre opening while my dad stood on the outside and gently reached it up to me. I had to lean across the roof with my tiptoes on the ladder to just barely reach it. Installing it then was the next trick. I had to get the springs and bolts secured to the centre ring. The springs are incredibly strong and it took all my power to pull them into place. It was also about 32°celsius, but the dome amplified this immensely. I was completely soaked in sweat after 5 minutes. I could barely hold onto my tools.

Lastly, we evened out and lined up the inner lining with the outer and secured it in place with the zip ties my parents brought. We then used tuck tape to secure on the seams and screwed the wall liner to the skirting.

Done. Hell ya. We got ourselves a yurt.




(Originally posted August 18, 2014)

Dreaded Yurt Platform

Now that we’d decided we were going to be Yurt livers (at least temporarily) and had purchased the said Yurt, we needed to build the platform in preparation for its arrival. I looked up a few plans for elevated decks online and thought it best that I just ask the supplier if they had a standard plan. It did not take long before I realized that building a decagonal deck out of 2x8s was going to be more challenging that I thought. I went to the hardware place and purchased the lumber that was recommended in the “Lumber Purchase List” – how handy! We took the plans and lumber out to the Land, laid everything out and looked over the plans. I must admit that I hadn’t looked that closely at them before. After a couple minutes of looking at them this way and that, cocking my head, squinting, holding it closer and further, I finally said, “What the f@#k is this!?” First of all, it was a decagram! Why would I build a decagram!? That has 10 sides! Why not just build a square?! Secondly, the plans were seriously lacking basic structural – there were 36” gaps between joists in some areas. I’m no construction expert, but I’m pretty sure that 16” is kid of standard spacing. Also, there was no step-by-step instructions on how to put it together – not like Ikea at all. It was essentially just the shoddy final plan… how to get there? Well, you figure it out. Although it took multiple extra trips to the lumber yard for extra wood, footings, deck supports, bolts and screws – I was able to complete the platform – a Decagram Platform, I might say – in four days. And it was level. And it was a goddamned decagram!





(Originally posted July 31, 2014)

What’s a Yurt

We debated for awhile about where and how we would live while we built our house next year. We want to be out on the land while it’s being built and it certainly won’t hurt to have the money from the sale of our house available to put towards the new place. We considered purchasing an old camper or RV or maybe even a cool Airstream. It would certainly have it’s perks: kitchenette, bed, insulated, heating and cooling features. Only thing was that the cheapest ones were $10,000+ and it’s highly unlikely that we’d use it after the few months we’d live in it.

Another possibility was to simply live in the shop. At 2400sqft and 16ft ceilings it’s definitely big enough. But we would have to insulate it all, build a small room for us to sleep in and it would also be where we store all of our crap and building supplies. We’d basically be squatting in our shop. We aren’t really going for the hobo-chiche vibe. And really it just felt pretty ghetto to me.

Third option (and most logical, I might add) was to live in a Yurt. Yes a yurt! A Mongolian hut – why hadn’t we thought of this before?! If you don’t know, a yurt was a traditional Mongolian home that could be erected in a day by nomadic herdsmen… We sorta nomadic herds people, we fantasized! It’s perfect. It is also super cool and very reasonably priced for a modern, prefabricated version. There’s several yoga and meditation retreats that use them due to their calming/peaceful/sexy nature.


Here’s what Flora Bora says about The Traditional Yurt:

“On the grassland steppes of central Asia, yurts or “gers” have been the primary shelter for nomadic herdsman for centuries. These circular wooden dwellings were traditionally covered with felted wool and skins. As the nomads lives revolved around the rhythms of nature, the yurt’s design was portable and able to withstand high winds and extreme temperatures. Even today, many pastoral families in Mongolia still prefer life in a yurt. There is a spirituality associated with living in a yurt; in its structure the whole universe is represented: The roof represents the sky and the smoke hole the sun. The hearth contains the five basic earthly elements of soil, wood, fire, metal, and water (metal in the grate and water in the kettle) and because there are no corners it is thought there is no place for evil spirits.”

Heck ya. Sounds good to me.

The Modern Yurt is a slight step-up from the traditional version. The walls are a lattice wood frame with post and beam supports to a central compression ring and 5-foot diameter dome window and vent in the middle of the roof. The yurt can be fitted with a wood burning stove and whatever else you might need depending on the size. Some people live in them year round but most use them as summer houses or cottages. Flora Bora Forest Lodging and Gardens at Emma Lake SK is a resort where all of their lodgings are modern yurts.


A couple weeks ago we had met with our potential home builders, who had recently completed their own cabin at Candle Lake, while building it they lived in (what else!) but a yurt.

We were recommended the Yurtz by Design from Surrey BC (there is also Pacific Yurts in Portland OR, but with the Canadian dollar lower + duty + shipping, the Canadian one made more sense). Normally I don’t trust companies that use a Z instead of an S, but I read their website and talked to the owner by phone before we placed our order. We decided to go with the mid-sized 15 foot diameter structure. Not too big but enough for a bed, small table, a couple chairs and a wood burning stove.

We’d like to be able to camp this winter for snowshoeing or cross country skiing so we thought it best to get it insulated and have the snow and wind kit added due to our weather in Saskatchewan. Plus with the recent tornado near our land we didn’t want to be watching our lovely yurt floating down the river some day.

I do get a good laugh when I tell people that we are going to live in a yurt for 6-8 months next year. Some people get a twisted up expression and ask, “Um, what’s a yurt?” and when I tell them they sort of roll their eyes and do the old ‘get a load of this weirdo’ facial expression.’ Others, the cool/intelligent ones, think it is pretty darn neat.

We want to have an experience out there and really, when are you going to have another chance to live in a yurt?

When we discussed the actual purchase of the yurt it just so happened the company had a 15 foot one that someone had purchased and never used. They were looking to sell it and we had just called at the right time. For about 30% off the price we were able to get exactly the yurt we wanted with an extra two windows included. It should be arriving in the next couple weeks. Now onto the task for building the foundation for it…


(Originally posted July 17, 2014)