A Gift from the Earth


Not so long ago I planted two tiny little heirloom roma tomatoes. With only the earth provided, barely ammended from the cement like clay soil, and regular water, it has given the first tomatoes of the year. It is truly the magic of biology. After trying for my third season to grow tomatoes, I have succeeded!

the first harvest of tomatoes

This is a handful of what is to come. These are destined for salsa and will taste like victory! I have four plants total, and the heirloom romas are first to produce.

A brief update on the yurt: I am still committed to completing this project as soon as I’m able, however my most recent foot injury is preventing me from getting around. I did use the section already made as a wall divider to divide the dance floor from the living room at a recent party, so even unfinished it’s already useful.


Happy Independence Day

Explosions, alcohol and grilled meat is the traditional way to celebrate the Fourth of July. 99 degrees forecasted here, so we’ll probably make a trek to the river as well. Happy Independence Day!

For all the brave Americans who battled to save Earth from destruction.

A Yurt-in-Progress

I wanted to share my progress of the yurt. I’ve made a test section of the wall once I gather more bamboo I will add on to this. I’m very happy with the walls, it opens and collapses easily and is able to stand on it’s own and gently curve. The zipties appear to work swimmingly, better than I expected actually. Although I wish I got a different kind. These are pretty narrow and a bit too short. As a result I had to connect two together. I’m probably going to buy some better ones before I continue working on the wall.

UPDATE: The yurt is still not complete, though it’s been in use on and off as a room divider. During that time some of the zip ties broke. I still think zip ties can work (so might old bicycle inner-tubes) but the zip ties photographed are crap. Look for long sturdy zip ties  and if they are not available substitute another material.

 Close up of the zip tie joint. 

Home made tarps! They’re bigger than they look. I fused old grocery bags together to create a study plastic tarp. It’s surprisingly easy to make a sturdy tarp out of recycled materials. It is not however a quick process, but for me it’s worth it. I have time, not much money and the desire to upcycle. You’ll have to pardon me for using buzzwords like upcycle. I hate buzzwords. This is two work sessions of tarp, I’d love to be able to give an hour count but I really don’t know. Also my iron is TINY! It might be worth the while to buy a bigger thrift store iron.

If you have the money and not much time, buying a tarp may be worth it. Old billboard ads are made out of a plastic that makes an excellent tarp, and they are meant to withstand UV. If you have access to that, go for it! You can always paint it. Paint (at least in California) can’t just be dumped in the trash so there’s often people giving it away on freecycle or craigslist to avoid the hassle of disposal.

How to make the tarp: Utility Quilt.

I still need to gather more bamboo and a friend should be helping me sometime next week, and also figure out what to use for the roof ring and make a mess of more tarp. For those of you reading who are local, I’m going to run out of plastic bags in not too long. Plastic bag donations will be reward with your choice of fist bump or high five.

Why a Yurt?

Maybe I should back up a bit. What is a yurt? Here is a page with a nice definition, as well as a lot of information on building and living in a yurt.

More info on building and living in a yurt.



http://www.instructables.com/id/GerTee-Portable-tent-home-made-of-recycled-materia/ (A lot of useful information in the comments)

When I was researching this project I considered several different ideas. But I came to the conclusion that a yurt would be the best option for my situation, but I came across a lot of great ideas that may work for a lot of people.

I liked yomes, especially over a geodesic structure. Geodesic shapes are really quite awesome, but too complicated in my opinion. I particularly LOVE the hexayurt design. These are a big deal at Burning Man, and for good reason. They are easy to build using standard size sheets of plywood or study foamboard insulation, and waste very little to no materials. They can be made with hinges, or duct tape seams to be easily and quickly assembled and disassembled flat. If you are interesting in making an hexayurt, the H13 solves the problem of not enough headroom by adding only one extra sheet. More variations here.

I also found some really novel ideas. Some may be more novel than practical.


I looked at a lot of tiny houses, especially ones built from salvaged materials. Shipping crates are a great source of free wood. If you have a place to store supplies, it’s not uncommon to find perfectly good wood, carpet, windows, bricks, insulation, and all manner of construction materials on the free section of craigslist and freecycle. Occasionally people even give away old trailers. The cheapest I’ve heard of someone building a tiny house was for $3500, and she utilized a lot of salvaged/recycled materials.

Ultimately a yurt is my best option because:

I have access to free bamboo, a round structure handles weather well, the poles in walls distribute the weight of the roof evenly, unlike a tiny house I could make it myself, it’s small enough to store on my deck when not in use, I don’t need a large vehicle to haul it around and unlike tents strapped to shopping carts a stove could be used in it and it’s portable and livable.

The Yurt: A long winded introduction

Right now I’m broke without a job. I’m in the same boat as a lot of people my age. My close friend went to an interview for a dish washing position, something like 200 people showed up. Thankfully, she now has a full time position but a lot of my peers don’t. This is the world we’ve entered in our young adult lives. And thankfully I’m not in danger of becoming homeless. But this unemployment could have destined me to homeless if I wasn’t lucky.

Lack of money gets in the way of a lot of my plans and it definitely doesn’t feel empowering. I want to live life to the fullest. But what does that mean? If I asked my grandparents, who lived through the Great Depression, what would they say? Something like “Make the most out of what you’ve got.”

So what resources do I have access to?

For one I have time, and that’s something not a lot of folks have to spare. I have the internet and vast pool of knowledge it shares. I have determination, almost sound mind and working body. I can search craigslist and freecycle, dumpsters and construction sites. I can saw down bamboo on the side of the street a half mile from my townhouse, so long as I don’t mind looking like a damn fool trying to drag it back home.

I started thinking about this as a way to make an almost free home, as an example for people who are perhaps homeless, or want a portable structure for camping or seasonal living, a (hopefully) longer lasting alternative to relief tents or year-round living if properly insulated. I looked at a lot of people’s projects. I looked at bamboo geodesic domes, tiny homes, yomes, relief tents, all the wonderful example from the $300 house open design challenge, hexayurts (A great design, if plywood was as free as bamboo, I’d have chose the H13)  and after mulling it over opted for a yurt.

Project Goals

-Utilize salvaged and or recycled materials and locally harvested bamboo.

-Not be prohibitively complicated to make, or require a plethora of expensive tools.

-Be comfortable inside. Meaning there is a place tall enough to stand and change, that the structure can take wind and be dry in rain and is adaptable for different climates.

-Portable, hopefully lightweight. My original goal was something that can be transported by person or bike trailer but we’ll see how close I get. I’m hoping that if you like me don’t have a car, you could still get this somewhere.

-Relatively easy to put up and take down.