A Year at Circular Lodgic

yurt and a frame

In 2012, my husband and I lived in our 18-foot yurt for seven weeks and passed the story along to Tiny House Blog. You can read that post here. Since then, we lived in the yurt in Vermont at Moosalamoo National Forest Campground and acted as campground hosts. This summer we were back in Santa Fe, enjoying another yurt summer in the Southwest, but that’s not what this story is about.

In August of 2013, we made the leap to full-time yurt living. We both left our teaching jobs so that my husband could pursue his PhD in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We bought 9 acres of land in the area for next to nothing and set about creating an off-grid setup where we’d pump water from a creek, and someday where we hope to get our power from solar and water. We quickly renovated a tiny, mouse-infested a-frame cabin (200 square feet, but a-frames waste so much space!) on the land and erected the platform for our yurt. What we thought would be a couple weeks’ worth of work spun itself into months of disasters, urgent projects, and checklists.


From building the platform in 90 degree heat and 70% humidity, to having to completely gut the cabin (surprise! there really is that much mouse piss!), to very unhappy, stressful visits from building inspectors (“yurts are not for sleeping in!”), nothing went according to plan. My father-in-law planed each piece of wood from the family tree farm for our yurt floor, and just as my husband finished putting them down, a rainstorm blew in and warped them. The building inspectors made us put in a septic system, despite having an approved composting toilet and no money. The snow came before we had the heaters all hooked up or any wood for the winter cut. EVERYONE who drove up our incredibly steep driveway swore to us that come winter, we.were.screwed. The buried water pipe that brings all our water from the creek froze, so pumping water all winter long (and remember, that’s from November to late May) meant hooking up and unrolling 100 feet of water pipe, clearing ice on the creek, boiling water to thaw the hose, and THEN pumping water. I took a dive off a loft ladder while alone, hitting my head and breaking my thumb. By the late fall, our water pipes were freezing inside our walls, so mornings might find me blow drying walls in order to get ready for work. On December 31st, before more than 300 inches of snow had insulated the cabin and yurt completely, our sewage pipe froze underneath the toilet (if you’re going to pay thousands for a septic, you might as well have a flush toilet). No plumber would come for days. We learned all about living tiny, and have oftentimes been heard sarcastically saying “tiny house!” when two humans, two poodles, and a cat get just a little too cozy.

A-frame accomplishments

If none of this sounds like “living simply in a complicated world,” that’s not lost on us, but alas, life isn’t perfect and this one is definitely a work in progress!

And despite all of the learning curves and crises, we are living our dream. We live on our own land. We survived one hell of an Upper Peninsula winter (even the locals SWEAR it’s not usually that bad). We managed to clear snow and use our driveway all winter long with very few incidents. We are living in the woods. The poodles have room to run. We are living in the round all year long. Often we fall asleep to coyote songs or owl hoots. Between the two of us, we mastered electrical, plumbing, carpentry, generator maintenance, snow removal, and many other trades. I got to know all the local hardware stores and sometimes shocked fellow shoppers with my odd knowledge of plumbing tools, despite not looking like I ought to have that knowledge. I got a teaching job and Bryan totally nailed his first year of his program. The sun started coming out more often and the snow started melting. The world eventually turned green again and I remembered that there is life again after winter.


As spring approached we started thinking about how to solve some of our more irritating problems, like strapping on mukluks and a down jacket in order to go to the bathroom. Come spring, Bryan added a screen porch that attaches the two buildings, and a platform for the next addition to Circular Lodgic: a 15-foot yurt (Nonesuch Yurt) to be attached to the backside of the big yurt. This will act as our bedroom. We’ve definitely made progress without losing sight completely of the simplicity we hoped to find, and we’ve had one hell of an adventure along the way!

A very challenging year later, I’d take the leap again. After a second summer in Santa Fe, we’re looking forward to getting back home to Circular Lodgic and heading off into year two of the yurt life.

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“Surviving” with Mom in a Tiny House

Melia Robinson, a writer for The Business Insider, recently spend a three nights in a tiny house for rent in Plattsburgh, New York with her mom. Her reasons for doing it were simple, but her experience was far from ideal. What she and her mother experienced might explain why some people avoid moving into a tiny house or give up on the dream after just a short amount of time. Before buying or building your own tiny house—giving one or two of them a spin might give you better inside into the lifestyle and the best designs.


Melia wanted to see if size really did matter and wanted to experience what a 168 square foot “micro home” could offer. She mentioned in her article that not only are tiny homes cozy and easier to manage but monthly bills would start to look like “chump change.” Melia and her mother, Vickie, rented The Little Great Camp Cabin owned by Les Delorimier near Lake Champlain. The tiny cabin has a living and dining area with a breakfast table, a small balcony with two chairs, a sleeping loft and a small bathroom with a flush camping toilet and shower. The house was built over the course of a winter for $26,000. The house has electricity and lighting and propane for cooking and heating water.

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What Melia and her mother liked best about their stay in the tiny house was the feeling of being in a treehouse and how the small space forces you to downsize. They also appreciated how close they could be to each other and how the small space also allowed them to seek out their own relaxation areas: mother took the downstairs futon and daughter took the loft. On the other hand, what became problematic was the issue of too much stuff. Each of the women’s personal items spread around the house and Melia realized that their current lifestyle did not fit into 168 square feet.



Other issues the women faced was the feeling of being cooped up, using the more basic toilet and dealing with subsequent odors, having to take turns in the kitchen and the inability to sit or stand up in the sleeping loft. In the end, mother and daughter relished having to go back to their current homes with designated areas for sleeping, eating and going to the bathroom and admitted they were “gluttons for space.”

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Photos by Melia Robinson/The Business Insider


By Christina Nellemann for the [Tiny House Blog]



The Path to Mortgage-Freedom – Tiny House Family’s ecourse

by Hari Berzins

During the big snow storm last week, Karl and I walked up the hill from our tiny house to our newly dried-in (Woohoo!) big house to watch the falling snow. The snow in the woods was magical and the view in all directions was spectacular. I looked up at the rafters and there was no snow falling in the house! We were dry. After more than a year of watching rain and snow fall on our house, this was big. I smiled at Karl. “How does it feel to go into this snow storm with a finished roof on the house?” He took a deep breath. “You have no idea.”

dried in house

That was a nice moment.

We’ve come so far, and it’s so important to take time to celebrate all of the milestones along the way.

Hi, I’m Hari Berzins from tinyhousefamily.com. My husband Karl and I built a mortgage-free micro-homestead and have worked our plan for the last five years. We’ve created an online course to help others realize their dream of mortgage-freedom.


In 2008, we had to totally redesign our life after losing our restaurant and home in the financial crisis. With a firm resolve to never use credit again, we started over. We dreamed of building a homestead for cash. With $300 to our name, owning a mortgage-free homestead seemed like an impossible dream.

I searched and searched for others who had lost everything and built a new life that included debt-free home ownership. How happy I would have been to find a course like ours, but I guess it was our work to write The Plan: Creating Your Pathway to Mortgage Freedom.

Our plan was a simple one and simply radical. We would work hard, stop buying, sell, donate, downsize, make a budget, and save every penny. We would find a little piece of land,


buy it for cash, and grow a homestead. We saved, worked, bought land, drilled a well, dug a septic system, built a tiny house, and are now completing the exterior of our main house. We did all of this with cash and time. We now live our impossible dream!

In our rebuilding process, we’ve relied on several practices of deep self-care to affirm that our worthiness is not attached to the balance of our bank account, nor our foreclosure, nor our belly-up business. We’ve relied on these practices to cultivate the contentedness and patience we need to thrive in our 8’ x 21’ ft. tiny house while we build our right-sized house. And we’ve relied on these practices to keep the faith when we have no idea how we are going to get through the next phase. We will share these practices with you because this change is for the long haul and we want you to be successful getting there.

tiny house

You might wonder why we are building a bigger house. The tiny house has been our ticket to mortgage-freedom. This phase of the plan has taught us so much about what we really need, about compromise, communication and delayed gratification, but we need room for our art, space to dance, and entertain, space for our children (now 9 & 11) to grow into adults. Space is so very personal, and we will explore your needs for space in the course. You will design a plan and a homestead to fit your unique lifestyle and budget.

Our little journey has attracted the attention of many media outlets which has brought with it a ton of emails with questions about our plan. We felt the need to compile a comprehensive course to guide others down the path to mortgage-freedom.

Now when I look up the hill at the main house, I’m so thankful we chose this route. It’s not an easy path. It’s hard in the beginning. It’s hard to talk yourself out of those moments when you just want to give in and blow your budget on a dinner out, or buy those cool new hiking boots or whatever it is the merchants pry your self-esteem with. With practice, this has become the norm for us, and the urges are rare. We’ll help you with this, too.

“. . . I will act, says Don Quixote,
as if the world were what I would have it to be,
as if the ideal were real. . .
— Don Quixote de la Mancha, Cervantes

There were lots of naysayers in the beginning, even family and friends who thought we were crazy. How in the world are the four of you going to live in that little house without killing each other?

the family

We are still alive almost three years after moving in, and look what it’s enabled us to do. We live mortgage-free on our own land; we’re raising animals and growing food. We get to be choosy about the work we do, and we spend tons of family time together. And once we move into our main house, we’ll have a micro bed and breakfast ready to go!

What would your life look like if you didn’t have a mortgage payment? If your dream is to simplify your life by building a tiny house, we can help you get there.

Having a supportive community is all important when making a “tiny” lifestyle change such as this. As part of our course, you’ll have access to a private Facebook group where you will connect with other like-minded individuals to discuss course materials, share ideas and support each other in creating your very own micro-homestead.

This e-course is 5 weeks long and begins on September 20, 2014. If you want to join us, see all the details here: http://tinyhousefamily.com.

kids loft


living room