Yurt Living in Upstate New York

Yurt Living in Upstate New York

Our PV system is small and has a generator plug in to supplement power when needed. We have not used a generator yet however ~ we choose to reduce our usage instead. We only use our microwave and toaster on very sunny days and supplement our lighting with a propane light and candles if necessary. We save a lot of energy by cooking on the wood stove.

I discovered Louis Johnson’s yurt on facebook and contacted him and he agreed to let me share some of his photos of his home. Louis will tell you a little bit about living in a yurt in upstate New York. Their yurt is built by the Colorado Yurt Company.

This winter has proved to be a cold one as well, but we had a better handle on our wood harvesting this year and are in good shape. We estimate that we will use between 3 and 4 cord this year… only one more really cold month to go.

Our PV system is small and has a generator plug in to supplement power when needed. We have not used a generator yet however ~ we choose to reduce our usage instead. We only use our microwave and toaster on very sunny days and supplement our lighting with a propane light and candles if necessary. We save a lot of energy by cooking on the wood stove.

This past year we have made a couple of low tec improvements to the yurt. Earlier last fall we finally got our mulch pit (for gray water) in place, that has been a very big help in getting water out of the yurt, and that enabled us to get an operable shower in the yurt. It may just be a bucket with a bulkhead, but it’s strangely empowering. We continue to heat our water in small batches on the wood stove. (In the summer we heat it in black shower bags and we shower outside.)

This year we are going to try to tackle a passive solar hot water heater and maybe a solar oven.

We continue to have the time of our lives living the way we do, and hope that others will realize the joy that comes with living a smaller, simpler way of life.

Our loft design was inspired by pictures we saw online. We worked with our carpenters and decided to build a wall across the back third of the yurt. We added a three foot overhang to the center just wide enough to accommodate a mattress above. This allowed us plenty of sleeping room and put our heads nearly under the dome, a real treat.
For kitchen cupboards we use antique fruit crates and our old clothes dresser.
The loft overhang above the kitchen serves the added purpose of defining our kitchen area below and storing canned goods in the underside.
Notice the heat shield behind the wood stove.
The hearth under the wood stove. A creative touch that meshes style and functionality in the yurt.
Two interior doors, our sink and faucet, and kitchen table support came from an architectural salvage shop.
Our switch to a composting toilet was inspired by reading The Humanure Handbook, by Joseph Jenkins, (http://www.joseph-jenkins.com and www.humanurehandbook.com).
The wall supporting the loft creates a large storage room behind it with our bathroom tucked into one end.
wood opening and well
We installed the wood pass through at floor level near our wood rack. The nine inch opening is the perfect size and there’s no need to cut the lattice. We cover the inside opening with the piece cut from the wall insulation and the outside is covered with the velcro trimmed canvas provided. This has greatly reduced the mess, keeping snow, mud, moisture and most of the wood debris outside where it belongs.


  1. Hi everyone, I’m Dave. I have lived by myself in a 30 ft. yurt in NH for 3 years. It’s great, but not as efficient to heat as I would like. I haven’t partitioned the inside, except for the bath room. I have and indoor hand pump from the same place they got theirs and my toilet looks suspiciously like a 5 gallon bucket. Many details aside, I believe that one could build a structure of similar dimensions that would be cheaper and more efficient. Manufactured yurts, with the foil/bubble/foil insulation are comparable to an uninsulated cabin. Great when the stove is going but literally freezing when it dies out. In a homestead or traditional yurt lifestyle, as in that in past eras, someone would always be home keeping the fire going, or be able to go home to do so. This is often not the case in our modern lives. The advantage is that my platform and yurt were constructed and I moved in in 2 weeks. I think a passive solar cabin, in which you might not even have to run the stove during the day, is the way to go. It may take longer to build, but will have a longer lifespan. I signed a 15 year warranty on my yurt, and the outer vinyl cover will have to be replaced at some point, due to breakdown from UV rays. If you buy a yurt, buy a big stove that will run for 10-12 hrs. That will allow you more freedom to come and go during cold weather. I got mine from White Mt. Yurts in East Wakefield, NH for a reasonable price and I believe that they have gotten a little cheaper with more options since then. For example windows that are operable from the inside, which mine are not. This option was not available when I bought it, and costs extra compared to the velcro and zipper deal. I live on 5 acres. I’m going to keep my yurt as a big studio/gathering place, and build a smaller more efficient cabin to live in. Yurts are cool, but for year round living, you can do better for the money you spend, especially if you can use the resources from your own land. Good luck to all

  2. Using 2×6 or even 2×8 sidewall supports and filling with tight fitting High R Board and Or fiberglass and the same in the roof would make this So very easy to Keep warm.The insulation sold with the yurts is Fine when the heat is on..but it does not Hold the heat like a High R Rated insulation does !!!!

  3. As mentioned by John I also have fillings which are tight fitting to keep myself warm. I too have been living in a 30 ft yurt. Initially I too found it difficult to keep myself warm. But through many trail and error methods found fillings giving best results.

  4. I think this is the nicest yurt design I’ve seen so far. What diameter is the yurt? Just wondering how well this would work in a 24-ft one.

  5. I too, live in a 30 ft yurt and after 3 winters am insulating with Denim from Home Depot. I have real windows in it which I think helps some. It sections off the siding.
    I am in Vermont so long cold winters.
    I am finally getting water and power up to my yurt which I am very excited about.
    I am open to discussing further with other yurt dwellers. I love to see/hear how we have made it work including what doesnt work.
    For example I got deathly ill the first winter and could not keep the stove going. So having back up/reliable non electric heat has been essential.
    I am one person living in a yurt so if I dont do what needs to be done it doesnt get done~and I work away from home, with animals in the home so letting it get to 35 while I am away is not an option.
    Also I am not a spring chicken, climbing ladders doesnt work for me either.
    I have been looking into permanent/wood sided yurts– like Smiling Woods Yurts. For the cost I think buying the kit is worth it. Can create a passive solar building and live in the round which is what I love

  6. Corina Why did you not get a Pacific Yurt ? How would I keep a Yurt warm if I’m out and I leave my cats, dogs home for the day ? What about bears ? What about crime ? How much of a snowload can your yurt handle ? I want to live / purchase a yurt in place of a manufactured home but I have these concerns. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Thanks for all the information and responses from yurt dwellers. I just started looking into purchasing some land upstate and would like to put a yurt on it, for retirement. I was wondering how well it would hold the heat in the winters and i also have the same questions as Sussi. Any tips and information would be great…for a want a be yurt dweller!

    • Hey….just listening in. But have you thought about a coal stove? I know, I know….not great for the environment, but a Chubby Coal stove would burn 8-14 hours at a time…

  8. What are the zoning laws like in NY state for year round Yurt and or Homestead sites? In other words can I buy a plot of land, buy and or build a cabin and create my own life without being bothered? Any info appreciated thanks.