Finding your inner monk
San Francisco next week, but not Seattle

Our eco-friendly $5000 home

In the past few months, we have turned a storm damaged yurt into an eco-friendly, toxic-free, funky home for our family. Last night my wife and three of our kids officially moved in to the house we created from recycled materials. We slept on our new wood floor, lit a fire in our pot belly stove, ate some pizza and watched a movie before we all fell asleep. This morning I woke up to see sheep sleeping outside our window

Elizabeth cello in the yurt

Our home has cost us NZ$5204 which is US$4,287. The only thing left to do is plumbing the bath and sink to the hot water cylinder and installing a wetback in the pot belly stove. And I need to make some more furniture but that can wait a while.

Still a bit more work to do but our house is very livable and enjoyable. A yurt is a Mongolian style round tent, also called a "Ger". Ours was originally made in NZ by Jaia Yurts and was badly storm-damaged when we bought it from an English lady who was moving back to the UK. Much of the frame was broken, the canvas was water-stained and the round ring that holds it together was smashed. But it was worth salvaging and I managed to find the right wood and replicate the broken pieces.

Building yurt

We got permission from the Ngatiawa community, a Christian contemporary monastery near Wellington, to build a small structure on their land. Its a beautiful green valley surrounded by trees and hills.

Tj in yurt

The biggest expense, apart from the original yurt ($2000), was the floor. When we started, we only had a plastic groundsheet but it was summer and warm enough to get away with it. But the weather eventually changed and the family was flooded out while I was overseas on a trip.

Yurt floor and sheep

As soon as I got home, I started to get the yurt off the ground and I eventually found some nice native timber offcuts, enough to make the floor.

Yurt floor sanding

Having sanded the floor all night long, I was still caffeinated and delirious when the sun came up. I never did get it really smooth because the wood was all different sizes but its a floor nonetheless. And it looks rustic like the rest of the yurt.

While I was busy getting the yurt away from the wet ground, Debbie was created an insulation cushion out of old wool blankets that we are finding in charity shops. It took about 15 blankets to make the ceiling. She filled them with eco-therm insulation which is made from recycled wool. It turned out amazing.

Debbie yurt insulation ceiling

For a complete breakdown of how that $5000 was spent, go to