Dec 192013

A Visit To Surely Yurts

Yurt Living, yurtbuilds Comments Off on A Visit To Surely Yurts

I have been looking to add a small yurt at my camp to use as a shower room.  My camp already has a 30′ yurt by Pacific Yurts, but this time I wanted to try something a bit more local.  Surely Yurts is a small yurt business owned by Steve Reed in Taberg, NY.  I have often communicated with Steve before as he is a member over at our other site,  I have been somewhat drawn to his yurts because they have a unique Adirondack feel to them.  The Adirondacks is where my camp is, and I love the entire region.  I guess it is only natural that I have an eye for Surely Yurts.  I am not sure if Steve agrees with me on whether or not his yurts are Adirondack themed, but for myself, I couldn’t help but notice it!  I decided to pay his shop a visit to talk about maybe buying one of his yurt kits and while I was there, I figured it was a good time to get some background on him and his operation.  I got the impression that Steve wished he had straightened up the shop since I was going to take photos, but I am glad he didn’t get that chance.  I love seeing a well worked shop, not one that looks like you could eat off the floors!

We met up in the village and I followed him back to his shop.  The first thing you see is the house.

Steves Camp

He doesn’t stay in it much, he prefers his 10′ yurt instead:

Steves Yurt

I can understand that, as his yurt is a cozy, comfortable structure that is perfect for his setup.  More on that later though, let’s see the shop!

Steve builds each yurt to order and erects them on platforms he already has built:

Surely Yurts Platform

Surely Yurts Platform

This way he can fit the fabric custom to each one he builds.  Every yurt he makes is hand crafted by Steve and helpers.  I happened to visit right after we received a bunch of snow, but Steve was kind enough to show me the 10′ platform.

The shop is a work in progress as much of it is outdoors.  It can make for some cold working this time of year, but Steve is working on enclosing it to make winter working a bit more comfortable.

Surely Yurts Shop

Surely Yurts Shop

Say cheese Steve!

Steve Reed Surely Yurts

For those of us who have spent a lot of time in upstate New York, shops like this are pretty common.  It reinforced the entire authenticity of these Adirondack style yurts.

Steve let me visit his private yurt to get an idea of what I would be getting for a shower room.  It was a warm place to be and very comfortable.  With the Callahan style mortared stone floor, it just felt like home.


And here is his dog Cooper, who returned after being on an adventure.


Here is the Surely Yurts glass “dome” with the stove pipe going almost down the center of the yurt.  The glass is magnetically attached to the studs and can be opened and even removed to clean.  The entire room was wood stove warm. 🙂

We had a good visit.  We talked a lot about aspects yurt building and the industry, alternative heating and energy, and hunting.  I really came away impressed with Surely Yurts and am looking forward to the shower yurt in the Spring!  The only bad part of the day was that we heard the news of the untimely passing of long time yurt mentor Bill Coperthwaite.

If you are looking for a smaller Adirondack style yurt, say 10 to 20 feet in diameter, you should give Steve a call.  He also builds portable yurts.  Tell him Jeff from sent you! 🙂

Feb 032013

Yurts in the Snow

Yurt Living Comments Off on Yurts in the Snow

This time of year one of the worries people have is about snow load on their yurts.  With my trusty pair of snowshoes, I hiked into my yurt camp and found about 18 inches of snow on the roof.  Once I got a fire going, it quickly began to slide off:

Yurt Snow Melt

Snow melting off yurt

My yurt was manufactured by Pacific Yurts and I upgraded it to use 2X6 rafters and also added their snow and wind kit.  That snow didn’t bother it one bit.  Here is a video of someone with five feet of snow on their roof!

As you can see, yurts are pretty strong!

It should be noted that smaller yurts handle snow load better than larger ones.  I think if it was my yurt up there, being 30 feet in diameter, I would only feel comfortable with some winter time bracing.  As it stands now, I am just hiking to my yurt when it is necessary to clean off the snow (or when I want a weekend away).

Dec 282012

Living in the Round & Remembering Becky

Yurt Living Comments Off on Living in the Round & Remembering Becky

On August 18th of 2012, Becky Kemery passed away after a long battle with cancer.  She was a very gentle soul and will be greatly missed by her friends and family.


Becky was known by many as the yurt lady; a de facto source of yurt knowledge.  Her book ‘Living in the Round‘ is the bible for yurt information.

My name is Jeff Capron.  A few years ago I decided to look into a yurt to put on a piece of property I have up in the Adirondacks.  It did not take long before I found this site and  These two sites had the most helpful information when it came to learning about yurts and without access to them, I probably would not have even purchased one.  Shortly after I ordered my yurt, I started a discussion forum at to talk about my experience.  After Becky’s passing, I heard that the status of her two sites was uncertain.  I feared that all the hard work she put in on her sites might just disappear.  I made some inquiries with her estate and they agreed to let me take over the operations of them.

I must say that I am not 100% sure on how to proceed.  I expect that I will be slowly making subtle changes as time goes by.  I think Becky would not want the information on these sites to get stale or invalid.  I hope I can keep her memory alive as well as build upon her body of work.  I am open to any suggestions her friends and followers may have.  Feel free to contact me any time.

Feb 162010
Peter and Alan, Pacific Yurts demonstration site




When I was working on my book (YURTS:Living in the Round), I found Pete Dolan to be one of the most consistently knowledgeable—and helpful—people in the industry. Pete’s work in Customer Service at Pacific Yurts is one of the reasons their company maintains a legendary reputation for customer satisfaction.

I asked Pete to add his perspective as a guest blogger on the theme of “Buying a Yurt”.  Here are his thoughts on

How to Work with a Yurt Company

First, check out company claims
I know these days everybody wants to do all of their research and comparisons online, but keep in mind how easy it is to put together a web site with today’s computers.  Someone can put together a web site and make lots of claims without being able to backup or fulfill most of those claims.

It’s important to investigate companies to make sure they are reputable.  One way you can do this is by checking with their local Better Business Bureau ( to see if they have a satisfactory rating.  It is worth checking to see if the company has changed their name, too, since this seems to be fairly common and there can be poor ratings for the company under previous names.

Also check web blogs to see if you can find people who have purchased from the companies you are considering in order to find out how satisfied they have been with the quality and service.  Checking the company’s rating with Dunn & Bradstreet ( can also give you a good indication if the company is likely to be around to help you in the future.

If someone’s price seems too good to be true, it probably is.  Check the specifications.  I’ve seen a number of companies make claims about their products being equal to or better than ours, but their prices were significantly lower.  A closer check revealed that  inexpensive hardware and fabrics were utilized and the wood frame included far fewer components.  For example, one company had up to 32% fewer rafters and lattice in their yurt than our yurt of the same diameter.  This can equate to significantly less strength as well.

Dec 152009

What’s the biggest mistake people make in buying a yurt? The wrong size? No. You can always add a second yurt if the first turns out to be too small. The wrong style? Not usually. Most of the fabric yurts, for example, are pretty similar to each other, and if you’re buying new you usually get to choose your options and customize it to meet your personal needs.

Last winter I heard from someone who purchased a Mongolian import for a rainforest climate–she’s not having much success since that style of yurt wasn’t designed for her climate. But this is relatively uncommon.

Frankly, yurts aren’t that complicated and there aren’t too many mistakes people make, except perhaps overbuying (snow and wind kits where they aren’t necessary) or underbuying (not getting insulation where it would make a big difference). But none of these mistakes is terribly serious.

The most common mistake I see, and the only one that can be truly devastating, is buying from the wrong company. Devastating in the sense of losing your investment (worst case scenario) or dealing with months of headaches in trying to get your yurt set up and perhaps never getting all the right parts.

Most yurt companies are reputable businesses with a solid  product. By far the majority take intense pride in their customer service and your satisfaction. My observation is that even the newest companies (in the middle of their learning curve) will usually bend over backwards to make sure that you are happy with their product and service. Let’s face it–It’s a feel good business and that’s why most people are into it.

However, every once in awhile a company  just doesn’t seem able to perform. Yurts won’t arrive when they are supposed to. You’ll have your platform built but then the yurt doesn’t show up for three months–or sometimes it’s 6 months. Meanwhile your platform is sitting there exposed to weather and the elements. The baby that was supposed to be born three months after the yurt arrives is born in a makeshift RV (yes, that’s a true story) three months before the yurt ever shows up.

Jan 152009

People often ask me about my own story–how I first got involved with yurts, why I wrote the book, and so on. You’ll find part of the story in the “Comfort Zone” column of this month’s Sierra Magazine.

Sierra Magazine

And yes, that’s my yurt in photo on the left–in north Idaho, in the winter. It’s beautiful here!

My yurt is currently on loan to a friend, but I hope to have all the parts back by April so I can get it back up this May. Perhaps some of you can come help me put it up? I think we’ll be putting up a smaller yurt at the same time, maybe a tipi or two as well. We’ll post the dates at See you there!

Home is where the yurt is…


Dec 222008


Christmas yurt

Paul making yurts

Paul making yurts

  In lieu of a Christmas Card, I’d like to forward this enchanting winter photo of a Scottish yurt, sent my way by Paul Spencer of Highland Yurts in Aberdeenshire, Scotland (Paul can be seen at right peeling a log with a draw knife). Paul tells me he will be offering some yurt making workshops this coming year (check the Calendar for a posting of workshop dates) and that he’s working on providing yurt camping in the Scottish Highlands.
    One of the delights of this season is hearing from yurt builders in all parts of the world–from Europe to China and New Zealand. It’s amazing how broad this yurt phenomenon is. Each place on the planet modifies the design to fit their local climate and lifestyle needs, but all share in that marvelous roundness and sense of uplift.

    I hope you are staying cozy in your yurt (or cool in the Southern Hemisphere). May you enjoy a special Solstice, a Merry Christmas and a joyous Holiday Season.


Nov 282008

Modern Green Yurt wins Design Award

Current Affairs, Yurt Design, Yurt Living, Yurt Manufacturers Comments Off on Modern Green Yurt wins Design Award


Award-winning yurt design

    Congratulations to  yurt builder and designer extraordinaire Howie Oakes of Go Yurt Shelters for being First Place Winner of a Portland Spaces Design Award for his Modern Green Yurt.

 The Awards article has this to say about the thirteen foot yurt:

    Inspired by innovations in sailboat design, Oakes has used breathable
canvas; curved, linseed-oiled birch; and stainless steel hardware to
build a functional and elegant hideaway. The structure can be assembled
by one person in an hour, and the heaviest component weighs a mere 30

Howie & friends at Baja

A true family business, you can read the Go Yurt story here , but don’t try to reach Howie over the Christmas holidays. He’ll be camping with his family on the beaches of Baja–in a yurt, of course.

Tip of the week–don’t forget to pick up an extra hot water bottle at your local drugstore to keep your feet warm this winter! Throw it in your bed 30 minutes before you get in and your bed will be toasty warm.

Home is where the yurt is,


Nov 192008

One of my favorite publishers is Shelter Publications of Bolinas, California. Remember the book Shelter (left), which inspired so many handmade houses in the 1960’s and ’70’s? Then came Home Work (right), the pictorial record of 35 years of those inspired handbuilt houses–the ultimate dream book.

Now there’s a new release, Builders of the Pacific Coast.

Reviewer Mike Litchfield says,
…on every page is something shocking and delightful. A boat with legs. A roof like a leaf. A caravan with eyes. A split-cedar woodshed shaped like a bird. Stair rails so sinuous and snakey they might come to life and grab you. Sculpted earth walls. Round windows and arched doors. Roofs curved like seagull wings. Grottos choked with ferns and flowers…
Check it out for yourself at

Tapered-wall greenhouse

Tapered-wall greenhouse

You’ll also want to see publisher Lloyd Kahn’s blog for more photos of this tapered wall greenhouse (Oct. 31 post), plus wonderful stories of his travels and lots of amazing shelter images.

Feb 042008

      One of the questions I get asked the most is, “Do yurts work in cold climates?”

Joining yurts together

Yes they do. All my yurt living has been done in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, and I’ve found yurts to be very cozy and efficient to heat. Like any home, you have to do some insulating and cover up those drafty spots (I hang recycled theatre curtains over my yurt windows in the winter).

      If you want to get a glimpse of yurt life in a truly cold climate (“Our nighttime temps fall to -25 to -30 F…”), check out the amazing blog Yurts N Dogs, the ongoing story of a yurt family in Alaska. Right now hubby Rick is racing in the Iditarod (dogsled race), so it’s an exciting time to check in.

      And there’s a nice little piece on Mongolian vacation choices and The Concept of Havuu from a travelers’ blog.

      Be warm, be well, and remember…

                        Home is where the yurt is….