Yurt Reborn!….slowly….in stages

When we last left the yurt it was still standing but was decaying and in serious need of repair.  The outer weatherproof cover had deteriorated again and the smell of mildew was pervasive.  The mice were ransacking the interior and the flooring was starting to rot.  The yurt needed help and lots of it.  For a while (quite a while) we just let it sit while we considered a strategy to deal with all of the yurt’s needs.

The first step was to take it down before it deteriorated any further.  In the spring of 2008 Molly and I disassembled the yurt and packed it up.   Most of the platform and the outer covering went to the dump.  Now we just needed a home for the rest.  Storing a building sized tent as well as the furnishings inside of it was a challenge but we managed to shoehorn it all into our various other outbuildings.

Molly:  It was a sad day when we took it down.  It had been this thing of beauty and now it was…not.  

Mike: Yeah, one more face lift was not going to recapture her lost loveliness.  It was just going to make her look permanently surprised. » » »

Uppercase Magazine & a GIVEAWAY!

For those of you not in the know Uppercase is an art magazine published out of Canada.  We found out about it when Molly’s lovely and talented Canadian friend  Kirstie mailed her one of their magazines.  We were both struck by what a beautiful magazine it was.  The quality is high and the articles are inspiring.

We wrote the editor and asked how we could be part of this community of other artists.  She wrote back with an idea.  Her winter issue was all about paper.  She’d love an article on Mike’s papercrete!  Done!

You can find us in issue #12:

How can I order Uppercase #12

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The Decline of the Yurt

About five years ago we bought a Mongolian yurt  (real Mongolians would call it a ger but you’d have no idea what we were talking about).  It was a very cool guesthouse and people loved staying in it.  The inside was decorated with a (tasteful) mish-mash of eastern furnishings.  Pakistani lamps, asian rugs, furniture from China and Thai silk pillows all complemented the traditional painting on the interior woodwork .  It was our little exotic hideaway but like all treasures it started to tarnish over time. » » »

Coop de Steve

Have you ever thought of having a chicken coop?  Maybe just the coop and not the chickens?  I understand- it keeps it romantic (no poop), clean (again, no poop) and coops are just cool objects.  A little architectural folly for the common man.  I love to see what people come up with to house their chickens.  There is such a variety out there.

Nogg chicken coop

A made to order coop from Nogg

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Round-em Up- 9/30 Freaky Tomato

Freaky Tomato

Mike: I thought I had a Jesus tomato there for a second but it’s just a Pinocchio tomato.

Molly: That’s one freaky tomato!


Squirreler had one of his Squirreler Goes Wild Posts.  They tend to verge on the bizarre.  Don’t stop on this one, you must go back and read his past 28 posts in this category.


Molly:  I’ve had time to catch up on Planet Money.  Back in June they made a great case for pre-school.  I love it when they get economists involved with politically charged ideas!  Where should the money go?!  Why should the money go there?!  Why should we spend any money?! » » »

How to Make Papercrete Blocks


Never heard of it? Go here.

Up to speed?

Great, Let’s get going.


Papercrete mixer

Block molds (mine are made from 2x6s and scrap siding)




Paper (used of course)

Shredded plastic (if you want)

95 lb bag of cement (cement not concrete- no rocks or sand in the mix) » » »

How to Make a Papercrete Mixer

There is a lot to love about papercrete as a building material. It’s made out of readily accessible and inexpensive materials: water, used paper and cement. To make papercrete you have to be able to grind up lots and lots of paper. In order to do that you need a mixer capable of shredding paper. A regular cement mixer won’t shred paper it will just stir it around. Luckily for us a guy by the name of Mike McCain invented a papercrete mixer that you tow behind a truck.

Papercrete tow mixer

The plywood top looked good but it didn't work that well

The McCain mixer is sheer genius in its backyard engineering brilliance and simplicity. It consists of a trailer made from a truck rear axle with a stock tank mounted on it. The axle is rotated up 90 degrees so that the end where the drive-shaft would normally attach is sticking up through the bottom of the tank. A lawn mower blade is mounted on the differential stub so that as the trailer is towed it turns the lawnmower blade creating a giant blender. » » »

I Love Papercrete

Papercrete Wall

Papercrete??  What’s that??

That’s the response I always get when I’m describing my favorite building material.  Not surprising since it occupies a spot in that backwater known as ‘alternative building materials’.  Papercrete is just what it sounds like actually.  It’s concrete made with paper.  I tell people to think of it as industrial paper mache.  It’s inexpensive to make, amazingly sturdy, lightweight and insulating. » » »