Category Archives: yurt

jay’s place

a little back story over the next couple days, as i visited some sites formative to the adventure we are on.

a trip to the eastern shore is incomplete without a trip to see my mentor and friend jay.  i spent a couple of seasons working for him, first at his greenhouse operation and market garden, then helping to take down and move his greenhouses, and start up a csa.  i can’t say enough good things about jay, he is one of the most innovative farmers i know, has  a huge caring heart, really has a gift with words (as his wife kathy once said, he didn’t kiss the blarney stone, he ate it), and is well read and research on all aspects of sustainable agriculture.  i feel lucky to have been able to spend the time i did with him, learning so much about myself and farming.  even though i’ve never had any formal education in agriculture i feel as though i’m about as well educated as those that have been to formal programs.  i can count one hand the people who truly changed me as a person, and jay is certainly among them.

jay is not without his difficulties and few have made it though a full season working with him, he can be irritable, impatient, stubborn, and downright mean at times.  but he is fully aware of these things, and i genuinely think he works to reduce these traits in himself, many would just accept themselves and move on.

aside from the need to check in and chat, a trip to his farm is always worth it to see what new innovations jay has been adding to his repertoire.

mobile chicken coop

this guy is a mobile chicken pen which jay claims costs about 200 dollars and takes under a day to build.  it can support up to 50 meat birds, not seen in this picture is the tarping that goes over half of the structure to give the chickens shade and shelter from the rain, the waterer and the feeders.  it could be moved by one or two people or with a tractor, as jay does.  it seemed to me that if you just threw some plastic overtop of these they could become a pretty simple greenhouse, and if you had doors on either end, you could link them all together.  the chickens that jay had been using for forage go under several names, but the most common was the red ranger, pretty good foragers and come to weight relatively well.  this last year he has grown and processed 700 birds, and plans to continue expanding that, planting pasture out in the fields for him to forage.  he can’t keep up with demand for them, it seems it will be some time before the market is saturated with free range meats.

jay had also constructed this yurt.

a yurt

i didn’t think i’d be posting so soon again about a yurt.  this guy is much bigger than the one we stayed in, 24 feet across, and at least 12 feet high, and was manufactured by blue ridge yurts.  jay’s brother in law bob was staying in this along with his dogs.  it was being wired for electric, internet, shower, and a composting toilet.  this yurt also housed a secret.

a root cellar under the yurt

around the back dug out of the side of the hill is a root cellar.

inside the root cellar

the root cellar is full of sweet potatoes right now.  the eastern shore summers are pretty much miserable, hot, extremely humid and full of all kinds of biting insects.  with this knowledge and experience he is focusing on trying to farm more on the winter harvest and less on the summer.  between high tunnels, quick hoops, greenhouse, and the root cellar he can focus on the time that is more comfortable to farm, and the time when the market has less competition. to learn more about the csa jay is a part of check out this website.   here is one last view of the farm showing the high tunnel, the propagation greenhouse,  and chickens.  the market gardens are planted to the right of the high tunnel and the main acreage is over the ridge to the left of the propagation greenhouse.

greenhouse on the left, chickens in the middle, high tunnel on the right


u.p. part two

back in civilization, but still in the u.p.

having spent the last few days in a yurt in the “porkies” i write this from the wi fi joy of another cheap motel room.  from munising we raced across the u.p. toward the “porkies” with the desire to get there before nightfall, i’m still a little unsure of when nightfall is with the more northern latitudes, but we are also at the extreme end of the time zone so i guess that changes things as well.  ma’s tummy was bothering her, and she felt a kombucha would make everything feel better.  marquette on the way was rumoured to be a bit of a college town – and college towns equal food co-ops which equal a source of kombucha.  sure enough with a little wondering we were able to find a food co-op.  i’m not sure what it is about food co-ops but they are such a comforting thing.  it doesn’t really matter where you go, they are all the same, have the same smell when you enter the door, sell the same products and have the same aesthetic, even it i don’t really like it i feel comforted by the consistency.  kombucha in hand plus a couple of other odds and ends, we move on to taking care of a couple other essentials, coffee and sweets – which of course are right next door, a local coffee roaster, and a bakery.  marquette is quickly dubbed the ann arbor of the north (this is not ment to be a complement, though we are happy with the convenience it affords us).  coffee is good, and baked goods are fantastic.  refueled we head on.

for lunch we had decided we needed to try the most essential of northern treats – the pasty.  we had seen pasty joints advertised all throughout our trip and up till now had resisted their charms, but felt we needed to try them, and today for whatever reason was the day.  we passed though town after town with no luck.  the last village of any size was ontonagon, i’d pretty much given up any hope, but could tell ma still held out, and with that we entered ontonagon a town with more bars than any other businesses.  not a good sign – i’d say it’s a case of group chronic depression – but i’m just a visitor so far be it from me to judge.  one diner in town advertised pasties, we are saved.  rather than sit down we just get them to go, we have places to go.  i took a quick inventory of median age, not a soul under 55 – ontonagon things are not looking good for you.  i started calling ontonagon octogeragon on account of the ages.

the pasties were weighty, ma passed me the bag and i was surprised by the burden she had been carrying.  in the car i munched and drove, and tried to figure out just what i was eating – rumor had it that there was rutabaga in it, but it tasted just like potato to me – i don’t know if they ran out, or if rutabaga tastes just like potato, i admit to not having eaten rutabaga nearly enough.  the pasty was not all that exciting to my tasty, but i suppose if i was a cornish miner i might feel otherwise.  i didn’t even finish it, not cause it didn’t excite me but cause i was full.  those things are big, should have ordered the mini pasty.

the pasty

the pasty

making it to the “porkies” we stop at the visitor center to learn about getting keys to our yurt as well as some hiking info.  our ranger guide “sunshine” is super helpful, giving us a bunch of great recommendations on where to hike.  we decided on a quick hike in the lake of clouds.   lake of clouds is amazing, a vista at the top tempts me to get to the bottom, a half mile scramble down hill to a little bridge which is nice, but doesn’t offer closer viewing.  we take another path which gives great views but no close-ups.  we turn back, it’s time to set up camp.

lake of the clouds

lake of the clouds

we hike into the yurt almost getting into a fight, i think one of the only ones of the trip.  the hike into the yurt is messy and muddy, they have gotten plenty of rain up these parts in the last few days.  the yurt is pretty much adorable. ma is in love and talking quickly about our yurt we will build on our land in the future.  we quickly settle into our rolls, ma making the place all cute and cozy and me worried about having enough fire wood for the night.  you could argue that being warm is more important, but coming back to the yurt after chopping wood for an hour or so and having your bed all made up for you is pretty wonderful.

the yurt

the yurt

i get a good stack of wood indoors and ma gets dinner going.  dinner of broccoli and brown rice pretty is filling and tasty but at this point almost anything will suffice.  i get the heat cranking in the yurt, maybe a bit too much, i’m not good at judging on how much heat you need for such a small space.  i’m happy with hot cheeks (on my face) and a beer in my hand.  ma and i chat a bit into the night, but both of us are tired and retire to our individual bunks and our individual books to read.  the night is marked with extreme warmth in the early part – until the early morning when the fire goes out and i have to get up and try to start the fire again.  i wake up late, ma makes me get out of bed – this is a major change usually i’m the one getting her up.  we have coffee and oats for breakfast then off to hike.

cranking up the heat inside the yurt

cranking up the heat inside the yurt

first hike is presque isle area – about a 3 mile look around three groups of falls.  maybe more than 3 falls, it’s hard to tell what are falls, in the lower peninsula anything that drops a half foot in a river is called a waterfall.  here it’s at least a solid 8 feet or so.  so much more dramatic and so much more insulting to the rest of the state.  we walk though wonderful old growth forest, at times i’m so overwhelmed with excitement and beauty that i feel totally disoriented and high.  i can’t help but wonder if this is the way that we are ment to feel – in our element in the forests that we for so many millenium co-evolved with and the feeling i’m having is one of coming home.

i find myself wishing to live in a place where it would be so much easier to reach old growth forest in a brief period of time, and that of course leads to thought of being on the west coast, where it would be so much easier to get to old growth in a matter of hours.  i wonder if i would be happier there, and i  can’t help but feeling great guilt as i’ve ridiculed so many people for their midwest exodus.  i don’t know if being in old growth forest would make me feel complete but there is a tendency to want to find meaning in ones life and if that were in the form of old growth of forest instead of organized religion or complex meditation, i’m all for it.

after the amazing falls, we lunched on what else but smoked whitefish sandwiches, then head out for a longer but more level trail – the pinkerton trail.  the trail is amazing, level and going though old growth forest, ma and i barely spoke a word which you might think a sign of a problem in the relationship, but i see it as a sign of how we can hang out without needing to fill the air with nonsense.  i might have prefered that she fill it with pointless banter as i was instead forced to listen to the thoughts in my head, which would just not shut up contemplating my future and just what i should do with my life.

we walked past the end of the pinkerton though a beautiful stand of birch trees and on to lake superior.  the beach was small and rocky, with plenty of interesting stones.  this beach had very different rocks from the ones we had encountered near pictured rocks – much more igneous rock.  i gave ma a limit on the number of rocks we could bring home and that i would carry them.  we debated over rocks, but several had crystals in them, so they won pretty quick and ma selected small ones so she could take more.

after pinkerton a quick trip to summit peak, one of the tallest mountains in michigan and much easier to get to than the tallest mountains.  the view from the top is amazing, i can see the apostle island which i think are 30 miles away.  flurries are starting to come down and i could see the snow coming down heavy in the east.

view from summit peak

view from summit peak

after a day of hiking on a friday in the north there is only one thing left to do, a fish fry.  into silver city – the first village out of the park for beer and perch.  we eat at a place called foothills, a classic roadside place.  in addition to my perch, i’m offered coleslaw and garlic toast.  the meal is ok, but most of all i enjoy the classic midwestern accents of the other diners.

back at the yurt ma and i spend the evening playing cards – i only know one card game so that limited the options.  ma claims to not like cards, but she played for an hour or so.  she says we should learn more card games so i can only assume that she has changed her mind.

in the morning we are greeted  to the sight of snow.  ma wants to get going early as she feels a little nervous in the snow.  i’m not particularly concerned, but i’m happy to give her peace of mind.  i take a few pictures before we had out, and we break camp.  headed out to marquette.

snow on the creek behind the yurt

snow on the creek behind the yurt