Looking to downsize? Consider a yurt
Jenkins couple takes a liking to their simpler life
JENKINS — Reduced clutter, easy cleaning, low cost to build, low cost to heat.
These are just a few benefits Esther and Dave Endicott, of Jenkins, have found with living year-round in a yurt.
Toward the end of 2022, the pair had decisions to make. They owned a large piece of property with two houses and several outbuildings, each filled with ample material possessions.
"We're getting to that point in time in life where I'm getting closer to retirement here at the end of this school year," said Dave, former Pine River-Backus School District superintendent and former Eagle View Elementary School principal.
"We wanted to simplify things,” he said. “This is the farm where Esther grew up. Her mom still lives in the farmhouse right next door here and she needs more care lately. And we just decided that taking care of two houses, two barns, two everything was becoming more than we wanted to do."
In addition to being dean at Central Lakes College’s Staples campus, Dave works with Northern Lights Realty, so he knew the market was right for selling their house. That still left them deciding how they wanted to downsize.
They originally decided to build a sort of tiny home to live in, with the intention of eventually living in the home where Esther's mother lives now. They looked into their options for tiny homes, including converting their garage or barn into living space.
After touring the yurts at Eagle View Elementary School and Ashdown Forest School, both in Breezy Point, they decided they liked that design best.
I honestly think we might have a tough choice when that time comes because we enjoy this so much. That farmhouse might become the guest house and the Airbnb or something like that, because this is comfortable living for us.
"We liked the space of the yurt," Dave said, "and that it seemed to be a little more comfortable with just the vibe of it. I guess it was more us."
After more research, they discovered that in addition to sellers in Oregon or other far-flung states, Lonesome Cottage in Pequot Lakes has an affiliate, sister company called Lonesome Yurts and Treehouses Inc.
Lonesome Yurts didn't initially offer the 650-square-foot option the Endicotts ended up going for, but they made an exception for the couple and then added the size to their catalog.
It's less area to clean. That was my top priority. It doesn't take long to clean this house.
The Endicotts purchased their yurt in November and the main structure of the building was up in just two days. They officially moved into the yurt in mid-December.
"I've got friends that are building right now and they're in a six- or eight-month pattern of building," Dave said.
Because this kind of structure is not particularly mainstream at this time, there were some minor hurdles.
"Heating was probably the biggest piece to try to nail down, and our plumber finally came up with a plan that worked for him," Dave said. "We've stayed comfortable all winter, even in the negatives that we've had. So that part's been good. We'll see what summer brings. We haven't figured out the air conditioning piece yet. But, I mean, those are First World problems."
We’ve got a lot of stuff sitting in storage units and in the garage that we're discovering we really don't need. And that's been really fun to kind of learn and see that your needs are pretty minimal.
The yurt is only five rooms, if you count a closet and consider the open air kitchen and living space as separate rooms. There is one bedroom, one bathroom, a closet, living room and kitchen.
"It's less area to clean," Esther said. "That was my top priority. It doesn't take long to clean this house."
The Endicotts have felt freed of the burdens that excess stuff had placed on them.
"There's going to be one heck of a garage sale this summer," Dave said, "because we’ve got a lot of stuff sitting in storage units and in the garage that we're discovering we really don't need. And that's been really fun to kind of learn and see that your needs are pretty minimal. When you get right down to it, you don't have storage space to put 9 billion pieces of things that you don't use."
There are some things they don't have room for in the house, like Esther's crafting supplies and spinning supplies for processing their alpaca fiber. Though they are living in their tiny yurt, they have the advantage of additional space when they need it, such as for weaving or even for visitors.
"Right now that's all still in storage," Esther said of her weaving supplies. "The plan is this spring, when we thaw out, we'll pull everything out and move it into one of the bedrooms at mom's or convert the old chicken coop into a studio of some kind."
While the yurt was intended at first to be a temporary space for them, the couple isn't so sure anymore.
"Our plan originally was to eventually move into her mom's home and make this kind of a guest home or an Airbnb," Dave said. "I honestly think we might have a tough choice when that time comes because we enjoy this so much. That farmhouse might become the guest house and the Airbnb or something like that, because this is comfortable living for us."
The yurt market
Yurts are growing in popularity across the country. While the tiny house movement has been going for years, up until recently Lonesome Yurts’ customers have had something else in mind since the company started two years ago.
At that time, yurts were selling as popular glamping (glamorous camping) options, especially following the COVID-19 pandemic.
"People were trying to get out of their homes and get outside and get kind of reconnected with nature, and get away from a lot of the restrictions that were being placed on them in urban centers," said Brandon Andersen, one owner of Lonesome Yurts.
"So they started out with tents, RVs and now yurts and treehouses that we're known for,” he said. “They allow you to get even further out into nature, where RVs maybe can't go."
Andersen said yurts are mobile and can be permanent, year-long structures installed almost anywhere in the backcountry.
Recently, yurts have been getting more attention from the tiny house and Vrbo markets.
"It's evolved into a Vrbo market where people were renting it as another source of income," Andersen said. "From there, it gets into the individual homeowner building one for either a tiny home or they have a home and want additional sleeping capacity."
Some of their yurts are serving to make additional living space on seasonal cabin property.There are companies out of state that build yurts or sell yurt kits. Lonesome Yurts is the only company that sells an option suspended in a tree.
"You can elevate our yurts and build it around a tree," Andersen said. "And we enclose the tree with a plexiglass structure or plexiglass enclosure that allows you to keep the heat in the yurt or treehouse and keep the critters out. But it also protects the tree, so people really love the ability to be able to kind of sleep in a treehouse, if you will."
Lonesome Yurts and Treehouses offers a 20-foot, 25-foot and 30-foot diameter structure with 8-foot sidewalls built of timber. The structures are either finished with vinyl siding or half log siding and then traditionally finished with tongue and groove paneling inside.
You can elevate our yurts and build it around a tree. And we enclose the tree with a plexiglass structure or plexiglass enclosure that allows you to keep the heat in the yurt or treehouse and keep the critters out. But it also protects the tree, so people really love the ability to be able to kind of sleep in a treehouse, if you will.
"It's really a permanent structure at a fraction of the price you'd pay per square foot," Andersen said.
On top of the yurts, customers who want to have a one-stop shopping experience can also take advantage of the company's affiliation with Lonesome Cottage.
"We work with them on a package deal for their furniture and bedding and vinyl plank flooring, all things that are needed through our design center at Lonesome Cottage," Andersen said.
Lonesome Yurts have been constructed all over the country. Anderson said they have yurts in Montana, Arkansas, California, Wisconsin, Breezy Point, Kabetogama and more places.
Endicott suggested anyone who is considering a yurt should start by finding one they can tour, like the yurts at Eagle View Elementary School or Ashdown Forest School. There are also camping yurts at Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Trails near Crosby.
The Endicotts have yet to enjoy one of the features of their yurt. Since the structure was built in the winter, the dome at the peak of their home has been stuffed with insulation. During the summer, it can be removed to reveal a sunroof.
We work with them on a package deal for their furniture and bedding and vinyl plank flooring, all things that are needed through our design center at Lonesome Cottage.
"The dome has an insulation layer on it," Dave said. "We can't wait until spring when we can take that insulating layer off and really experience having that dome. It's open to the bedroom, so I think that might change perspective a little bit, but we haven't experienced that yet."
Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or firstname.lastname@example.org.