Yurt Sweet Yurt: An Eco-Friendly, Water-Efficient Life in Western Montana


Eco-friendly plumbing fixtures are often found in really interesting and unique eco-friendly homes. The Professor recently had the opportunity to chat with Patty Woodland, who lives in a newly-built yurt in Western Montana, about how her WaterSense-certified faucets and toilet fit into her green lifestyle. In the interview below Patty discusses her experiences as a part-time goatherd, soap maker and jewelry designer and also tells us what steps she took to make her home an earth-friendly space.

1. What is a yurt?
According to the dictionary, a yurt is: a circular tent consisting of a framework of poles covered with felt or skins, used by Mongolian and Turkic nomads of E and central Asia. But MY yurt is more permanent. It is a kit house my husband found and it arrived on two flatbed trailers. It consists of 36, 4′ panels with a 6′ skylight at the center. The ceiling is 18′ high and pie shaped paneled wood sections. The interior walls go up 9′ so it is very open and airy. We wanted a unique home with lots of windows to take advantage of the beautiful view we have of the Clark Fork River and this fits the bill.

2. Why did you choose to live in a yurt?
Yurts are very energy efficient structures. They also stand up well to high winds  – which we see in our spring storm season. My husband was intrigued with the idea and once he gets an idea in his head there is no stopping him. Additionally, the price per square foot for the kit was quite affordable and we could design the interior to our needs.

3.  What other funny-sounding names do you have in your life? Nora the Goat
I have a small herd of dairy goats that I have named after family and friends. There is this one very stubborn goat named Nora. The head goat is Pricilla and she is the SpokesGoat for Happy Goat Soap, a small business I run using the excess milk from my little herd. She takes her duties very seriously; she blogs! She posts every day to The Maaaaa of Pricilla telling tales of her life on the Happy Goats Farm with all of the goats; Abby, Mallory, Sarah, Stubborn Nora, Luke, Little Lew and Little Timmy (the new kids on the Farm). She also sometimes mentions the Farm cats Stinky, Pumpkin and Sherpa.

4. What are the eco-friendly choices you made in your yurt?
We are trying to make all of our choices as green as possible! Our flooring is bamboo and Marmoleum. Marmoleum is green alternative to linoleum made of linseed oil and jute. We used low VOC paint on the walls and will use it on the trim – whenever the trim gets added. All of the light fixtures and appliances are Energy Star rated. Our toilet and bathroom faucets are water conserving since we live in an area of the country where water use is a big concern. The windows are Low E and we added an overhang to the roof so as to keep the house cool in the summer and warmer in the winter. We also added additional windows for passive solar heating. We insulated the basement with ICF so that it helps to again keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Our woodstove meets the highest standards for emissions as set by the EPA.  My countertop is a recycled quartz called Caesarstone.

5. What are the eco-friendly choices you declined due to budget?
I had fallen in love with artisan made cabinets made from larch grown here in Montana but the cost was just too great. I am very happy with the cherry cabinets I did get, and the company is part of a green network, but it would have been nice to have them crafted locally. My cabinets are all hardwood and again, due to costs I only have base cabinets. The plans called for additional base and wall cabinets and more countertop. I opted to put in two sets of steel shelving. They compliment the open feel of the yurt and will provide plenty of additional storage and display space for my canning jars and pantry items. We also want to add solar hot water and electric but it will have to wait until we can save the money.

6.  You live far more vibrantly than the Professor, great richness of color in your rooms. Does the Professor note a well-trained eye for art and artistic expression?yurt living room eco-friendly home

I don’t know about well-trained but my mother was an artist and I think I may have inherited her sense of color. I came late in life to a talent for making jewelry. I love pairing different gemstones and I sell my creations at Broken Teepee Designs. Why live in a beige house when you can have a cherry red kitchen, a yellow bedroom and a raspberry bathroom? If one is not comfortable picking out bold colors there are designers that are more than happy to help. And I know that not everyone wants to live in a house full of bold colors but try adding a touch of red or pinch of purple. It will make you days in your house happy.

7. Does your American Standard FloWise toilet flush well?  Does it flush powerfully?
Oh yes! I am very happy with the high-efficiency toilet; especially with the fact that it uses so little water!

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Thanks so much Professor! It was an honor to be interviewed by such a dashing man.

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