Our back yard

The meadow is full of life.

Butterflies and bees flit among the milkweed blossoms. I remember my first summer at Paul Smith’s and biking along the sandy trails and roadsides. Milkweed grew rampantly and I was intoxicated by the sweet smell. It’s beautiful how a fragrance can transport you through time.

There is much beauty and potential in our plot of land. We have many wild edibles and plants with medicinal properties.

Here are five great plants in our backyard:

Mullein herb: Part of the snapdragon family. Dried stalk can be used for a hand drill in starting fires.

Milkweed: The shoots are edible in early spring and the blossom buds are delicious in salads or stir fry’s before they blossom. Be careful consuming milkweed, because not all parts of the plant are edible. It’s great for attracting monarch butterflies. The plant is fibrous, and in the fall can be used to make cordage (natural rope).

Saint John’s wort: Medicinal Plant with anti-depressant properties.

And plenty of blueberries and raspberries.

The yurts are coming!


“The yurts are coming! The yurts are coming!”

Excited giggles escape from my lips as I run from my office to the parking lot with a cell phone in hand.

Texts and calls are lighting up the screen and it doesn’t take long to find the trailer with a yurt painted on the side. 07

Yves, a tall Swedish man transplanted to Canada, steps around the truck and shakes my hand with a big smile.

He speaks with a warm accent and explains he’s very excited to be delivering three Mongolian yurts to Paul Smith’s College on this beautiful day.

The trailer opens.

“Ah, smell Mongolia!” He takes a deep breath. A blend of wood and wool emerge and instantly, I’m in love. These fumes are simple and recognizable to the senses, unlike so many of the chemicals and preservatives in our lives today. The yurts are unloaded and put into storage.

Red, blue and yellow are the hand painted colors they come in. Yves is excited and with the help of many on hand, sets the blue yurt up on the blacktop. Within an hour, a pile of wool, camel hide, horse hair cordage and timber poles have been transformed into a circular home.

“Now, when entering a yurt, make sure to step across the threshold with your right foot,” Yves explains.

We file in, one after the other, right feet first and stand in wonderment our eyes transfixed on the skylight. White clouds pass and silence descends. In a peaceful trance, I position myself under the sky light and look up. Sun beams fall on my face and I close my eyes.

I see it…

Eight students walking into a yurt right foot first with a back pack of gear and fostering a community based on tradition and indigenous knowledge.

I feel it…

A connection to my ancestors and a growing conviction that circles trump squares.

More yurt raising photos and advice here.