The day we moved our furniture into the yurt, there was a blizzard. I'd have called it apocalyptic because it was unlike anything i had seen. My (new) Welsh neighbours assure me that this can be expected every so often.
It wasn't easy getting here.
We had been chasing the sun for 14 months and had forgotten how cold British Winters can actually be- let alone Welsh Winters on the side of a mountain.
Up to now, our friends in Wales had done all the hard work, building the insulated yurt platform and plumbing in the water feed from the mountain spring. Mike started his new job in a week, so despite wanting to catch up with all our friends and family we missed whilst away, we had to crack on and build ourselves a home.
The forecast, according to Nitsan our yurt builder was; 'The best we were going to get for the next 8 months or so' so we co-ordinated his arrival with this 'auspicious' day. He had experience of living in yurts in Powys and runs a company called Spirits Intent- you can visit their website here if you want to have a look)
Nitsan arrived the night before and made sure we all realised how much hard work we were in for... He slept in his van whilst we lay awake in our friends house- both feeling sick with dread, listening to the rain and wind battering the windows.
Whoever forecast a calm and dry day was foolishly optimistic.
We put on clothes that we thought were warm, but clearly we hadn't got a clue yet. Our legs were quickly numb with cold as the hailstorms battered us on the yurt platform that was perched on the side of the mountain.
Nitsan encouraged the children to do sun dances, and directed us to do jobs every time we looked like rabbits in headlights. There was a lot to do and he was leaving at the end of the day, so we needed to get on with it. Frozen hands or not.
It was sweet relief when friends called us inside the house for a bowl of hot soup and the chance to apply extra layers.
Every kind of weather joined us on the mountain that day- rainbows, sunshine but mainly snow and hail. The trellis went up easily, then the doors.
The precious hand-crafted rafters looked so fragile as they tentatively slotted into place in the wheel..... and breathe.
Each rafter was tied on with a prayer that the hail would stop and the wind would die down in time for the roof to go on.
With the tension band tied tightly to keep the rafters in place, we somehow carried the load of the felt on to the roof without dropping it in the mud or it getting blown away in the wind, like a massive kite.
The walls of our yurt are higher than usual, as we wanted to build a mezzanine for the children. This made putting on the roof tricky, so we used batons to unfold the fabric over the rafters. Nitsan tied it in place.
If we thought the felt insulation was hard to carry, we were in for a shock: the canvas weighed a ton and were losing daylight- and energy.
With every ounce of strength that we had in us, we heaved the weight of it up. Higher! Shouted Nitsan from the ladder, but Mike and I just looked at each other and both had a sense the other's legs were about to give way.
With Herculean effort (and a few tears) we shoved it on the roof and tied the skirt around the latticework with ropes. These ropes would be where we attached the felt and canvas walls.
I have a vague memory of Nitsan trying to make a joke and not really understanding. I was suffering from a sense of humour failure and just needed to get it done.
Somehow, we had got the roof on without it blowing into the mud, and the sense of achievement carried us though. Now it was just the walls to do.
Thanks to years of crochet, I am confident with knots, so I went around the yurt, tying the ropes of the walls to the ropes hidden beneath the canvas skirt at the base of the roof.
Each knot was slow work, and I just couldn't get my body to do what I was telling it to. In addition to this I had only 30cm of platform to stand on whilst working. The effort was intense and the weather refused us a moment's kindness.
When the final knot was tied and Nitsan showed us what finishing touches we needed to do, we headed indoors... then quickly, he waved goodbye to us.
It felt as though we were comrades in a war against the elements, and our troop was disbanding. His leaving felt emotional and we really didn't want him to go.
In spite of the fact that our bodies were aching and numb, we were pleased we had a beautiful tiny house we could call our own.
The next few weeks were a buzz of sanding floors, installing the wood burner, getting the toilet/shed built and our priority: laying the path. The field was so muddy that it would be impossible to move any of our furniture in without slipping over.
We moved into a nearby friends' yurt for a week, so i could work on our own yurt whilst Mike started his new job. We had missed the deadline but not by much.
The following weekend we hired a van and went back to Bristol to collect our furniture. We could barely get back as the snow fell and the journey back became treacherous.
Still, we made it. We were home! Sure, the kitchen and bathroom would come later... for now, we were in. We had an electric cable running up from the house, a camping stove, woodburner and a bucket! What else could you need?
The snow- though beautiful proved to be a huge challenge. Having just moved in we weren't used to yurt life and certainly had no idea how to manage such extreme weather. I can tell you now, the secret is to 'double jumper' 'double sock' and keep the fire roaring at all times. If only I had known that then.
The children played tirelessly popping back every now and then, up to their thighs in muddy slush where the bog hadn't fully frozen and they had fallen through the snow.
Without running water and limited clothing, how was this going to work?
For a brief moment, I wavered... my friend saw my face and like an angel, took the pile of brown, slushy clothes away in an Ikea bag, to the house to wash.
Apart from this brief moment, we were so happy to have our own home we didn't see anything as much of an obstacle. There is a lot to be said for embracing the challenge full on.
Had we bitten off more than we could chew?
Nah. It was an adventure, and after all wasn't that what we wanted?
After this baptism of fire everything else seems easy.
When the snow thawed and we had a sink with water and actual DRAINAGE installed it felt like Christmas. When our cooker got hooked up to Propane we wanted to kiss it.
Every service that we gained and every practical issue we overcome feels like a big win. In fact, I'd say we are almost 'there,' wherever 'there' is.