Yurt life

Build Day and beyond.

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.

 Archie, the eldest on Build Day

Archie, the eldest on Build Day

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.

 It was all hands on deck to get the work done so we could move in.

It was all hands on deck to get the work done so we could move in.

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. 

IMG_boy and yurt

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.

 The day after we moved in, our gift from the weather gods were these beautiful icicles.  

The day after we moved in, our gift from the weather gods were these beautiful icicles.  

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. 

 Move-in day!  (Note: child refusing to wear a coat even in the snow)

Move-in day!  (Note: child refusing to wear a coat even in the snow)

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. 

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17 Things that surprised me after 10 days of rural yurt life.

1. Keeping the damp and cold at bay is a full time job

2. Showers are overrated. If its cold and you're wrapped up in woolly jumpers, who really needs them anyway?

3. If you have natural fibre socks you can get a few days wear out of them. It's important to double jumper and double sock for maximum affect. Natural fibres ALWAYS for warmth and lack of stink. 

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4. It's perfectly normal to buy a car that doesn't lock, because you don’t need to lock cars here. Yes really.  

5. Long haired boys are often mistaken for girls.

6. Hate polystyrene? Me too. However, the creator of the polystyrene BOG seat deserves to win a prize for services to cold bottoms. Honestly, it feels WARM even when it's FREEZING outside. Mind. Blown. 

7. A river after the snow has thawed, sounds the same as a motorway.

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8. Mud is a way of life

9. Instant hot water in the middle of a field is nothing short of a miracle.

10. Mice like warm places too.

11. It is 25 minutes drive to the local shop and there are no take away delivery services here. It feels... ok. You get used to driving everywhere. 

12. When you shift a ton of gravel, it's your core muscles that ache the next day. Not your arms. 

13. There were 56 pupils in the local Primary school; now 58. Despite not being able to speak the language the children feel snug being amongst such a small number. I'm surprised how quickly they have felt at home there. 

14. I may never get bored of going to sleep to the sounds of the owls.

15. Snow is beautiful but means that keeping warm and dry is bloody hard work. 

16. Pub culture is alive and kicking.

17. Warmest welcomes await people who venture this far into the wilderness. I have never been invited to so many people's houses in my life. It is so, so lovely. 

Here is a little film, showing you around our new yurt. Not a bad start, I reckon?

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Anticlimax

I know, I’ve skipped a bit.

I haven’t written about the whirlwind and excitement of getting home, seeing family and friends and being swept away with all the reunions and 'welcome home' drinks.  

Nor have I talked about building our yurt (a post on this is coming soon, believe me, it deserves it)

I’ve gone straight to the moany bit because it's real and writing is therapy. Also, I was too busy having fun to stop and write about it (and our laptop needed a service...)  

Having been ‘home’ for two weeks the main questions are:

1. "What was your favourite country?"  

and

2. "What’s it like to be back?"  

Well, there is no concise answer to question number 1 and the answer to number 2 is complicated.

Welcome Home

Initially, being back was immense. Having just been us four for fourteen months, being metaphorically cuddled by a huge community of people was like lots of Christmases coming at once.

The warmth of our welcome was overwhelming- places we knew well seemed comforting and familiar. BUT we weren't stopping. We were just passing through before bounding onto our next adventure! Yay!

 Rams head at the corner of our field in Wales  

Rams head at the corner of our field in Wales  

As you can probably guess, those initial feelings have subsided.

The yurt is built but not not yet habitable.

Mike is in Wales, digging drainage trenches and sanding the floor- whilst friends are installing water, electricity and a composting toilet.  

I know I was overly optimistic to think that we’d have a home almost as soon as we got back. Of COURSE infrastructure takes time! I know that!  Things take longer than you think they will especially when you are building a home in a muddy field!

It's like my optimism has rendered my years of festival work useless.

We’ll get there, I know.  

For now though, I am with the children in my parents' warm and welcoming flat in a suburb of Bristol, trying not to think about where we were 3 weeks- or 3 months ago. The thought makes me feel sad, like the anniversary of a loved one that has passed away.

Simultaneously I am outraged that it slipped by so fast and racked with shame that I am in the thick of something that COULDN'T BE MORE of a First World Problem.

A travel hangover after a 14 month round the world trip with your family? Darling, It's a cross we must all bear. Like Bi-fold doors and babysitters being late. 

 Our yurt- erected after a satisfying hard days slog.  

Our yurt- erected after a satisfying hard days slog.  

We are safe and warm which is more than most people in this world. We have options, beautiful memories and shelter- we know we are lucky.

This new life we want to build for ourselves in Wales is like nectar though, magically subduing our wanderlust. Then I remember Finn's new allergy and the realisation that my gorgeous dog might not be able to join us. This tars the picture I had in my mind and feels like a kick in the guts. 

I am jealous of Mike grafting in Wales whilst I stay here, impotent and looking after the boys. I am crocheting baskets for the yurt in a bid to feel ‘useful’.

Between shouting at the boys to stop fighting/ jumping/ playing on their iPad and writing lists to occupy myself- I remind myself that they are missing their Daddy too and we all feel unsettled so should be kinder to each other.

Just have the Ipad, boys. 

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The children are bored.

I’m bored.

A walk to the local park seems pointless and laughable after the places we have been. It doesn’t even seem worth going when we know it won’t hold our interest.  

That's not the attitude though, is it?

Despite everyone telling me that coming home would feel shit, I was so excited about seeing our people and building our yurt, that I didn't believe them.

So I kick myself up the arse and take the boys out in the sunshine to cycle around the old airfield. Our yurt will be ready soon and if it isn't, I might accidentally book us all something on EasyJet. 

 

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What next?

We’re nearing the end of our round the world trip. We are sad, of course we are. But we are something else too.  

We are grateful for the incredible amount of time we have had, relishing our children’s childhoods and seeing the world through their eyes. We are proud too, that we have shown them that another way is possible to live. Actually an infinite number of ways are possible- Who knew?! 

 Sunrise on our field. Thanks to Nicky for taking these pictures for us! 

Sunrise on our field. Thanks to Nicky for taking these pictures for us! 

This part is coming to an end. The part where we live out of backpacks and have no responsibilities apart from to eachother.  

Mike starts work at the beginning of December. He was lucky and talented enough to be offered a job whilst we were in Guatemala. But not in Bristol- in Powys, Wales.   

Part of the reason that we sold everything when we left the UK was so we could re-evaluate our life and make decisions about how we want it to be.   

 The existing platform on our friends’ land, waiting for our yurt. 

The existing platform on our friends’ land, waiting for our yurt. 

Since hitting the road and living out of 2 (large!) backpacks, we have realised that we need much less stuff. We haven’t missed anything that we have kept in storage- so why bother trying to recreate our old life, buying a house just to fill it up with all that stuff we already got rid of? We want to live small and buy only what we need- our carbon footprint whilst travelling on this beautiful planet has been huge. We’re keen to address this by living a more environmentally conscious life. 

We love being outdoors and desperately want our children to have the sort of childhoods that we had. Childhoods where children were always grubby with grazed knees, where they are free to test their boundaries and explore the world pretty much as we did. 

 The frame of our wonderful yurt.

The frame of our wonderful yurt.

 Our finished yurt, waiting to be transported to our field in Wales.  

Our finished yurt, waiting to be transported to our field in Wales.  

An urban setting makes this hard, so we decided a few months ago try something completely different. We have friends with a patch of land with a yurt platform already on it in a secluded valley in mid Wales  

We ordered a yurt from Spirits Intent and they have crafted it with love, ready for our return. 

So how do we feel?  

Sad that we will no longer go where the wind takes us, but pleased to be able to nurture those relationships we have neglected for the past year.  

 Someone left a tree inside the yurt.  

Someone left a tree inside the yurt.  

Rural Wales is so completely different from our life in urban Bristol so it will be just another chapter and that makes it exciting. I can’t wait to get my hands dirty, learning new skills as we build our home.

As an added bonus, our rent will be low so we can save for our next foreign adventure. Everyone is a winner! 

I hope you stay with us as we embark on this next chapter.  

 

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