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yurt life

Yurt Homes – five reasons to live in one

21 July, 2016

A yurt? Who lives in a YURT?!

I remember the moment it transpired that we were going to live in a yurt for a few months. We were absolutely in love with the strangeness of yurt homes in non-Mongolian settings. My first blog post about it was entitled “We Live In a Mongolian Tent Now” – incredulous, glad, incredulous.

18 months later and we not only still live in one, but we own two! A little NZ made one, 6 metres, by Jaia Yurts and one a third larger, by Pacific Yurts, imported from the States.

And we think yurt-living is the business.The Ultimate Guide to Living in Yurt Homes
This is me in our yurt, writing a post about living in yurts. 2016 aye?

What are these yurt homes you speak of?

People all over the world are making themselves at home in a modern take on the traditional Mongolian structure used for their housing. Translated “yurt” means “home.”

People have called our yurt a spaceship, a giant mushroom, a giant’s diaphragm. Indeed, it looks like all of these.

But mostly these days it is just our home and we love it.

Why are people choosing yurt homes?

We enjoyed living in someone elses yurt for a few months. But when we bought our new land we had the opportunity to get the home we have always wanted.

We were looking at moving on a beautiful old wooden cottage, or building from scratch- something like a cob house or an earthship. But the more we did costings, looked at our situation and sat and thunked, we realized that we wanted to keep living in yurts.5 reasons we have chosen to live in yurt homes

Yurt Homes are Affordable

We found our big yurt online, already imported from the States, never erected or even unpacked, but quite discounted because, hello, who wants a tent this big?!

We got it for $35000 (£17000) but full price it would have been $45k NZD. This includes almost everything you need, including double glazed glass windows, French doors and a back door and extra wind support and insulation. The floor comes at extra cost – another 6k.

Still, for a home with almost the same footprint as our little South London Victorian terrace, this is a real steal. A whole $500,000 less!!

(That figure isn’t actually accurate because our London home came with the land it sat on, and a little teeny weeny garden too.)

But you can buy a bare patch of land and stick a yurt on it for probably about a quarter of what it might cost to buy a house and a garden.

Of course, it isn’t a bargain if it feels like you are just living in a big tent, is it? And this is where the second reason we decided on a yurt comes in.

Yurt Homes are Beautiful

Yurts are beautiful! They feel almost sacred with their circular ways. The sun pours in through the canvas and the dome in the roof. They feel so perfectly nestled amongst the natural environment and they are easy to keep bright and airy.

Our big yurt comes with a 15 year guarantee, but they’ve been in production for 25 years and no one has ever claimed on one. They really are built to be strong and beautiful for a good long time!Yurt homes- why we love it

Yurt Homes are Mobile

Yeah, yeah, in NZ, most homes are counted as mobile. No jokes, at least a few times a year you will be driving down the motorway and you will see a WHOLE HOUSE on the back of a trailer. We’ve also seen a whole house in bits on the side of a road where it slipped off the trailer, which was a bummer for someone.

But anyway, in most parts of the world homes aren’t made for moving. Which is why yurts are so great because they can come and go with you.

So if you are not ready to buy land, you can put a yurt up on someone elses. You could even do it formally, by asking permission. I jest, you should pretty much always ask permission to put a yurt up on someone’s land to live there. Exceptions for if the land is owned by a conglomerate (I always want to call them clongoberates) and they are leaving it derelict until land prices rise. SQUAT THAT BUGGER! In seven years it is yours and you can share it with all the people that need a place to put their yurt!

(Yikes, how quickly I descend into anarchic housing strategies these days.)

Yeah, so yurts are a great option if you are looking at homesteading or self sufficient living but aren’t going to be owning the land you are doing it on.

We did it for 15 months – a sort of WOOFING arrangement, swapping garden labour etc for a patch of land with our yurt on it- while we were looking for the land we ended up buying.

Yurt Homes are low impact

Compared to traditional housing yurt homes are immensely low impact with the materials used. They are often built using 100% natural materials – tough cotton, wool for insulation and wooden lattice or beams. Our big yurt does used human made materials – a polyester cover instead of cotton canvas and a space agey tin foil instead of wool for insulation. But even with shipping it to NZ from the US, compared to the intense labour and complex production modern housing involves, yurts are super low impact.

Yurt Homes are Quick

And our last reason is to do with how quickly we can get up our yurt compared to building something ourselves. Our little yurt goes up in about an hour – once you have the floor down, and with a nice bunch of buddies. See my brand new video of us putting up our little yurt last weekend:

And even our big, far more house-like yurt, goes up in a day. If you missed that here is a slideshow of that one going up. Double glazed windows and all.

This is compared to about a minimum 6 months for a self build home, with a lot of help, and busting a gut each day.

We didn’t give up our jobs in order to slave away on a self build. These are the moments we want to free up time to spend with our girls, whilst they are so young, whilst we see their childhood running through our fingers like sand. It would be crazy to have sacked in our seriouspants careers in London and replace it with building a seriouspants house on the other side of the world.
5 reasons to live in yurt homes
What do you reckon? Could your family live in one of these yurt homes?

Pssst – have you downloaded my most recent bestselling book? It’s designed to help you and your family fall in love with nature. Find it on Amazon or my own estore.

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More from me on yurts:
Living in a Yurt – in the winter
Building a yurt
Inside our yurt house
Yurt living – winning and losing

yurt life

Living in a Yurt – in the winter

7 July, 2016

We have had freezing temperatures in our valley over the last week and we have been asked every day what it is like living in a yurt in the depths of winter. I guess it is easier for people to get their heads around living in a yurt in the summer – it’s basically camping, right, and we all love camping?! But when there is frost on the ground?!

Well, it is beautiful.

And cold.

We have had a few major improvements around here that have made living in a yurt almost like living in a proper house. We feel so flash. All the mod cons. (Not quite all.)

Here is living in a yurt – winter edition:

Winter living in a yurt in NZWEATHER

I have seen photos of people living in a yurt – yurts the same brand as ours – in thick, metres deep snow. We don’t have snow, just MORE RAIN THAN YOU HAVE EVER SEEN.

Oh my golly. It rains here. Any rain going, it is here. Some days will be really sunny, and then at about 4pm a big grey cloud will just pass over and dump rain over us and then move on. As if the weather got a little notification *ping* you haven’t rained over Waitawheta yet.

It’s good for growing stuff, I guess. And the ducks are truly living their best lives. Way better than having no rain aye? You gotta look for positives.

Meanwhile we have to park at the bottom of the paddock cos the mud stops us going any further and trudge up to our place carrying the groceries, the lunch boxes, Ramona’s teddies and Juno’s skateboard and the big bag of stuff from the junk shop including a purple wig and a sombrero (the girls longing for a better day). Both Ramona and Juno have actually got stuck in the mud. And the other week we were exploring the bush and I leapt over a stream thinking to land in the mud on the otherside, it would be okay cos I was wearing wellies, but I SUNK TO MY THIGHS.

When it rains heavily in the yurt it is loud. Sometimes hard to have a conversation. It is probably the one downside to yurt living.

Over the last week it has reached freezing levels, which I haven’t really experienced in other parts of NZ that I’ve lived in. And it has been SO beautiful. Eyewateringly beautiful. Clear blue skies, mist covering the far paddocks, icey forest everywhere else. The girls careen out of bed into their warrm things and go around the farm collecting all the ice they can find into a jar, then they come back to the fire and through it on the top to see it explode into tiny balls. They can not get enough of that ice/fire combo.Living in a yurt in the winter time

FIRE BABY

So yeah, did you notice that? We have a fire! Took forever to get sorted but it has been a gamechanger. We sit around with stew on the top and jacket potatos in the oven bit feeling very pleased with ourselves. The fire also makes hot water, through a wetback system, so we can also have baths!!!! Sometimes the kids are in the bath for about 2.5 hours. I don’t think I will ever take hot water for granted again in my life.

We had about 1.5 months of winter living in a yurt and it was seriously sucky. Damp and cold. I felt like we were going to get really sick. The fire changed everything.

We did a mini-extreme makeover in order to plan the whole yurt interior around us sitting in front of the fire. Moved about the kitchen, put chairs in front. Such a winner. This is our winter yurt configuration. (See our summer yurt house here.)
Living in a yurt in the wintertime
IS IT WARM INSIDE THE YURT?

It is warm enough. We can get it really really toasty when we have the fire cranking, like strip off and play Dragon Fighters in the nick sort of toasty (the kids.) The yurt came with insulation developed by Nasa (basically the worlds biggest silver foil emergency blanket) and it works pretty well. We bank the fire at night and it is still going in the morning, but the temperature dips overnight to being cold. We really have to snuggle under the duvets and stay there until the yurt warms up again at 10am. (Just kidding, it warms up before that, I just like any excuse for lying in bed.)

HOUSTON WE HAVE WIFI

Yeah, woah. Can you believe it? The Vodafone technician came to our farm a few months ago and declared there was no way we could get online, ever. No options sorry. This valley destined to be wifi-less. It’s possible I had a little cry that day. I certainly went ahead and wrote a blogpost about it, one about broken dreams. Lol. So we had pretty much given up on the whole thing. I zip into town a few days a week to work at the library. We Skype my family once a year etc. And then our buddies told us about Vodafone’s Rural Broadband Wifi Box. It’s a box that gets you wifi and you can take it anywhere. So they bought theirs when they were visiting and oh yeah, check it out! Internet in the yurt! So we got our grubby hands on our own box. Pfft. Vodafone. Not even knowing how great your own product is. Moral of the story – don’t believe anyone ever about anything.

Right now Ramona and the neighbours are watching a flick, Juno is doing yoga with the ipad and I am just doing my blog thing. It’s like 2012 around here! We literally haven’t had internet at home for three years. And I am loving it. It will be interesting to see how it pans out – whether I will find it hard to be as present as I have been lately. Over the last few months, once I’ve come home from the library I am home, in body and mind. I wonder if I will feel the negatives of being able to get online so quickly, when so much of my work is online.

Certainly it isn’t exactly easy – we have to prop the box on a crate outside the window and put a Dora Dora the Explorer brolly over it to protect it from the elements. And it just goes on for small portions of the day, and only if the sun is shining….

ELECTRICITY

Despite buying new batteries for our solar system we still don’t have enough battery power to get us happily through a drizzly day. So at the moment we still have large periods where everything in the yurt, including fridge, has to go off. Over the coming weeks we are going to be trialling a hydropower set up in the stream that runs between our two homes. If we can pull that off that will be IMMENSE! We will have all you can eat electricity. I will be blogging my head off.Living in a yurt in the wintertime

LEARN AND PLAY

With the weather being as wet as it has been it has been a bit harder to be self contained on the farm. In the right mood the girls will get naked and dance on the deck with the rain pouring down, or we will rug up and play in the dripping forest.

These icy mornings 😍 we tend to go about with a spoon and a jar and collect all the ice we can just because you know, why not?

A photo posted by Lulastic & the Hippyshake (@lulasticblog) on

Or we will build awesome dens inside the yurt and have elaborate teddy bear picnics. But there have been lots of inside, going crazy days. I have realised that there is less of this crazymaking insideness in the city – there tends to be places where you can go with kids, museums or soft play or something. There is SO little here. Sometimes we drive into town and after we’ve spent 50 minutes in every charity shop, we go to the supermarket cos at least it is dry there. Spurning the yurt and its creature comforts to wander up supermarket aisles and challenge the girls to find prunes.

So we investigated stuff going on in the big town an hour’s drive away and there are loads of fun unschooling things. We have added in some of their indoorsy stuff to our calendar, we drive down for musical theatre and yoga and plan to go to this jumping thing.

Next week we have our first Outdoor Play in Nature and Learn Things happening, with the hopes it might one day be a fully fledged forest school. So, so excited about that.

Yep, living in a yurt in the winter is definitely do-able. Especially if you have a fire, wifi, and a town within driveable distance with more than a supermarket. Hehe. It has it’s fair share of ups and down, (anothe rpost about wining and loosing at yurt life here) and despite having mod cons, still a bit of teeth gritting.

Keep in touch on Instagram, or Facebook, if you like.

If you’ve missed our living in a yurt journey so far click through to see our journey of the last 6 months:

Keep tuned for the next installment! In the mean time, if you want to help your family fall in love with nature please check out my latest ebook, 30 Days of Rewilding (Amazon) or through my e-store here. “A manifesto for a life lived in nature” – The Telegraph. (You don’t have to be living in a yurt in NZ to like it!)

xx

Living in a yurt in the wi

Parenting, yurt life

The Endorphin Experiment (Week 2) – My Body is A Wonderland

30 June, 2016

Harrhahahaha. John Mayer, aye? I’m pretty sure he wasn’t singing that song to someone in order to celebrate their radical self love, but hey!

It’s the theme of this week’s Endorphin Experiment.

My body is AWESOME. Every single cell is capable of producing endorphins. My body is not in battle with my heart/soul/mind. I think I’ve spent so much of my life carrying around this subtle belief in the sinfulness of flesh and pleasure. Over the last few years I guess I have been exploring this idea that if my body is so capable of dishing up delights like babies and endorphins and laughter and orgasms and sneezes, perhaps it is not a bad, rascal of a thing? Perhaps my body is absolutely awesome.

Visceral

The older I get the more at home in my body I become. The more I am able to see the beauty in all its visceral twinges and desires and rustlings. My body produces feelgood chemicals. That is a window on God, right there.

There is a bit in The Endorphin Effect (William Bloom) where he speaks about being in a room full of meditative gurus. They are all up to their necks in Eastern spirituality and meditation and mindfulness, and he had just finished leading them in an intense session full of almost ecstatic body-mind connection. He asks them where they most feel that same sense of flow or bliss in their everyday lives. He was fully expecting them to say “in my daily yoga practice” and other intense spiritual practices, but instead they listed things like “stroking my cat” “riding my bike” “gardening”… It shocked him. And ended up being the thing that led him on a journey towards the biochemical experience of endorphins.

His work in life now is to help people access that experience of endorphins whenever they need it, not when they happen to be relaxed enough to feel it.

I feel like we can be so detached from these visceral pleasures. We are ashamed of them perhaps.But if we can tune into them, obey our senses, there is something really powerful there…. it reminded me of the start of Wild Geese by Mary Oliver.

“You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.”

Focusing our lives on being good does sometimes lead to more goodness in the world (Exhibit A – my Mama), and then sometimes it leads to piousness and burntoutness… I wonder if Mary Oliver and William Bloom are getting at the same thing – inner well being is a better key for unlocking the health and happiness of the world. (Or maybe I am putting a very bland interpretation on it, because of my need to put everything into my “we can build a fairer, kinder world!” narrative!!)

Bloom says “Real pleasure and happiness possess a relaxed flow that is generous to life and the surrounding community.”
Endorphin Experiment
Tension

We all have the endorphin maker! We are like giant Soda Stream Machines, fully able to inject that fizz at the touch of a button.

But the reason it comes upon us so stealthily and leaves so abruptly, (you know; you walk up a mountain at dawn and it’s like WHAM ENDORPHIN CENTRAL and then that feeling slips away and we are left with just a bleary eyed selfie of a foggy morning) and why it isn’t a common part of every day life (hands up who has experience bliss in the last 48 hours?) is because we carry around so much tension in our bodies that, biochemically, the endorphins get stuck. They can’t proceed on their buzz-giving sojourn. The physical pleasure of gardening or stroking the cat relaxes the body enough that the endorphins can be sent out. But we need to get rid of the body’s constant tension in order to let them really flow.

This week I am attempting to, whenever I gather that I am holding myself tensely, to just breath, to let my body relax in to itself. I have found myself constantly, body-rigidly returning to the state of the world… I wrote myself a Mindful post-Brexit Strategy to help with that. And it has really helped.

Week Two’s Exercise
I wrote lists last week of things I love, things that naturally release endorphins within me. Over the last week I have been shoehorning them into my life.

One of them was “dancing” – especially having a rinse out to some heavy, ear popping, bassy beats.

My dancing is kinda like… if you can imagine Napolean Dynamite, with both a little bit more emphasis on “interpretive dance” and also a great, unfounded, belief in my ability to “pop”…

So in no way does the release of endorphins have to do with skill level.

In order to go out dancing I had my first night away from the children, while Tim took them up to visit family. They had a great time, and we all know I did. But the whole day I was carrying this quiet, deep down sense of “this isn’t what good mothers do”… I felt kinda selfish, even though I had comprehensively justified the importance of this in my mind. Perhaps that is wholly natural for the first night away from your kids ever.

I had a great time, but I’ve been figuring out how I can get more of my List into my life WITH children. The list of things I want to do more of, things that flood my body with endorphins – sing, skate, dance.

They are all so bodily.

I feel like I’m just realising now how much a puritanical spirituality has made me reject these urges over the years.

I keep seeing skate parks and think this is totally something me and the girls could do together. I must order new bearings for my board. DONE. Just did it! See how this experiment is just SO WORKING. The Endorphin Experiment
I have been on a skateboard once in the last ten years…. WISH ME LUCK

Although… the “letting the feelgoods flood my system” when feeling stressed isn’t getting easier with practice… if anything it is losing its novel effect and I am carrying on without trying to get any better at the whole kinsthetic experience of endorphins. (This was Week 1’s endorphin exercise)

My mind is just a busy, busy, busy bee. I close my eyes to think about that peaceful, uninhibited memory on the mountain and WHOOOOSH I get “Must change the milk in the kefir/when is Brook’s birthday/must google how hard it is to own a horse/it’s so cute how Juno still says Yipstick instead of Lipstick I should write that down/why are my toes numb/is it bad that the girls never really eat breakfast?”

Really need to get better at that. Really hoping this experiment will help me with it.

So yep, there is week two. Some of you mentioned you might be getting on this endorphin boosting life too – tell me, how are you finding it?

Parenting, yurt life

The Endorphin Experiment (Week 1)

23 June, 2016

Yesterday morning after a night of insomnia, Ramona woke me up by stroking her finger from my forehead to the tip of my nose. I growled and turned my back on her. And then, coming to my senses more, awoken perhaps by the silence of her woundedness, but still with my eyes closed, I rolled back and whispered “Do it again, Ramona.” She did it again and this time I smiled and opened my eyes. She was smiling too and we stared into each others eyes until our smiles became laughs and we began to laugh so hard that we crunched our knees into our bellies and fell in towards each other, noses touching, breath swapping.

Our bodies were flooded with endorphins. We got out of bed, high as kites. Like, physiologically, truly high. Experiencing an effect similar to teens smoking in the bushes. It was the optimal way to wake. So much better than my grumpy normal.

That was the first day of my Endorphin Experiment.

I have been totally pulled in by William Bloom’s book The Endorphin Effect. It puts words (and science, and spirituality) to feelings that I’ve held to for a couple of years. It provides answers to why I think certain parenting practices are important, and to why certain things lead to well being, and it gives real grunt to the idea of mindfulness.

I feel like I have discovered something immensely simple that could have a huge impact on my family well being. 

I have become a bit of an endorphin evangelical over the last couple of weeks. So I thought I would make a bit of a experiment out of it! The whole give up shampoo thing began as a super casual experiment for this blog, and since became something really significant about my life, so (y’know, no pressure) I’ve decided to try it again. This time, instead of going for 100% natural hair care, I am going to practice flooding my body with 100% natural feelgood; endorphins.

I know that it sounds quite self indulgent. But I completely believe that if every person was happier, the whole world would be more peaceful. If we could tap more frequently into the contentment that our endorphins bring us, our decisions will be kinder, more generous, wiser even.

I am particularly interested in this idea as a parent. I am on a mission to not impact my kids with my stress and anger and inner turmoil. I am considering the possibility that our endorphins are intrinsically linked to our ability to parent well.

Eeep, I am beginning to sound a bit scary. A bit TOO into it.  Well look, it might all end up being a load of crap. That’s an experiment for you though isn’t it?

Week One Task

This week’s task was to make a list of all the things that make me happy. People, memories, activities, whatever. And then I had to find a way to bring them more into my life.

One of the ways of using this list is to tap into those things when feeling stressed. It suggests putting photos of events and people around and then turning to them to help you through a bad mood. Or feeling the negativity and then deciding to delve into a memory of when I was super calm and happy, and then try and hold onto that feeling and let it move through my body in a physical way.

I wrote out a few memories but the one I have found most powerful is one from a few years ago. Tim and I went snowboarding in France and would get up the mountain early and enjoy the slopes by ourselves, the sun yet to take its fierce position in the sky. My memory is of gliding free as a bird across untouched snow, a completely uninhibited whoop roaring unbidden from my mouth.

I am working on really letting that mountain memory flood my body, I think it takes some practice! 

I tried using a memory of Juno meeting me at the library after a day away from each other, what it felt like her to shower my face with delicate kisses, my eyelids, my hairline, my nose. At the time is was the most beautiful feeling but that memory didn’t serve the purpose for this task, it is too hard for me to seperate that feeling of happiness with the priviledge/ weight of responsibility as a mother. 

A few times this week I have felt a bubble of anxiety in my chest as I contemplate all the things I have to do, workwise, and around the home/farm. It is such a physical feeling, my heart thumping against my chest wall. Taking a few moments and remembering that feeling of freedom on the mountain has definitely prevented that bubble from taking over and becoming as big as it usually does. But I haven’t quite yet managed to physically feel the endorphins move around my body as Bloom suggests I might.
Over the next few weeks I am going to be trying out a few of the activities in the book, including this one, something I’ve always felt to be true, but am now dedicating myself to:

DO MORE OF WHAT MAKES YOU HAPPY! Will keep you posted!Do more of what makes you happy.

 

yurt life

Inside our yurt house

7 April, 2016

This morning Ramona said “One day our yurt will be like a proper house, aye mum?” Weeeelllll… it will still be made of fabric, but we WILL have proper stairs one day. So yeah. A yurt house, if you like?!

Ramona hankers after bricks and mortar a little bit, but also those widescreen tv’s that are in the more “normal” houses she knows. Juno, and the rest of us, love living in the yurt. The slogan of the yurt company that built it is “Yurts: at home in nature” – and it is SO TRUE. You really feel like that. It is solid and house-like in many ways, but you still hear the rushing of the river and call of the tui birds and the ducks quacking their heads off at dawn.

In our last yurt we tended to get a few leggy friends inside. (I’m talking about bugs. See the inside of our last yurt house and all the insect life there.)

So far we’ve been happily pest free. Apart from our farty puppy whom we love but drives us up the wall! She chews everything – including the plug right off the cord of our MacBook and barbies. (They are her faves.)  The double glazing keeps the bugs at bay, but not our smelly puppy.

Inside our yurt house Our yurt house has a little loft inside that we sleep on, and over the next little while we are hoping to get some proper stairs up there and a nice banister. And we’ve got work to do to make the kitchen a little more organised, and a solid walls to go under the mezzanine. But if you are interested in our work so far please do check out my new video and try and ignore our filthy windows. Our dog likes to lick them.

We love living in our yurt so much and it felt like such a sensible decision (low impact, affordable, quick and simple to put up – see us building the yurt here) that we didn’t even think too hard about whether we wanted to do it. It is only when other people Laugh Out Loud (my mum’s hairdresser) that we remember it isn’t a very usual place to live. We have lots of friends who live in buses, yurts, tiny houses, earthships and more – so diverse home settings seem completely normal (often wise!) to us.


So just a little one from me, I wanted to give you the little tour inside.

If you’ve missed our yurt house journey so far click through to see our journey of the last 6 months:

Keep tuned for the next installment! In the mean time, if you want to help your family fall in love with nature please check out my latest book, 30 Days of Rewilding. “A manifesto for a life lived in nature” – The Telegraph.

yurt life

Off the grid living – six months in, two yurts built, one broken dream

29 March, 2016

You know that little rhyme about the girl with a curl? When she is good she is really, really good, and when she is bad she is horrid? Off the grid living is a bit like that. When everything is going well it is completely and utterly dream like… but then, a few little things go wrong, and it’s like a horrible nightmare where you are on your knees in your favourite trousers digging a Vodafone technician’s car out of the mud with your bare hands, the very Vodafone technician who just told you that you’ll never be able to get the internet wired up at home.

Oh wait! That really happened!

Winter just arrived with such a big fat wallop over the head, it’s unreal. One minute we were camping out on the beach, foraging for shell fish and digging epic sandcastles while our backs crisped in the sun, the next minute we were at home on the farm, sinking in miry clay, staring at one broken washing machine, one broken generator and one broken dream of being able to Skype my family from our lounge.

WORST WEEK EVER.

We had an idea that by the end of March we would be all set up, ready to take off the grid living from the summer version (swimming in the river, barbecues, an abundance of solar electricity) to the winter version (wood burning stove heating water for hot baths and cooking our stews, hunkering down in blankets to watch the stars appear) in blissful comfort. But instead we are (once again) a bit behind in all of this, despite (once again) busting a gut.

We still don’t have hot water. Or a deck (this is kind of important when your yurt is surrounded by mud.) Or a fire. Or any hope of being able to use the internet properly from home. (At the moment we can get a few gbs on the mobile if we place it on a certain spot on the window sill.) I don’t mean to make a fuss about the internet thing but we had really hung a lot on the idea that I’d be able to work from home (my entire livelihood is based on the internet) and we’d be able to be in proper contact with my family. I’ve literally skyped them twice since September. I do feel mega bummed out about it.

We DO have: two children that love to cover themselves in paint and food and mud and an immensely hairy dog that burrows like a bunny into enormous mountains of soil and then bowls inside and bounces around the furniture like a clay covered, fur shedding honey badger.

Fortunately, we also do have: friends that take our emergency washing and give it back to us all clean and dry and folded, and friends that take the batteries for our tools and charge them for us when the sun hasn’t shone for eleven days and our solar power digital display is flashing “WHAT SORT OF PLACE IS THIS WHERE IT RAINS FOR ELEVEN DAYS STRAIGHT- PLEASE GOOGLE “HYDRO ELECTRICITY””

Well, this is the sort of place where, when you look at the weather map, the whole of New Zealand has little sunshines all over it and our little valley has a big fat rain cloud. And yeah, okay, solar panels, one day we WILL rig up a little system in our stream to generate power through the winter months, see how you like that with your little left out self!

Also. We do have a local library with a great internet connection, loads of electricity and a lot of good books, which makes the winter seem a little bit more do-able.

I guess that’s one thing about off the grid living, the early days at least, it does make you quite dependant on good friends and family and good local infrastructure. Which isn’t a bad thing. I bet there are tonnes of self sufficient people out there who have done this so long and have got everything so very sorted, that they don’t need to rely on the people around them. But I guess a little bit of me thinks it is a good thing to all be able to lean on each other a bit…

And more things we have: (I realise I am applying a gratitude philosophy as I write. That’s nice hey? I am counting my blessings. My blessings shall be the rungs with which I pull myself up from the mud beneath New Zealand’s terrible rural internet service.)

We have ducklings! Fluffy baby things make everything better and even when it is raining so hard you can barely see to the end of the paddock, your eye still snags on a whole line of white ducks waddling along having an absolute freaking blast and the corners of your mouth still lift into a (ever so slightly begrudging) smile.

And, as of about half an hour ago, sorry husband, we do have a robotic vacuum cleaner.  It’s not courtesy of Santa, who heard neither my plea for a robot nor a stop to my dog’s farts nor a repeat prescription for deworming pills. But from Ebay. From a guy called Roger who like only used it twice. Thanks Roger. And it may not have been a purchase discussed with all the budget holders in our family and yes, our solar panels may not get enough juice to make it work but symbolically it makes me feel better.  It makes me feel absolutely freaking awesome. I think its mere presence in my life will just stop our dog shedding her fur all over the place.

(And there’s always the library, for a sneaky little charge, hey? I’m sure this kind of stealth is what good healthy communities are founded upon.)

Apart from picking our way through mud and sweeping up dog hairs (no longer!!!) our days are made up of a lot of the sort of things I always hoped they would, which is nice. The girls and I pack a picnic most days we are home and slip and slide our way along the river and up the mountain. Every morning they wake up and say “Let’s climb the mountain today!” and although we’ve never made it to the top (five hour return journey) we always give it a good bash. There is a nikau palm a third of the way up, I don’t know who started it, but it’s called the Love Palm and it gets a cuddle from all of us when we pass it. Hugging a tree starts off a little awkward folks, but then its beautiful. 

 Ramona cutting kindling with her ax.

The garden is growing and we even have a bunch of wild flowers brightly blooming after chucking some seed bombs about the place. I am fermenting a lot of food (on purpose) – it seems to be the only way I can deal with the millions of marrows that keep spawning in the veggie patch. They don’t care about eleven days of rain, marrows. They don’t care. I chuck them in a jar with a bunch of other veggies and some salt and three days later = more probiotic goodness than you can shake a yoghurt at.

I realised I may have been spending too much time on this fermenting thing when I had a dream that Juno and I were sauerkraut and the duvet was the brine and I had to keep us covered so we didn’t go mouldy.

Or perhaps it is a symptom. The bottom line of this sort of life. When it’s good it is sublime and when it’s bad you dream that you are a fermenting cabbage. 

 PS- I kid you not, the sun has come out today! We can only conclude that my new robot is amazing.