Parenting, yurt life

The Endorphin Experiment (Week 6)

11 August, 2016

Two weeks ago we hiked through a pine forest and burst out at this long, empty beach. The sun was shining for the first time in about 83 days and, thinking about how I’d been grieving summer for weeks, and acting so quickly that I couldn’t talk myself out of it, I shucked off my welly boots, peeled off my socks, pushed off my puffa jacket and wriggled out of my jeans and jumper. I careered into the sea, pale wintery limbs and boobs awaving, and dove under a wave. I sprang to my feet as Tim and Ramona ran in, both butt naked too.

I don’t know what they were doing, for, in hindsight, I can see that for me it was all a very clear and measured part of my Endorphin Experiment! Doing what I love, living well in my body, following urges. And what an endorphin buzz! And the glee stayed for hours! Endorphin Experiment

***

Yikes! Week Six of the Endorphin Experiment  – skipped a few weeks there! I have still been doing my experiment though, so I’ve lots to catch you up on.

(Please Read Endorphin Experiment Week 1 and Endorphin Experiment Week 2 to get up to scratch.)

Firstly, this has been a costly experiment… I went overdue TWO TIMES with The Endorphin Effect and now owe $4.30 to the library.

But, guess what, I didn’t stress out about those four buckeroonies!! Nope, no worries, I just tapped into my endorphins and felt good immediately.

Really?

Okay, I can’t tap into my endorphins immediately, instantly, on demand just yet. Not every time. But there have been at least 8 experiences over the last 4 weeks that would have unleashed a wave of cortisol or other stress hormones over me that I was able to prevent using the techniques.

Key Techniques:
I am going to try to get across concepts that are written about in The Endorphin Effect in exhaustive detail, including ancient Eastern spirituality and medicine, as well as biochemical research… so be gracious as I go ahead and cover them in five paragraphs! ha.

Strawberries
Strawberries is the shortcut William Bloom uses to talk about those things that fill us with delight – it’s based on a parable he tells in the book. It might be memories of amazing days, thoughts of people, works of art, the smell of the ocean. I wrote a list of my strawberries in Week One and my ongoing job is to be able to recall the feeling my strawberries bring me at the clicks of a finger, and also, to build more strawberries into my life.

I have put pictures and poems up around our home and, genuinely, as I walk about the home my eyes catch these things and I tiny glimpse of feelgood begins – these days I stop, breathe and let that feel good wash over me, rather than stopping.

Inner Smile
That thing I described in that last sentence is essentially the “Inner Smile” – it is taking a moment to stop, breathe, think about my strawberries, and imagine a smile beginning in my centre and unfolding to swallow my whole body.

I know. It sounds crackers but it works a treat. And if you are put off by the “Inner Smile” please don’t read further…lol of lols…

Curled Deer
The Curled Deer is getting into a state of restfulness where all your body energy can flow. It is the other half of the Inner Smile, but perhaps more for those times when you feel unenergetic and in need of peace rather than glee.

Big New Concept and Task:

Unboundaried Dreaming

Bloom makes the case for doing big, colourful, intuitive dreaming when you are riding a wave of feelgoods. Doesn’t that make sense? We so often plan in a panic. The shit hits the fan and we go “ARGH RIGHT WHAT ARE WE GONNA DO” and we end up locked in a cycle of limited scope. Like, our baby has 3 bad nights in a row and we decide to stop night breastfeeding.

Nooooooo!

The alternative is to tap into our endorphins and then take some time to imagine the future as we want to see it.

I can *really* see this as being an important parenting tool.

I decided to give it a go with my relationship with my children.

I did strawberries and inner smile, waited till i could actually feel the bubble of delight begin in my stomach and fizz out over my body, and then began imagining my life with Ramona and Juno.

I imagined our mornings as peaceful and our interactions as respectful. I imagined some of the normal points of tension in our day, but envisioned them as easy and joyous. I imagined in detail, full colour, followed where my mind wanted to go.

This kind of dreaming can be applied to any area of work or home or relationships.

It is natural to move on from the dream and take some practical steps towards the fulfillment of the dream, say, speaking to someone to be a mentor or getting a relevant book out. For my one, I decided I would wake up every morning and give my children a loved up smile. So basic, but it is a big deal for me because my body’s natural wake up time is about 9am (harhahahahaha) and digging deep to find an Actual Face Smile each morning has been pretty transformative.

***

So I’ve been really tucking into my strawberries and have given myself permission for full, visceral joy, and I’ve been inner smiling and unboundaried dreaming left, right and centre for several weeks now and I can’t tell you which one of those things is paying off, but I have certainly had some of the most peaceful and contended weeks of my life.

(We also got wifi at home during this time so it *could* be that. I jest, I jest!!)

Now, it would be easy to say all this inner smile and unboundaried stuff is free (well, apart form library fines) so therefore accessible to anyone… but I think that would be a naively privileged perspective. For, if you are crushed under bills and only a hairbreadth away from trouble, where do you find the headspace for this stuff? I would love to examine this more, and would love to hear your perspectives.

***

I’ve got a final installment of big picture endorphin/ parenting thoughts coming so keep your eyes peeled next week!

I have heard from some of you that you have gone out and bought The Endorphin Effect -I would LOVE to hear your thoughts on it.

Also – here is my latest Youtube, vaguely related through the concept of Mum Guilt! This is about Stay At Home Vs Go To Work Mamas….

Attachment parenting

Attachment parenting is the antidote to societal sadism

1 August, 2016

By Jove attachment parents get a hard rap don’t they? Between the “you only breastfeed for your own pleasure” and “you are a judgmental masochist” there is barely room to move!

I am impelled to respond to Hadley Freeman’s Weekend article – Attachment Parenting; the best way to parent or maternal masochism. Attachment parenting was so utterly misrepresented and the piece was so obviously written in a blur of scathing hatred that by writing this I feel like I am standing up to the class bully.

I have spent five years practicing attachment parenting and being amongst groups of attachment parenting mothers and have firmed up some stuff that I want to share.

Attachment parenting is intellectual
Attachment parenting arose from attachment theory, these days an established tenet in the field of psychology. But since the middle of last century there has sprung a wealth of  research in the fields of biology, neurology, psychiatry, and genetics that back up these findings in psychology. It cannot be plucked out and studied in a vacuum; “look at these strange mothers letting their toddler sup from their breasts – this is so visceral it must be anti-intellectual!” It is the only parenting philosophy I am aware of that works so hard to incorporate the latest cross-discipline scientific findings. Every year there seems to be more evidence suggesting that secure attachments made in childhood make for healthier well being later.

The people who have deliberately chosen attachment parenting are so often the people who have set out to find the most solid information on best parenting practice. I have sat in a room at an attachment parenting meet up with pHd students, doctors, lawyers. They did not eschew their brains and wobble into it – they chose it because of the wealth of research around it.

Attachment parenting is egalitarian
At the same time attachment parenting has a physical simplicity to it that makes it an economically accessible choice for anyone. It requires almost no financial outlay. No buggies, or cribs, or bottles. Having a baby for most people is one of the most expensive events of your life. Not so with AP. There’s no buggy shame going on the bus. When we lived in a poor corner of South London babywearing was common, a parenting practice that arrived in the waves of immigration and had stayed.

There is certainly some space within attachment parenting discourse to discuss privilege and the increasingly narrow parenting choices available to women. For some people straying from the mainstream/ NHS advice would feel like or even be a perilous route.

A good example would be here in NZ where there is a great fear of cosleeping, a traditionally Maori parenting practice, because infant mortality statistics are so impacted by poverty, a place where Maori are overrepresented. Here in NZ cosleeping is popular but largely done by stealth and never admitted to – particularly by those who need to keep their heads down. In response to these figures a cosleeping device has been developed and funding sourced to provide poor families with a way of cosleeping immensely safely (it eradicates problems arising from alcohol/drug use or overtiredness.) And just last week the government cut the funding for it. There are important conversations we need to be having about parenting practice and privilege. And the way certain parenting practice becomes associated, or not, with wealth, or the lack of. However the finger needs to be pointed somewhere other than at the middle class mothers resilient enough to turn up for tea and cakes at a hotel with a journo.Attachment parenting is the antidote to societal violence

Attachment parenting is pro-women
Attachment parenting says that parenthood is an incredibly valuable form of employment, and considering the vast numbers of women that continue to stay home with their babies, I’d say that makes AP pretty pro-women.

Personally, I returned to work part time both times when my children were 15 months old, and I loved it, and I felt really good about it. And everyday that I work I. LOVE. IT. And I am about as hardcore AP as it gets. I am to AP what Donald Trump is to evil.

Attachment parenting says children need secure attachments, and prescribes nothing after that. Many of the things associated with AP – babywearing and cosleeping- are tools that can actually assist fathers or other mothers/caregivers in providing that secure attachment to children when mothers return to work.

I am honestly totally sick to my eyeballs of people blaming attachment parenting for holding women back.

How about we get some goddamn laws in place that make it possible for men and women to work half time so they can figure out shared childcare? How about we up the salaries in the industries where women work so that when families have to make a choice about who goes back to work and who stays at home there is an actual choice that isn’t completely economically ridiculous?

You can’t blame attachment parenting for being unfeminist simply because we don’t yet have the progressive enough infrastructure to allow either gendered parent to do stay at home.

Attachment parenting is pro-women, it would be more so if it didn’t exist within this f*&king patriarchy we all live in.

(Actually struggle to say The Patriarchy without getting a f*&king in there. Sorry Aunty Heather.)

(Also, how about referencing some recent, female authors on attachment parenting, Hadley Freeman, rather than an old white male? Try Massaro and Katz, of The Other Baby Book, or Sarah Ockwell Smith, Babycalm. Pfft. Just a little bit of the internalised misogyny evidenced in your article.)
Attachment Parenting is the antidote to a violent society

Attachment parenting is the antidote to societal sadism

Lastly, and possibly most importantly as it is central to the reason why so many people choose attachment parenting, and it was treated so poorly by Freeman in her article; attachment parenting is part of the solution to the problem of injustice, cruelty, and oppression we have in society.

It sounds naïve- “the way we parent can change the world” – but some of history’s more tenacious world changers understood it. Mother Teresa famously implored one person who was asking about the best way to help change things “What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.'”

And what is the love that matters? The one the child feels. The love that is tangible, that leads to floods of endorphins, that limits cortisol. The love that says a caregiver is present and not absent. The love that nurtures the empathy epicentre we all have within our brains, breaking societal violence in the process.

In the Science of Parenting Margot Sunderland says “Society reaps what it sows in the way it nurtures its children, because stress sculpts the brain to exhibit several antisocial behaviors. Stress can set off a ripple of hormonal changes that permanently wire a child’s brain to cope with a malevolent world. Through this chain of events, violence and abuse pass from generation to generation as well as from one society to the next.”

Historical studies find correlation between gentle parenting practice and less societal violence. (If there is one thing you do as a result of reading this it should be to go and buy Robin Grille’s book, Parenting for a Peaceful World.)

We need attachment parenting more than ever. 2016 has sucked. There have been hate crimes perpetrated by civilian and State, and a seemingly global rise of politicians peddling racism like it’s 1940. There seems to be a ruthless sadism marching across communities all over the world. We need solutions to this, they are long term, they are ordinary, quiet, some of solutions are in our homes, on our laps.

The Guardian was remiss to print something so clearly subjective, born of triggers, when it could have had a well-researched piece on the huge body of work linking attachment parenting to personal well being – and therefore, potentially, if practiced on a wide scale, societal well being.

“World peace is not only an entirely attainable goal, it is a modest one. The conditions that would bring it about require but a small fraction of the effort and expense we devote to fighting wars and fighting crime. A continued social evolution is quite possible, but it depends entirely on our collected efforts to keep improving the emotional lives of children. Our commitment to children’s emotional health will ensure our rapid evolution toward a peaceful, just, sustainable and enjoyable existence for all of humanity.” Robin Grille

More reading:
Read Sophie Christophy’s brilliant analysis of how attachment parenting is a social justice movement.
Read Milk Meg’s Debunking the Shit out of Attachment Parenting Myths – brilliant historical context for AP.
Read more on the science of attachment theory-  the biological roots of love.

~

There must be space for an honest analysis of attachment parenting, particularly if it is failing mothers. There are definitely times that advocates of attachment parenting can come across as judgmental, but that is a flaw of human nature, not the parenting philosophy. And there is often guilt within it – this is the burden of all parenting, I believe, and something we need to deal with internally, no matter what parenting model we subscribe to. As advocates of attachment parenting we need to call out any judginess – our work is empathy and kindness, not smuggery- and we need to call out any martyrdom; that’s not what we are about.

But the bones of attachment parenting are good – more so, they are world changing. If we could build more of an understanding about what nurturing attachment between child and adult IS I think we’d find more people were doing it, and more people would want to do it, than we think.

A parenting philosophy that can create a kind, nonviolent world? I am so in. With bells on. And no masochism.

More reading:
Attachment Parenting Isn’t Martyrdom Parenting (on the death of Peaches Geldoff)
Attachment Parenting – beyond breastfeeding and babywearing
It takes a village – to be the parent you want to be

Feminism

In a sexist world, commenting on gender differences you notice is NOT HELPING

28 July, 2016

There’s something strange in the neighbourhood. It’s a resurgence in the belief that boys and girls are innately different. It has crept into modern parenting lore and it is driving me round the bend.

In the last few months I have had at least 8 different conversations with parents along the lines of “Ooh! You are so lucky to have little girls and not rambunctious boys!” – one of these conversations moments after we’d ducked away from a small tribe of girls covered from head to toe in mud intent on slinging it at everyone around them.

How has this happened? In 2016? With all the science and things?

I wonder if it hitched a ride on the tails of “natural parenting.” Perhaps the commitment to allowing children to bloom into whomever they are and the desire for mamas to be in touch with their own ancient feminine powers got all jumbled up together and out popped “Boys and girls are innately different!”

I’ve heard so many variants on it, many from parents with children of both genders. And it is tricky to have that conversation with a mama who swears she never believed in gender stereotypes until she saw proof in her own children.

When I do address it, it’s all rolled eyes and knowing chuckles. Like I’ve a bee in my bonnet and I am denying something blatantly obvious.

This is what I want to say to all the mamas out there who say this shit.

SOME FACTS:

(Taken from Pink Brain, Blue Brain, a huge book by Lise Eliot but worth the read if you are interested in this stuff. That link hooks you up with a summary.)

  • The actual differences in the brains of boys and girls are minor. MINOR.
  • We treat boys and girls differently the second they are born. YES- EVEN YOU DO THIS. In gender-disguising experiments we describe boys and girls cries differently, and we judge babies crawling abilities differently. (Unconsciously underestimating girls’ physical scope.) We all do. It’s just disturbing residue of a sexist world.
  • Gender stereotypes are intrinsically woven through our entire society. You have not bought up your differently gendered children exactly the same, despite your best efforts. They have picked up from strangers, teachers, books, movies, shops, everywhere, the fact that boys behave a certain way and girls another. Not only this, but there are certain rewards for sticking to that or disincentives for stepping out of it.
  • Throughout childhood the minor differences observed in play grow distinct distinct because of all the things they have picked up.
  • However, this is not always the case. So you still very much have boys and girls not performing according to these norms. (I think unschooled children can be a good example of this.)
  • In places where gendered roles and experiences are not highly valued the differences in adults are MINUTE. I often think of a bit in Ten Years of Slavery where it mentions as an aside how one of the most efficient group of loggers was a group of women. It stuck out for me because we go on and on about the physical differences between male and female, and there you have this female logging team being renowned for their strength and tenacity. (Kind of a sad example, but a good one as there are not too many examples of societies with records where gender hasn’t been a highly prescriptive thing.)In a misogynistic world, observations about children's gender differences are not helpful

So, if you have noticed gender differences in your children, PLEASE KEEP THEM TO YOURSELF. Here’s why:

  • Commenting on gender differences perpetuates gender differences. Every time you say “boys are boisterous and girls aren’t” boys learn to be more boisterous and girls learn it isn’t really a desirable trait. Your words actually add more strength to the little boxes that boys and girls are slowly pushed into.
  • Commenting on gender differences makes the boys and girls who don’t fit those stereotypes feel stink. It makes them feel abnormal and it asks them to squeeze into a shape they are not feeling.
  • Commenting on gender differences from your experience and treating it as fact is not a good way to live. Saying “I was against gender stereotypes until I had one of each and then WOW the differences I observed, you just can’t deny it boys and girls are SO different!!!” is like saying “I ate some custard and it gave me the runs so WOW don’t eat custard if you want solid stools!”
  • Commenting on gender differences sets up our children for exclusionary play. If you are so convinced that boys and girls are innately different then your children will pick up on that and will be far, far more likely to want gendered playdates and experiences and the exclusive, gender based discrimination women have to put up with their whole life is begun prematurely.
  • Some of the most traditional form of gender commentating is actually totally toxic – the “boys will be boys” line of thought could well be contributing to rape culture. More on that.
  • Commenting on gender differences without recognising the misogynistic, sexist, patriarchal society your children are raised within is akin to watching someone put red dye in your washing machine and then, when all your clothes come out red, saying that all fabric is innately red.

Sure, you are allowed to comment on your child being rough and tumble – just don’t bring gender into it. Create room for your child’s boisterousness but don’t, with your hapless words, deny him room for other parts of his personality to develop. Notice how different children are and say “Isn’t each child (as opposed to boys/ girls) so different and unique?!” Celebrate your child’s strength and sense of adventure but recognise it as part of who he is, not a gift of his gender. Do not limit the scope of another child’s play or experience by skewed observations you have made in your home.

Phew! There was my bee! It’s out of my bonnet now…

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.

Come and say hi on Facebook or Instagram!

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

Breastfeeding

The Weaning of a Breastfeeding Devotee

14 July, 2016

Last night I had a dream that my friend showed me her post breastfeeding boobs. She flipped one out of her bra and began unfolding it and unfolding it, like a magician pulling colourful scarves out of a top hat, until it stretched out as long as her arm. A flat, long, roll of breast. Knowingly, I stuck out my chin and nodded. She began folding it back into her bra, concertina like, matter of fact.

Five long years these boobs of mine have been in feeding action, and just now are they being retired from active, on-demand service. These days they make an appearance for an occasion, three times a day, for my three year old, Juno. And a tokenistic once a month for Ramona who is five. And I guess we will stick to this until Juno is ready for me to hold them a retirement party.

(I say “I guess” because you can only do what you can do, eh? I didn’t think I’d have to lead Juno into a three times a day habit, but it turns out, I just did. My body was beginning to revolt against the constant draw of resources.)

When I first suggested to Juno, about a month ago, that I would like to take breastfeeding down from a million times a day to three times a day she told me to “write it down.” I had to get my book and write it down, and then she made me tear it out and fold it into a tiny square and put it in my wallet. For her own reasons she was wanting this decision minuted and put in an important place.

It has mostly been a fraughtless weaning.  Just a couple of upset moments from Juno. One where she gave me an ultimatum;

“Either you give me booboo or you go to Pak N Save (that’s New Zealand’s budget supermarket) – you choose.

I don’t know where she picked up the idea of ultimatums, I was definitely cowed. I haaaaaate grocery shopping, and the kid knows it.

Breastfeeding and weaning a three year old

Ah, breastfeeding. What a sweet joy and complex act of motherhood! Source of new mama angst and bloodied nipples, source of immense feelgood body chemicals. Cause of public anger and humiliation, and personal pride and wholeness. Creator of massive, overflowing, up-to-your-chin boisterous breasts and also, eventually, of long, flat, fold-into-your-bra dried up glands.

It’s the start of goodbye, from two breastfeeding devotees.

***

I’ve written SO MUCH about breastfeeding over the years. For a while there it was all I went on about. Here is some stuff you might like.

Breastfeeding Older Children Together

Nursing in public and the breastfeeding pyramid scheme

Our experience of tandem breastfeeding

Nursing a micromachine

Me! Eat! Your boobies!

Breastfeeding in public as an act of public service

A Breastfeeding Poem

100 Names for Breastfeeding from around the world

Breastmilk is yummier than ice cream and funny things my kids say about breastfeeding

Breastfeeding in art

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.

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