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Living Off Grid in the summer (in a yurt in New Zealand)

6 April, 2017

I know I write that a lot “living off grid in a yurt in New Zealand” bla bla and I’m so boring about it. But honestly. It cracks me up EVERY TIME. I get a little bubble in my chest. Like, THIS LIFE. This life in a yurt in New Zealand. See, see how I am actually cracking my self up?! Who lives in a yurt?! (Apart from, like, most of the population of Mongolia?)

Imagine saying to my eleven year old self, born and raised in a concrete jungle, the one with a Jamaican Cockney accent because that’s how all kids speak in South London, the one who was getting bullied almost everyday ‘cos the kids on the school bus drove past her when she was fishing a Los Angeles Raiders baseball cap out of the bin outside the fish and chip shop, imagine telling her that when she is thirty four she’ll have two wild kids, a whole herd of highland cows (or horny cows, as Juno calls them), a very handsome partner, who turns out is actually a bit of a cow whisperer, and a yurt to live in?

We’ve had that thing where the clocks change this week, so all of a sudden it is dusk at 5pm. And it’s cold in the morning, and the mist has begun rolling into our fields. This week feels very much like the end of summer. We have still swum in the river but it has been a feat of bravery, rather than the luxurious heat-relief it usually is.

So I thought I’d do a bit of a summery – geddit, ha. You know. Summary. But like, with summer in it?

Aye, aye, aye.

And I am going to be super real. Like SO REAL. Because I really believe that in amongst this show reel of social media, dotted amongst the swimming with dolphins and the children gulping kale smoothies we need people putting their hands up and saying “We’ve had a horrible bout of threadworm.” So here we go. Fifteen things about our off grid summer fendango. Off grid living in the summer in new zealand in a yurt

1- Threadworm is no joke. Turns out though, that if you live on a farm they DO actually give you a bulk batch of worming pills as per my Christmas wish YAY.

2- Baby cows! We have had two baby cows born this last fortnight, and my days, you have never seen a cuter thing. You can spy the one week old cow in the first couple of seconds of my latest youtube. (Also involves our honey harvest, that time we were evacuated at midnight, cyclones and a squillion cute things.)

3- I thought I would do a “one good thing, one real thing” thing – so now it is the real thing; DEATH. So much death on a farm. I was vegetarian for 22 years. And then when we began living this way I realised that the problem with an unsustainable meat industry isn’t the eating of the meat, but the way the animals are treated for their whole life, and the way they are killed, and the amount that is eaten. So in an attempt to eat even MORE ethically and locally, I began eating the very very happy organic meat we grow on our farm. Beef and Ducks. They are delicious and I am so thankful for them. But in an emotional way I still haven’t really come to terms with it. It’s been two years and when we butcher the animals I feel a bit overwrought.  The other day I accidentally looked inside a bucket and there were all the duck heads that we were due to bury and it haunted me in my sleep. There’s also alot of other death around too. The other day our dog caught a rabbit. She usually just eats them but she began playing with this one and it was absolutely terrified and bleeding so I had to get a spade and, and, I, I had to to kill it.

Ohhhh.

JEEPERS WHY AM I TELLING YOU ALL OF THIS. It is the most horrifying part of our life!!!!!!! I know I’m trying to be real but seriously, Lucy, we are only on number THREEEEEE.

Rein it in, geeez.

4- Sorry, okay, so there is death, but there is also LIFE! Our fruit trees are growing and we get the feeling they will be yielding fruit next year. HURRAY! We also got quite a lot of veggies and that meant for a good few meals we were able to eat solely from our farm which was incredible. I found a whole tiny forest of celery the other day which I didn’t think had taken, and a pumpkin growing in a tree in the forest!

5- But the truth is… I’m actually a pretty poor gardener. I really need to grow in diligence to be a better gardener. We put in a huge effort raising beds and mulching and got in hundreds of seedlings at the very start of summer. And then as summer grew hotter and drier and our hose stopped doing the spinning thing they usually do, the veggies began freaking out and got inundated with moth and stink beetles and I began feeling like such a failure that I couldn’t even look at it anymore which is NO WAY TO RESCUE A DYING GARDEN. It is by grace and grace alone (and a bit of rain) that the kale and pumpkins have begun growing again with the change in seasons.

6- MICE. Oh, they like it inside once the weather turns don’t they! They have wisened to our traps so they chew all night in great bonhomie. Rodents are just part of the picture when you live rurally I think. But they get in my head a bit.

7- It’s felt like some of the community visions we’ve had have begun to really solidify this summer. We’ve had some incredibly beautiful Kindling days (these are days when unschooling families come over to play in the forest – I’ve written about these in the past How To Start an Outdoor Playgroup) and some really potent moon circles. It has been so so nice to grow in community with those around us, and feel as though we are creating a farm where people feel welcome.

8- The yurt has been hot. It was our first full summer in the yurt, last year we moved in to it in mid-Jan and don’t recall any days that were too hot. But this year there have been about ten days where it has been absolutely sweltering. If we remember to hang sheets in the windows (ordinary folk use curtains haha) then it does help, but is then quite dark inside.

9- The solar cranks all summer. It is so nice living on energy produced by the sun. I mean, seriously, get your head around that! The sun hits our panels which then shoots electricity into the computer that I am typing on right now. We can run a washing machine, fridge, computers, wifi, sound system, charge our robot vacuum, kitchen gadgets. All BY THE POWER OF GRAYSKULL! The sun, I mean, sorry; BY THE POWER OF THE SUN.

10- Within a week, this week of changing seasons, we have begun having electricity woes. We just loooooove technology. We love playing music and using our computers. It’s possibly the least off-grid part of our life but it can be so rough (and gross – DUCK HEADS) that having music play is such a balm. But this week we have gone back to having to be really quite careful about our electricity use. Meanwhile, we are working on a hydro-electricity project which could be incredible.

11- Our Airbnb yurt has been booked out solidly all summer. We have had SO much fun seeing families stay and enjoy the farm and the river and the fairy kingdom. It’s been a proper lovely thing. We would definitely suggest to people who are homesteading or living on a farm that they consider putting something on Airbnb, it’s a way of both sharing your beautiful land with others and helping make memories whilst being an extra income stream.

12- We are selling our bus, Berty Boo Bum. Now that we live in such a beautiful place we just don’t need to take our bus on missions as much! Which means we need to let it go to people who will really get the most out of it. Lemme know if you want a bus, right? We have bought a caravan to do up as a replacement, which also kind of belongs in the bad category cos we REALLY don’t need another project. EEEEEEEP! The things we do. Living life on a whim. Out on a limb. And a wing. And a bit of a prayer.

13- We found a new sieve (you know, you drain your peas with them) at a secondhand shop and it doesn’t have flakey paint or rust in it and it is such a delight to use! Same with our new tin opener. How good are tin openers that WORK?! It’s the little things, hey peeps.

14- We had this strange experience at a beautiful little festival, there was a flash flood and we were all evacuated in the middle of the night. But the really strange thing about it is how it kind of effected us all afterwards. We were thrust into this really intense, volatile emotional state. I can’t exactly pin it on the evacuation, but we have had all of these meltdowns out of the blue and I wonder if it comes down to some deep relationship with a sense of safety. And I guess what I’m trying to say is that, yep, we live this almost bucolic life in some regards but we still have these exhaustingly emotional days.

15-  We have had quite a few days this summer where we have been swimming in our river or on some sort of adventure on our doorstep and gone “We are so fortunate to live here, to live this life.” It can be hardwork, relentless (although certainly living with another family helps that sense of relentlessness) but the flip side is waking up to the sun soaking the mountain, spending heaps of time together as a family and feeling a solid connection with nature.

So there you go. 15 things about our off grid summer. Clearly not designed to make anyone want to do it! But hopefully giving you a true picture of all the good things and all the bad things.

PS Want more nature loving stuff? My latest book is designed as 30 short readings you can do each day over your morning cup of tea to help you fall in love with nature. See more here!

PPS See Living In a Yurt In the Winter and Inside Our Yurt House and Living Off Grid for One Year for more writing and things.

yurt life

An off grid Christmas in a yurt in New Zealand

7 December, 2016

I’m sitting on the sofa with a redbush tea and a bar of chocolate, feeling completely shattered, creaky boned weary.

Do you ever feel like life just bites you on the bum sometimes? When decisions that you know are right end up being tough ones?

We aren’t busy with the normal festive stuff, the bustling about with shopping and Christmas prep, but we are overwhelmed by the rush of summer and new farm animals and building infrastructure and other elements of off grid life.

In fact, I’d say this month has been one of the hardest since going off grid. The work has just felt absolutely relentless. Our new animals have been escaping, and we’ve put in a new bit of driveway so people can more easily visit (Tim borrowed a digger), as well as trying to put together the fanciest AirBNB yurt ever.

I had also set myself the challenge of Nanowrimo – a first draft of a novel in one month. In a way writing my 50,000 words late at night and in stolen corners of the day meant I had something to look forward to each day, but it also put on a lot of unnecessary pressure! When I look back on this last stressful month I’m like – why in the blazes did I keep doing nanowrimo?!?!?!?!?! The truth is, it felt important to me, to prioritise something that I get a lot out of. Does that make sense? Sometimes self-care looks like going to bed at 10pm and getting enough sleep and sometimes it means googling “how to write fiction” at 1am.

One of the factors has been how we accidentally ended up with a million more farm animals this month. It is all exactly the right thing for our farm, and it has all worked out in a totally serendipitous way. But it has been SO FULL ON. Watch our new video to meet these mysterious, slightly scary, creatures. Also Ramona’s first bash at beekeeping:

(This video was filmed on our first day with the animals, I am used to them now and we are on far better terms…eeep!)

It’s always funny approaching Christmas being a Brit in NZ.

Last Christmas we stayed on the farm and had our own little meal. We had no oven so we built a campfire and cooked a roast chicken in a cauldron. It was nice. And smokey. Ha.

This year we are having all of Tim’s family over for Christmas. And we are also ovenless- that’s because our yurt oven is woodfired which we shut down over summer; if we were to stoke it up our yurt would become a sauna. So we will build a spit for a lamb. We will camp and swim and have barbecues and salads. Salads for Christmas lunch! I’m serious. Bringing you the hard truth, right here, my friends.

Home away from home 😆

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

It is beautiful, having time together under the sun, swimming in the river and going on long evening walks. But, do you know what? Christmas is when I miss London the absolute most. I never feel properly festive here. I decorate the yurt like I think it’s the Christmas window display at Fortnum and Masons. (It would be really beautiful apart from that anything with a face – the nativity set, angels, Santa tree decorations etc- gets spirited away in carrier bags to different parts of the farm as playthings.)

I listen to ALL THE CHRISTMAS MUSIC. All day.

We do all the little advent rituals. (Some of them taken from Sacraparental’s epic list of advent ideas.)We are into our fourth year with our homemade pocket advent calendar, the girls are SO excited about seeing what is in every pocket. I have to do it each night otherwise they would have opened all 25 on the first day. I’ve only forgotten to put the thing in once… or twice. Ay ay ay, it is only the seventh of December!!! This morning they got little Santa candles in their advent pockets (stretching the concept of advent a bit, whatever) which they really enjoyed until Santa’s head melted completely away and Juno cried.

Despite all this I never really feel that buzz of December, that feeling that even though it is sludgy and dark and my nose and toes are constantly cold, there is this magical day coming up, this glimmer of shining hope to look forward to.Pocket Advent Calendar

It’s also when I miss my family the most. Christmas with my family is always so, so, so random. All the family and then several friends of friends, or neighbour’s cousins, or complete strangers. One year we met someone at the Christmas Ever service and she was going to be in London on her own the next day, so instead she came to us for Christmas. She went on to become a really cool friend. Hehe.

I try really hard to not get sentimental about being in NZ when all of my family is in London, but I really wish I could be with my folks and my sister and my nephews and niece at a cute little German market wearing wooly hats and eating churros that cost ten pounds.Off grid christmas in the summer

Luckily the swimming and the camping and the roadtrips balance out the homesickness a tiny bit.

What are you up to this Christmas? Are you feeling okay? Have you seen Mel’s 5 permissions, to help you look after yourself a bit? Have you seen my alternative, non-toy gift ideas for kids?

Hope that wherever you are and whatever you are doing, life isn’t biting you on the bum… x x

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

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

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.