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Yurt living: Winning and losing

4 February, 2016

Yurt living is a mixed bag, you know.

Ways in which we are winning:
We swim in the river everyday, sometimes four or five times

Most days I do the dishes, tidy the yurt, or do laundry (one of the above- if I do more than one I make myself an award “World’s Best Homemaker” and give a speech to all assembled about how both awed and humbled I am)

We spend a lot of time with friends – the family we live on the land with, friends who come and camp, locals we are getting to know and love.

The girls and I spend a lot of time in the forest, climbing hills and looking at moss (that has been an ambition for motherhood of mine for many years and it is every day life for us now, which really does make me a bit breathless)

The girls and I are besties. We have so much fun. Dance parties and hammock picnics and movies in bed and playing all the Toca Boca games on the ipad.

 I fermented and pickled a shitload of beetroot I grew last week. 

 Tim has built a bathroom and almost built a loft to go in the big yurt. (We are waiting for that to be done before we move in there.) 

 I painted our bath and painted the bathroom floor. 

 I planted more beetroot and lettuces and herbs. 

 Tim and I ate up an entire decade of marriage! yeah baby! 

❤️ 10 years married today ❤️ We were so young and determined… Now we grow beetroot barefoot 😬 How love grows 😊

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

Ways in which we are losing:
I’m not really spending much time on the computer which, for a writer/ vlogger/ blogger/ social media person means that I’m not being productive at all. I feel a bit down about it, a bit like I suck.

We still don’t have a bathroom. Or a kitchen.

My family come in 10 days and it is probably going to be still rough as guts. It is a deadline we gave ourselves in September (to be all sorted) and we are totally gonna miss it. (In fact, I was going to call this post “The best laid plans of mice and men” – you know from that poem about things going awry by Robert Burns but then I realised that if I do that I would have to tell the story about how I thought you said “awry” like “OAREE” rather than “A- RYE” until my brother in law corrected me about 3 years ago. Got to 29 saying oaree. Really did. And there’s that story!

When I painted the bathroom floor it took me FOREVER and I got so worked up about it that I did it three times and the second time was the result of totally flipping out with the paint and literally throwing my brushes to the ground. (It looked cool…. but I still didn’t keep it, too bold for our au naturale life. Think there might be a whole post about floors coming up soon….)


When I fermented and pickled all the beetroot I got so frenzied by it all that I turned real angry at everyone. 

 Our little yurt is filling up with piles and piles and piles of things… the piles go down when the puppy drags something out from the bottom and eats it. We’ve lost books and Russian dolls and barbies and cables and slippers to her insatiable jaws. This IS our yurt, with the piles pushed aside>>>

New little crochet blanket free from the dump shop, like totally made for this moment forty years ago 😆🙌✌️#nicejumble #yurtlife

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


You cant even move in our bus, it has so successfully been turned into storage while we wait to get in the big yurt.

My courgettes keep turning into marrows. And now I have 9 marrows that I can’t even GIVE away.

Some days it feels like we’ve achieved nothing more than buying some second hand taps from the internet.

I’ve got about 70 billion baby leeks that needed to be planted yonks ago but I can’t seem to make it happen. There is such a crowd of them and they are so needy.

We feel like we are slogging away, Tim building in every spare minute, but the end result just keeps receding into the horizon. Endless DiYing.

And then there’s things that defy all lists about how well you are doing in life….how in the middle of the night last night I had to go to the toilet, the outdoor composting loo in the forest of gorse and I was bummed about it, like, WHAT IS THIS LIFE WE LIVE THAT I HAVE TO DO THIS and then when I went I met a little hedgehog there! And me and this cute little hedgehog hung for a while. I love a hedgehog.  

 And also, I do know that life isn’t about winning or losing. Even imagining a scoresheet is ridiculous and stupid, particularly if parenting is your main thing – it often looks like absolutely nothing has been “achieved” and the reality is the whole day has been a weave of tiny kindnesses and picking up of lego. 

I’m aware of things like Instagram (pretty much the one internet thing I am keeping up with a bit) making people look like winners- my life might look like it is all harvesting coriander seeds and waterfalls because I’m not going to take a photo of me covered in beetroot juice with a raging face, hey? And I get comments like “Your amazing life!” and we have chosen this life, because we have come to value freedom and wilderness so much. But it isn’t free of frustration or melancholy or the occasional metaphysical EEK-WHAT-ARE-WE-DOING moment or simple root-vegetable-rage.

So yeah, I’m a winner and a loser and a lover and a mother.

How you doing?

yurt life

Building a yurt

11 January, 2016

Building a yurt

It takes a triplet of things, at least, eh, to make a collection? Like, I definitely collect vintage tea towels, typewriters and mouldy things in my fridge, because I’ve got loads of all of those…

But two yurts wouldn’t make us Yurt Collectors right?

It just makes us Yurt Lovers, which sort of seems more reasonable, do you reckon?

This last week we put up our second yurt, a bigger, fancier version of the first. e are taking yurt living to the next level! It has proper windows and we plan on putting in a little sleeping loft and things. We are mega excited as this is our roots-down home now, and the little yurt will be a spare room for people to come and stay. (By “people come to stay” I mean “hide things that we should have got rid of ages ago but are hanging on to just in case we ever get invited to another Kids Shows of the 1980s fancy dress party or if I do decide to start using my leather hole punching tool more regularly or you know whatever”)

We’ve tended to have momentous first weeks of January over the last few years. Two years ago we moved to New Zealand on January 1st, then one year ago we walked on to this bit of land on January 1st and went “Woah, this is IT” and this year we finally get our home up. So mega. (We’re gonna really have to work on something for next year eh… but maybe we need to pull back on the momentousness… maybe like, New Year, New Gerbil or something.)

building a yurt

We love yurts because they are such a beautiful, affordable home… there is this concept, democratic architecture, a sort of movement all about houses for The People … homes that people can actually afford / build themselves / don’t just line the pockets of a tiny few. Yurts definitely fall into this, with their easy construction and simple design. (Thanks Mongolia, for this ingenious gift.)

building a yurt

We put this yurt up, a home that will eventually have the footprint not far off that of our South London home in a day and a half with a huge amount of help from friends … and only a few hairy moments (one involving a friend inching down the outside of the roof with some gaffa tape.)

building a yurt

Building a yurt video

And for those of you who want to get down with the actual construction of our yurt have a look at my latest Youtube video of the whole shebang from start to finish, with a retro 1990’s slideshow styling…

Anything new for you this year? Resolutions or dreams? Building a yurt? My resolutions, made just this moment, are to not collect mouldy things in my fridge any more, and to, where possible, slim down the chances of friends having hairy moments on our roof with gaffa tape.

Happy New Year to you! X

yurt life

Yurt living: Come and see our river, meet our puppy and learn about the birds and the bees

27 November, 2015

We’ve been here for two months now, and you’d think the shine would be wearing off yurt living a little bit, but it really isn’t.

Of course, we wake up on the wrong side of the bed some days. (EG, yesterday. Grumpville. Unmet Needs Central. Rip-Each-Others-Heads-Off R US. On some days like these I am able to turn to The List to rescue us all from the pit of family despair. Other days I just spend a lot of time being honest and saying sorry to my children for not being very fun.)

And life still happens, with all its small troubles.

Like, the secondhand retro kitchen we bought on the internet and then picked up to find it was completely rubbish and didn’t fit in our bus but still had to take so needed to saw it in half and bring home.

And me pulling off Juno’s jumper in the night and dislocating her elbow. *cries* We had to go to A and E to pop it back in, our first trip to the hospital with her, so sad to see her in so much pain. How awful is is possible for a mama to feel?

But still a couple of times a day we’ll look about and go “how the jeffing jeff do we get to live here?!?!” 

 Here is a video – meet our bees, see our river, our newest family member, and our epic tree. No poo views or terrible typefaces like the last one, but there is some reality about the swampy sand fly situ!

Summer is beginning in earnest. We had a week where we swam every day down at our river. It is heart stoppingly cold on the first dive in, but when the sun is in the right spot we can stay in there for an hour, splashing in and out. Even then it gets in the bones, we come home with our teeth chattering, piling on jumpers until our bodies de-freeze again. 

 The garden is going great guns. We are having kale everyday and have already plucked courgettes and candy striped beetroots, and had an argument about whether they were turnips.

WE GOT A PUPPY! After announcing last month that we were gonna get one, someone left a comment saying “Please don’t buy a puppy” which then set off a huge research project in to how to get an ethical puppy. I genuinely didn’t know NZ was impacted by poor breeders and puppy mills and things… just goes to show how naive you can be. If you know something about something, always mention it, in love and without the tension, because these small comments can really change things. After several roadtrips and visits to pounds we found a little unwanted bearded collie/ labrador pup right on the very tip of NZ and set off last week on to meet her and fell in love and bought her home. Zoe. She is completely adorbs, and is going to be an ideal farm dog, once she gets over the need to nip the girls constantly. She has a real penchant for wrapping her little jaw around juicy bottoms, which really takes you by surprise. (It is genuinely a real challenge…)

 
 Our hens have arrived and are happily laying and we’ve a host of beehives. Some are the beekeeper a and some are our own- the beekeeper is going to show us the ropes over the next year. 

Our girls are thriving here… Ramona has turned five which is completely and utterly unreal! She is such a brave, intriguing and kind person. And Juno continues to blow our hearts apart. She has a real thing for lists at the moment. She is just massively into the word “and” so she’ll spend hours every day, out loud and under her breath, listing all the names of people she loves, or all her favourite things to do. Too, too cool.

  We are digging deep over the next month, on a bender to get our big, second yurt up. This one is going to be our proper home and is a big deal, with glass windows and a mezzanine and things.

The family we share the land with our moving in too, which we are so, so excited about.

And we hope to have lots more visitors and campers and things.

And less dislocated elbows and bit bottoms.

PS YOU MADE IT TO THE BONUS LEVEL! Here is a video of Ramona and Juno lighting their own sparklers from the campfire and then just rocking out to James Brown. You are so welcome.

yurt life

Yurt Living: Come and see our yurt, our land, our loo…

26 October, 2015

One month down in our little yurt on our new land! Turns out yurt living is GREAT in spring, when the shine is is still there!

It’s funny how quickly we have settled into a much more simple life. Not so much simple amenities – while we don’t yet have a bathroom or a kitchen or even hot water we DO have an industrial size espresso machine and coffee grinder and a washing machine and a hoover. (We get junked up on caffeine and have a wild time doing housework) I mean simple in terms of activities.

Since moving onto the land our days seem to have been stripped back to just staying around the yurt, looking for eels in the stream, playing with modelling clay, having a little walk. The kids are totally thriving on these days – despite the ominous start; our first morning, in bed, and I’m sooooo excited, like “Ramona! What shall we do today?! Climb a tree? Swim in the river? Make mud pies?!” and she said “How about we go to Soft Play and then the Drive Thru?”… she is an urbanite, for sho, that girl.Family Living in a Yurt

Tim and I are like excitable Scouts. It is basically like the best camping holiday EVER. A never ending camping holiday! It’s the stuff dreams are made of!

Things we have done:
Put up our little yurt & moved things in
Put up a trampoline
Set up our solar power
Piped water from the spring on the hill down to our meadow (BIG day!)
Found a huge slide at the dump and attached it to the tree
Carved steps down to the river (thanks to two different families who came to visit last week, who got in touch because they read my blog *waves*- we had SUCH a blast with them all. One family is doing an around the world thing -read their blog here)
Dug two small veggie patches

Things to do imminently: Build our big yurt Get hot water Set up a shower/ bush bath Dig a bigger veggie garden Move our cows, ducks and chickens onto the land Buy a puppy (OMG I know! Tim and I are probably more excited than the girls!) I did a little youtube showing you around the place. This video feels like one of the most boring ones I’ve made so far, and Crikey Jim, that FONT AT THE START *dies* but if you feel like nosing around our land, our yurt and our loo this is for you:


Yeah. So when we are not bouncing on the trampoline, watching Happy Feet, sliding down the epic slide or going to the Drive Thru we are mostly telling each other Knock Knock jokes. If anyone ever tries to tell you that only boys like poos and farts, please tell them about my family. Our youngest, Juno, is two and probably has about 100 words in her vocab these days, but her favourite by far is fart. She sings the word fart to the tune of Twinkle Twinkle and Baa Baa black sheep. And Ramona’s top Knock Knock joke is this one:

“Knock knock”

“who’s there”

“Poo”

“Poo who?”

“Poo poo!”

A classic.

Juno gets amongst the Knock Knock action too, resembling old fellas at the pub who have had too much whiskey and can’t quite get the punchline right

“Knock knock”

“who’s there”

“cow”

“cow who?”

“oh haha not cow no no no erm ahhhhh sorrrrrrryyyy…

(one minute later)

“FART!”

with the exact right tying-to-remember-but-also-a-bit-bamboozled expression on her little face.Family Living in a yurt - Lulastic

 

So yes, that is us, one month in. Clock back in soon for updates… although you and I both know that from here on in it is just gonna be photos of the kids, the ducks and the puppy all having a snuggle together.

unschooling, yurt life

Living off the grid – the beginning

24 September, 2015

We are about to begin living off the grid and we have All. The. Emotions.

We are back in NZ on the cusp of a whole new thing.

We had incredible flights here, the girls were total heros and the kindness of strangers went a long way. (Homage to the general public who are kind to children right here.) Those flights were sandwiched by a week in California, making ourselves truly at home amongst the totally marvellous unschooling tribes of San Francisco who roomed us and fed us and took us to their pottery workshops and museums and beaches and forests. (So much to say about that! Perhaps a whole other post … for now my photos on Instagram will have to do.)

Jet lag has been no issue this week; we are buzzing out on excitement alone- carried along from 5am to 10pm on rolling waves of let’s-buy-the-chickens-and-have-a-mudpie-kitchen-and-a-forest-school. (Um. And maybe a few good kiwi flat whites.)

Because on Saturday we move on to our new land, putting up our first little yurt next to a beautiful stand of native Kahikatea trees, ready to begin cultivating a huge veggie patch, a few orchards, and a life of wild learning and growing together. We popped in there yesterday, our first day in NZ and as we walked around there were two little piwakawaka (fantails) flitting around us, chirping and swooping and it just felt like they were giving us a little welcome, saying, make your home here with us!

When I was a tiny tike, despite always living in the inner city, I always said when I grew up I wanted to marry a farmer. (You can imagine the horror that bought my feminist mama. I also wanted to change my name to Eric so maybe that evened things out a little.)

It is a bit surreal to think we are well and truly becoming farmers now, living off the grid using solar energy and our stream for water.Rewilding - Family moved from South London to a yurt in a forest in NZ

Over the next few weeks and months we have to build our own composting toilets (read about golden poos right here) and bathroom, we have to tap the springs so we have fresh water, put up our bigger, mammoth yurt, find places for our chickens and cows, and start planting out the food that will fill our bellies.

After a few months of travelling around (still planning posts about Paris and other adventures – i have been a bit distracted all summer by writing my new booooook) it feels so, so, so good to be grounding ourselves, embracing rituals and rhythms, connecting with the community of kindred spirits we have in NZ – in particular the family we are sharing the land with.

I can’t wait to be a part of Ramona and Juno’s learning journey as we learn together on the farm, through simply living and responding to creative urges and engaging with the natural world around us.
(I am an official Channel Mum vlogger person thingy and I did a video about our unschooling beginnings which you can see here…)

I feel so happy to imagine this childhood for our kids, one filled with bugs and mud and native birds and forest, one where they won’t lose touch with their wild selves.Yurt family - 30 days of rewilding

And then, amongst all this huge sense of anticipation and happiness are these random pangs of sadness. A memory from this summer, of swimming in an English river with my lifelong best friends or laying down in the long grass to watch the meteor shower with my beautiful sister, will shoot into my mind and just take my breath away.

And, underneath all these feelings, the grief and joy and hope, is this sort of intangible fear.

It feels funny to type that out. To name it. But there it is. It is a quiet vibration just humming amongst it all. Because we can’t separate what we are about to do from all the horror stories of intentional communities we’ve heard. We can’t deny the fact that are not born farmers, or that we are all stepping out of our existing community of marvelous hippies to do this together.

But it isn’t the scary kind of fear. Because we know, know, KNOW we have to do this.

We walked on to the land on January the 1st this year and went “THIS IS IT! This is our very future right here! This dell has been marked with our names!”

And we are certain we want to start living off the grid with others. We have always yearnt for interdependency and life-sharing and are convinced that sustainable living looks like this.

We didn’t want to grow old wishing we had taken a chance on nurturing a tribal way of life when we had it.

And if we can do this with anyone, it is with the family we co-own the land with.

So the fear bit? Mixed in with all those other emotions it is like sitting in a little carriage perched at the very top of an enormous, towering rollercoaster, staring down at that deep, inevitable, belly dropping swoop and roaring “WOOHOOOOOO!!! LET’S DO THIS THING!!”

Living off the grid beckons!

****

Read about our move from South London to a yurt in a forest in NZ, amongst a load of inspiring stories in my new book, 30 Days of Rewilding – find your place in nature and watch your family bloom.  The Telegraph did an amazing feature on it and on the first day of release it went to Number One in its category on Amazon. Whooop! I guess, what I’m trying to say is, um, read it, if you like…

Family Travel, unschooling, yurt life

Heart-thumpingly, fringe-snippingly exciting

23 June, 2015

We are off! We have 15 minutes to go; Tim is making last minute coffees, the girls are bouncing around in the corner simultaneously wrestling and playing Mummies and Daddies (this involves Ramona giving birth to Juno over and over again) and I am doing a sneaky little blog. These sum up our priorities EXACTLY.

We are facing down a 12 hour flight to Thailand, the start of a three month trip that involves frolicking with elephants in Chiang Mai, touring about the UK with our friends and family and then a whizz through San Fran. HOORAY!

We have packed down our little yurt and said cheerio to all our beautiful friends in the Coromandel, for when we get back to New Zealand in September we are going to be moving onto our new land! ARGH!

*reins in the exclamation marks*

I am generally excited about everything right now, this is obvious in how short my fringe is getting- I’ve come to understand that when I am buzzing out a little I tend to gravitate to the mirror and cut my hair.

Here are somethings I am weeing my pants about:

Happy Hair Workshops in Bristol and London
THESE ARE HAPPENING! SO cool! They are open events, everyone is invited, I will be talking through the world of giving up shampoo and toxins and covering other Hippyshake kind of stuff. I did the last New Zealand one of these a few weeks ago, 75 people came and we had an absolute BLAST. So much fun. Please do come! Find the Bristol event here and the London event here.  

 Camp Bestival
One of the funnest weekend in our family’s life was when we took Juno and Ramona to Camp Bestival just before taking off around Europe in our campervan. There is incredible music, stack loads of creativity, an enormous arts and crafts tent; just this weird little universe of families all letting loose together.  I saw a sign there that year, scrawled by a mum, “Families who festival together stay together” – it makes up in truth what it lacks in rhyme.

Partying in the meadows of a castle, with the tunes of musical legends beating down around you, while the children are being entertained by a Picasso inspired style Puppet Show. Nothing beats it. Let me know if you are going so we can hang out…

Annie here has the full download- everything you need to know and here is the Camp Bestival site itself.cb

Staying in super spesh places
We have booked loads of our accommodation through Air BNB for the first time ever. It has been really cool being able to tailor make our wants/ needs and then hit search and discover loads of unique places to stay. In Thailand we are staying at someone’s apartment in Bangkok, next door to an Elephant sanctuary in Mae Wang amongst other places. (It’s possible- but I’m not entirely sure- that if you sign up using this link that I get points… try it and see, it will be like giving me a virtual high five…)

It sort of feels like for the next three months we are going to join that tribe of digital nomads, families blowing on the breeze, lives made possible by the Internet.

Here is a little conversation I had with Juno this morning:

Last, but not least (cos GOSH that would be offensive!) SEEING OUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY!
About 7 million of my friends have had babies while we have been away, so of course, I CAN NOT WAIT to meet these new souls. And my nephews and niece have grown up into giants so I need to do some serious playing of Hide and Seek and Ninja Mermaids and stuff with them. I get the tingles when I think about crunching all these people I love up!

HOORAY! Right, Tim has turned the car around, we are really, really DOING THIS… think I still have time for one more snip of the fringe though…