Monthly Archives: June 2013

Bathtub

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Journal from January 2, 2013

We have been slowly improving in our ability to keep the yurt at a decent temperature. Even when it is quite cold outside we can keep it warm if it isn’t windy. The stove accumulates ashes fairly quickly, though, so we have to empty them often in order to keep the heat pumping. Since Christmas, the temperature has been between 15 and 21 degrees celsius, for the most part, even when it is -20 outside.

I gave Alma her first yurt bath today. I warmed up water on the stove and bathed her nearby so that she wouldn’t get chilled. I also hung her towel on the stove so that she’d feel cozy when she was done. It is surprisingly easy to bathe her in here. I usually bathe her in the big tub at my in-laws, but from now on I think I will bathe her in her little tub in the yurt.

First bath in the yurt.

First bath in the yurt.

We haven’t hooked our tub up to any plumbing, so I have yet to bathe in the yurt. I am really looking forward to being able to have a bath/shower in here. For the past 6 months I have been showering in a myriad of places: outside (Mike set up an outdoor shower for the summer), at the gym, at friends’ places, and at my in-laws.

I am excited for when I won’t have to rely on other people for my own cleanliness.

All in good time.

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Not the End of the World

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Journal from December 21st, 2012

Apparently today is the end of the world. According to the Mayan calendar, the proverbial shit is going to hit the fan today.

I think Alma was woken up by a dripping roof this morning. I don’t remember her crying, but she must have been fussing because after I moved her I noticed that there was a drip. The roof was leaking from the dome, we think, and then running down the seam of the felt (so I’m thinking there is probably more than one leak).

This afternoon Mike was working on the ropes to tie the yurt down for the winter. As he was working on them, the wind picked up and the roof started to billow. It didn’t take long for the wind to lift the roof, causing roof poles to fall, the chimney to shift and nearly fall off the stove, and furniture to tip over. There was a big gap between the wall and the roof, so I was able to see outside. It was scary, mostly because of the not-quite-one-month-old in my arms.

Thankfully, Alma was asleep and didn’t notice me hunched over her for hours. She nursed for a little while, and then fell back asleep. I kept her under me and surrounded by blankets so she was quite peaceful throughout the whole ordeal. I think I feel like a real mom now.

not bothered

Not bothered.

The inside of the yurt looked like the “after” pictures one sees on the news after a hurricane. Thankfully the poles that fell from above didn’t touch us because of the shape of the roof and the position of our bed.

after the winds calmed down a bit

The yurt after the storm passed.

Mike tried, in vain, to keep the roof from blowing off further. Kris came and held down the canvas while Mike hung from the tono in order to keep the roof from lifting. We prayed.

After a few hours, the winds calmed enough for Mike and Kris to get some ropes tied down.

We are continuing to pray. The yurt is in a bit of disarray and is much colder now, unfortunately, because it shifted so much. Mike got the chimney back on and is now curled up on the floor in exhaustion.

We have a lot of work ahead of us.

A Visit from the Midwife

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Journal from December 19th, 2012

They say that you forget about your own general cleanliness after you have a baby, and I am no exception. Alma smelled of milk and I looked like filth, so when the midwife called to say she could visit us tonight, I felt that bathing was necessary. We packed our bath things and went to visit the grandparents and use their tub. It will be an exciting day when I can take a bath in the yurt.

When we got back, we had about an hour before the midwife arrived so I cleaned the yurt while feeding the wee one. Itwas a bit of a challenge, but not too bad. I have to say, nothing motivates me to clean more than the threat of company.

When she arrived, the midwife weighed the baby, checked her heart, and measured her head. She said that everything looked great and wished us a merry Christmas. I’m so glad that Alma is healthy and doing well. I also love hearing confirmation from medical professionals that she is healthy and doing well. I swore I wouldn’t worry about my kids the way my Mom worried (worries – present tense) about me, but I can already see that I am just like her. From what I hear, lots of mothers feel this way, so I am in good company.

The Yurt’s First Overnight Guests

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Journal from December 17th, 2012

Nate and Hannah came to visit this weekend. We pulled out lots of extra blankets and set up the futon so they could sleep in the yurt with us. Thankfully, they are both really laid back and didn’t mind the lack of running water.

Nate has been entertaining us with Christmas songs on his fiddle, and they have both been helping with food, dishes, wood, and holding Alma. One couldn’t ask for better guests.

Mike cooking; Hannah napping; Nate making music

Mike cooking; Hannah napping; Nate making music

I hope that they weren’t awoken too many times last night by Alma’s grunting and slurping. She was really hungry and kept making really loud noises.

It snowed yesterday and is still snowing now, so it is really beautiful outside. Maybe we will cut down our Christmas tree soon.

The yurt has been a really nice temperature since yesterday. I feel so much happier about life when I’m not cold.

I should probably go stoke the fire now.

Warm Bed

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Now that it is summer and the yurt is warm, I feel like I should post some journal entries from the winter. Here we go:

December 15th, 2012

We went to a rednecked themed Christmas party with Alma yesterday. She is three weeks old today and I can already tell that she likes to party.

I thought Mike was hanging out with the guys in the kitchen, so I was happily hanging out with people in the living room when someone told me that Mike was actually asleep on the couch. He was completely passed out, and so was Alma, so we went home early.

We had been gone for about six hours and incidentally in that time the temperature dropped, the fire died, and the yurt became a chilly 6 degrees celsius. I bundled Alma like crazy and nursed her until she fell asleep, blissfully unaware of how cold it was outside her cocoon.

Mike sat up by the fire, stoking it relentlessly, while Alma and I went to bed. Being endlessly thoughtful, Mike had put ceramic tiles from the stove in our bed to warm it up before we got in it. Nothing is better than getting into a warm bed in a cold room. I fed Alma under the covers when she woke up to eat throughout the night.

In the morning, the yurt was about 8 degrees so we stayed in bed longer than usual. Cat and Rob came over for breakfast, so we were distracted while the yurt finally got up to a comfortable temperature. Cat, Alma, and I snuggled in our bed under sweaters and blankets while the boys warmed their feet by the stove. I used to think that fifteen degrees was cold, however right now it feels quite nice.

The girls staying warm.

The girls, cozy and warm.

What I learned in the past 24 hours:

1) we can’t leave the yurt for more than a few hours at a time

2) life was wondrously easy when all I had to do was turn the dial on the thermostat

3) I am married to a very kind, self-sacrificing man (I knew that already, but it was reinforced)

To Europe and Back Again

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Last night, I wandered Vieux-Nice and drank wine beside the Mediterranean Sea before going to bed. Tonight, I am watching the light fade in the sky whilst comfortably sitting on my couch inside the yurt.

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I am growing to realize that I live a life of stark contrasts. From our life in the middle of a field where one must carry in the day’s worth of water, to a Mediterranean vacation where one sips espressos in the market square each morning.

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We spent the past two weeks in Europe, revisiting our old apartment in Vieux-Nice and witnessing the nuptials of two dear friends. While enjoying the sights, smells, and tastes of Europe I couldn’t help but reflect on how different my “other” life was in comparison.

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enjoying the museum gardens

My life in the yurt consists of birds singing, minimal water, and listening to the radio. My life in France consisted of tourists, espressos, and live accordion music wafting in from the street below. The yurt boasts an outdoor toilet and a bucket to in which to wash laundry; the apartment boasted a hot shower and a washing machine. The yurt is in the middle of a field; the apartment is in the middle of an old city.

hanging laundry from the balcony

hanging laundry from the balcony

By day, in France, we visited museums, relaxed on the beach, and napped after lunch. When in the yurt, we wash and hang diapers, work in the garden, and nap after lunch. Some things apparently don’t change regardless of where we are in the world.

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The apartment often smelled of fresh bread; the yurt often smells of wool. When I was hungry in France I ran to the market, a mere two-minute walk; when in the yurt, I run to the garden, a mere a two-minute walk. I wore high heels and dresses in France; I wear overalls and rubber boots at home. In Vieux-Nice, morning was heralded by the sound of street-washers, church bells, and espresso drinkers; at home, morning is welcomed by crowing roosters, and singing birds.

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As one would imagine, I love my double life. I enjoyed being at the centre of Nice and able to profit from everything a city has to offer. However, I equally enjoy listening to birds sing whilst nestled in my armchair sipping tea.

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a day at the beach

I relished the constant fellowship that a never-sleeping city offers.

Nonetheless, I also revel in the silence and simplicity the countryside expresses as I fall asleep in my big tent.

Each lifestyle compels me to appreciate its counterpart.

Pros and Cons of Yurt Life

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Pros

  • peaceful and quiet in a way similar to a cottage
  • makes one appreciate simple things
  • free heat (if you don’t count the man hours)
  • we can hear the birds
  • nice and sunny inside because of skylight
  • we can look at the stars at night from the coziness of our bed
  • it is much cheaper than living in an apartment
  • we use less water and electricity than we normally would
  • great for having friends over
  • there is always something to do

Cons

  • can’t leave for more than four hours without the yurt becoming an ice box in the winter
  • we have to get up multiple times in the night to stoke fire in the winter
  • dishes and laundry take a lot longer than usual
  • it takes a lot of effort to heat the place
  • it is too hot to keep fire going on warm days, so we must do all cooking/baking/washing early in the morning or late in the evening when the stove is hot
  • hornets are interested in our home and continue to find their way in but not out
  • we have a resident vole who lives with us; he is polite and discrete, however I’d still rather he stay outdoors
  • wind has been a big issue multiple times (it tried to blow our roof off a few times)
  • after two weeks of nearly constant rain, the roof started to leak and the yurt smelled like a wet sheep for a couple days
  • there is always something to do

Creatures in the Night

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Continuing my nostalgia for our summer of cooking for planters and living in the woods:

One night as I was walking to the outhouse I was overcome with a random, harrowing thought: cougars stalk their prey. Random, right? Perhaps not. Just as the thought was being birthed, something moved in the bushes. I pointed my headlamp in its direction and saw two eyes, wide set and a couple of feet high. Could it be one of the dogs? No, they were both in the trailers asleep. Could it be a deer? No, too short. Could it be a fox? No, too tall. I yelled for Mike and jumped inside the outhouse. I peed quickly and then realized that I had two options: a) make a run for it and hope that whatever it is doesn’t get me, or b) sit in the outhouse until I came up with a better idea. I chose option b. I tried to laugh it off and convince myself that it couldn’t possibly be anything scary. I heard Mike’s voice outside the outhouse and made a quick dash toward the campfire, dragging him along with me. The last thing I wanted was the stalking cougar to get Mike whilst he was trying to save me. Sheepishly I returned to the campfire and tried to act as if I didn’t care about the lurking beast in the shadows. I started peeing beside the trailer after that.

Paranoid

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Mike and I cooked for a treeplanting camp a few years ago and despite writing this post during that time, I had yet to post it until now. Here it is:

Due to low production in our camp, two crews of strapping young men arrived to help finish the contract. These boys were large, muscular, strong and hungry. We went from feeding 50 people to feeding seventy-five. What had seemed like a daunting task before now seemed calm and quiet compared to the overwhelming number of mouths that were suddenly present. In a kitchen trailer with only 2 ovens, somehow we were meant to satisfy the insatiable hunger of all the planters. The week began as a gong show. Mike had to visit an emergency dental clinic due to a nerve problem in his front tooth, so I spent the first day constantly second guessing myself and regularly forgetting what I was supposed to be doing. Whilst standing on a milk crate in order to reach a pot of spaghetti sauce I suddenly felt like a witch stirring my brew. With both hands on a long wooden spoon, the idea wasn’t too far from reality.

With Mike gone, and I being left to my own devices, fear that the spaghetti that we had made in the morning hadn’t cooled properly began to creep up. In a panic I put  numerous pots of water on to boil and prepared to make another 20 lbs. of pasta. I felt pressure on my chest as the panic grew and despite knowing that I was probably just being obsessive and compulsive, I couldn’t shake the gnawing fear that I was going to give everyone food poisoning if I didn’t make a new batch of spaghetti. Although Mike had made enough pasta in the morning to feed all 75 people and had cooled it and put it in the fridge, I felt that something must have certainly gone wrong. Looking back on it, I laugh at the ridiculous thoughts that were running through my head, but at the time all I cared about was feeding the planters food that wouldn’t make their stomachs hurt. I was about to throw all of the spaghetti in the garbage and make a new batch when Mike returned. Despite looking like a character from a Dr. Seuss book because of all the swelling, he was ready to help.

“The spaghetti is completely fine. I made sure it was cooled properly before I left. Stop worrying,” he said patiently.

“But, what if…,” I began.

“It’s fine.”

We dipped the old spaghetti in the water that was finally boiling, and began to serve supper to a group of people who had no idea about my inner meltdown. Of course, the spaghetti was completely fine, and all was well in the end which resulted in the first glimmer of my personal revelation: I’m nuts.

Similar scenarios happened throughout the season. “Are you SURE that the raw meat didn’t touch the salad? Are you POSITIVE that everything is the correct temperature? Are you absolutely CERTAIN that it hasn’t gone bad?” were phrases often uttered from my lips. Thankfully Mike is on the opposite side of obsessive behaviour. If he was ever worried, he didn’t show it. In a completely laid back manner he continually assured me that the meat was still good, it hadn’t touched the salad, and it was absolutely cooked properly. I had always thought of myself as a laid back individual, but the summer that we cooked for the planters was demonstration that I, very clearly, am not.

Re-emergence into the Real World

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A long time ago I wrote about treeplanting and Bush Goggles. I wrote that one day I would write about what happens when a group of bush-goggle wearing planters emerge from the woods into a world of non-bush-goggle wearing individuals. This is that blog.

It is an unfortunate thing to return to the real world while still encamped in a bubble of planters. When everyone in your cavalcade has prescribed to the freedom of a life in the wilderness, one can easily forget that the outside world often has a very different view. Imagine a group of dirty twenty-somethings dressed in tattered clothes lounging on the grass outside of a shopping mall. Their clothes are of the kind that would usually be reserved for yard work, their facial hair channels wanted criminals of all kinds, and they are sprawled on the lawn as if it were their own. Surely, many of them of smoking cigarettes and drinking cans of club soda often mistaken for beer. Now, picture a small, well dressed family enjoying an afternoon of shopping. The bewilderment that appears in their eyes as they cross to the other side of the road is perhaps the most straightforward reaction one can imagine. Thus proving that although the planters may be in a state free of judgement and are oblivious to the surrounding world, the surrounding world is certainly not oblivious to them.

Bathrooms: When you live in the woods, the world becomes your toilet; you can pee pretty much anywhere, anytime you want. Upon re-entry to the real world, one must learn to control her bladder until the proper facilities can be found. It was not uncommon for planters to express that they felt like they were going to pee their pants. This makes perfect sense, of course, because when one is suddenly thrust back into a society that frowns upon public urination, one must learn to control themselves all over again.

Clothing: What is acceptable in camp is not always acceptable in town. Running around in boxers, or sporting ripped, muddy overalls might seem like completely normal choices for days around camp, but unfortunately, regular folks don’t shine to semi-nude bearded men with clouds of dust trailing behind them, so one must make the necessary changes.

Language: Even the sweetest treeplanter has been known to vent via a plethora of colourful curse words once pushed to their limit. After being submerged in difficult situations for weeks at a time, many planters end up swearing (or coming up with words to replace swears) numerous times per conversation. This presents a difficulty when one is no longer surrounded by like-minded people, but instead must interact with clean-languaged individuals of all ages. No one wants to be the one to introduce four-letter words to toddlers, but it takes a while to get it out of the system.