Author Archives: tara

Happy 2016!

Standard

I haven’t disappeared despite the state of the blog@ It was a year of big changes and I needed some time to process everything before writing again. I don’t have much time to get this out, so it will be short, unfortunately and not edited very well…here is the quick recap.

After a miscarriage in the fall of 2014, I felt like I needed to purge a good amount of our stuff and because of this, we started the new year fresh. The yurt looked better than ever before – I was able to take real baths and look out over the fields while doing so!! Despite the cold winter, we were very cozy.

Shortly after the new year we happily discovered I was pregnant again and this time with identical twins! We were full of joy and excitement and knew that God would guide us through the next chapter, so thankfully we didn’t have “the freak out” moment that most of our friends and family had for us. Despite having no idea what was to come, we felt like everything would be fine as long as we trusted God (and it is!).

We assumed we would be in the yurt so made plans to change things in order to accommodate our newest family members. Instead, however, we received notice from our town that we had to take the yurt down. We moved a couple months before the babies arrived and now live in a house. It was heartbreaking having to tear down our home, and we still miss it (Alma asks weekly if we can move back to the yurt), but it has been a good thing for us to be in a house. Washing diapers is WAY easier now that we have our own washing machine, and dishes can be washed much quicker when you don’t have to wait for the kettle to boil. It is also a lot easier to keep the house warm, so we aren’t burning as much wood.

Life is really busy with newborn twins and a toddler, but it is very fun as well. The girls have been quite colicky for the past two months, but we are hoping that will pass and they will feel better soon. Despite not really being able to get things done (I pretty much tandem nurse all day while Mike changes diapers and feeds the rest of us), I feel like 2016 has a lot of potential. Even if I can’t realistically accomplish most of it, I love lists..so here is what I’m hoping might be half-accomplished in 2016:

  • read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo and hopefully get our house in order once and for all
  • get things organized for Alma (a self-serve art area, a DIY lunch shelf in the fridge)
  • develop a cooking routine so that we have meals ready in the fridge for the entire week
  • get outside with the kids every day even if it isn’t for very long
  • stretch every day and try to get my strength and flexibility back
  • read through the entire Bible by next Advent

I have finally jumped on board with the “word of the year” thing and have chosen the word hygge for 2016. It is a challenge to translate, but how I have interpreted it is: your surroundings are cozy, inviting, and peaceful. When the yurt was aglow with oil lamps and beeswax candles on a snowy winter’s evening, I believe we were experiencing hygge. My hope is that we can create the same feeling of warmth in the house.

Happy New Year!

Advertisements

A Cozy Winter

Standard

I have been away from the blog for quite a while, and I’m sorry to those of you who wrote to me and didn’t receive a reply! The winter was a cozy, quiet one and I am surprised that it is already over (well, almost over). This was our third winter in the yurt and probably the easiest despite the coldest winter on record. We stayed warm and didn’t have any wind issues after installing the giant zipper connecting the roof and the wall. Spring has arrived, although you would never know it by looking outside. We still have quite a bit of snow and it looks like a picturesque Christmas scene out there right now, however it has warmed up quite a lot. I will have to write a better post soon, but for now I hope you all had a good winter and I was very excited to hear from those of you who are living/planning to live in a yurt! Take care.

5 Tips for Cold Days

Standard

Winter arrived, for real this time, a few days ago. With the wind chill, it felt like -38 C last night. I love winter, so I actually like this weather. We bundled up this morning to feed the cows and enjoyed the quiet that only comes with such cold.

Winter is my favourite season, especially in the yurt. Here are 5 tips for cold, wintery days:

  1. Don’t forget to stoke the fire. If you take notice of how warm and cozy you are, stoke it. Don’t wait until the fire dies to add more wood. If it is very cold outside (colder than -20 C), we do smaller stokings more frequently.

    My Dad looking like he is stoking the fire while, in reality, burning a piece of toast

    My Dad looking like he is stoking the fire while, in reality, burning a piece of toast

  2. Wear slippers. If you have cold feet, chances are, you aren’t going to enjoy winter. Warm feet = happy person.IMG_1272
  3. Ditch the polyester and bring on the wool. I used to freeze every winter because I refused to wear wool. I wore cotton sweatshirts and polyester sweaters before I learned about the magic of wool. It really is so much warmer – I cannot believe the difference fabric can make on my grumpiness level. I am so much nicer when I’m warm. If wool makes you itchy, the good news is that there is such a thing as soft, non-scratchy wool: merino and alpaca are my favourites. IMG_8403
  4. Sleep under a good duvet. Our beds have such fat duvets on them that we could probably sleep outside and still be toasty. Everyone in our family finds them too warm except for me. Alma kicks off her blankets every night, and Mike needs his feet out of ours or he can’t sleep. I, however, think they are perfect.
  5. If all else fails, cuddle and drink tea by the fire with a good book. If you are still cold after all of that, have a dance party and then cuddle up by the fire until summer arrives. IMG_1315

On the first day of Christmas

Standard

IMG_8818

As it has happened every year, I was the first one awake this morning. Radio 2 played classical Christmas music all night long; Carol of the Bells played just as I was coming out of sleep, so it felt like Christmas morning right away. I snuck out of bed successfully and then, anti-climatically, sat waiting half an hour for Mike and Alma to wake up. Once they were up, we opened our stockings and made orange roll (a cinnamon bun with orange that tastes like Christmas). Mike wished the cows Merry Christmas with a bunch of turnips and did the chores while Alma and I washed dishes (I hope she always loves doing dishes with me…ha).

IMG_8876

We opened one gift each and then got breakfast ready. Alma was given a French book about a nativity play, Mike received two incredible cook books that he said he would share with me (The River Cottage Meat Book and River Cottage Every Day), and I got a pair of cozy down-filled booties (Alma got a bonus gift of mini versions of my slippers). Our stockings were simple and only had a few things in them (clementines, hazelnuts, chestnuts, and a treat). We are going to do stockings, hopefully, each of the twelve days.

IMG_8850

This is the first year that we are stretching out the celebrating and the gifts, and it is the first year I don’t feel overwhelmed. I usually feel gluttonous by Christmas afternoon, as a result of the treats and the gifts. This year I feel relaxed and enormously blessed, plus a little sick from all the maple fudge I’ve eaten. I can’t remember a Christmas day ever feeling this relaxed. Without all the pressure being put on one day, I’m enjoying everything more. I usually feel like I need to DO ALL THE THINGS on Christmas Day, but there are another eleven days to go this year, so we read books and had naps this afternoon.

IMG_8822

new socks

 

Happy first day of Christmas!

 

 

Christmas Eve

Standard

IMG_8742

I began the morning with chicken stock and Handel’s Messiah; I love the build up to the Hallelujah chorus so much that by the time the song is mid-way through I am usually covered in goose bumps and on the verge of tears. Handel was followed by other sophisticated artists like the cast from Glee and 98 degrees. We have a good (terrible?) mix of music at our house. We listened to everything from Bing to Etta today, and I thoroughly enjoyed it all. I still haven’t listened to Carol of the Bells because I want to save something musical for tomorrow, and am as excited about it as I am about the strangely shaped gifts hanging from my ceiling.

IMG_8789

IMG_8807

The twenty-third was spent in the kitchen, mostly. I cooked like a madwoman, desperate to put away as many meals for the twelve days of Christmas as possible. I took a nice break and wandered through the woods with the family to pick out our Christmas tree. It knocked a few things over on the way into the yurt, but it looked great once it was up. Thin and Charlie Brown-ish if you are used to a groomed tree, but just right for the yurt. It is nearly eleven feet tall and almost reaches into the dome. After the little one was in bed, I gathered all the goodies that were stored away for stockings and organized them into twelve little piles. I tried to plan the gifts, giving cookie cutters for the day we will be making gingerbread houses, but mostly it is just a mishmash of animal crackers and raisins for Alma, and a copious amount of chocolate for Mike.

IMG_8761

We baked cookies and played Scrabble today before heading to church for Nine Lessons and Carols (which was lovely). We had plans of watching It’s a Wonderful Life, but I know I would fall asleep five minutes into it, and don’t want to miss it. Mike is making maple fudge and orange roll right now, and I’m contemplating making a couple batches of cookies after I stuff the stockings… but I might just lay here and listen to the Christmas music instead.

IMG_8786

Tomorrow is the first day of Christmas, which means it is time to bring on the chocolate. Happy Christmas Eve 🙂

IMG_8791

Advent

Standard

IMG_1153The observation of advent is a new tradition for me. Advent meant a chocolate calendar for most of my life, so it is only recent that we observe it in the more traditional way. Now, it is a time of waiting and anticipation for Christmas. We try not to listen to Christmas music or put up the tree until Christmas eve (although I always cave on the music by the 21st). We listen to beautiful music all December long, but wait for Joy to the World and the Hallelujah chorus. Each Sunday we light an advent candle, read a few things from the Bible, and sing carols around the supper table.

IMG_8645We add something decorative to the house each week. The first week we make an advent wreath and hang our calendar(a homemade string of numbers on which to count down to Christmas). Week two brings greenery into the yurt as we hang branches and cranberries. We put up white lights on week three, and on week four we bust out the stockings. We will put up our tree and string it with lights tomorrow, but will wait to decorate until Christmas eve (during which time we will be listening to Handel’s Messiah).

During the month, I try my best to make meals and pop them into the freezer so that we can pull them out during the twelve days of Christmas. I would love to not cook for twelve whole days and still have homemade food on the table at each meal. If I make a bunch of stuff tomorrow, we just might be able to make it through the holidays without washing a roasting pan. Except for the turkey pan. Which is the worst kind of pan.

IMG_8515We haven’t baked too many things yet, but are gearing up for the big cookie extravaganza. Alma likes to bake, especially if it involves cookie cutters, so it will be a family affair. Mike and I each have specific cookies that we need to eat at Christmas: he needs shortbread full of butter, and I need chocolate crinkles devoid of gluten and dairy. Guess whose cookies are better.

IMG_1091I’m also hoping to make a few treats that my sister-in-law and I can eat over the holidays. She and I both suffer from pretty intense food intolerances, so we don’t eat what everyone else eats. Thankfully, we are very similar in our food issues, so at least we each have a friend at the gluten-dairy-corn-free table. It sounds worse than it is. We both end up with a ton of special treats because our family feels bad for us and is very kind. I will post our favourite allergy-free recipes after the holidays (we need to do a lot of tasting first).

f658cf3d9d0854a4af3b818ba830aaaa

Growing Food

Standard

 

Since we have been blessed with lots of good soil we are able to grow nearly everything we want to eat. Each year we try to grow a little more, in hopes that someday we will be able to grow an entire year’s worth of food (grains, legumes, vegetables, fruit, maple syrup, honey, meat, eggs…maybe even milk and cheese). This year we grew lots of vegetables for ourselves and some for our local farmers’ market. It was a slow spring because of all the snow, but in the end the plants did pretty well. Next year we are hoping to grow more legumes and a few grains; I’d like to be able to grow our own oats (we eat a lot of porridge) and buckwheat (to eat instead of rice and to turn into flour). Here is a photo recap of this year’s garden:

IMAG1015

This was what April looked like, so the garden went in later than we had hoped

IMG_6638

We started our seeds in our “sun room”

IMG_6805

The seedlings moved to the “green house” (the front of our woodshed) once the weather improved

IMAG1097

We played in the dirt a lot in preparation for planting

IMAG1137

Planting the garden was a family activitiy

IMG_7373

Green!

IMG_0054

Early-season harvesting

IMG_0199

Lunch from the garden

IMG_0343

Mid-summer

IMG_0052

Good food surrounded by weeds 🙂

IMG_7785

All from the garden (except the rice)

IMG_0845

A cozy nook to play in while I processed vegetables

Still Renovating

Standard

We have our stove up and running again! With the addition of a second radiator, we are really enjoying the coziness of the yurt. Mike finished sewing the walls this weekend, so our yurt is back to normal (almost). My brother-in-law plumbed our shower while he was visiting (he’s a plumber and graciously worked on our bathroom despite being totally confused as to why we would want to live in a yurt). I’ll write about the changes soon. For now, here is our to-do list.

Pimp my Yurt 2014 (wish list):

  • sew a new outer layer of canvas 
  • add a few more windows

    windows from yurta.ca – I’ll have pictures of ours soon

  • refurbish the Rayburn (wood stove) with new fire bricks

    a blue version of our stove

  • add a second radiator
  • build a closet –> two rails (one for us, one low one for Alma) and a few shelves (for sweaters, towels, etc.)

    a branch for a rail – we will use an old yurt pole

    low rail and shelves for the wee one

  • build another counter for the kitchen
  • build ‘pantry shelves’ in the kitchen
  • fancy up the bathroom and make it more toddler friendly (lower sink/step-stool, etc.)

    toddler bathroom

  • make a preschool area (easel, chalkboard, activities, etc.) —> aside from the extra windows, this is what I’m most excited forschool area

Renovating

Standard

We are knee-deep in yurt renovations this week and are using the time to “camp” in our front yard in our heated trailer (so not really camping at all).

All of our things are packed into containers or boxes; it is easy to see that we still have too much stuff. Hopefully more downsizing will happen as we unpack. Hopefully.

Mike has been on the roof quite a bit lately:

IMG_0912

Trying to figure out the angles

IMG_0907

Working on the roof

Here is our to do list for the yurt:

  • re-insulate and re-brick the inside of the Rayburn 
  • add another radiator to the system and hook everything up
  • sew a new roof
  • sew new walls
  • attach a giant zipper to the roof and walls
  • winterize the yurt with carpets and rugs

Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Back to the Blog

Standard

It has been a quick summer, and I can hardly believe that September is nearly over. We spent a good deal of time visiting family and friends, playing in the garden, and de-junking over the past few months. As usual, I’m still aspiring to be a minimalist, despite my hoarding tendencies. I guess I’ve had my head stuck in the sand because I had no idea I had left the blog for so long. I hope you (Mom and my three other readers) had a good summer.

In yurt news: we bought new canvas from Yurta and will be replacing the outer layer of the yurt any day now.

We had opted for 100% cotton canvas treated with silicone when we first built the yurt, and are sad to say that it did not last. We have a few holes, some mildew (mostly from the hay that we stacked around the yurt over the winter), and the roof is no longer waterproof (it hasn’t been for quite some time).

This time around, we are going with acrylic coated polyester for the roof, and new cotton canvas for the walls. We tried our best to stick with natural materials, but found that the cotton couldn’t handle the UV rays or the elements for too long (to be fair, it has taken quite a beating over the past two years). We have heard good things about the polyester from the folks at Yurta, who are much more skilled and experienced than us when it comes to yurts, so we are confident it will serve us well.

We are hopeful that the new stuff will last a while since we have become attached to the yurt and don’t want to leave it anytime soon.

In farm news: we are in the midst of harvesting our veggies; despite it being a disappointing year (compared to last year), we are enjoying lots of good food fresh from the dirt. We have been eating and freezing a lot of soup.

The ducks, all grown up.

The ducks, all grown up.

In other news: I spent a solid three hours (maybe more?) going through the things we have stored in our shed. While my mother-in-law entertained the wee one, I was able to find such gems as: a decade-old postcard that was never sent, my Mom’s Storm Trooper ski boots from the 80’s, and The Little Mermaid CD that I swore I would never show to my kids. I have another couple of days ahead of me, but I feel optimistic. Although we still have way too much stuff, we are less attached to it and are having a good time giving it away. Maybe by this time next year, we will have gone through everything we own and will have scaled down to a satisfactory amount of crap.

Have a good weekend! 🙂