Category Archives: miscellaneous

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! 🙂

Mushy Banana

Standard

Journal from June 21, 2013 [7 month-old baby]

Alma had a decent nap yesterday morning until about ten, so when she woke up we went to visit Nanny and Grandpa. The fields are dry enough that I can walk barefoot across them now. Alma and I sat in the grass while Mike and his mom worked in the garden. I gave Alma her first taste of banana. She seemed to like it, but had more interest in squishing it than in eating it. After sucking on it, dropping it in the grass, smooshing it, and dropping it again, she was finished and I was forced to do something with the banana pieces in the grass. I didn’t want to leave them for fear I would later regret it, so I ate them. And it didn’t gross me out at all; I think something in my psyche must have shifted in the past few months because pre-eaten bananas are definitely not on my list of appetizing things to eat.

Happy with her spoon

Happy with her spoon

We set up an old swing on the porch for Alma; she enjoyed chewing on the chains until we distracted her with a wooden spoon. She played with dill weed, mustard greens, and carrots while we gardened, then had a bit of a nap in her little tent before we went home for a real nap later in the day. In the evening, we had a steak dinner with the grandparents. It was a good day.

Fresh from the garden

Fresh from the garden

Thoughts from a Pregnant Woman in a Tiny Cabin

Standard

Journal from September 27, 2012 [33 weeks pregnant; living in a small cabin with electricity]

Growing up in Canada resulted in my having a fairly privileged upbringing. I was the only child of divorced parents (one of whom lived in Europe for a chunk of my childhood) and therefore I was pretty spoiled. I spent my summers travelling around Europe; I watched a lot of television and was fairly “plugged in” to technology. Perhaps this is why many people question my sincerity when I say things like “I’m excited to live off-grid in a yurt,”.

True, I have morphed from a MuchMusic-watching teenager to a strong CBC Radio supporter, and my tastes have changed from store-bought cannelloni to homemade curries. I no longer have a television, internet, or running water. My bathroom is an uncovered outhouse (perfect during the dry summer, slightly less convenient during a rainy autumn). I shower at the gym, at friends’ houses, or at my in-laws’ once or twice a week rather than in my own bathroom each morning. I write emails offline and save them for when I am in a wifi area.

Why the change? Why did I go from a climate-controlled home in the city to a 120 sq. ft. cabin next door to my in-laws? The expected and assumed answer is that I followed my husband, which is, of course, true. However, I love our lifestyle and I prefer the woods to  a flushing toilet. I love the ease of being able to pee whenever I need to (which is terribly often now that I am nearly 8 months pregnant). I like that when I wake up in the night I have a view of the stars that one rarely gets to see. I like that our cabin gets cold at night and warm during the day. I like that, because our space is limited, we have only our favourite things displayed. I like that we have an old radio that fills our cozy home with jazz each night, and I love that I am learning to live without a tap.

Living humbly allows us to work less and travel more. Although my husband never stops working (whether he is building a Land Rover, making pottery, or harvesting vegetables), he enjoys his work and does not feel it is a job. Luckily, when I am teaching, I also enjoy my work. At the moment I am not teaching; rather, I am preparing for the baby (which means sleeping a lot more during the day than ever before). So despite making a fraction of what our friends make in a year, we feel extremely rich and don’t feel deprived in any way. We have spent the past few months working and travelling together, which is more than I could ever ask for.

We are building the yurt ourselves and in such a way that it is costing approximately one year’s worth of rent. So far, all of the wood is our own (cut down from my in-laws’ woods) and we have only had to buy a few supplies (canvas, wool felt, nylon cord). The yurt has cost about $5000 so far, so I am estimating that when all is said and done it will cost between six and seven thousand (this includes flooring, plumbing, etc.).

Update: The yurt ended up costing around $7000 total. 

Introduction to Gluten-Free

Standard

My friend is going to try eating gluten-free for a month to see if her health improves. I did the same thing four years ago after being really sick for a year, and have continued to keep it out of my diet. Here are my favourite gluten-free (dairy-, egg-, yeast-, and corn-free as well) recipes.

Gluten-Free Flour Mix *I make my own because it is cheaper to do so. Check out bulk stores as well as health food stores for the best prices.

1 part rice flour (white or brown)

1 part starch (arrowroot, tapioca)

1 part smooth flour (sorghum, amaranth, millet)

optional: 1/4 part coconut flour or chickpea flour (both have strong flavours though so use your discretion)

Mix it up and use for any of the following recipes. I like to use as many different flours as I can when making a mix as it seems to taste much better.

Baking Powder

2 parts cream of tartar

1 part baking soda

1 part starch (arrowroot, tapioca, corn)

Scones/Biscuits

1 1/4 cups gluten-free flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1/4 cup mashed potatoes

1/2 cup milk (soy, almond, cow…)

1/4 cup oil (canola, sunflower, olive, coconut…)

Add dry to wet and stir. Bake on greased cookie sheet (in blobs) at 450 for 12-15 minutes.

Pizza Crust

2 1/4 cups buckwheat flour

1/2 cup starch (tapioca, arrowroot)

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup warm water

1/4 cup oil

1 tbsp honey

1 tbsp vinegar (apple cider, white, balsamic)

optional: garlic, herbs de provence, chili flakes

Bake for 15-20 minutes at 375, put toppings on and bake for another 10. Play around with cooking times as you can get soft, crisp, or crunchy crust from this recipe. I forgot about it one time and burnt it into chips (they turned out to be really good so I purposefully burn it occasionally now).

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 1/4 cup quick oats

1 1/4 cup milk (soy, almond, cow)

1 egg (or egg replace)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 1/2 tbsp. maple sugar (or 1/3 cup maple syrup, or 3/4 cup white sugar)

3/4 cup chocolate chips

1 1/4 cup gluten-free flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

Mix oats with milk and let sit while you mix the other ingredients. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Chocolate Macaroons

2 cups brown sugar

1/2 cup milk (soy, almond, cow…)

1/4 cup oil (margarine, butter, canola oil, coconut oil…)

1.2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup cocoa (or more)

3 cups oats

1 cup shredded coconut

Combine first batch of things (sugar, milk, oil, vanilla) in a pot, bring to boiling point, and remove from heat. Mix other stuff into hot mixture. Drop onto waxed paper, put in fridge or freezer, and enjoy.

Pumpkin Loaf

1 cup pumpkin

1/2 cup oil (canola, sunflower, olive, coconut…)

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs (or egg replacer)

1/3 cup apple juice

1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour

1 tsp baking soda

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1/2 tsp allspice

1/2 tsp ginger

1/2 tsp cloves

Mix it all together. Pour into loaf pan (or muffin tin) and bake at 350 until a toothpick comes out clean (usually about an hour – gluten-free stuff often takes way longer than you’d expect).

Pie Crust

1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour

1/2 tsp salt

1/4 cup water

1/2 cup crisco
Pour flour and salt into pie plate. Boil water and crisco together and pour over flour. Mix with fork until all is wet. Pat out, flute edges, and bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes (or until golden brown).

Nut Milk

1 cup nuts or seeds (almonds, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds)

3-4 cups water

Blend it all together, strain a couple of times (through a “nut milk bag”, cheesecloth, old shirt), put in a jar, and store in fridge for a few days.

Great websites for allergy-free cooking:

Gluten-Free Goddess – http://glutenfreegoddess.blogspot.ca/

The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen – http://www.nourishingmeals.com/

Bathtub

Standard

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.

Not the End of the World

Standard

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

Standard

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

Standard

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

Standard

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

Standard

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.

IMG_2429

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.

IMAG0579

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.

IMG_3119

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.

IMAG0590

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.

IMG_3148

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.

IMG_2416

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.