Tag Archives: winter

Off-Grid: Winter

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At the beginning of the year, I made a list of goals that I hoped we would accomplish throughout 2014. One of those goals was to live off-grid for one week each season.

It is quite easy to be off-grid in the winter, we found out. The warmth of the stove along with the soft glow of oil lamps made for calm, quiet evenings spent with tea and good books. We didn’t miss the fridge as it was cold enough on our porch to keep our food fresh (and cold enough outside to keep things frozen).

Evenings: After Alma fell asleep in the evenings, we read books, worked on projects (knitting, sewing, house), or just hung out. Evenings were much quieter than usual without the temptation to watch a movie. We went to bed a couple hours earlier than usual.

Days: Not much changed. We sang a lot while working and playing since there was no background music with which to hum along.

What We Liked: I loved knowing that my options for entertainment were limited; it was easier to focus on books or projects when there were only a few choices.

What We Missed: I missed the vacuum-cleaner the most. Sweeping the carpet just doesn’t give you the same satisfaction as vacuuming. I also missed listening to Tonic (jazz) in the evenings.

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Farewell, Winter

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Winter seemingly flew by this year despite having lasted a solid 6 months. Always armed with an extra pair of leggings and a wool sweater, I felt confident staring down the cold winter days. The weather outside was pretty frightful sometimes, but the fire inside was indeed delightful.

February brought a lot of pancake breakfasts, for no apparent reason, which made the month more exciting. Alma discovered that she enjoys stirring pancake batter.

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I spent most winter evenings reading or working on a knitting or sewing project. I read a few great books, as well as a few not-so-great ones. On the craft front, I didn’t accomplish anything remarkable, but I enjoyed my time.

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton

I spent a good deal of time researching and planning our vegetable garden. We ordered our seeds early and were raring to go at the beginning of March; however, due to the three feet of snow and the -20 nights, the season has been pushed back a few weeks so we didn’t plant until near the end of March. We have a quite a few little plants in the yurt now and our home has become a glorified greenhouse.

Last day of March

Last day of March

January

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January was a strange month weather-wise. It was really cold for a few days in the yurt, so we bundled up and looked fashionable:

So many layers of wool...

So many layers of wool.

Then, it suddenly got warm and every surface became a skating rink:

Safely navigating our way across the driveway in a box.

Safely navigating our way across the driveway in a box.

The husband shaved his beard and we got fancy for an evening:

The Bearded Wonder is now a teenage version of himself.

The Bearded Wonder is now a teenage version of himself.

I did a decent amount of knitting and finally finished Alma’s doll:

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She finally has a face!

She finally has a face!

Alma really loved her for about three minutes.

Mike went away for a weekend so Alma and I took over the farm duties for a couple days. On our first morning we noticed a broken heat lamp, a broken post in the barn (the cows always get feisty when Mike is away), and the best part: a dead rooster. All was fine in the end and we enjoyed hanging out with the animals. We must have been feeling motivated because we finished the chores, ate breakfast, and even washed the dishes by 9am. After a nap, we de-cluttered and got rid of some stuff. Because, this:

I won't post pictures showing the rest of the yurt that day.

I won’t post pictures showing the rest of the yurt that day… imagine this x 40.

With Mike away, I told Alma she had to pull her weight; so, she started doing household chores at the tender age of one:

Vacuuming.

Vacuuming with a yurt-pole.

Alma played:

She only likes the highest quality of toys.

She only likes the highest quality of toys.

We took a few naps:

Alma passed out on my lap; I'm wearing my neck-extending scarf and the sweater I never take off.

I might have worn that sweater every day of the month.

So, that was January!

 

Winterizing the Yurt

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Winter in the yurt has been quite cosy in comparison to last year. We have a “sunroom” which blocks out [most] the wind, carpets that keep our feet warm, and a newly-sewn breeze rejector (sounds like a superhero, does it not?) that keeps the wind from gushing in under the the canvas/felt.

Last winter can be summed up by this image of a very bundled new mother nursing her tiny infant near the stove.

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The drying diapers were daily art pieces in the yurt last winter.

This winter, so far, is quite the opposite. Although I continue to be quite well-bundled I am much warmer now that I am not restricted to life in a chair. Alma runs around most of the day, so she is always warm, and if I fulfill the day’s quota of cooking, cleaning, and playing, I also stay quite toasty.

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Yurt in the Summer

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Yurt in the Winter

 

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Yurt in the Summer

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Yurt in the Winter

 

Our weather has been strange and yet completely normal for a Canadian winter. We have had snow, ice pellets, freezing rain, rain, sun; snow that feels like mashed potatoes, snow that sounds like styrofoam, and fluffy snow that hides the menacing layer of ice hiding just beneath it. 

The yurt has been as warm as any “normal” house most days this winter (even when it is -25 outside); however, we have had a few chilly mornings that warranted enough extra layers of wool that we looked as if we were about to climb a mountain. 

Christmas in the Yurt (year two)

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December 20th: Our annual Christmas party was cancelled due to bad weather; we had already booked my niece to babysit so we went on a date. We drank hot drinks at a small cafe playing Christmas music and then walked around the old campus in the snow. Weather: cold and snowing

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A perfect winter’s day

December 21st: My parents arrived at the yurt after driving through freezing rain for most of the day.  Weather: lots of snow in the morning, freezing rain the rest of the day

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Decorating a Charlie Brown tree for Nanny & Papa’s hotel room

December 22nd: Church was cancelled due to the ice. Downside: my sweet nieces didn’t get to be angels in the nativity play, which was a bit disappointing for them. The upside: everyone was showered and wearing nice clothes. We spent the day in the yurt with my parents; lost power around lunchtime. We lit the oil lamps, decorated the tree, and hung Christmas gifts from the ceiling. Weather: everything covered in slippery ice, warm 

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Christmas gifts rained from the ceiling

December 23rd: Still no power. We went for a beautifully snowy walk and took pictures in front of the ice-covered trees; Mike and my Mom had a snowball duel in the field. Weather: a bit of snow, still fairly warm (-10 ish)

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It was a good day for a snowball fight

December 24th: No power for most of the day. The grandparents babysat the wee girl at the hotel (they had power) and managed to get her down for a nap (Grandparents: 1, Alma: 0) while Mike and I did some last minute Christmas and grocery shopping. We had a very fun time and were surprised by how friendly everyone was to us. We realized later that we looked like young versions of Santa and Mrs. Claus in our red coats and Santa hats.
We were preparing supper when the Christmas lights turned on and the yurt turned into a scene from a Christmas movie. Christmas lights and music have never been so welcome. The power turned off again about ten minutes later. Alas, we went to church  and had a lovely time singing carols with friends.
The Great Christmas Electricity Miracle had returned in our absence and the yurt was again a beautiful sight. We ate way too much food and had good laughs with both Nannies, Papa, and our friend Isabelle. After tucking my two favourite people into bed, I cleaned up the kitchen and got the yurt ready for Christmas morning. This is the first year I understand what Christmas is like for adults as I finally got to bed at 3:30am. Weather: cold

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Christmas Eve

 December 25th: We woke up to a smiling baby and a blue sky. Though it was cold outside, the yurt was balmy and we were cosy.

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Christmas Morning

Grandparents arrived; we opened gifts and ate copious amounts of sweet treats. “Brunch” was finally on the table at 1:30pm. We made Christmas supper at Nanny’s house because our oven was at 600 degrees (the husband wanted to keep the guests warm). We had a fun time around the fireplace with friends and family before heading home to bed. Weather: cold. 

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Christmas in the yurt

December 26th: We had a visit from our good friend, Alex, who not only helped Mike carry a couch from the barn to the yurt and cut wood, but also entertained the wee one for hours. We had lemon meringue pie for my step-Dad’s birthday and played a game of Trivial Pursuit 90’s Edition (my much sought-after Christmas gift). Weather: cold and snowy. 

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Spreading Christmas cheer

December 27th: Christmas Day II. We cooked a communal meal with my husband’s family and ended up with eighteen of us around the table. We went sliding and sat around the fireplace as we opened gifts. It was a very fun-filled day. We said sad goodbyes to my parents who were heading home and headed home ourselves. Alma was pretty sleepy on the walk home (which was only about five minutes) and fell asleep in her snowsuit as Mike was about to unzip her. We tried to watch a stand-up comedian on the computer but only last about twelve minutes before we also fell asleep. Weather: perfect winter day

 

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Kids, adults, dogs, and a baby all participated in the tobogganing

December 28th: Christmas continued with the in-laws. We had the annual Gingerbread Competition where everyone makes some form of gingerbread house (or van, castle, tree-house, tipi…). Mike ate so much pizza he could barely function. The kids built a snow couch/fort lit with tiki-torches where we enjoyed hot drinks and watched each other barrel down the icy hill on sleds. Alma and I fell asleep in the chair as Mike visited with our friend Alex. Weather: warming up

 

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What could be better entertainment than an oversized cardboard box?

December 29th: Mass exodus by the in-laws; everyone left us this morning. Nanny, Mike, Alma, and the dogs napped this afternoon while I looked through the dozens of Christmas photos we took. Mike chopped wood and filled the yurt; we put Alma to bed early, and watched an episode of How I Met Your Mother.  Weather: around zero; ice is melting off the trees

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Having a nap in her new Christmas sled

December 30th: Today will be a quiet, nap-filled day for the little one (and probably for me, as well). I will probably make soup and we will watch a Christmas movie of some sort tonight. Weather: cold and blustery 

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Reading while Mom washes dishes

December 31st: No More Beard Day! Mike is not only shaving his beard, he is also cutting off all his beautiful hair. In 2014 I will be married to someone who looks much younger than I.

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Farewell 2013 beard

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.

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)