Hashtags. I don’t really understand them….Well, I understand them on the basic level. People add them to the end of social media things so that they can later be searched for according to the hashtag used. It’s simple, really. I guess it could also be useful for some things–like major breaking news in countries with strict media laws or whatever. However, their pervasive overuse on social media has long ago surpassed ridiculous and is now comical. I read a funny thing the other day that went something along the lines of this: “I just saw an old phone from the nineties and it had a hashtag on it! Why would an old phone need one of those? Hashtags didn’t exist back then!” Haha. Silly teenagers who don’t know what a pound sign is.
Anyhow, I digress as per the usual.
On New Year’s Eve, my friend stayed with us and applied the hashtag #yurtlyfe to the pictures she took that evening. We thought it was clever and amusing; we had a good laugh. Well, I searched the internet with this hashtag and it turns out she is not the first one to use it (sorry, Emma). #yurtlifebestlife didn’t bring up any Google hits, so what does that say? Perhaps I’m a social media word genius…or maybe, just maybe, yurt life isn’t really the best life…
Yurt life is great for what it is and for this stage in our budding family. I do know, however, that I am not willing to do it for more than a couple of years. This has become more apparent this week while we house sit for a friend in Eagle River–the closest thing to a suburb Anchorage has! I’ve been walking around in my Suburban Farmgirl shoes….and starting to like it. I almost wish Ava was old enough to drive to soccer practice in my SUV. I could capitalize on weekly trips to Target. We could have barbecues with the other folks in the cul-de-sac, and our golden retrievers could be best friends.
I kid, I kid! I know that there is more to suburban life than soccer moms and big box stores. I grew up in the ‘burbs and played softball and my father usually drove me.
Okay, okay, I really do know there’s more to it than this, but it’s just too fun and easy to poke fun at the suburban life once in awhile (maybe because I’m secretly a bit jealous?).
This suburban stint in a real house has me thinking about life in the yurt over these last eight months. It has also encouraged me to make a little mental list of things to look for in any future homes we may live in. Of course, this is all impacted by life with a young baby. This reflection has evolved into a rough pros and cons list, or maybe a list of the good, the bad and the ugly!
I really love how everything is essentially one room in the yurt. This is especially nice with a young baby. It is so reassuring to be able to see and hear her at all times. I know that I am the type of person that would check on her every three seconds if she ended up napping in a separate room. I bet I’d just end up lugging her and her things around the house with me wherever I went. I’ve been doing that in this house. If I’m doing dishes, she sits on the counter in her car seat. If I’m playing with the dogs in the basement, she comes with us or I check on her every three seconds, exhausting me and annoying the dogs. If I need to use the restroom, she’s right there next to me. A bit excessive? Probably, but I’m a paranoid first time mom.
In the yurt, I can do the dishes, check my e-mail, clean the floors, wrestle with Moki, organize laundry, do some art, take a nap and practice yoga while always having my baby in eyesight and earshot. The only time I can’t see her is when I use the indoor honey bucket or outdoor outhouse. Even then, I can always hear her through the thin yurt walls.
Because of these thin walls, we feel a bit closer to nature. The whipping wind or pitter patter of rain on the walls of the yurt are pretty cool. I love hearing the hammering of woodpeckers in the morning and the “cheery-ups” of the newly returned robins during the day.. The sound of snow sliding off of the yurt roof is something everyone should experience.
Yurtlife has also forced us to live more simply. We are very conscious of how much water we use (about 30 gallons per week between the three of us). We have significantly downsized our belongings, and we are much pickier about purchasing stuff.
Yurtlife is cheap. It better be, since we are essentially living in a fancy tent. One of the reasons I am able to stay home with Ava is because we live in a yurt. Our monthly expenses are very low compared to others we know. Our biggest expense involves keeping the yurt warm. We are on the electrical grid, so our two space heaters are the biggest electricity eaters. Also, cords of wood are not cheap in Alaska. Heating costs will be even lower next year when we have our own wood instead of buying it. Of course, these living costs are made much more affordable because of the generosity of our friends that invited us to stay on their property.
Not surprisingly, the good and the bad are going to overlap a bit. The one-roomness of the yurt can be a challenge. Sometimes Evan and I want to do different things in different rooms. Sometimes drying laundry in the same room that I cook in is counterproductive (clean clothes that smell like dinner!). Also, it gets pretty dirty pretty quickly.
Living simply is great, but I kind of hate not having running water. Living in this house, I’ve discovered that I can get myself a glass of water while holding a baby. This was a life changing moment…seriously. I drink almost a gallon of water per day. In the yurt, getting a glass of water usually involves lifting a five gallon blue water jug, opening the spout, filling a filtered pitcher, and then pouring a glass of water. In this scenario I must put baby down, no matter how content she is in my arms. Another great option is baby wearing. This is often what we resort to. In this house, I walk to the faucet, turn it on, pick up a cup, fill it, set cup down and turn off faucet. The perks of indoor plumbing! (#firstworldproblems anyone?).
Another downside of the yurt is that we can hear EVERYTHING that is happening outside. While the morning woodpecker is pleasant, the morning neighbor yippy dog is infuriating! Recreational vehicles are popular in rural areas, so we get a fair share of obnoxiously loud snowmobiles and ATVs zipping by at all hours of the day and night. A few weeks ago a neighbor had a very loud party. We asked them to quiet down a bit, and they did for a little while but it amped up again. Alas, because we are in a rural area there are no noise ordinances for cops to enforce, so we fell asleep to the incessant bumping of really terrible metal music. However, if not for this same lack of ordinances, we probably couldn’t live in a yurt.
There isn’t too much that is ugly about yurt life. Most of the ugly comes from the fact that we don’t have running water. This just means that we are a bit…dirtier than everyone else!
The ugliest is probably doing the dishes…ugh. The dishes are my nemesis! Since our space is limited we do dishes in portable plastic wash bins. We have a three bin dish set up that works. One bin has dirty dishes, one has soapy water and one has rinse water. We heat up water on the stove or hot plate and use that water. Because water is a hot commodity, we use it sparingly and the water gets nasty super quickly. I dump the water outside, which probably isn’t kosher, but whatever. We are hoping to make a French drain this summer. Since doing the dishes is such a production, we (of course) often end up with piles of dishes that take an hour or two to finish. UGH-ly.
Ugly item number two is the honey bucket. It’s a five gallon bucket with a toilet seat on it. It’s only for numero uno and I use it throughout the day and night. If it isn’t emptied on a daily basis it starts to smell pretty rank. Luckily it doesn’t smell with the lid down.
Bathing is another issue. I’m going to share something that might be shocking to many of you–I only shower once per week. Other than that I sponge bathe. I don’t think I stink too badly, and my hair doesn’t get greasy very quickly, so it works. We can take showers at our friends’ place or pay for showers at a nearby gas station/laundromat/convenience store/ski bum stop. It works for us, for now, for the situation we are in.
Last ugly item is how quickly the small space of the yurt gets dirty and messy. Two active people, a very active dog and a baby can make one room pretty dirty in a matter of hours. I swear our dog should be bald on all accounts of how much fur I vacuum up from our little area rug on a daily basis (I get a soccer ball sized ball of fluff every other day! It’s all fluffy, not compacted, but still!).
Yurt life is great. A lot of the bad and ugly would be the same in a regular house, just more spread out. Yurt life is a concentrated kind of life, and it is the best life for us right now. We won’t be doing it for very long, so we’re generally loving it while we can! I couldn’t imagine it any other way. Plus, we have a warm (usually) home to live in with access to electricity and clean water. This is much more than billions of people in the world. What is there really to complain about?
If any of you have questions about #yurtlifebestlife I would love to answer them! That is another one of the good things about living in a yurt: People are very curious about it. We love sharing our experiences with those looking to venture into getting a yurt of their own!
Wow…this was a long post! I hope it finds you all well in your respective abodes.
Until next time,
Sending you peace and love,
Alex, the Rural Farmgilr
I have a few questions and a comment. The comment first is that you have wooden floors – how pretty! Question 1: do you get a lot of bugs or other unwanted visitors in your yurt? Question 2: do you have any security issues? and 3: What type of stove do you have? Thanks!
Hey Diane, I’m happy to answer! Thanks on the wooden floors, they are what really tied the place together in the end. 1: I have just started to notice a few spiders around as well as mosquitoes. However, I’ve always had spiders in my homes, and I think the mosquitoes just come in the front door and on the dog because there aren’t very many. We haven’t had any problems with little rodents…only gross dead ones the dog has brought in. The yurt is raised off the ground a few feet on a platform, so I imagine we’d have more bugs if we were on the ground. 2: Security is worrisome sometimes. If someone really wanted to get in and they were small enough they could just cut through the walls and slip through the latticework. Similarly, people in bear country have to take many precautions to prevent bears from tearing their yurts to shreds to get the delicious food inside! This often involves raising the yurt on a huge platform with metal spikes to prevent climbing or surrounding the structure with an electric fence. 3: We have a used Princess Blaze stove. It is pretty big and goes through wood very quickly, but it keeps us warm even in -20 degree weather! It has a nice flat top for cooking food and heating up water if we need it. The only downfall is that gets the place too hot once the temperature rises above 30. We often find ourselves stripped down to t-shirts and undies in the fall and spring!
Thanks for sharing more about your experience. I really enjoy your blog.
Thanks for the kind words, Diane!
WOW a great learning curve, so reminds me of the one room apartment we once lived in and how ‘deprived’ I felt but we had all the amenities. Then into a one bedroom place and then THINGS came into the space – more – more – more and well you get the picture – now we have downsized and so wish we had the big house but glad we have just what we have. The reason for me saying this is your story is so familiar and I am so happy you are able to do your best to make a lovely home for Evan and Emma, she will learn a lot about living by #livingyurtlifebestlife. Thanks for the message. God Bless
Isn’t it funny how we accomodate things? We are kind of like goldfish in that way, we try to fill up any space we have with the right amount of things…I’m okay with cutting down on the stuff for now! Definitely makes life a bit simpler.
Have you ever considered a solar shower? They only cost about twelve bucks, and heat up either in the sun, or you can just pour hot water in, hang it up and have a nice hot, luxurious shower. 1 full solar shower can easily clean two of you, if you don’t dilly dally. I use mine when camping- I have a volkswagen bus, and I open the back hatch, hang a blanket around the outside, a tarp across the opening inside, and put the shower on top, with the hose coming down between the hinges. So great!
Hey Shari, we do have a propane shower…but have yet to remove it from the box. This is one of our projects for this summer! Solar showers are great, too. If the propane one doesn’t work out that’s our next move. Thanks for the suggestion!
Very interesting. I grew up in a home without electricity or running water so you are a way step up. I remember bringing my daughter to the farm and taking her to the outhouse when she was 2. She informed me the you could freeze your buttons off. I agree. Looking back it was great. We live in the same town in a cabin and travel when we work. We have 200 acres and a great person that takes care of our place when we are gone but no cell phone service. Such a great tragedy.. NOT! We have a facility for youth and I am amazed how they think this is the end of the world. I should send them to visit you. Love your stories and AVA is a real luckly little girl to have her mommy home with her….
Thanks, Karin! Kind of funny how a lack of cell service can be so challenging! 200 acres sounds heavenly. Thanks for sharing!
AH! Nothing like a confined space to help us see how much “stuff” we really have :). We lived in a tiny 1 bedroom apartment with 2 kids. Needless to say that is what started our journey of “less mess is best” :).
Now, 25+ years later, we still keep our “stuff” under control….though it is getting to be more of a challenge now that i know we won;t be moving again (please, Lord! NOT again!!!). I want to pretty things up and that takes…stuff!
I think I would like living in a yurt though. Man, we would have to get rid of more than I care to think. But simple is better—not easier mind you.
One thing I think would really be a HUGE adjustment is the “honeypot”! The hubby calls me McGruff the crime dog when it comes to smells.
I wonder if this would work using a honeypot???
I can’t see why not…in either case this commercial is worth watching if for nothing else…a good laugh!
Happy yurting :)…there’s a new hashtag for ya #happyyurting
Enjoy the day…
Hey Donna! I can’t wait for the day when we are done moving. I counted recently and I have moved eleven times in as many years. That is sheer craziness, but I guess not out of the question for twenty somethings. That commercial is hilarious! I wonder how it really works? hmm…Thanks for sharing!
I LOVE the photos of AVA! Thanks for sharing her with us. Also appreciate your frankness about life in a yurt…interesting and educational and resourceful. Best wishes to you and your family. BTW we wore out 3 baby carriers raising our children. Wish I had discovered them sooner. Keep your posts coming; I look forward to them. Peace and All Joy from Pennsylvania
Thanks, Joan! Sometimes we need a bit of frankness, yeah? We love our baby carriers so much. We don’t even have a stroller because we use them for everything from house cleaning to grocery shopping to long walks. Baby wearing is the best!
I just looked through more photos than I would like to admit marked with #yurtlyfe on Instagram. I’m a little disappointed that I’m not the one who came up with it first, but I took solace in seeing that yours was the coolest yurt of all (and that it contains the cutest baby).
Yeah, maybe there are just other hashtag geniuses out there like you. I wouldn’t take it too hard. You rock!
Alex, this is lovely! I loved the part about how some of the bad would still be there just in a different way if you weren’t living in a yurt (because it shows that you are realistic..not grass is greener sort of person). If you have a bigger space, you’ll somehow end up filling it and then at some point be annoyed with all the stuff you have and that you then have to clean that bigger space! Not that it’s not nice to be able to spread out, and possibly ignore a mess in another room. If you and Evan can do this together, you can do anything together! Love you so much woman!
Thanks, Yen! Love you, too. I try to be a pragmatic idealist if at all possible. I’m already way too good at ignoring messes in the rooms I am in (as you know from living with me!! ha)…This whole having a baby thing has made me a bit cleaner and more organized, though. So, we’ll have to wait and see what house living has in store for us when it happens. Miss you and your fam (even the two I haven’t met!)