Raising a tiny human in a yurt, the shit bits…

I choose this lifestyle for all of the amazing and positive aspects to yurt life.

I chose to keep my son knowing I would be single.

There are plenty of wonderful aspects of yurt life with a wee one.

Whilst that is all true, the downsides are still real. In this post, I’m going to share my less so joyous experiences. Not to have a moan- well maybe a little bit of a cathartic vent!- but to share the reality of the day to day. For all those who are considering it as a lifestyle option, here’s a heads up.

Most of the tough bits are really universal to all those with babies and young children. Then there are the challenges that come with single parenthood ( and blessings!) and then there’s some specific to yurt / off grid / outdoorsie way of life.

Of course a large amount of the population in the world live very simply in small homes, no electricity, outdoor toilets and cook on firewood. So I am speaking from the perspective of someone who has had a privileged life. Used to growing up in the UK in a roomy family house, then living in a flat and shared houses for most of my 20’s with electricity, hot water and heating instantly available. So many of the challenges come from the experience of simply- being used to more conveniences.

Life with a newborn.

My son was born in the Spring. Evenings were still quite chilly but the days were mostly sunny when i returned from hospital. ( We started at home but ended up in hospital day 3 ! That’s another story). I remember seeing the new born lambs in the fields on the car journey back home and was relieved to be back in the woods after 4 days in a hospital ward with florescent lighting and noise.

I had the support of family and my son’s father. So I could ‘ease’ into my new existence as a mother.  I felt like I’d been run over by a bus and had a complete meltdown- how the shitting hell am i going to be able to look after him when i cant even get out of bed !? I  remember my first walk outside in the woods by the yurt. I had my over-sized light blue dressing gown on. Hobbling about slowly in the woods looking exhausted and probably shell shocked. Any onlooking woodland walkers may have been concerned at the sight. (One downside of where I live is that it is part of where I work so there is a lack of privacy. )

Breastfeeding was painful. They don’t tell you that bit! My pain threshold had reached its absolute limit after the mega 3 day birth-a-thon, I gave in and Leo had formula for the first week of his little life. After a week or so breastfeeding commenced and after a week of helping hands with the cooking ( thanks Mum!) I had time to bond alone with my new human.

The first few months were lonely with the constant breastfeeding and not seeing adults as often as I used to.

The isolation is really tough- a universal for all mothers with babies I know and part of a wider cultural issue of loneliness in our modern world. As tribes we would be raising children with other mothers collectively. Doing it alone in any situation is, in my opinion, unhealthy for mother and child. It’s called post natal depression as if something is wrong with the mother that needs treating, but the isolation that comes with being home alone with a little one- not moving form the sofa for sometimes hours due to breastfeeding and not having other adults to talk to for long periods of time – of course we get depressed. I feel as a culture we need to build real community with strong support systems. Our sense of individualism and independence is sometimes our own worst enemy. We are social and interdependent beings. We need each other usually in small, every day ways.

(To counter act some of this I have been running a women’s circle monthyl(ish) in my yurt. With the aim to share our truths and be really open and honest in our communication. In my experience this creates a deeper sense of connection to each other and sharing our joy and our challenges makes us feel less alone in the world.)

I remember the nights- the awake nights of constant broken sleep and a baby at my side breastfeeding. During winter, some times the wood burner had gone out so we were wrapped up with wooly hats on in bed. Baby was in a winter sleeping bag but once i felt it was safe he was under the duvet with me or else breastfeeding was super complicated. I instinctively co-slept with him. Just felt right. And Ive liked the company of his little warm body next to me over the last 3 years – but not the kicking in the head and me ending up clinging onto the edge of a king size mattress every night !

The woodburner is like having a second child. It needs constant attention and there are days when I really cant be bothered, so we just put on more clothes. I always regret when I haven’t been organised enough to have sufficient kindling at the ready. I love chopping kindling on a sunny day when i have plenty of time. I hate chopping kindling in the dark and cold. Don’t get me wrong, it’s wonderful when its roaring, and the yurt is cosy and its snowing outside- magical in fact. But there are days when I miss central heating. I hate coming home to a cold home, I cant relax until its warmed up which can take about an hour. On cold winter mornings when the woodburner has gone out and the water in my glass next to the bed is frozen and i really don’t want to get out of bed, when the baby needs constant something or other and I have to sort the fire and I’m tired, and the dinner still needs cooking and the electricity isn’t working and I can’t find the candles and its cold and all I want to do is lie down and sleep. Yurt life is crap.

One room doom.

Its fab living in a small round house, with the sound of birds and sunlight through the roof skylight. But- existing in one room can drive one slightly bonkers. Especially in winter. I get depressed in UK winter anyway yurt or house, but i get cabin fever for sure. Energy levels are low- its really time to hibernate but we have to carry on with the work/ life routines the same all year.

The mess that a small person creates  is boringly constant and i cant escape it by closing a door to at least one space that isn’t full of crap! I’m constantly tidying but its never tidy. How DO tidy people do it?! It’s beyond me. I know I have to make the most of these young days with my son and not get too stressed about housework, but i would like it at least sometimes to no look like a chaotic pile of stuff . A huge amount my brain space is used up with coming up with new storage solutions and thinking about really needing to get rid of stuff. I get as far as filling a bag with old toys/ clothes, then, either Leo finds them and empties it again , or it sits in a bag for months, occasionally makes it as far as the car, where its sits for months. Eventually may make it to the charity shop- this is when i feel like one “of the on top of things organised mums”- a very rare feeling. There are evenings when i just sit and look at it all wanting to do something about it but with no energy to do anything so it stays where it is – again.

Outdoor loo.

I am so used to our outdoor compost toilet that it really isnt the worst thing about yurt life. It’s an excuse to get out and see the stars in the middle of the night which i wouldn’t otherwise do. At times it can be tricky when I need to go to the toilet but my son doesn’t want me to. When he was a baby I would bring him with me in the sling unless he was sleeping. As a toddler he has also often come with me. Most of the time its fine for me to pop to the toilet. Sometimes it isnt. I recall on morning when he wanted me to stay in bed for morning cuddles – and I really needed to go! I had to leave him as he wouldn’t come with me. He had a MASSIVE tantrum which lasted for at least 30 minutes with him crying and shouting in my face ” mummy, put your poo back in your bottom” over and over again. He was VERY angry. I had to hied my laughter. “It’s not funny mummy. Put your poo BACK IN YOUR BOTTOM.” What a way to start the day.

Potty Training

I am aware that potty training would be easier in a house. Leo is in the middle of this phase now. And as I haven’t been too on it, it is taking a very long time!. He does use the potty during the day, sometimes forgets when involved in something so lots of wet trousers. The laundry is piling up- I’ll get to that in a minute.

When he does do a poo in the potty he presents it proudly to me. I then have to take it outside and empty it in the compost loo. Which is fine. But I do admit to leaving it in the potty all day –  sometimes overnight, before getting around to emptying it. I apologize to any visitors who have come over to witness the poo. Although Leo would be very pleased you saw it. He is now learning to empty it himself so we may have less lingering potty poos at home now.

Laundry- 

Its piling up. I have too many clothes for the storage space so its good to keep it on a dirty/ clean cycle. If it was clean at the same time I wouldn’t have space to store it all. I need to have a clear out. I always need to have a clear out. It’s endless I hate it. Its boring as hell. I dont have a washing machine. I want one. I use the shared one in one of the buildings on site, its only a 5 min walk uphill but the whole process can be a massive process. When Leo was a baby  he had to come with me- lots of carrying stuff from A to B, as a toddler he has to come with me and gets distracted, wants to stay in the building, TANTRUM, wants be carried ( I have no free hands), has a MASSIVE TANTRUM as I cant pick him up, I leave him he wont follow me, I carry the washing some of the way, go get him, pick him up, retrieve washing, put him down, TANTRUM, and so on…the washing takes an hour, then i have to go back put it in tumble dryer, that takes another hour, back and forth with a small one takes fucking hours!

I’ve learnt to do it on days when I don’t have Leo. Doesn’t get done very often. I live with it. But I currently have a large pile of laundry staring at me, no clean socks or underwear and no idea when I’m going to have a child free moment to do anything about it. I’m defiantly not feeling like one of those ‘on top of it all’ mums. I am the mother who’s kid goes to the childminders looking slightly grubby. I’m late for work and I’m always feeling like ‘the hippy who hasn’t quite got her act together.’ I want people to think oh she lives in a yurt with her son and shes rocking it – not oh she really shouldn’t live in a yurt with her son- shes obviously a dirty hippy who is really unorganized. _ Hey if i lived in a house- I may be able to be slightly more on top of things- but I’ll always be a tad unorganised- its my ‘creative brain.!’

Hmm Im noticing i need to justify my self and my choices as people often have an opinion one way or another. Note to self- stop worrying too much about what others think and enjoy your time doing what your doing. You’re rocking it in your own , messy way.

10 years, 3 yurts.

I cant quite believe it but I have now been living off grid in a yurt for 10 years, now in my 3rd yurt. I am on the hippy property ladder. I have gone from a small 16 ft yurt, to a  23 ft yurt with my ex, to a 24ft yurt with my son- with slightly higher walls- makes a lot of difference when negotiating space and storage and all the crap that comes with little children.

I intended to start this blog when my son was born, 3 years ago this week.

The irony being that as a working single mum , living off grid in a yurt, I have little time for writing a blog! So, finally, 3 years later.. here it goes. Blog post 1.

So the main question to respond to I guess is WHY?

Why do I do it?

Am I mad.? Yes. Probably a little bit bonkers.

Mixed in with determined, stubborn and living the dream.

The reality is hard bloody work but Im still doing it and I still love it – most of the time. Are there shit bits? Yes. Will I do it forever? I doubt it. But something similar.

In fact writing this may be because I want to get some of this down before I jump ship. Every year, I say one more year.

I find it hard to leave as the connection I feel to this land now is so strong. My roots are firmly in the ground.

So how did it all begin? I was living in the city- back in my young care free single childless days (!) working where I work now, commuting back and forth. Id had enough of city life, and the countryside was calling me. I was suffering from the debilitating illness that is M. E. which I had for about 10 years.  I had a couple of friends living in yurts where I worked, and with a job change I had the opportunity to do the same. After travelling in South America I had been to various eco committees and projects , and felt a strong sense that this life was for me. SO i took the plunge, bought my first second hand 16ft yurt, paid for a new canvas for it. built the deck, and made it my first yurt home for a year.

It took a long time to make it homely and it was a steep learning curve. My Dad helped with my solar electricity systems, i bought a new woodburner, and my first winter was a shock to the system! However, I loved the starry nights, the cosy yurt when the woodburner was glowing, the sounds of the birds, and the sense of independence it gave me. My psyche changed. This made sense.

I lived next door to two other yurt dwelling families. Babies were born and I felt like part of a community I had always longed for. We had shared meals and i helped with the children who were in and out of my yurt daily.

Yurt mark 2. I met someone and we moved into a larger yurt when one family sadly moved on. They made their own yurt which was the one we inherited. Made lovingly from Ash poles , became my 23ft diameter round snug home for the next 8 years. Living with my partner in one room came with its challenges. But we spent many happy times with our neighbours. We built a wood heated bathtub outside for starry night bath times. Grew  a few veggies and herbs. Sadly we split after 5 years together and i had a tough time readjusting to life in the yurt without him.

Then , 4 years ago I became, surprisingly and accidentally pregnant. Game changer.

I had the toughest decision to make to be a lone parent. And I now have the most wonderful son to show for it. His dad and I are friends, and he has him every other weekend.

The labour was long, I planned a home birth , with a birth pool. Which in reality was such a chore to heat up that quantity of water off grid! ( The bath came in to its own that day!) Day 3 I was transported to hospital. That evening I gave birth naturally- to a healthy , very large, baby boy.

3 years on. Just before Christmas we moved into yurt mark 3. Slightly larger space and higher walls. Im still in boxes and have no decent kitchen storage. its driving me slightly bonkers. My son is confused as to where our original home has gone(!) A new wooden yurt has been built in its place and hes convinced that its ours . He apparently doesn’t like our new home. Change is hard.

Even though we only moved a few meters it felt like a massive house moving effort and its slightly broken me;  ive been poorly with one thing or another since.

It will be ok. Spring is here. ??

Hopefully by the Summer we”ll be settled and the garden will start to resemble something vaguely productive and it will be the season for evenings around the campfire and sing songs. We’ll do the annual  ‘PLEASE LET US HAVE DECENT SUMMER ‘ jig, and then dred the onset of winter. Which actually is quite lovely as long as there’s enough dry firewood stocked up. Organisation is key. Something I unfortunately lack.

There are of course pros and cons to this lifestyle. The pros are still out weighing the cons. Watching my boy grow up with tonnes of space to play and the sounds of nature around us. Time together as I work part time. Zero commute to work. Like minded neighbours. And a round home.

x Ninjayurtmum