Most people (I’m assuming) don’t really know what a yurt is and therefore, most people (again, I’m assuming) have never lived in a yurt. To serve as my evidence for these assumptions is the number of people who thought we were batshitinsane when we told them we had sold our house and moved into a yurt with two small children and a baby on the way…..that number would be: ALL OF THEM. But we did it anyway and survived to tell the tale. Anyhoo, most people have no idea what to invision when prompted with the phrase ‘yurt lving.’ I will attempt to provide our version of just that…..
For the most basic of information, a yurt is a round abode that is (for the most part) movable. Nomadic tribes in Mongolia would use these structures to live in and travel through the very cold temperates of the region. Ours was constructed by the Colorado Yurt Company and erected on a 36′ x 36′ redwood deck, a 400+ sf single room space….pretty amazing, actually. We heated the 24′ diameter space with a wood stove, had no running water, no electricity, and a 5-gallon bucket with pine shavings for a toilet. This is how we lived for a year. To be exact, we lived without electricity for six months. For the following six months we were able to light up the yurt with string LED lights with our limited electricity. We lived without running water for the entire year, however, six months in we did acquire access to our underground well and no longer had to haul in water from town to cook, wash dishes, water our livestock, and drink from. For the record, by ‘we’ I mean myself (pregnant), my husband, our two small children (4 yrs and 2 yrs), our 3 dogs, 1 cat, 4 chickens, 2 goats, and 1 horse. We were a large family living in a small yurt, making it work.
In the summer we felt like a family of wolves. We went to an outside source for water. We planned for meals on an ‘availability’ basis. We bathed in the river. We could sense eachother’s presence by smell alone. In the winter we holed up together in the yurt as though it were a bear’s den. We depended on eachother for heat; it got cold, but not too cold. We bathed in the sun when it was available. Lucky for us, it was a very warm winter. The wood stove kept us comfortable through the -32 degree nights, quite to our surprise. Chipmunks considered us Gods for warding off the deadly frosts and took up with us through the long, hard, lonely nights of winter. We heated ice to get water to cook our food, to wash our dishes, to clean our bodies. Life was not easy by modern standards but neither does that mean our life was hard.
To put it plainly, life was simple. We cut our wood for heat, we heated our water for use, we dealt with our waste on every level. Once a week we would travel into town to shower and do laundry. We would eat dinner by candlelight, read bedtime stories by the firelight of the wood stove, sleep soundly among the wild animals crossing our land to make it to the river to drink by the light of the moon. We heard coyotes calling so often that we learned to differentiate each call; the daily drama of pack life, the excitement of the kill, the woeful existence of the lone coyote. Crows would stop by to chat in the afternoon sun. Deer would slink around to the hay pile, hoping to go as unnoticed as the mice which made their beds there.
The kids loved living in the yurt. They learned quickly about things like cactus, rodents, yucca, and fire. They loved walking down to the river to throw stones in the cold, rushing water while we lounged on the grassy embankment. They were both fearful and curious of the call of coyotes, the tracks of mountain lions, the possibility of bears. They adapted well to living by candlelight in a single room. It brought us closer, made us grateful for eachother, taught us what we needed in order to live, what we could live without. I will be forever endeared to the simple life. Perhaps in many years, once life has slowed down and we aren’t required to answer to so many responsibilities, we will go back to that life. My retirement fund should consist of this: the patience to tend a garden, the willingness to devote time to living, the stillness to notice what surrounds me, the love of a life well lived……and a single yurt.