Today I finally want to show you what our yurt looks like on the inside, and talk about what it’s like living here. It’s been a while since the last Building Our Home post but it took us quite a while to get organised. We’ve been slowly gathering stuff, and figuring out how to decorate a round space. For us living here has already become normal, but the first few weeks we keeps pinching ourselves to make sure it was real. We didn’t have time to settle in slowly. When we moved in around Christmas, winter was around the corner and we got lots of rain and wind, and after that a solid two weeks of snow. The roof leaked until we rubbed the seams with beeswax, and the crown started cracking so we had to secure it with more screws. I was afraid this was only the beginning, but we fortunately we haven’t had any problems since.
So let me answer the first question people ask us: aren’t you cold? The answer is no. I know it looks like a tent, but the 10cm of sheep wool insulation does its job really well. Our little stove heats up quickly and we can get it from 5 to 20 in about an hour. Ok so yes, the mornings are that cold: I think the coldest we’ve had was 0ºC, but that was when it had been freezing -10ºC at night. The stove works so well that often, we have the window open even if it’s freezing outside. It’s a different kind of heat than a central heater, and we had some headaches the first few days. Now we’re used to it, and we know better how to regulate the stove.
The way we deal with the cold in the morning is to get up quickly and start doing things. Stef gets the fire going and then he goes to the house to do the dishes. We have water in jerrycans but we don’t have a sink yet. We use an antique ironing board as a countertop. My first task is to put away the bed – we have a convertible sofa/bed – and then I go for a walk with the dog. On my way back I get wood from the shed so we have enough for the day. By the time we come back the yurt is nice and warm, and we sit down to have breakfast.
The rest of our day is not much different from other people – after breakfast we start our workday, have lunch, work some more and then go for a long walk with the dog. I usually cook dinner (in return I never have to do the dishes), then we watch a show or play games on the XBox, or I sew some more. At night Stef goes out with the dog for the last time, I unfold the bed and that’s basically our day.
What we would like to have is a sink, it’s much easier for cooking and doing the dishes. We manage without it but it’s first on the list of things to get done. We cook on an induction stove. We’re used to gas because that’s the primary cooking method in Holland, but out here it makes more sense to cook on electricity. That way when we get solar panels we can sustain ourselves in most of our use of resources. Water is not a problem here, a lot of places have their own water source just bubbling from the ground (ok that might be too idyllic, it’s probably regulated in a more sophisticated way :)). What we don’t have and also will not build, is a bathroom. It doesn’t make sense to have one inside, it takes up too much space. An option would be a composting toilet but we’re in the backyard of Stefs parents so that will have to wait. For a shower we’d need to build something too, and use solar heating or electricity. Since we live 50 meters from the house we don’t need it now.
So while it’s not much different from a brick house in some ways, a yurt is very different in others. The first thing is that it’s just not as solid. And I don’t mean in construction (it can stand wind speeds up to 100 km/h) but in the way it shields you from the world outside. We are much more aware of the weather. The rain on the roof is noisy, just like a tent. We can hear wind gusts rolling through the valley, and feel it pushing against the walls. We can see the sky, the clouds, the sun and the stars through our big skylight. And we can hear everything that goes around outside. We hear all the birds all day, the cows in the valley, the foxes and the owls at night. And the neighbours when they’re outside, but we’re lucky that this is a quiet village.
A transition from a brick house to a yurt is probably a big one. But remember that we had been living in a truck and in other peoples homes for a year before this. The yurt was actually a step up for us – finally a place for ourselves. And one that we built ourselves, and that already became our home while constructing it. We didn’t have to move in and find traces of other people, to fill the space up with our belongings to erase those traces. The empty yurt already felt like a part of us in a way I’ve never experienced with a house. We still say to each other how happy we are to be here, in France, in our yurt almost every day. And yet we’re already making plans for our next adventures – finding a piece of land of our own and building our next house. That’s a long way off though, in the meantime this is the best place where we can be.