Last August I moved into a Yurt. It all happened rather fast, and my dreams of sustainable living were coming true almost faster than my life could adapt to. Before I knew it, I’d bought a 2nd hand yurt on eBay, christened it “The Ornamental Hermitage” and found some ideal Gardenlords in my neighbours.
Yes, I moved into the next door neighbour’s garden, in the shortest and easiest move I have ever made, despite having to assemble my new dwelling as well as move into it. Goodness knows what my Gardenlord’s 8 year old daughter must have been telling people at school
“No really, there really is a woman living at the bottom of our garden”.
I had no electricity or running water, but some limited access to the kitchen and bathroom in the house I used to live in. The 12ft Yurt was single skinned (not really suitable for winter living) but soon I had a woodburning stove too and a little gas stove for cooking.
Managing a music teaching job, gigging and trying to live a fast paced life in a basic and slow paced dwelling was exactly the sort of borderline madness I much enjoy. I felt physically exhausted and spiritually fulfilled.
To add to the challenge, it was important for me to move towards sustainable living. I wanted to burn waste wood for heat, so after work skip diving and taking firewood home on my Fixie, became a daily ritual.
I didn’t want to contribute to the mass production of yet more petroleum candles, and couldn’t afford beeswax (£50 for a month’s candles), so weekend trips to the Carboot for 2nd hand candles was a must.
Not only that, but I pledged to make any furniture I needed from recycled materials, and did so. I also embarked on a flurry of knitting to supply me with a wardrobe of warm clothes, the likes of which those who live in even the most unheated of houses would never need.
You’ll notice I’m talking about all of these events in the past tense. That’s because I don’t live in The Ornamental Hermitage anymore…
Well… trying to fit all of these extra tasks around a regular job was proving too intense. I was trying to build my new life whilst living it (which of course, is the only way it can be), like trying to inflate the dingy after having jumped ship. After 4 months, after a particularly bad week in which my thermometer showed minus numbers every night, I made the decision to move inside.
I have to say that this felt like a huge cop out for me. I was determined to see my first winter through no matter how difficult. I would never have considered looking for somewhere to rent, and would never have moved inside if it hadn’t been for 3 important points.
1. A room in a house was actually offered to me.
2. It was only available for 2 months (i.e. for the winter) after which time I’d be exorcised back to the Ornamental Hermitage.
3. The room is in my girlfriend’s house.
As soon as I moved inside it became obvious how totally run down I had become by Yurt living. This was not because living in a Yurt is an unsustainable, tough way of life. It was simply because my Yurt was not well equipped enough to be comfortably habitable.
Without electricity and running water and using wood for heat, every aspect of living, from cooking to staying warm took more time and effort. Yet my life in the real world was busier than ever, with more teaching and gigging than I’d ever had. The two things just didn’t add up to something that was working. And yet I was happy in a way I’d never been before, because I truly love how alive it made me feel to live more like a human animal.
Now, my 2 months inside is nearly up. The Yurt still stands where it ever was. For the last 2 months I have been going there once a week and lighting a fire to keep the canvas from rotting. When I’m there I feel like I’m recharging – like a Yurt junkie getting their fix. I didn’t know if moving inside would just seem easy and make me give up the dream. Actually, it’s only served to fuel my desire to eventually build my own home and live sustainably.
I want to get back in the Yurt some how. Houses are just too wall-ish. And yet, there needs to be some compromise this time, between slow and fast lifestyles, otherwise I’ll just end up in the same situation as before. Perhaps I’ll need to rent a room in a house as well, as office/study/studio space. Perhaps I’ll build an eco recording studio from scratch some day – a sturdy building made from recycled materials, where all of my instruments and electrics won’t be destroyed by damp.
Many people are put off alternative ways of living and travelling because they think it involves cutting themselves off from the rest of the 21st Century. Living in a basic dwelling for 4 months was in direct conflict with being part of a modern world that I don’t want shun completely. I’m just trying to remind myself that I don’t have to make this lifestyle change all in one go. 1 step at a time is enough, and I’ll let you know what the next step is as soon as I’ve thought of it.