Category Archives: off-grid

How Many Sweaters are YOU Wearing Today?

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It was -33C/-27F outside this morning when we woke up; it was 5C/41F inside this morning. Waking up to a chilly house usually means that we slept well and didn’t wake up to stoke the fire much in the night (and by “we” I really mean my husband, because he is very nice and never makes me get up to stoke the fire in the night).  On cold mornings we bundle up, flog the fire, and do something that warms us up like make bread, dance around listening to 90’s rap stars, or vigorously clean the house.

We did the farm chores together this morning (usually Mike does them by himself) and then went for a walk around our property. One wouldn’t expect -30 to be a good temperature to take a walk, but it was a really nice morning. The sun was bright, the sky was blue, and the snow was squeaky. By the time we got back to the yurt, the temperature was acceptable and only required one extra layer of clothing. By the afternoon it felt like a normal house again.

Surprisingly, the yurt is usually the same temperature as a regular home. However, there are probably two weeks out of the year that require extra socks, sweaters, and sometimes a toque. Thankfully, the cold days are spread out over the winter and last only a few days at a time (usually).

On those cold days, I want to make sure that our daughter isn’t cold while playing on the floor so I tend to hang out down there with her. I dress her in a couple of sweaters, wool leg-warmers that her aunt knit for her, and extra-warm slippers. She is rarely cold and doesn’t seem to mind the extra fabric. She plays happily, and I forget that we live in a tent.

once she figures out how to bend in all those clothes she is pretty content

once she figures out how to bend in all those clothes she is pretty content

Having a toddler means that we spend a lot of time playing/sitting/reading on the floor, so we have a few “must-haves” to stay warm during the winter:

  • at least one wool sweater overtop of shirt
  •  long-underwear or leggings under trousers
  • wool socks
  • slippers with hard or very thick soles
  • a stack of blankets within arm’s reach of the couch
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Off-Grid with a Newborn

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Off-grid with a newborn? Is it possible? Yes, just about anything is possible. Have I personally done it? Yes, but not for very long.

We built the yurt while I was pregnant and moved in four days before the baby was born. When we moved in, our plumbing consisted of a 50L water jug and a bowl (the bowl was our sink). We had an outhouse, and an indoor composting toilet (a topic for another day). Our woodstove heated the yurt, cooked our food, and boiled our water. We had four oil lamps, some candles, and a car battery to power a floor lamp.

humble beginnings

humble beginnings

Over the course of a few weeks, we slowly improved our yurt situation; we connected a wire from our barn to give us electricity and installed a kitchen sink. We were suddenly able to turn on lights and listen to the radio at the same time. This was wonderful since it was Christmas and all I wanted to do was listen to Bing while staring at the newborn by the glow of the tree. My husband installed and plumbed-in a sink (he had previously dug a “French drain”) so we were able to pour dish water down the drain instead of having to carry it outside.

one week old

one week old

We washed diapers by hand, often with snow melted in a pot on the stove. When we got too behind with the diapers (we were going through about 15 a day so we only had enough for two and a half days), we would visit my in-laws and use their washing machine. The yurt was in a constant state of diaper-drying all winter long; diapers were hung on the backs of chairs, over the stove, on cupboard doors… anywhere. Thankfully, flats dry extremely quickly in a yurt heated with wood, so we always had diapers when we needed them.

Because I was nursing, and was too unmotivated to pump/bottle feed, we didn’t have to do any extra work when it came to feeding the baby. We were blessed with an easy breastfeeding situation, for which I am very thankful, as it would have been laborious to wash and sterilize bottles in the yurt.

Before the electricity arrived, middle of the night nursing sessions were aided by flashlights and touch lamps (battery powered) given to us by my husband’s cousin who, along with his girlfriend, brought us many useful items during those first few weeks (along with the lamps they brought me copious amounts of cranberry-applesauce which turned out to be my favourite “it’s the middle of the night and I’m starving” snack).

We filled up big water jugs every few days at the in-laws’ and managed quite well. One jug holds just over a day’s worth of water: enough for dishes, hand washing, and drinking.

Bathing the baby was done in front of the stove, where it was warm, in a little plastic tub. She wasn’t a spitter-upper (that’s the nicest way I can think to describe it) and didn’t need very many baths, so that helped.

Once summer arrived, an outdoor shower graced us with its presence.  The husband connected a shower head to a garden hose and built a shower stall, so we had running water a few steps away from the yurt all summer. The baby and I were happy to wait until the afternoon to shower, as the water was nice and warm by that point.

When I visit my parents I relish in the ease of running water, a bathtub, and a thermostat. I had never appreciated those things before living in the yurt. Now, I really enjoy the amenities when I have them, but I am fine living without them. I am grateful that we lived in the yurt with the baby from the beginning; I’m not sure I would have enjoyed the experience as much had we gotten used to life with a baby in a “normal” house first. Everything was new and exciting when she was born; it didn’t matter that we were off-grid because we were so far out of our comfort zones as new parents that we didn’t notice the extra work of hand washing diapers. Would I love a washing machine in my house? Yes. Would I like to have hot water at a moment’s notice? Yes!  Would I have anything to write about if I had those things? Probably not.

State of the yurt today:

  • electricity: yes
  • running water: no
  • shower: no
  • baby tub where I can wash my hair: yes