In 2012, my husband and I lived in our 18-foot yurt for seven weeks and passed the story along to Tiny House Blog. You can read that post here. Since then, we lived in the yurt in Vermont at Moosalamoo National Forest Campground and acted as campground hosts. This summer we were back in Santa Fe, enjoying another yurt summer in the Southwest, but that’s not what this story is about.
In August of 2013, we made the leap to full-time yurt living. We both left our teaching jobs so that my husband could pursue his PhD in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. We bought 9 acres of land in the area for next to nothing and set about creating an off-grid setup where we’d pump water from a creek, and someday where we hope to get our power from solar and water. We quickly renovated a tiny, mouse-infested a-frame cabin (200 square feet, but a-frames waste so much space!) on the land and erected the platform for our yurt. What we thought would be a couple weeks’ worth of work spun itself into months of disasters, urgent projects, and checklists.
From building the platform in 90 degree heat and 70% humidity, to having to completely gut the cabin (surprise! there really is that much mouse piss!), to very unhappy, stressful visits from building inspectors (“yurts are not for sleeping in!”), nothing went according to plan. My father-in-law planed each piece of wood from the family tree farm for our yurt floor, and just as my husband finished putting them down, a rainstorm blew in and warped them. The building inspectors made us put in a septic system, despite having an approved composting toilet and no money. The snow came before we had the heaters all hooked up or any wood for the winter cut. EVERYONE who drove up our incredibly steep driveway swore to us that come winter, we.were.screwed. The buried water pipe that brings all our water from the creek froze, so pumping water all winter long (and remember, that’s from November to late May) meant hooking up and unrolling 100 feet of water pipe, clearing ice on the creek, boiling water to thaw the hose, and THEN pumping water. I took a dive off a loft ladder while alone, hitting my head and breaking my thumb. By the late fall, our water pipes were freezing inside our walls, so mornings might find me blow drying walls in order to get ready for work. On December 31st, before more than 300 inches of snow had insulated the cabin and yurt completely, our sewage pipe froze underneath the toilet (if you’re going to pay thousands for a septic, you might as well have a flush toilet). No plumber would come for days. We learned all about living tiny, and have oftentimes been heard sarcastically saying “tiny house!” when two humans, two poodles, and a cat get just a little too cozy.
If none of this sounds like “living simply in a complicated world,” that’s not lost on us, but alas, life isn’t perfect and this one is definitely a work in progress!
And despite all of the learning curves and crises, we are living our dream. We live on our own land. We survived one hell of an Upper Peninsula winter (even the locals SWEAR it’s not usually that bad). We managed to clear snow and use our driveway all winter long with very few incidents. We are living in the woods. The poodles have room to run. We are living in the round all year long. Often we fall asleep to coyote songs or owl hoots. Between the two of us, we mastered electrical, plumbing, carpentry, generator maintenance, snow removal, and many other trades. I got to know all the local hardware stores and sometimes shocked fellow shoppers with my odd knowledge of plumbing tools, despite not looking like I ought to have that knowledge. I got a teaching job and Bryan totally nailed his first year of his program. The sun started coming out more often and the snow started melting. The world eventually turned green again and I remembered that there is life again after winter.
As spring approached we started thinking about how to solve some of our more irritating problems, like strapping on mukluks and a down jacket in order to go to the bathroom. Come spring, Bryan added a screen porch that attaches the two buildings, and a platform for the next addition to Circular Lodgic: a 15-foot yurt (Nonesuch Yurt) to be attached to the backside of the big yurt. This will act as our bedroom. We’ve definitely made progress without losing sight completely of the simplicity we hoped to find, and we’ve had one hell of an adventure along the way!
A very challenging year later, I’d take the leap again. After a second summer in Santa Fe, we’re looking forward to getting back home to Circular Lodgic and heading off into year two of the yurt life.
For more information on Circular Lodgic, visit our blog. You can read all our stories since we moved there in August, including details about being off the grid, how we’re set up, etc. If you’re thinking of taking your own leap, feel free to use us a resource. We haven’t done it perfectly, but we have done it!
Meryl and Bryan Freyberg