Yurtlife

friday I'm in love

Check out our video!!!

We put our first little yurt-life video together over a couple days in June. Back when we had fast-growing, baby chicks and the weather wasn’t too warm for baking indoors in the early morning.

And now, we’re heading into August and the mornings are once again cool enough for indoor baking, and the early morning walk to the outhouse is full of autumn scents. It’s a little overwhelming to think that summer is growing old so quickly.

Enjoy the video, we’re looking forward to making more!

7 Quick Takes: Intentional living, minimalism, and me.

  1. I have trouble turning off my brain. I love planning out pretty much everything, making lists, and charts, and graphs, and checking off little boxes. It’s one of the reasons I love bullet journaling. I can make all the little boxes I want and check them off and I can make planning pages for things most planners don’t leave space for, like “Ethical Consumerism” – a page on which I can list all the companies that fail to live up to my standards (rigorous); the few that do earn my approval; and all the ones in between. Then in the “Homesteading and DIY” planning section, I can plot out ways to avoid the fatally flawed companies by making my own, refurbishing something else, or just inspiring myself to go without. If it sounds exhausting and overwhelming, don’t worry, it isn’t. For me it’s like washing the floor or putting all the M&Ms in little color co-ordinated piles of perfection: absolutely refreshing! And maybe that’s why the intentional living trend is so very attractive to me…I can use it to put my life into lovely, little piles as well, and then just curate the prettiness.DSCN6828
  2.  I don’t expect the prettiness to last. I used to, but reality set in pretty fast. And I discovered a aspect of intentionality that embraces the imperfections and helps me to see them for the beauties they are! The term is “Wabi Sabi” and it is a way of embracing the natural beauty of imperfections and transience. And reflecting on it helps me get my mind into a more stable place as I shape my environment and my relationships. Nothing is perfect, nothing will stay in it’s ideal state (assuming it every reaches it’s ideal state!), and I will end up with a ring of coffee in my bullet journal almost every week. Better to love the imperfections for themselves and allow them to flavor my life than to fight them and long for an ideal that will never be, in this life anyway.
  3. August is my birthday month, which means I usually try to make it into a sort of sacred time of beginning and growing. Coming up to this August, I’m building a ‘Rule of Life’ in my bullet journal, highlighting the areas I want to work on especially in the first 1/3 of my new year. The ‘Rule’ is designed to make my life more monastic, more intentional, more devotional, and more loving. My goal is to give each day enough structure to nurture holiness and creativity in myself and, most especially, in my family as a whole. So I’ve devoted pages and pages to my intentional living goals. It’s been a lot of fun planning it out and gently implementing the structural aspects (scheduling our days and including more time for prayer and reflection). I can’t wait to fall into full swing with it!DSCN7070
  4. One of the areas I am determined to be more intentional in is my homesteading. I am a lazy homesteader. My gardens need way more focus than I have ever given them, out-buildings need to be finished up and refreshed in some major ways (we are working on finishing the studio-building right now!) I’m writing up some plans for what I would like my homestead to look like and be producing within the next few years, and I hoping to spend a good portion of the fall getting the gardens in order, the animals well-structured, and the house and outbuildings in order.
  5. We’ve been getting rid of things left and right. I love the Konmari system, and as we’re going through it for the second time now, we are realizing just how many of our things are just taking up space. As we’re purging though, I’ve realized that my uber-minimal wardrobe (about 15 pieces total) isn’t really working for me. I’m bored with it and I don’t feel as pretty as I’d hoped. So, while we aren’t really in a position to add to it right now, I’m planning on almost doubling it for the the fall and winter! Looking and feeling beautiful everyday is kind of essential for me. Especially since we live off-grid, and off-grid folks tend to have a reputation for looking very much like people who brave the elements all day everyday. I don’t want to be the sort of person who can be labeled “off-grid yurter” by sight. So I tend to my wardrobe as best I can while still keeping it minimal and sort of  ‘capsuled’.DSCN6893
  6. Media is a big area of intentionality for me. I need to figure out my balance, I haven’t yet! I’m on more than I should be and I’m too often distracted and unproductive. Because we don’t have a lot of data, being intentional with my time online is essential, and so I’m trying hard to fit in specific times to be online: to nurture the relationships I’ve formed online and to work on my writing as well. But I’m considering moving our phones to a track-phone plan instead of tying them up with the tablet’s data. We don’t have smart-phones, so they don’t need data anyway, and we aren’t big on phone calls either, so limited phone time wouldn’t be a big issue, and it might help us add some structure.4477546262_40b123a5cf_o
  7. Along with all this intentionality, I’m building in some extra time for some of my favorite devotions. St. Paraskeva has been such a good friend to me throughout my married life, and it’s been years since I did a Paraskeva novena (a novena of 9 Fridays) to her. I started one yesterday, attending Mass with Seth and the kids, fasting through the morning, and abstaining from housework through the whole day. The Paraskeva devotion is such a blessing to me; Paraskeva nurtures women especially, and those waiting for joy or blessings, the earth, the fields, happy homes, and housework, and I adore her. Along with Paraskeva, I’m wrapping up the end of July in the Divine Mercy novena. I love the Divine Mercy chaplet and it seems like such an ideal way to transition from Mid to Late Summer, to help the season slowly pass gently into autumn. Blessings, all.

Herbal Oxymels

All summer the gardens are growing high with herbs and flowers. We have balms and ‘docks and roses and berries growing wild along the forest’s edge. And in this rich season, we prepare for the less abundant winter to come.

Restocking the apothecary is an essential part of winter preparation. We don’t use many conventional medicines, most of our remedies are home-grown and/or home-mixed. And primary among them all is the Oxymel.

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Oxymel breaks down to, essentially, “acid and honey”. And that’s it, really. Acid (vinegar) and honey, steeped in herbs and mixed into a delightful tonic!

We use apple cider vinegar, which has it’s own health benefits, to steep the herbs for about two weeks. After the steeping the herbs are strained out and the infused vinegar is mixed (60/40 is ideal in our house, but you can play with the measurements) with raw, local honey. The oxymel is then bottled and set on the medicine shelf with all our other winter-time remedies.

Yesterday, I started a cough & cold oxymel with bee-balm, lemon balm, red clover, mullein, and yarrow. I filled a quart jar nearly to the top with the fresh herbs (bee balm and lemon balm taking up most of the space. The mullein was dried and measured just a couple tablespoons. Two sprigs of yarrow and about 1/3 cup red clover. I covered them in raw apple cider vinegar, capped the jar, and shook it. I’ll shake it semi regularly for the next two weeks as the herbs steep into the vinegar. Then I’ll strain them out and mix in my honey.

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In a couple weeks, or more, whenever the elderberries are ripe, I’ll mix up and elderberry oxymel in the same fashion, except my quart jar will be barely half-full of berries before being filled with vinegar.

If you’re taking fresh or dried herbs regularly, consider making them into an oxymel! They taste fantastic with some tonic water and lime, too.

Outhouses and Potty-Training

Ilya has given up diapers for good now. He’s such a big, little guy! It’s a bit of a challenge to find non-obnoxious undies for two year old boys. I have no idea what ‘paw patrol’ is, but it’s all over all the smallest boy undies I could find in the stores. We ended up ordering some plain ones to dye and paint with sumi ink (it lasts very well on fabric!), but if anyone has a pattern or an Etsy link, I’d love to get him a few more.

Both our kids have been very aware of their bodies from an early age, and around their first birthdays, they both started to let me know directly that their diaper was dirty, so it could be changed right away – I think cloth diapers make it easier for kids to develop this awareness because the diaper doesn’t try to mask wetness at all. But we also will always keep diaper-changing and diaper-checking very conversational. It may seem silly to ask a newborn if he needs to be changed, but newborns love being included in everything, and it is the baby’s body after all!

Around 18 months or so, we set out the little toilet (in the house if it’s bad weather, or in the yard in summertime), and since our babies spend so much time ‘being free’ there isn’t a need for a lot of focus or clothes-changing. We just encourage them to “focus on your body!” and try going to the little toilet for all their bathroom needs. It takes a few months of wiping up accidents and delighting in successes, but around 2 or 2 1/2 they’re ready to head out in public, diaper-free and fully clothed!

(Nota bene: each child is different. Each child is aware of his or her body at a different point..a child still learning at 3 is not ‘lesser’ or ‘behind’, he just has a different level of bodily awareness or a different level of control. This is just how we do it.)

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Transitioning from the little toilet to the outhouse is a much slower process for us. Even my big 6 year old girl is not going to walk to the outhouse alone at night. If she needs to go after sunset, whether it’s 9pm or 3am, she wakes us and we take her. Because night-time can be spooky when you’re all alone.

Ilya is in the middle of his transition. It’s summertime, so the little sits unused and he has a parent walking him to the outhouse anytime he needs to use it. But in the winter, he’ll switch off: the toilet when it’s too cold for a quick run to the outhouse, or in the middle of the night, when taking off footy-pajamas outside would be impractical.

Essentially, we try to support our kids as they develope their self control and confidence. We try to adjust to the different seasons so that a small child isn’t surprised to find being big in winter is unbearably harder than it was in summer. And we try to let them take time to adjust to each stage of growing up while they’re in it..because being a kid can be really tough sometimes!

 

Saint Elijah’s Cake

20170720_122835Baking on July days is a bit exhausting. Even using the outdoor stove, it’s hot work. So I need a pretty good reason, or an abnormally cool day, to even attempt it.

The feast of St. Elijah is a really good reason. Bringer of thunderstorms, patron of my wild, changeling, little boy – I covet his prayers. We got started almost as soon as we woke up this morning – infusing bee balm in milk as the stove warmed up, beating butter and turbinado sugar in the big bread bowl.

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We made one large cake (for the nameday-boy to share with family and fairies!) and one small cake (for Saint Elijah to keep on the altar and share with our family saints). They were baked and cooling before 10am and I beat together a butter, balmy frosting with the rest of the infused milk.

And now, St. Elijah is pulling clouds together overhead! I’m hoping for a long, strong, soaking storm to water the gardens and fill the rain-barrels! Ilya is hoping for a another massive slice of cake.

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Recipe:

Preheat your oven to about 350 (mine bakes cakes best around 300-325, because the wood heat is super drying if it’s much hotter, but a gas or electric stove will want to be at 350).

Infuse 5 or 6 bee balm blossoms in 1 1/2 cups milk or light cream by warming milk gently on the stove with blossoms in milk. When the milk is warm, but not scalded, remove from heat, cover and leave to steep for about 15 minutes or until cool.

Beat together 1 cup room temperature butter, 1 3/4 cups turbinado sugar, and a splash of vanilla until creamy and soft. Beat in 4 eggs until everything is blended well.

In a separate bowl, mix together 2 1/2 – 2 2/3 cups all purpose flour, 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, (and if your butter was unsalted, a 1/2 teaspoon salt).

Add half the dry mixture to the butter mixture, then blend with 1 cup of the infused milk. Add the rest of the flour and a tiny (like 1 tablespoon) splash of milk. Blend gently.

Pour the batter into one small and one large springform pan, mine were 4″ and 9″ in diameter. Bake the small cake for about 25 minutes, and the large for 35-40 minutes, or until the whole area is scented with bee balm and vanilla and a knife or tester comes out crumbly or clean – no wet batter interiors!

Let the cakes cool and mix up the frosting!

1/2 cup butter

At least 3 cups powdered sugar (watch the texture change to measure, you want creamy and buttery but not wet. Very fluffy is ideal.)

And drizzles of the bee balm infusion.. I ended up using about 1/4 – 1/3 cup.

Beat it together until very smooth and creamy and spreadable..not too hard to do as the summer heat is softening the butter all the while! Decorate with all you edible wildflowers.

Blessed feasting all!

(Recipe adapted from The Spruce‘s Fluffy Vanilla Cake.)

 

Children’s Books for the Garden

We’re a bookish family. Reading is a big part of everyday life for all of us, even illiterate little Ilya!

In the summer, much of our reading is done outdoors – in the front garden, under the bee balm, or on The Rock alongside the driveway. It’s a fun, fairy season to read in, and I see the kids gravitating towards books that capture summertime for them.

Yarrow’s Favorites Right Now

My fairy child is reading a lot of Narnia and Oz these days. She settles down on her rock with a couple and would spend the whole day with them if she could. But they don’t have a lot of illustrations, an as a new reader, illustrations are so helpful to her. They’re also beautiful to look at and let imagination take over.

We care a lot about illustration quality. And Trina Schart Hyman is one of our absolute favorites1500493824430195846024

Yarrow has been spending quite a few summer afternoons with Rapunzel and Changing Woman and Her Sisters out under the bee balm in the yard. Hiding from mosquitos and imagining her hair long and wild.

Ilya’s Favorites Right Now

Ilya is not quite a reader yet..but he wants his books with him outside by the stove or in his red wagon. He would keep them all in bed with him at night as well, if Luba didn’t come along and knock them off each evening.

Not all illustrators are as grand and magical as Trina Schart Hyman, we like simpler styles as well – Tomie DePaola is another favorite of ours.

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The Knight and the Dragon is one of Ilya’s favorites, in part because there are so few words, the story is told primarily through pictures. And Blueberries for Sal delights him because he can look at it while eating berries and pretending Luba is little bear.

Summer reading on July afyernoons, with mourning doves calling and humming birds buzzing above is such beautiful ritual. I hope my children remember the way the sun felt on their backs and the way the stories came alive in their minds. It’s one of my favorite mothering moments so far.

What are some of your children’s favorite summertime stories?

7 Quick Takes: Yurt in Disarray

1. I escaped to my favorite cafe to edit a dozen poems in hopes of finding one of them a home somewhere. 5 hours later, I come home to this:

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All over my floor and dishes piling up again on the stove. At least it’s an attractive mess..

2. We are trying to get a studio set up for Seth behind the house. It would open up so much space in the yurt, and after that, maybe add on a bedroom. Exciting! Of course, it’s behind “finishing the outhouse interior” and “deep-cleaning the yurt”, but ideally we’ll get it all done before winter!

3. I haven’t written seriously in years, this past month I’ve been trying desperately to build the sort of daily order that would allow me to focus on my writing and the self discipline and confidence to send it out to various journals. This is the second round of send-offs, and it really does get easier each time!

All the same, keeping up on my writing has put me behind in other ways. I’m behind on prepping for our upcoming school-year. Yarrow will be starting level 1B (first grade) in her schooling (we plan most of our curriculum through Mater Amabilis. And I am determined to start the year off on the right foot, even if it means taking a hiatus from serious writing.

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4. Ilya, being only 3, will not be doing any ‘official’ schooling. But he loves being included. We do ‘breakfast reading’ (a morning basket around the table), and most of it is just pleasant, enjoyable-to-all sorts of things: saints stories, women and men in science, art history, Spanish poetry, English poetry, the Mass readings of the day, and whatnot.

He also has happy little color-flashcards that Seth made for him, lots of alphabet books, and plenty of time to paint with Seth while Yarrow does her narrations.

(can you tell I’m excited about this year?!)

5. But, I’m an INFJ…and really, I put the “I” in INFJ – the most draining thing for me is social interactions. Not my kids or Seth, we are so very intertwined, living as we do. And while I sometimes need a break from them too, it’s mostly, well, the rest of the world that really drains me. So starting the school year right, for me will ideally mean taking a big break from people! No visitors during the initial phase please! Unless it’s a one on one coffee date with a fellow introvert. I can handle that much!

Personality typing is one of those fun, interesting, easy ways of getting to know someone. I’m mostly an INFJ, with INFP tendencies; an enneagram 4w5; mostly melancholic; and a Leo with a fire hand. What are you?

6. Yesterday I took a walk down to the beaver-pond. It used to be a stream – all sandy-bottomed and clear. We bathed down there when we we new yurters, and filled buckets with clear water to wash diapers and clothes and dishes. Now I could go boating across the pond, the elderberries and blackberries are drowned, but it is beautiful.

Seth has seen the beavers, they have a lodge down there and everything. They’ve prepped a few trees for us to burn this winter. I’m very fond of them. Yarrow and Ilya will be watching the pond shift through the seasons this year, for schooling. Sketching the water (hopefully the beavers too!).

7. Summer infusing has begun! We have a lemon-verbena liquor, red-clover syrup, and lemon balm-y honey sitting up on the shelf. When the bee-balm blossoms, I want to blend it with chamomile in gin.

Our winter favorite though is black tea in vodka..just for a half-hour..for warming up after a long day in the snow. And Elderberry oxymel (apple cider vinegar, honey, and elderberries all steeped to make the tastiest flu shot imaginable). I’m hoping we have enough elderberries left this year to make some!

Blessed Friday all!

 

Nighttime in July

DSCN5947In the summer, the sun stays up late into the evening. When it finally goes down, we light a lamp or two, or even just a couple candles, and sit out on the stoop to watch the moon rise.

The evening sky is full of june-bugs, mosquitos, bats, moths, bright, early stars, and the moon, which is full now, rising up into all that busy life. Seth plays guitar often in the evenings. The kids have little ukuleles and they play along with him.

Our kids tend to go to bed around 7:30 in the summer. We say night-prayers, and then settle into our beds, while either Seth or I read aloud from the Bible and a storybook. Right now, we’re reading The Silver Chair for the second time. Before that, we read ‘A Cricket in Times Square’, but since the kids (primarily Yarrow) pick the books, we’ve read such a huge variety: The Old Man and the Sea, Travels with Charlie, The Hobbit, The Prydain series, All of Narnia, A Hidden Magic, Adam of the Road… It’s fun to see what catches their interest and which stories become a living part of their imaginations.

Even with all the lamp burning, night time is not ideal for cleaning.

Dishes washed after dark tend to be a bit less clean, it isn’t easy to see well enough to scrub anything properly. I do tidy a bit after bedtime, but I do so knowing it will look less than perfect in the morning light. Instead, we try to use this time creatively. Reading, writing, editing, sketching, talking, and sometimes just sitting back with a well-charged dvd player, a big bowl of popcorn, and a couple episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

July nights we do much of this just outside the door, gardens all around and rustling sounds in the trees behind us. After sunset we can hear coyotes howling, foxes calling, owls hooting, and sometimes a wildcat too close for comfort. Outside, the night is very rarely silent. Too many things are awake in the darkness behind us.

It used to unnerve me, but now I feel at home under my trees at night. I feel like one of many creatures at peace with the dark.

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Off-grid, Online

There are all sorts of off-grid homesteaders. Some have solar panels that can power a typical suburban lifestyle: television, desktop, washing machine, lights, all the trappings of modern, American living.  Others cut down firewood with hand-saws, make their own beeswax candles, and long-ago abandoned phones, computers, and the online life that goes along with it.

We try to walk along a middle way.

We have one, small “backpack sized” solar panel, the Nomad 7, which can charge our phones (Seth and I each have little flip phones) and our tablet. On the tablet, we can get online with data from the cell company. We have about 8Gs of data, so we try to be responsible, and not-too-distracted by the internet world. On days that we need to do a lot of online work (like loading paintings onto Paperwine or putting up a few blog posts!) we head into town for a few hours of focused work. Our favorite cafes are about 25 minutes in opposite directions, they both have amazing, locally sourced, food and fantastic coffee, and lots of plugs in the wall, so we can recharge a few things while we’re working.

At home, we’re currently trying to cut back on the more distracting aspects of being connected. The Tablet has a new home, tucked in a drawer, and we are working out a more focused, schedule-y sort of system of use.  I love being connected to far away friends, and I love the unique community forming that happens online, but my priority is being engaged with the people who share this little patch of earth with me..and for me anyway, intentionally ordering my time, limiting my time online strictly, is essential to building a healthy family life.

Our kids do not use the tablet, or phones, but they do, occasionally watch a movie on the portable dvd player we have (it can also charge on the solar panel, but it takes forever!) We don’t watch a lot of movies. If it’s a miserable, rainy week or deeply cold, they might watch a couple, but most of the time we read aloud to the kids in off-weather, or let them bring their bikes into the yurt and ride around and around like crazy people until they’re exhausted.

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who needs t.v. when you have little snake-friends to play with?

So, you can stay online while living off-grid, it just takes focus, and a very intentional approach to social media. And it’s a fun combination! It definitely gives us an opportunity to start conversations that might not have happened otherwise, and it’s helping us build the sort of side businesses that lead to being less dependent on consistent, outside employment! Which means Seth can spend more time at home, and we spend less money on things that he can make for us. It’s been a great journey towards that sort of home-based living so far!

 

But off grid living isn’t the only way to be intentional about your online life! How do you balance social media and healthy, in person, relationships?

Art Festival

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We’ll be at the Norway Art Festival in Norway, Maine this weekend! Stop by the Paperwine booth if you’re in the area!!!

Seth’s been working on getting everything ready for days! We have paintings, Sumi and pastels, charcoal sketches, and please take a moment to fill out a (free!) pre-addressed postcard for refugee children! The Jesuit Refugee Service is asking for loving, gentle postcards sent to “Any Refugee” as way of “welcoming the stranger” among us, And Seth has printed out a stack of color-able postcards for anyone to send with their own message to these suffering kids.

It should be a great day!