Autumn is officially here, and it’s time to look back on our summer. We are still learning what it means to live in a yurt and every season brings its lessons. Winter taught us how easy it is to be warm and comfortable even with freezing temperatures outside. Spring showed us the benefits of living in close connection with the outside. Surprisingly, summer has proven more difficult than we anticipated. We’ve had an abnormally hot June and July, with temperatures above 30°C (86°C) and no rain for 6 weeks. In weather like that, the yurt works just like a tent, absorbing all the heat and no real way to cool it down. There were quite some days where we had to be either outside or in the house, that stayed cool with its thick stone walls.
We’ve always been careful with how we use water, but this summer has made us even more aware. Our village is connected to a well that supplies fresh spring water to about 15 houses. It’s fed by groundwater, which means that it isn’t too much affected by a drought, but there was still a restriction on water usage. We weren’t allowed to wash our car (no problem) or water the garden (kind of a problem). The neighbour told me I could water the veg garden, but only if I checked the well overflow to see if it was still running. Watering the garden every night was added to our daily tasks, and even then the plants just barely held up. August brought some relief with a bit of rain, and the plants started growing again.
We’ve had a good harvest nonetheless, and I already made some plans for next year. Less fussy veggies, more sturdy ones! We’ve drowned in courgettes and the tomatoes, carrots, onions and potatoes have done really well. I’ve been really busy preserving the harvest and taking advantage of the fruits in season too. The farmers market in town sells 5 kilo boxes of those fruits. I made lots of jams: apricot, plums, figs (which were actually from Spain but I couldn’t resist) and lots of blackberries. They’re everywhere around here, so much fun to just pick free food. If you’re looking for good spice and herb combinations for your jam, this is an excellent chart. Blackberry and sage is especially tasty. I also made grape juice from the grapes we have in the garden, I’ve pickled courgettes and I have a box of wild apples ready to make compote.
We also took a whole day for yurt tasks. We discovered we had mice in the insulation so we rolled back part of the wall to clean it and to seal it off. We took off the outer roof canvas to rub the roof seams with beeswax again. We also cleaned the stove pipe and straightened the crown. There’s only one problem left to fix now, the door gets stuck because it’s not quite perpendicular to the floor. The yurt has proven to have its benefits in regard to problems like this: it’s easy to get to things and it’s easy to fix yourself.
In a way, a good part of summer is spent preparing for winter. Not just with growing and preserving food, but chopping wood for the stove, making sure the yurt is ready for winter. I’ve never really been busy with things like these, and I enjoy them a lot up to a certain point. I’m finding out that having a piece of land and living off it would probably mean spending your whole day, every day, doing just that. The garden we are in now is not even that big, and it already needs quite a lot of maintenance. The veg garden needs a lot of work, animals would add to the daily tasks. We used to have the dream of being self sufficient, but I am starting to realise that full self sufficiency might not be what we want. I’d certainly have no time for our business, especially when we’d have kids.
So it’s a good thing we did this try-out first. This period of transitioning has been great to discover what the next step will look like. How we’d want our utilities organised, whether a yurt this size is big enough, whether we don’t miss the stone walls, how much land we’d want around us, and where we want that land to be located. We’re getting ready to taking that next step, now. We’ve started the process of officially moving to France, severing our ties with the Netherlands. And we’ve started to look around for a place for ourselves. The yurt will definitely still be our home for some time to come, but maybe it will be in a different place come next summer.