Our Yurt in Chewelah

yurt interior
We were trekking across the country in a homemade caravan wagon, built on the back of our Dodge pickup. We had our green truck outfitted like a gypsy caravan with a homemade camper that was arched and curved in shape. I thought that we were camping out in style because we had pots and pans, food, utensils and bedding, books, clothes, and flashlights all carried in the truck bed. All the necessities of home plus two dogs for warmth.

Chris thought we should make a yurt to live in. It is round. It has a twenty foot diameter. It is used in the steppes of Mongolia and is traditionally made of yak felt. I don’t know why Chris wanted to live in a yurt; maybe because it was different from a teepee, maybe he thought we could actually construct it in a summer. I didn’t really have an opinion, at least about yurt living. It sounded romantic, and cool, and so in touch with the earth. But even in my mushy, dreamy pregnancy brain, I did have a goal. To experience life without: without running water, without modern plumbing, without phone, without TV, radio, without electricity. To live within the seasons, put up food for the winter, gather wood for fuel. I wanted to experience what it felt like to go without modern conveniences. Again, how romantic, how idealized.

We bought building plans. We found a piece of land to rent. It was located by the side of a gravel road abutted against lodgepole pines, larch, and whispering aspen. We were greeted warmly by the neighbors and made friends quickly.

Chris sawed the wood struts and beams. We sanded them all meticulously, and then created a pantograph for the walls. Chris drilled, and screwed all the pieces together to create the pantograph, which looked like a giant baby’s gate. I spent a lot of time sanding the pieces. Sanding is meditative, like ironing. I was pregnant with our first child and sanding seemed a task that I could manage. The rafters were larger, placed on a wire strung on top of the pantograph, and painted blue. Blue for the sky. Blue for healing. The Mongolians use lots of red, but we chose blue. We found a plastic round bubble window to be placed in the middle of the dome. That was our light source. We placed white cardboard on top of the beams, insulation, and then a heavy canvas roof on top, made in two pieces and painted dark green. Our walls were insulated also, with that pink wooly stuff, and then we placed a wide piece of canvas which I had sewn together to make up the walls. Home. With a wood cook stove in the center for our heat and cooking source. Our refrigerator was a wooden box dug a foot and a half into the ground to keep food cool. We ate mostly rice and vegetables back then.

Then it turned chilly, frosty and frigid outside. The days shortened. It was harder to drive into town. But we had gathered enough fuel for heat and put up enough food to sustain us for the long winter months. And we had a kerosene lantern to read by at night. All set. We were set and ready to have our baby, and watch the snow fall.

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