Three weeks of winter

A lot can happen in three weeks.  Especially if those three weeks include the official start of winter, two holidays, a wind storm, a cold snap… and you live in a yurt.

With the passing of those three weeks the holiday whirl is over, this first holiday season we have spent in our yurt.

There were bittersweet moments, like missing my parents’ Christmas Eve party for the very first time in 35 years, this annual event marked by familiar faces, fudge, warmth, boisterousness, a Santa visit, gingerbread houses…  We skyped that Christmas Eve night, something to connect “the yurt-dwellers” to those sisters, brothers-in-law, parents, nieces, nephews, grand-niece, uncles, aunt… How happy I was to see those faces from six hours away, but this technology unexpectedly made me feel even farther away, not being able to reach out to pick up the baby, hug, put my children on Santa’s lap, eat too much fudge…

But enough sadness!  Because in the end there was so much beauty in the simple holiday season that was our trade-off.  Different, certainly, but lovely in it’s very own way.

We spent a lot of time crafting.  Partly because our children almost demand it.  They sit beside us, asking to help count stitches or press sewing machine buttons and pedals, making requests for additional items to be made….

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It’s very motivating, this child enthusiasm for all things crafted.  And ironic, considering a very vivid memory I have as a child wanting so badly to have a Cabbage Patch doll and being crestfallen to open a beautiful homemade doll crafted to look just like me.  I so coveted that plastic-headed, bizarre-smelling version, and wrote a name and birth date on my homemade doll’s bottom in an effort to make her more like the Cabbage Patch dolls others had.  Maybe it is an age thing , that made me so not appreciative of that handmade doll while my children are such the opposite and revel in having something handcrafted.  At 2 and 6, it is a sort of magic to see Daddy knit socks and mittens and hats into creation for them.  Or to sit at the sewing machine with Momma and come up with any manner of ways to turn thread and fabric into whatever we can think up.  I think it has us crafting all the more right now, just to keep this magic and appreciation of handmade going.  Forever, hopefully.

The holiday crafting started with little felted snowmen.

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And then wool felt turned into stockings, hand-stitched together by Momma and Caden until we realized they wouldn’t be ready until NEXT Christmas at that rate and switched over to machine-sewn with a snowflake thread pattern Caden picked out…

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Not perfect by any means, but loved just the same for the opportunity to craft something that was so uniquely theirs.

There was also secret crafting, all the more tricky when living in a one-room yurt.  With a little late Christmas Eve night crafting, Christmas morning brought surprise slippers for chilly yurt floors.

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And for the little girl known to turn anything she can (bras, ribbon, baskets…) into baby transportation devices, an “Ergo” baby carrier of her very own.

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“Glittens” (fingerless gloves with a mitten flap) made for a little boy who has been asking Daddy for his own pair since Momma received hers last year.

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And my own Christmas morning homemade surprise…  A pair of those meticulously crafted socks that my husband had originally convinced me were being knit for someone else…  Love.

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And the most wonderful gift?  Seeing our children wanting to handmake along with us.  Caden was enthusiastic about his very own craft that he latched onto to give this year – rolled beeswax candles that he made and then secretly wrapped and tagged.

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Santa brought a knitting fork and momma gave a small starter sewing basket.  A remote control car was the first gift to get taken out and zoomed around the yurt, of course.  But very quickly that sewing basket was out and he was tracking down fabric to sew up a pouch.

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And later was curled up in the chair where Daddy knits, working away at his knitted rope.

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Then there was Aria, “sewing” with my sewing pins and scrap fabric.  “Knitting” a piece of felt into a hat for me.

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This holiday season was laid-back, simple, sweet.  But the days leading up to it were nothing like that.  You may recall the wind we experienced when we first moved into the yurt and hurricane remnants passed through.  Suddenly we were right back there with a fierce winter solstice wind storm.  These were sustained winds that had us all jumping and not sleeping, listening to the sounds of trees cracking in the woods all night, watching those tree tops sway back and forth…

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And waking up to this in front of the yurt in the morning:

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Two trees across the driveway, one right where we usually park our cars, cars that Josh had decided to park closer to the yurt this particular night.

One of the cedar trees that fell had been rooted just feet from our yurt…

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This was the one that we’d most feared would fall right from the start.  The one that we’d most debated taking down.  Somehow, inexplicably, it split and fell away from the yurt.  Perhaps we were protected by the magic monster-keeping out bubble that we put up around our yurt each night for Caden.  Or perhaps the fairy house we’d built in it last summer on the side of the tree facing our yurt had a magic protective bubble of its own…

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Whatever the reason, the rest of the top of the tree was pulled down the next morning via a super high-tech operation involving a rope, a ladder, and a truck.

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It was a beautiful tree.  I’ve negotiated at least keeping the tall stump standing in hopes of turning the top of it into a bird house/feeder/something or other.  In the meantime, hopefully we’ll sleep a bit easier the next windstorm…  And certainly there will be another, living on a hill a mile up from Eggemoggin Reach, with not much to block us from that powerful wind sweeping over the sea.

These past few weeks have also led us into seriously real cold.  Negative 13 degrees cold.  It is an eye-opening, bureau drawer-opening experience, this kind of cold in a less than super-tightly insulated shelter.  Last night I wore three pairs of pajamas, two pairs of socks and slippers and slept under 5 quilts and down comforters…  But thankfully I seem to be the only cold-inclined person in this yurthold, given that no one else seems to feel the need to layer on like this.  And for that reason, this cold is not a problem and is instead another one of those reinforcements for me that the natural world is anything but stagnant.  Instead of my previous world where I navigated around the cold by being tucked into a permanently 70 degree insulated house, leading into an insulated garage and pre-warmed car, to head off to an equally warm somewhere…I feel the minute changes in temperature on a daily basis.  To have to go out at night to dispose of the wash water and feel that cold.   To go out in the morning to pump water and again feel that cold penetrate.  To be deeply reminded of how the world really is in winter.  And to be forced to feel it, within, even through three layers of pajamas…  It might be a bit uncomfortable, but it is very real and grounding.

Three weeks into this winter, and many more to go!

12 thoughts on “Three weeks of winter

  1. I LOVE reading your amazing adventures! I LOVE that your kids LOVE hand-making and gifts that are handmade! That is one of the few things I hope for with my own girls.
    Where you live sounds like such an amazingly magical place. A place where you don’t have to worry about the “crazies” in the world turning your family upside down.
    I wish I had the courage and will to pick up and find such an amazing place. Good luck powering through the cold this winter. In our house we keep it mid 60’s but the one room we do most of our ‘living’ in is set to 70 while we are home and I’m still cold – no lie, I wear hats and layers of sweats. Once the cold sets in I just can’t shake it. I think I would freeze to death in your yurt and there’s no way I’d be the one going out to get water in the early morning!

    • With a Momma as craft talented as you, I’m certain your girls will love it too! I am just the same with the cold. I can’t get the chill out when the cold sets in. But, dare I say, I think I’m getting adjusted to it. Or maybe just numbed to it, ha! 🙂

  2. Good stuff! I have been up your way many times in the last 5 years – my girlfriend’s parents live on Deer Isle and we go up about 4 times per year. It really is a nice area, and you made a great decision to make it your home.

  3. Wow Melanie, I’m really enjoying reading about your adventures living in a yurt! I am truly fascinated by it all……it all sounds so idyllic and I can understand why you were drawn to that lifestyle. I personally don’t think I could hack it, but I will continue to live vicariously through you 🙂

  4. Pilar said, “At least she is very poetic about cold.” I read this as I sit under coconut palms 100′ ft from pounding surf of the Caribbean on the Northern Coast of Columbia. For me to feel the constrast between your wonderful metaphoric descriptions and the amazing beauty of the sea here touches a kind of wholeness and connection offered to us by the Natural world. If only humans could find within the things which bother us ways to adapt and appreciate celebrate as you describes with “cold” the world would be better off. Happy New Year!!!!

  5. I came across your blog by chance and have really enjoyed it. Your lifestyle is so intriguing and I have a friend who lived in a yurt in Alaska for a while so I’m really looking forward to reading about your life adventures. Thanks for sharing! I want to recognize you and your blog with a Liebster Award. You can check out the details here: http://relishthejourney.net/2013/01/17/how-a-woman-i-didnt-know-made-my-day/ Enjoy the rest of your winter! (from a Canadian gal, I have great appreciation for your Maine winters….)

  6. Pingback: {this moment} | Circle In

  7. I’m so happy to have found your blog! We too are raising our family in a yurt. We live in Northern Alberta (Canada)…and sometimes we feel very isolated with our alternative choices. We have a boy, and a girl and my husband drives a Tacoma! Strangely connected by the round:) we are on year 5 of building / yurt life and winters can still be hard…I hope that we can be in touch. I could email some pics of our yurt! I can’t believe you met Bill!! WOW!! I have pined over his books for years!! Take care,
    Megan (another yurt Mama)

    • I love it! Someone somewhere should be considering yurt/tacoma discount packages. 🙂 I would love to see/hear how yurt living works for your family. We’re headed out to see Bill this weekend, and I do pinch myself sometimes when there as I also was so taken with his book and sometimes it feels like I’ve stepped right into it, in a very lovely way. Pure luck that we landed ourselves within a 2 hour drive.

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