The Circle: The Benefits of Yurt Living for Anyone Dreaming of an Off-Grid Lifestyle


By guest contributor Jade Cardy of Yurtigo.
 
If you've ever dreamed of living an off-grid lifestyle but worry you don't have the skills or knowledge, take some inspiration and advice from Jade and Devin's story. Both moved from the big city to pursue a simpler life living off-grid in a yurt in rural Canada. Despite little to no experience with off-grid living, they're surviving their first winter, learning to be resourceful and self-reliant as they go and living out an adventure many of us only ever dream of!It was early October when my partner and I packed up our one bedroom apartment into the largest u-Haul we could find, picked up our yurt kit, and drove five hours into the mountains, with three kitties voicing their opinions the entire way.
 
We didn’t have jobs, just a plot of land on a friend’s 40 acres and a dream. We were on our way to starting a whole new chapter in our lives.
 
 

A little background info

I endured a back injury in 2012 which never healed itself. It left me in chronic pain, unable to work, and miserable. I lost my sense of self, had no idea who this new me was, and frankly I wasn’t ready to accept or even want to get to know this new me.  Depression came for a very long visit, and anxiety decided to drop in on the party somewhere along the way.
 
Like anyone else, I needed a purpose, and up until the injury, work had been my purpose. Having had that taken away -plus the stress of no income and the constant, insistent pain- I was wasting away.
 
Since I had no income, we had to come up with clever ways to get by each month, since we couldn’t live off just my partner’s income. The free list on craigslist and bidding wars sites became my shopping mall. I also had to sell my car and my condo. With the way real estate prices were climbing in the city, we knew we wouldn’t be able to afford anything, so we had to think outside the box. And that is when we came up with “The Circle,” or more specifically, yurt living. 
 
 
 
 
 

 

The journey to yurt living begins

We had a friend in the North Okanagan with 40 acres of land who invited us to come live on his farm and be apart of the community. We found a local company that manufactured yurts, so we went for a visit to see one set up and fell in love. After placing our order, waited the 8-9 weeks production time, and packed and sold and scrambled to get ready for our life makeover. 
 
Another factor that contributed to choosing yurt living was my experience in nature versus in the city. I suffer extreme insomnia when in the city, yet I noticed that when we would go camping out in the wilderness, I slept much better, and was subsequently happier. With debt piling up around us and happiness seeming just beyond our door, it seemed a no brainer to take the plunge.
 
If you've ever dreamed of living an off-grid lifestyle but worry you don't have the skills or knowledge, take some inspiration and advice from Jade and Devin's story. Both moved from the big city to pursue a simpler life living off-grid in a yurt in rural Canada. Despite little to no experience with off-grid living, they're surviving their first winter, learning to be resourceful and self-reliant as they go and living out an adventure many of us only ever dream of!

The entranceway to our yurt. Home sweet dome!

 
What an adjusment! The hardest part has been trying to prepare for the obstacles that come our way. First obstacle, the yurt company forgot to include two integral parts of our floor, so construction halted for a week while we waited for the yurt company to send reinforcements. The weather had dropped down to an unexpected minus 12 degrees Celcius, and we were living out of a tent!
 

Fortunately we had a shipping container holding all of our stuff while we built the yurt, so we rearranged our belongings and set up home in the shipping container, which wasn’t much warmer than the tent to be completely honest. Our water also froze during this freak cold spell, obstacle number two. And, since we moved in October, we didn’t have the spring and summer months to help prepare for winter, so we are behind on fire wood, but we are slowly catching up. There is something meaningful about cutting wood during a big snowfall. It’s a very humbling, yet happy feeling. 

If you've ever dreamed of living an off-grid lifestyle but worry you don't have the skills or knowledge, take some inspiration and advice from Jade and Devin's story. Both moved from the big city to pursue a simpler life living off-grid in a yurt in rural Canada. Despite little to no experience with off-grid living, they're surviving their first winter, learning to be resourceful and self-reliant as they go and living out an adventure many of us only ever dream of!

What I miss most about city life are my family and friends. I must admit, I also miss the free list on craigslist. Living in a denser population equates to more free, “disposable” items.

But while I thought I would miss the convenience of everything, I realized after I left the city that convenience was what I needed to escape, because the conveniences I had become entagled in were not healthy. They were self-destructive, which did not help my depression, but rather fueled it.
 
What I don’t miss are the invisible moments with strangers where no one interacts, the busy traffic and rush hour, transit, fast food joints on every corner, people on top of people, the public drug abuse and homelessness crisis, the apathy and negativity, the rainy weather… I could go on, but I’ve moved on from that place.
 
So has this helped my depression? A resounding yes! It has given me purpose again.
 
The greatest reward in all of this has been the knowledge acquired. Not just learning about waste management systems, composting systems, solar power, wood stoves and how they work with updraft, but also learning how to be self-sustaining and self-sufficient. All of this has been invaluable. Coming up with creative ways to solve problems with only what’s on hand is very fulfilling. It’s definitely a confidence boost putting your skills and knowledge to the actual test. 
 
If you've ever dreamed of living an off-grid lifestyle but worry you don't have the skills or knowledge, take some inspiration and advice from Jade and Devin's story. Both moved from the big city to pursue a simpler life living off-grid in a yurt in rural Canada. Despite little to no experience with off-grid living, they're surviving their first winter, learning to be resourceful and self-reliant as they go and living out an adventure many of us only ever dream of!

Setting up our yurt. Here we have the frame set up and we’re adding the snow and wind kit made of 31 solid pine lodge poles.

So has this helped my depression? A resounding yes! It has given me purpose again.
I am responsible for stoking the fire and keeping our home warm. I am responsible for ensuring there is enough wood to run the wood stove. My responsibilities include small but important tasks that contribute to the household. 
 
 

The humble fulfillment of living close to the land

There is nothing more gratifying than laying in bed after a long day of preparation work, looking out the toono of the home we built with our bare hands and gazing up at the stars above, while hearing the animals talking back and forth. Or listening to a wind storm whirling around outside, or the rain and snow pelting against our vinyl roof. It’s very satisfying and humbling being so close to Mother Nature. 
 
If you've ever dreamed of living an off-grid lifestyle but worry you don't have the skills or knowledge, take some inspiration and advice from Jade and Devin's story. Both moved from the big city to pursue a simpler life living off-grid in a yurt in rural Canada. Despite little to no experience with off-grid living, they're surviving their first winter, learning to be resourceful and self-reliant as they go and living out an adventure many of us only ever dream of!

Lightning seen through the toono, the “skylight” in the roof of the yurt.

 
This experience has also given me something to write home about, so to speak. I can help others achieve a similar goal by sharing my experiences. Being in a constant state of learning is what does it for me. It’s invigorating and refreshing and the best confidence boost.
 
Keeping my brain active has been crucial to staving off depression. Usually there is some challenge that we wake up to, whether it’s figuring out how to beat the condensation, or testing the damper on the wood stove to see what setting creates the maximum burn time, or figuring new and inventive ways to create visually appealing storage, since our yurt is only 314 square feet.
 
My depression still tries to rear its ugly head, especially when a disaster is looming or has occurred, but I’ve accepted that these challenges are positive. So I try to keep my mindset in check by not letting obstacles ruin this experience, and revelling in the feeling of accomplishment when one disaster is averted. 
 
 

 

Some advice for anyone looking to try yurt living

– If you are moving somewhere with four seasons, move in the warmer months. Take advantage of the warm weather to prepare for the winter.

– Do not place items up against the wall in a yurt. Yurts need to breathe since they are not airtight. This will help immensely in minimizing condensation.

– Insulate your water reservoirs.

– Get thermometers. You will want to know the temperatures inside the yurt and of the wood stove.

– Have candles and flashlights nearby.

– Keep track of what is in your moving boxes. If you are like us and did not downsize enough prior to the move, you might have a shipping container full of boxes. It makes life ten times easier if you can locate an item without having to open all the boxes first.

– Rocks are your best friend when it comes to dirt roads. Collect large rocks and place them where it gets muddy and rutty. Then lay smaller rocks and gravel overtop. The large rocks provide a base so the gravel doesn’t get swallowed up by the mud. It also helps immensely for gaining traction.  

– We opted for the standard, non-glass windows for our yurt. There is no insulation over them, so in the winter cold creeps in fast. Placing wool blankets over the windows, while impeding your view, will keep a lot of the warmth in. The toono provides all the natural light needed, so the windows can be covered up.

– Reliable internet is hard to get outside of major cities. If internet is important to you, research it before you commit to moving to a location. Also, shipping containers act as giant Faraday cages, so don’t expect to get the best reception or connection when inside of one. 

– Try to locate your closest cell tower and/or satellite locations prior to placing your yurt or shipping container.

– Look into the Humanure composting toilet system. It is cost-effective, and brilliant, in my humble opinion. Zero smell, even when I add the cats’ business. It truly amazes me. 

– Make sure your wood stove is rated to heat at least three times your square footage. We opted for the smallest Jotul wood stove, and it has far exceeded our expectations. In the future we may opt to get the larger Jotul, for the sole reason of not having to stoke it as often. Since I don’t sleep consistently due to my pain, having to stoke our fire every four hours or so throughout the night isn’t too bad. Though I can imagine it might bother others.

– Make sure your chimney cap is vertical. Ours was slanted slightly and it melted all the snow on a nearby tree, which ran right back down the chimney pipe, creating steam (which we originally mistook for smoke and thought our chimney was broken) and a goopy mess.

– Wood ash is an amazing resource. We use it in our composting systems, as well as on icey and snowy walkways. It provides great traction. We even have a bucket of ash in the car in case we get stuck in the snow somewhere. 

– Get a good water filtration system. With the Berkey that we chose, we can melt snow on the stove if we needed to and filter it through. If it came down to it, we could even take river or puddle water, run it through the Berkey, and it would be safe to drink.

 
 

A typical day in the life…

If you've ever dreamed of living an off-grid lifestyle but worry you don't have the skills or knowledge, take some inspiration and advice from Jade and Devin's story. Both moved from the big city to pursue a simpler life living off-grid in a yurt in rural Canada. Despite little to no experience with off-grid living, they're surviving their first winter, learning to be resourceful and self-reliant as they go and living out an adventure many of us only ever dream of!

Wake up with the sun. Our yurt has a toono which acts like a giant skylight. It’s a nice way to wake up and has done wonders getting my Circadian rhythm back in check, which has aided my sleeping habits immensely.
 
Stoke the fire and scoop the ash. Get it raging to boil water for coffee, tea and bannock. I also have to stoke the wood stove throughout the day and try to keep the temperature inside around 20 degrees Celcius to dry out the condensation that collects around the edges. 
 
Warm water on the stove to clean dirty dishes.
 
Empty the grey water bucket. Since we don’t have running water, we have a faucet and sink set up with a bucket underneath catching the grey water.
 
Cut wood. Since we moved here in October, we weren’t ready for winter, so we have to go cut wood to sustain us throughout the colder months. Some of the wood we have to dry out inside, near the wood stove.
 
Once a week we have to switch out the bucket on our Humanure composting toilet and empty it into the dedicated compost, which in 2 years will become fertilizer for the garden.
 
Once a week we have to fill the Berkey water filter. We have access to well water and so we run it through the Berkey. Since some of our water has frozen, we have to bring the 5 gallon jugs inside to thaw near the wood stove, then pour them into the Berkey.
 
Since we don’t have running water, once a week we drive into town to the public swimming pool for a swim, hot tub, sauna and shower. This is one of my favourite days as we get to visit the thrift stores as well.
 
Once a week we offer our help to the farm and aid in whatever task needs to be done at that time.
 
There are still tasks that we are doing to help set up our home, such as stuffing insulation under the yurt and building a nice rock wall around the outer edges. 
 
To follow our story, find us on Facebook and Instagram as Yurtigo.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

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4 Comments

  1. Melissa

    What an awesome article! I’m currently in a big city, that gives me regular panic attacks from the noise, but this year we are starting our search for rural property. I would love to set up a yurt like you did, but my husband isn’t as excited about circle living.

    I’d love to know more about yurts in winter. Obviously, they originated in cold climates, but most of the off-grid yurt info I find out there is for warmer, dry climates. Can you insulate them so they have better heat retention?

    Reply
    • Anna Sakawsky

      Hey Melissa,

      I totally hear you about the noise and the panic attacks. That’s one reason why we moved out of the city too. The property we live on now is still just off the highway and the traffic noises still give me anxiety and I suffer from panic attacks too so I totally understand. Our ultimate goal is to find a quiet, rural property off of a country side road (preferably a dead end!).

      I’m not sure what the options are for insulation… This post was written by a guest contributor so I will pass on questions to her. But I do know she mentioned putting blankets over windows in the window to help insulate them. I’ll see if she might be able to provide a better answer.

      All the best and hopefully you’ll be out of the city soon too!

      Anna

      Reply
  2. Ruthie

    I have never heard of a yurt, so this was interesting!

    Reply
    • Anna Sakawsky

      Hi Ruthie,

      I had once stayed in yurt when I was travelling but had never considered living in one until Jade shared her story with me. With the whole “tiny house” movement along with more people looking to move off-grid, I think yurt-living might just gather steam too!

      Reply

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ABOUT ANNA
Hi! I’m Anna, and I’m a city girl turned modern homesteader who’s passionate about growing, cooking and preserving real food at home, creating my own herbal medicine and all-natural home and body care products, and working toward a simpler, more sustainable and self-sufficient life each and every day. 
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This is why I do what I do and why I share it with you on a regular basis; I WANT TO EMPOWER YOU TOO!

That’s why I created The Society of Self-Reliance: A private membership that connects you with the resources, support and community you need to reclaim your independence and become more self-reliant in every aspect of your life.

From growing and preserving your own food to crafting and using herbal medicine to life skills like how to manage it all and stay calm in stressful situations, how to prepare for emergency situations and much more, if you’re ready to learn invaluable skills that will help you take control of your family’s food security, health and wellbeing, time, finances, and ultimately over your own future, The Society of Self-Reliance was created for you!

I’m excited to announce that I’ll be reopening the Society doors for a limited time starting next week, and wanted to give you the heads up NOW so that you can get on the waitlist and make sure you don’t miss out when enrollment opens.

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This is why people don’t trust our medical system!!!

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Doctors are not gods and as mothers we do not co-parent with the government!!!

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I’ve hesitated about posting this reel over and over because I know I’ll probably get backlash, hate and vitriol from some people in return. But I wouldn’t be being true to myself if I didn’t speak the truth that’s on my heart and mind…

If you haven’t noticed, there are currently thousands of Canadians sharing their stories and using the hashtag #trudeaumustgo on their social media posts right now in response to the divisive rhetoric and actions of our prime minister over the past few months. But our media has downplayed the issue and has attributed most of the hashtags to “bot” accounts and foreigners trying to influence our politics.

In response, real Canadians are making videos and sharing their stories to show that we are not bots, but real people who have been negatively affected by the words and actions of our leaders, particularly our leader at the top.

I used to consider myself a lifelong leftist and have supported the liberal government and Trudeau over the years, but after what I’ve witnessed over the past few months; After how he has spoken about Canadians who have made a different medical choice or who have protested mandates (which have done nothing to stop the spread of you-know-what anyway); After the hate and division that has trickled down from the top and infiltrated our communities, I can no longer stand silently by.

While I am 💉, a few months ago when I voiced my support for those who stood up against mandates and against the division being pushed on us by our leadership, I suddenly found myself among what our prime minister called the “small fringe minority” of citizens with “unacceptable views.”

I lost followers, friends and even a couple family members. I was told I’d been “radicalized,” although my views have never changed.

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The other day when I had a few minutes to spare, I was out in the garden doing a little work when my neighbour said hi over the fence.

I lamented to her about how busy we’ve been and how hard it’s been to keep on top of this year. Very sincerely, she replied “wait until you have another one,” referring to our baby on the way.

“You’ll be moving back to the suburbs so quick, mark my words,” she said.

Now, I don’t for a second think there was any ill intent behind her statement, but still, it took me aback.

“We’ll never move back to the city or the suburbs,” I replied with a laugh. “This may be hard work but we love it.”

She then repeated her statement and followed it up with “just you wait and see.”

I decided not to continue the back and forth. After all, I told myself, it doesn’t matter if she or anyone else knows what’s truly in your heart. It doesn’t matter if she understands that there’s no amount of difficulty that would make me run back to the suburbs and leave this life behind. In fact, our dream is to upgrade to a bigger property someday where we can grow an even bigger garden and add more livestock to our homestead!

Likewise, I visited the city last weekend for a family event and as always, I had at least a couple people ask me “so when are you moving back to the city?”

Seven years later, and still we have friends and family members who think this is just a phase we’re going through, and eventually we’ll come to our senses and move back.

I used to get offended by these questions because I felt unseen; I felt like nobody took this life that I’m so passionate about seriously, and thought it was “cute” that I was “playing farmer” for a bit, but eventually I had to grow up and become part of the “real world” once again.

Now I just smile and reply “never:)”

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Let me know below 👇
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In this issue you’ll find:

• Preparedness tips, tricks and advice to help you be ready for anything on the homestead (and in life!)
•The ultimate guide to growing garlic at home and it as both food and medicine
• Drool-worthy recipes that feature garlic as the star!
• Expert advice from A Farmgirl in the Making’s Ann Accetta-Scott on what to look for (and look out for) when buying or selling a homestead property
• Advice on how to learn and grow from perceived homesteading “failures”

And more!!!

Go to modernhomesteadingmagazine.com or click the link in my bio @anna.sakawsky to subscribe or login to the library and read the latest issue if you’re already subscribed!
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31 3

When I first started homesteading, I had a burning desire to become more self-sufficient and live a more sustainable life.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve been a rebel at heart, and learning how to homestead and become more self-reliant was a way for me to “throw a proverbial middle finger to the system” and live life on my own terms.

As a teenager, I was the girl who drove around town with punk rock music blaring from my car, Misfits sticker on the back and studs around my wrists. I felt misunderstood and angsty and like I desperately didn’t fit in with the world I grew up in.

I always knew in my soul that I wanted something different; Something more.

Today I’m the mama with stretch marks on my belly and battle scars on my heart. I’m the woman who gardens and cans food and makes her own tinctures and believes in something greater than herself and fights every day to stay free in a world that feels increasingly engineered to keep us hopelessly dependent.

Today I feel whole and at peace, and connected to a higher power and a higher purpose. I feel like I’ve finally found the place where I belong.

This journey has been about so much more than homesteading for me, and I've learned, lost, gained and loved so much more than I ever could have imagined.

Because, as I've said before, homesteading doesn't happen in a vacuum. Life is always happening at the same time.

This is the full, raw and unfiltered story of my homesteading journey, and how I've gained so much more than a pantry full of food along the way.

Click the link in my bio @anna.sakawsky to read more or check it out here >> https://thehouseandhomestead.com/how-it-started-how-its-going
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66 5

The news we’ve all been waiting for…

IT’S A BOY!!!

After so many years and too many losses, our hearts are so full and it feels like we are inching closer to our family finally being complete.

I’ve always known in my heart and soul that we were meant to have a girl and a boy. I know, it sounds cliché and very “nuclear family,” but years ago I saw a psychic who told me I would have a girl who loved to be centre stage and had a personality larger than life, very much how our daughter has turned out!

She also said I would have a boy who would be much more introverted and in tune with nature and with his own intuition. That’s yet to be seen, but I’ve always had this unwavering vision of a son and a daughter that fit these descriptions, and my heart has been set on a son ever since we had Evelyn.

Of course, things went sideways for a few years. Shortly after Evelyn was born, I became pregnant again, but we made the heartbreaking decision to terminate that pregnancy at 24 weeks due to a severe medical diagnosis. We lost our son, Phoenix Rain on June 15, 2018. Our hearts were shattered and have never fully healed.

Over the next few years, I had 3 more early miscarriages. None of the doctors knew what was causing them as most didn’t seem to have any sort of genetic explanation. We were told it was “something environmental,” but weren’t given any clues as to what that could be.

After pushing to see several specialists last year (after our most recent loss), and being told once again that there was “nothing wrong with me,” I finally got another opinion and found out I had something called Chronic Endometritis: A low-grade infection in my uterus that I believe in my heart was caused by my c-section with our daughter; A c-section I didn’t want and probably didn’t need, but felt I needed because I was under pressure to make a decision before the surgeon went off duty.

I’ll never know for sure, but when I pushed for more testing and finally got a simple round of antibiotics, the endometritis cleared up. I got pregnant again almost immediately and so far we now have a healthy baby boy on the way.

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We’re living through interesting times. Many people have even used the term “unprecedented times,” and while that may be true in that there has perhaps never been another time in history when we’ve faced so many existential threats all at once (ie. a global pandemic, climate change, political divisions, AI advancing at an incredible rate, cyber attacks, nuclear threats, globalization, food shortages, supply chain issues, hyperinflation, social media and the age of information/misinformation, etc. etc. all converging at once). But despite all of this, we are not the first generation(s) of humans to face hardships and threats of great magnitude, and in fact we’ve had it better than any other previous generations for most of our lives, especially here in the west.

The fact is, there are lots of things we can do to ensure we’re not sitting ducks when these threats come knocking at our door. But it takes action on our part, not waiting around for someone else to fix things or take care of us.

In the Summer issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine, I sat down with The Grow Network’s Marjory Wildcraft to talk all about the realities of our current climate, including worsening inflation and looming global food shortages, as well as what every day people like you and I can actually DO to improve our food security, become more self-sufficient, care for our families and communities and ensure our own survival and wellbeing even in difficult and uncertain times like these.

While I don’t believe in fear mongering, I do believe in acknowledging hard truths and not burying your head in the sand. That being said, things may very well get worse before they get better, and we would all do well to start learning the necessary skills, stocking up on essential resources and preparing now while there’s still time.

Check out the full interview in the summer issue of Modern Homesteading Magazine. Link in bio @anna.sakawsky to subscribe or go to www.modernhomesteadingmagazine.com to subscribe or login and read the current issue.

#foodshortages #selfsufficiency #selfreliance #foodsecurity #foodsecurityisfreedom #homesteading #growyourownfood #fightinflation #stayfree
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