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  • Clare Tindal

Off-Grid Babies

Updated: Apr 17

Yurt Life, Donegal, Glamping
Yurt Baby

The girls won't remember their time living in a yurt which is a shame - they have spent almost a quarter of their lives here. In this time they have learned how to crawl, how to pull themselves up to a stand, how to wave (at people, animals, inanimate objects), how to feed themselves and have each grown six teeth. So as major life events go, living in a yurt isn't really a biggy. They do seem quite at home here though.

I have many domestic goddess attributes but don't they include housekeeping and despite the smaller surface area and streamlined belongings our little home is every bit the mess as was our previous multi-roomed conventional home. I blame the babies, the have very advanced scatterbomb skills for their age. They scatter whatever lies in their path (toys, clothes, towels, bottles, bibs, food, kittens) - with wild and inconsiderate abandon.

For the first few weeks my main preoccupation was damp. Rain poured continuously day and night, biblical rain which dominated conversation wherever you went. It was also cold, you could see your breath at night by candlelight. Fierce battles were fought over the hot water bottle. The babies slept with us on the colder keep us warm as much as to keep them warm. Feeling increasingly defeated by the weather, I wore Marcus down with "Does this feel damp to you?" on a permanent loop and a wood-burning stove was installed. A borrowed one salvaged from a canal boat which Marcus fixed up by installing a lorry exhaust pipe for the chimney! The stove stands at the centre of the yurt (with a very sturdy fireguard encircling it) and does a fine job. Overheating babies is the new preoccupation.

The girls will do endless laps around the stove collecting, dragging and discarding everything and anything as they go. Beside the stove is a small clothes horse (essentially our hot press/airing cupboard) and everything on this - babygrows, vests, cardi's, towels, bibs, socks, etc - gets systematically pulled down one by one and dragged around the yurt as part of the babies' great scattering masterplan. When there is nothing left to scatter they stop, look at each other and then look up at me with abject disappointment, as if this is somehow my fault. Then they go back to their laps.

Both babies currently do 'The Bear' style of crawling according to a physio we met recently (although it looks more like 'The Chimp'). Its not an elegant form of locomotion. Aisha has been crawling a few weeks longer than Maisie so can get in two laps for every one Maisie does. Knowing she has an advantage Aisha tends to swipe items from Maisie's clutches as she gallops by and is gone before poor Maisie knows what's happened. (Maisie is keeping a mental log though.)

They have both been natural adapters to off-grid life. Timing-wise we had just passed the sterlise-everything phase and are now firmly in the germ-immersion phase - a whole day could be spent extracting very unsterilised, often unidentifiable items, from their mouths. I was expecting an outbreak of ebola any day. But my view on germs has now been so radically reevaluated I find myself wondering why we even bother washing their bowls/spoons, etc. (But we do.) Then there was rancid butter-gate. In the early days (before we realised we could run the fridge on gas) we used a cool box which wasn't very cool. We realised we'd inadvertently been feeding the girls rancid butter probably for some time. They use unsalted butter which we don't eat, we didn't realise it was rancid until Marcus one day nibbled their toast. And promptly spat it out. That explained why Aisha had the runs.

All that said, before Social Services come knocking on our yurt door, people do constantly remark on the girls' healthy glow and it is genuinely the longest they've ever gone without a sniffle. As advanced as we (obviously) think our babies are, it is disheartening when you realise that a dog or cat still demonstrates more intelligence. If a dog gets hit by a car he learns quickly not to cross the road. Aisha recently fell off the play area in the camper onto the wooden floor below (she got over it in 5 mins, I was traumatised for 24hrs). Two days later she launched herself off it again. (I like to think she has now learned her lesson but we have put up a garden trellis just in case.) The girls are also still a while off understanding the concept of 'Fetch'..unfortunately. They even struggle with 'Come here'. Though that may be deliberate.

Similarly, our kittens have quite quickly learned that "Out!" means they cannot come into the yurt. Whereas no amount of repeating "No!" or "Stop!" or "Argh!" to either baby will make them reconsider reaching for my phone/throwing food/eating dead leaves/playing with plastic bags/[insert remainder of exhaustive list here]. Both cats and dogs are quicker to toilet train too. Just saying.

But there is no greater pleasure than watching the girls grow and their personalities unfold. Their awareness and understanding of the world is expanding daily and looking at it through their eyes it is a pretty mesmerising place. They are gradually becoming the most important thing in each other's lives. Recently I have started to feel left out of the joke as they giggle and shriek in cahoots together. And when I turn to a call for attention I see it's not me they're looking for, it's one trying to get the attention of the other. Oh. The sheer glee when one notices the other again after a short spell of solitary play or how one looks at the other when introduced to something new to assess the other's evaluation of it. At night they wave to each other when I put them to's magical to watch. I'm transfixed daily by them truth be told.

Yurt living with (or without) babies is something quite special. I don't know whether it's because it resonates with the child within...'playing house' under canvas or satisfies a yearning to break the conventional moulds we were born into. Or simply being closer to nature. It does stir the soul in some inexplicable way. Or maybe this is just what happens when you separate yourself from a TV. It's good either way.

But the girls wont remember any of this. Instead they are destined to endure endless stories begining with "Back when we all lived in a yurt..." for a long time to come. Sorry girls.

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