• Clare Tindal

Off-Grid Babies


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.

My many and varied domestic goddess ways don't 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. They 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 nights...to keep us warm as much as to keep them warm. Feeling increasingly defeated by the weather and with "Does this feel damp to you?" on a permanent loop, 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 around it) and does a fine job. Overheating 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 be