live in a yurt, yes. but first…

Plot twist!

(I think that’s what you’re supposed to say when you run smack into a barrier and have to change direction. Sounds way cooler than, Owww! Who put that barrier there, right in my path? Even if you add creative swearing to go with it.)

In a previous post, I came clean about the barriers and frustrations slowing my progress (or, frankly, grinding me into both the figurative and literal mud) toward living in a yurt in the mountains. As soon as I got real, things started to shift in my favor. Because that’s how the Universe works.

setting priorities

One of the characteristics of my personality is that I see connections among things, which is all well and good when I’m thinking about things like garden design and companion plantings and which socks I should wear with that one outfit. However, when it comes to big life plans, it tends to spin me right into analysis paralysis. I describe it as standing in front of a spider web and tugging on a strand of silk I think I can manage, only to realize all the other strands are attached, making it difficult for me to clearly see dependencies and prioritize tasks accordingly.

It doesn’t help that I’m doing this alone, without the benefit of a partner to lean on (or cry on or blame when things go wrong). While people like hearing about the project, I have few people off of whom to bounce ideas because this is a little off the beaten path for almost everyone I know, and they’re still trying to get their heads around where I’m going to pee and shower in a yurt and how I’m going to fend off bears.

By the summer of 2019, I felt backed into a corner, and I realized I was at a do-or-die juncture. Instead of allowing my anxieties to ramp up and derail me, I sat down and made a list of Very Important Things to Do. It looked something like this:

  • Get work done on the land to prepare for living on it
  • Find a job near where I’m planning to live
  • Get my stuff out of storage (including the yurt)

Yeah, it was a short list, but it was powerful.

the challenge of getting stuff done

Working on the land up to that point had been…challenging. Because I couldn’t afford frequent overnight stays near my property (along with a few other logistical issues involving my dog), I’d been driving 2.5 hours each way, with hours of hard labor sandwiched in between. It was exhausting. It also meant there were times I didn’t get up to the mountains when I wanted (or needed) to, and things didn’t get done in a timely fashion — y’know, like preventing erosion and getting the brush piles cleaned up and the stacks of lumber milled.

Lumber, firewood, and roots to clean up
Lumber, firewood, and brush piles waiting for me to do…something.

The bottom line was that I needed to be closer to Joyous Gard if I was to make any kind of progress. I’d been spinning my wheels for too long, digging myself some deep holes — or allowing them to erode into my new road.

getting realistic about finding work

I’d been a freelancer for more than five years at that point, and as any freelancer will tell you, it’s a feast-or-famine occupation. Although I planned to continue freelancing, I needed to supplement my income with something more stable and steady, at least for a little while, to give me traction for the laundry list of things I still needed to fund (including a yurt deck).

Living with my parents had kept expenses down, but I’d never planned on staying for more than a few months, and I’d long since passed that mark. Looking for work there would only have bound me more tightly to a place I was trying to leave. Looking for work near Joyous Gard required having a place to live, which was part of my anxious chicken-or-egg wheel-spinning. Remote work is great, but it’s often low-paying and unpredictable, in addition to being a highly competitive market. So, at the time, a brick-and-mortar solution in the mountains seemed to make more sense. (The Plague of 2020 made remote work a viable option again. But that would be months away…)

where to put my stuff

Joyous Gard is raw land — which means there’s absolutely nothing on it to make it habitable. Up until the summer of 2019, my top priority was getting the yurt installed on the land, which required considerable excavation and preparation — not to mention expense.

I’d recently realized I wasn’t even sure what shape the yurt was in. I knew there were a few small holes I needed to patch (inflicted when the yurt guy and I broke it down and took it off to storage), but I worried there might be other issues I needed to address since it’d been in storage for so long. The storage unit was too small for me to lay the tent out, assess it, and repair it.

Whatever the condition of the yurt I was far from being ready to live in it any time soon because I still had major gaps to fill (most notably heat, water, and power sources, as well as somewhere to cook meals). Storing my things in the yurt while I lived 100 miles away in another state didn’t feel secure to me. The icing on the cake: Multiple work projects that would have allowed me to fund even just the yurt deck evaporated before my eyes.

I was at an impasse.

But then things started clicking into place.

solutions falling out of the ether

“One thing you might consider is declaring the property a farm and putting a barn on it.”

I had been meeting with a contractor who’d spent the morning estimating work on the yurt deck — a step I decided to take, rather than keeping myself in a tailspin over the unknowns of its cost. We’d finished discussing the deck plans and were chatting about the complexities of establishing a homestead. He’d just finished recommending an approach to erosion mitigation after seeing my trenched and pitted road banks, and the conversation had turned to my struggles with prioritizing needs. The day was warm, but it wasn’t the hot, muggy kind of warm I’d left farther south to meet him at Joyous Gard. A pleasant breeze played in the trees and cooled us as we talked.

Then he mentioned that declaring the property a farm and putting a “barn” on it would allow me to request electricity if I wanted it and give me a place to store the yurt until the deck was built. The barn could later be converted into the kitchen building I wanted if I was careful about how I configured it.

Putting a barn on the property opened up another, absolutely vital opportunity: getting a mailbox. And having a mailbox would fulfill the permanent address requirement that would then allow me to move my business to North Carolina.


but wait! there’s more!

Not long after the contractor and I bid one another farewell, my neighbor Danny drove up to say hello. He and the other neighbors tend to check on the place if they see my front gate open for any reason other than one of them needing access to the pastures behind my land. I excitedly told him about the farm and the barn and the yurt deck and the need to have a permanent address of sorts so I could move my business to the mountains — and, eventually, myself and my stuff along with it.

And that’s when Danny told me about the rental house that had just become available, right around the corner.

If I rented the house, I could work on the property on a more regular basis, using the barn to store equipment until I was ready to renovate it. The chicken-or-egg problem of needing a job to find a house to rent or having the house to find a job would be solved. I could — all at once — take my time and make better use of it by preparing the way for raising the yurt and beginning my new life in the mountains.

I was finally on my way.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. vegancuckoo says:

    What an incredible journey you are makingđź’™ you must be one remarkable, resilient, incredible, amazing, dedicated, passionate & pure individualđź’™ I am in awe & full of admiration for your tenacity, belief & desire to live a simpler, less ( no) impactful life within the natural world who will nourish & guide you as you have experienced… the universe has a habit of being there when we need herđź’™ wishing you strengh, continued resilience, hope & beauty đź’™


    1. Denise says:

      Oddly, your comments ended up in my spam folder (bad WordPress! bad!), which is why it’s taken so long to respond to your lovely words. It’s been a challenging journey, and I’m far from over the rough spots. But I try to keep moving (and keep reframing what “moving” even means). Thank you so much for your kindness. You have no idea how much it means to me.


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