What is it like to essentially go off the grid? For Charlie Baughman and Myria Rodeman, their unconventional life is their own private paradise. The couple live on a seven and one-half acre piece of property, just outside of Hendersonville, with three well-fed and rambunctious dogs, two forest-roaming chickens and at least one very vocal cat. They occupy two yurts — adaptations of the round, lightweight domiciles used by Central Asian nomads — drawing most of their power from solar energy.
They do occasionally use a back up generator, powered by bio-diesel that they make themselves, and also draw a slight amount of electric power — which Baughman estimates costs them about $9 a month. "Basically, we have the hot-water heater on the regular grid power, and also the well pump, so we can pump our water with it — but that's it," says Baughman. "We hardly use any electricity — we don't have any major appliances."
It is the couple's fourth year on the property, which was given to the them by Baughman's mother. When they moved on to the rolling piece of land, it was heavily treed, occupied by a trailer, a few outbuildings and numerous critters. Rodeman recalls the couple clearing the land on their own with a bemused smile, rubbing her belly, full with their first child. "We took out all of the trees ourselves," she says. "And we hauled them off without a tractor."
They leveled the property as well as they could, shoring up terraced hills with rocks collected from the property. They isolated garden spots, planting them with seeds they collected on their own. The soils brim with enormous strawberry plants — in the early spring, there's more fruit than the couple can manage to pick and turn into jams. The herbs and flowers are gargantuan and visited by fat, lazy dragonflies who drift over from a lily pad-covered pond. The orchard is filled with fruit trees, heavy with apples and peaches. Seemingly every square inch of the garden is planted with something: greens, asparagus, grapes, tomatoes and more.
It stands to reason; the couple wish to be fully self-sustaining, and they're well on their way. "If we can eat all year off of what what we produce, then that's pretty much what we're going for," says Rodeman. "We're actually getting to the point where it's more than we can preserve and more than we can eat, so we hope to start going to market eventually."
The 15-foot yurt that they live in, even in the deep winter, is covered in marine duck canvas. They are working on a cabin on the edge of the property for when the baby arrives, Rodeman says. But, with just the two of them, their main sleeping yurt and their even larger "crafting yurt" has worked just fine.
"It's a small one, but it works for us," says Baughman, sweeping his hand around the 15-footer where they sleep at night. It’s filled with the bare essentials — a bed, pot-bellied wood-stove, hand-harvested and dried herbs, a dresser and a tiny kitchen with a propane stove and small sink. The floor is covered with carpets, the walls are lined with tapestries and fabrics, which help to hide the insulation that protects the inhabitants of the yurt from the cold of winter.
"It's such a small space, it doesn't take anything to heat it," says Baughman. "But it's also a tent, so it loses its heat really quickly. You actually use more energy to heat this space than you would a house."
Baughman and Rodeman say that the company from which they purchased their yurt, Laurel Nest Yurts, taught them how to build their current home. "They hold yurt workshops and show you how to build the frame, and then they sew the canvas," says Baughman, adding that four people could take the couple’s 15-foot yurt down in about 15 minutes, and then rebuild it elsewhere in about 30.
"Basically, it's cheap and easy. It literally took me, between building the deck and putting up the yurt, four days. You can't beat that," says Baughman of their home, adding that total building costs amounted to approximately $2,000. "You can put it up and there's no corners," he says.
The aesthetics of a cornerless dwelling appeal to Rodeman as well. "There's just something about round structures," she says. "It's a cool energy."
What was living in a yurt like for the couple this past, brutal winter, when most of us were holed up in our centrally heated, solidly built domiciles? "It was fine," says Baughman. "It didn't collapse."
One of the best things about the couple's lifestyle? It costs nearly nothing — which means that they are free to work on the things that benefit their land and make them happy. The biggest expense is their yearly property tax bill, which comes to about $400. "That's pretty easy to come by," says Rodeman.
"It's the way to go. It's a simple life, and it's easy," says Baughman.
Interested in building a yurt? Visit Laurel Nest Yurts at laurelnestyurts.com for more information
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