The character and uniqueness of the off-grid places we have visited has been mind-blowing – and Morgan + Jessica's yurt is no exception.
Have you ever thought about living in a yurt? Yeah, I'm talking about those round tents from Mongolia. Well, we've been to some interesting places in this series. From tiny houses to ambulances and even World War Two tunnels. However, today we're checking out Morgan and Jessica's yurt.
"G'day Morgan." Hey Craig. "Nice spot. It's a good, long drive, nice and remote."
Yeah. Yeah. We like it out here. Yeah. "Keen to have a look." Yeah. Yeah.
Let me show you.
Welcome to the homestead. Hi, I'm Morgan, and I'm Jessica. And we live in Waipu in Northland. Welcome to our yurt! Originally, we're from California, and we moved to Wellington and lived there for about ten years, and we liked it. It was a lovely city. But for me especially, I think the weather was really, really hard and we had travelled up here to Northland quite a few times and I really, really fell in love with Green Bay. Waipu especially, just always sort of stuck in our memory as being a really sweet little town. It reminds us a lot of where we grew up, and so it just really suits us. And we wanted a bit more space too. I grew up in kind of a rural area, and so my childhood was all building forts in the trees and going on hikes and things. So we wanted that for our children as well.
"So it looks like you got some building going on here Morgan." Yeah. This is the next phase of our plan. Right now, we're living kind of in temporary things. We've got our hired cabin that we sleep in. The caravan is the kitchen. The yurt is the main living space. Good, warm, dry, indoor space. And then these little prefab sheds over here, that one is the bathroom, and the other one's my office. "Yeah." So we're building this little cabin to sort of replace these things. It'll be the kids bedrooms and kitchen.
So we got the yurt from this guy named Laksar at Lifespace Yurts who lives just up the road near Whangarei. He did an amazing job. Like, it's just it's a really beautiful structure. He just is a really good craftsman. He's really, pays attention to detail.
So we moved on to this section, bare land. Nothing here, like two days before the first lockdown was announced. We had a bunch of stuff lined up like water tanks were going to be delivered, and then lockdown happened and it all just got cancelled and everybody was supposed to be isolating. We hadn't met our neighbours yet. We had the hired cabin and we had our caravan. We didn't have power, we didn't have water. And we had the portaloo that the company said they couldn't come out and service. So um, we just had to get really creative with solving all these problems that suddenly we had that we didn't know we were going to have.
"So how much space you got here Morgan?"
So, it's an acre, which when we were first looking, an acre was like our lower end, like we thought we might want more, but I actually think it's the perfect amount of space. I mean, it's been plenty of space to keep me busy for the last two years. "And so duck pond down here?" Yeah. So, that's a that's a relatively new addition. So that area there is the orchard or will be the orchard- we got a few trees down there and then we've got a paddock in the front and a paddock in the back. We've got a pair of Kunekunes down there that we move around and then we've got chickens on the way back and a sheep wandering around.
"I saw the sheep wandering around- cool eh! And the tree fort down there for the young fulla." And the tree fort down at the bottom, you've got to have a tree fort.
So our off-grid journey I think was very learn as you go. I guess the resources that we used were mostly just on the internet and then sort of just trying things. And I think sometimes off-grid living is kind of intimidating. You know, the idea of being just solar and not being connected, it's a bit scary. But I think because of our circumstances with lockdown, just everything shutting down, just over time, our confidence built up. Just surviving, I think, those first, you know, five weeks with absolutely nothing and actually no support either, you know, not even from the power company or the Internet or anybody. It was like, 'Oh yeah, actually we could, we could do it!' So, that was a big part of it.
Come on in. "So you're really taking advantage of the space you've got to to have animals eh?"
Yeah. This was a big part of why we wanted space, you know. We actually, we, you know we moved up from Wellington and we tried having a goat in uh, in the suburbs in Wellington and uh just didn't have quite enough space. So it's always been a dream to kind of have the lifestyle block and be able to have the animals.
These birds are all- this is my daughter's project, you know, she loves birds. To be able to do this for her and for the family, it's just really, it's nice. I love it.
"How do you adapt to wintery, rainy days?" In a lot of ways it's the same as what you do anywhere. You just stay inside a bit more and you know. But at the same time, because we lived in Wellington for ten years where it was like eight months inside, we just go outside. Like it's muddy, but it's not cold really. It's not that cold and it's still beautiful and you just get your hair wet and it's okay. I mean, a day like this would be the perfect day to go surfing, you know. Even though it's grey, it's still a great place to be. You can still go outside and enjoy yourself. So I say go for it.
(Orion on the swing)
"He seems to be enjoying it." Oh yeah. Yes, so you've got to have a treehouse. This has been the uh, this is where all the spare building materials end up.
"Yeah, I bet he's enjoying you building it." Oh yeah. "He's talking to me about he wants another level." Yeah. That's uh, you know, we'll go as high as we can I think. Yeah. So it's another, just another project. This place keeps me busy.
"So it's been pretty wet when we turned up and it's a grey day today. How do you find the solar?" Yeah, it's been fine. It's uh, part of the mindset change where, you know, if it's a cloudy day, you can't run the vacuum cleaner or power tools or whatever. In the summer, it's like free for all. You just you've got power to burn. "Yes, yeah. More power than you need, right?" And we, we went for a larger kit because we knew that my wife, Jessica, has a swimsuit business and she's running sewing machines, and we've got computers and we need the Internet. And so, we knew we were going to have power requirements.
So I have the eight panel Freedom Kit that I installed myself. When we were looking at getting power possibly connected through mains, a standard solar installation would have been more than that connection because you get the people to come in and do the install and stuff like that. But the GridFree Kit came in under. Because of that, it was kind of a no brainer and I was keen to, you know, get my hands dirty and make up the difference there and I'm really glad I did because it was pretty straightforward to do and saved us money.
"Hi, Jessica. So this is the yurt!" Yeah, this is it! "Gosh, it's warm and cozy." Yeah, yeah. We've got our wood burner. It's a tiny little space, but it feels really big because of the ceiling. "And I like how you've kept it open with a big open space in the middle. It'd be so easy to clutter it up, I guess." Well, it's nice today because you're here, but usually it's covered in Lego and toys and scooters. "Right! Yeah." So that's why we kind of kept it that way, so that we can kind of wallow in our stuff.
"It's got nice wooden floor, too." Morgan did that. That was like a lockdown project. "Yeah, that's a big job I would think." So, we had the floor and we like, roller skated on it and there was nothing else here for quite a while. "And so the two of you built this?" Oh well, we put it up. It was kind of like a yurt warming party where we had our friends come over and we put it up. But there's a guy in Whangarei that built it for us, and it took two days to put up. Yeah, so it's all right here. This is it. This is our little lounge area. And then just over to the dining area
and then a little workspace.
So how did we end up in a yurt? We stayed in the holiday park when we first moved up here, and I really liked it. I just like the closeness with, being with our family, you know. Then when we got up here, it just seemed like the perfect place for it, you know, because the weather is really good and the summers are long and, and I just have always really loved them. And it's just, yeah, it's just beautiful. And also pretty practical. You know, we needed more indoor space. And so, in terms of like our budget and, you know, our time frame, it actually worked out pretty well.
I'll show you our little kitchen in here. "Yeah." So this is it. This is our little kitchen. Originally it was our caravan that we moved here on and we all slept in it. So there were the two little beds and our bed here. And then just over time, like that did not work. So, when we got the yurt we made that our living area
and this our kitchen. "I did the same thing when I built my cabin, the caravan became the kitchen. Because it's great to cook outside of your other living space."
Yeah, yeah. When you don't have a lot of space, it makes sense to just kind of separate the places. Yeah. "And of course, cooking with gas." Yeah, cooking with gas. So that's really good. And uh, we also have the other appliances. We have the little blender wand for smoothies, and we have our toaster and our fridge, so. All set up. Yeah.
Some tips that I could give others that want to live off grid would be maybe to just be patient because everything does take a long time and it is a journey. It's a learning experience and it just doesn't work the way that the modern world works, where everything is on a time frame and everything is scheduled out
and that kind of thing and it takes time and it's okay to take that much time, be patient and just stick with it.
I love Morgan's office. "He works in here?" Yeah. Because it's so tiny! I love it because, you know, he came from this really nice job where he had this beautiful office where they fed him and he worked with all of his colleagues
and it was very prestigious. And we moved up here and now this is his office, a little tiny shed. And like, he has every single thing that he needs. He can run his monitors and everything and like, he's just so content, you know. "And so he worked at Weta, right?" Yeah, he did. And then we came up here and so now he works for himself.
And before he was working just in our living space, you know. And so when he got this, he was so happy. And I just think that's so funny. He's a very content person because he gets to live this lifestyle. You know, the values that we are really interested in, are being close as a family.
Living in a city, it's just so focused on being busy. And I think that what we wanted here was just something a lot more simple so that we could be close. And I think the off grid lifestyle has helped us to create a community around us and something that's a bit more intimate and a bit slower where we really can get to know people where it's not just so planned out and structured and there's just a lot more freedom. And I think that's really what I wanted was just a way to be closer with our family, you know? And that's what I think it's really allowed us to do.