Blades of Glory, Yurt Style

One by one, the blades of our heat-powered fan atop the rocket mass heater begin to turn. Once around, twice around, four times, eight times. Soon, it’s turning too many times to count, humming as it pushes heat from the stove into the room. This simple action is how we know the stove is warming up. The turning blades are how we know the heat has penetrated the system, and most importantly: We know it won’t be long before warmth is circulated throughout our yurt.
 
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I think a lot of people have had us in their thoughts the past week — mostly because they told us so. An abrupt polar vortex-like system descended on northwest Montana last week. Sean and I are getting a taste of yurt life mid-winter while it is still early November. 
 
I’ll admit — I was nervous last Sunday night. I watched the temperature drop from 52 to 30 in a matter of an hour. It plummeted from there. As if I’d never even considered the idea of battling freezing temperatures, I asked Sean, “What are we going to do? I’m not ready for this yet.”
 
It was a mild panic attack, if there ever was one. All through this process, I’ve been pushing to try winter in this yurt. And all through the process, I convinced Sean of the same. Of course, when I began to have these doubts, Sean was my rock. His conviction amazes me.
 
“We make a fire. We layer up. And we see how things go,” he said. And then he reminded me that we’re not in the middle of the Alaskan bush. We’re going to be fine.
 
So each morning as the sun is rising, and in the evening well after the sun has set, we settle in in front of the stove and fire up BaseCamp Outdoor Systems reusable fire starter (these are a lifesaver for all fire-starting situations—check them out) and add wood to the stove. Our Moroccan souvenir—a bellows made of camel hide—provides oxygen to the flames as they start to lick their way into the back of the chamber. It usually takes 10-15 minutes for this small fire to start drafting ferociously through the system. We must provide fuel and oxygen throughout this time to keep the temperature rising. And then, once those heat-powered blades of glory begin turning, we know we’re home free.
 
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