A homemade yurt and twittering wildlife: How going ‘off-grid’ can protect against the cost of living crisis

A Star Trek fan who started living as a nomad in a homemade yurt in 2015 when she faced debts of £10K is now “happier then ever” and finely attuned to an off-grid lifestyle that she claims will provide perfect protection against the current cost of living crisis.

When mother-of-three Briar Miller, 55, left her £400-a-month two-bed rented flat seven years ago, after her last child had left home, she was keen to live amongst nature but was also struggling financially, with massive credit card debts.

Now moving around the Welsh countryside every six months, working as a horse groom and part-time gardener, she assembles a yurt wherever she goes using wooden poles and canvas, collecting rainwater to drink, burning wood to keep warm and building a compost toilet – thus avoiding soaring utility bills.

Briar, who is single and has sons aged 35 and 28 and a daughter aged 30, said: “I am the happiest I have ever been. I feel at peace with who I am. I absolutely love it.”

Briar in her yurt (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “I want to carry on living like this for as long as I can.

“The thought of having to live within walls is horrible. I feel really claustrophobic and stressed thinking of it.”

But she has every sympathy for people making tough life choices, as they face mounting costs, with inflation at its highest rate for 40 years.

Her own nomadic life was prompted by a £10k credit card debt, which crept up when she had to stop working for personal reasons and was forced to abandon “modern living,” first moving into a yurt in her friend’s garden, which she says collapsed after just a week.

The current yurt (Collect/PA Real Life)

She said: “With the current energy crisis, I understand how families are feeling when they are stripped of choices.

“I feel very lucky, because I have been able to live this niche lifestyle and avoid this energy crisis, which is unbelievably difficult for so many.

“When I first moved into a yurt, it was a really tough time for me. While I was excited to be back in nature, I was struggling mightily with everything else.”

Armed with only her experience building tents for music festivals, Briar moved into her first 12ft  wide yurt at Christmas time in 2015.

The yurt being built (Collect/PA Real Life)

While it collapsed within a week, she says none of her structures have fallen apart since.

She said: “The first yurt was about 12 feet in diameter.  I knew how to make the structure, but only for festivals, when they only needed to last days.

“I was completely clueless.

“I haven’t had a collapse since then though, so I learned a lot that day about how to structure the poles.”

The current yurt (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “Being outdoors and living this way is all about learning.

“Even now I’m 55, I am still learning every single day.”

Living off grid was not new for Briar, as she raised her children in an abandoned cottage without heating or electricity in Oxfordshire.

She said: “We lived in a cottage in Oxfordshire in a field with no electricity in the middle of nowhere.”

The current yurt (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “My children grew up there and I lived there for 20 years.

“We were pretty self-sufficient and I absolutely loved it.

“At the time I think my children loved it. They loved being in the countryside.

“You get a deep appreciation of nature.

“And you just learn how to survive with what you have.”

The compost toilet (Collect/PA Real Life)

Briar learned how to collect wood to make fire and rain water to drink from the age of 19, when she was living self-sufficiently in the cottage and has continued to soak up survival knowledge like a sponge.

Likening herself to novelist Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn character, who loved exploring and getting up to “no good,” according to Briar, she threw herself into outdoor living.

She said: “Since I was 19 I have been collecting rain water to drink and collecting wood to make a fire.

“I had to learn everything from scratch. There have been some really tough times but also really exciting times.”

The bed (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “I think modern living is downgrading people’s opinions of themselves and what they are capable of.”

Despite needing to move every six months on average, because of what she calls draconian planning laws forcing her to uproot, Briar has become a master of moving everything within two or three days.

Her yurts are fully equipped with a stove, a sofa which converts as a bed, as well as a tapestry and colourful velvet curtains.

She says no two yurts look the same and, as a self-professed “hoarder,” she keeps “tons and tons of books,” together with her clothes, tucked away in a chest and sideboard.

Briar with a giant leek (Collect/PA Real Life)

Briar added: “I have everything I need.

“The yurt is always very well decorated and I like to make it colourful with velvet curtains.

“The last few years I feel like I have really got it down to a fine art, although I get a bit stressed when I have to move.”

Inside the yurt (Collect/PA Real Life)

Before building the yurt, Briar has to first lay down the foundations – a platform made of wood – then she begins assembling the yurt using 90 wooden poles tied together with string, three layers of canvas, 15 duvets and then a dozen rugs for flooring.

Explaining the process, Briar said: “My yurt has lots of insulation, many rugs, and furniture.

“You need to pick a nice sunny day to move, and it takes two or three days.

“I can take it down and carry everything over and just put the canvas on in a day, but to move everything else takes a bit longer.”

Briar outside her yurt (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “I have to construct a platform each time to build it on, so I will pile on wooden pallets.

“I usually move a maximum of an hour away, just because I still have to work.”

Meanwhile, the yurt is powered by both a 240 watt solar panel and a leisure battery, which allows her to charge her phone so she can enjoy binge-watching Star Trek.

And all the effort is worthwhile, according to Briar, who wakes up in the morning to the sound of wildlife twittering,  while her travels have taken her to the most spectacular and secluded beauty spots in Wales.

Inside the yurt (Collect/PA Real Life)

She added: “I’m looking out on a beautiful lake at the moment and I wake up every morning to birds twittering. It’s just stunning.

“I have really come to enjoy being in different places, I spend months and months in locations people never get to see.

“It’s pretty awesome. It’s just all so spectacular.”

And Briar’s children, who live around 15 minutes away, usually visit her often.

The current yurt (Collect/PA Real Life)

She said: “My children all come to visit regularly and they often help me during moving time. They only live about 15 minutes away.

“They all think I’m the coolest mum because of how I live. They got bullied at school, though, for living an alternative lifestyle – although they kept it from me at the time – but that was difficult for them.”

Briar hopes these past seven years will be the first of many living as a nomad, and she is hoping to start growing her own sweetcorn and leeks, among other vegetables, soon.

The current yurt (Collect/PA Real Life)

She said: “I feel like in the last seven years I have really learned more and more and pushed the boundaries of my resilience.

“I hope to retire by 60 and continue living in the yurt.

“I want to learn how to make baskets and become more and more self-sufficient.

“I want to grow more of my own food, all kinds of lovely vegetables.

“This is the life!”


Douglas Mateo

Douglas holds a position as a content writer at Neptune Pine. His academic qualifications in journalism and home science have offered her a wide base from which to line various topics. He has a proficiency in scripting articles related to the Health industry, including new findings, disease-related, or epidemic-related news. Apart from this, Douglas writes an independent blog and assists people in living healthy life.

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