Wednesday, August 29, 2018

And Our Family Dwelt in a Tent. . .

At the end of residency, we were pleased when our Pocatello home sold within 4 days of being on the market. The close date, however, presented a particular challenge for our family. We would have 5 weeks until graduation, but no more home to speak of. Squire and I considered all the options: rent someone’s home/apartment, stay in a hotel room, Jami and kids move in with her parents while Squire stays with another resident’s family, or. . . become tent dwellers.

In Squire’s mind, splitting up the family for 5 weeks was a no-go. In my mind, renting was a no-go. We had a hotel booked but decided last minute to cancel our reservation to save some money on our moving cost expenses. We decided to go for tent living at a campsite at Indian Springs Campground instead.

I had convinced Squire to buy our tent from Davis Tent and Awning several years earlier, mostly because I wanted to “Prepare every needful thing.” And to me, every needful thing included housing should we ever have to or choose to run for the hills. We (and by we, I mean Squire) cut the poles for the tent, and the lovely poles and crisp, clean, unused canvas tent sat in our garage year after year. . .

Until this perfect moment presented itself! And so we decided to liken the scripture “And my father dwelt in a tent. . .” to us in a whole new way and really test out how well tent life could work in the low pressure setting of a campground with clean running water and electricity.

By the time Squire’s residency graduation ceremony was commencing, talk of Squire living in a tent had made the rounds. Some were shocked and a little horrified. Some thought it sounded like a blast. Dr. Ragan, presented about Squire during the ceremony and said:

Don’t feel too bad for Squire living in a tent down by the river until you’ve seen the tent. If it had a fountain in front it would be the Bellagio!”

Oh, Dr. Ragan. We laughed until we cried about that one.

Our experience could definitely be considered “glamping.” (Glamorous camping.) But indeed, it was still tenting. And we learned a lot and will look back on our time fondly for the rest of our lives.

Probably one of the most helpful purchases to have around was our camp sink. It made teeth brushing, produce and dish rinsing, and hand washing so convenient.

Nitestar -25* bags and fleece summer bags for the kids and a 0* double bag for us helped everyone stay comfortable at night. Under the Bunk-o-cots, we had Thermarest foam pads. Our Lucid foam mattress underneath kept us comfy.

Home school supplies under the window.
Cylinder Stove and oven - we didn't use this too many times, but there were a handful of times it proved very useful in warming a chilly tent.
Pocket pantry on the wall as well as a mini fridge.
The overarching takeaway for me, was how rich and abundant such a simple lifestyle really was.

With a smaller space, by necessity we had to have less stuff to manage. Dishes for our family included one stainless steel shallow bowl, one spork and one stainless steel cup for each person in the family. Nearly every meal was prepared in one simple skillet, dutch oven or else over the fire. I packed just the necessities for clothing: one Sunday outfit, two pairs of jammies, one swim suit, one jacket, a couple of pairs of pants and a few t-shirts, and a week’s worth of undies and socks each. One or two visits to the laundromat per week got all the laundry (and the occasional peed-on sleeping bag) washed for us in record time. And putting it away was easy. We all only had a couple bins to hold all our clothes. It was done in less than one minute. Additionally, with only one room to live in, less time was spent on cleaning. We could pick the whole thing up and sweep in approximately 10 minutes. Maybe 25 if it was especially bad and the kids were especially whiny about helping out.  

Why were they whiny at times? It seems to be an immutable characteristic of young children (or at least mine) that they enjoy making messes and not cleaning them up. Additionally, by bringing them in to clean, I was interrupting their exploration of nature! There was virtually no screen time for our kids the entire time we lived at Indian Springs and there was hardly a peep from them about it either. Instead, they rode their bikes around the campsite endlessly, explored every nook and cranny of the nature surrounding them (which resulted in a high number of chigger bites, unfortunately!), and caught whatever living creatures they could. Atley enjoyed illustrating pictures of the creatures they were observing around our site. Learning was easily and naturally woven into our daily living. I brought our homeschooling supplies. These were mostly saved for the handful of days when it was rainy and we had to stay inside. (Let me tell ya how intense winds and rain really make you feel alive when you experience them from inside a tent!)  But otherwise they were out and about, soaking in the life all around them – and becoming a little feral, too, if I’m honest.
"Mom! Look at my treasure!" (The stick. She's talking about the stick.)

Nothin' like a sweet curious grabby baby to make sure you're awake for the day!
I loved the simple pleasures the most: sitting in camp chairs in jammies, enjoying the gentle breeze while eating a simple meal. The smell of the campfire. A child-gifted bouquet of flowers with a heart-shaped nibble out of one of the petals. Cutting firewood and hauling it back to our site. Exploring the rural terrain on Sunday drives. The sunrises, sunsets and the brighter stars in the sky that helped reset our circadian rhythms. The foam pad we slept on each night, the crisp chilly morning air, and the beautiful moving patterns of light and shadow on our tent ceiling each morning all made for great sleep and happy waking, too. The sounds were perhaps the best part of all. Each night and morning in the stillness, we would hear the movement of the warm spring running a few feet away, the wind flowing through the trees, the chirping of crickets, and the calls of at least 4 kinds of birds we could discern, including the gentle hooting of owls. I loved the easy living and low expectations of us as tent dwellers. And I'm surprised how much I loved our entire family sleeping in one open space together each night. I loved the closeness our housing created for us. It was nothing short of soul-refreshing.

Baby girl snuck into our sleeping bag every night. Isn't she beautiful?

I asked the kids what they loved most about our time living in a tent. They said they loved seeing all the creatures. There was no shortage of creatures. Sometimes I delighted at the variety, sometimes I shuddered. The delight came in observing the muskrat (AKA “Weedcutter”) carry a clip of plant matter in his (her?) teeth through the tunnel and into his den in the bottom hollow of a tree across from our site. It came in watching a juvenile red-breasted robin hop around our kitchen area, in a late night family “hunt” for crayfish. It came in spotting banana spiders and their webs, beautiful butterflies and moths, birds, the shadow of two owls across a dark night sky and the dissection of their owl pellets the next day. It came with the ticklish nip of minnows and cichlids nibbling on our toes and heals. (Free pedicures, people!) The shuddering came in spotting the mice that ran from our site when we were packing up our tent, spotting the little shrew that got caught in the sticky spider trap on our tent floor, and in observing a snake swallow a bird whole. It came with itchy chigger bites and other beetley bugs that found their home in the confines of our tent.

"Weedcutter" the muskrat was eager to get away every time we tried to get a photo.

Looking for crayfish/crawdads/whatever else you might call them.

Between the stress of medical school and residency, my closely spaced pregnancies and the demands of nursing babies, I dropped the ball on making sure our kids learned how to swim. It was too overwhelming to me to manage all of them in the water alone and so I never did. But this fact, too, was made moot in the enchanted land of Indian Springs campground. I signed the three older kids up for swim lessons while we were there. They loved their kind and thoughtful teacher – Kailee. They enjoyed walking to swim lessons each weekday morning and each getting their private time with her. Lincoln and Atley are now both water-safe, and Jocelyn greatly improved her skills and confidence in the water, too. And all of this was done in a warm, comfortable hot-spring-fed pool while I snuggled/wrestled baby Wren from the sidelines.

Perhaps both because they wanted to say goodbye and also because they wanted a free ticket to the spectacle that was our #TentLife, we had so many visitors come see us!! I only got pictures of a few of them, but all of them were treasured guests. You all know who you are, friends! It made for a fantastic and fun close to our time in Pocatello. Many shared meals with us. All shared wonderful conversation. We treasured the fact that even out of our home, we could still share the feeling of inviting people into our space and home, in the area, one last time.

"Grandma" Sharon and "Grandpa" Norm, our dearly loved next door neighbors in Pocatello.
My cousin's cute kids with my cute kids!

My cousin Katie and her husband Joe visited. While we were living our tent life, they are living a motor home life! Extreme housing choices must run in the blood or something.
Trace, DeeRae, and Squire's Dad all came to visit for Squire's graduation ceremony. <3 
We did have a 30 minute commute to town from our campsite, which meant we ate out more frequently than we had before on big errand-running days. This was a fun opportunity to catch the restaurants we had been wanting to try before we left the area. And on the few extra hot days, we made sure to take field trips to town to visit the animals at McGee’s, and to visit our pet bunnies who were being lodged while we lived in our tent.

Squire, sad to be leaving to go to work. That was the biggest disappointment of this whole ordeal -
Squire worked sooooo much his final month of residency!

Visiting our bunnies at the Pet Lodge 2.
Atley picked and assembled this lovely bouquet up at Scout Mountain during a Cub Scout Pack meeting.

The following are some photos from our Sunday drives in the area near our campsite. We loved seeing such beautiful Earth!


Can you spot the moose in this photo?
By the last week or so, I realized how much I appreciated not having to walk a block to go to the restroom. I missed having easy water access, easy water-heating, private (not community) showers, and sitting at a table indoors to eat meals. I missed my toaster and my blender. And I missed living in cleaner living quarters (and by cleaner I mean less abundant in rodents and/or creepy crawlies.) But without this experience, I wouldn’t have seen these modern-day miracles in as rosy a light as I do now. Nor would I, I must add, really know what modern conveniences had been robbing from me either. Living this way gave each one of us a new set of eyes, I think.

I’m grateful for the upgrade to my prescription that this adventure provided. I am so glad we did this.


  1. Such a delightful post. You are a national treasure, Jami.

    1. I love you, Mickelle! You sure know how to make a girl feel like a million bucks! Haha. Just realized that was a pun. Wasn't intended. Let's talk soon, friend!

  2. Replies
    1. Thank you for reading and letting me know you enjoyed it, Shaleah! <3 you!

  3. You got me to fall in love until the chiggers. Hahaha! Actually, I think this sounds like it was an amazing adventure! Now, that we live in the outback, 5 weeks with the set up you had is like a 5 start hotel to some of the outback camping round these parts. What a perfect time of year, and perfect surroundings. I love that you took advantage of the swimming lessons too! You are so good at making anywhere a true Home.

    1. Hahaha! We would have been happy to stay for many more months if it weren't for the chiggers, too, Amanda! Thank you for the compliment. That is something I desire to do well and it makes me feel good that a dear mom friend I admire sees that in me. I can only imagine those outback set-ups! Too tough for my blood!

  4. I haven't seen or spoken to you in so long but I do enjoy seeing where you are in life and I appreciate you taking the time to share this amazing insightful blog with us. Love you Jami!!

  5. Dear Jami.....thanks for such generous sharing! Your writing is so engaging and pictures of those adorable children make me want to "go and do likewise".....
    Thank you for this! Hugs to you all and best wishes as you move forward! We're awaiting your posts about the next adventures of the Hepworths! We love you! Doug & Ilene



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