This is the story of how we got to set up a real Mongolian yurt.
We drove our van up to Lantier, Quebec back in July, on the eve of the 3-day Tiny House Festival there, and we arrived while everyone was busy setting up their tiny houses and getting ready for the next day’s crowd which was exciting to see.
We were kinda tired though, because we’d just gotten back from our trip to Iceland and Germany, and we’d also been to Toronto, Ottawa, Rimouski, and Montreal — all in just one month. We thought we’d say hi to a few people, plan a time to interview Rivkah from Groovy Yurts the next day, and then make a quick escape to find a place to park and rest up before the festival.
But when we met up with Rivkah, we found out that one of their sites hadn’t been levelled on time (the festival was a wee bit disorganized at the start), and her team needed help setting up a yurt before the sun went down. We gladly volunteered, even though we were tired, because we didn’t want to pass up the opportunity to set up a cool yurt.
We worked with Richard & Carmen (a couple who became good friends by the end of the festival) to put up the lattice walls in the dark with only a couple of headlamps to share between us. We might have continued working that way if it weren’t for the swarms of mosquitoes that came after us when the sun went down and forced us back into our van. Carmen & Richard thanked us for our help by letting us park the van next to the yurt as “overnight security” since we hadn’t had time to find a campsite, but I’m pretty sure it was a trick to make sure we’d be there in the morning to help them finish up. Either way, it worked.
We woke up bright and early to help put up the dome (toono), the rafters (uns), and the covers before people started arriving. The dozens of rafters were tricky to put up because they had to be perfectly spaced between the notches in the lattice wall and the dome in the centre or else they’d fall down; which happened to us quite a few times until we got the hang of it.
After the uns were up, the covers went on: a thin cotton liner first (which is mostly for looks), then we rolled on the thick wool felt insulation, which smells like it came straight off a sheep but is surprisingly inoffensive, and then the white canvas cover went on last. To finish it off, we tied up the yurt with 3 hand-woven horsehair ropes (which smell of horses, surprise surprise) that wrap all the way around the structure’s waist to keep the covers on, and add extra rigidity to the building.
When we were done, it felt like we’d just bundled up a small child in a big snowsuit, with long johns, a sweater, and a jacket; and that’s pretty much what we did, except we dressed up a building instead. Mat and I both really loved the fact that every single part of the round house was made from natural materials that we could recognize — there was no drywall, no caulking, no vinyl siding — nothing toxic or synthetic.
Setting up a traditional Mongolian yurt like this was quite a bit of work but it was worth it when we stepped inside and got the full effect of the round shape, the natural light, and the stunning hand painted pieces.
Check out our interview with Rivkah to learn more about traditional yurts, and to get a better look at how they’re set up.
Happy Exploring :)
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