There is a part of living in a yurt that is sort of pre-yurt living, or kinda like remedial class prior to Yurt 101. It’s that part of yurt-ing where you first find out that there is such a thing as a yurt, then you learn the what’s and why’s of living in a yurt. So, first I’ll impart my pitiful little knowledge of yurts and how I came to live in one.
I don’t actually remember how I first heard of yurts, but somewhere around 2003 to 2005 I either saw them in a magazine…Countryside perhaps…or on a TV show on either Discovery Channel, The History Channel, or The Travel Channel.
I know it had to be on one of those channels because I can’t imagine yurts on either of the only other two channels I watch…FoodTV and Fox News…
Anyway, when I first saw information on yurts I was intrigued, mainly because they were like me…weird. I already had a house on some acreage in the North Georgia mountains, with the attendant 30 year mortgage until 2032, and I was very slowly remodeling the house, so any thought of adding a yurt to the property was out of the question because of finances.
Still, being a curious sort, and being semi-retired with lots of free time and an internet connection, I would occasionally search for new sites relating to yurts…their history, their uses throughout time, and the modern yurt.
Modern yurt. Now there’s an oxymoron.
First there was their unique shape..round. Who ever heard of a round home? Well, a lot of people had heard of…and lived in… round homes…for thousands of years, as a matter of fact.
Go back in time…waaay back in time…go back to cave dwellers. Have you ever seen a square cave, with flat ceilings, square corners, level floors, and plumb walls? Caves, while not actually round, are rounded rooms. Cave dwellers lived in these rounded rooms, surely in part, out of convenience…after all, it was rounded when they walked in the place.
But you have to wonder if those rounded rooms influenced later structures that were built by man, not found in nature. Did the fact that most caves have an upper opening, if only a crack, that allows smoke from a fire to escape, influence dwelling design later? Did the rounded walls, leaving no dark corners for evil spirits to hide in, help bring comfort to their superstitious nature?
Curious things, these round structures.
Down through the ages, right up until “modern” man, indigenous peoples have always gravitated towards round structures. The yurts of Mongolia, the gers of Siberia, igloos of the tribes that are collectively called Eskimos, the native American tipi and sweat lodge…all of these are round structures, and they are all round for a reason…different reasons for different peoples, but for each people…a reason.
The peoples of Mongolia and Siberia used yurts and gers (same thing, different languages) because they wanted structurally sound dwellings that lended themselves to the people’s nomadic lifestyles…following the flocks and herds or moving with the changing seasons for comfort and survival.
The igloo is an ingenious adaptation of using the materials at hand, building a sound structure, and providing protection from the elements.
The sweat lodge of native Americans was designed round for both spiritual reasons and because it was a structurally sound building.
In every case, when indigenous people built, they built round, and of primary concern was the structure’s strength.
So…in a yurt we have a structure that has all the advantages people have found through the years…strength, portability, possible spiritual implications…and, for me, the deciding factor…they are unique…the weird factor!
For me, I wasn’t looking to build a home with spiritual implications (though I do find the round space calming), and with 85 or so cases of ceramic tile and 400 sq. ft. of hardwood floor laid I was hardly looking for portability…but I did want a home that would outlast me and that was…well…different.