Celebrating Mongolia’s Naadam Festival

The Naadam Festival, traditionally known as simply “Naadam”, is the most anticipated and action-filled national holiday in Mongolia. Naadam is “inseparably connected to the nomadic civilization of the Mongols, who have long practiced pastoralism on Central Asia’s vast steppe.” From July 11th – 13th, the people of Mongolia come together to compete in traditional sports and games “using distinctive tools and sporting items”, while overall enjoying the pleasures of their rich culture. You’ll be able to spot men, women, and children dressed from head to toe in colorful-bold patterns, special costumes, and traditional Mongolian clothing. Main attractions at this festival include their traditional cuisine, singing (including long song & Khöömei overtone singing), the Bie biyelgee dance, Morin khuur fiddle, craftsmanship…just to name a few! Tourists also come from near and far to learn about Mongolian traditions and lifestyle, as well as to partake in the wide range of activities that Naadam presents.

Naadam Games

Naadam translates to the ‘festival’ or ‘feasts of sports’. This festival has been celebrated over a millenia and is still going strong today. Many Naadam’s are held across the capital, Ulaanbaatar, allowing for Mongols to participate in the neighboring games. Amongst the locals, Naadam is known as “Eriin Gurvan Naadam” which translates to “three manly sports”. 

The three sports include wrestling, horse racing, and archery. Years later, the traditional game of ankle-bone-shooting joined the line up resulting in 4 main sports that are played during the festival. Women and children also partake in sports (excluding wrestling) despite the name translation.

Naadam Wrestling 

Following the opening ceremony, the wrestling games occur over 2 days. These matches are a sight to see as the wrestlers wear special clothing highlighting their strength. Just like any sport there are rounds, rules, onlookers, and a winner! With over 500 wrestlers and 1 winner, it can get very competitive. All wrestlers are welcomed and treated equally, regardless of experience, so an onlooker may witness “veterans wrestle with young amateurs.”  Eminent wrestlers are awarded national titles by the Mongolian government and are highlighted in Ulaanbaatar. Wrestling in Mongolia is an annual crowd favorite during Naadam.

Naadam Horse Race 

Mongols have a plethora of horse racing games throughout the year as it is a popular event in Mongolia. Races such as the Naadam Festival race, Tsagaan Sar Lunar New Year race, the spring horse race and the Ikh Hurd race take place and draw large crowds. One month preceding the Naadam Horse Race, horses are taken care of and trained for the games. Then, hours before the horse race begins, horses are left grazing in open fields.

Horse racing is mostly for Mongolian children aged 7-13 and “the racing distance differs depending on the ages of the horse. There are six racing categories in the Naadam festival according to the age of the horses.” Based on ancient tradition, children rode horses without saddles but due to new safety regulations, saddles are a must.

Naadam Archery

Three kinds of archery are practiced in Mongolia, “Khalkha Kharvaa/Khalka archery, Buriat Kharvaa/Buriat archery and Uriankhai Kharvaa/Uriankhai archery.” The bow is made from natural wood, horn, sinew, leather and animal glue” and is well prepared before the games as it takes about 6 months to 1 year for it to be fashioned and formed. The arrow is crafted with natural “bone or wood and its shaft is made of feathers from birds of prey.”

Children and adults will alternate their days between participating in the archery games and spectating. Spectators must also help with co-judging the rounds. “The co-judging archers use gestures to indicate scores. If the co-judges raise their hand high, turning the palms up and singing “uukhai”, it means the target was hit and the archer has scored.”

Naadam Ankle Bone Shooting

The traditional Ankle-Bone-Shooting game was added to the main Naadam games in 1998. It is now listed as a “UNESCO World Heritage game” and is known amongst Mongols as “Shagain Harvaa”. Before it took the Nadaam stage, it was enjoyed and loved by Mongolian Nomads.

 So, what is an Ankle-Bone-Shooting and how is it played during the Naadam games? The ankle bone is likened to dice in the western world and is the knuckle bone or ankle bone of animals. Several games can be in progress at the same time in the shooting tents or fields at the Naadam arena. Each team has 6 main players, plus two stand-by players. A player shoots target bones put in rows on a small wooden structure called “Zurkhai”. Behind the Zurkhai is an Aravch board, which helps the target bones and bullet bone not to scatter. The shooting target distance is 4.7m.

We hope that  Baata and his family, Tuya and her team and all our other Mongolian brothers and sisters have had a Happy Naadam! The Naadam Festival is truly an unforgettable event that Mongols near the countryside celebrate it for up to 2 weeks!  So with that being said…we are still wishing you all a Happy Naadam and hope you are enjoying or enjoyed it to the fullest!

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Sources:

Logistics Issues

The reality is that some yurt parts are still being carried on horseback through Mongolia. They will then be completed in the capital city, shipped in a sea container, carried by train, and then shipped again by boat from China to Canada. This journey initially took 2 months but has since increased dramatically due to shipping determinants.

Last year everything was turned upside down in a worldwide shipping debacle. Containers could not be shipped from China anymore, and the ones that had already been shipped, took up to 9 months to arrive – this meant that the only other option was to ship through Russia to Europe. The containers were loaded on trucks or trains and then on a ship in Europe, costing 3 times the price, but ultimately, the gers did arrive intact. We decided to order them earlier this year to ensure we had what we needed for stock.

Then, a man who has all the power to help turn the world into a happy place, decided to do the opposite and invaded his neighbor. Our last container was on a train in Russia and began bouncing from place to place until it finally crossed the border with a few weeks delay. That was a huge relief. The container then arrived in Estonia, and then sat another few weeks in Germany until it was loaded on a boat. Alas, when the ship arrived in Montreal, the container was nowhere to be found. It is only one metal box amongst 10,000 others on a huge ship, however, we are waiting to start our annual delivery tour, making this an issue.

We have become accustomed to reshuffling but look forward to a certain normalcy. Right now, there’s a huge shortage of containers in Mongolia and therefore we have been presented with the most recent of logistics issues – sourcing shipping containers. In the meantime, Bataa and his family are still making gers. Thankfully, we’ve developed a brand-new shipping solution that uses special custom boxes being shipped in empty European trucks returning from delivering much-needed supplies to Mongolia. Bataa and his chaps again worked like crazy to make this happen. We are so grateful to work with such amazing partners. Our heart goes also to our shipping agent – Landbridge, who must find solutions in this insane market.

One way or the other, we’ll get you your Mongolian ger. Thank you for your patience and understanding.

Warmly,

Yves and the Groovies

Mongolian Yurts USA

Groovy Yurts is gearing up for another big Groovy Truck Tour to deliver yurts throughout Western Canada and the United States. For July & August, we’ll be touring through Alberta, British Columbia, California, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas & Washington. This is one of our favourite routes as the weather is warm, the people are wonderful, and the set-up locations are as beautiful as they are variable – our yurts have weathered all types of landscapes and climates in the United States (yes, even Alaska). We hope you continue to read on as we reminisce about some of the awesome yurt set-up locations from past Groovy Truck Tours – many of which you can visit! 

Alaska Yurts

We often get questions about whether our Mongolian yurts can withstand the extreme cold temperatures of Alaska, and the answer is yes, we have many happy customers in this state! For these customers, we typically recommend 2 layers of wool felt insulation and an efficient wood burning stove. 

We love our trips to Alaska as the views are beautiful, the roads have been clear & the people are kind. The last time we were there we had the lovely surprise of meeting some gentlemen at the scale in Tok, Alaska, who had met Mongolian soldiers while posted in Iraq, as well as folks at Gabe’s Garage in Fairbanks, who took us in unexpectedly. 

One of our favourite yurt experiences is called the ‘Last Fontier Mushing Co-op’; located in Two Rivers, Alaska, just 150 miles below the Artic Circle. They offer guided dog sledding expeditions that capture the breathtaking beauty of Alaska, through both the landscape and rich heritage.  At the end of a perfect day, you’ll have the option to stay overnight in an authentic Mongolian Groovy Yurt beneath the northern lights. 

Although these millenary dwelling are great for withstanding cold temperatures, dwellers must beware of heavy snowfall! We were recently sent this photo from Carl in Alaska, and he’s accumulated quite a bit of snow on his yurt.

Tip: It is very important to stay on top of snow removal. Yurts can only hold so much additional weight. 

California Yurts

California seems to be a very popular glamping destination (and for good reason). The climate is Mediterranean-like with warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters. However, in the southeastern regions, the state experiences a hot arid climate – like that of the Sahara Desert. We’ve had the pleasure of setting up yurts in both types of climates. Our yurts are being featured in luxurious, outdoor camping destinations across the state. 

In the Gold Country, you can escape to a small intimate yurt Airbnb located in the Sierra Foothills of California. The getaway features an Asian/Pacific fusion of ambiance, décor, body treatments, tropical foliage and of course, the authentic Mongolian gers. 

Further South is the ’28 Palms Ranch. This is a glamping yurt village nestled in the foothills of the Copper Mountains in Twentynine Palms. If you are looking for a peaceful and unplugged desert oasis, enjoy the sweet scent of wild desert sage and relax under the magical starry night by your private fireplace. 

Even in the dry heat of California, the yurt’s all-natural air conditioning (created by crosswinds from lifting the bottom of the outer layer of the dwelling) ensures that you won’t overheat. The Mongolians really thought of everything!

Massachusetts Yurts

We had the pleasure of helping set up Liz & Slava’s new ger in Massachusetts. They were wonderful to work with and we assured them that the Mongolian Yurt can even be comfortable in humid states. It is important to note that if you’re planning on living in an area with high humidity, you should be sure to annually seal the seams of your yurt, heat it from the inside out after heavy rainfall, reduce your use of gas appliances and be sure to reset your yurt in the springtime! This will prolong the life of your dwelling.

If you’re planning on visiting this region soon, we recommend checking out the Eco Mongolian Yurt in the Berkshires. You’ll have the opportunity to stay in an authentic off-grid Mongolian yurt with windows, skylight, and a wood stove for year-round enjoyment. The lovely 20’ yurt is in the owner’s ever-expanding garden, surrounded by seasonal greenery and flowers. All amenities are included and powered by renewable energy sources (which is extra cool)!

Texas Yurts

Last, but certainly not least is a Texas glamping destination called,Yurtopia Wimberly. This is a personal favourite for the Groovy Team as some of us have had the pleasure of staying here. They provide the most comfortable, luxurious glamping experience for those wanting to unplug and relax in a natural setting. Tucked into the hills, amongst the cedars, oaks, cacti, and birds, your troubles will melt away in the hot tub, by the firepit or watching the glorious hill country sunset from your rooftop deck. This is a must-do for both Texas tourists as well as residents! 

We are so excited to embark on our US tour this July & August 2022. If you are a resident within California, Colorado, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon, Texas or Washington  and would like to have your yurt delivered to you this summer, please contact Groovy Yurts NOW!

The Land of The Eternal Blue Sky

It’s been 3 years since I’ve visited Mongolia due to COVID. A lot of things have changed. In the capital city of Ulaanbaatar, people seem to be busier and have more money. The cars are in great shape and everyone seems to own one. Even at Naraantuul, the black market, you can pay with a credit card or e-transfer – the days of carrying around large amounts of cash are almost gone. Restaurants, bars and trendy coffee shops flourish and supermarkets are experiencing skyrocketing prices because the country is landlocked. While one used to be able to make spontaneous appointments with the prime minister, today it becomes hard to find time with friends – the hustle and bustle is starting to feel like every other large city in the world. 

Mongolia is landlocked and shares its borders with two neighbors. During COVID, borders were closed with China. They still have not fully opened yet. For a variety of reasons, China is not letting many goods in and even fewer goods out, which did not make our export of Mongolian gers any easier – if a nation wanted to strangle another, it would resort to similar tactics. We were forced to turn to Russia for the shipping of our precious dwellings. However, this neighbour’s president, who has everything in his power to help make the world a better place, has recently decided to invade his Western brothers. 

This leaves us with limited solutions as a friend to Mongolia; the “Land of the Eternal Blue Sky.” We will not be shipping our yurts by air but will have to come up with equally creative solutions – these unusual circumstances will force us to develop our offer yet again. To prevent last year’s crazy delays, we started stocking much earlier, but there was no way to prepare for a war. That being said, we are so grateful to have roofs over our heads and our hearts go out to the Ukrainians who have lost theirs. There will be more delays this year and we know our customers will understand the circumstances. We thank them warmly. 

As the price of imported vegetables and other goods continues to increase, some predict severe inflation in Ulaanbaatar. As tough as it will be for the middle-class, who have just begun to enjoy Western ‘pleasures’, I believe that Mongolia will sustain itself thanks to the millenary nomadic culture and the extreme resilience and independence of the Mongolian people

Gratefully, 

Yves Ballenegger 

 

winning contest shirt

Vote For Your Favourite Pun in Our Annual Pun Contest!

During the first week of March, we had our annual pun contest. Our Groovy participants showed up with enthusiasm, creativity, and wit. All entries had to include either “yurt” or “ger”, and some of our Groovy family utilized both. We were informed that there were group discussions and brainstorming sessions that resulted in multiple entries from the same participants, impressive uses of the words ‘yurt’ and ‘ger’, and our hardest decision yet!

The prize winner has not been chosen because we decided that you all should help choose the winner. Everyone can cast their vote by “liking” a pun on any of our social media (Facebook & Instagram), and that will count as 1 vote. 

If you participated and think that you should win, you’re welcome to vote for yourself. If you didn’t get a chance to participate, this is your chance to take part and help us pick!

The winner of our pun contest will receive a shirt with their winning pun on it. If you become the winner, we only ask that you provide your address so we can ship your prize and a photo with your pun-winning t-shirt so we can highlight you on our social media pages.

Here are some of the first few entries:  

> What’s yurt 20

> Satisfaction GERanteed!” or “Now YURTalking!”

> Yurts are cool? Yurt ‘elling me!

> Yurt Reynolds

Want to get in on the action? Head to our socials to browse and “like” to vote!

Here are some past winning puns 🙂 
> Yurterrific
> Who’s Yurt Daddy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to all the participants for making this year’s pun content unforgettable.

Happy voting & happy yurting!

 

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/yurts/

 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GroovyYurts

Tsagaan Sar 2022

February 1st marked the first day of the New Year in the Mongolian solar-lunar calendar.

 

This traditional holiday is called Tsagaan Sar, which means ‘White Moon’. Tsagaan Sar represents the coming of spring and the awakening of nature.  

The celebrations begin on ‘Bituun’ (the day before the New Year) as everyone gathers with family inside their newly cleaned homes, wearing their best clothes. Together, they enjoy large feasts toensure an abundant year ahead – dumplings and dairy are plentiful. Many of the traditions are developed to incite positivity and prosperity for the remainder of the year.

The morning after, it’s custom for everyone to greet the first sunrise of the year. The men climb to the top of the nearest hill, while the women watch from home and prepare milk tea to offer to the earth and God for the health of their family. Officially, Tsagaan Sar is 3 days long, however, the first 15 days are significant. During this time, Mongolians make time to visit relatives, neighbours and elders. Everyone is met with a Zolgokh greeting; a greeting where 2 people outstretch their arms and the youngest’s

arms are placed below to grasp the older one’s elbows in support. 

 

This year, 2022, is the Year of the Water Tiger

The 3rd of the 12 cyclical zodiac animals, each with unique characteristics. The animals are paired with 1 of 5 elements that also rotate over the years. The elements, metal, water, fire, wood and earth, provide further unique traits to those born on that year. Those born in 1902, 1914, 1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010, 2022 are believed to have strong interpersonal relationships and are very family oriented.

These people are born to bring a smile to our faces.  

We wish a very happy Tsagaan Sar to all the Mongolians we’ve had the pleasure of meeting along the way!

two yurts assembled

The Trials & Tribulations of Delivering Yurts in a Pandemic

The global pandemic has certainly impacted our business.

On a positive note, it seems to have pushed more people to consider alternative housing options to escape city living.

yurt production team in MongoliaThis includes Mongolian yurts, as we have seen an increasing number of people opting for the traditional dwellings to reconnect with themselves and nature; either full-time or part-time. This is not only beneficial for their well-being, but also conserves energy, and overall resources, when compared to a more traditional North American home (or mansion).

The Logistical Challenges Many of Us Face

groovy yurts truck delivering yurt materialsCurrent events have also left us facing many additional challenges.

Shipping containers are taking almost double the time compared to last year, tariffs have increased considerably and there has been a drastic reduction in ship availabilities on the transpacific route.

Most noteworthy of the challenges with delivering yurts is the (often crazy) increase of prices, especially for lumber, both in North America and Mongolia. Although frustrating, this teaches us a valuable lesson on the importance of earth’s precious and increasingly scarce resources.

yurt production team in Mongolia

Restoration of biodiversity should become an absolute priority (and it should have been made a priority a long time ago).

The COVID-19 Pandemic in Mongolia

In Mongolia they have just started their fourth two-week COVID lockdown since January.

Getting supplies (lattice walls, felts, etc.) from the countryside has become quite the ordeal as quarantine laws are different from area to the next.

yurt production team in MongoliaBataa’s family, as well as our other suppliers, have recently transitioned from a standard 8-hour workday (5 days per week) to working around the clock between lockdowns.

In one instance, they were not able to get the usual khanaa (walls) from the Huvsgul province north of the country. To prevent further delays, they had to start making walls themselves overnight.

yurt production team in Mongolia

The final product is different, but clearly of good quality. Bataa and his family saves the day, yet again!

Groovy Yurts & the Road Ahead

At Groovy Yurts, we’ve traded in our yurt trucker hats for yurt logistician ones.

However, we still have high hopes to get on the road in May, June, and July for the largest of our yurt delivery tours.

Plans are being revised weekly (and in some cases daily), causing us to change the title of our tours from ‘Nomad Delivery Tours’ to ‘Mad Delivery tours.’ Rest assured, we will keep our customers informed of all developments via email, phone, social media and website blog updates.

yurt production team in Mongolia

Currently, it is difficult to provide clear delivery schedules. Should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to the Groovy Yurts team.

We thank you in advance for your support and understanding. We really look forward to meeting you all this summer and delivering yurts on time!

top of a yurt

Retrofits and Life Hacks for a Groovy Yurt: Insights from 5 years of Yurt-Life

This is the 3rd instalment of our customer experience blog series written by Beige, who lives full time, off-grid in a Groovy Yurt. 

 

The traditional Mongolian yurt is a beautiful structure made of natural materials and enhanced by hand-painted designs on the Huns and door.

I quite enjoy the rustic feel, the rawness of the materials and knowing that owning one supports the people overseas who are building them.

A Groovy Yurts kit is complete with all the pieces one needs to have a functional structure. That said, there are many things one can do to modify their Groovy Yurt to make it more suitable to their environment and modern life. Here are some of the retrofits I have made to my yurt.

Tension Ropes

Mongolian yurt componentsSince I live alone in my yurt, I have found it challenging to tighten the outer tension ropes myself.

To remedy this, I put a simple loop at one end of the tension ropes and used that loop to attach ratchet straps. The ratchet straps allow me to easily and quickly adjust the tension of my outer tension ropes.

Waterproofing the Toono

When I purchased my yurt, the Toono (center ring of the yurt) came with four inserts that fit into the openings of the Toono.

These inserts had a flexible, translucent plastic to let some light in but keep the rain and critters out. The problem with the inserts is that water still found its way to the inside of the yurt through the space between the inserts and the Toono.

My solution was to take the inserts out entirely and cover the outside of the Toono with plexiglass.

This task proved to be a bit difficult due to the curvature of the Toono, and I ended up cutting a separate piece of plexiglass for each of the sections I covered. I then drilled pilot holes in the plexiglass and into the appropriate spots in the Toono, then secured the plexiglass pieces with roofing screws.

other outside layer of a yurtFinally, I applied a generous coat of caulking around each section of plexiglass to ensure that water would not be able to find its way inside. I chose to install plexiglass on 3 of the 8 Toono sections because 4 of them were already covered by the canvas Urgh (the piece of canvas covering the Toono), and one of the sections has my chimney pipe coming from it.

Plexiglass was a suitable choice for this as it’s transparent and lets lots of light in, is flexible and can be bent a little bit to curve with the Toono and can be cut to any size.

If you are doing a retrofit similar to the one described above, you might consider covering all of the sections of the Toono with plexiglass.

The benefits to this would be: preventing water from entering the yurt when the Urgh shifts, holding heat better during cold months and providing the option to take the Urgh off to allow more light to enter.

Please note that Groovy Yurts now offers Top Covers for the Urgh with clear vinyl to cover the open sections of the Toono. I don’t believe this was an option when I purchased my yurt nearly five years ago, or perhaps I wasn’t aware of it.

Although this is a more straightforward solution to the retrofit just described, I think the plexiglass is an excellent choice because it offers an undistorted view, and I imagine it keeps the heat in better.

Securing the Urgh

inside layer of a yurtWhen tying the Urgh (a piece of canvas covering the Toono) to the tension ropes on the outside of the yurt, I noticed the Urgh was subject to a lot of shifting.

Most of the time, this wasn’t a problem as it’s quick and easy to readjust. That said, if I were away for several days in a row and the Urgh shifted while I was gone, I would sometimes come home to find wet contents in my yurt.

My solution for this was installing eye screws on both sides of the platform, which I used to thread the ropes to the Urgh through a more secure tie-down.

The eye screws are strong and unmoving, unlike the tension rope that would be pulled up when tying another rope to it. The eye screws allow me to tie the rope for the Urgh very tight, holding it in place for longer than when I tied it to the tension ropes of the yurt.

Plus, using the eye screw instead of the tension rope has the added benefit of having these two ropes be independent of each other.

Now I can adjust my tension ropes without the rope holding the Urgh to be moved.

Modified Chimney Design

chimneyMy Groovy Yurt came with a Toono insert that fits a 4″ chimney pipe, but the standard chimney pipe size is 6,” and the insulated ones are even wider.

So I created a customized Toono insert out of sheet metal that can fit an insulated chimney pipe and withstand a bit of warmth that the insulated pipe gives off.

Much like creating the plexiglass windows, I measured and cut the sheet metal to fit over one of the Toono openings. Then I cut a hole out of the center of the sheet metal to fit my insulated chimney pipe before securing it to the top of the Toono with roofing screws.

Finally, I sealed the sheet metal’s perimeter with caulking and sealed around the chimney pipe with heat-proof caulking.

Blankets on door and window

To reduce the draft from coming into the yurt, I have covered the door and window with blankets.

To hang the blanket covering the window, I tied some rope that spans the window’s width to drape the blanket over. Then I attached a carabineer to the eye screw attached to the window to clip through the rope to hold it up.

This keeps the blanket from sagging and prevents it from dipping down such that it won’t be covering the top of the window.

Similarly, I had a quilt made that ties to the Huns (rafters that join the walls, door and window to the Toono) that fit into the door.

I like having these in the winter to keep some of the cold wind out. They are so easy to put on and take down that I can still enjoy the added brightness of the window when I take the cover off during sunny parts of the day.

Screens on the inner folding doors and window

yurt screen windowThe location of my homestead is VERY abundant with mosquitos, so adding screens to the bay window and inner doors was essential if I wanted to open them for airflow.

It was a simple retrofit involving nailing little pieces of wood to secure the screening on both the door and window.

With a few simple retrofits, my Groovy Yurt has become much more comfortable and functional.

Completing these retrofits offered me the opportunity to gain some skills and to think outside of the box. Having the ability to conceptualize and carry forward modifications and repairs is a major part of homesteading, no matter what kind of structure you choose.

It’s essential to be aware of this to ensure you are prepared for the amount of work involved in maintaining a homestead.

Groovy Note: We now offer an acrylic finish option to cover the toono. All the improvements that are not typically made in Mongolia can be purchased or made at home. Detailed DIY instructions can be provided for many of our add-ons, such as the chimney flashing or the house wrap, and we’re always ‘at yurt service’ for advice and recommendations.

Contact us today if you have any questions for us, or yurt stories to share!

 

 

stockpile of wood for future construction

Biggest Challenges to Off-Grid Living in a Yurt

This is the 2nd instalment of our customer experience blog series written by Beige, who lives full time, off-grid in a Groovy Yurt. 

 

When I decided to buy a Groovy Yurt 5 years ago, I was a novice homesteader in every sense of the word.

I had never built anything, started a generator, heated with wood or used power tools. I quickly learned that homesteading was a lot more complicated than lighting fires in a woodstove and carrying in jugs of drinking water.

I learned that every decision I make has a ripple effect, either working for or against my well-being and enjoyment in this way of life.

Temperature

chimneyI have learned that my ability to stay warm started with the woodstove I decided to buy.

It then extended into the quantity and quality of the wood I acquired, how I stored it and how available I was to feed the woodstove.

Staying warm has been one of my most significant challenges while living in my Groovy Yurt.

During my first winter, I struggled with 2 different woodstoves that simply were not suitable for primary heat sources. The first one I had was a portable, ultra-light wood stove intended to heat a wall tent. Since the metal was very thin, it did not have the ability to hold heat and needed to be fed very frequently to keep the yurt at a comfortable temperature.

Then, in mid-December, I bought a potbelly cast iron stove. The trouble with the second stove was that none of the seams were sealed, so even though it had a damper, I could not really reduce the amount of air going into it.

I tried my best to seal the seams with heat-proof cement and epoxy, but the fixes were sub-optimal and temporary. This made it impossible to leave a bed of coals burning through the night or when I left the yurt.

Needless to say, it was very challenging to maintain a livable temperature my first winter.

Although some of my challenges with my wood stoves stemmed from setting up in a hurry, the main cause of this challenge was my hesitation to invest in a good wood stove in the first place. Had I been willing to invest in a quality product from the start, I would have saved myself a lot of suffering, hassle and effort.

Some projects are worth salvaging materials or skimping on; a wood stove is not one of them!

Since that time, I have purchased a much better wood stove and re-built my original woodshed; these upgrades have made a huge difference in my quality of life.

Moisture

tapestryIn all of my years of living in my Groovy Yurt, I never have figured out how to keep moisture out.

I had problems with the bottom of the fabric walls retaining moisture when I had my first platform because it was too large and the water pooled in some areas. Since then, I built a better platform that is just the right size, but the water still seems to be retained on the bottom of the yurt’s fabric.

Further, when there is significant rainfall, I end up with puddles on the floor in certain areas around the edges of the yurt. I can’t understand how the water is getting in, especially to the extent that it does. It’s not a huge deal for me, as I usually just dry up the puddles with a towel.

That said, this would be a problem if the water pooled in an area where there were items that could be damaged by water. My main concern with this is that having moisture on the walls’ fabric regularly will likely degrade the fabric over time.

During damp or wet days, I always light a fire in the woodstove to dry things out and have installed a bay window, which helps increase airflow to reduce stagnated moisture.

Bloodthirsty insectshole in yurt

My yurt’s location is surrounded by cedar forests on all sides and by wetlands on two sides. In the peak of bug season, I feel like there are millions of them buzzing around my yurt, bouncing off of the walls to try to find a little hole to fit through, and when they find one, they call in the rest of the troops.

This may be a bit of an exaggeration, but they indeed can and will discover tiny holes to enter the yurt through.

Despite my best efforts, there are small openings where the door and window meet the Brezent (outer canvas cover). Once they are inside, they seem to hide on the walls and emerge after the lights are out, making it difficult to sleep in the summertime.

A couple of solutions are to either put a bug net around the bed (but you can still hear them trying to find their way inside) or take 15 minutes before bed to find and squish all of the hiding mosquitos.

Lack of natural light

When purchasing a Groovy Yurt, the only windows included are thesmall openings of the Toono (center circle).

yurt screen windowThese openings do let some light in, but they are quite small and mainly let sunlight in during the times when the sun is high in the sky. As such, I have found that my yurt feels rather cave-like, especially in the winter when the light is already minimal.

If it’s getting dark in the yurt and I step outside, I always think to myself, “Oh, it’s still daytime out here!”. If you plan to be spending time inside your yurt during the daytime, best to be prepared for the lack of natural light the original design offers.

A couple of years ago, I invested in a bay window; a total game-changer in terms of the amount of light coming into the yurt!

I installed my window facing east because I love to wake up with the sun, and I could orient the window so it was the opposite of the door. This allows lots of beautiful morning light to pour in, and when I open my bay window, I have a nice cross breeze flowing through the yurt.

Although many of the challenges I listed are regarding things out of my control, I could have made many decisions differently to alleviate difficulty.

 

The most significant challenges I have faced have been from single-handedly building a homestead from the ground up with no experience, mentorship or tools.

Although I have no regrets, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend choosing to jump into homesteading the same way I did.

 

 

Groovy Note: We are always ‘at yurt service’ for advice and recommendations. And we love to hear yurt stories.

Contact us today if you have any questions, comments or anecdotes.

groovy yurts customer yurt living experience

Simple Life in a Yurt: Insights from One Person’s Experience Living in a Groovy Yurt

This is the 1st installment of our customer experience blog series written by Beige, who lives full time, off-grid in a Groovy Yurt. 

 

Why live in a yurt?

Since October of 2016, my dog and I have been living my life in a yurt – the four-wall Groovy Yurt.

Over the years, I have built a woodshed, an outdoor kitchen and installed a 100watt solar panel for a bit of electricity. I use wood to heat and cook with, and I carry everything in and out of my homestead as it can’t be accessed by car.

People often ask why I decided to live in a yurt, but I think they are genuinely wondering what called me to live off-grid, by myself for the past several years.

groovy yurts customer yurt living experience

I answer like this: I love living close to nature. I’m excited by the sound of owls, coyotes and sandhill cranes. I enjoy being able to grow my own beans and I love having the freedom to sing as loud as I want.

Plus, I wanted an opportunity to get out of the hamster wheel and live an economically affordable life. I value being able to choose the type and amount of paid work that I do, based on my desires. I want to live for and with the things that bring me joy. On a practical level, I chose a yurt as a dwelling because it’s transportable and I can take my home with me if/when I move.

Before getting my yurt, I had never tended a wood stove, used a power tool or built anything. Needless to say, a lot of blood, sweat and tears went into learning how to maintain a homestead.

groovy yurts customer experienceI believe that anything is possible when one has a positive attitude and perseverance. I have learned many lessons –some the hard way- and would like to share some of the insights I’ve gained.

Living Close to Wildlife: Encounters with Bears and Rodents

After building an outdoor kitchen a couple of summers ago, the yurt’s amount of rodent activity has dropped dramatically.

That said, I still find mouse droppings occasionally when I’ve forgotten about some food in a pocket or bag. Here are a few simple methods I have learned to deter rodents from coming into the kitchen and leaving scat behind:

  1. Be diligent about cleaning up right away and discarding dishwater to remove food smells.
  2. Have a secure box or barrel for storage of surplus food/ items that are not easily put into jars/ enticing foods (sunflower seeds, granola, nuts). Amazingly squirrels seem to be able to smell what’s inside a mason jar and knock it off a shelf to get what’s inside. Further, they can chew through the corners of plywood, so I had to reinforce my food box with wire.
  3. groovy yurts customer yurt living experienceHave a covering for your clean dishes so if they are walking around in the kitchen, at least they won’t leave droppings on your drying dishes. Rewashing dishes is especially problematic if you have limited water!

There are bears where I live, but I rarely see them because my dog keeps them away (homesteading with dogs for the win!). That said, last summer, one did pull a board off of the outside of my kitchen. Like rodents, bears are most attracted to food smells.

In short, having a consistent human (and canine) presence around your yurt and keeping food particles/ smells to a minimum is key to keeping wildlife out!

Managing Moisture: Avoiding Mould

groovy yurts customer yurt living experienceOne of the many benefits of insulating with wool is that it’s mould resistant!

Even though my yurt has been subject to a lot of moisture (my first platform wasn’t exactly the right size, so water pooled), the wool insulation never got mouldy. However, the walls did get a bit of mould on the bottom, where the water pooled. I cleaned them once with a bit of diluted bleach, which cleaned off and stopped the mould from spreading.

Having a lot of airflow through the yurt helps prevent mould too, so designing storage that allows for airflow is key. Finally, I LOVE having a bay window opposite my door to allow for a cross breeze in the summer!

Maintenance: How much time goes into caring for a yurt?

As long as everything is set up correctly, maintaining the yurt itself does not take much time.

Once a week I check the ropes’ tension attached to the urgh (canvas covering half of the toono) to ensure it’s secure and won’t shift in the wind. I also check the tension ropes to ensure they are tight enough.

dog at a yurtOne of the Groovy Staff recommended that I take down and re-assemble my yurt once a year to adjust the structure’s outer layers. Taking down and putting up a yurt is only a 1-day undertaking once you get the hang of it.

Durability: How Much Wear Occurs from Living in a Yurt for 4.5 Years?

Overall my yurt has held up well, but there are a couple of areas where wear is apparent.

  1. In some places, the insulation became damaged from pooled water (this could have been avoided with the right size platform), and there are a couple of small (~6 inch) patches where the insulation has deteriorated.
  2. Brezent (outer canvas cover). After nearly five years my brezent is ready to be replaced. Some damage is from my chimney’s sparks, which could have been prevented with a better design (I told you I’m learning all of this on the fly, right?). Additionally, the brezent has become weak in spots and ripped the last time I took the yurt down. I believe this is from exposure to the elements and could have potentially been avoided by setting up in a shadier spot and applying a weatherproof coat.

All in all, however, I am extremely satisfied with my Groovy Yurt.

Closing Thoughts: Would I Recommend “Yurt Life?”

groovy yurts customer yurt living experienceOverall, living my life in a yurt for the past several years has been very rewarding.

Homesteading leaves me feeling strong, empowered and humbled. I’ve gained skills that I had never heard of before living off-grid (need an electrical wire spliced anyone?!) while realizing that building confidence with a skill takes time, patience and dedication.

Living in a yurt has allowed me to spend less time working for money and more time volunteering in my community, learning how to grow food, play music, practice yoga, and enjoy life.

So YES, I wholeheartedly recommend life in a yurt to anyone interested in an alternative lifestyle, living close to nature and having more agency over their life.

 

Groovy Note: We love hearing from customers about their yurt experiences, and we’re grateful to Beige for having shared their yurt stories, observations and tips.

Contact us today if you have any questions for us, or yurt stories to share!