Hammond Hill Yurt

A Conversation with Aaron Markel from Hammond Hill

Hey Groovies!

We had an amazing conversation with entrepreneur and part-owner of Hammond Hill Eco Resorts, Aaron Markel. We chatted about a plethora of topics, covering all things yurts, business, and so much more! Learn more about Hammond Hill, Aaron’s business journey, and our partnership below!

Tell me about yourself and your business! 

My name is Aaron Markel. I’m part-owner of Hammond Hill Eco Resorts, located just outside of the Hammond Golf and Country Club in Hammond, ON. We’re a 62-acre eco-resort that’s been hosting guests for about a year and a half now! We made the decision to build completely off-grid and we run solar power, water reclamation, compostable toilets, our own sawmill, and so much more. 

Why did you decide that your business needed yurts on board? 

We ended up with the traditional yurt model because it fits our profile perfectly. Yurts (or Gers) were developed by Mongolian nomads and therefore have low environmental impact, are portable (yet stable), and are designed to be lived in all year ‘round.

We previously had a modern yurt for a year or so, but it was lost in a big storm along with about 4000 trees. Afterwards, we decided to purchase 3 Groovy Yurts to add to our yurt village – we wanted to fill the space with different styles of yurts. Peter from Groovy Yurts and his team came out and installed them for free after hearing about the devastating storm. We are so appreciative that they showed up for us – taking time out of their day to come help us out. They have a very special place in my heart, and I have nothing bad to say about them at all.

How did you hear about Groovy Yurts? 

Through research! We purchased a yurt from another company at first, but ultimately found that they were getting too expensive and started looking at alternatives. We quickly discovered that Groovy Yurts was just 30 minutes away from us, and we loved the local, symbiotic feel.

Can you speak on a moment that encompasses your relationship with them? 

I was there for the yurt installation and spent a lot of time with Peter. Through our interaction, I found that the Groovy Yurts team is extremely informative. Their passion and love for Mongolian people and their way of life is so inspiring – you can’t help but leave the install date with an overwhelming sense of “this is how people are supposed to think about other people and cultures.” Learning more about people, how they live, and who they are is so important.

Overall, dealing with the entire team has been so easy.  They accommodated us because the storm was unexpected, and we couldn’t pay the full amount right away. A lot of businesses would have demanded full payment upfront, but they were super understanding of our unique situation and even gave us lots of time to ensure that our order was perfect. Through that experience, I know we made the right choice by choosing Groovy Yurts! 

Why would you recommend Groovy Yurts to potential yurt buyers? 

I run a construction company and I talk to many suppliers, so based on previous experiences, I know my interaction with Groovy Yurts was great. They are very well organized, and I’ve held on to their pre-setup and post-setup checklists. Something that really stood out to me is a time that we had some issues on our end – a lot of suppliers would just go dark – but Peter came onsite 3 other times to meet with members of my team and make sure everyone was on the same page. Their implementation process was amazing, and it was clear that they’ve done this many times as the yurts showed up on time, and their emails were very explicit in terms of what we needed to have ready and what we could expect upon arrival.

So, the beginning was great, and as a salesperson, I know that the beginning is usually great because a business wants your business. But the thing that I will always remember is the after-sale service. I know I can call Peter right now and he’ll answer the phone. These are the kind of people that I will continue a relationship with because when things go wrong (and they often do), we know they’ll be there to advise and support in any way they can. It’s truly amazing. For me, Groovy Yurts gets a check, check, and check.

What has been your takeaway from this relationship?

I think it’s affirmation. I’m not too sure if karma is the right word but as for what you throw out to the universe, you just hope that it comes back. I also hope that they felt their interaction with us was just as beneficial for them. 

After they came to help us out, we bought the steak dinners and gave them a tour of our facility. There were lots of stories being told, and a little bit craziness (of the best variety) – it was all a part of the awesome experience. Perhaps my favourite story of all is how they began selling Mongolian gers. Yves, the owner, was a truck driver for a not-for-profit organization called Globe Trucker, which was delivering school supplies to rural Mongolia at the time. After dropping of the supplies, they didn’t want to head back with an empty truck, so they purchased a few yurts from a local manufacturer and brought them back to North America. I give a lot of tours of the eco-resort, and I start off with that story every time because it paints a picture of the power of global economy – it’s great stuff.

What has been your experience with providing an eco-resort? 

Our interaction with the city and the county has been surprisingly positive and supportive. Typically, interactions with city officials can be quite adversarial and, in some cases aggressive, but the moment that we presented this property we were fast-tracked for approvals. We were able to show people that we didn’t want to cut down trees, but rather that we wanted to build within the envelopes, reuse nature (use the natural materials and pathways already laid out and provided by nature) highlight trails – we were fortunate to be backed by the community.

As a constructor, I can’t begin to tell you the amount of stuff that we end up throwing away. In the past, there was a 20% commitment to upcycling materials, but when you start talking to people, like the mayor, the city council, and RBC, it’s more about the feel-good component to upcycling. We started thinking that if we build a business, we want to do it better. We can build more sustainably; something that our kids can be proud of. As far as I can tell, what we’re building is the first of its kind and I find it inspiring because our story impacts everyone a little bit differently. The general response has been amazing. 

We’re not reinventing the wheel, but we are doing things better at different stages in the process.  So yes, Groovy Yurts fits right into that model – we like how their traditional yurts are authentically hand-crafted by a Mongolian family out of mostly natural materials. Additionally, 25 trees are planted with each purchase to replace the ones that were cut down. 

Is the construction of Hammond Hill a long-time dream?

So, Hammond Hill is a recent idea – less than 2 years old. What’s amazing about the idea is that it was very organic, and it just grew alongside the company values. I have a great team, so it was a very interactive process.  “Where do you think we should put the campsite?” “Hmm, how about there?” The excitement of the team, sharing the journey with my friends, and showing people how we accomplished cutting a trail through wetlands and built bridges are a few of the highlights for me!

Does Hammond Hills bring a sense of purpose or fulfillment?

Since the storm, we’ve recorded 3000 hours of footage. I do a weekly update of the progress that has happened on the Hill. The story is powerful, but the rebuilding process has been even more impactful. We were totally knocked down because of the storm – alongside many other people and businesses – but now I can see that we’re equally participating in rebuilding the community. We’ve donated logs, generators, and overall, helped everyone recover. For us, our vision of what we do next is even better than what we started with. That’s both exciting and fulfilling.

Why would you recommend getting a yurt to other resort destinations?

I’m going to approach this from the opinion of our customers that have come to stay with us. The resounding response is that it’s like walking into a 4000-year-old piece of architecture. With traditional yurts, not much has changed from when they were first conceptualized – you’re basically stepping into a historical depiction of how people lived a long time ago in other parts of the world, and, how they continue to live. So, I think when you get this type of reaction from your guests, it becomes clear why you would purchase something like this. 

Why do you love traditional yurts (or Mongolian Gers)? 

I actually got my wedding license this year (I jump around a lot), and I married three people on the Hill. For the first wedding it was raining, and I married them in the yurt. I was appointed to write a speech that dealt with the idea of family – I had to be accurate in my understanding of the Mongolian ger and its symbolism. We talked about the imagery of a circle, the completion of the ring, being at the center of your family unit, and making sure that the people around you are of equal importance. It made me realize that the yurt is beautiful because it promotes togetherness due to its simplicity – there are limited modern world distractions, which fosters building connections with your loved ones. 

As we are leaving COVID (fingers crossed), a lot of people really want to get back to the basics and into nature, and our eco-resort provides the perfect getaway for this. We have many types of accommodations, including, pioneer homes and campsites, but with the yurt, it’s the only structure that promotes togetherness. I simply love and value it so much.

Thank you so much again Aaron for such an awesome time and conversation. We wish you the best in all your endeavors, and hope to chat again sooner than later!

Be sure to check out Hammond Hill Eco Resorts!

Next Read: The Intricate Symbolism of Mongolian Gers >

Naadam Festival Archery Games

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 Festival Women's Dance

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 Festival Wrestling Games

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 Festival Horse Race

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 Festival Archery Games

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.

Naadam Festival Ankle-Bone Shooting Game

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

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!

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.

Read Part 3 NOW!

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.

Mongolian woman making yurt decorations

The Intricate Symbolism of Mongolian Gers

Mongolian gers (or yurts) are an intricate combination of technical necessities and symbolism.

The yurt itself is a representation of the universe. You enter the yurt with the right foot first and progress clock-wise; following the sun shining in the yurt over the course of the day.

In this edition of the Groovy Yurts blog, we’ll dive into some of the wonderful symbolism of Mongolian yurts, deeply rooted in tradition and full of meaning to the Mongolian people.

Yurt Symbolism, from Top to Bottom

Beautiful blue Toono with mosquito netThe toono (dome) symbolizes the sky and the transition to the spirit and the universe. It is supported by two bagaanas (central poles) that represent the woman (east) and the man (west), who equally support the universe.

North, opposite to the door, is the most sacred place (or place of honour). The door faces south in Mongolia, although it seems that it used to face East, like most North American native dwellings.

Throughout history, the North American indigenous people have shared many symbols with the Mongolians.

The amount of roof rafters (hunis) is significant as well. The 5-wall ger, possibly the most common, supports 81 hunis, which is 9×9. Nine is the sacred number for Mongolian nomads.

Additionally, Mongolian gers are not anchored to the ground, as not to harm the earth. This is a perfect reflection of the Mongolian’s respect for and relation to the environment.

How Colour & Religion Play Roles in Mongolian Yurts

The orange colour, most often painted onto the woodwork of the yurt, represents the sun shining over the grassland, or fire.

Blue, a symbol of good luck and respect, represents the Mongolian eternal blue sky.

In the 16th century Buddhism was reintroduced to Mongolia, which brought additional symbolism to the ger.

Beginning with the toono, which has taken the shape of the wheel of Dharma and represents the 8 teachings of the Buddha.

The ulzzi (the infinity knot), which is seen in several different variations in the paint and is also often sewn into the canvas, represents the connection of everything in the universe.

Honouring & Respecting Mongolia, Its People & the Yurts

We do want to make it clear that this blog is the result of a few years working of with gers and a deep love for Mongolia. It is not the result of scientific research. We do welcome comments and additional information!

Below, we’ve included some symbols and comments from Enerel, our friend and team member in Mongolia:

white shell symbol of Tibetan Buddhism

White shell, or lavai, came to us with Tibetan Buddhism in the 16th century. The white colour means something positive and good in life, erudition.

endless knot Mongolian symbol of lifelong happiness

Ulzii, the endless knot, is for luck and means life-long happiness.

hammer pattern Mongolian symbol of long life

The hammer pattern means eternal life.

khas pattern Mongolian symbol of life power & Strength

The khas or tumen nasan pattern means eternal life, power, and strength.

Your Source for Yurts & Yurt Information

Got any questions about Mongolian yurts or the connection between yurts and the Mongolian people?

Feel free to reach out to Groovy Yurts!

We’re always happy to talk about yurts and about Mongolia.

Mongolian people constructing a yurt

Mongolian Yurts & the Traditional Felt-Making Process

 

Sheep’s wool offers amazing properties.

Nowhere can we think of a better example of wool’s many benefits than by looking at Mongolian yurts and the traditional felt that insulates the yurt against cold, harsh winters.

In this edition of the Groovy Yurts blog we’ll look at the traditional felt making process that goes into creating comfortable, sturdy yurts.

Why Sheep’s Wool Makes a Great Yurt

yurt on plains in mongiliaWhen processed as felt and used as a yurt (or “ger” as the Mongolian people call it) lining, the wool breathes and insulates the space with the varying temperatures of the summer.

Wool felt in a yurt can also accumulate a certain amount of humidity and give it back when it gets drier (an all-natural humidifier). In addition, Mongolian yurt felt made of sheep’s wool is a great acoustic insulator, which helps make the yurt very cozy.

The best part? These felts protect against almost all elements.

It’s naturally fire retardant and mold resistant and wards off wear and tear, while actively participating in the yurt’s strength.

Mongolians say that felt is the ger’s muscle.

It is certainly a fabulous product as the fibre is rapidly renewable and 100% biodegradable!

Wool Felt: Traditional Crafting in Mongolian Yurts

Felt is traditionally made by the nomads of Mongolia by cleaning the wool, beating it, carefully laying it out evenly, getting it wet, and finally, collecting it into a big roll pulled by a horse across the grassland.

This fun video describes it well:

The felt can become water resistant over time, partly from the lanolin and dirt, but mainly from the smoke produced by the open fire in the ger.

Open fires were commonly built in the yurts prior to using stoves with a chimney, which according to a few Mongolian elders, is the best improvement in 2000 years. We’ve been told that the older ‘waterproofed’ layers were then put on top of the yurt to protect from Mongolian rains.

Often the felt is mixed with cow or horsehair to improve strength. The only downsides to that material are that it is difficult to clean wool, and the felt will have a strong odor when wet. It also tends to fall apart over time if it is not felted well, or if it’s exposed to constant sunlight.

Groovy Yurts: Our Felt Is Made of 100% Mongolian Wool

Mongolian people constructing a yurt
The felts used for own yurts are made with a needle machine and 100% Mongolian wool. That means that your yurt comes with a story of the people who made it.

We previously bought yurt felt from the old state factory that uses old Soviet era machines in Ulaanbaatar.

We now source the felt for our yurts from the countryside, where a similar technique is used in Bataa’s province, but with newer machines.  We love that the profit goes directly to this rural area.

Mongolian people constructing a yurt

This new felt is denser, much cleaner, more consistent, and somehow seems to offer better insulating properties with a similar thickness. The felt that we previously bought was definitely not waterproof.

You can make your own felt as demonstrated by the amazing Sustainable Sheep and Fiber Community of Northern Minnesota.

This community created a complete layer of decorated felt for their own yurt. This incredible work of art depicts the making of felt in Mongolia. The illustrations are made with different colours of wool and felted together using a wet tapestry inlay technique!

For more questions about the wonders of yurts and their many benefits, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

Photographs taken in 2002 in Bulgan Aimag, in the northern part of Mongolia (northwest of UlaanBaatar) by Dr. Michael Gervers Turkish Felts

Mongolian yurt in Minnesota USA Mongolian yurt in Minnesota USA
Mongolian yurt in Minnesota USA