Sunday, October 13, 2013

The гэр of the Mongolian grasslands

The Gers at Three Camel Lodge

The Mongolian гэр (ger) are all over Mongolia and we saw them frequently in the Buryat (autonomous) Republic in Russia north of current day Mongolia.  These are a construction and cultural marvel.   More commonly known to us as yurts, these are called “ гэр “, pronounced “ger”  in Mongolian, meaning “home”.  They really haven’t changed much in over eight hundred years and date back over three
the Basics - partitioned floors and lattice
thousand years -  as long as the nomadic life in Mongolia has been, and remains, the centerpiece of their culture. “I was born in a ger and I will die in a ger”, from an urban Mongolian we spoke with.   
They are the home of choice for the nomadic people of Mongolian who follow their herds of horses, cows, yak, sheep, goats, lamb and camels as they follow the grasses and grazing lands.  In a land like this with a harsh continental climate (90F in Summer, -30F in Winter), the grazing
No nails - all secured
 with cured tendons
herds need to keep moving to find enough feed. Why roam?  Take the USA as an example.  In the lush Mississippi basin, ranchers plan for two cows per acre in a managed pasture to sustain a healthy herd.  In drier Southeast Colorado, those same two cows need about 75 acres.  Go north to drier and higher climates with shorter growing seasons,
sections secured with
tendon ropes
maybe 150 acres of growing grass for those two cows. Mongolian nomads have no concept of this math.  They have the whole of the Gobi, the sea of grasses, with lands of no fences and no land ownership.  We were told that today over 800,000 Mongolians are nomadic herders that live in many of the same ways already well established by the time of the clans of
The structures is supported by
horse mane rope strengthening
the round walls
Genghis Khan in the 12th century.  Their gers up quickly, pack tightly, pulled by a yak cart (old school) or Toyota pickup (new school), are incredibly stable and quiet in the ferocious Gobi winds, and warm?  Well, maybe.  No windows to let in the cold air, but the ventilation stack at the top center of the ger is open to vent the stove that is the center of activity in the nomadic ger.
The center roof support
stove vent on the south
  We stayed in five as we drove over a thousand miles around Mongolia and visited two nomadic families (blogged in earlier posts). Our nights dipped into the 40’s F
85 roof beams come from the center cap
and we woke to gers with interior temps in the 50’s F.  Our stoves were tourist accessories – used for heating, if you asked, and not for cooking – and fueled with wood.  Wood never lasted through the night and the nomads use dried dung and coal – unfriendly oders perhaps to western visitors.  Those stoves last the night.   The construction without nails and, as is typical with the nomadic culture, uses as much from the animals they herd as
and radiate out to the top of
the lattice walls
possible; ropes from horse manes, ties for the lattice work  from cured tendons and muscle, and felt covering from the wool from goats and sheep. All that felt keeps em quiet in the wind!  One night I awoke thinking, “hmmm.  I don’t recall putting in ear plugs like I was wearing
Outside - wrap with felt, secure with
horse ropes, and load down
with rock weights
on the train…”.  I hadn’t.  We liked them enough to talk over whether we want one for some property we have in southern Colorado.  You can spend well over $10,000 for ones constructed in Montrose, about 2,000 euro for ones from Scandinavia, or we can return to Ulaanbaatar and buy a kit for $1,000 and ship it back!  I am not quite sure how our homeowners association may take to this…..
Inside - a quiet heaven

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