Yurt Power!

I spent Saturday night with my college girlfriends, Kim and Katie. Kim and Katie are two of the coolest YorkState women of my personal acquaintance. After greeting me with hugs and love, the first thing Kim says is: "Hey, Alia, check out the back of my head, I shaved it!" Sure enough, a large chunk of Kim's beautiful, wavy red hair is gone. In its place, the words ICE ICE BABY are shaved in. I can tell already that this is going to be a fabulous weekend. Katie and Kim are intelligent, funny, laid back and most importantly: they are phenomenal carpenters.

In mid July, the women began to construct a yurt to live in for the 2005-2006 school year. Both SUNY Geneseo Seniors have wanted to live in, and have talked about living in, a yurt for a few years now. Despite doubtful nay-saying, their yurt was completed and ready for move-in by late October.

A yurt is a traditional Mongolian dwelling made from wooden poles and wool insulation. Kim and Katie's dome yurt is 16 feet in circumference. The highest point of the building is the center at 8 and a half feet. The women lived outside in tents while they researched how to construct a yurt for the first part of the summer. The used a book called "All About Yurts" or something along those lines. (If you type "yurt" into a search engine, you can find quite a bit of helpful information.) The women found all of the raw materials on Katie's family land in Palmyra, NY. They then cut and carved each part of the circular wooden lattice and every one of the 51 poles that make up the domed roof. For insulated walls, Katie and Kim used wool they treated.

Their yurt resides on old Wadsworth land near campus. In exchange for helping out in the family stable, Katie and Kim live on the property rent free. The yurt has been built upon a wooden plank. Stones, dirt and fox furs make up the floor. The beautiful furs, found first as road kill, are then gutted, tanned and treated by the two woodsy ladies. Katie turned one of her road kill foxes into a hand puppet. We horrified fellow students by bringing FoxAnne with us for Sunday breakfast at the Geneseo Family Restaurant.

A small wood-burning stove heats the yurt. It was about 25 degrees outside on Saturday night and around 50 degrees inside. I didn't mind the cold. The three of us snuggled up close and reminisced all hours in our down feather sleeping bags. Oh, the stories we have!

Like traditional Mongolian yurts before, Kim and Katie's masterpiece is completely portable. Genghis Khan traveled all over Mongolia in an enormous yurt pulled by 22 oxen. Mongolian soldiers were fierce fighters; they had the support of their wives and children who traveled to battle with them via yurts.
The yurt does lack in-door plumbing. We used a bucket for a "pee only" chamber pot and Kim constructed an outhouse for shitting. Katie and Kim shower in the barn when the weather is warm. They use showers in the art building the rest of the year.

Kim expressed irritation at all of the nay-saying people gave them while they were planning construction. She feels folks wouldn't have doubted their abilities if they were male. I can see that, sexism sucks. I think the dumbest put-down I've heard regarding their work is "Oh, well, it was a mild winter this year." As if Katie and Kim have any control over the weather! Or that a few less snow storms makes their accomplishment any less impressive!

The women will move their yurt to the SUNY Geneseo campus for Senior Week in mid May. Kim will show the yurt as her Senior art project. Both are planning on continuing to live in the yurt after graduation, most likely on Katie's family land.

I cannot express my delight and pride in my two friends enough! They inspire me and prove to all of us that alternative lifestyles are viable. We don't have to rely on luxuries to live. We don't have to use technology, oil, cars, excess, etc. When the shit hits the fan, those women are ready. I'm with them.

-Submitted by Alia

Editor's Note: Thank you Alia for your submission! Just as a reminder, York Staters tries to be an open for discussion on life in Upstate New York. If you wish to submit a post, please check our Submission Guidelines and Mission Statement for instructions. -Jesse


Joe said...

My favorite part was the shaving of 'Ice Ice baby' in the back of the head.

Linda D said...

Oh, my, all I could think of is, "there must be a lot of foxes out Geneseo way!"

Jesse said...

Bizarrely, I was driving through Geneseo recently on my way home from Buffalo and I saw my first fox in years, running over the road and into a field. They also have a long tradition of old-school fox hunting in Geneseo. I believe it is the longest continually-run fox hunt in the USA.

Linda D said...

Yeah, the Genesee Valley Hunt Club. I thought that those kind of hunt clubs (ie, "riding to the hounds") mostly use fox-scent to create trails for the hounds to chase so that the riders have good, safe riding and stay within designated areas. I think even if they actually hunt foxes, I don't think they kill them, but let 'em go so they can chase 'em the next week-end. It's not like in Britain where they actually kill the foxes.

Anyhoo, we don't see a lot of foxes out in this area either, although I almost hit a gray fox in the Leon area of Route 62 four or five years ago.

Karina said...

Wow... this is quite pleasantly random. I came upon your blog through a series of blog links. I'm a Geneseo alumni (2001) and currently in Mongolia. I'm so impressed that the ladies built a yurt and spent the year in it! They can be very warm and comfortable (here in Mongolia we were toasty inside as it was -40F outside), but I'm not sure I could ever build one myself!

Cheers to Geneseo women!