“What’s a yurt?”

A week or two ago, I finally got around to telling The (now) Nine-Year-Old the answer to the question her Four-Year-Old self had asked about the rules for when Y was used as a consonant, not a vowel. She listened politely until I got to my list of examples.

Mommyo, didactically: “Y is not a vowel when it’s the first letter in a word or syllable. So for example, Y is a consonant, not a vowel, in words like yogurt.”

The Nine-Year-Old, excitedly: “Or yellow.”

Mommyo, happily: “Right! And yurt.”

The Nine-Year-Old, disbelievingly: “You made that up. There’s no such thing as a yurt.”

The questers in Robin Hobbs' Assassin's Quest use a yurt as they travel through the mountains.

The questors in Robin Hobbs’ Assassin’s Quest use a yurt as they travel through the mountains.

Mommyo, assertively: “Sure there is. There’s a yurt in the book I’m reading right now.”

The Nine-Year-Old, knowledgeably: “You know, Mommyo, you can’t believe everything you read in books. Sometimes writers make things up.”

Mommyo, definitively: “Yurts are not made up.”

The Nine-Year-Old, challengingly: “Prove it. What’s a yurt?”

Yurts, I told the The Nine-Year-Old triumphantly, are a circular, portable tent, traditionally made of fabrics or animal skins. Nomadic tribes in Asia favored them because yurts are built on a collapsible framework that could be taken down, transported, and popped up again in another location fairly easily.

The Nine-Year-Old: “I’m going to need to see a picture of that.”

So I showed her the illustration from the Merriam Webster website:

(Illustration: Merriam Webster. Click the image to see the full definition.)

(Illustration: Merriam Webster. Click the image to see the full definition.)

The Nine-Year-Old, suspiciously: “A real picture, Mommyo. Somebody could have just drawn that.”

So I tried again and found this picture of a yurt by a lake.

(Photo: Pacific Yurts, Inc.)

(Photo: Pacific Yurts, Inc.)

In Googling for images of yurts to show the The Nine-Year-Old, I discovered that my definition needed a bit of updating.

Many yurts are small, just like you’d expect.

Small and spare yurts from Blue Ridge Yurts. In addition to this little guy, Blue Ridge Yurts has a varied collection of larger yurts for residential, festival, and campground living. (Photo: Blue Ridge Yurts)

Small and spare yurt from Blue Ridge Yurts. In addition to this little guy, Blue Ridge Yurts has a varied collection of larger yurts for residential, festival, and campground living. (Photo: Blue Ridge Yurts)

But yurts are clearly no longer exclusively for nomads and campers. Yurts are becoming quite popular as an alternative solution for affordable permanent housing in the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, and Hawaii — really pretty much anywhere high housing costs create the need for affordable housing.

Temperate climate optional.

30 foot yurt buried in snow. (Image: Fortress Yurts)

30 foot yurt buried in snow. (Image: Fortress Yurts)

Take a look at this 30 foot yurt from Pacific Yurts, Inc. Looks pretty permanent to me.

A 30' yurt from the gallery at Pacific Yurts, Inc website. (Image: Pacific Yurts, Inc.)

A 30 foot yurt from the gallery at Pacific Yurts, Inc website. (Image: Pacific Yurts, Inc.)

Inside, residential yurts often feature hardwood floors and furnishings that don’t look like the sort of thing you’d strap to a pack animal’s back for transport. Consider the kitchen on this one:

Kitchen in a 30' yurt from Pacific Yurts, Inc. (Photo: Pacific Yurts, Inc.)

Kitchen in a 30′ yurt. (Photo: Pacific Yurts, Inc.)

Or the interior on this one:

Lofts are a popular option in residential yurts. (Photo: Fortress Yurts)

Lofts are a popular option in residential yurts. And is that a cupboard under the stairs? (Photo: Fortress Yurts)

Not built in a day. Not meant to only last for one either. Which explains bathrooms like this:

Yurts can even feature indoor plumbing. Fancy that. (Photo: Yurts by Design)

Yurts can even feature indoor plumbing. Fancy that. (Photo: Yurts by Design)

Melissa Fletcher of Yurts of Hawaii, which helps prospective buyers design and assemble their yurt homes, says that yurts are both solid and durable. With the proper maintenance (and a reputable builder), yurts can last for decades. Every 20 years or so, you will need to replace the roof and the walls of your yurt, but your basic infrastructure — the plumbing, electricity, gas, and the rest of the interior — will last longer.

I kind of want to live in a yurt now. Have any of you lived in a yurt? What’s it like?

Related Links: 

About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book, Did Dinosaurs Have Belly Buttons?, is currently planned for release in 2018. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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2 Responses to “What’s a yurt?”

  1. Pingback: Jumble Spoiler – 04/22/16 | Unclerave's Wordy Weblog

  2. Pingback: “What’s the difference between thee, thou, and thy?” | CATERPICKLES

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