Yurts have sprung up around the valley like mushrooms after a rain. (Maybe a little cliché, but yurts even resemble some round-capped ’shrooms!) We are especially fortunate to have a yurt kit manufacturer right here in the valley, employing valley residents, and building a quality product that is shipped all over the country, even around the globe.
At the helm of Smiling Woods, Hanz Scholz is an innovative entrepreneur who, with his brother Alan, founded Bike Friday in 1992 in Eugene, Oregon. The small-wheeled bicycles were designed to fold up into a suitcase for ease of traveling with a bicycle. Hanz uses the same creative skills at designing, tinkering with, and crafting inventions for the yurt kit manufacturing process.
The yurt, or ger, was originally built in the steppes of Central Asia at least 3,000 years ago. The word “yurt” comes from a Turkic word referring to the imprint in the grass left behind by the structure. Genghis Khan, the most well-known leader of nomadic tribes of Central Asia, directed his empire from a yurt in Mongolia. The yurts were portable, which served the nomadic peoples well.
In addition to being expert horsemen, Mongolians also have a great sense for home design utilizing energy-efficiency, round spaces that reflect inspiration from nature, and strength of structure due to the aerodynamics of a round house. The modern yurt renaissance started in the U.S. in the late 1970s popularized by people seeking affordable, alternative housing that lets them live closer to nature.
I was fortunate to watch a crew put up a Smiling Woods yurt here in Mazama recently (in triple digit temps). Each part of the kit — built with precision at the Smiling Woods shop on Horizon Flat — went together from ground up, walls first, then 54 rafters attached to the center ring, a work of art in itself.
When the yurt is complete, it has been said that people who gather in the round space are encouraged by the shape of the room to speak with equality, since there is no front of the room for higher status people to stand or sit. I wonder where Genghis Khan stood when directing his military campaign that made him one of the greatest conquerors of all time. Maybe in the center?
Fickle occupants of the Earth that we are, we carp about the snow and cold and a few months later, “It’s so hot!” My California son — cool in a San Francisco foggy morning and sunny afternoon — pointed that out to me. OK, where’s the closest water — Lost River, Methow River, Pearrygin Lake? I’m going!