Some time ago I remember you asking about how the yurts out towards the north meadow came to be. It’s an interesting story, as they were here a decade before I arrived here thirty years ago this year. It happened because The Steward at the time, Emma Holstrom, was keen on enhancing our revenues by hosting conferences here but our housing stock in Kinrowan Hall never really has room for more than a dozen or so guests at a time, unless they want to doss down outside which many willingly did. Oh, we’ve a few Estate cottages set aside for such purposes but that still limits us to perhaps thirty guests, give or take a few.
Building standard housing was deemed to be too costly and environmentally insensitive to boot, so the project was shelved ’till a Several Annie from Russia suggested we use yurts, a wooden ribbed round dwelling structure traditionally used by nomads in the steppes of Central Asia as their homes. Now, ours were intended as ongoing housing so some modifications had to be made, such as all wood construction instead of fabric over wooden ribs.
First, we had to settle on a space and that space turned out to be in a meadow about a half mile from Kinrowan Hall. We had enough room there to space them twenty yards apart; we also decided to elevate them so as to allow the vegetation and wildlife to be minimally affected. We also decided that a skylight and a Russian style stove system would make them cozy in the Winter. Each is fifteen feet across — big enough for up to three people to comfortably inhabit — and a good ten feet off the ground to allow vegetation and beasties not to feel impeded by them.
Building them made a good project for the carpenters among us. Other than glass for the skylights, all of the materials came from the Estate, including the bricks used in the Russian stoves. Half of each yurt is sleeping space, with storage built in under the sleeping platform. All of them have shelves for yet more storage and there’s a ski rack outside each yurt. They’re painted forest green with a lighter green trim around the doors and windows. If you don’t know they’re there, it’s somewhat surprising to come upon them.
(Yes, doors. Though the yurt traditionally has one door, we deemed that they were safer having two doors if, Gaia forbid!, a fire happened.)
Over the decades, thirty-five of them would be built. They now comprise, if only on a temporary basis, a community unto themselves with some groups here never coming to the Estate Building since we added a forty-foot-across yurt for use as gathering space. It’s not uncommon for the Neverending Session to decamp to the yurts to play for their residents.
And they’ve turned out to be both quite popular and amazingly durable. When we do housing booking for festivals and conferences here, they’re always claimed first in housing preferences. We’ve even added booking them for folks interested in a skiing holiday here.
And other than a bit of paint and caulking the windows each year, and sanding and resealing the floors, they’re care free. Oh, we’ve added amenities over the years — there’s now a Finnish style sauna and solar powered showers. And there’s plans for a kitchen yurt to be constructed soon.
You should have been here a decade ago when we held the first annual Women In Black Cultural Festival here. It was an interesting experience with everything from a historically accurate performance of a reading of Aristophanes’ excruciatingly bawdy anti-war farce, ‘Lysistrata’ to Daughters of Bede doing ‘lost’ Celtic chants. They finished off that first of many such Festivals with the well-known Basque song, ‘Agur Xiberua!’ which ends with the refrain, ‘Not in Paris, nor anywhere else, will I find anything quite like my homeland.’ All of the participants stayed in the yurts so you could hear music, song, and laughter ’till very late in the night.
So that’s how the yurts came to be. And this year is the first time that they’ll be booked for a curling competition being held here!