Why We make our Gers the way we do, of full-larch, and why are our gers in a completely different price-range than others of the same size?
To understand this, let me tell you a bit of my personal history.
I've lived in my self-made Ger (not yurts) in Holland, wet and stormy, for ten years, until I moved to Mongolia in 2008.
Hundred or more people today live all-together in Ger made in our workshops, which they either bought from us when we still worked in Holland, or made themselves under our guidance in workshops.
Twenty of our gers are intensively used for short-term rentals in Holland, festivals, wedding-parties, funerals, there is even a special arrangement for deliveries.
Our gers are being used living, but also for restaurants, workshops, gatherings, meditations, etc. We have regular contact with most of our customers, even the very first ones. We like to get feedback.
All these gers together stand for about maybe 500 years of continuous living experience. And I mean real living, summer and winter.
Field and forest, Desert and Swamp.
Western Europe, Italy, Spain, Israel, USA/Canada,
Rain and snow, sunshine and storms.
These are modern, free citizens. Mobile phone, solar power, and internet.
Adding greatly to our knowledge-base was running a rental-business, where we pitched and retrieved about 200 Ger every year, now for 12 years, nearly 2000 times all together, which is hard to match by anybody even in Mongolia.
As of 2008.
I am out of it, but Nooitmeerhaast-rentals is going better than ever in the hands of Michiel Slee.
I dare to say there is nobody in the west that can match this combined experience in living and pitching.
The first five Ger we made were perfect copies of original mongolian Ger, sizes and numbers, felt and stoves, not some 'improved' or 'intelligent inspired-by' version like you see in North-America.
It was only then that I tried something else, and MamaGer was the first result.
A good result, she is still rented a couple of times every year, but after that we realized the value of the original even more, and deviated from the original only for Palace and Castle, Zevenster plus two smaller 'kirgiz' yurts.
Of the 200+ Ger made so far in our combined Dutch and Mongolian workshops, only twenty or so are not 'standard Mongolian'.
We respect the tradition, and are proud of that.
But we go about making gers quite differently from the all other Mongolian factories: we are the only one that has consistently chosen for 'best' and 'most durable', as opposed to 'make do', and 'that's way too expensive, this is cheaper', and 'that's the customers' job to fix'.
Euro-yurts are also the only yurts made completely in one house, wood-drying, machining, assembly, AS WELL as all the sewing of the different layers; in 'normal' Mongolian gers all these parts are outsourced to 'specialsts', which is cheaper, but the resulting bad fit and missing parts are to be solved by the customer.
And none of all this knowledge was attained by studying architecture!
Most of the knowledge came about by carefully listening to Mongolian teachers, mostly for sizes and for the deeper understanding of the dynamics in a felted structure. Much was learned from European old-style woodworkers like Martin, Craig, and Thijs, 20 years of sail-making (me), professional training in painting (Tuur), plus assorted other disciplines.
Euro-Yurts is the culmination of all that experience, the European, and the Mongolian combined.
The most striking difference with other Mongolian Ger-Makers is probably that we do not paint them orange-with-decorations.
We don't need to:
We make the frames of our yurts exclusively from selected Mongolian Larch, and nothing else. We glue with Korean D4 glue, OutdoorGgrade PVA.
We've tried, and do not believe in transporting painted woodwork over half the globe. We believe that paint should only be applied to hide mistakes.
We treat our wood to one coating of linseed-oil, and leave it up to our customers to do what they want with it afterward.
Linseed allows all kinds of finish to be applied, varnish, paints, stains.
Eurp-Yurts of today (2013) is a small crew of 5-8 people, most of them have been with us since the beginning. Keeping them is sometimes hard, but teaching everything all the time to new crews is too much work, and does not breed in-depth knowledge and understanding of the way 'we do things at Euro-yurts'.
We sew all covers ourselves, from the best felt, canvas, outer and liner-materials. Canvas and covers are imported from Europe.
We use only tried and tested ropes, inside and out, and bullet-proof polycarbonate for windows in crown and door.
Because of these choices we have a limited production-capacity of maybe 40 ger a year, so be it.
(the same story in other words)
The knowledge of Ger has been accumulated over (at least) eleven hundred years in Mongolia, and luckily, it was the first body of yurt/Ger knowledge I was exposed to.
Mongolian Ger of tody's sizes and shape go back no longer than the socialist period, when they were standardized to facilitate industrial production.
I got my first teachings (1996) in the countryside of Arkhangai, from an old man Looda, one of the few Mongolians who still know how to build a complete Ger.
The most important of his teachings to me was: Felt is the Muscle, not the Fat, of the Ger.
It was only years later that I really started to understand this.
In the beginning of my Ger-life, I just copied what he had told me, and it worked.
Many of the details and 'laws' of the Ger eluded me, but I didn't care, it worked, as long as I stuck to the plan. Whatever clever ideas I thought I had to change or improve the Ger, later showed to be stupid.
Of course, I also wanted to understand, and slowly now I do start to understand details of the Ger.
There are still a few ideas and details that I do not get, but I don't worry, they work, some even totally against common (architecture/scientific) knowledge, and I hope one day to understand why.
Looking back at the experience of doing before knowing, I learned to trust my teachers. They showed me a path, a very traditional way to do things.
I really enjoy staying on the path, and rejoice at every new view, as I make a turn in the path they laid out.
It is actually a very valuable, precise map, of a very deliberate, precise road, but it does not disclose it's secrets easily.
When I first came to Mongolia with the idea to 'change a few things in the production' and end up with perfect waterproof ger, I was baffled by the not-understanding of what quality is, what demanding customers want, what 250 days of rain in a year is.
I tried to do something together with Tim/UlaanTaij, but after two hours of talking had to concede he was on a totally different path.
He wanted to be 'the biggest', we want to be 'the best'.
We ordered specially made frames from Ger-Tereg, reasonably well-made, but still not to my satisfaction.
That's why we now have our own workshops for wood, for sewing covers and canvasses, our own crews for felt- sewing, hell, we even have our stoves made to our design.
This in contrast to most of our esteemed collegues who export Ger from Mongolia to other countries; they trust on the expertise of 'renowned masters' and 'experienced exporters', to make their products 'export-quality'.
They order or buy their gers in pre-produced pieces, as this is the most cost-efficient way.
One must take into account however, that these 'masters' have never seen what European climate does to a ger, continually exposed to the elements in Europe. Nor do they understand the consequences of the non-existance of a replacement-market.
New they all look great, hey, no big deal, but how about after one year, or five?
Only Euro-Yurts has had tents standing for eleven years now, outside, used, and re-pitched every now-and-then.
Maarten, my old partner in Holland, has been living in 'the prinsesje' since it was new, in 2002. And she still looks good, and more important, she is in a condition close to new.
Every time I see her I am so happy we always chose for 'the best', as opposed to 'the cheapest'.