On Yurts & Crowdfunding, Or, There’s Nothing New Under the Sun

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Tonoo (centre ring/skylight) & supporting pillars.

Tonoo (centre ring/skylight) & supporting pillars.

Last Thursday we put up our yurt. (I’m going to restrain the use of exclamation marks for now, since if i don’t i will use them to punctuate every sentence of this post.) Some of you were here with us; some following on facebook. It was a wonderful time, even with the added challenge of rain. I don’t think that we could’ve beat the rain—once we had the roof felts & exterior canvas on, we could put up the rest of the felts in the rain much more easily—without the help of everyone who showed up. Thank you.

Putting up roof poles.

Putting up roof poles.

The felt insulation.

The felt insulation.

Getting the lowdown on yurts.

Getting the lowdown on yurts.

More felt, this time in the rain!

More felt, this time in the rain!

The outer ropes keep the insulation tight against the lattice walls, as well as connecting the doors to the walls.

The outer ropes keep the insulation tight against the lattice walls, as well as connecting the doors to the walls.

IMG_4576Yesterday we had our yurt-warming party. Again, many people showed up; many also followed on facebook. It was also a wonderful time, made even more wonderful by the absence of rain! Burgers & salads were eaten, drinks imbibed, songs were sung, & our new home was warmed—literally & figuratively.

It was during the building & warming of our new home that i rekindled my gladness that we were trying to crowdfund.

Some of you are aware that we have set up a page where people can contribute toward this first major piece of infrastructure in our mini-farm/farmette dream/adventure: our home, aka, a traditional Mongolian yurt/ger. (There should be a link on the righthand side to our kapipal page, but you can also click here.) We started out by getting approved for a line of credit to finance our home—folks at our local bank figured that a yurt wouldn’t qualify for a mortgage—but after giving it more thought, we decided to try to crowdfund our yurt, at least in part. The main reason is that we wanted to give people an opportunity to support us in this new endeavour, we hoped to become an object of generosity. We wanted this to be an adventure supported by our communities far & near. Like many of our other adventures, we hoped it would be a communal undertaking.

When i use the word crowdfunding, i am using it to mean fundraising which uses one or more social media platforms. There are many of these crowdfunding sites already, & i’m sure more are on the way.

IMG_4599So fundraising is not new. But it seems people are using crowdfunding more & more to fund dreams & visions. For a few decades now, a lot of those dreams & visions have been either self-funded, bank-funded, or, in the case of new businesses, venture-capitalist-funded. Now it seems that people in general want to have opportunities to say “yes” to something by giving a small (or sometimes large) contribution. This is evidenced by the success of many crowdfunding ventures in myriad fields, be it filmmaking, product development, charitable projects, or, yurts.

In the introduction to the Foxfire Book, a compilation of articles from Foxfire Magazine, high-school-English-teacher-turned-magazine-editor Eliot Wiggington  tells the story of how his unruly class became the content generators for a magazine that, for many of the back-to-the-land movement, was a source of knowledge & inspiration.

He had tried to get the students engaged with the course material in many ways. He had tried harsh discipline. Nothing was working. So, he proposed that they start a magazine. The content would come from their neighbours & relatives, residents of the Appalachian mountains.

IMG_4606“And money? The school could provide no support at all. Any financial obligations would be my problem—not theirs. … the kids had to find the money for that first issue themselves, and that made them more determined to see the magazine go than anything i could have said.

And so they hit the streets after school. Any donor, no matter how small [the] gift, would be listed in the issue, and [they] would receive a free copy signed by all the kids.”

I was reading this out loud to Heather & i stopped at that point & said, “That’s crowdfunding.”

What i’ve read so far of the Foxfire Book has been thoroughly enjoyable. Stories of elders, their lives, their ways of life, made possible by crowdfunding. Made possible because the students’ community said yes to this vision by supporting it with gifts small & large.

So we have chosen to crowdfund because we need our community, but also because we wouldn’t want to do this without our community. Building & warming our yurt was so much better because of the support from our community here in Saskatchewan as well as those across the globe.IMG_4601

It is a beautiful thing to belong & to feel supported. As we were putting up the yurt, Yves the Yurt Expert/Delivery Guy told us about how each part of the yurt—the wood structure, the insulation, the cover, the ropes—contributes to the strength of the yurt. No one part of the structure is the key. The yurt is strong because of all the parts that belong to the whole. I hope that for many years, our yurt home can be a reminder to us & our community that that is exactly the same way that a community gets its strength.

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We were also told that Mongolians believe that the spirit of a yurt lives in the door frame. People step over the frame & if they accidentally bump their head or foot, they will pass through again, offering an apology for disturbing the spirit. For the same reason people do not knock on the door of someone’s yurt; also because everyone is always welcome in a yurt.

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So the next time you find yourself driving south of Hanley, Saskatchewan, look for our squat-grain-bin-looking yurt with the bright red door, drive right on up & come in. We can’t promise the traditional Mongolian drink of hospitality (fermented mare’s milk), but chances are we’ll have some sort of beverage to offer you.

Welcome.

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2 comments on “On Yurts & Crowdfunding, Or, There’s Nothing New Under the Sun

  1. Amy says:

    I will be in Saskatchewan this summer. I may be near Hanley. And if I am I will certainly take you up on the offer. I will probably knock, though. It’s too well bred in me not to.

  2. MOM & DAD says:

    It was so so so good to be there on Sunday, your yurt-warming/concert/party! We felt the excitement and love and intense community evident all around. Blessings to you both as you inhabit your home with all these aspects. You are very dear to us. We love you and your yurt!

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