Voluntown Peace Trust is new home to contemporary yurt
By Janice Steinhagen - Staff Writer
Voluntown - posted Fri., Nov. 16, 2012
A structure whose origins lie on the plains of Mongolia has found a home on the Voluntown Peace Trust grounds. The VPT is now home to a contemporary version of the yurt, a traditional round dwelling used by Mongolian herdsmen.
The structure, which was erected by volunteers during the first week of November, came from Kit and Jane Johnson of Stonington, who built the yurt from a kit about 15 years ago, to serve as a personal space for their then-teenage son. Kit Johnson said that the couple first encountered yurts in Wyoming, and were astonished at the structures’ warmth and comfort.
“In the 20th century we have managed to partition ourselves off from nature in many ways,” Johnson said. Being inside a yurt “felt like being reunited with nature but without the hardships associated with that kind of living.”
Unlike the originals, which have a felted wool covering, the local yurt has an outer skin of coated cotton canvas over a framework of wood lattice. “It took five friends of mine a full day to build the platform with the floor,” Johnson said. The pie-shaped floor sections are held together by a tightened cable. “The next day, about three or four of us put up the yurt in about three hours.” The structure is lit by a central skylight, and window flaps are secured shut by Velcro.
With the addition of a woodstove, the yurt is surprisingly warm even in bitter weather, said Johnson. “The roundness of it has a lovely feel to it – I hesitate to call it energy,” he said. Yurts withstand bad weather, are portable and don’t require zoning clearance, since nothing is dug into the ground during their construction, he said. “My dream is to live in one long enough to be able to demonstrate it to other people as an affordable housing option,” he said.
VPT resident caretaker Nancy Kwasnik said that the structure will be available for groups using the grounds as a meditation or retreat space. The trust also hopes to rent the yurt out for various functions. “My girls and I are just dying to have a sleepover in there,” she said.