Woody Packard

Words + Pictures

City Ger

We have been waiting for the opportunity to see a ger put up since we got to Mongolia, so it was a relief, finally, when our neighbor invited us to go with them when they were ready to take their ger to the river. Like many people in Khovd, no matter where they live, they move to the river for the summer. Some go to let their animals graze on the lush grass that grows there, but many just go because it is cooler, and because it's an easy way to feel like you are living in the countryside, even when you are ten minutes from town.

The process starts by loading the ger onto a flatbed truck. (We now understand why Mongolians raise camels.) This ger had several additional complications. The first was that it had not been set up for three years, since our neighbors had been living in Japan. Storage of the walls can cause bending that influences how things go back together. And in three years, one can forget exactly how the floor goes together.

Then there is the fact that this is a city ger, which means that it has a wood floor that raises it above the soil and makes a surface that is easier to set furniture on. The floor is nailed together in large sections, which would challenge even a camel, so getting them out of storage and on to the truck was quite a job.

As an example of indigenous architecture, the ger has many interesting design features that make use of simple materials and techniques to solve complicated problems. The walls are built in sections that are held together with one length of rope, lashed in a way that locks mating expandable xxx sections together. The section joints pivot on rawhide hinges. The (exactly 88) rafters are attached to the walls with a single loop of cord, and to the center hub with a loose-fitting tapered square mortise.

This notebook documents the process that I was also a small part of. While I was working, Judy was making a time lapse recording of the event, which, although we were told that it can be done in an hour, took us about five hours.

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City Ger

Lashing Pattern

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Older helpers as well as my three students all knew this lashing pattern by heart. It joins the free ends of two wall sections together.