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23.10.2014 admin
This House On A Rock In The Sea Has Its Own (Private) BridgeTiny House Love Strikes Twice For This Florida CoupleTonke Fieldsleeper: Part Truck Camper, Part Motorhome. He packed his 1977 Dodge Tradesman Campervan and set off from Halifax in June bound for Canada’s Yukon Territory. After two months spent touring and traveling across Canada, he arrived in Dawson City, Yukon. The first challenge was to find a way to efficiently heat my little abode, so before I left Halifax I constructed a wood stove that would fit nice and safely in the back of the van. Second Challenge was to find a way to hold in the heat I would produce to stay warm all winter.
Once I was finished with the first winter, I could donate the bales to folks who have live stock, or dog sled teams or something. While waiting for a shipment of hay bales to arrive, Cud set to work optimizing the interior layout of the campervan. Cud said that in early November it had already gotten down to around -25 F, but still the van was nice and warm. Over the first week of January, while weather broadcasters urged the masses to huddle indoors next to the furnace, I decided it was time to break out. My favorite feature of my anorak is the lush ruff of coyote fur that encircles the hood opening. On the other hand, a wolverine ruff, considered the best in cold environments, will hold hoarfrost but it is easily shaken free with a brush of your hand. In 1986, I found myself in the small Inuit community of Homan Island, located on Victoria Island in the Canadian Archipelago. Today I am in a better fiscal position to buy one but a recent check on the internet informed me that the price has more than doubled since 1986 and I would be lucky to find a ruff, that’s just a ruff, under $375.
As we rode west in single file, I noticed a hunk of fur sticking out of the snow down in the ditch. I got off my bike and post-holed down the ditch in my cycling shoes to the tell-tale tuft of fur.  Gingerly, I gripped it and pulled it carefully out of the snow.
I could create what is called a sunburst ruff by simply sewing the wolverine ruff just inside my coyote ruff.
Few lines of poetry are as memorable as that line Robert Service penned in The Cremation of Sam McGee. When Nancy and I overwintered in 2008-09 at our Yukon Territory Outpost in northern Canada, air temperatures lingered around -30°F for two solid weeks in mid December.
I know this might be too graphic, but I have vivid memories of  finishing my morning constitution in the outhouse and standing and staring in amazement at the pronounced geyser of steam that flowed out of the one-holer. Daily I stood shivering in witness to that sub-arctic volcano. Two dear friends of ours live perched on a high forested bank of the Yukon River eight hours north of our Yukon Outpost and that doesn’t include the twenty-five mile boat ride downriver. During the cold spell, they would work on their art while sitting next to the roaring wood burning stove alternately turning their chairs 180°, like a rotisserie, so as to warm up the side that faced the cabin wall. And so it bothers me that recently the media and for that matter, Governor Dayton, the CEO of  Minnesota, have painted the recent cold snap in apocalyptic terms.
During my public school years, I don’t remember any days where the school superintendent or state governor called off school.
Ironically, the cold winter camping incident did not stop us from future excursions.  After a long successful teaching career, including being selected as Minnesota Teacher of the Year in 2005, Glen has birthed a business, Snow Journeys in guiding folks on winter camping excursions into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area.
Before hanging up from my holiday phone chat with my Yukon friend I asked what the temperature was there. Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email. I was not keen on using traditional insulation, because at that point I might as well just build a little shack, so I came to the conclusion that straw bales would be my best bet.


The stove is lined with crushed fire brick, but he hasn’t tested it down to -50 F yet! I froze it back in the winter of 1974 during a winter camping outing when temps dipped to a nippy -38°. This is easy to witness when we momentarily pull off gloves or hat during a winter outing after exerting ourselves.  The vapor becomes visible as a drift of steam. I rarely pull the hood up but if the wind is biting, particularly if I am standing still like when I’m ice fishing for lake trout up in the border country.
I strolled into an Eskimo Cooperative to look over some of the native art that was for sale. Here was a chance to buy a strip of prime fur with a lovely span of buff colored hairs flanked by the more typical chocolate brown colors.
Nancy and I had spent the winter in the Yukon and I was riding my road bike on the Alaska Highway with Yukon friend Gerry. My inner naturalist is always at the forefront and that means I have to check out dead things. Admittedly the parka was in really poor shape and covered in dust and gravel from winter snowplows blading debris over the parka but the ruff looked okay. While chatting, I told him that our state governor had called for the closing of schools for two days due to extreme cold.
It seems miraculous that we can create a heated environment by finger-punching a thermostat touch pad  or turning the thermostat dial. With a robust wood pile, small flock of familiar Canada jays that visited their door step daily and an evening show of pulsating northern lights illuminating the night sky, they never felt threatened by the elements. I know I’m getting older and consequently there is a feeling of smugness of accumulating scores of winters under my belt, but truly this recent cold stretch used to be fairly common over the winter. Back in the 1980s, Governor Arne Carlson closed schools three times due to cold temperatures and stout winds. Did that stop us from driving out to my grandparents farm for the annual feast of lutefisk?
It proved to be a very long night in the sleeping bag where assuming a fully dressed fetal position was necessary.
It’s a low-pressure center, and typically during the winter months it resides up there. He fixed this by drilling a hole through the van right next to the stove and installing a PVC air intake.
This included  a favorite boiled wool sweater that I had snagged at the “free shack” at the Mt. The thick fur ring  is a wonderful feature and is a keen feature to control humidity and temperature. I relished the moment thinking it could have been the same sounds heard a hundred years earlier.
While the soapstone carvings and the unique  silk screen prints were captivating, my eyes were riveted on the three or four full wolverine ruffs hanging over a stretched cord. The ruff still has not been sewn on a parka but it graces a thick caribou antler that hangs on our wall. These are the conditions necessary to stare into the hypnotic dance of colorful pixels dancing across our television screens.
During bitter cold days our school dress code was relaxed when temps went below zero and the girls could wear slacks under their dress. Did it prevent folks from nearly filling the 11 PM Candlelight Service at Trinity Lutheran Church?
While the homeowners were in Florida, some of my duties included feeding and watering a few livestock.


With packs on our backs my good friend, Glen, and I had snowshoed into the bush somewhere in Itasca State Park. At first light, more than twelve fitful hours after crawling into the bag, we emerged to -38°F. For the more than 900 million ash trees growing in Minnesota the slowing of the beetle’s invasion is a good thing. The long scarf belt keeps the wind from blowing up my back and can be used to cover my face. Whereas, softer furs like fox or lynx might look more fashionable, they are not an effective clothing item for cold weather hoods. While outdoors, quiet smoke shadows swirl over the snowy landscape and chickadees cluster in balls of fluffed feathers bent on making it through the bitter night.
But then again, most of them are younger and have only experienced a spate of more modern, milder winters. On two consecutive mornings, the temps hit -44° and I had to use a heavy pry bar to break open their water hole. Without a tent, we laid our sleeping pads and high loft down bags on a stomped bed of snow beneath a stand of tall red pines. Glen got a dose of frostbite on his fingers simply from slipping off his mitts to stuff his sleeping bag into a stuff sack. The air temps are well above freezing, in the low 40s, and we have swung from polar to nearly tepid. Finally I donned my Swedish cotton pullover anorak (a jacketlike pullover parka), strapped on my WW II surplus Alaskan snowshoes and took off with a friend for a couple hour hike. The windchill made it nippy when we plodded across a frozen lake where there was no tree cover.  Over the first hour of trudging, the left half of my nose twice turned white as a bride’s gown.
It’s my habit to inform my fellow winter travelers and have them keep on eye on any color change of my schnoz. With the copious hood pulled over my stocking capped head I feel snug and cozy and my head is in its personal tent. I remember wondering what the homeowner would think if I herded his two horses and eight or so beef cattle into the house each night. I distinctly recall finishing our campfire cooked canned stew, standing close to the fire, surrounded by a cold black night. Not likely, but the frigid weather does buy time as forestry folks are trying to find a better way to control the destructive insect. After shaking the sand and gravel out of it and swishing it through the wet snow, I tucked it into Gerry daypack. So the menace of a polar vortex sliding in over the region, it is like spotting a yeti.  The weather people on the news are too young and their new normal for basing a cold winter day is far tamer than mine is. Another memory was that after doing the early morning chores, I would unplug the electrical cord that connected to the block heater on my truck, and drive away each morning with the clunking sounds of squared frozen tires. I unwrapped the long tartan scarf cinched around my waist to keep out the wind and coiled it around my neck and lower face. Over the past decade our winters have been for the most part wimpier when it comes to cold.
In a matter of a couple of minutes circulation was back and the nose had returned to a healthy ruddy complexion. Once inside the parka or anorak, the air chimneys up over my warmed torso and funnels through the neck washing over my face before flowing out the hood opening.



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