The glass of water on my bedside table hasn’t frozen. Yet. But the evening mist now leaves frosty geometric patterns across the windows; the deck sparkles in the moonlight; Smokey and Bosworth have come close to snuggling; and we store food in the refrigerator if we don’t want it to freeze.
Yes, it’s fall in the North Fork. And who knows what the weather will bring in the coming months, though it’s our topic of discussion most days. Chris has been planning for worst-case scenarios, elaborate schemes where we have to sleep in the Ford and crank the engine every few hours to stay warm. “We’ll pack the cats in their carriers, light a candle, and sleep in our subzero sleeping bags,” he says.
We’ve also contemplated ways to cordon off a small living area in front of the woodstove, since that’s the only place that’s warm in our thirty-foot home. By the time you get clear over to the bed, the mercury plummets to around thirty-eight degrees. So far we’ve managed to stay 20–25 degrees above the outdoor temperature.
“I’ve got an idea,” Chris said the other day in an all-serious engineering tone. “We can take 4 X 8 sheets of insulation board, covered in reflective material, and hinge them to construct a foam-core igloo surrounding the wood stove.” Wearing a Peruvian knitted hat with a pom-pom on top and braids down the side, flannel pjs, and a high-collared fleece, he jumped up from the chair to show me how the design would work. “If we put the panels behind the chair and couch in a semicircle, we can even put a roof on the top.”
“A roof?” I asked. “I thought you were claustrophobic. Just the thought of being holed up like that makes me feel like I can’t breathe. And have you read the headlines lately? Air pollution is the number one cause of cancer. We’ll be sucking in all that by-product from the burning wood, the stuff that leaves black dust all over this yurt and already gives us headaches!”
“Well, do you have a better idea?”
Not really. My idea of hanging blankets on a cable didn’t make it past a trip to Lowe’s, where we realized the materials would cost well over a hundred dollars. Spending that kind of money on an idea that probably isn’t going to work seems ludicrous to me.
For now we’ve decided that it’s best to start wearing super-insulated high-tech long underwear full time, buy more irons for the wood stove, and get some more fleece blankets. It’s a strategy that has worked for me so far. Heat an ingot of iron (shaped like an iron) on the stove, wrap it in a dish towel, place it in a fleece blanket, and then crawl in with it. The result is immediate warmth. It’s fantastic, until you have to move. So it’s better if you lay off the coffee, tea, and alcohol, as contact with a toilet seat is wholly undesirable under these conditions. And, like I said, it’s not even winter, which everyone says is supposed to be particularly cold and snowy this year. But that’s what they say every year.
Meanwhile, the good news is that we’ve discovered a solar oven that will work even when it’s ten degrees outside, as long as there’s sun. Manufactured by the Solar Oven Society, the contraption is simply a plastic black box with a clear Plexiglas lid that clips into place. It comes with two roasting pans, metal reflectors for cooking in cool temps, and a thermometer—plus a water pasteurization kit (which, thankfully, we don’t seem to need for the snow juice pumping out of our sand point well). So far, I’ve made huevos rancheros, pineapple upside down cake, and roasted chicken with vegetables from the garden. That was in the summer; but just yesterday Chris made acorn squash with brown sugar, maple syrup, and some huckleberries that we picked (and froze) in August. I topped them with pecans toasted on the wood stove, and it was the perfect dish for a frigid fall evening. I love our Easy Bake Oven for grownups, but the trick is knowing if the sun is going to stick around long enough to cook your food.
Up here, that’s a gamble.