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Wednesday, January 06, 2010  

Snow Ruin

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the thing that resonated with me the most in Where the Wild Things Are was the whole snow fort bit. Despite living in Minnesota, I don’t have a lot of history with building successful snow forts. You get maybe one or two good, sticky snows here all season that are good for building anything, and all the rest has the cohesion of a line of coke. When I was a kid, I could count on one frostbitten finger the number of snow forts I built that actually had a roof. On the plus side, it would have taken more than a teenager jumping on it to cave it in, but since that’s because the roof was made of our picnic table, I’m not sure it counts.

But on Christmas Day, we got one of those snows. With the snowblower broken and our plans postponed, I figured I could get the mess cleared out of the driveway, have fun with M. Edium, and fulfill a pathetic old winter ambition of my own at the same time.

The only thing was, I knew that with M. Edium’s attention span and tolerance for the cold (not to mention my own), I had a limited window to get this done. So making hundreds of ice bricks the size of ice cream buckets clearly wasn’t going to cut it.

That’s why I went to the garage and found a different mold: a 35-gallon chest cooler.

I thought this was genius. I could scoop shovelfuls of sticky snow into it with the shovel, stamp it down until it had the density of a dwarf star, and then dump it into place, leaving a neat, oblong, and substantial hunk of building material. Plus it gave me an excuse to explain to M. Edium that the reason they’re called igloos is because you make them with an Igloo cooler.

There were a couple of things I underestimated, though. I underestimated the weight of 35 gallons of snow packed to the density of a dwarf star. Yes, I could lift half a ton of molded plastic and frozen water, but it was difficult to place it precisely at the same time. Plus when I was working on the second layer, the first layer was not always up to the task of supporting the weight.

I underestimated how much snow it would take to fill the cooler that many times. I’d place it at the edge of untouched snow each time, but then still be walking several steps to fill it at the end. By which point I was already dreading schlepping it to the building site so I wasn’t in any hurry to move it.

On the other hand, I overestimated M. Edium’s zeal for the project. I assigned him the task of filling in the chinks between the blocks, which coincidentally were about the width of a cooler wall. However, he was more interested in pursuing his own vision for the space, which seemed to include four to five hinged doors and a full living-room set, which he assembled from half-ton ice blocks that he pulled in off the walls.

After a while, we had a loose, semi-rectangular assembly of large white blocks that looked as though it had been constructed by Jewel’s orthodontist. I thought we might take another crack at it the next day, but of course it was a lot colder and the snow that fell stuck together about as well as the coating on a powdered donut. How it looked was how it would stay.

But even though it doesn’t have a roof or straight walls or much of a floor plan, I like to think of it as having turned out kind of special. It almost looks like an old ruin, so that we can imagine snow-druids capering about in millennia past on this very spot.

And when we drive past all the other snow forts in the neighborhood, finished neat and foursquare with their flags, turrets, and hundreds of ice bricks the size of ice cream buckets, I just dismiss them. They don’t have the history that ours does.

posted by M. Giant 8:50 PM 1 comments


I made the mistake a few months ago of telling my six year old about the time my mom helped my sister and me build an igloo in our front yard, way back in the Dark Ages of the early 70s when I was young. It was absolutely the coolest thing my mother ever did in my entire childhood. It was a fantastic igloo, roof, entranceway and all, and then my mom would bring us picnic lunches to eat in it, ala the Eastman children's book Snow, which was one of our favorite books as kids (and which my kid now loves to read).

Now, of course, Kiddo wants me to help her build an igloo just like Grandma built with (or rather for) me when I was little. I can't even successfully construct an omelet, as well she knows, so I haven't the faintest clue why she thinks I could create an actual structure, much less one made out of snow. Up until this year, the only "snow forts" I've ever helped her make have been created by digging *down* into the snow to make a hole, then plunking a few halfassed snow blocks around the top for a "wall" of sorts. I don't do construction (except maybe with Legos - even blocks are not sufficient building materials for this engineering-challenged chick).

Most of the snow we've gotten thus far this season has been of the awesome-for-packing kind. (This is to Kiddo's great disappointment, as she's been dying to go sledding and it is *not* good sledding snow. We've been driving around with three sleds in the back of the minivan for over a month now, just in case we come upon a hill with other people sledding on it. But I digress.) We've made a snowman, but Kiddo's clamoring for the damn igloo. Thank goodness the wind chills have been too great for us to be outside for any significant period of time - that's been my excuse so far this winter and will remain my excuse until the snow is melted, I think. That or I'll have to get my husband to help.....

So, in conclusion, way to go on your snow fort! I'm sure M.Edium will remember it for years - decades - to come!

By Blogger Heather, at January 7, 2010 at 4:14 AM  

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