The horse stands, head over the fence, staring in my direction as I drive the gravel road home. Not necessarily an extraordinary sight until I mention that it’s -21 degrees and falling on this clear brisk starry Montana evening. It makes you wonder what you really need in life, if a horse can survive -20 degree nights with snow up to it’s knees, and 100 degree summer days with no shelter or air conditioning. It’s winter and it’s been cold in the tipi, but not unbearable. If you live in south Florida and the temperature hits 50 you may fear frostbite, it’s all about perspective. The temperatures were in the 30’s the other week and it felt like summer. But no matter where you’re from, 0 and below is pretty darn cold. There’s a special tingle in the air when the mercury drops below 0 on the thermometer. It stings the nostrils, and clears your sinuses, it’s like taking a wiff of horseradish. When it’s this cold I don’t spend much time in the tipi, mostly just to sleep. Anything that can’t be done while wrapped up in blankets and sleeping bags will have to wait for anther day.
The discovery of fire was a pretty big deal, I’m sure, but when it comes to spending time and energy on a task that might raise the temperature from -20 to 20, I think I’ll pass. Even if I were to start a fire on this night, it would still be too cold to do anything useful. I’ve found that the best way to be warm on a cold night is to stay warm. So instead of exposing myself to the elements while trying to start a fire, I do some jumping jacks, then wrap myself in blankets and allow my body heat to keep me warm. The toes are a problem, it’s hard to keep those little guys warm, double wool socks and slippers work to the extent of avoiding frost bite, but they’re always a bit cold. The tipi holds up well in the snow, the canvas freezes and the snow mounts on top. Wet snow can pile up pretty high and weigh the canvas down, I pound on the inside of the walls to knock the snow off so it doesn’t stretch the canvas and cause problems later. The snow around the bottom is welcome insulation.
The winter in the tipi has been a great experience. I’ve learned that humans my not be as fragile as previously thought, it turns out we work just fine outside of room temperature. Jill and I will be headed south for a whole new set of adventures and experiences in New Mexico, tipi in tow. You’ll be able to follow our journey here. And I’m sure my posts will be much more frequent, she’ll make sure of it :)