Wednesday 24 June 2015

Use a Snow Toilet

I was talking to a friend the other day and for some reason, the subject of winter came up in conversation. We are just a day or two into summer so I have forgotten about winter almost entirely. I am not alone in doing this; you just have to watch the six o’clock news the night of the first snowfall. Chaos!

I got to thinking about winter and how it will be different this year. For as far back as I can remember, I have taken vacation at or around Christmas time. It is a wonderful time to have time off of work because there is just so much to do what with shopping, wrapping, decorating the house, baking, watching Christmas movies, painting the window and looking after grandkids so that parents can confirm with Santa just what gifts he should bring. Each one of those activities is or can be time consuming so work just seems to get in the way. Also, since holidays at the Post Office are picked according to seniority, Christmas was the only time I could get off when the kids would be home for the first twenty years or so that I worked there. Even when I could get summer holidays, I had become so used to winter vacation that I kept picking December.

This year it is going to be different. Louise retired this year and will be around during the busiest time of year. Now, she will either be a huge help (probably) or a huge distraction (also probably). I look forward to finding out. At the very least, I won’t have to hear about how stupid the drivers in Calgary are whenever there is the hint of a snowfall.

I also was thinking about the fun times I have had in the winter. Every now and then I would go snowshoeing and with any luck we will start again this coming winter. The winters lately have been very dry and we would have to drive into the mountains to find enough snow to make it worth our while. In the past I have tried to make an igloo, but the snow for the most part isn’t of the right consistency or deep enough. It needs to be dry; wind blown and packed solid enough so that those blocks can be cut with a snow saw. I made a snow saw about twenty or twenty five years ago and have yet to give it a try. It has been partly due to sheer laziness and partly because of the snow conditions. Maybe this year I will be able to make one with the grandkids.
I have made a quinzhee a few times and all times it has been successful. A quinzhee is made by shovelling the snow into a large pile and waiting about an hour for it to “set”. I don’t know what that means either, but if you don’t wait, the snow won’t hold together enough for you to hollow it out. Oh, the next step is to hollow the large pile out, making an area inside that is large enough to sit up in and stretch out, but not large enough to dance in. You leave the walls and roof eight to ten inches thick, just so that you can see light through the snow. Make sure to poke a few holes in the walls and roof so that you will be able to breathe. Inside, once the doorway is sealed, the temperature will be well above freezing and ice will form on the inside walls making the quinzhee even stronger.
 Image result for quinzheeImage result for quinzhee
I had a friend who would make a quinzhee up in the mountains with some buddies and they would use it all winter long when they went on cross-country skiing weekends. Yes, I thought he was crazy too.

I have read about igloos and quinzhees in magazines about how they can save peoples lives that are stranded in an inhospitable winter wilderness. They would of course, but I found that building these things takes so much work that by the time it is complete, you are sweating so bad that hypothermia would take you down if you weren’t very careful. I’ve always build mine where there is a building with central heating and toilet facilities within shouting distance. I’ve never had the desire to build or use a snow toilet.

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