Saturday, January 28, 2012

Baby-wearing at 30 below

I love walking in the woods around our home. We have trails going in either direction from the property. They meander through the spruce and aspen, bordered by carpets of bear-berry and creeping twin flower in the summer months. The rest of the year, as the snow grows deep and deeper, I like to strap on my snowshoes and carve out my own trail, alongside those of snowshoe hares, squirrels and grouse. 

Having a tiny baby to take out with me has presented a bit of a problem. Throughout my pregnancy, I dreamed of sharing my love of the natural world with my child. And right now, baby-wearing is the way to go. I can watch his face as he takes in the sights, and tuck his head a little closer to my chest when he nods off. Plus, taking a stroller on a forest trail is pretty much impossible! 

But how do I safely wear my baby out at 20 or 30 below zero? 

Still warm out in late September
It's a real quandry I've been in since the onset of the cold season. In the late Autumn, I'd snuggle him into the Moby wrap and button one of P's quilted flannel jackets around us. Shared body heat is pretty amazing for keeping us both warm, and on days warmer than minus 20, this is the way to go.

What about a day like today, when our high is about -33? I know I can keep Aedan's core warm, but what about his little face, peeking out of my coat to gaze at all the snow? I've tried a couple things: wearing a big fluffy scarf myself, or cutting up a pair of old merino-silk long underwear to make a little neck warmer. For whatever reason, these didn't work too well. I've thought about rubbing thick fat or grease on his face, like I've been told Inuit ladies did with their babies. But I  don't think the clean-up job would be worth it!

A little colder in November!

Today, I think I finally hit on the solution. I dress Aedan in a fleece sleeper, and then a lightly lined, hooded snowsuit. I put on a hat, and pull the hood up. Lately I've been going with our Ergo carrier. It's so much easier to get him in there with all the winter layers! Then, I fold up a fleece receiving blanket and tuck it loosely across the lower half of his face and down into the back of the carrier. It works perfectly! He can still see out, and I'm not so worried about his delicate, brand-new skin getting frost-bitten.

What about me? I wear a couple light layers of merino wool, and then I zip us both into an old army surplus parka. Having a baby on your chest is like your own little portable heater!

 This way, we can both comfortably enjoy a walk in the woods with the dogs, without being too cold or overheating!

How do you (or did you) dress your baby to deal with cold temperatures?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Forty Below...continued...

Forty below isn't all fun and games, square tires and squeaky snow. It really wears on a girl. The thermometer has made it above 40 twice in the past week, and I've made it further than the outhouse exactly as many times in as many days. 

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't going a bit crazy. 

P has had to spend lots of time in town, because the hotel/bar that he owns is old and not very well equipped for these temperatures. There have been pipes freezing and fuses blowing on a daily basis. So while he heads in to keep the business from imploding, I'm left out here, keeping the fire stoked and the baby entertained.

In my experience up here, it doesn't matter what kind of heat source you've got, nor what kind of abode you call home, 40 below makes for a cold house. It's hard to fully relax in this weather, always tensed against the chill air creeping along the floors, the outside walls, the windowsills. Cold waits for me in my bed between the sheets. It sneaks into the house on the backs of the dogs, hiding in their fur and rolling off them in waves. It finds a way. It's wily, that cold...

"They" say it's supposed to warm up by Monday or Tuesday. And by warm up, I mean to 30 below. 

After a week (or more) at 40, you'd be surprised how balmy minus 30 can feel.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Forty Below

At forty below, things get a bit strange.

Trees in the forest crack like rifle shots. The snow squeaks like pieces of styrofoam rubbed together. Your car makes funny sounds, too, and shifting gears becomes quite difficult. Throw a cup of boiling water into the air, and it freezes before it hits the ground as tinkling drops of ice. 

Out here on the Dempster, the sky is absolutely clear, blue and cloudless. The sun is brilliant and not at all warming. 

In town, I imagine the ice fog hangs low and thick, the sunlight muted (and still not warming).

The day will be spent indoors, playing with babe and dogs, reading, napping, cooking (braised short ribs for dinner!), keeping the fire stoked, dreaming of spring...

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Here Comes the Sun

Sun! Yesterday we saw the first few patches of sunlight shining in on the walls.

Today, we all bundled up against the 30 below cold, and went out for a walk to soak up the rays. The sun is up over the hills, at least briefly, and the tree tops are all illuminated in its light. We'd pause wherever it broke through the forest, and stand with our faces upturned.

P exclaimed: "I feel like I'm gettin' a tan!"

In town right now, the sun shines on top of the Dome and the surrounding hills, but direct sunlight won't hit the streets or peek through windows for another couple of weeks.

It's amazing how we northerners come to celebrate the sun like this. I guess I always took it for granted, growing up in Ontario. Here, we celebrate the summer solstice with a big party on the Dome (a tradition since the gold rush days. Laura Berton talks about it in her book "I Married the Klondike"). Winter solstice is usually celebrated on a more intimate scale, but celebrated nonetheless. And when you first see direct sunlight again, sometime in January, you run around town telling anyone who'll listen!

When do you notice the shorter days where you live? When do you first start to see the days lengthen?