My mom tells me that tomorrow is a super blue blood moon—that means that it’s the second full moon in a month, AND a full lunar eclipse. It has happened only once in the last 152 years! The moon looks plenty full tonight, and on such a chilly night, Florence is looking very warm and toasty, thanks to her newly repaired Dyson Heat + Cool Link.
This is a tasty and fun breakfast for fall and winter. Easy, tasty, and healthy!
A few years ago, I was traveling around Scandiland (that’s what I call Scandinavia) and was interested to find that unlike North America, cold weather didn’t shut the cities down or push life indoors for several months of sequestered living. Instead, our Nordic neighbors embrace the cold weather and dark days in a way that is significantly different from our practices in North America. I’ve often thought about writing a book that features cultural comparisons, but for some reason, I just haven’t.
The notion of cozy, warm, inviting is associated with the Danish concept of hygge. The idea is that hygge (pronounced in a way that North Americans and most other Europeans could never understand but generally in line with HOO-g’ where the end of the word is significantly truncated by turning down the volume of your voice so that it becomes audible only to dogs) warms the dark and cold months and creates a welcoming atmosphere regardless of the miserable conditions outdoors. The Danes take great pride in this notion, perhaps because as a national people, they are among the most aloof and coldest hearted people on earth (and no, I don’t say that lightly or mildly). Like so many things Danish, the Danes are good at exporting and propagating the idea, but short on meaning and actual delivery. Lately, it seems that hygge is everywhere in North America, more as a means to market lap blankets and candles than a cultural phenomenon, and perhaps (given its spurious nature), rightfully so.
Over the years, I have have come to explore this same notion of cosy, warmth in many northern countries—Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Latvia, and Estonia. Each country has a slightly different cultural spin on the idea, and from my experience, each does with more authenticity and meaning.
To understand the entire concept, it is necessary to have a basic understanding of weather, because ultimately, weather shapes who and where we wound up settling on this planet. In both the North and South hemisphere, there are four broad climactic zones: polar, temperate, tropic, and equatorial. Most of the North America resides in the temperate and tropic zones. The temperate zone is marked by four distinct seasons, a day/night cycle of light and dark in relatively equal shares over a 24-hour period, and a temperate that peaks just after mid-day and cools overnight. Tropic and equatorial zones are typically warm (or just plain hot) year round, have a much shorter sunrise and sunset cycle and a less hyperbolic shift in temperature between day and night relative to temperate zones. Polar zones, however are different. Rather than an equal share of light and dark over a 24-hour period, light and dark is precisely better charted over a 365-day period. Temperatures in polar zones typically do not cycle in a 24-hour period, but a 36-to-48 hour period. Though it is somewhat more complicated, the extremes relative to time and temperature are simply more extreme at the poles. While residents in the temperate zones can bank on colder nights and some warm relief during the day, our polar residents can’t expect that same regularity. Sometimes the temperature doesn’t warm up for days, and then, only slightly.
A relatively small portion of folks live in these more extreme regions. Simple survival skills have, over the centuries, persisted which bring not only comfort but also joy to those living in the somewhat less hospitable Northern climates. As technology has evolved, the necessity and significance of these practices of cultural survival have mutated and have become cultural constants though the evolutionary necessity of the practices may no longer be as necessary as centuries ago.
As Northern communities evolved, the notion of commune spelled for most the difference between survival and the bitter end. Unforgiving land was frozen for the better part of the year, and under the cover of darkness, food was scarce and difficult to sustain throughout the harsh conditions. Stockpiling and sharing became enmeshed in the culture of Northern communities. So to did the physical act best described as nesting. A short journey to a neighboring village becomes much longer and arduous in extreme conditions. Rest before and after the journey was necessary under warm blankets to prevent hypothermia and frostbite. The presence of light — particularly candlelight — provided a sense of security. Imagine walking 10 miles to a neighboring village in sub zero temperatures only to return, nearly frozen. You snuggle up under a blanket into a deep and cold sleep only to wake 30 hours later in a pitch black room wondering if you are dead or alive. The candle, which could burn for days, was a reassuring beacon that you were still alive in the dark, still, and quiet of the 6-month night.
The somewhat more dire cultural practices have transcended time and now translate into a peculiar but reassuring melange of cultural practices across the North countries and climates. Lap blankets—foreign to most North Americans—are a quaint curiosity at most restaurants, cafes, and homes across the North. Often placed in glass jars to buffet the harsh and persistent winds, candles are seemingly everywhere, indoors and out. The artificial light making up for the absent sun. Warmth is abundant. Soft textiles and surfaces provide a counterbalance to the harsh climactic extremes.
While we can certainly celebrate the notion of nesting, comfort, warmth, and light, it is easy to take for granted in our have-it-all society. We should, while relishing these comforts, keep in mind a reverence of its life-giving (and life-saving) presence in the lives of the ancestors that preceded us for many centuries.
About a month ago, I was washing dishes and all of a sudden, the water simply stopped. My first thought was that the water main buried outside must have broken, but upon further inspection, I found that the water to Florence was flowing perfectly and with a decent amount of pressure. Because the water would flow from the storage tank when the pump was on, that told me that everything was working inside Florence as well. The only point where water didn’t seem to be flowing was at the point where the outdoor hose attached to the side of Florence, a strange little hookup marked “City Water Inlet.”
I didn’t know much about the City Water Inlet (and I don’t really think I know that much more now…) but I learned that what appears to be simply a male connection for a female hose, actually has a bunch more going on. The inside of the connection contains a small white plastic box that contains a pressure regulator. It’s a little device that ensures that water coming from the source isn’t so pressured that it will blow your plumbing apart inside the Airstream. I also learned that the valve is especially prone to freezing. When they freeze they lock up, and boom. That’s it. They’re kaput and need to be replaced.
Plumbing is well outside of my areas of expertise, but the adventurous side of me decided to give it a try.
My first move was to remove the old valve.
It was a tougher job than it appeared to be. There seemed to be a lot of screws (4 inside that were VERY long and 4 outside that were very short), and it was very challenging to work in the tight quarters under the sink. The inside of the valve attaches to a little female receptacle that has a daisy wheel around it to tighten or loosen. It was pretty easy to loosen. Then, I had to pry the old valve off the side of the Airstream, because it had this sort of grey caulk goop all around it.
When I pulled it off, there was a noticeable hole in the side of the Airstream.
I plugged the hole with a towel to keep water and critters out and ordered a replacement valve. I also ordered a 90º elbow too. The elbow goes on the outside and helps to secure the hose to the City Water Inlet valve, without putting pressure on the valve itself.
The new valve slid right in the hole, but aligning the interior connection with the daisy wheel took some effort. I tightened the daisy wheel to a point where it thought it was tight. It wasn’t. As soon as I turned on the water main, water squirted out inside of the Airstream. I turned off the main and tightened it until my fingers really (really) hurt. That seemed to be tight enough. No more dripping or squirting, a nice dry seal, and perfect running water in Florence once again!
I took some time to re-caulk the outside with some clear silicone caulk, and hopefully, I won’t have to replace this valve for a very long time!
I didn’t realize how badly degraded the weatherstripping around my door had become. It was dry and brittle and didn’t really provide much protection against drafts.
The project was very simple and took only about an hour to do. The new weatherstripping really makes a notable difference both in terms of draft and sound.
This is an interesting project, and one that I wonder about. Perhaps it could be used to heat the area under Florence?
(The image is really grainy, because it’s a really old image from a really old article, but apparently, this works!)
Read the entire article and see plans at: DIY Solar Heating with the Heat Grabber – DIY – MOTHER EARTH NEWS
Though I am supremely hoping that el niño keeps the frigid winter temperatures at bay, the fact of the matter is that any temperatures below freezing can be unhealthy for Flo. Though she works to keep me warm, the extreme temperatures can’t be good for her underbelly or skin.
Last year, I used hay bales to create a buffer and to keep Flo’s underside warm. They worked great. Flo was snuggly warm all winter.
And then spring came, and I found myself hauling 20 water-logged, 200lb hay bales to the dump one at a time. It was like moving 20 dead bodies… or what I would imagine it to be like. Plus, it was messy and disgusting. The hay also seemed to attract mice.
So this year, I decided firmly: no hay. I had every good intention to build a styrofoam skirt and then… well, it never happened. I asked around at work and one of my colleagues (god bless him), Tim, offered to build Flo a skirt. Which is a million, billion, times better than anything I could ever design or make. It is really sturdy and fits like a glove (or a really perfectly tailored skirt!)
Here’s the skirt in its finished state. It’s perfect, and cuts down a lot on drafts and cold!
A million thanks to Tim for his patience, help, and ingenuity! And here’s to an unseasonably warm winter!
Well, my most significant reservation when I was considering the Airstream was whether or not I could weather the winter. And … this winter (as I’ve already written) was no lamb. This was a brutal, record-setting (record breaking, actually) winter with sustained sub-zero days (in fact, the entire month of February was below freezing.)
Despite that, I made it.
In the coming weeks, my plan is to spring-ize (re-caulk, and tidy up some little maintenance issues) and then summer-ize (landscape, build a deck) and then to enjoy!
Stay tuned. More to come!
Well, the returns are in. This winter was the coldest ever recorded in Western New York: the average daily temperature was 11°F. We have had an inordinate number of double digit negative days too.
I was concerned about being able to make it through a winter when I bought the Aistream… and now I can safely say that if I’ve made it through this, I think I’m pretty safe.
During the month of February, we haven’t had a single day above freezing. We have had at least three nights that have broken the -20° (yes minus 20°!) and more than a dozen that have broken the -10°mark. So all in all, we’ve been between cold. We’ve had regular temperature swings of 40° (-20 one night to 20° the next day… a 40° swing and STILL not above freezing!) What’s more amazing is that I refuse to use the propane furnace… instead opting for my tried and true Lasko electric space heater… which on more than one occasion has turned the Airstream into a virtual greenhouse!
I’ve had a few mornings of frosty pipes … but as my neighbor Teddy told me, I leave the water dribbling, and believe it or not the pipes have survived (knock on wood). I did make a few modifications to keep heat moving in the enclosed spaces that house pipes, but nothing too dramatic or drastic, just common sense.
I also think that the hay bales really do make a difference keeping the underside of Florence warm and toasty. While it’s hardly weather-tight, it does cut down on any sort of draft bellowing beneath the belly. I also tucked a cheap space heater under there, and I have it on a remote-control switch that I can turn on and off without even having to go outside. From time to time on really cold nights, I fire that up… but again, nothing too crazy.
So, for all the doubters and wonderers out there. It can be done. Comfortable winter living can happen in an Airstream! (And let’s hope March is considerably warmer!)