this morning the sun is out, which is striking because for a lot of the winter the sun doesn't really rise here until after ten because i live so close to the mountain, but also this is where the mountain scrapes the weather off of the sky and the clouds have been hanging low enough that i can't see across the street let alone the top of the ridge, so i am totally distracted by the sun shining full on through my window.
yesterday, friday, was day four in snow cave construction, kind of a big day for me. on thursday, day three, i'd dug in far enough so that i could no longer pull the snow out with my shovel and so had to face the horrid prospect of going full in that hole and bringing the sled with me to load it up and empty it outside.
i think i mentioned claustrophobia.
while other things scare me, i have only the two really extreme phobias: closed spaces and vomit. the second one only matters here because when i am in a closed space, i feel sufficiently nauseated as to be very much afraid that i WILL vomit, and in a closed space. the two fears, therefore, interlock and amplify each other until they are overwhelming.
but i'm nothing if not stubborn. i think it would be really nifty to have made a cool snow cave, so i'm going to find a way to cope. crashco always says that we should not so much face our fears as run up and kiss them on the lips, and this is kind of like that.
there are a lot of little tasks that go along with the digging, though. i've come to call them mining, farming, and building.
while the plow leaves huge piles of snow for me to work with, they're more wide than they are tall, and i'm working on a HUGE structure here. so i go out into the driveway and mine the plow piles from there, which has the added benefit of widening the driveway and these days all that snow kind of cramps it in.
then i carry the hundreds and hundreds of pounds of packed snow in on the sled, and dump it over the top of the structure. in order to fill in the low places, the valleys between the plow piles, i have to use a LONG handled scraper to push the new loose snow out over the top before it sets, which i have come to think of as farming.
building is what i'm doing with the external details; the alcove that will eventually have tool storage and seating, the stairs, the raised walkway.
so there's a lot to do besides going down into the hole. but when the time comes, or at least when it came on thursday, there were a few minutes of paralyzed terror at the mouth of it.
"into the hole.", i would tell myself. and my rule was that once i'd said it, i was going in.
if i got in there and had to roll over or reposition myself to dig and bumped up against ceiling, i felt sick and panicked. i had just enough space that i needed to use the sled to bring out the snow, but that meant the sled would be taking up some of the usable space.
it was agony.
my first order of business was to dig enough room so that i could take it there in with me, load it up, and still have space to move around.
starting work yesterday, then, was, uh, uncomfortable. when you build a snow cave, periodically the ceiling settles. and mine had; the ceiling at the start of day four was lower than it had been before, and the entrance smaller. since i am very careful about how much to dig away at the entrance, a matter of structural integrity of some importance, it took a while to make the adjustments.
but then i'd made enough room to move around in there with the sled, so it wasn't so bad anymore. creeping in was still pretty scary, though. and then i got a brilliant idea: ride the sled in. the terrain under the cave slopes downward as you go in, and i'm taking advantage of all the available space i have, so you don't just do in, you go down a little.
not quite a toboggan run, but it beats creeping in on your belly and having time to think about the scariness of it.
the building is going pretty well, too. yesterday i started cutting the alcove outside the front door where there's going to be seating and tool storage, and my stairs are taking shape nicely. i have four fully functional steps and have started to pack the platform for the raised walkway.
they're not pretty yet, but they're functional.
and why do i need functional steps?
hello! farming! i have to be able to get up there to spread the mined snow around. i need altitude. the raised walkway is, so far, only cosmetic, but the steps are utilitarian.
it snowed overninght, so i have a layer of material i didn't have to schlepp in. today after lunch i'll go out and dig more, and work on the shape of the staircase, to make it pretty. when you move snow, you have to let it set. and then you usually have to compact it more, put in a little more, and let it set before you can work with it, especially edges of things.
it's slow work.
the slideshow, which is found here, updates after each day's work, whether i write about it or not.
more about the cave: invasion of the mole people!