The first winter in the Cabin wasn’t really “in” the cabin at all, but kind of under it. Since we only got two of the vertical log walls (mostly) up before the winter really hit, we had to live in the basement all winter.
While this might not sound horrid to the casual reader there are things one must know to understand what it was like. The basement was NOT a finished basement, in fact it was so far from finished that there were really only tin walls with some insulation around the outside of the basement and dirt for a floor. No really, not a dirty floor… a dirt floor. It was actually a lot living in a cave. Basically, since the basement was a “walkout”, the roughly 10 foot walls started out ground level in the front of the basement, but as it went toward the back we had a 7 foot wall of natural dirt with about a 3 foot shelf to the back of the house (remember how the hole wasn’t dug out far enough ref. Beginning Work on the House).
This meant that as we walked across the floor we were constantly uncovering little rocks. Mom dutifully used a rake to remove the rocks and smooth over the floor again. With the continued walking, or Charlie playing with his toy trucks on the dirt floor, or the dogs digging out a comfortable place to sleep… huge amounts of dust were raised. Mom had an answer for that too. She used a steel watering can to sprinkle water onto the floor. Not enough to make mud, but enough to keep the dust down.
Once the snows came and settled on the flat basement roof, which was really just the plywood floor of the cabin above us… the watering can became unnecessary. With a wood burning cookstove on one side of the basement and a wood burning potbelly on the other side we generated a lot of wasted heat which, of course, rose to the uninsulated plywood-floor ceiling above us and melted the snow. This turned the snow into water that leaked into the basement in 4 foot by 8 foot sections (from the plywood seams).
This time it was Dad who came up with the solution when we didn’t have enough buckets or pots to trap the leaks. We hung up plastic tarps and Visqueen scraps above the important areas (like our beds) at an angle and with a trough so that as the water leaked in, it was more or less directed into 5 gallon pails. This incessant dripping made a LOT of noise as we slept and perhaps that is why to this day I can sleep through pretty much whatever is going on around me.
Any time I hear the Phil Collins song “The Roof Is Leaking” I always think of the first winter in our house or rather the basement.
The roof is leaking and the wind is howling
Kids are crying ‘cos the sheets are so cold
I woke this morning found my hands were frozen
I’ve tried to fix the fire, but you know the damn thing’s too old
Many, many times I would wake early in the morning and wait for Dad to get up and start the fires in the stoves to warm up the basement just a bit… I know Jen did too. Before we got up and out of bed, we would wait for Dad to get his first cup of morning tea and then take his trip to the outhouse… but that is another story.