22 September, 2011

22 September 2011

In the night the leak stopped, Einar--bones aching, too cold to really get to sleep even beneath his covering of bear hides; body just didn’t seem to be producing enough heat, and while he wanted to press close to Liz in the hopes of sharing hers, he kept his distance, not wanting to risk disturbing her--hearing the drips grow fewer and fewer until they stopped altogether, and he knew outside temperatures had dropped enough to allow the accumulation of half-melted snow on the section of roof there just over the stove to freeze once more. He’d known from the beginning that the roof would likely be a problem when cold, wet weather set in, and it did not surprise him that with the cycles of freeze and thaw over the past several days, snow and ice would have found their way down into its structure, creating openings and melting in the warmth of the stove. Roof needs shingles, that’s what. Water-shedding shingles to keep the moisture from getting down inside where it can cause leaks like this, and I know how to do it. But not tonight. Got to try and sleep some tonight if I can, because cold as it feels like it must be getting out there, I expect the storm’s gonna be gone by morning and the skies all cleared off, and in that case the critters’ll be out and I’d really like to get out, too, and check the snares, see if we’re on the right track with where we put them. With which he rolled over and curled up with hands and arms tucked beneath him in an attempt to thaw them a bit, see if he could get himself warm enough to allow sleep to come, still avoiding Liz as he lay at the edge of the bed. She sensed his restlessness, though, pulled him close and held him until some of the ice had left his bones, after which they both slept, warm as the wind howled on outside, driving the storm away.

Morning was clear and frigid when Einar emerged from the bed, wrapped himself in the by-then dry hides he’d worn the previous day and hurried to bring the fire back to life, knowing Liz would be wanting to make some breakfast when she woke and would appreciate not being able to see her breath so readily in the cabin, as well. Standing briefly over the stove as he gathered a few items into his pack, took his spear and axe and gulped down a hasty breakfast of five dried serviceberries, Einar banked the fire with a good-sized chunk of unsplit spruce and eased his way out the door, Muninn all puffed up and dozing on his perch--watch the place while I’m gone, you big old vulture--and Liz still comfortably asleep in her nest of bear hides. Seemed she was needing more sleep those days, and he was glad they were in a position that allowed her to get it, at least part of the time. Would surely help her be in better shape as the baby’s time drew nearer.

Down towards the tarn Einar followed their trapline, wearing snowshoes and keeping to the timber as much as possible--though snowshoe travel can prove quite difficult where the trees grow close together and deadfall cuts across one’s path--to minimize the tracks he would leave, passing close enough to each snare and deadfall to get a good look. Nothing. Not so much as a track or a hair, no sign that anything had even been out to sniff at the bait, and the more stops Einar made, the more it began to seem that he must be the only and solitary creature out and stirring on that bright, frigid morning. Halfway through the circuit he turned back--no sense in seeing any more; it was too soon after the storm, and every living thing remained asleep, aside from a pair of chickadees he’d seen sitting amongst some willows just below the cabin, puffed nearly round against the cold--stopping for a quick dip in the tarn before returning to the cabin. In the night, the ice had closed in completely over the little patch of open water, and he had to break it away with the axe before getting in. Oh, how that water stung at first, brought tears to his eyes and took his breath but he stayed in, soaking for a good ten or fifteen minutes and focusing on his breathing until at last his legs became so numb that he began to doubt his ability to get himself back out should he stay in much longer, at which he pulled himself back up on the ice, dried off and got into his clothes. Or tried to. It was a major struggle and took far longer than he had anticipated, leaving him dangerously cold and in need of some immediate exercise to get the blood flowing at the end of it, and he was glad Liz hadn’t been there to see. Got to keep at this, though. Doesn’t seem to be doing a whole lot of good, not like it has other years, but if I keep at it, eventually it’ll have to.

Climbing up the slope towards the cabin with as much speed as he was able to muster and finding himself finally able to use his hands once more at the end of it--a good thing indeed, as he hadn’t been able to tie the snowshoes back in place after his time in the water, forcing him to carry them on his back and slog along through the deep snow--Einar began searching for the materials with which he intended to shingle the roof, once things had dried off for a few days. The shingles themselves were, he had decided, to be of aspen inner bark, the stiff, thick sheets coated with spruce pitch to help them shed water and last longer than they otherwise might have. If they’d had cottonwoods in the area, he would have searched for a large dead tree and pried the outer bark from it in great solid sheets and strips, but they were far too high for the trees, and the outer bark of the small aspens growing in the basin was too dramatically curved to make good shingles. The bark could, he knew, be flattened with the application of enough steam and pressure, but with all they still had to accomplish before winter set in for good--if it hasn’t, already--he had opted for using the inner bark, fortifying it with pitch. Choosing a tree, a dead aspen, but not too long dead; he did not want the bark to have begun rotting at all, Einar went at it with the axe, removing large sections of its bark and prying carefully at the inner layer until it separated and could be lifted out in large chunks and strips. Keeping at it until he had a large pile of the bark Einar had to pause now and then to warm his hands, struggling to keep them from going entirely numb and knowing he would have been better off had he not spent all that time in the water--had barely even begun warming from the experience, and knew he probably wouldn’t until back in the cabin in front of the stove--but remained glad that he had kept himself moving forward with his training.

Enough. He had enough bark, at least for the first load, as he knew he’d be unable to carry much more, and he tied his harvest into several bundles with lengths of the nettle cordage they had made that past night, slinging them on his back and returning to the cabin clearing. Smoke curled lazily from the chimney; Liz must be up, he supposed, and keeping the fire going, and then, crossing in front of the cabin to the spot where he intended to stack and store the shingle material he had no doubt, a most wonderful odor of simmering stew greeting him and twisting up his stomach with a cold-strengthened hunger that nearly convinced him to take a break from his work and see if she might let him have some breakfast before continuing. Talked himself out of it, though--knew if Liz saw him just then she’d be doing all she could to drag him in and get him fed and warmed up without further delay, and he wasn’t ready for that just yet--hurrying on around the cabin and staring up at the offending portion of roof.

They wouldn’t be able to shingle the roof until everything had had a chance to melt and hopefully dry out for a few days so he wouldn’t just be sealing the moisture in and asking for trouble with rot, later, which meant they would have to put up with the leak again for a time, once the day warmed sufficiently to allow the ice to begin melting again. Not a terribly big problem to deal with, as their second cookpot had so far done a fine job in catching most of the drips, but Einar was anxious to have the problem resolved. Didn’t figure--though the thought of it made him laugh--that Liz would much like to wake in the morning to the sight of icicles hanging down from their ceiling…which would almost certainly be happening now and then until he got things waterproofed. To help the melting and drying process along, he decided to shovel off the roof, a task which would have been much more easily accomplished had they possessed a shovel, a deficiency he decided to remedy one of those days, after he’d made more progress on some of his other projects. For the moment a deer scapula would have to do the job, Einar tossing one up on the roof and climbing up after it, ribs complaining all the way up but not, as they had the last time he’d had to get up there, for the construction of the chimney, threatening to prevent him from breathing with the intensity of their hurt. Good. Must be starting to heal just a little. Alerted to Einar’s return by the commotion on the roof Liz hurried outside, staring up at him as though she thought he’d gone mad as he scooted about on hands and knees, clearing the roof of snow.

“It’s Ok. It’s not leaking anymore. Come in and have some breakfast at least, won’t you, before you finish that?”

“Will just leak again as soon as the sun gets on it, if I don’t get most of this snow off. And I’m all snowy and wet already, besides. Might as well get done with this messy work before I come inside. Gonna make us some shingles so we won’t have to deal with leaks anymore, but I can’t put them up here until everything dries out. So, I’m helping it dry out.”

“I’d like to help you dry out, if you’ll come down from there pretty soon. Your hair is all frozen, and….where have you been? You snuck out before I was awake, this morning.”

“Trapline. Walked half of it just to see if there’d been any action yet. Didn’t take anything this morning, but I figure that’s probably as much on account of the storm having just now moved out as it is anything. We’ll check again tomorrow, probably have more success. Almost done with the shoveling up here…you want to help me make shingles, in a little while?”

“Sure, if you’ll have some breakfast first…”

“Already had some.”

“Well, come on in and have some more, because I’ve made more stew that little Hildegard and I can finish off, for sure, and you’ve already put in a few hours’ work this morning.” A good point, and though Einar felt somewhat like arguing, thought better of it when he caught another whiff of that freshly made stew.


Peeling aspen inner bark for shingles:


  1. Thanks for the chapter, FOTH. I was thinking EA could use aspen bark for the roof. However, I was thinking of using bark from the smaller trees and alternating them, like Spanish tile, so their being "curley" wouldn't matter, but would help. Sounds like he's going to make flat shingles, though.