Working together to clear the area in front of the cabin of some of its accumulated snow--Einar did his part lying flat on his stomach and sweeping at the snow with his arms, a development which somewhat alarmed Liz as it seemed to indicate that he could no longer get his legs to support him, but Einar insisted that he was simply doing it that way because he found it most efficient, and she did her best not to laugh; it wasn’t funny, he was freezing and couldn’t stand up--they stomped and brushed themselves clean of snow before returning inside, Liz hovering over the stove for warmth and then practically hauling Einar over near it when he seemed content to remain sitting with his back against the closed door, watching her. Soon they were both warming, sharing a pot of tea beside the fire and passing it back and forth until Einar had thawed sufficiently to once again trust himself with speech.
“Storm’s gonna be here for a while, looks like. Lot of snow drifted up against the door this morning. I can see we need a windbreak of some sort, something like a snow fence to trap the drifts before they get to the cabin, when the wind starts blasting through the clearing like that.’
“Something made of woven willows like you did for the insulation retaining wall along the back of the cabin, maybe? We could stick a bunch of upright willows in the snow now that it’s deep enough to hold them, then weave others in sideways…”
“Sounds like a good idea! It’d be temporary of course, would fall down in the spring but we don’t need it there cluttering things up in the summer, anyway. Fence like that should cause a bunch of snow to build up against it, start a massive drift that’d only get bigger as the winter goes on, and it might eventually get so high as to shield the cabin almost entirely from the wind. That would be great. Cliff on the backside, massive snowdrift and then timber on the front, and us living in a little pocket of still air here in between! Yep, we need to build that wall. Tomorrow, when the storm stops.”
“You think it’ll stop by then?”
“I can’t tell. Ought to, though. Would be real rare for us to have a storm that lasts more than a day or two with this sort of intensity up here. Ought to start tapering off at least, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the sun comes out. That’ll be the time to go fix our traps, because everything’s gonna be out and about looking for food after a long storm like this.”
Liz nodded, returned her attention to the soup on the stove, secretly hoping the storm might continue for another day or two, just so Einar would have that much more time to rest up before finding himself compelled to venture out on the trapline, again. Hoped also that she’d be doing better on the snowshoes by then, so she could go along with him, and determined to get out and practice at least once more before the day ended, work on getting her balance and finding a better way to free herself and return to an upright position after the inevitable falls that would surely still occur, on occasion.
Dipping into the water barrel to refill one of the pots for Liz, Einar found it nearly empty and set himself the task of melting snow to begin refilling it, as that seemed more practical than making a trip up to the spring for water, even if the spring didn’t happen to be frozen over already, which, considering the recent sharp drop in temperature, sounded quite likely. Far better, he knew, would be if they had ice to melt instead of snow, the water concentration in ice being far higher and its availability greatly cutting down on the amount of work involved in obtaining water. The spring was too far to reasonably carry ice, tarn even farther, but Einar remembered something, hurried into his boots.
“Back in a minute. Just got to check on something out behind the cabin.” Liz didn’t like it, but she let him go, confident that he wasn’t intending to head off on any major expedition and supposing that if his legs gave out on him while out behind the cabin, he could crawl back without too much trouble.
Pushing his way through the deep snow, Muninn circling somewhat noisily overhead--seemed he was having a bit of difficulty with the high winds, but was nonetheless elated to be out and about in the fresh air, and was letting Einar know about it--he worked his way around to a spot up behind the cabin where the overhanging rock wall had once provided him a place to take a very cold and refreshing shower during a rainstorm, and squinting up through the blowing snow at the overhanging granite some twenty feet above his head, he was just able to make out a number of icy stalactites clinging to the edge of the dropoff, far thicker than the typical icicle one might expect to see and definitely containing a useful amount of ice when it came to water production. The difficulty lay in retrieving the icy formations without shattering them to bits as Einar expected would happen if he went up top and knocked them loose, and he had an idea, keeping tight hold on the spear for balance as he used his feet to shovel drifts of soft, powdery snow over beneath the dropoff, covering and cushioning the somewhat rocky ground where drops had fallen before the real cold set in and turned the snow somewhat thin and crunchy. Liz had joined him by the time he’d nearly got done creating a suitable landing pad for the jutting ice chunks, having grown concerned at the length of his absence and not wanting to find him lying out there half frozen in the snow, should his legs have given out on him once again. She stared somewhat skeptically at the deep pile of snow he’d managed to scrape, shove and pile together, not seeing the ice hanging above and wondering what he could possibly be about.
“What’s this, your bed for tonight? I hope you’re not expecting me to join you…”
Einar laughed, grabbed Liz’s hand and flopped down on the middle of the pile, bringing her with him, the two of them sinking so deeply into the soft snow that they had to brush it away from their faces in order to be able to see. “Not a bad idea, now that you mention it. Real soft and cozy here in the snow. But no, that’s not what I’m doing. Look up.”
“I am looking up, but all I see is snow falling towards my eyes. Fast. It would make a person dizzy if they watched for too long, I think.”
“Well, look harder. Though the snow. See all that ice up there? Seems a good bit of it’s built up on that ledge and over it, and I’m just trying to give it a soft spot to land when I go up there and knock it loose. To melt for drinking. Figure we can just keep it here in the snow, come dig chunks out whenever we need some more to melt. And if the weather cooperates, there’s a good chance that by the time we finish this stuff, more will have formed.”
“Will it be clean? As clean as the snow, I mean, for drinking.”
“Nope, I suppose not but we can bring it to a boil as we melt it, if that seems necessary. Just might cut down on the work and fuel needed to keep us supplied with water this winter. Now…” He got to his feet, rolling, struggling, relying heavily on the spear, but making it, “Lets get this landing pad fixed back up, and then you stay good and clear of it, because I’m going up top and knocking down some of that ice.”