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mark wood

by Mark Wood

The Perfect Storm

I love big snowstorms. There's a combination of factors that make it absolutely perfect for jrinkin'home brew. The wind is howling, snow piling up in huge drifts and the obligatory public warning to stay home. I take heed to these warnings as a great excuse to clear my social calendar out of personal safety. My home is never so cosy until it's under attack by the elements. The novelty of a wood stove has usually worn off after a couple of months of steady service but in a snowstorm it seems to belt out the heat with even greater enthusiasm. In the event of a power failure it would also serve to cook food and boil the kettle besides keeping the house at a constant 26 degrees of tropical climate. Just at the peak of calamity I like to pour up a Smokey Brown ale. This may not quite be the end of the world just yet but it's a good practice run and I'm not going to face it without a mug of home brew in my hand. At some point in the evening my dog will have to go out and I'll tag along just to get a feel for the storm. My car is buried in the yard, trees are snapped off and my dog, a Husky, bred for this kind of weather wants to go back in the house. There are appropriate sayings for this kind of situation, the first being "You wouldn't put a dog out on a night like this." and the other "When the wind's from the east it's not fit for man nor beast." We both head back in, the dog to the couch while I fill the stove and my mug in that order.

The day after a snowstorm is something to relish as well if you have snow blower. I clear my yard with the intention of piling the snow in a fashion to accumulate it into usable side drifts because there's another reason I love snowstorms. I still build snow forts, something I never did grow out of. And who amongst us has never dug a tunnel in the snow when they were kids or made a snowman? Everybody did. Take a moment to collect your favorite memory. At this stage in my life I've graduated to the Massive Monument of snow fort construction. I cut out blocks of snow with a hand saw, one foot cubed by two feet long. The snow may accumulate in metric but it's cut by standard measurement and has the consistency of a very soft sandstone. I stack them to form a wall in typical bricklaying fashion and fill the seams with handfuls of loose snow. It doesn't take long to put up a curved wall five feet high and eighteen feet long. I set another wall adjacent to it which forms an entrance and frames the path to my woodshed. No fort would be complete without the staggered block across the top to give it the castle effect and it wouldn't exactly be my castle if it didn't have a fire pit in it either. The night after a snowstorm is particularly nice for jrinkin' Smokey Browns too. Out in the fort with the fire roaring. Out of all the snow fort building techniques and designs I've ever used this one seems to be working quite well for me. There is a snowman thing I'd like to try, I noticed it in a cartoon once. It was a snowman standing in front of a podium (made of snow) and there was a crowd of snowmen facing him. It wouldn't be too hard if I made them smallish. I may just tackle that project if we get another decent snowstorm.

Mark Wood of St. Philip's can't cut anything straight or build a level wall but the snow is very forgiving.