A couple of years ago, when we still lived in Germany, we visited the Königsmuseum in Bonn and saw a film about Inuit constructing an igloo. The museum also had a set of large white blocks so that you could have a go at making your own (perhaps they still have them - I hope so, because my kids thought they were fab). I'm not sure whether it was that museum visit that sowed the seeds of the idea, but this week, when the snow lay thick upon the ground here in Flanders, Sporty Outdoor Hubs suddenly decided to build his own igloo. The kids joined in, too.
I stayed indoors and made cups of tea and warming stews. Someone has to do that; I saw myself rather in the role of the person who stays at Base Camp whilst the others try to do Mount Everest. (I managed to do a jigsaw and watch Pan's Labyrinth too in the unaccustomed peace indoors, but that's another story and quite an incidental benefit. Honest.)
It's amazing how much snow you need to build an igloo; they used up nearly all the snow in the front AND back gardens. Hubs found a plastic storage box which they used as a mould for making each snow brick. The kids helped transport the full mould across the garden on a sledge, and then turned it out on the igloo wall. It took them most of two afternoons to complete the igloo, which was good, actually, because a bit of snow fell in between and plastered over the joins in the bricks very nicely.
They decided to build the igloo as a complete hemisphere first and then cut in the doorway afterwards, which was sensible because it meant there was no subsidence as the top layers of bricks went on. Once the hemisphere was built, my son cut the doorway with a saw. We all stood back to admire the effect for a bit, and then hubs went off to find some candles. Apparently the correct thing to do is light a few candles and put them inside the completed igloo for a bit, so that the indoor surface will melt very slightly. When it freezes again, you have a smooth and hopefully draught-free wall.
They all crawled inside to see what it was like. "Warmer than you'd think," was the verdict. We left the candles burning for a bit; it looked so cosy that even the cat went out to investigate. Sporty Outdoor Hubs thinks it might even be possible to sleep out in it! Think I'll stay at Base Camp again, thanks...
NOTE: The kids had brilliant fun doing this, but if you decide to try it with yours, make sure they're not left to play inside unattended. That's quite a lot of snow, and if it collapsed, it could be dangerous.