Yesterday I woke up to a snow white landscape. I knew it would be one of those precious winter outings, my favourite. All seasons in the woods have their charm and beauty, but I have come to especially like cold weather because of how snow and ice really puts my kit and my skills to the test. I like to use my gear in different weather conditions to see if my craft and gear hold water, sometimes quite literally.
This was not only our first outing in snow for a long good while and Basilards first one ever. It was also première for our new grey kirtles, the winter clothing for hunters as recommended by Gaston Phoebus.
We had a heavy snowfall the day before but it was not very cold, just about -5°C/23°F. That means cold enough for nice dry snow, but not so cold it hurts if you dress accordingly. Dry snow is lovely to be out in, but wet snow can be difficult. Thaw is soon absorbed by our thin leather shoes and becomes freezing water. It makes your hose soggy and your feet hurt with cold until they numb. After some time walking in this state of misery, the damp permanently damages the shoes as well.
You can never know if the weather will change when you are out, so I always grease my boots the day before a planned outing and it helps a little. As long as you keep moving it is usually alright, but even in dry snow our shoes absorb some water after a while. The thin leather sole is then half frozen, constantly warmed by the foot and cooled by contact with the ground. This gives you a better grip than you might expect if you are used to walking in rubber soled shoes on ice.
Boots with many buckles like mine are not the most common ones in period pictures. When they appear they seem to be worn only by the most wealthy in society. I had mine made for me three years ago after archaeological findings of shoes from 14th century Stockholm. I too feel that they are a bit luxurious, but usually I’m very happy with them.
However, on previous winter outings I’ve sometimes had trouble with snow getting trapped in the shaft and slowly melting there to my discomfort. It happens when the shaft is too low or not tight enough around the ankle. Recently I had a friend who is a really good shoemaker help me put on an extra pair of buckles to solve the problem. It worked out very well, kept the snow at bay and I think it looks great. Thank you Sofia!
I had been looking forward to this outing for some time, longing for snow. Now I plunged my way through it with childish delight and Basilard seemed to enjoy it as well. He was on his best behaivour all day, but I doubt he has ever seen so much snow. This was really good training for him and I’m glad that he goes so well together with Johans Boudica.
The forest was so heavy with snow on some places that young trees arched down over the track just like the ceiling in a gothic cathedral. Stunningly beautiful, but also treacherous as the forest dropped little icy surprices over us when you expect it the least…
Both Johan and I had put on our hoods lined with rabbit fur for this occasion and agreed that it is the best winter garment you can get. It is easy to regulate the warmth by pulling the hood up or down and it protects your neck from snow dropping from the trees. The fur gives you that instant warm fuzzy feeling that makes you all glad when your ears are nippy.
Except for my hood for warmth I also wore fur lined mittens and three layers of wool kyrtils. The most thin and soft one closest to the skin to keep me dry and then increasingly more thick and coarse fabrics on top to keep the snow out. The new grey kirtle got heavily felted when I dyed it and turned out almost water-proof. The massive width makes it drape nicely and the folds of the fabric make little pockets of air, soon warmed by the body. I didn’t freeze one bit.
Johan was happy with the extra long sleeves on his new kirtle. Gloves and mittens are sometimes a bother when you are out and about, holding horns and spears and dogs and whatnot. But folded down, the sleeves keep the warmth around the hands even without gloves, and you will not likely loose them in the snow.
We stopped for a light meal as usual, but this time we skipped making a fire. We were both warm enough anyway and most wood was deep frozen. If there had been a need for it, we could probably have found usable branches up under firtrees, but we didn’t feel the need to scavenge half an hour for it. Instead we gave the sausages meant for cooking to two very happy dogs and just had the wine and cheese for ourselves.
The tracks we saw told us that we were alone in the woods that day, apart from its inhabitants of wild boar, hare and roe deer. All in all, it was a lovely day out.
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