At the beginning of October, we moved into our 20 ft Whiteduck Outdoors Avalon canvas bell tent. We had been living in our 6-person Northface Wawona nylon tent, sleeping on the ground on our camping pads. We were in a little clearing sheltered by bamboo, rhododendrons, and chestnut trees. While I didn’t mind sleeping on the ground, waking up to soaked blankets due to condensation got old, fast. The weather was getting colder and wetter, making us look forward to getting set up in the canvas tent and having a shelter that was more durable. We had also received our Camp Chef Alpine woodstove and spent an afternoon seasoning it. We were excited to use it during the increasingly chilly nights.
I didn’t fully realize just how large the tent would be until we laid out the tarp – it was huge! With most of the farm overgrown with Himalayan blackberries, it was difficult to find an area that would be able to properly hold the tent and its guylines. Even if we had a flat cleared area for the tarp, we needed to have an additional three feet (minimum) on all sides for the guylines. Our only option at the time was to set up in the high fields while we worked on clearing the land down below.
It took us about an hour to set up the tent and get it tensioned properly. Pounding the stakes into the ground was an exercise in frustration as they were cheaply made and would instantly bend. It didn’t help that the mallet was also poorly made and would fly apart after a few whacks. But finally, the tent was up – and it was beautiful. I felt joy seeing our new home standing up, shining in the sun. I still remember the relief and happiness I felt that night, laying under the vaulted canvas panels. We were finally in the canvas tent we had waited so long for – a piece of our dream was now a tangible experience. Even though we were still sleeping on our camping pads it felt different, more secure. We had moved into the bones of our new home and now needed to make it truly ours.
With a rented Uhaul truck, we took a day trip to our storage unit to get furniture and other items we wanted. I was most excited about having our bed set up – the ground was getting extremely cold at night and the bed would help insulate us. The trip took most of the day, since the drive alone was 3+ hours, and by the time we returned to the farm, the light was fading quickly. We had previously emptied the tent so that Pat could shift it slightly to a hopefully flatter area. He also rotated the tent so that the stove pipe would exit on a side that wouldn’t have the wind drag ash or sparks over the canvas material. Though we were heading into the rainy season and the fire danger was low, we were in a grass field and wanted to take every precaution when we used the stove. That night we moved all the furniture into the tent, our hands gong numb as the temperature dropped. I remember crawling into the bed that night, exhausted and cold but happy.
During the fall, I loved being up in the field. It felt cocooned and safe, held in the bowl of the hills. I loved being able to see out across the whole valley. On clear nights the stars were incredible. During the early morning when we left the tent, we watched the fog swirl around us and shimmer in the valley. On very cold mornings, the fields were covered in glittering frost that cracked under our feet as we walked down the hill. It was beautiful, and peaceful. The only downside to being up in the fields was that we were further away from our systems (kitchen, washroom) and that the tent was more exposed to the weather. The wind coming in off the coast didn’t have a tree break before it hit the tent. This gave us the motivation to continue to work hard at preparing a space for the tent that was down lower and more protected for winter. But, for the time being, we enjoyed our perch up in the rolling hills.
Three weeks after moving into our tent, we built our first fire in the woodstove and experienced our ‘hot tent.’ We had been waiting until the ground seemed saturated enough from rainy days that if a spark escaped from the stove pipe’s spark arrestor, it wouldn’t be able to catch on the grass. The woodstove heated the tent quickly and thoroughly – it must have been 70 degrees in the tent! I loved the smell and feel of a woodstove fire – I lounged in the bed feeling truly warm and dry for the first time in awhile. Living in a hot tent during late fall or winter was a luxury: the dark, cold nights didn’t seem so long now that we had the woodstove.