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Making the most of the deep freeze

Liz and Mike Gingrich and their children Haley and Austin enjoy the colourful igloo out back of their Elmira home; lab puppy Dixie thinks it’s pretty swell, too. [submitted]

Over six-weeks, nearly 70 hours and with some 500 blocks of ice, Liz Gingrich embraced winter weather this season and built a beautifully colourful igloo in the backyard of her Elmira home.

Liz and Mike Gingrich and their children Haley and Austin enjoy the colourful igloo out back of their Elmira home; lab puppy Dixie thinks it’s pretty swell, too. [submitted]
Liz and Mike Gingrich and their children Haley and Austin enjoy the colourful igloo out back of their Elmira home; lab puppy Dixie thinks it’s pretty swell, too. [submitted]
“I decided to challenge myself to see if I could do it,” Gingrich explained. “I just went by what I saw in St. Clements last year (where a similar project was undertaken). I saw it with my own eyes and just started building it the way I thought it would work.”

About the size of a three-person dome tent, the igloo has become a fun winter play place for the Gingrich kids, Austin and Haley, and especially for the family lab, Dixie.

“The kids enjoy playing in it, but our dog tries to claim it for herself,” Gingrich laughed.

Covered with blue, yellow, pink, green and orange ice blocks, it looks pretty, too. Particularly at night, when the Gingrichs light up the inside of the shelter.

But it wasn’t easy for the first time igloo-builder.

“I started right at the end of December because that’s when the weather turned cold enough,” Gingrich said. “I worked on it through the month of January and finished at the beginning of February.”

A school bus driver, Gingrich worked on the igloo in between her morning and afternoon runs.

And she let mother nature get in on the fun, too.

“I used two-litre juice cartons, which I would cut the tops off and fill with water,” Gingrich explained. “Then, I stuck them all outside on the deck and some of them I put food colouring in. And once they were frozen, and sometimes it would take just one night, others it would take a little longer, and then I brought them all inside and onto my kitchen floor to thaw them a bit so that I could slide the ice out of the carton. Then I took them outside and used the snow that we had, and in January we didn’t have very much so I had to take snow from other parts of the property, and it also wasn’t very good packing snow so I added water to it. Then I assembled it by packing the blocks together and finally pouring some water over it.”

It was quite a process.

“When you use the carton, they split from the ice expanding; I was able to use duct tape, to reuse about 25 of them. … Any juice cartons would work, like Fruitopia, ice tea, orange juice or chocolate milk, as long as they were two litres. But, of course, we couldn’t drink enough, so I put a search out on the Elmira buy and sell Facebook page just asking for people’s empties and I got responses from people all over town saying they had two or three I could grab.”

And the feedback in the community has been incredible.

“I’ve got so many comments and it’s such a cool thing,” Gingrich said.

That’s why she decided to hold an “open house,” where neighbours and friends could come by for a peek inside.

“People said that we should have an open house and we weren’t sure,” Gingrich said. “But we decided to go for it, and we held it on the Friday night before Valentine’s Day. It was super cold, I think it was close to minus-30 degrees. So we had a bonfire out back to help keep us warm.”

It was a hit.

“Around 40 people came out, adults and kids and even some of the students I have on my bus route as well,” she said. “We had hot apple cider and it was really neat.”

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