That January day the temperature was in the teens, but the wind made it feel like below-zero. I scrambled to finish farm chores while I still had feeling in my fingers. It was cold, but before we could call it a day we had to stoke the fire in the tent. The fire was in a small wood stove that heated a 10-by-10-foot tent. Our first campers would be arriving soon, and we had to get it ready.
Back in August, when the weather was warm and camping seemed like a reasonable idea, I contracted with a company called Tentrr to install a camping site that visitors could book online. The site was supposed to be ready in September, just in time for fall foliage colors. But the installation didn't happen until late November, the day before our first big freeze. Sure that no one would ever want to stay in a tent in freezing weather, we planned to dismantle the site.
This is not your grandfather's campsite – the tent sits on a wooden platform that includes a deck and two Adirondack chairs. It has a queen-size bed with foam mattress. The indoor loo is a toilet seat over a simple wooden box containing a bucket lined with a CleanWaste bag similar to those used on NASA spaceships. The kit solidifies waste, neutralizes smells, and can be discarded after each use. There is a sun-heated shower that works even on cool days, but maybe not in winter. The site has electricity, WiFi, and firewood.
We didn't find time to take the tent down, which was a good thing because in January we got our first booking. Husband Bruce and I put sheets on the bed. We cleaned the ice out of the wood stove and got a fire started and another in the outside fire pit.
Not a camping fan, I prefer baseboard heat, a hot shower, and running water. I might be enticed to camp in the warmth of summer, but winter camping doesn't appeal to me. I've wondered how it feels to be a cow, living outside in the winter, but never wanted to experiment.
Our campers arrived and settled into the tent. I expected them to pound on our front door at midnight, begging to come inside the house. But no, they spent two nights in the tent without complaint. In fact, before they left, camper Jerry told me, "We loved every minute of it," and his partner said, "It was perfect."
They invited me in, and it was downright cozy. The wood stove provided more than enough heat. I was impressed; maybe winter camping isn't so bad? We've had several other guests since then, and they were thrilled to sleep out in the frigid winter, secure and snug in the tent.
My personal ambition is to continue sleeping indoors forever. But I'm sure glad others want to stay on our farm in any weather. The view is stunning, but, perched on the top of the hill, the tent is a target for wind. So far, none of our guests seemed to mind the wind rattling the canvas, and only one Adirondack chair and the trash-can cover have blown away.
In summer, the wind will help keep the mosquitoes and black flies away. Until then, we'll keep tightening the ropes, firing up the stove, and rolling out the red carpet (figuratively) for the hardy souls who want to enjoy our New England winter up close.