Tag Archives: sauna

odin’s note to santa.

odin's note to santa.

four years ago santa visited odin in the sauna and every year since then, when we’re in town for the holidays, we have a christmas eve sauna because, well, you never know maybe he’ll visit again.

this year we were in town but didn’t get a chance to light the sauna which bummed out odin a little bit, so he wrote santa a note and left him some summer sausage, carrots ( for the reindeer ) and a candy cane.

the Finnish Sauna Fundamentals class visits The Snowdeal Sauna and Endures Stories.

the Finnish Sauna Fundamentals class visits The Snowdeal Sauna and Endures Stories.

and we find out the answer to how many of driftless folk school finnish sauna fundamentals class can fit in The Snowdeal Sauna.

ALL OF THEM!

see, that’s why you build a 3 bencher. because you never know who might come over for a visit.

i really enjoyed getting a chance to tell them about building the sauna and answering a few questions during their tour of local saunas. of course, they were forced to endure my stories about pulling out 40 cedar logs WITH MY BARE HANDS out of the upper peninsula of michigan cedar swamps, Adventures in Pouring Concrete, collecting genuine upper peninsula sauna stones from The Top Secret Sauna Stone Spot, trenching 150 feet with a ditch witch and eventually raising the snowdeal sauna with a small army of yooper relatives. a perfect captive audience!

also, it’s totally not at all intimidating to have the guy who wrote a lovely book on saunas ( that’s a bearded mike nordskog sitting on the top bench on the left ) sitting in your sauna :-)

to build an upside-down fire ( and revolutionize sauna starting? ).

to build an upside-down fire ( and revolutionize sauna starting? ). I.

i was out with some friends recently who burn wood in a fireplace and they were raving about an “upside down” fire technique they read about in timothy ferriss’ book “the four hour chef” which was originally posted on his blog, “How to Build an Upside-Down Fire: The Only Fireplace Method You’ll Ever Need”.

with the upside-down method you put the largest logs on the bottom ( make sure there is no space at all between them ), tut a second layer of smaller logs on top of the large layer with no spaces between them anbd so and so forth until you top with a layer of kindling and paper.

as a card carrying member of the traditional “tipi” method of building fires ( with the kindling at the bottom and logs at the top with plenty of space for air to flow through ) this method sounds like nothing short of heretical craziness.

THE BIGGEST LOGS ON BOTTOM?! YOU HAVE NO AIR FLOW! WHAAAAAT?

but my friends swore by the method and best of all they said it was very easy to maintain which would revolutionize building fires for the sauna. because while i love having sauna, starting a fire with the tipi method means committing yourself to tromping down to the sauna every 20 minutes or so for the first 90 minutes while you slowly build up a bed of coals and bring the sauna up to proper temperature.

could it possibly be true? with an “upside-down” fire could you really “set it and forget it”?

to put it to the test, i stocked the sauna stove chock full of full with the largest logs on the bottom, layered with very little space between logs and layers and a modest amount of paper and kindling on the top.

at this point i was skeptical that it was going to keep going after it burned through the kindling.

clearly there’s not enough air flow.

to build an upside-down fire ( and revolutionize sauna starting? ). II.

after about 15 minutes, which is about the time i’d normally have to go back down to the sauna and tend to the fire, it’s burned through the kindling and looks like it has a good start on the layer. and doesn’t need any stoking or poking!

to build an upside-down fire ( and revolutionize sauna starting? ). III.

after 30 minutes, it’s really starting to go. the middle layers are fully engaged but i’m still skeptical there are enough embers to keep it going and that the bottom logs will do anything other than smolder.

to build an upside-down fire ( and revolutionize sauna starting? ). IV.

well, whaddya know, after 60 minutes even the large logs are fully engaged and there’s a solid bed of coals going! all with no tending! i probably could have let it go for another 30 minutes of so without needing to add any logs.

so, from a “set it and forget it” standpoint the “upside down” fire is an unmitigated success!

i’ll experiment more in the future and see how i can boost the heat output of the fire. at this point it was about 70°F in the sauna which is a long way from the 190°F-210°F you want for a proper sauna ( at least in our sauna, according to our temperature guage ). timothy claims the “upside down” method produces much more heat than a traditional “tipi” but i didn’t find that to to be the case.

it didn’t produce any less heat per se and generated a nice bed of glowing embers which made it easy to throw more wood on and quickly get it to temp but it’d be awesome if i could find the perfect combination of wood to “set it and forget it” and get it to temp all at once in about an hour.

the upside-down fire was so successful, i think i might have to check out “the four hour chef” to see what else i can learn :-)

day 2365: quite possibly the last photos of our christmas eve sauna tradition.

day 2365: quite possibly the last photos of our christmas eve sauna tradition. I.

i pulled the camera out in the sauna on the chance that santa might visit again, but odin looked at it with disdain.

“poppi, cameras don’t belong in the sauna.”

sigh. i guess he’s right. but it’s a hard habit to break when i’ve been taking pictures since he was able to fit in a sauna bucket!

thankfully, he grudgingly let me take a few last photos.

santa never did know up, which is certainly understandable on his busiest night of the year.

maybe next year!

day 2365: quite possibly the last photos of our christmas eve sauna tradition. II.

on the opposite of cold and santa, sauna and sisu.



a local author, michael nordskog, has written a wonderful book, “The Opposite of Cold: The Northwoods Finnish Sauna Tradition” on the history, culture, and practice of finnish sauna in the lake superior northwoods region.

as most know, odin has been enjoying his grandparent’s sauna in the upper peninsula of michigan since he was small enough fit ina sauna bucket. and as most regular visitors know, a few years ago, we built our own so we could throw steam and douse ourselves with buckets of water in our own backyard with friends.

so, of course, i had to catch a reading at a local bookstore and pick up a signed copy.



as luck would have it, i was running late and missed the reading, but i did have time to chat with michael and invite him to spend some quality time in the ol’ snowdeal sauna which is a bit intimidating since one presumes he has spent time in many saunas with interesting histories.

but i’m guessing that only exactly one sauna was visited by santa when a boy named odin – who embodies the very essence of sisu – was 2000 days old.