The below-zero cold doesn't matter much when there's a colorful ice-block igloo to be built in the neighborhood. At least it's not too warm.
Martha Palm, a learning specialist at Cornelia Elementary School in Edina, and her husband, Steve, embarked on the first igloo four years ago as a family project over the Christmas break. Then, it was just them and their daughter, Inge Marie, now 15.
This year, it's a community project. Neighbors, students — former and current — parents and friends have flocked to the Palms' front yard in the 4300 block of Abbott Avenue S. in Minneapolis' Linden Hills neighborhood since the first set of ice blocks were set out to freeze on the front porch Dec. 26. They've come from Bloomington, Edina, Minneapolis and Duluth. One helper hails from the Netherlands.
That first year, the igloo was about 3 feet in diameter. Then came a few years' break when temperatures didn't fall far enough. This year, the igloo is about 6 feet and, when finished, will be tall enough for an adult to stand upright in the center. That takes a lot of water, snow and ice. Food dye, too, about a gallon and a half so far.
"The construction itself is interesting," Martha Palm said Sunday. "But when it transforms into a spectacular work of art is in the evening. We put a spotlight in the middle of the igloo and it shines out. Even now when it's not even finished … it's really spectacular.
What excites Palm just as much is watching the kids build.
"Some of these kids that come by are amazingly focused and determined to be involved," she said. "You know what the temps are. Those kids, they're out there and they're working. It's hard to make this. Ice is heavy. You have to get your hands in water, slush. There's really nothing easy about it."
The structure requires some architectural and engineering oversight by the adults, big hands helping little hands, a bit of surreptitious learning by doing and a lot of laughter. Oh, and a warm place to thaw out noses, fingers and toes, too.
There's always a big kettle of hot water brewing for hot cocoa, plus dry gloves, extra sweaters and a space heater inside the Palms' front door.
Every night, the Palms start a new batch of ice blocks. They haul buckets of water from the kitchen sink to fill 150 aluminum roasting trays on the front porch. Food dye is mixed into the buckets. Five-gallon buckets filled with water and snow provide the mortar.
Steve Palm told his wife that he estimates it will take about 1,000 ice bricks to complete the igloo. As of Sunday, it was about 4 feet tall. Martha Palm figures it will take about two more weeks to finish.
The Zirps family of Minneapolis has been involved since the start.
"Who wouldn't want to build an igloo over winter break if they could?" said Tom Zirps.
His sons, Asa, 12, and Arlo, 10, think it's pretty cool, too.
"They've been doing a lot of the work," their dad said. "As much as possible, adults are being the support staff. Asa's been mostly focused on building and teaching the other kids; Arlo has been very focused on making the blocks of ice."
Arlo Zirps just likes mixing the colors.
"I like it because you get to mix the food dyes and do fun, cool stuff," he said.
But isn't it cold?
"It's not too bad if you dress right," Tom Zirps said.
Asa Zirps said he's been impressed by the teamwork.
"You wouldn't think it but there is some technique involved," he said. "It's just awesome to see it all going up.
"I actually think the accomplishment when it's all done will be the best part," he said. "We're the ones who did this."