Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘ATV plow

Beating Expectation

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With 6″ of heavy new snow on the driveway and more falling yesterday morning, I figured I better plow before it got to be more snow than the ATV could push. While shoveling the front steps and walkway I discovered the snow was stickier than I’d expected, which threatened to make the plowing job too much for the Yamaha Grizzly.

Just as I suspected, the snow wasn’t rolling off the blade as fast as it was piling up in front of it. On the uphill climbs, it became too much to push and I had to back up to make a fresh start around the piles. The driveway was becoming a mess that I feared I wouldn’t be able to clear over the tall banks. I bought some time by focusing on clearing around our mailbox and at the start of the driveway. Then it was time to try making my way up the full length again.

The third time was the charm. I made incremental progress with each pass and was able to maintain a high enough speed that the sticky snow was finally flying off the plow blade by the end. I was surprised that I had been able to clear so much heavy snow as well as I ultimately did.

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The plowed portion continues to narrow compared to the full width of the pavement but it is wide enough for a vehicle. The old Grizzly deserves more respect than I was giving it.

I’ll give myself a little credit for being able to maintain forward progress as the ATV slid sideways against the weight of snow on the blade.

Around the middle of the day, we caught a break in precipitation that showed up on the radar as an isolated pocket surrounded by snow all around us.

As the hours wore on we received more snow but it was warm enough that most of it seemed to be melting on contact. Much of the driveway remained snow-free and very wet. Where it wasn’t clear to the pavement, another inch or two were getting added.

There remains plenty to clean up today and temperatures are expected to remain below freezing for a while so it will be a challenge shoveling what was soft yesterday but frozen solid now.

I’m feeling renewed sympathy for the people of Buffalo, NY, who had to dig out from under multiple feet of snow. It is getting hard for me to throw the shovels full over the growing piles along the edges. I don’t know how they have dealt with shoveling three or four times the amount I’m facing.

Maybe I’ll get lucky today and the level of difficulty shoveling will beat my expectations like the plowing did yesterday.

Wish I was feeling luckier than I actually do this morning.

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Written by johnwhays

January 20, 2023 at 7:00 am

Looks Pretty

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Sure, it looks pretty but that doesn’t mean it isn’t brutal. The freezing drizzle of Tuesday coated tree branches with ice and overnight snow stuck to that ice creating a gorgeous landscape yesterday morning.

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Contrary to the report Cyndie heard from one misguided weather reporter on the radio who attempted to soften the blow of the mounting accumulation of snow by saying it was light and fluffy, I was faced with sticky, heavy snow to be shoveled and plowed.

I didn’t get very far with the plow before the winch rope came off a pulley because of the heavy snow and got wedged so tight I couldn’t get the blade to move up or down. It was back to the shop garage to correct the situation.

I decided to use the occasion to swap out the old, fraying winch rope with a new one I bought recently to have as a backup. While I was reworking things, I also decided to leave the pulley off altogether and route the rope through the tubing of the front bumper. I’m not sure what new problems this setup might produce, but it will for sure eliminate the repeating problems I’ve had with that dang pulley.

My efforts proved sufficient for completing the clearing of the pavement. I left the gravel portion around the hay shed for today.

The snow was so sticky I could only push up to the edge, never up and over. That portion needed to be accomplished by hand shoveling. It got me thinking, after hours of sweat and grunting, that I could suddenly see the attraction of living in a retirement community complex. I could sleep in, take as much time as I want to read the paper, and have breakfast. Maybe spend some time on a jigsaw puzzle. Take a nap in the afternoon. All this while staff was responsible for doing all the plowing and shoveling after snow storms.

I also was thinking that if I was an employee clearing snow at Wintervale when the job got this brutal, I would tell the boss more resources were needed. They need to assign more people to work on the project and give us more time to get it all done. Better equipment might help, too. A skid steer with a loader and snowblower attachments would be great.

Thinking about things like that helps me pass the time as I throw scoops of snow higher and higher over the growing mountains piled around the edges.

I’m not looking forward to daylight when I will be able to see how much new snow fell overnight.

Regardless of how much it is, I’m sure the new snow will look very pretty.

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Written by johnwhays

January 5, 2023 at 7:00 am

Frustrating Amount

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If a little is good, more must be better, right? Certainly not. Not lately, anyway. I could sure use a break from plowing and shoveling.

Of course, getting the ATV stuck at the end of the driveway didn’t do much for my cheerful outlook. When I came over the hill to see the state of things at the end of the driveway, I wasn’t surprised that our trash and recycle bins were knocked over by the snowy blast off the blade of the township snowplow.

The surprise was that our mailbox was still securely attached to its post. I think it was saved by the trash bin.

I plowed just enough of the snow at the end of the driveway to restore order with the bins but I got carried away thinking I could push the massive amount of snow well off the driveway. Suddenly I couldn’t back up. The front wheels had gotten beyond the pavement and the blade was stuck in the accumulated pile of new and old snow.

A long walk back to the barn for shovels was required. As long as I had the shovels, I decided to work by hand to clean up the area around the mailbox and the heavy wash of snow that came off the big snowplow. It’s easier to find the edge of the pavement using shovels.

After digging out the snow beneath the ATV and around the plow blade, it backed right out of the predicament with ease. On my way back up the driveway (after two successful passes plowing) I ventured too far to the right and dropped two wheels over the steep bank. You know, the banks where I wanted to add enough fill to create a more functional shoulder beyond the pavement.

Yeah, we didn’t get that fill added to the lower half of the driveway before serious amounts of snow arrived. I’m now dealing with the very scenario I dreaded. I can’t plow wide enough to protect the driveway from getting narrower and narrower with each successive snowstorm.

That interesting-looking snow sculpture above is actually a spruce tree. Of all the years to start off the snow season with epic accumulations.

What could be a fun feature of winter is mostly a frustration for me this year. It’s not being made any easier by Cyndie’s inability to walk and help out with horse care and snow clearing. It’s a one-man operation this year.

Yesterday, I made it halfway around the house pulling snow off the roof eaves with our Avalanche roof rake. Still to go, the other side of the house, and then I need to shovel off the deck and plow around the barn and hay shed.

If it is still snowing, I then need to start the whole cycle all over again. Rinse and repeat.

I miss having time to read the daily newspaper in the morning before starting my day.

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Written by johnwhays

December 17, 2022 at 8:53 am

November’s End

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The weather predictions were spot-on for our area yesterday. They said it would snow and snow it did. Now, on the last day of November, it looks a lot like December outside. We received somewhere between 5 to 7 inches.

I was hoping it would stop snowing before I needed to head out and start plowing. To kill time, I spent the afternoon hours watching the U.S. men’s soccer team outlast Iran to advance to the round of 16 in the World Cup. Now we have to go through similar tense spectating on Saturday when going up against the Netherlands. It’s a good problem to have. It makes me think, be careful what you wish for.

I fed the horses in the morning just as the big snow was beginning to fall. They haven’t shown a great interest in the hay boxes until recently. Now is a good time to choose the boxes because they are well inside the overhang offering protection from rain and snow.

I’ve still been serving them hay in net bags so they have options. At this point, I would say they are going through the combination of bags and boxes at about an equal rate.

As darkness approached, I headed back out into the falling snow to feed the horses. They seemed to be taking the wintery weather in stride. While they munched on the pellets in their feed pans, I cranked up the ATV to plow.

It always seems like I make a big ruckus plowing, constantly backing up to then push forward again, over and over one blade-width at a time around the barn and hay shed. The horses don’t seem the least bit perturbed by the disturbance. I think it bothers me more than it does them.

When I felt I had done a reasonably sufficient job with the plow, I parked it back in the garage. The shoulders weren’t frozen solid yet so I did my best to keep the blade confined to just the width of the pavement.

A precious snow-dampened quiet returned and I noticed the moon was clearly visible in the sky. The falling snow had finally stopped. The only flakes still flying were being blown around by the wind.

There was still a lot of hand shoveling to be done around doorways, walkways, and the deck but I saved that for later today. After I drive Cyndie to a physical therapy appointment, I’m going to celebrate the last day of November 2022 by cleaning up new-fallen snow. She will be getting an initial assessment done to develop a rehab exercise plan.

Too bad there won’t be any snow shoveling included in her rehab plan.

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Written by johnwhays

November 30, 2022 at 7:00 am

Grand Illusion

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The precursor to our cold snap was a brief but messy snow event yesterday. It snarled my morning commute by triggering a collision between a semi and a snowplow that closed the interstate. After I got around that, the rest of the drive both ways was uneventful, except when I slid past the entrance at work and barely navigated the unplowed township road just before home.

For added adventure, my low tire pressure light came on about 20-minutes into the morning jaunt.

Once home, I barely walked in the door and it was a quick change of clothes and immediately back outside to plow.

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Every time I put the ATV and plow attachment through their paces against the snow and ice without a mechanical failure, I breathe a sigh of relief. I only got stuck once. Cyndie came out to help by gently squeezing the throttle when I lifted and pushed to get the wheels back up on the pavement.

After the plowing was done, I moved my car from the house to the shop to put air in the low tire. As I was coiling the hose up after I was done, I popped out the quick-release chuck (which I always do because it leaks air) while also holding the pressure gauge.

So, at that moment, I had three things in my hands: hose, chuck, gauge.

I set the coiled hose over the compressor, placed the gauge under the handle where it always goes, and where is the chuck?

It’s gone. Disappeared. Vanished into thin air.

I assume I dropped it, but I never heard anything fall. I checked pockets. I checked the spot where I always put it on the compressor. I surveyed the shop floor and the ground around the car. I backed the car up scanned the plowed pavement in the vicinity.

That little piece was nowhere to be found.

I couldn’t pull off that sleight of hand trick intentionally if I tried. Sure wish I could watch a recording of that exercise to see where the chuck ended up. It was a grand illusion.

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Written by johnwhays

February 5, 2021 at 7:00 am

Fly South

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Cyndie made plans to spend a couple of weeks with her parents in Florida long before the details of the latest snowstorm had materialized and didn’t guess that her planned departure would be timed smack dab in the worst of the wind and snow. Luckily, the impending weather allowed for a no-charge rescheduling and she nabbed a seat a day earlier, right as the heavy weather was beginning.

That just meant a little delay while the ground crews worked frantically to plow runways and de-ice planes. Not unsettling at all for wary travelers, I’m sure.

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Cyndie is a seasoned airline passenger and has been through this routine multiple times, so I’m sure she was able to take it in stride. I can’t honestly attest to her level of confidence because I was not there. No, I am not in Florida today, unlike her and our two adult children visiting their grandparents over the MLK holiday weekend.

More power to them.

While they were enjoying the bocce courts under beautiful blue skies, I had a day filled with a fair amount of folly. I had hoped to swiftly plow, shovel, and rake snow off the roof so I could also entertain the pooch who was otherwise woefully neglected in the warm confines of the house. When I left her tethered outside with me where she could watch, Delilah just sat forlornly.

If I have to ignore her while I work, I decided she might as well be inside where I don’t have to witness her sad face every time I pass.

When I started up the ATV for plowing, I discovered one of the front tires had an audible air leak. It was spitting out some of the green sealer that had been an earlier attempt to solve the problem. All that did was delay the inevitable, it seems. Short of a quick fix to remedy the situation properly, I opted for frequent returns to the shop garage for added air from the compressor.

Worked well enough to get the main driveway open for travel. I would come back later to plow around the barn and hay shed.

After walking Delilah and eating lunch, I raked the valley of the roof over the front door and then unburied the steps. By leaving the rest of the roof for today, my hope was to quickly finish plowing before needing to tend to Delilah’s dinner.

Then the cable that lifts the plow broke in the middle of pushing a deep pile of snow at the edge of the driveway turnoff that drops toward the barn.

The hour before the dog’s dinner was spent rigging a way to lift the blade so I could drive back to the garage so I could work on reattaching the hook to the next section of cable. That’s a project that needs three hands, so with my two cold hands (and one bloody finger) I dragged it out long enough that dinner ended up being late.

Yes, I was thinking about my family who all just flew south.

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Successive Challenges

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Never assume. Sunday night, I neglected to go outside to verify the degree of drifting in the driveway, after the day of strong wind. From the house, we could see the tops of trees swaying dramatically, but by afternoon, there was very little in the way of obvious snow still being swept up by the gusts.

We stayed in and watched the Oscars.

It turns out, drifts grow even when the blowing snow isn’t visibly obvious.

I got up at my usual work-day zero-dark-thirty and did my routine of planks and stretches, then dressed and headed out the door into the predawn darkness.

From the house to just beyond the hay shed, there was no change from when I plowed the day before. As I climbed the hill before the road, the cleared portion of driveway narrowed.

Drifts can be really deceiving. Driving toward them, it’s difficult to discern whether it will be soft, or packed solid. It can also be hard to tell whether they are going to be higher than the clearance of the car.

Since my Crosstrek has been performing so superbly thus far this winter, I forged ahead in hopes of breaking apart the drifts just enough so Cyndie would be able to drive her car out after me. She needed to leave early to lead some training for staff at a school in St. Paul.

It turned out that the drifts had grown significantly since I plowed, they were packed into a very firm density, and they were just tall enough to rub the bottom of my car. Cyndie would never be able to get out in her car, even if I broke through all the way to the road.

Didn’t really matter. I couldn’t break through. Near the top of the hill, forward progress stopped. I tried rocking forward and back, but the car-length I achieved backward only moved me deeper into the drift. I got the car stuck.

I would need to plow. Of all times to be forced to plow, this was really inconvenient. It was dark, I wanted to get on the road to beat traffic, and the air temperature was -5°F with a windchill around -35°F. I was dressed for work, not for being outside.

I intended to make this quick, but circumstances did not allow. The ATV wouldn’t start. The battery was sapped by the cold temperature. I popped the seat off and found the battery was covered by a mouse nest made out of pilfered bits of fiberglass insulation. Nice.

The battery charger was inside the frozen truck, so I had to wrestle with getting the doors open and trying to unwind the inflexible cables. With the jump, I got the ATV started and headed out to clean up just the bare minimum to get our cars through.

The drifts were too dense for the relative light weight of the ATV to push through. I ended up lifting the blade and “paddling” forward on the deep treads of the winter tires, just to break up the drifts. When I got down to the road, I could see that someone had driven by and smashed through a huge drift by our mailbox.

The road was almost as bad as our driveway.

I successfully made several difficult trips back and forth over the hill, each time trying to move a fraction more snow with the blade, but I was a long way from plowing it clean enough for Cyndie’s car to make it out.

Then the cable that lifts the plow blade broke. At that point, there was nothing else left to go wrong.

I blame the frigid temperature. It adds difficulty to everything you try to do. At least the sunrise provided an entertaining backdrop.

I was close enough to being done when the cable broke that Cyndie and I were able to shovel a path out of what remained of the busted up drift. The clearing we achieved was so narrow, I could hear the side of her car rubbing the snow as she drove through the skinniest section, but we both made it out in the end!

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Written by johnwhays

February 26, 2019 at 7:00 am

Snow Motion

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Here I go again. If I’m not writing about our animals, I must be fussing about the weather. It’s too warm, too soon; or raining way too much; or getting too dry; or… wait for it: snowing too much in April.

It’s always something.

Well, when it is too much snow, and a person needs to drive 65 miles across the heart of the population center of a large metropolitan area, it may also involve a day staying home from work in the middle of the week.

There isn’t much more than that to tell. I stayed home to avoid the traffic risks and spent my precious time shoveling and plowing too many inches of sticky spring snow.

Can I just say, snowman-making snow is not friendly for plowing. It’s already a known fact it is a pain in the back for shoveling, but my poor Grizzly and plow-blade setup does not like pushing snow that sticks together in giant blocks and to everything that presses against it.

Luckily, when the blade frame came loose beneath the ATV under the strain of the heavy snow I was trying to push, it wasn’t because something broke.

One of the holding pins had worked its way out and was laying somewhere along the quarter-mile length of our driveway.

Not to worry, I keep spare pins on hand. This isn’t my first winter here, you know?

Okay, okay, I have spares because this happened one other wicked winter when I had no clue the pins might come out under stressful plowing conditions and I was left stranded at the end of the driveway with a crippled rig.

Despite the challenges of this year’s spring season arriving in “snow-motion,” I’m not stressing over it.

It gave me an extra day off from driving to work!

(For the record, the pictures above were taken in the middle of the day yesterday, about half-way to our total accumulation. We received even more snow than shown by these images.)

Happy spring, everyone!

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Written by johnwhays

April 4, 2018 at 6:00 am

Drifted Driveway

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My system of plowing in the middle of big snowstorms to avoid dealing with too many inches at one time doesn’t work so well when you are out-of-town during the snowfall events.

There were two storms while we were in Florida over the weekend.

Mid-morning yesterday, I received a phone call from McKenna. First, she explained that her boyfriend got his truck stuck trying to get out of the driveway. Second, she got her truck stuck trying to pull him out.

It turned out that the assessments she gave us in response to our queries over the weekend from Florida about whether the driveway needed to be plowed, or not, were based on how things looked out on the back deck, not the actual driveway.

The wind blowing across the driveway from the open field at the top of the first hill took the roughly 10-inches that fell in two separate events on Thursday and Saturday and firmly packed it into about a 36-inch deep drift. The deck on the back of the house benefitted from wind clearing a lot of the snow off and sunshine melting what was left.

It didn’t look very intimidating.

The driveway, however, looked pretty darn intimidating, but they didn’t realize that until they had both tried driving into it.

By the time I got home, they had successfully dug through the worst part of the deep snow and were able to get their trucks out. I spotted their tracks and decided to see what my Crosstrek could do.

About two-thirds of the way up the first slope, I could see that the undercarriage of their trucks had pressed on the snow significantly. I knew then I was in trouble. I’m pretty sure my car has less clearance than their trucks.

Luckily, Cyndie was there with a shovel. She had smartly parked her car on the roadside, having arrived when the trucks hadn’t been completely extricated yet. I dug out enough of the snow from beneath the car that I was able to move forward and keep going toward the house.

Being cocky, I forged ahead and tried to back the car into the garage like I usually do. I got stuck again, now spinning on glare ice beneath all the snow.

After a little more shoveling, I got the car into the garage. Then it was time to change clothes and jump on the Grizzly, to see if I would be able to plow all the heavy, wet snow.

It was a trick, and the driveway didn’t give in without a fight. The drift was too much for the ATV. Every time I made a pass, the firmly packed snow would push the Griz out and around. It looked like I was plowing an “S” curve.

I dug out a section to find where the pavement ended, which revealed how much snow was left to move. Much of that volume was moved by hand, with a scoop shovel, instead of with the plow.

While I was plowing down by the road, I paused to pick up the pieces of our mailbox, which pops apart when blasted by snow flying off the county plow. It was easily repairable.

Once the driveway was wide enough to easily fit vehicles, I was able to move on to cleaning snow off the roof near the front door, and then shoveling the heavy, wet snow again, to clear the steps and walkway.

We are definitely not in Florida anymore.

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Written by johnwhays

February 27, 2018 at 7:00 am

Taking Action

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After getting home from the day-job yesterday, I went right to work on the ranch-job. This time of year, I don’t get much time at home that isn’t dark, and I wanted to clear snow while I could see well and get it done before temperatures head for the deep freeze.

Light snow fell on and off for most of the day and the thermometer revealed a 39° (F) reading as the high. It made for some sticky-snow plowing. On the drive home, anywhere that had been plowed had pretty much melted clear of snow and the roads were just wet. Our driveway had a thick accumulation covering it.

First things first. I needed to repair the broken cable from the Grizzly winch that lifts the plow blade. I had held off on the fix because I was intending to buy new cable. Searching online I discovered the existence of a short cable made to take the abuse of the constant up and down that occurs to lift the blade, and that they are available not just as metal, but fiberglass, too.

I like the thought of flexible fiber, but then my mind pictured the rollers on my well-used winch setup. The frequent broken strands on the abused cable have scuffed up the rollers a bit and they are getting rusty. I want new rollers if I’m going to get new cable and I haven’t had time to look into what that will take. I don’t know if I can even get the existing ones off without a fight.

Remember how much I struggled to remove the broken bolt on the hitch in back?

So, the first order of business was to head down to the barn and remove the hook with the dangling fragment of cable still hanging on the plow blade. On my way past the shop, I grabbed the battery charger to hook up to the truck that was sitting in the middle of space needing to be plowed.

DSCN4331eI lucked out. My plan worked pretty much as I intended. I got the truck battery charging and then wrestled the blade out the narrow front door of the barn. It fought me a little bit when it came time to lay in the snow and put pins through precisely sized holes of the plow frame and the under carriage of the ATV, but I had a few extra curse words that hadn’t been used yet, so things balanced out.

It was definitely snowman snow, but I just rolled with it as it rolled off the blade in giant chunks. It was well after dark when I finished, but I got enough done that I am comfortable that we are ready for everything to freeze solid as it sits.

I was intent on making sure I was clearing the snow far enough beyond the edges to leave me space for the rest of the winter of plowing. Setting the edges at the beginning is the most important because it will freeze and form the solid boundary for the rest of the season.

I’m satisfied I took appropriate action and achieved that goal. The driveway is clean, the truck started for me and is now parked where I want it by the shop garage and everything looks like a perfect winter wonderland.

Bring on the Arctic cold blast.

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Written by johnwhays

January 9, 2016 at 9:30 am