Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘clearing snow

Snowy Sunday

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Last Sunday dawned with a fabulous snowfall that lasted until just after noon and dumped oodles of inches of wonderful powder. Then the sun came out and started making it sticky before I could finish clearing it all. From beginning to end, it was beautiful to gaze upon.

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Written by johnwhays

February 12, 2020 at 7:00 am

Floating Flakes

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All day yesterday snow-globe flakes floated magically out of the sky. It was mystical. I checked the radar in the morning to see if it was a temporary shower or something more substantial and the precipitation didn’t even show up. Somehow, flakes just kept falling from the time I woke up, continuing without pause through my last walk with Delilah in the dark of night.

It made for a gorgeous winter day. I occupied myself with raking snow off the last three valleys of our roof and then shoveling away the piles that resulted beneath.

There was a decent-sized drift hanging off one eave and plenty of straight accumulation built up on the opposite side of the house.

I let Delilah hang out with me while I worked, but by the time I moved to the back, she just stood at the door staring inside. It looked like she was hoping someone in there would notice and rescue her from the cold. I gave in and walked her around to let her in the front door.

Then she barked at me for the noise I was making on the roof.

Delilah got to have a real canine adventure Friday night when we took our last walk of the evening while the snowstorm was underway. While she had her nose in the snow investigating something that caught her attention, I spotted a field mouse skittering along on top of the snow.

By the time I got Delilah’s attention to come after it, the critter disappeared below the snow again. As Delilah hunted around near that spot, the mouse popped up right beside me and resumed its sprint to escape all this attention.

That was a fatal mistake. There is now one less field mouse roaming the ranch this winter and Delilah is feeling like quite the successful hunter.

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Written by johnwhays

January 20, 2020 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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Getting Out

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I’m burnin’ daylight, what little there is today. I have a full day of work ahead of me clearing snow and entertaining the “every-hour-I-need-attention” canine. I need to make this post short and get outside to shovel, plow, rake, and shovel again. Oh, and I need to reattach the mailbox, as usual.

The plow had only made its first pass by the time Delilah and I made our way down to the road to find the mailbox tossed down into the ditch. I won’t bother reattaching it until the plow passes one more time to clear snow off the shoulder.

Do you think this will inspire me to install a “plow-proof” mount that swings away? Probably not. I’ve toiled seven years already like this, so I suspect the most I might do is take another crack at erecting a legal obstruction to deflect the force of the snow spray away from the vulnerable surface of the mailbox.

At least the plastic sliding grooves are designed such that the box just pops off the base each time, so it can be replaced again with relative ease.

Time to go outside and play!

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Written by johnwhays

January 18, 2020 at 9:54 am

Weather Coming

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We’ve been warned that a major winter storm is on the way, so after work yesterday I did some preparatory plowing. All week long we’ve been getting small amounts of snow. Too little to warrant clearing each day, but enough that by yesterday it had added up to deserve attention, especially if we could get almost a foot more in the next two days.

I needed to push the old snow back far enough to create room for the oodles of new snow the National Weather Service has been warning us about for days.

While the weather is coming, Cyndie is going. She leaves for Florida today to spend a couple of weeks with her parents.

Looks like she picked a good time to be flying south.

If the predictions are accurate, I suspect I will spend the first weekend of her absence clearing snow.

Ready, or not, here comes some weather.

 

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Written by johnwhays

January 17, 2020 at 7:00 am

Productive Avalanche

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It occurs to me that a key reason I become excited enough about a product to proselytize to others about its features is when my initial disbelief is dashed by a performance that actually meets what was advertised. When I first saw roof rakes for removing snow by the use of a plastic sheet, I figured theory wouldn’t be able to live up to the challenges of reality.

I’ve raked a lot of snow off a fair number of roofs. Conditions are rarely ideal. I doubted the advertised ease of sliding the snow down on a plastic sheet. Oh my, it comes down so well I was almost knocked down by it.

When we were replacing boards on our deck a few months ago, I discovered a disconcerting amount of granules from our shingles on the ground below. It was enough to get me to take a chance on trying out this different technique.

Enter the Avalanche roof rake!

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From the clean and simple design, making it easy to assemble and use, to the speed and ease with which I brought down blocks of snow, the Avalanche roof rake has earned my highest praise. The only thing I can’t testify to after this first use is the longevity of that plastic sheet.

I abused it a fair amount in my attempts to navigate our angles and the existing icy edges. It folded and twisted multiple times, which experience tells me is potentially damaging.

Knowing our roof presented angles that would be problematic for the plastic sheet technique, I elected to order a second option, the Deluxe Rake head, which swaps out easily. This is basically the same as my old aluminum rake, but with the added feature of rollers that keep it from scraping directly on the granules of the asphalt shingles.

Yesterday’s first use proved to be an excellent test, as the condition of snow and ice on our roof was as bad as ever, due to the significant rainfall we suffered prior to an accumulation of snow at the end of November.

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If you look closely at the picture on the right above, it is possible to see there is a base layer of frozen snow beneath the deeper powder on top. It took the Deluxe head to break that up enough for me to pull it down. I also needed to use that head to drag the valleys between our two main roof surfaces.

The combination of the two options worked perfectly to accomplish the job well and did so with much less wear and tear on our shingles.

I got half of the roof done yesterday, and will be out today to finish the other side of the house. One thing I learned is that I should move the ladder farther back from the roof. While using the plastic sheet from where I was positioned yesterday, I got a face-full of snow shooting down at me in the worst way.

It’s a thrill to have so much snow coming down off the roof so quickly, but not all that great when it is hitting you right in the face.

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Written by johnwhays

December 15, 2019 at 11:05 am

More Snow

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Believe it or not, we spent most of the day yesterday clearing snow!

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Remember the Martin house? Before and after…

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Cyndie likes to shovel a path to the chicken coop so the hens have an easy path to get to their favorite spot under the overhang with the horses. They are spoiled living such a cushy life here with us.

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The day started with snow showers, but around noon the clouds moved out and provided an afternoon of melting under bright sunlight. The snow on the hay shed was losing the battle to gravity, in very slow motion. The snow on the chicken coop was losing the battle with the high March sunshine.

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Here is a before and after view of the labyrinth. We’re going to need to strap on the snowshoes and retrace our steps again.

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Written by johnwhays

March 11, 2019 at 6:00 am

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 Everywhere

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This story holds no surprises. There was so much snow to be cleared from our driveway and paths and roof top, that it consumed our attention from the moment we woke up yesterday. We are now dealing with the most snow since we moved here in 2012.

We are devising new ways to pile snow, finding new places to push it, and sacrificing non-essential spaces that were previously cleared. When you can no longer lift it over the pile, you start pushing it up against the pile.

Preparations actually started last week, when we received around 9 inches on Wednesday. I had to plow in such a way as to make room for what we already knew was coming this weekend.

Saturday, we tried building a snow screen out of the netting of an old hay feeder bag and three t-posts, to soften the blow our mailbox suffers when the township plow zooms past.

It didn’t work.

Well, maybe it worked a little bit. The mailbox still popped off the base, but now that I think about it, instead of flying far into the ditch, it just flopped over behind the post.

It didn’t start snowing until after dark Saturday night, but Cyndie said it was coming down pretty heavily when she took Delilah out for her last walk of the night. When I got up in the wee hours of the morning, the wind was whipping the snow to the point it completely covered the screen door to the deck so I couldn’t guess how much new snow had fallen to that point.

By the time daylight arrived, new snow had stopped falling. The remaining flakes still airborne were being blown by the gale force winds, occasionally forming mini-tornado spirals, and carving sweeping waves of curving drifts.

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I’m pretty sure we are going to remember the record-setting amount of snow that fell in February, 2019 for many years.

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Written by johnwhays

February 25, 2019 at 7:00 am

Clearing Snow

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It’s all my fault. That additional 1-inch of snow being forecast to fall overnight tonight is, I’m sure, a result of my completely finishing the job of plowing and shoveling our driveway, as well as the gravel drive around the barn, the path to the compost area, the roadway around the pasture fence, and finally, the deck of the house.

I even made a little path for the chickens to get to the barn overhang where Cyndie has placed a heated water supply for them.

Not that they are using it all that much. The Buff never made it as far as the barn, choosing to stay nestled in the woods just beyond their coop.

It’s time to rearrange things in the coop to create space for the heated waterer in there, so we can finally make use of the electric outlet we worked so hard to install over the summer.

I’ll have plenty of time to do that today, since I did two-days-worth of chores yesterday. After clearing snow, I loaded the barn with enough hay to feed the horses for a week. With doors on the hay shed now, and to reduce time for Cyndie working out in the cold, it’s just that much more convenient to have bales available in the barn.

We don’t store hay there permanently, because it’s too dusty an environment. Small amounts, for a short span of days, works well enough. While hauling bales yesterday, I was enjoying the fact that this year we aren’t dealing with any hay the horses don’t like. We are down to bales from two different suppliers, both of which the herd willingly consumes.

It’s a much more satisfying experience.

Today, I will savor the freshly cleared grounds before the next nuisance accumulation of snow arrives to mess things up. Maybe I should look into a broom attachment to use whenever there isn’t enough snow to justify plowing.

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It’s not so much that I fear the light coatings are hazardous, though it can become so. The first significant snowfall this year occurred as a mixture of rain turning to snow, a situation that is not that uncommon. Unfortunately, it freezes a crusty layer to surfaces that is very resistant to removal, and sometimes slippery.

Basically, for me, leaving fallen snow on walking or driving surfaces is just bad Feng Shui. It radiates an aura of neglect that eats at my sense of order.

The best solution is to have it fall in greater amounts. If it is going to snow, then let’s get a good few inches at a time, in the very least.

I tell ya, if I ran the world…

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Written by johnwhays

December 10, 2017 at 8:42 am