Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘plowing snow

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

Worst Combination

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I’ve been dreading this possibility for months. The worst combination of plowable amounts of snow falling before the ground is thoroughly frozen played out yesterday right before our eyes. The unfinished shoulders of our new driveway are too soft to support driving on them, let alone scraping them with a plow blade.

Since we didn’t receive a huge amount of snow by the end of the day yesterday, I’m contemplating just pushing what snow there is to the edge of the asphalt to create small snow banks over the existing shoulder. Before the banks freeze too hard, I might try flattening them enough to create a base layer over which I could drive and plow after future snowfalls.

In the beginning moments of accumulation yesterday morning, I headed outside to clean leaves off the pavement in front of the shop. It’s a job I intended to do a week ago but a certain person’s emergency and follow-up surgery have disrupted a lot of the before-snow plans we had hoped to fulfill.

Nothing like raking leaves that are already getting covered by snow. By the end of the day, the area in the picture became a parking spot for my car. I moved my car out of the garage so I could put Marie’s car under a roof. If the snow lets up today or tomorrow, it will save me from needing to scrape windows if she decides to brave the winter driving back to her place in Minnesota.

With the two of us watching over Cyndie, the metal-jointed woman has been making pretty good progress managing her pain and healing her incisions. With Marie running the kitchen, I have been freed up to take the dog outside and to keep the horses well-fed.

And now, I’m adding the role of chief snow shoveler to my other primary duties.

🎶 It’s beginning to feel a lot like… winter.

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Written by johnwhays

November 15, 2022 at 7:00 am

First Paths

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Following a new blanket of snow, the next phase could be called “first paths.” As Delilah and I emerged from the woods behind the back pasture yesterday morning, the first thing I noticed was the few very specific routes a horse or horses traveled into the smooth covering of new snow.

I wasn’t able to capture it all in a photo but took a couple of sample shots anyway.

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This is one of those cases where the naked eye can absorb the full expanse of the landscape in a way the camera cannot. However, if I had a drone I’m pretty sure I could have come close.

Turning around to look back in the direction from which we had just come, you can visualize Delilah prancing along beside me as we forged each of our own ways through the deep powder.

After breakfast, I needed to finish the plowing that I had started the night before. It was both easy and difficult all at the same time. The snow was light and dry, making it easy to plow and shovel, but there was so much of it that it became difficult to manage with my little ATV plow blade.

A snowblower would have been a handy tool in this case. I have avoided that purchase decision for many years but the subject comes up more and more as we age.

To clear the areas in front of the barn and around the hay shed when there is so much snow becomes an almost endless iteration of shifting from forward to backward. I push forward with the blade overflowing, going as far as I can into the pile from the last time it was plowed, and then back up so I can make another pass beside the one just prior.

The engine revs, then pauses while the plow blade is lifted. The engine revs again as the ATV backs up. I generally don’t notice the noise because I’m focused on the task at hand but I get the feeling the sound of that on and off throttling would drive me nuts if I wasn’t the one driving.

I tend to wonder if the horses find it completely annoying but they made it pretty clear yesterday that it doesn’t bother them a bit.

While I was revving the engine over and over, Mix and Swings decided to take a little nap. Maybe the engine’s repetitive up and down droning is something they find soothing. They probably fall asleep during long car rides, too.

Speaking of first paths, if you look closely at that last shot, you see how much they’ve already pounded down the snow in the paddock while making just a few treks out into the hayfield. You can also see a skinny trail coming out of the paddock that was probably made by a neighbor cat who frequently visits.

New snow is so much fun for the vivid evidence of travel paths it exposes.

Yeah. Remind me about that next time I start whining about needing to plow and shovel it all.

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Written by johnwhays

February 24, 2022 at 7:00 am

Lingering Shock

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Honestly, I still don’t believe what just happened in the few days I endeavored to find a new road e-bike to replace my old reliable, familiar, and truly simple touring bike of twenty years. Rapidly changing from thinking my preferred choice wouldn’t be available for a year to being told the only one (the perfect one) available in the country was less than an hour’s drive away has rattled my sensibilities.

Cyndie has picked up on my excitement and happily agreed to let me bring it inside the house to devour the manual and familiarize myself with the complexities of all the features that are entirely new to me.

In addition to having never had battery-powered motor assistance in a bike, I have no experience with brake lever shifting, disc brakes, or a carbon frame. Plus, I’m feeling a surprisingly powerful compulsion to simply gaze at the spectacle of so much technical engineering packaged in such a functional work of cycling artistry.

In a phenomenal comment on yesterday’s post, John Hopkins perfectly captured the purity of my experience, before I even realized it’s what was happening:

Funny how intimately personal bikes are (to bikers), and when you hit on one, it’s a huge jolt of energy and pleasure that goes on pleasing every time one saddles up, or in many cases, each time one merely ‘looks’ at the fine machine!

It being the depth of winter, I am suffering the lack of opportunity to get out immediately to ride. Yesterday, I didn’t even have time to tinker with moving pedals from my old bike to the new one because there was snow to be plowed and hay bales to be stacked.

Hay delivery was confirmed for the morning so I was pressed to get the driveway cleared of Friday’s snowfall quickly so the trailer of hay could be trucked in without complication. Delilah had us up earlier than usual so we got a head start on feeding horses and eating our own breakfast. That put me back outside and plowing with plenty of time to make extra passes around the hay shed to create as wide a path as possible for the incoming delivery.

Hoping to give Delilah a walk around the property before I got tied up throwing bales, we made it to the far side of the pastures when I spotted the truck come over the hill. Cutting our usual route short, I directed Delilah under the bottom wire of the electric fence and I hopped over at the gate to trudge through the snowy field to meet our supplier, Chris.

In a blink, they were tossing bales down and I found myself struggling to keep pace while carrying on an engaging exploratory conversation typical of two people who just met.

Three quarters through the load, my exclamations clued Chris in that I could use a break. He gladly called for a pause and grabbed himself a drink to sit and maintain our pleasant chat. It occurred to me I hadn’t stopped moving since breakfast.

By the time we finished, I was soaked in sweat and exhausted. Later, Cyndie and I cleaned up around the paddocks and packed the two hay boxes with the loose scraps of broken bales that came apart during handling.

At the end of the day, the only energy I had for the new bike was to look at it longingly.

Going forward, I think I will also find myself looking longingly at the pavement of our roads, anxiously waiting for the day they become dry enough I feel comfortable for a maiden voyage on my new pride and joy.

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Written by johnwhays

January 16, 2022 at 11:30 am

Snow Coming

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I’m usually grateful to have advanced notice of coming weather, but sometimes I don’t like knowing we are about to receive large amounts of heavy, wet snow in April.

The snow is predicted to come in a narrow band, so it could shift a little, but we are located perilously close to the highest risk of seeing 6 or more inches of snowfall. Look to the right of the letter “e” in the word Moderate, just above Red Wing. Oh, joy.

I spent yesterday tinkering with the slowly developing berm we are constructing at the edge of our property where the neighboring cultivated farm field drains onto our land. It’s been 2-and-a-half years since we installed the latest version of erosion fencing and much of that has filled with so much topsoil the fabric is laying almost flat in some places.

Granted, the following photos were taken at different seasons, late summer vs. early spring, but the difference is rather striking.

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The bales obviously disintegrate. Progress that may not be evident can be found in the number of volunteer plants that have taken root and naturally help to hold soil in place. The thing is, though, that helps to hold our soil from eroding, but we still get large flows of the neighbor’s topsoil washing over our property.

If I can get the berm established enough to pool his runoff, it will serve as a natural replacement for the Polypropylene fabric and, most important to my sensibilities, be a less unsightly barrier.

I have found the use of gnarly dead branches that are too big for my chipper makes for great starter material in establishing a natural barrier. The highly fertilized runoff tends to fuel thick growth of tall grasses that ultimately create a tangled wall of live plants weaving through dead wood.

Looks like I’ll have a fresh opportunity Monday to see how my latest upgrade to the barrier yesterday will impact the drainage of many inches of melting snow.

Wouldn’t you know it, I changed the tires on the ATV yesterday to swap out the aggressive treaded winter tires for plowing snow, with the smoother treads of summer tires that are kinder to our land.

I could be in for a complex day tomorrow of clearing heavy, wet snow that will be a big problem for a day or two, and then melt. Then we can get on with spring, which is on the verge of swiftly getting sprung.

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Written by johnwhays

April 11, 2020 at 9:20 am

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

Plowing Challenge

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Last Sunday, when we left home in Beldenville to drive to Edina for a few days, it was raining outside.

On Monday, the precipitation turned to snow. In Edina, the accumulation was about four or five inches. On Tuesday, Cyndie texted our current animal sitter and asked if she would stop by our place to check on the chickens and Pequenita. The answer was yes, but after she arrived we received a report that there was too much snow for her to drive up the driveway. She walked the quarter-mile up to the house.

That triggered me into action and I drove home to plow.

There was 6.5 inches of snow up by the house, maybe an inch more farther out in the open. It was the most snow at one time that I have needed to plow so far this year. Between the large amount of snow and the icy coating beneath it, I needed to get a little creative about plowing angles. There was a fair amount of time spent sliding sideways as the wheels spun when I attempted to back up after pushing snow all the way off the edge of the paved surface.

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It was a beautiful day to be outside working in the snow, but I needed to get cleaned up and drive right back to Edina so Cyndie and I could attend a New Year’s Eve party with friends who invited us at the last minute when they learned we were in town.

I had successfully managed to drive my Crosstrek all the way from the road to the house without getting stuck, but I didn’t think to clean the snow out of the wheels after I pulled into the garage.

The return trip to Cyndie’s parent’s house was like driving on a washboard because of vibration from the wheels being a little out of balance. On the plus side, it gave my voice a great vibrato when singing along with my music the whole way back to Edina.

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Written by johnwhays

January 2, 2020 at 7:00 am

Playing Plumber

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Picking up where things left off Saturday night, I started Sunday with a trip to Hudson to pick up the new kitchen faucet fixtures I bought online the night before. Around twelve hours after discovering the problem of dripping water beneath the sink, I was driving home with the solution in my possession. What a luxury to have such easy access to the specific items we seek.

For all the times I grump about the problems related to over-consumerism in society, I do benefit from the conveniences offered.

However, despite all the benefits of readily available goods, the faucet still didn’t install itself. This morning my body is a little stiff and sore from playing plumber for the hours spent figuring out how to dismantle the old leaky parts and then reversing the process to install the new set.

Much to my great satisfaction, the details of this plumbing project were all within my ability to deduce and execute, despite having little experience with plumbing.

Twice, I was able to get a little extra practice by doing things over after discovering I had made errors. The whole time I was working on this project, I thought the line with the drippy shutoff valve was the cold water supply, so when I did the initial flow test, I discovered I’d connected the lines wrong.

Easy to fix, so with only that single trip to the hardware store, I completed the sink project in time for lunch.

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That left me the afternoon to suffer clearing some of the most un-fun snow ever that was the result of Saturday’s rain and the following flakes that relentlessly continued to blow across our land off and on since.

Both shovel and plow were only half a match for the underlayer of frozen crunch that sometimes popped free with ease, but more often stayed welded to the ground below. Trying to clean it all up was a relatively thankless task, which made it easy to retreat from the battle after a minimum effort and seek a few moments of chill in the easy chair before Sunday was completely over.

I thoroughly enjoyed washing my hands at the kitchen sink when I got in.

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Written by johnwhays

December 2, 2019 at 7:00 am

Double Duty

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This is becoming an all too frequent unwelcome occurrence. We had another tree succumb to high winds. This time it wasn’t in the woods, but right along the driveway during last Wednesday’s storm. When the look of winter arrived with a blast of 8 inches of heavy, wet blowing snow, it forced us into the double duty of cutting up the big pine across the driveway before I could plow.

Wind gusts were reaching 40 mph which turned out to be too much for the roots to hold that big beast.

Cyndie asked if we should use it for this year’s Christmas tree. I probably did a poor job of hiding my exasperation when I said she could if she was able to lift it.

Once we were in the middle of cutting it up and she discovered how big it really was, she understood my reluctance.

After I cut the trunk about halfway up, she pondered taking just the top portion. Again, I said that would be fine if she could lift it, knowing full well it was still too much tree.

Fortunately, the very top had split into two competing leaders, which made it an unappealing option when we reached a size that would be barely manageable.

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I offered her the alternative option of saving boughs for making a wreath or other decorative holiday arrangements. That met with her approval. No sense having all that wonderful pine scent going to waste.

Of course, this being a healthy live tree when it was pushed over, there was plenty of fresh, sticky sap to make a wonderful mess of her gloves and everything else around, including her hair by the time she was done moving things around.

An hour and a half later, I was able to start the plowing process, which was no picnic due to the stickiness of the snow. It kept sticking to the plow blade and hindered the winch’s ability to lift the blade. This being the first snowplowing of the season, I needed to establish an extra width by pushing the edges well past the end of the pavement to allow space for subsequent snow events.

I was moderately successful. We may have an opportunity to test this by tomorrow as we are due to get another comparable blast of wind and snow tonight.

Something tells me this is going to feel like a very long winter. Hopefully, I won’t be facing the double duty of lumberjack and plow driver all at the same time again.

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Written by johnwhays

November 30, 2019 at 10:26 am

Giving Up

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To heck with keeping up, I’m ready to give up. The snow-pocalypse of February wins. I can only endure so much, and it turns out, unending accumulation of plow-able amounts of snow in close succession is more than my fragile mind can handle.

It takes a certain mental discipline to clear the quarter-mile of driveway from the house to the road, then around the hay shed and in front of the barn, when the snow is falling fast enough to cover your progress as fast as you make it.

That’s alright. After the year when I waited until the snow was absolutely stopped before plowing, and there was too much for even my big tractor to clear, I learned that it would be smarter to plow whenever we get 5 or 6 inches, even if it was still snowing.

But it is very rare that it would take more than two sessions of plowing. Until now.

I am officially drained of my stoic Northland resilience. Is this one of the ways that zombies are created? I am but a shell of my former self. In the fading light of day, I found myself stumbling up the driveway from the barn, dragging a shovel behind me, while the snow continued to fall.

There is no space to push more snow. At the end of the day yesterday, the wind started to pick up and create drifts. Of all times for us to need more gas, it happens in the heart of a big snowstorm.

I stayed home from work yesterday, and the highlight of the day for me was that I wasn’t driving my car on snowy roads. Then I needed gas. Out I ventured onto the drifted roads in my car, frowning.

This battle all played out after I had spent the early part of the day raking snow off the roof, and then needing to shovel the giant mound from our front steps.

It was exhausting work, but when I finished, it seemed like the snow was letting up, inspiring me to move on to the plowing. I even saw a glimpse of a bright yellow circle in the sky, through the clouds for a few seconds.

It didn’t last. Halfway through plowing, the rate of snowfall picked up dramatically. That was pretty much the point that my brain threw in the towel.

The rest of the plowing was devoid of my usual attention to detail.

There are options that would serve to remedy my problem of having nowhere to push more snow: a snowblower attachment, for one.

Visiting Cyndie’s parents in Florida for several months is another possibility. I wonder if they would mind if we brought all our animals along.

I think the horses and chickens are all about as done with falling snow as I am.

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Written by johnwhays

February 13, 2019 at 7:00 am