Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘plowing

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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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

Necessity Invents

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I was running out of options, in regard to clearing snow. In addition to the advancing drifts narrowing the bottom half of our driveway, we are facing the possibility of more heavy, wet snow this coming weekend. If I don’t open up some space, the next snowfall would really be a pain to clear.

Necessity being the mother of invention, I needed to figure out a way to open more width along the rise where the drifting occurs.

It was tedious, but using the most available tool –our Grizzly plow– I decided to make a series of 45-degree pushes in little “bites” to move the bank out wider. In the first 20 feet, I got stuck twice, and needed to shovel my way out.

Getting hung up like that was not going to cut it, if I was going to finish this project all at once. I needed to alter my technique.

I decided to skip ahead to focus on the narrowest section first. If getting stuck was going to keep me from getting very far, I should at the very least widen the narrowest portion of the plowed driveway.

I can’t say it was any particular savvy on my part, other than recognizing what was happening, but my switch to a new spot arbitrarily reversed my direction so that I was cutting into the snow bank from the opposite angle. In so doing, I ended up pushing first with the skinny side of the plow blade.

It quickly became apparent that this orientation facilitated backing out, while coming from the other direction was getting me hung up on the wide end of the blade.

I didn’t get stuck once finishing the rest of that whole southern stretch of the driveway.

John – 1; Drifts – 0.

I win!

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Written by johnwhays

March 6, 2019 at 7:00 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

Evolving Perspective

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I do it every year. At the beginning of the snow season, when I plow and shovel snow, I take great care to maintain order. On the gravel, I lift the blade to avoid pushing rocks far into the grass, in hope of saving my mower blades extra abuse in the summer.

By the house, I pile the snow away from the swinging bench and brush the snow off the seat to create an inviting place to sit and watch the activities of birds and squirrels.

There is a reason for every decision, and order abounds.

By February, the importance of those decisions has shifted significantly, and the new focus is on moving snow at any cost. The rocks are an unfortunate consequence of the newer priority of just getting this snow out-of-the-way. The bench becomes a place to store snow, not a place to sit.

It is my perspective that has changed about what the value of these things are. I care about some details up to a point, and then I no longer care.

I had the ladder out yesterday, scraping the latest covering of blown and fallen snow off the edges of the roof. It’s a laborious effort, balancing on my arches on that narrow rung of the ladder, while holding my arms over my shoulders to maneuver the rake on the end of the three 4-foot aluminum pole sections. Back and forth, reaching up, pulling back.

While taking a pause to rest, I became mesmerized by the steam rising off the roof where the sun was heating up the dark shingles. It was well below freezing, yet that solar energy was melting the snow as fast as ever.

I pulled out my pocket camera in hopes of capturing the wonder of the phenomena that had so captured my fancy that I was happy to remain even longer on that precarious perch, soaking up the scene.

I have no idea how I also captured the corner of my sleeve. How did it even reach up into the frame? It doesn’t make much sense to me.

Notice how the impact of the angle of solar intensity is evident by the melt occurring on the right, versus the roof slope on the left.

Most of the year, I would fret over physical abuse to the shingles, but this time of year my perspective has evolved. I’m willing to drag metal across the granules of shingle in order to remove that insulating layer of snow that will create ice dams that lead to bigger problems.

I am not one to rigidly cling to a single way of seeing most things. Everything is always undergoing change, including my perspective.

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Written by johnwhays

February 16, 2019 at 10:47 am

What Else?

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There is nothing else for me to write about today. Our everything this weekend is buried by this April snow storm event. Twenty four hours after the last picture I posted yesterday, the view doesn’t look all that different.

We got pummeled by windblown snow all day long. I think our total accumulation is somewhat reduced by periods of tiny, sleety snowflakes that dropped straight down from the sky between the blustering gusts of blizzard winds. The drifting snow on the ground is very dense.

It looks like a little more accumulation, viewed on the deck where I shoveled a path to the rack of firewood.

The classic comma spiral of the storm, visible on the national radar composite, is providing us a little break from heavy precipitation this morning.

Just like the eye of a hurricane, the calm won’t last.

We could yet have a significant accumulation blanketing us after the back side of the storm makes its way slowly east.

I can’t remember, did the ground-hog see his shadow or not, back in February?

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Written by johnwhays

April 15, 2018 at 10:11 am

So Much

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What a difference a day makes. On Monday, the storm was inundating us with so much snow that we struggled to deal with it. The intensity created an impression that it might never end. Yesterday, if it weren’t for the huge amount of snow now covering everything, it was as if the storm had never happened. It’s like the drama of Monday was just a dream.

Yesterday, the interstate was almost dry, the sun was out, and visibility was crystal clear.

When I got home from work, I had to immediately pick up where I had left of with the plowing on Monday. After a few quick passes up and down the driveway to clear the couple of inches that had fallen overnight, I focused my attention on clearing the area around the hay shed and barn.

It was a laborious and tedious process of wrestling the Grizzly through deep snow, on the icy slope dropping from the driveway to the barn. I got stuck several times, but scrambled my way out each time by some crazy maneuvering back and forth, to and fro.

Other than some cleanup needed around the edges with a shovel, I’m declaring the driveways now complete.

You know that clean deck I was showing off a week or so ago?

That will be the next project. The wind didn’t blow it clean this time.

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Written by johnwhays

January 24, 2018 at 7:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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Big Dump

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Winter decided to dump a big snowfall on us over a very short amount of time yesterday. I knew it was going to be enough that I should get out in the middle of it to plow at least once before it was all over, but I wasn’t sure when that would be.

It took longer than we expected for the snowfall to start, and then the accumulation built rather slowly to about 2 inches. The next time I glanced outside from my perch by the fire, that amount had more than doubled. It was time to get out and plow or else it would be too late for my plan of working with reasonable amounts of snow.

As it was, the Grizzly ATV, as a snow plow, was just barely capable of the task. The first thing I did was get it buried and stuck sideways off the edge of the pavement where all four wheels just spun on the icy layer below. I needed to dig out all the snow packed underneath it, and then spin those tires until I gradually slid sideways enough to become mobile again.

After that, I decided to stay focused on just opening up the main driveway as wide as I could get it. The Grizzly does not command full control when trying to push large amounts of snow. The snow pushes back and tends to dictate what progress can be made.

I tried making more passes, while taking smaller bites with the blade each time, but the outer edges just grew unwieldy and the snow rolled back down behind me, such that I wasn’t really gaining much added width.

In the areas of tight confines, we resorted to hand shoveling, which allowed me to toss the snow up over the massive banks that quickly developed.

The snow was coming down at peak rates of multiple inches per hour while we worked, covering our tracks as fast as we made them, but every shovel width made was that much less snow I would need to move by the end of the storm. Cyndie was working up around the house and I was by the shop garage.

I watched the county plow truck make two passes in front of our property which meant there was going to be a new pile at the end of the driveway to clean up. Cyndie headed to the barn to put the horses in for the night and I finished cleaning edges where she had shoveled.

Cold, wet, and tired, I was ready for a break, but I noticed the falling snow had slowed considerably. It would be dark soon and there were already three fresh inches on the driveway in the hour-and-a-half since I first plowed.

I started up the ATV again and cleaned the driveway a second time. Of course, doing so throws snow in a couple spots that need to then be cleaned up by hand shoveling. My gloves were soaked through and I so wanted to be done, but there was a dog waiting anxiously to be let out for her afternoon walk.

Make that “run.” Delilah dragged me along as fast as I could trot as we headed down the plowed driveway while she searched for any opening to explore. There were none. It was down the driveway and back, except for a couple surprising leaps into the deep snow that she quickly aborted.

I measured 9 inches while shoveling, and I could see we got at least 3 more by the time I plowed the second time. It fell hard and fast all afternoon. I definitely made the right decision to stay home yesterday. That was a really big dump.

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Written by johnwhays

January 23, 2018 at 7:00 am

Sub-zero Sun

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One thing about really cold winter days, they tend to be very bright with sunshine. As I mentioned yesterday, the wind kept most of our deck clear of accumulation, even though I bet we received around 2 to 3 inches.

Since the precipitation started as a foggy drizzle before the temperature dropped back below freezing, surfaces received an icy glaze for a base coat.

When conditions changed to wind-blown snow, instead of accumulating on the deck, it acted as more of a polishing agent.

I failed at making an indoor nap the primary accomplishment of my day yesterday. There was a mess of snow that drifted on our front walkway which needed to be cleared, so I used that as an excuse to force myself up and out into the Arctic air. One thing led to another and I kept working my way along the driveway in front of the garage doors.

At that point, I couldn’t stop myself from getting out the Grizzly and plowing the full length of the driveway.

In the grand scheme of winter plowing, it wasn’t my best effort, but it will do for now. The surface is a frozen mess of layers from the changing conditions of the last month or two. We’ve packed down countless minor dustings by driving over it until it becomes a solid slippery coating, after which a warm spell turned some of it to pure ice and other areas to a slushy series of tire tracks.

The subsequent plunge in temperature has locked all of this up tight and then firmly filled in the crevices with wind-blown snow.

The plow blade basically bounced around and over the frozen pathway, as opposed to cleaning it down to the asphalt.

We’ve got plenty of sub-zero sun shining down, but it isn’t going to improve the surface of our driveway any. That will require the next wave of warm Pacific air when the jet stream shifts again, which forecasts hint could be just a week away.

There’s never a dull moment in our Wintervale weather adventure land lottery.

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Written by johnwhays

January 13, 2018 at 10:28 am