Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘plowing

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

Fresh Snow

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While hiking with Delilah on our trails in the freshly fallen snow, I noticed this uncharacteristic specimen hanging about head-high on a tree.

Maybe the handiwork of some ingenious squirrel?

When we emerged from the woods and continued around the perimeter of our pastures, I caught sight of three of the horses standing out in the open. Only Mix appeared to have enough sense to stay under the overhang. I’ve never understood why horses choose to stand out in the rain or snow when they have the option of cover available.

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Mix was still a little wet, so she hadn’t spent all of her time sheltered.

Thus far, all four horses appear to be coping well with the winter weather we have been experiencing, but the real test comes next. We are expecting a cold spell for a few days that threatens to go below zero (F) at some point.

I went out late last night to plow before the temperature dropped too much for comfort. Clearing snow in the limited illumination of the ATV headlights is an imperfect science. I’ll find out this morning if I missed some spots. Not that I plan to spend much time racing around on the four-wheeler to finish cleaning up when it’s wickedly cold out.

This is “stay indoors and work on jigsaw puzzles” weather.

If we are lucky, Cyndie will return from her mom’s today and it will get a little more festive around here. I’ve been alone since the day after Christmas and the isolation is starting to get old, especially coming on the heels of all the socializing of the holiday gatherings.

Cyndie and her brothers have been working to move furnishings to her mom’s new residence in the Friendship Village community and clean up and stage the old residence for filming by the realty company. That meant immediately stashing any and all Christmas decorations. I wasn’t surprised when Cyndie’s plan for a one-night overnight mushroomed into three nights away.

Too bad I can’t bring the horses inside the house to keep me company and get them out of the cold.

They’d probably prefer to go out and stand on the deck, anyway.

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Written by johnwhays

December 29, 2021 at 7:00 am

Cold Enough

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How many days have I been writing about this latest cold spell? Don’t answer that. I don’t want to know.  I naively suspected the cold wouldn’t last unusually long, but I was wrong. According to the latest update of the forecast, not only will our cold spell be continuing, it is anticipated that it will bite even deeper this weekend than last.

The week of minor flurries and consistent wind slowly served to fill the edges of our plowed driveway with growing drifts to the point I needed to scrape them back last night.

The sides are soon reaching the limits of my blade’s ability to roll them over. I expect the next accumulation will result in a narrower overall width. At least we have made it to the second week of February. Winter is almost over, isn’t it? Don’t answer that.

I’ve lived long enough to know better than to get my hopes up about that.

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Written by johnwhays

February 11, 2021 at 7:00 am

Posted in Chronicle

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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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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