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

Posts Tagged ‘shoveling snow

Pushing Snowbanks

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Just have a couple things to share before I rush off to catch the next episode of our latest binge-watch. Cyndie and I randomly chose “Suspicion” on Apple TV+ a few days ago with no advance information about the show. We are nearing the end and find ourselves struggling to explain what seems like plot holes to us. We keep wanting to see another episode to find out if the things we are questioning end up making sense once all is revealed. Maybe not the best reason to get hooked on a story, but it works for us during winter months when Cyndie can’t do much else.

We are being warned by weather forecasters that seriously cold temperatures are headed our way this weekend and could linger for almost two weeks. Under Cyndie’s wise counsel, I put blankets on the horses yesterday while their coats were good and dry. Snow was predicted overnight and that contributed to my decision to put blankets on yesterday even though it was a nice sunny day.

I took some time in the afternoon to shovel the shoulder of a section of the driveway to push back the snowbank. It feels really rewarding to reclaim the full width of the pavement (on one side, at least) and to open the way for easy plowing of the next big snowfall.

We had a dusting of just under an inch of snow on Wednesday. I’m actually hoping there will be enough new snow out there this morning to justify plowing. I’m looking forward to seeing how much of an improvement clearing snow will be where I’ve pushed back the snowbank.

Since the shoveling is a little tedious, I had plenty of time to ponder how I could collaborate with my welder to create an offset plow blade that would hang off the back of the ATV to push the snowbank back a few feet. If it were even possible to do, the Grizzly would likely not have enough traction to knock back the snow on uphill portions of the drive. It is hard enough to push away snow with my front plow going up the hills.

An offset back blade could work on the downhill runs I bet, though.

Yesterday’s picture was of how the sun looked first thing in the morning through the low clouds. By evening, the setting sun was painting a much more vibrant set of colors.

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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

No Break

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Even on a day when no snow fell from the sky, snow fell and I needed to shovel. I can’t catch a break.

The roof of the shop garage is not a concern for ice dams so I don’t pull snow off with a roof rake. However, it is a metal roof and the snow eventually slides off on its own. After the rain and warm temperatures of the past few days, the thick blanket of snow began moving enough that a large amount broke off and covered the cement apron in front of the garage door.

Since we are under a storm warning for a possible 5-9 inches of new snow today, I felt it prudent to shovel the mound in front of the garage before it got buried with even more snow. I need to be able to get the ATV out to plow.

I enjoyed a wonderful surprise yesterday morning after I got in from feeding horses and doing some of that shoveling. Cyndie tried out a recipe for Welsh cakes after seeing them made on one of the episodes of “Welcome to Wrexham.”

They were fabulous! The recipe called for currants, but she made additional batches with dried cranberries and some with golden raisins. It took me extra effort to stop eating them before I overdid it. What a treat!

I’m a lucky guy that Cyndie is so adventurous when it comes to food prep.

Maybe today I will eat leftover Welsh cakes while watching our next episode-binge of the documentary series, between the hours I’m outside shoveling away the new snow accumulation. For a guy who hasn’t been able to catch a break lately, that would be a welcome break from working outside while the winter storm is delivering its punches.

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Written by johnwhays

January 19, 2023 at 7:00 am

Wintervale Road

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In a day-long deja vu yesterday, it felt a bit like pushing a rock up a hill to repeat everything I accomplished the day before, plowing and shoveling to clear snow from the driveway and walkways. I’m thinking I should change the way I think about that 900-foot ribbon of pavement between the road and our house. It’s more like a road than a driveway. I have christened it, “Wintervale Road.”

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The snowbanks along the edges have officially reached a height too high for my ATV plow blade to spray snow into the ditch. Now the chunks of snow just roll back onto the driveway road behind me.

We aren’t expecting additional snow in the next week, so I catch a break there, but it doesn’t look like temperatures will be warm enough to melt down any of the mountains of snow that have piled up.

I did a little experimenting with knocking down the snowbanks using a hand shovel. It was easier than I anticipated to accomplish good progress but the reality remains that it’s a long road to be doing it by hand. However, in the summer, we worked on pulling up the gravel along the shoulder by hand for the entire 900-foot length, so it’s not something that is beyond my way of making incremental progress.

There remains plenty to be done before I can even think about chipping away on that task. I need to pull the snow off our roof, shovel the piles that develop below, and then plow around the hay shed and in front of the barn.

After that, it becomes a battle of the lure of an unfinished jigsaw puzzle versus toiling away on trimming back the snowbanks on Wintervale Road.

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Written by johnwhays

January 6, 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

Sloppy Snow

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After reading in yesterday’s paper that the warming of the Earth is bringing rain to the Arctic regions, I feel a little sheepish about my whining over getting rain in December at our latitude. Honestly, I could adjust my thinking to accept the rain if that’s all it was but the reality is that we get rain mixed with sleet which then turns to snow. Usually, heavy, wet snow. 

My work area just beyond the overhang in the paddocks has turned into a muddy mess again. The horses take it in stride but the sloppy footing makes my maneuvering much less pleasant.

Cleaning off the driveway is a whole other battle in these conditions. When a small amount of snow falls, it isn’t worth bothering to plow, however, shoveling the area in front of the house keeps it from becoming messy.

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Trying to plow the water-logged slop may have cleaned the pavement nicely, but by the time I was able to consider it, the slushy snow was starting to refreeze. The duration of this precipitation is predicted to last a couple more days so I expect I will need to plow at some point. Too bad it will be a frozen mess underneath any real snow that eventually accumulates.

I tell ya, it’s the in-between conditions of mixed winter precipitation that are the most frustrating to deal with. That is until we receive massive amounts of snow in one dump. Then that is the most frustrating to deal with.

Today, it is the rain mixed with sleet that eventually turns to snow that is crimping my style. It’s getting to be almost as bad as the Arctic around here. Not that I would whine about such a thing as crummy weather.

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Written by johnwhays

December 15, 2022 at 7:00 am

Tree Dwelling

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Near the edge of the woods at the bottom of the hill behind our house, there is a large tree with three distinct critter access points. I noticed them the other day because Delilah stopped to look up at the tree with excited interest. That almost always means a squirrel was moving around in the branches.

I didn’t see any life in the branches but I very much noticed the three holes in the tree.

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Do you think those are three separate “apartments” or is that a deluxe three-story home with a door on each floor?

Cyndie, Delilah, and I are waking up at the lake place this morning on the weekend of the American Birkebeiner cross-country ski race. Our friends, the Williams family will be joining us, and their daughter, Ella will be skiing it on Saturday for the first time.

It is estimated the event brings 40-thousand people to Hayward for the weekend. That changes things dramatically around here. For reference, the population of Hayward is a little over 2000. It messes up our navigation because they close roads and strive to move everyone by shuttle bus. Foils our desire to sneak down a fire lane road to catch a glimpse of racers in the middle of the woods.

Organizers want all spectators to watch the beginning or the end, or both, traveling by shuttle bus. I’d prefer to not be constrained to standing among the masses. I’m not tall enough to expect I will be able to see anything in a crowd, anyway.

Before we left home yesterday, I needed to finish clearing snow from in front of the big barn doors so I could move bales of hay in for the person tending to the horses while we are away. I also needed to pull snow off the eaves above the front door of the house and then shovel that into a giant mound by the front steps.

Arriving up here hours later, the first order of business was to shovel access paths to the doors. The driveway was plowed and caretakers had pulled some snow off the roof but no good attention had been paid toward clearing snow from in front of the doors.

Ski racing might be an Olympic sport, but I feel like the shoveling I’ve been doing lately is medal-worthy.

In case you didn’t form an opinion about the tree pictured above, I’d say it’s one palatial three-story home based on the noticeable lack of tracks in the snow at the base. I may be wrong, but I’m guessing it’s some fat-cat of a squirrel luxuriating up there with no reason to come out and get his feet wet.

I think Delilah could smell him.

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Written by johnwhays

February 25, 2022 at 7:00 am

Not Bad

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Even though the cold is extreme, it is not impossible to be outside enjoying the crispness of the elements. Yesterday, after giving Delilah an abbreviated opportunity to have an extra loop from the barn past the labyrinth, which gave her one last chance to pee before heading in, I spent a little extra time outside doing some clean up of the snow I pulled off the roof the day before.

The bright sunshine was providing enough energy against the shingles to evaporate some of what remained after my raking. I took a picture to see if I could capture the steamy clouds wafting up off the roof, but mostly it highlighted the smoke coming out of the chimney from the cozy fire in our fireplace.

I wandered over to the wood splitter to see how some of the stringy specimens responded to the frigid temperature. As expected, the efficiency of my treasured splitter was nicely enhanced and I quickly dispatched several logs. Splitting wood wasn’t the main thing I wanted to work on, so I left more of that for another day. The cold weather is predicted to last long enough that I will have an opportunity to make greater headway on filling the woodshed next weekend.

My main objective was shoveling the snow that had come down off the roof the day before. It buried our backup generator and I want the vents kept clear so it can breathe for its weekly automatic 12-minute maintenance run each Wednesday. That pile of snow was as dense and firm as possible after setting overnight in the deep freeze. It would have been a cinch to dig a snow-cave into that mound, but my objective was to remove it, so the density was more of a hassle.

From the generator, I made my way around the house to the back deck. The two roof-valleys on the backside of our house hadn’t been cleared yet all winter, basically a neglectful mistake on my part. Since I don’t see them every day like I do the front, they fall into the “out-of-sight, out-of-mind” category. When I do think of them, my faulty logic figures the increased sun exposure of the southern orientation will help reduce the need for my added effort.

Boy, was I wrong. As I made my way around the house with the roof rake on Saturday, each valley I came to ended up having more snow and was more difficult to pull down. I now hope this lesson will inspire me to put in the effort to stay ahead of the game by cleaning all four valleys each time snow accumulates, just to prevent it from becoming exponentially more difficult when conditions eventually force the need to avert ice dam accumulation.

While I was out on the deck shoveling, twice I heard the loud SNAP of tree trunks cracking in the cold. Since it was far from the coldest point of the 24-hour cycle of a temperature swing, it caused me to wonder if the sunshine on the dark bark contributed to some significant temperature variant that brought the stress beyond what it could handle.

It’s warm enough to melt snow on the shingles at 5-below and cold enough to grow ice formations on the facial hair of a warm-blooded human.

Harsh, but not really all that bad.

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Written by johnwhays

February 8, 2021 at 7:00 am

Wintry Spring

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The weather prank that would have fit nicely on April Fools’ Day happened two days late for that honor. Yesterday afternoon the flakes started flying and, beautiful as they can be, didn’t stop until there was an ugly couple of inches covering everything.

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Overnight last night, the temperature dropped to 22°(F) making it not only look like winter but feel like it, too.

April showers are supposed to bring May flowers. Well, April snow just might be an improvement on that because the snow tends to stay in place and soak the ground as it melts. If the forecasts are correct, this snow will disappear quickly.

The temperature shows signs of reaching 70 by Tuesday they are saying.

Growing things should find that enticing.

My reaction is to give the lawn tractor attention in preparation for the season ahead.

It is always startling when the number of days between putting away the snow shovel and getting out the lawnmower can be counted on the fingers of my two hands.

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Written by johnwhays

April 4, 2020 at 9:23 am