Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘shoveling

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

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

Keeping Up

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While we were risking our lives to drive across the Twin Cities in heavy snow for the funeral on Sunday, our property back home was getting buried by another plowable layer. That meant, when I got home from work yesterday, I needed to plow and shovel a few hours worth of snow to get the place cleaned up.

Normally, this is a very rewarding endeavor, but this time it felt a little insane. Expending all this energy to clear snow when even more is imminent. By the end of the day today, our landscape will likely look as if I hadn’t done anything, if the passing precipitation lives up to what was predicted.

It reminds me of a humorous thought a friend once expressed. It went something like this: “I dusted once. A week later, all the dust had returned. I won’t fall for that again.”

As fast as we clear away fallen snow this February, more falls to replace it. My heart wants to just wait until it stops snowing for a few days and then plow. My mind knows the folly of such a plan. The more often I plow, the easier each following effort will be.

There are a couple of challenges created by these repeating waves of significant snowfalls. It is getting harder and harder to clear the snow because the piles are growing mighty tall, and the deep snow on our roof is leading to ice dams on the eaves.

That second one is a compound problem, actually. I can pull the snow down off of the roof with a rake, but then I need to shovel it somewhere. That means I have to throw it up and over the tall piles that already exist.

Just what I need. More shoveling!

I can’t keep up as it is.

It’s almost like the early summer growing season, when the grass grows so fast that it needs cutting the day after I just finished cutting it.

We are a land of two main seasons: shoveling snow or mowing grass.

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Written by johnwhays

February 12, 2019 at 7:00 am

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

Clearing Snow

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s a much more satisfying experience.

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

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

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

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

I tell ya, if I ran the world…

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Written by johnwhays

December 10, 2017 at 8:42 am

Much Better

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dscn5742eWe enjoyed a brief visit from the sun yesterday, which made quick work of melting areas I cleared of the small amount of snow left from the most recent precipitation.

The front tire on the Grizzly held air, so the Slime patch appears to be working. After getting the driveway and barn areas plowed, I hand-shoveled to clean up nooks and corners, then parked the ATV for this photo and headed in for lunch.

Once refueled, I ventured out again to shovel off the deck before turning my attention to plowing trails to make way for the bucket truck of the tree trimmers. I wish it had been a colder day.

Our record-setting January thaw has left the ground a little soft in places and my plow blade tended to dig in to the muddy ground, peeling up large rolls of earth. There isn’t really any flat ground here, and as the angle of the ATV tilts, the result at the end of the plow blade gets exaggerated. That makes it very difficult to figure out a height setting of the blade that won’t be too high or too low.

There really is no “just right” setting. If it is not digging in a little bit on one side or the other, it is usually because it is not plowing any snow at all as a result of being too high.

Regardless, I think I’ve established a drive-able section of two, maybe three, routes down our trails to reach a majority of the big trees we are hoping to have trimmed. I will not be surprised at all if the truck looks a lot bigger than I’m imagining once it arrives and attempts to turn the corners.

At the end of the day, as promised, I got a call from the auto body shop that my Subaru repair was completed. Cyndie drove me to pick it up. It looks good as new. They even gave it that new car smell. The owner was reviewing all the work they had done and I added, “Alignment.”

“Was that on the estimate?” Uh oh.

We headed inside to check, and sure enough, I was right. He was very apologetic. Said it was completely his fault that it got missed. Oh boy. Now I need to bring it back next week and drop it off again. People!

At least it looks much, much better than when I brought it in the first time.

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Written by johnwhays

January 28, 2017 at 10:31 am

Moving Snow

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Yesterday’s weather was a wonderfully ideal day for moving snow. After all the abuse we have endured so far this winter, from extreme cold, terribly windy, to freezing rain, we finally came to a day with warm sunshine, perfect below freezing temperatures, and negligible winds.

That came in very handy following an appointment I had with an arborist from a tree-trimming service. We have so many trees that need attention that we had to devise a plan that would be affordable. It’s not based on the individual trees, but on a set amount of time. We are going to have a crew here for 2 days to do as much work as possible.

That puts responsibility on me to make it as easy as possible to reach my highest priority trees.

In order to get to the most trees in those brief two days, their truck with a boom and basket will be essential. I need to clear a lot of snow from trails to allow their very large truck to get where I need it to go.

Any time they would spend trying to drive their truck through snow, with a risk of getting stuck, will come at the expense of valuable minutes cutting branches.

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I started plowing around the barn with the four-wheeler, finishing with hand-shoveling, to widen access as much as possible. After that I headed onto our trails, trying to split the difference between plowing snow and just trying to maintain forward momentum.

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I made a good start down the trails, but there is a lot left to be done today. Our trees may think I’m nuts to be moving all this snow beneath them, but won’t they be surprised when the cutting crew shows up for the main event.

It’ll be time for them to shape up and drop all that dead wood they’ve been holding for years.

I’m looking forward to having branches come down when we want them to, as opposed to the possibility of falling unexpectedly when some unsuspecting soul happens to be strolling beneath.

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Written by johnwhays

January 15, 2017 at 10:48 am