Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘snow drifts

Reversing Perspective

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After our last meager accumulation of snow, we have had a few days of high winds creating small hard-packed drifts that serve as perfect surfaces for wildlife tracks. Using Delilah’s prints (that mostly break through the crust) for reference, I can tell the other recent traffic was smaller than her. And me.

The most likely first set aligns with our frequent sightings around the property: neighbor cats. My guess on the other prints is a fox.

I took a closeup of a couple of the smaller prints and got another perfect specimen for the optical illusion of “reversing perspective.”

You can either see the prints as raised bumps in the snow as if the light is shining from the upper left, or you can see them as they truly are, depressions with the light coming from the bottom left.

How flexible is your mind? Are you able to flip the perspective at will and alternatingly see it from both perspectives? Oftentimes, switching from one to the other can be hard for our vision to do.

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Written by johnwhays

January 11, 2022 at 7:00 am

Chronological Order

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We did not experience deadly tornadoes last night, just a pleasant blast of big snow that has thrust us fully into what winter is usually like around these parts. Here is my photo exposé chronicling the views.

I did a little “pre-plowing” last night to break the project up into two episodes of medium depths instead of one massive task.

Just like the meteorologists were boasting, it was coming down at 1-to-2 inches per hour, but I would say the flakes were pretty small.

The pre-dawn light was enticing and the muffled sound in the woods was accented with sweet songbird melodies.

There was a hint of a labyrinth pathway under the fresh blanket of new snow.

The horses appear to have dealt with the storm well. We treated them to some sweet apple-flavored biskets after their morning feed to celebrate the novelty of their new deep-snow landscape.

There is a lot of plowing to be done between the barn and the hay shed. I didn’t spend any time last night pre-plowing that area. The driveway has about 5 new inches on it, not accounting for the areas where drifts will be much deeper.

The depths vary greatly depending on where we check but 11-inches was a pretty common reading I found up by the house.

There is a lot of snow to be pulled off the eaves of the roof. I would like to do that as soon as possible to take advantage of the bright sunshine we expect today but there is a lot of plowing that I’ll work on first.

It will be a gorgeous winter day to be outside, which is a good thing because I expect my snow clearing work will take me all day long to accomplish.

I will be thanking the universe the whole time that I am not cleaning up debris from tornado destruction instead.

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Written by johnwhays

December 11, 2021 at 10:48 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

Finally, Snow

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So, if you are going to return north from a week in Florida, in January, you might as well dive head first into the coldest and snowiest days all winter, to make sure you will absolutely and thoroughly miss where you’ve just been.

Luckily for us, our animals so completely missed us that the love and attention they have showered over us has gone a long way to offset the angst of the painfully adult dose of winter that has greeted our return. (We still have all 9 chickens! Although, they weren’t all that fired up to show us any love. They may be hardy winter birds, but they don’t seem hardy enough to want to venture out of the coop when it is really cold, or the ground is covered with new snow.)

Instead of driving to the day-job, I stayed home and plowed snow drifts yesterday. It is hard to tell how much snow fell around here, because the depth ranges from about an inch in some places, to two feet in others.

I took a picture with Delilah in it, but I was focused on showing the fine pathway I cleared around the back pasture fence line.

Then I noticed that interesting cloud bank in the sky.

That was some pretty distinct delineation of cloud and clear sky right there. Nature sure makes cool stuff.

As Delilah and I walked the path around the pasture, I noticed the horses had made cute little circle tracks in the fresh snow, leaving little visible spots of where they foraged grass to graze.

It almost looks like they were on cross-country skis, as they moseyed along.

Speaking of tracks in the snow, as Delilah and I started our walk from the house, breaking trail in the new snow, we came to the spot where our trail cam captured a view of the fox last year. Something had just entered our property there within the hours since this overnight snowfall.

I decided to let Delilah follow the trail into the neighbor’s woods, in case we might find where the fox has a den. She was thrilled to have been granted access to this forbidden land and leaped through the snow to explore where the tracks led.

Well, even though it had been less than twelve hours since the majority of the snow fell, there were already a dizzying web of trails crisscrossing the wooded slopes. The snow was fresh and just deep enough that identification was difficult, but there were so many different pathways that I soon realized the chance we were following one fox had become very unlikely.

We reached a spot where tracks were everywhere, and the leaves beneath the snow were turned up in a wide variety of places. For a second, I wondered if it was a pack of coyotes, but then I deduced it was much more likely to be a flock of turkeys.

No wonder Delilah was so excited over that particular location.

I convinced her to reroute our exploration back toward our property and gave up on hunting for a fox den.

At least we finally have a snow cover that offers better footing than the icy glazing we had battled the previous month.

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Written by johnwhays

January 29, 2019 at 7:00 am

Wind Wins

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There is no question about who has the upper hand in our never-ending battle against the wind. I figure we are running about 2-to-1 against, between us and the wind in the years we’ve been here.

One of the more spectacular fails we experienced happened in 2014 when my first version of our wood shed was tossed over by a particularly blustery thunderstorm.

We have lost more trees and limbs to wind than I can count.

The winter wind has created havoc on our driveway numerous times, filling it with drifted snow that piles up multiple times the amount that actually falls out of the sky.

Monday’s blizzard of snow and wind racked up another victory over our feeble attempts to protect ourselves and our animals from the ravages of the gusts.

Cyndie reported that upon opening one of the doors to the barn yesterday morning, she needed to shovel a drift… on the inside.

The chicken coop suffered a more evenly distributed coating of snow on the inside. My ingenious design of the mesh ceiling beneath the roof panels was no match for blowing snow at the angle and rate mother nature dished out for hours on end.

I asked Cyndie what the chickens thought about the situation.

She reported a cacophony of upset hens.

I guess I understand their angst, after our forcibly removing them from the expansive barn (despite the one drift) to the extremely permeable confines of their small coop.

I bow to the prowess of the wind.

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Written by johnwhays

March 7, 2018 at 7:00 am