Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘snow plowing

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

Snow Motion

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Here I go again. If I’m not writing about our animals, I must be fussing about the weather. It’s too warm, too soon; or raining way too much; or getting too dry; or… wait for it: snowing too much in April.

It’s always something.

Well, when it is too much snow, and a person needs to drive 65 miles across the heart of the population center of a large metropolitan area, it may also involve a day staying home from work in the middle of the week.

There isn’t much more than that to tell. I stayed home to avoid the traffic risks and spent my precious time shoveling and plowing too many inches of sticky spring snow.

Can I just say, snowman-making snow is not friendly for plowing. It’s already a known fact it is a pain in the back for shoveling, but my poor Grizzly and plow-blade setup does not like pushing snow that sticks together in giant blocks and to everything that presses against it.

Luckily, when the blade frame came loose beneath the ATV under the strain of the heavy snow I was trying to push, it wasn’t because something broke.

One of the holding pins had worked its way out and was laying somewhere along the quarter-mile length of our driveway.

Not to worry, I keep spare pins on hand. This isn’t my first winter here, you know?

Okay, okay, I have spares because this happened one other wicked winter when I had no clue the pins might come out under stressful plowing conditions and I was left stranded at the end of the driveway with a crippled rig.

Despite the challenges of this year’s spring season arriving in “snow-motion,” I’m not stressing over it.

It gave me an extra day off from driving to work!

(For the record, the pictures above were taken in the middle of the day yesterday, about half-way to our total accumulation. We received even more snow than shown by these images.)

Happy spring, everyone!

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Written by johnwhays

April 4, 2018 at 6:00 am

Different Landscape

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As predicted, by Friday morning our landscape didn’t look at all like it had on Thursday. While the bulk of the Minneapolis/St. Paul metropolitan area squeaked by with nary a flying flake, our county rode the sharp northwest edge of precipitation and Wintervale Ranch received a respectable 9-10 inches by the end of the day yesterday.

Taken late Wednesday afternoon.

Taken late Wednesday afternoon.

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Taken Friday before noon.

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I took the snowy picture shortly after plowing the driveway in the morning, about mid-way through the duration of snowfall. Tracking the total accumulation involves some guess-work because the ground was so warm that snow was melting from the bottom up. The flakes also settle under their own weight and then the gusts of wind were whipping up some fair drifting.

dscn5854eThe National Weather Service report from just south of us was 11 inches and the next reading to our northwest was 9.5 inches. Since we are located between those, and our anecdotal evidence coincides, I feel justified with the assessment I presented in the opening paragraph.

Plowing was a hassle because the bottom layer of the snow was heavy and wet, and the ground was soft from the recent thaw. It led to the blade tearing up bad spots of pavement, as well as the turf on each side of the driveway.

I like snow removal to look neat and tidy, but I was making a mess of things. Also, since I was plowing in the middle of the storm —to turn it into two small efforts instead of one big one— the new falling flakes were piling up as fast as I cleared what was already on the ground.
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It didn’t look like a job well-done, but it was perfectly fine for a mid-event effort.

Cyndie had put the horses inside the barn Thursday night in anticipation of the snow’s arrival, which had been predicted to start out as rain. We checked the radar several times that evening, for an indication of the timing of the precipitation’s start, but even though it appeared to already be snowing overhead, it was actually still dry outside on our grounds by the time we went to sleep.

When morning dawned, it was all white outside.

As the blowing and snowing became the obvious order of the day, it got easier to make a decision to stay indoors by the fire all afternoon. I played my guitar until I started to get sleepy. We watched a movie.

It feels a little like winter around here again.

It will be strange come Monday when I drive a few miles toward the cities for work and return to the places nearby that didn’t get the snow. We are now under a completely different landscape for a while.

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Written by johnwhays

February 25, 2017 at 7:00 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

I’m Thinking

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I’m thinking of changing my writing style. Making it great again. Really great. You already know —and people tell me this— that I write about what I know. I know a lot. I’m smart. Very smart. I’m the best friend blogging has ever had. They love me. I tell all the stories about our dog Delilah; the best dog. Best breed. Very, very smart.

dscn5704eWe have horses —Arabian horses— that I write about when I blog. Incredible horses. Our horses love me. When I go down to clean their manure —they create a lot of manure; 50 pounds per day from each horse, every day. You could power a small factory on the heat their composting manure creates every day. Daily— I can walk right between each of the horses, right between, and they know why I’m there. They will come right up to me, Hunter does this, they walk over to piles I am raking, while I’m still raking the piles, and deposit a fresh contribution for me to collect.

Their manure is so smart, it composts itself. I don’t do anything. Just make a pile. It cooks on its own. Hundreds of degrees. 160° right in the middle of the pile.

Okay, enough of that dung. Except maybe the narcissistic part where I bragged superlatively. That part was pretty great. Well, sort of great, anyway. I want to give some credit to the article I spotted on Vox while researching linguistic stylings, which inspired my little adventure in changing my writing style for a few paragraphs.

Back to my woe-be-gone tales of our paradise called Wintervale… where all the horses are strong, the dog is good-looking, and the cat is probably above average. We are wallowing in the purgatory of “between-snow.” That’s a phrase I use to categorize the amount of snow which is messy and should be cleared, but isn’t enough to deserve shoveling or plowing. It’s a common winter hassle, especially during periods between real snowstorms that dump so much snow at one time you have no choice but to plow if you want to get in and out of the driveway.

The best way to solve the conundrum is to simply plow as soon as it falls, even if it is barely enough to warrant the use of the machine. My problem in this case is a limited opportunity (or to be more precise, limited energy), after getting home from the day-job. An inch or two isn’t worth the push to get off my butt and plow after work, whereas three or more inches would inspire me to rise to the occasion.

Since I’m home today, I will do some plowing. It will give me an opportunity to test out that tire repair I did before leaving for Florida, and allow me to clean up the paths I want to have open for the tree trimmers, whom I hope will be here in a week or two.

That’s what I’m thinking, anyway.

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Written by johnwhays

January 27, 2017 at 7:00 am

Nuisance Flurries

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The weather of late has been a repeating series of nuisance snow flurries that irk me. We get just enough in the way of accumulating flakes that it makes the place look neglected, but hardly enough to warrant plowing or doing any serious shoveling. A few days ago, it became necessary to clear about 6 feet around the door to the barn, because it was blowing into an accumulation that was twice as deep as what actually fell from the sky.

Last weekend I scraped the driveway clean to freshen things up, and then Monday night we collected another inch, just to mess it up again. When I got home from work yesterday, it became evident that we received a little more during the day, making it just deep enough that I felt it needed to be plowed.

IMG_iP1118eWhile waiting for a ride to my favorite auto repair shop, I shoveled the sidewalk and cleared snow away from the house to simplify the details for plowing later.

I was getting my car back from the shop, where they had changed another sensor in the catalytic converter to get everything working properly again.

After walking Delilah and taking care of chores for the horses, then pausing briefly for my dinner, I was ready to do some plowing.

I brought Delilah outside with me and tethered her near the shop while I cleared snow around the building as the ATV warmed up. It was dark, so I couldn’t easily see whether Delilah was happy with her situation, or not, but I decided to plow more than just up and down the driveway a few times.

Getting around the barn and hay-shed require a lot more monkeying around than just the straight shot running up and down the driveway. It becomes a series of short distances forward, followed by lifting the plow blade, shifting into reverse, re-establishing a position, and then dropping the blade, shifting back into a forward gear, and repeat.

I can do the driveway in about 10-minutes. The rest takes about an hour.

I made Delilah wait. It was easy to justify in my mind, because I fully intended to treat her to an extensive walk before we went back into the house. I don’t know whether she sensed it, or not.

After parking the ATV, I donned snowshoes and hit the trails with the dog. She immediately set off after what I would guess was the trail of a cat. She was in such a hurry that she almost pulled me over several times when my snowshoe would catch partway through my stride.

I’m glad we were doing this in the dark, so nobody could see my awkward stumbling gyrations as I struggled to keep up with our dog in her race after some prowler that was probably already long gone.

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Written by johnwhays

January 27, 2016 at 7:00 am

Taking Action

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After getting home from the day-job yesterday, I went right to work on the ranch-job. This time of year, I don’t get much time at home that isn’t dark, and I wanted to clear snow while I could see well and get it done before temperatures head for the deep freeze.

Light snow fell on and off for most of the day and the thermometer revealed a 39° (F) reading as the high. It made for some sticky-snow plowing. On the drive home, anywhere that had been plowed had pretty much melted clear of snow and the roads were just wet. Our driveway had a thick accumulation covering it.

First things first. I needed to repair the broken cable from the Grizzly winch that lifts the plow blade. I had held off on the fix because I was intending to buy new cable. Searching online I discovered the existence of a short cable made to take the abuse of the constant up and down that occurs to lift the blade, and that they are available not just as metal, but fiberglass, too.

I like the thought of flexible fiber, but then my mind pictured the rollers on my well-used winch setup. The frequent broken strands on the abused cable have scuffed up the rollers a bit and they are getting rusty. I want new rollers if I’m going to get new cable and I haven’t had time to look into what that will take. I don’t know if I can even get the existing ones off without a fight.

Remember how much I struggled to remove the broken bolt on the hitch in back?

So, the first order of business was to head down to the barn and remove the hook with the dangling fragment of cable still hanging on the plow blade. On my way past the shop, I grabbed the battery charger to hook up to the truck that was sitting in the middle of space needing to be plowed.

DSCN4331eI lucked out. My plan worked pretty much as I intended. I got the truck battery charging and then wrestled the blade out the narrow front door of the barn. It fought me a little bit when it came time to lay in the snow and put pins through precisely sized holes of the plow frame and the under carriage of the ATV, but I had a few extra curse words that hadn’t been used yet, so things balanced out.

It was definitely snowman snow, but I just rolled with it as it rolled off the blade in giant chunks. It was well after dark when I finished, but I got enough done that I am comfortable that we are ready for everything to freeze solid as it sits.

I was intent on making sure I was clearing the snow far enough beyond the edges to leave me space for the rest of the winter of plowing. Setting the edges at the beginning is the most important because it will freeze and form the solid boundary for the rest of the season.

I’m satisfied I took appropriate action and achieved that goal. The driveway is clean, the truck started for me and is now parked where I want it by the shop garage and everything looks like a perfect winter wonderland.

Bring on the Arctic cold blast.

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Written by johnwhays

January 9, 2016 at 9:30 am