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Tuesday, January 3, 2017

On Being Snowed In and Anonymous Helpers

As the nor'easter of Dec 29-30 started
the weeds next to the deck took on a
magical look.

The month ended with real Northern weather, finally! Officially a nor'easter, the overnight storm brought winds out of the east to north and at least 8" of "good packing" snow. The snow fell over ground that had previously had snow and rain and freezing temperatures, so as it turned out, the driveway was literally a
Nor'easter buried everything!
sheet of ice, under the snow. Once Tractor Guy got Fergie uncovered, heated up and started, she was willing but could not get any traction. She slid down the bit of a hill from the dooryard to the main drive and even using her bucket to push, he could not get her back up. The next day, the snow had frozen enough to turn her around and get her back to her parking place, but there was still 12" or more of snow in the driveway (not a typo, nor a fish story... remember the winds? think drifts, folks!) so the following day he tried again, to no avail. He managed to get our non-road-worthy 4WD project truck going (the idea was to pull her back up) but with old mud tires, R2, the new old truck, just wanted to slip side around.

By this time I had beat the chore paths into submission with the snowshoes and sled, so I had energy after chores for something more than housework, so I attacked with a snowshovel. Yeah, I'm old and I know this is a known heart attack attractant, but I truly enjoy a snow shovel workout and, now that I don't have the pressure of getting to work pushing my efforts, I know to take my time and let the project take several days if need be.

Before the storm, I made sure we had sufficient necessities to be comfortable for a good while: we filled the kerosene cans (15 gal all told) and propane, except for the big tank that lasts a month or so running the overnight heater. Of those we have two, and one needs filling, but we had not planned that expense until January. I brought in two bales of hay for the goats and we had sufficient pellets for the fowl and rabbit and kibble for the cats and dogs. We always have plenty of people food! Having lived remotely, and only made a supply trip once a month, this is not a difficult scenario for me to work with!

So, well supplied and happy, I started playing in the snow. The first thing I discovered was that, if there is ice under the snow, vehicles need to stand down! My first day I did not accomplish much, as I spent much of the time with a small spade (as opposed to a more typical snow shovel) liberating and tossing bits of heavy, very compacted icy snow (much like the "plow gift" that the town plows pile up at the end of the driveway) that was mixed and hidden in what appeared to be "just plain snow." I could not get the snow shovel into where there was hard stuff buried and I could not make quick progress with the soft stuff in between the hard lumps while using the spade. Everywhere the tractor had tried to run or had pushed piles of snow since the ice was preventing Tractor Guy from turning and dumping was a fight. While TG had been worried about my ability to stay on my feet on the snow-covered ice (he had fallen 6 times on his first day's attempts), standing and working was not an issue for me. My fight was with what he and Fergie had left me to work against!

On the New Years Day official holiday I was finally able to attack and clear most of the Fergie piles and today, January 3, I was looking forward to being mostly able to just shovel the somewhat packed snow. Having been a kid in Michigan gave me the skills that I use to do this! "Good packing snow," especially when assisted by gale force winds, lends itself to being cut nicely into blocks with an old fashioned snow shovel. The blocks can be the same size as the shovel and can be lifted out and tossed aside (though as a kid, we placed them carefully in place to build a fort or igloo.) Where the snow had drifted to be deeper than the 8" fall I did have to take two shovel bites per area, as I can not life 12" or more on my shovel and keep it from tipping. With the lesser depth, I only have to shovel twice, not three times in order to recover dropped pieces. I had hoped to shovel clear to the plow gift at the end of the driveway today and clear the heavier snow tomorrow, but didn't quite make it. Close though... and I was shoveling a path more than just wide enough for the tractor. My goal was to enable TG to get to the pavement, and traction, to clean most of the plow snow, but to not have to try to widen the path enough for the trucks to make their way down and back. TG had said that, moving forward, Fergie could move on the ice by pulling herself with her bucket, even up the incline, so I knew we could get her back after clearing the end of the drive and I was pretty sure, once he was turned around, that R2, even with the mud tires, could get up the hill, especially if Artie (with his studded snow tires) was out of the dooryard.

Now, our forecast for tonight is -- gues what -- mixed precipitation and rain! After completing my work today and coming in to get ready for lunch I was thinking "I know there will be challenges tomorrow" and I was getting prepared to deal with whatever comes, when I heard a plow truck on the road and looked up to see not one of the big town plows, but a green plow pickup with the rotating yellow light on top and a yellow plow on the front busily attacking the plow gift in front! Looked like he was getting ready to dig out the mailbox and I commented my surprise to TG. "I thought the homeowners were supposed to do that!" I said and we theorized as to who, and why... never coming to a conclusion, but being thankful never the less, when the green truck started working on the driveway! I did not recognize the truck... the only one I know of similar color and look belongs to a neighbor, but I know for a fact it has his business logo on the side and this one did not appear to have one. The truck and its driver cleared not only the plow gift at the mouth of the drive, but pushed it back to allow for easy turns in from both directions and then began working on the driveway itself!

I had taken my spade down with me today, but had not needed it for more than just the first couple of feet, so I had left it stuck in the snow in the middle of the drive, easy to find and haul down for the plow gift work tomorrow... now I was hoping the helpful stranger would not bury it! But he did not.. he stopped short and moved both the shovel and an ad-hoc walking stick TG had left nearby out of the way and continued on, clearing a WIDE path up to where Fergie was sitting... then drove away!

So tomorrow, come what will after our current bit of "wintery mix" is done, instead of clearing the plow gift at the end, we will be clearing a smaller bit by and possibly in front of Fergie and R2 and putting up a "thank you" sign at the end of the driveway.