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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Sustainability and the Weather

"It is infinitely more "sustainable," to use the currently popular buzz word, to let life's activities revolve around the weather, rather than to expect the weather to bend to mankind's activities." Me, February 15, 2017

If you live in the northlands -- or any other climate where extremes of weather happen -- sooner or later you are bound to have plans that get derailed by it. Here in Maine, of late, we have had some serious ice storms (not necessarily typical winter weather and certainly not on anyones "most favorite" list) and more recently, some serious snowfalls, nor'easters and even a blizzard. Regardless of some of the memes on social media, we DO close schools, town halls, businesses and reschedule meetings at these times.

Yes, there are those who must go to work, regardless. My mom was a nurse; I understand this. Essential services are, well, essential and folks working in those fields figure out ways to cope. Sometimes they stay nearby to their work place, take extra shifts, crash in the break room or whatever it takes. My hat is off to them.

"Back in the day" I sometimes ventured out just to see if I could. I took buses when I lived in towns that had them, and at times ended up walking a few blocks to my destination or to a different line, when a bus couldn't make it up or down a hill. Sometimes I drove (with chains on and very carefully) to a friends house for a "snow day" party... but regardless, life did not go on as usual.
View down the 200' driveway
after the February 13 blizzard
Feed and water sled
going down shoveled path

Path to chicken coop is
3' deep and not at
ground level!
Recently we had a major snow storm/blizzard that dumped up to a couple of feet of the white stuff, with winds that re-sculpted the landscape. Since we accumulated the layers of ice last month, our trusty old tractor, Fergie, has been unable to get traction. We were blessed to have a neighbor plow us out after one
Ducks, in a row, led
by Newton, the old
red rooster

storm. After that, I opted to park my old pickup, Artie, out closer to the road so that at least we could shovel him out for town trips.  A previous year's BIG snow, like the one shown in these pictures, took the use of heavy equipment from a local dairy -- with a $100 price tag -- to get it cleared. Lacking the big bucks, we won't be doing that in the future. Instead, Tractor Guy shoveled paths for chores, and then we attacked the end of the driveway . While I can do chores with snow shoes, getting IN the gates is often an issue.

The town plows had thrown snow and filled in the entire area between Artie, the truck, and the road, including throwing some onto his hood. Working together, we managed to clear a large enough space to pull out and headed into town for our monthly provisioning run for staple foodstuffs that we do not grow and to top off the stash of kerosene, since the forecast at that time was predicting more blowing snow, up to an additional 12", to fall today.

Well, the "weather guessers" have changed the forecast several times since then and the snow is supposed to start tonight and end mid-day tomorrow.

And this is where my opening quote factors in.

Because of the major storm last week, a monthly meeting that I usually attend was rescheduled for tomorrow. I had already taken the initiative to contact the meeting organizer and let them know that I would not be attending. I knew, from previous experience, that regardless of additional snowfall, after helping clear after the big blizzard, I would not be up to either clearing again the day of the meeting (even if the snow stopped near nightfall, as was predicted) and then heading to a meeting. And, at that time, additional snow was supposed to fall during the time I would be traveling to, and attending, said meeting. There is NO place to pull off the road anywhere nearby and with folks still taking this road at fast, unsafe speeds, and a turn quite nearby, I was not going to park our only vehicle IN the road to shovel at 9 pm.

As the forecast for today/tonight became more firm, another attendee asked if the meeting was going to be rescheduled yet again. Seemed to me to be a reasonable question, as many attendees have a ways to travel over country roads to get to the location. A third member of the group shot back a smart alec comment, as apparently their area is only being quoted a couple of inches of snowfall -- or so they claim -- and seriously put down the previous questioner.

I might have just written it all off to "some folks are just jerks, regardless" but the organization calling the meeting is one in which the word "sustainable" colors many of our discussions and decisions and whose members skew towards those living in rural areas, farming and even living off-grid. . Giving the "smart alec" the benefit of the doubt that their forecast does call for only a dusting of snow (in "Mainer-speak") I would think s/he might realize this is not the case for everyone. Living in town with a 10' driveway is one thing. Living in a more rural area, with a longer drive is quite another.

Yes, most folks probably do practice the common, but much less "sustainable" options, to deal with winter: hiring a 'plow guy," or using their own large fossil-fuel powered equipment to quickly move the impediment to normal daily life. Some of the probably have to, in order to get to work. Or to protect their rather considerable investment in a late-model vehicle. Gods alone know, such a rig could not bear to sit, like Artie does, at the end of the road and be pelted with plow gift! But we -- all of us -- need to begin re-thinking everything. We need to find ways to live more lightly on the planet, to not just do as we always have done, to (I really hate to jump on the buzz word bandwagon) have more sustainable lives... especially when we are actively working for and with organization that promote these changes.  
Snow shoe and wagon path
to and from the truck. Even
an old woman can handle this!

I like this year's solution, and not just because it hasn't cost me a hundred bucks that I don't even have. Yes, it has saved money, and will continue to. While we won't see our driveway again until spring, we will be able to run necessary errands. We will get exercise and fresh air. And we will be living in closer harmony to nature.