Thursday, December 27, 2007

Snow Again

After several thawing afternoons erased a large part of the last snow, we got another inch or so today...a fresh white blanket over the muddy remains.

Again, as I work through the evening's chores after work, I relish the contentment of having kept up with the "right ordering" of so many little things. Nothing significant is iced over or lost in the snow. Chores are routine, not frustrating. I can enjoy the peaceful beauty of the fresh snow gleaming in light of the low-hanging snow clouds all a-glow from the full moon above and the city lights below.

The last chore tonight is bringing in firewood. After a snow, the first step for this chore is clearing the walkways.

Like everything else on the farm, attention to little details and niceties learned over many, many years makes a huge difference in this task.

My first rule of snow removal: promptness is everything. The less it has sat, the less it has been stepped on, the easier it is to sweep or shovel away. This is why, no matter how tired I am, I deal with the snow before bringing in the night's wood. I will be frustrated with myself if I stomp around on the snowy walk, then try to shovel it in the morning when the night has fossilized each footprint.

Second: Let nature help. By clearing the walks as soon as possible on a cold night, a lot of the residual ice/snow will "sublime" before morning. "Sublimation" is when ice changes directly to vapor, without turning to water first...one of the wonderful unique characteristics of water that makes life on earth what it is. How important is sublimation? It's what allows laundry to dry on an outdoor clothesline in the winter when it never gets above freezing for a month! My January baby wore cloth diapers thirty years ago next month!

Whatever ice has not sublimed overnight has a far better chance of thawing the next day if the reflective layer of snow has been removed. Even partial removal will allow the sun's rays to reach the dark concrete or wood underneath, and the dark material will absorb enough heat to melt the snow even if the temperature is barely hovering above freezing. In the kind of marginal freezingweather we're having these days, the walk will clear itself if I give it a head start by brushing off most the snow; otherwise, it stays solidly frozen.

If there is stubborn ice, and a thawing or traction aid is really needed, my first approach is to use local materials. Ashes from the wood stove are very effective; a cardboard box the width of the desired path makes it easy to sprinkle an even dusting. They absorb heat from the sun, melting little holes that roughen the ice. Wood chips, bark, etc. help, too. With all these materials, I try to use them away from the house so that they don't get tracked in to damage the floor. I also try not to use the ashes in areas the dogs frequent--drying to paws. But for paths across the lawn, the ashes serve as fertilizer.

Next: Always assume there will be more snow before this one melts, and remove the snow to such locations as will permit removal of that future snow. I did that last time, so that the extra space I cleared then meant plenty of room to put this snow.

And: Think about where the water from the melting snowpiles will run and freeze, so that walkways aren't made into skating rinks. This makes everything safer, and minimize the need for ice melting chemicals.

In rough, unpaved areas, I generally don't shovel unless the snow is very deep. Rather, I pack the snow into a path by frequenting the same trail from house to barn, for example. Sometimes I drag the snow shovel behind me to compact a broad path without actually removing any snow. If the snow on lawn and lane areas stays relatively even, then it thaws more evenly, and there aren't ridges of snow laying on some parts longer. Healthier for the lawn, less much and better footing overall in the long run.

Then, of course, there are all the considerations of ergonomics, pacing of strenuous excercise, switching from left-handed shovelling to right-handed to balance the muscle building, etc.

And finally, the significant burning of calories during snow removal and woodbox stocking must be balanced with extra caloric intake. Time for ice cream by the woodstove!

1 comment:

Joe said...

Ice cream???? Brrrr.....it's hot chocolate for me! Whatever, your choice, enjoy!!