23 December 2009

The Storm

You all read about The Storm that swept up the East Coast a few days ago. Yes, it did strike Stratheden. It began about 1:00 in the afternoon and finally departed in the pre-sunrise hours of the next morning. It was forecast very plainly - and accurately - to accumulate a foot or more here (by comparison, Charlottesville, VA, received 24 inches).

Now since most of our readers are city folk, I'll explain something about clearing a 1,000+ foot driveway in hilly terrain in and out a of dense forest. When winter first shows her white head, the prudent diesel tractor owner pours an additive (I use "Seafoam") into the fuel tank. Diesel conceals like jelly at not-very-cold temperatures and is impossible to start an engine in this condition' once it happens, it is hard to remediate. The additive prevents this effect and also keeps the fuel fresh over an extended period of time. Next, you probably have to take the bush-hog off and put the blade on... the blade can be raised or lowered and the skew angle changed from a right angle to the direction of travel to perhaps 60 degrees or more.

Snow is quite variable and this particular snow was dry but packed, meaning that is is dense. Our Ford 1710 tractor is a moderate size of tractor and cannot pull a huge load, even though it is four-wheel drive, when the tires cannot achieve traction. In deep, fresh snow, the tires can get excellent traction but once driven over or diminished to a thinner layer of snow, the tires may not get any purchase. Additionally, when pulling a load of heavy snow, because the blade is set at an angle, the blade wants to push the tractor front end in the opposite direction.

So, trying to pull too much snow, except on the first pass, will throw the front end off the road and the tires, if they start to spin, will destroy the beautiful road bed that you have struggled to maintain over the years. What is 'too much snow'? For our tractor and blade combination, perhaps six or seven inches. Mr. Fuzzy figured that given the forecast, he should pre-plow that evening when the depth was only five inches or thereabouts. The temperature was steady at 22F with a light wind. The snow readily yielded to the blade. I was very confident and went down the road to Charles' house with the blade. It did not take long and so there was time to clean out Sally's quarter mile or so drive. The wind had increased and the snowfall was now so hard that I could hardly see; time to turn homeward.

Now, at this point, dear reader, Mr. Fuzzy will admit to two very serious errors. When he left the house, he had in mind to clear his own drive - and thought he would return to the house in thirty minutes or so. With that assumption in mind, he donned a Scots bonnet on his head and wore old, tattered, torn, blue jeans. They would have been just adequate to keep him warm along with a good quality coat and fingerless gloves. As it happened, given the extended goals, he was outside in the dark snow storm for more than two hours. By the time he neared home, he couldn't feel his fingers or head - and the paper thin jeans were wet and verging on frozen to his thighs. It became a race against time through the now white-out conditions to reach warmth. He was so cold that it required almost ten minutes under a hot shower before his head could sense either water or warm. A VERY bad mistake in terms of clothing. He was lucky.

The next morning, a disconcerted Mr. Fuzzy looked out the window and saw, or maybe should say, DID NOT see the driveway. The additional snow piled on deeply, the pre-clear the night before was almost worthless. Sigh. Snow depth was about a foot, far too deep to move with a single pass of the blade.

It took more than half a dozen passes to skim off the top six inches or so, then the next four inches or so and then a carefully monitored skimming just about the gravel surface. Mr. Fuzzy made a serious tactical error in the first passes (in each direction) by only opening a path about six feet wide. When making the next pass, the snow being moved had no place to go because of the marginal pile from the first pass. Next time I know to make an initial pass at least three feet wider than the final path.

The temperature has been most pleasant the last few days; it rose to an unexpected 47F today which melted much of the driveway completely clear down to the gravel bed. The snow has compacted and is now less than eight inches deep in most places but the way it sparkles in the sun it gorgeous.

The image below was taken at sunrise.

1 comment:

judy borron said...

Stunning sunrise picture! Sarah and Devin moved to Arlington, VA on 12/14, and happily the moving van with most of their stuff arrived 12/16...before the huge storm!